She stutters, embarrassed for staring too long. "W-where are your parents? I'm sure they're very worried about you," she says and his answer is a blank stare. His smile doesn't waver, but abruptly, he swings his arms around her neck and latches her into a hug.

She doesn't know what to do. The last time she dealt with children was in high school when she babysat her neighbor's children on Saturdays, and they wanted everything but hugs. For a moment, she waves her arms so they hover around him in uncertainty.

"Um," she mumbles, lightly placing her hands on his shoulders to push him off, cautiously scanning for someone to help. Surely a hug doesn't last this long, she wonders when no one yells at her to leave the kid alone. "I should take you to the police so they can find your parents," she informs, hopeful, but he doesn't respond or loosen his hold on her. "How about you tell me where you live so I can take you home," she persuades, yielding the same response.

Sighing, she takes a second to think. He's covered in bandages and doesn't want to go home or to the police. And he doesn't want to let go of me, she adds, summing up the situation. Maybe he's being abused? Sarah frowns at the memory of her own runaway experience in the past and decides he must have a reason, like she did, to leave home.

Feeling empathy for the kid, she softly whispers, defeated, "Do you want to come home with me? You can stay the night and tomorrow we'll deal with the police and your parents."

He pulls away for a moment to smile at her and she is instantly enchanted; her heart warming at the thought of this kid smiling even when he has to deal with abuse. Her concern for his well being shoots higher when he shivers at a chilly autumn gust.

The End

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