Peter hadn't been able to reach Kat all day. He had called several times and each time her secretary had told him that she was in session with a client. He didn't want to leave a message. He knew where he could find her tonight.
He glanced at the clock. It was almost dinner time. He began packing up his things, when, as if on cue, Sophie stuck her head in the door.
"Did you get in touch with everyone?"
Peter nodded. "For the most part. On my way to see Kat right now. Care to join me?"
Sophie shook her head. "I'd love to, but my kids are on kitchens tonight. Probably best if I don't run out of here before last light." She paused. "How is everyone?"
"Good," but even Peter didn't buy the sentiment. He sighed. "Okay at best, maybe. I'm not sure." He stood up and grabbed his coat. "Hopefully we'll know this weekend. We should see most of them."
"Scott's not coming." He stopped for a minute to study the picture of the Cliffhangers again. "Do you think we did everything we could for them?"
Sophie crossed the room and wrapped her arms around him. "Of course we did. They were a tough group of kids, but we did everything we could to get through to them." She nodded. "They're doing okay, like you said."
"But David, now Ezra." He shook his head. "Two lost. It just doesn't seem right."
"Hey now." She pushed back to look him fully in the eyes. "Hey. You can't blame yourself Peter. You said it yourself. You can only teach them so much, but in the end, they have to want to change. You can't make them do that. None of us can."
Peter sighed. He knew she was right, but still, part of him would always wonder if he could have done more. If maybe he had done things differently – if he never allowed Ezra to go home – if he fought a little harder with David - maybe things would be different.
Peter dwelled in his thoughts for only a minute, then glanced again at the clock. "I really should get going. Kat should be there by now." He leaned over and gave Sophie a peck on the cheek. "Have fun on kitchens."
She groaned. "Thanks. Tell Annie I said hello."
He smiled. "Will do." He grabbed his jacket and left without another word.
Kat blinked as she stepped into the dim lights of Rusty's and waited for her eyes to adjust from the bright sun outside. A smile crossed her lips as she spotted Hank and the kids seated in a booth in the back of the restaurant. Their heads were dropped, too busy coloring pictures on their place mats to notice she had walked in.
She hesitated a moment before joining them. She loved to see them like this. Hank was such a good father. He loved his girls more than anything in the world and it showed in the way his face lit up when he played with them. The girls adored him as well. Hannah was five and thought the sun rose and set on her daddy. She was constantly following him around the house, even tagging along with him to work when the job allowed it. Leah, at 3, was every bit as stubborn and passionate as her mom. Still, she loved her daddy. She was the one to challenge him – to push his patience to the limits, just to do something incredibly cute that would make him laugh and forget why he had been mad in the first place.
Hannah looked up from her drawing and saw Kat standing in the doorway. "Mommy!"
Kat beamed and joined her family at the table. "Hi sweeties," she greeted each of her kids with a kiss, then turned to her husband. "How was your day?" She planted a kiss on his lips before he could answer and snuggled into the booth to be closer to her girls.
Hank smiled. "It was good." He studied his wife's face for a minute. "Peter is looking for you."
Kat was already helping Hannah write her name at the bottom of her drawing and didn't look up. "Okay, I'll give him a call later."
Hank shook his head. "He's here – back in the kitchen with Annie I think. It seemed pretty important."
Kat's expression tensed. She spoke with Peter often, seeing him nearly every week. In all the years she'd known him, he'd never tracked her down to a family a dinner. She knew it must be important. Before she could ask any questions, Annie was at her side.
"Kat? Peter's in back, he needs to talk to you." She could see the tears in Annie's eyes and knew that something terrible had happened. A million thoughts were flooding her head – was it Peter? Sophie? One of the students? Horizon itself? She nodded and smiled at the girls, not wanting to upset them.
"Mommy will be right back. I need to talk to Uncle Peter for a minute."
"Uncle Peter is here?" squealed Leah. "I want to see him too!"
"In a minute, okay buddy? Mommy needs to talk to him first."
Leah frowned, but went back to coloring her picture without protest.
"Go on, honey, we're okay," encouraged Hank.
The short walk to Annie's back office seemed to take too long. The whole way, Kat imagined what could be so important that Peter had tracked her down to tell her in person.
He was sitting in a chair with his back to the door when she walked in. She could see his shoulders slumped and knew that he was crying. In all the years she had known Peter she had never seen him cry. He was a rock. Seeing him there, her heart fell and she feared the worst. "Peter?" Her voice was calm – years of working as a counselor had given her strength. When he stood, she wrapped her arms around him, reversing the role of teacher/student that they had had for so many years.
He smiled and returned the embrace. "It's good to see you Kat."
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
"Then Sophie? The school –"
Peter cut her off. "Let's sit and talk." He waited until they were both seated and took her hand into his. He remembered how close Kat and Ezra had been when they were students together. He knew that Kat had tried to reach out to him many times over the years. He didn't want to keep her waiting any longer. "Kat, it's Ezra."
She knew. Before he even spoke the words, she knew her friend was gone. "Oh, Peter!" The tears came before she could stop them and soon, it was Peter enveloping her. They stayed that way until the tears stopped flowing, her sobs settled and she wiped her face with the back of her hand.
"A few days ago." His voice was soft.
"We're not sure. He overdosed on pain pills. Not sure if it was an accident or on purpose."
"Do the others know?"
Peter nodded. "I called them all today. Sophie and I are planning a memorial service at Horizon on Saturday."
"How can I help?"
"Call me tomorrow, we'll set something up okay?"
She smiled. "I think Ezra would have enjoyed a Horizon memorial." She thought about her old friend. "At least, the old Ezra would have."
Peter squeezed her shoulders and returned the smile. "I think so too Kat."
Maybe coming together was just what his old students needed. Perhaps, even after all these years, there was still a lesson to be taught.