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cut the ties (but don't let go)

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For a while, the girl comes to him in his dreams.

Sometimes she's laughing in class or whispering with Sterling in the halls. But mostly she's standing at the window, her hand on the clouded glass, looking out. He'll call her name but she won't look back. She smells like cinnamon and lake water. Her hair is damp at her back. It is these dreams which haunt him the most.

Bennet can't tell Amber, even though she probably - no, definitely - would understand. This is something he needs to keep to himself. Something he needs to bear.

Rosie had been special. Not special in the ways the cops and the Larsens once believed. But special in a way that he's found few people in life truly are.

A real connection.

There's this kid in his class who reminds him of her. This is a year down the road: a new neighborhood, a new school district, and a new baby on the way. The kid's name is Jake and he's a sophomore, all wide-eyed and asking the kinds of questions only Rosie had ever asked before, and he's maybe a little lost too. Just like Rosie.

He passes Jake in the hall after hours, heading home. Pretends not to hear him calling out, "Yo, Mr. Ahmed!"

Tomorrow, he thinks. I'll be ready tomorrow.

And he walks away.

-

He goes home every night and he still has scars.

Some he can see when he looks in the mirror.

And some he can't.

-

It's five months later and he comes into work and his colleagues pat him on the back and congratulate him on the new baby.

A little girl.

It was Amber's idea to call her Rosie. And he'd sputtered and shook his head, but she put a hand to his cheek and just nodded, the little girl sleeping in her mother's arms. And that's all it took.

So he's at work two days later and Jake is fumbling with his bag in the hallway and the floor is a sea of loose-leaf paper and half-chewed pencils and Bennet doesn't even hesitate to kneel down next to him and help him gather his things.

"Thanks," Jake mumbles and starts to walk away, with an air like he's too cool to be seen hanging in the halls with a teacher or something.

Or maybe just too hurt.

"Hey Jake," Bennet calls. "How 'bout that talk?"

-fin