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    It wasn't his fancy sui...oticed first. Or his new haircut, short and schoolboyish, which was probably intended to make him look young and innocent. The look on his face-narrowed eyes, pursed lips-didn't really register, either. The only thin...ould see, actually, was the black circle around his left eye, the redness of the cheek beneath. Someone had tried to cover it up with makeup, but it was still there. Clear as day.

    "State your name for the record," the prosecutor asked me.

    "Annabel Greene,"...aid. My voice was shaking.

    "Are you acquainted with William Cash, Annabel?"

    "Yes."

    "Could you point him out to me, please?"

    After being silent for so long...elt lik...ad talked so much in the last twenty-four hours. But with any luck, this would be the last time fo...hile. Which was maybe why it wasn't so hard to quiet myself, to take in that first breath, to begin.

    "There,"...aid, raising my finger and pointing at him. "He's right there."

    ...

    When it was finally over, we walked through the dark of the courthouse lobby int...oontime sun so bright it took my eye...oment to adjust. When they did, Owen was the first thin...aw.

    He was sitting on the edge of the fountain, wearing jeans an...hite T-shirt...lue jacket over it, his earphones hanging around his neck. It was lunchtime, and the square was packed with people crossing back and forth: businessmen with briefcases, students from the university...unch of preschoolers walking i...ine, all holding hands. When Owen saw me, he stood up.

    "I think," my mother was saying, runnin...and down my arm, "that we should all go get something to eat. What do you think, Annabel? Are you hungry?"

    I looked at Owen, who was watching me, his hands now in his pockets. "Yeah,"...old her. "Just give me one second."

    A...tarted down the steps...ould hear my father asking wher...as going, and my mother responding she had no idea...as sure they were all watching me, bu...idn't look back a...rossed the square, walking up to Owen, who had the strangest look on his face, one I'd never seen before. He was shifting in place, clearly uncomfortable.

    "Hey," he said quickly, as soon a...as in earshot.

    "Hi."

    He took i...reath, about to speak, then stopped, runnin...and over his face. "Look," he said. "I know you're pissed off at me."

    The weird thing was tha...asn't. While initially, I'd been surprised, then worried when he hadn't shown up, the entire experience had been so overwhelming-although cathartic- that I'd kind of forgotten about it onc...ot up on the stand...pened my mouth to tell him this, but he was already talking again.

    "The basic fact is tha...hould have been here...ave no excuse. There is no excuse." He looked down at the ground, scuffing his foot across the pavement. "I mean, there i...eason. But it's not an excuse."

    "Owen,"...aid. "It's-"

    "Something happened." He sighed, shaking his head. His face was flushed, and he was still fidgeting. "Something stupid...ad...istake, and-"

    Then, and only then, di...ut it altogether. His absence. This shuffling embarrassment. And Will Cash's black eye. Oh my God...hought.

    "Owen,"...aid, my voice low. "No way."

    "It was an error in judgment," he said quickly. "And somethin...egret."

    "Something,"...epeated.

    "Yes."

    A businessman talking loudly o...ell phone passed us, talking about mergers. "Placeholder,"...old him.

    


    He winced. "I thought you might say that."

    "Come on,"...aid. "You kne...ould say that."

    "Fine, fine." He pulle...and through his hair. "I was having an in-depth discussion with my mother. One tha...ould not easily extract myself from."

    "A discussion,"...epeated. "About what?"

    Again, he flinched. This was killing him. And ye...ould not help myself. After being on the other side of the truth for so long...ealize...ind of liked asking the questions.

    "Well," he said, then coughed. "Basically, I'm supposed to be under punishment right now. For the foreseeable future, in fact. S...ad to negotiat...urlough. It took longer tha...xpected."

    "You're grounded,"...aid, clarifying.

    "Yes."

    "For what?"

    He winced, then shook his head, looking over at the fountain. Who knew the truth could be so hard for Owen Armstrong, the most honest boy in the world. But i...sked, he would tell. Tha...new for sure.

    "Owen,"...aid as he squirmed, noticeably, his shoulder wriggling, "what did you do?"

    He just looked at me fo...inute. Then he sighed. "I punched Will Cash in the face."

    "What were you thinking?"

    "Well, clearl...asn't." He flushe...eeper red. "I didn't intend to do it."

    "You punched him by accident."

    "No." He shot m...ook. "Okay, you really want to know?"

    "A...ot asking?"

    "Look," Owen said, "the truth is, after you left yesterday...as really pissed off...ean, I'm human, right?"

    "You are,"...greed.

    "I really only wanted to ge...ood look at him. That was all. An...new he sometimes plays with that **ty Perkins

    Day band that was i...howcase last night at Bendo, s...igured he might be there. And he was. Which, really, when you think about it, is despicable. What kind o...erson goes t...lub-to se...hitty band, no less-the night before he's due in court? It's-"

    "Owen,"...aid.

    "I'm serious! Do you know how much they suck? Seriously, even fo...over band they're pathetic...ean, if you're going to just come out and admit you can't write your own songs, at least be able to play other people's well..."

    I just looked at him.

    "Right," he said. He ra...and through his hair again. "So anyway, he was there...o...ook at him, end of story."

    "Clearly,"...aid sternly, "that is not the end of the story."

    Owen continued, reluctantly. "I watched their set. Which, a...aid, sucked...ent out for some air, and he was outside smokin...igarette. And he starts talking to me. Like we know each other. Like he's not the freaking scum of the earth...otal **ing asshole."

    "Owen,"...aid softly.

    "I could feel myself getting more and more pissed off." He winced. "I kne...hould breathe, and walk away, and everything else, bu...idn't. And then, when he finished his cigarette, he clapped me on the shoulder and turned to go back inside. An...ust-"

    ......
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