Phoenix sat quietly outside the principal's office swinging his legs back and forth because the chair was so tall his feet couldn't touch the ground. The school's office was a somber place—very dark, very brown, and the secretary kept glancing at him in a sad sort of way. That wasn't why he was quiet, though. That was because on the other side of the big wooden door was his mother and he didn't dare do anything that may even resemble misbehaving when she was around.
The secretary was nice. He could never remember her name, but every other time he came to the office she would talk with him, laugh with him, and sometimes—when she knew no one was watching—she would give the students candy. Usually it was sugar free, old people candy, but at school you took what you could get. Phoenix didn't understand why today she was looking at him so sadly, but it unsettled him so he looked at his feet as they swung in and out of his view. He sat and waited and sat some more.
The secretary's weird look coupled with the fact that he couldn't hear anything coming from behind the big door was making him extremely nervous.
His mother had been in there with the principal for twenty whole minutes when Larry and his dad walked into the office. Mr. Butz went to talk with the secretary while Larry bounced over to his friend and heaved himself into the chair next to him.
"You and your parents were called here today too?" Larry asked.
"Yeah," Phoenix said, "Mom is talking to Mr. Miller right now." Phoenix looked up cautiously at Larry's dad and the secretary. They looked like they were having a Serious Adult Conversation. That was good, but he lowered his voice to a whisper anyway just to be sure.
"Do you remember what we did, Larry?" Phoenix, for the life of him, had no idea why they were called here but it must have been something really bad for them to call Mom in.
Larry glanced over at the Serious Adult Conversation, too, and then screwed up his face in thought.
"I don't remember," He whispered, "I spent the whole car ride trying to think of something. Dad didn't get mad at me when he got the phone call, though, so it's either not so bad or really, really bad."
Both the boys winced.
"I wonder if Miles got called in too," Phoenix thought aloud. The three were a team, but if Larry and Phoenix had gotten themselves into something bad enough to warrant this, usually Miles had the sense to stay out of it.
"What are you two whispering about?" Mr. Butz asked pleasantly. Mr. Butz was almost always enthusiastic and happy just like Larry, but it looked like the secretary's sadness had seeped its way across her desk and attached itself to poor Mr. Butz—like a horrific mask stuck on his face; no matter how hard he smiled or how pleasant his tone was, he couldn't hide it. It made Phoenix anxious, but Larry's dad wasn't mad, so it must be okay.
If something was wrong with his father's face, Larry didn't see it.
"Nothin' Dad!" he said, grinning guiltily as his dad ruffled his hair and sat down next to him.
The door to the principal's office opened then, and it wasn't Mr. Miller or his mother who stepped out but the school counselor, Ms. Lyst.
"You can come in now, Phoenix." She said, giving him a meaningful look that he didn't really understand. It wasn't happy, or sad, or mean, or angry, it was just…big. It was a big, important, look, and it made Phoenix feel very small as he jumped off the too-big-for-him chair and walked through the too-big-for-him door.
He only half heard her quick, "Hello Mr. Butz, hello Larry, you're early! We'll be with you in a few minutes." His mother and the principal—they had that same look that the adults outside had. It had slunk its way into this too big, too dark, too cold office and masked them too!
He tried to pretend he wasn't afraid as he sat into the empty chair next to his mother and looked at Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller was a great principal for an old guy. Sure he was fat and bald, but he never yelled. When he talked he made sense, and he had this really awesome moustache, even if it was white. Today his really awesome moustache just served to hide his frown, but the deep lines on his forehead betrayed him.
His mom tried to smile reassuringly. It didn't really work.
"Hello Phoenix," Ms. Lyst said walking back from the now closed door and joining Mr. Miller behind his desk, "Do you know why you're here today?" The way she asked the question was clean and simple. It wasn't loaded with secret meaning he didn't understand, and it didn't make him squirm in his seat out of guilt—it was simply a question. That was one of the good things about Ms. Lyst: everything with her was always simple unlike most grown-ups.
