Karen called a couple hours later, but she didn’t exactly say what I was expecting her to say...
"I can't find Lewis"
"What?" I asked, confused.
"He went out in the garden and I called him in for dinner and now I can't find him"
"I'm really sorry. I was keeping an eye on him but he must've slipped off when I was getting dinner ready and I'm really sorry" she said, and by the sounds of it, she’d worked herself up into a bit of a state over it.
"It's fine, it's not your fault. Right, I'll call Alex and my folks, get them to go out looking for him. I want you to ask around the neighbours in case any of them have seen him. Don't let the old man out of his chair in case he comes back, and I'll leave the kids with John and check the parks and everything"
"We'll find him"
“I know, I just can't help panicking a bit. Oh god, what if something's happened to him"
"He'll be fine"
"Okay, right. I'll go ask around" she said, sounding like she was trying to calm down.
"Let me know if you find anything"
"I will" she said, hanging up.
I took the kids over to John’s, dashing into Mom and Dad’s and letting them know what was going on, before calling Alex and repeating myself. I checked all the local parks, getting more and more worried each time I couldn’t find him. I heaved a sigh of relief when I found him sat in a tree eventually, and called everyone to let them know I’d found him.
"Lewis" I said climbing the tree when he ignored me. "Lewis, why did you run away?" I asked.
"'Cause nobody wants me here" he said, tears streaming down his face.
"That's not true, sweetie"
"You didn't want me, Karen took me 'cause she felt bad for me and now Danny doesn't want me either"
"I do want you, kiddo, and Karen and the old man love you very much. And I know the thing with Danny might feel like the end of the world right now, but I promise you it's not"
"I want to go home"
I reached across and played with his hair, wanting to give him a cuddle.
"At least mommy wanted me"
"We want you, Lewis"
"You don't" he said, climbing up higher.
"Of course we do, baby, you're part of the family now. If we didn't care, you'd be sat in a care home right now" I said, climbing up with him.
He shuffled over to the edge of a branch and I didn’t follow him that time, worried he’d fall if he went too far. I felt next to useless as I sat there watching him cry. I’d never been through what he was going through, so the whole thing was kind of alien to me. I was busy puzzling over what to say when my phone rang. I looked at the screen, seeing it was Caleb, and was told that he was coming to speak to Lewis because he might be able to make him feel better and there was no stopping him.
"Lewis, do you remember my friend Caleb?" I asked and he nodded, sniffling. "He's coming here. He said he wants to talk to you"
I shrugged. "Just said he might be able to make you feel better"
"I just wanna go home" he sobbed, hiccupping a little.
"Just give him five minutes, or none of us'll ever hear the end of it" I smiled faintly, but Lewis was too busy crying.
Caleb arrived a few minutes later, his usual glittery self, with Alex in tow. He clambered up into the tree, offering Lewis some candy. Lewis sniffled, taking it, and Caleb dug into a mouthful of his own.
“So you got a crush on Danny, huh?" he said and Lewis nodded slightly. “Guess what. I know exactly how you feel”
"But you're old" Lewis said innocently and Caleb pouted.
"You are to me"
"Then what's that thing?" he asked, pointing at Alex.
Lewis looked over. “I don't know" he said, his eyes welling up again.
Caleb offered him more candy, but he just sort of played with it.
"Anyways, just because I'm old doesn't mean I can't know how you feel"
"’Kay" Lewis said, wiping his face.
"Guess who I had a crush on all through high school"
"Who?" Lewis asked and Caleb pointed at me.
"It's true. He never liked me back, though"
"Will Danny never like me?" Lewis asked, looking like he was about to cry.
"Maybe, maybe not. But look at me and bunny, we're the bestest friends ever. I never let him not liking me get in my way" Caleb said happily. "But that's not the important thing. See, when I was in high school and bunny didn't like me the same way I liked him, I thought that was it, end of the line, finito" he held up his hand, the sunlight reflecting off his wedding ring. "But it wasn't. Not by a long shot. And now I got myself a beautiful husband, and the best friend anyone could ask for" he said and Lewis wiped his face again. "So sure, Danny might not like you. Doesn't mean he won't one day, and it doesn't mean you won't find someone else"
Lewis shuffled up to Caleb for a cuddle, and the ginger shoved more candy in his mouth, cuddling back. I looked at Alex and he shrugged. I guess he hadn’t known about Caleb’s little crush on me, then.
"So, how 'bout we get out of this tree, go back home to the wrinklies, and stop worrying?" Caleb said and Lewis nodded the tiniest little bit. "We can even swap wrinklies, if you want" he stuck his tongue out, resting his head on top of Lewis’.
Lewis agreed to come down after a while, and Caleb knelt down next to him once we were all back on the ground.
"You gonna be okay, little man?" he asked and Lewis nodded. Caleb ruffled his hair. "Good to hear it" he said, looking round at Alex before whispering something to Lewis.
Alex watched them curiously, and Caleb pecked Lewis on the cheek. Lewis cuddled him again, apologising for being mean when he stayed over.
"Don't sweat it" Caleb grinned, giving him the last of his candy.
Lewis thanked him and Caleb wandered over to Alex, telling him it was fine.
"I never knew you had a crush on Hadley" Alex said, holding Caleb’s hand. Caleb just grinned.
I asked Lewis what Caleb had whispered, not trusting him to have kept it suitable for a nine year old, and sort of froze when he told me. Caleb still had a crush on me...
Alex was cuddling Caleb from behind possessively but Caleb didn’t seem to mind, this contented look on his face.
"Keep your eye on him" I said to Alex before taking Lewis back to Karen and the old man.
Karen was all relieved once we got back, and she told Lewis never to run away again. I double checked that he’d be okay, running a hand through his hair when he didn’t seem sure.
"You can always come and speak to me, y'know? Or Gayleb, if you want" I said and he nodded. "And you know that I love you very much, right?" I asked, kissing the top of his head.
"Love you too" he mumbled, cuddling me and making me smile.
"Do you want to stay here tonight or come back with me?"
"Okay" I said, kissing his head again. “Things’ll get better, baby. I promise”