"No," Phoenix said, looking at his mother and Mr. Miller for a hint. Ms. Lyst was the only one there, it seemed, who hadn't caught the sad look that was slithering around snatching victims right and left, so he gave up on them and quietly addressed her, "Did I do something wrong?"
"Not at all," she said, "We want to talk to you about your friend Miles Edgeworth."
"Well, I know Miles didn't do anything, Miles never does anything wrong," Phoenix said instantly. Miles was perfect: perfect student, perfect son, perfect 'role model' whatever that meant—perfect friend. If there was any problem at all, Miles wasn't the cause of it.
"It's not that Phoenix," his mother finally spoke softly, "Do you remember that earthquake? The one that happened after Christmas?"
"Yeah," Phoenix said. He was confused now: Miles couldn't have caused an earthquake.
"On that day Miles and Mr. Edgeworth were at the courthouse," it was Mr. Miller this time, "When the earthquake happened, Mr. Edgeworth was—,"
"—There was an accident, Phoenix," Ms. Lyst said, cutting him off. "Mr. Edgeworth was hurt really bad, and shortly afterword he passed away."
Phoenix opened his mouth to protest, but nothing came out. Mr. Edgeworth couldn't…just…die… Dying was…dying was for pets, and people on the news, and…dead people. The people Phoenix knew weren't any of those things. People he knew didn't die. He couldn't find words to explain this out loud, though, so he closed his mouth again. Ms. Lyst kept talking.
"Miles' mom passed away a long time ago, so Miles is going to go live with someone else who can take care of him." Ms. Lyst herself didn't understand how the courts had decided to allow a young orphaned boy to go live in a foreign country with someone just because they had volunteered to, "Take care of the little nuisance and maybe make something of him yet," so in her expert opinion, Phoenix didn't need to know those details.
"What?" Phoenix asked after a few seconds. He didn't get it, Mr. Edgeworth was dead and Miles had to go somewhere…else?
"Miles isn't going to go to school here anymore, honey," his mother said softly, putting her hand on Phoenix's shoulder, "He has to move far away so that he can live with his new family and they can take care of him."
"You mean," Phoenix said, his head running on overdrive to put all of the pieces into place, "Miles is…" Realization was like slamming into a brick wall. No, it was worse than that—worse than anything he'd ever felt before. Tears sprang to his eyes,
All three of them nodded, and Phoenix's mother got out of her chair and knelt in front of him.
"No, he can't be gone! I just—" saw him. But he thought of the last time he saw Miles. There had been "Merry Christmas"'s all around and a "Guess what I get to do right after Christmas? Go to work with Father and see a really important trial!"
He couldn't be gone. It just wasn't possible. It was less possible than Mr. Edgeworth being dead.
"He is, honey. He had to go. There was nothing we could do." His mother said quietly. Seeing him so upset had brought tears to her own eyes, but she could control them better than he could.
"No!" he cried—he was frantic now and could barely see through the tears, "WE can take care of Miles! He doesn't have to go anywhere, he can live with us! I-I can—" A sob tore its way out of his throat and he couldn't continue.
"It's too late, honey," his mother said pulling him foreword in the chair to hug him, "I would have done anything, but they didn't tell me until it was too late."
They sat there for a moment, Phoenix sobbing uncontrollably in the way that only a truly pained child could. Mr. Miller and Ms. Lyst looked on helplessly until Mrs. Wright swept Phoenix up into her arms and said, "I think I had better take him home now."
They both nodded, "As we talked about," said Ms. Lyst, perpetually calm, "You can call me anytime." To Phoenix she said, "When you come back to school, my door is always open." Though he probably didn't hear her.
"Take as much time as he needs, Mrs. Wright," Mr. Miller said as she walked to the door.
Phoenix looked up from where his face had been buried into his mother's shoulder, they both looked back at him with the same look of sadness that had leeched its way into everyone. This time he couldn't understand how they could just look sad. This wasn't just tragic—
This was the end of the world.
He gripped his mother tighter, but before he could bury his head into her shoulder again, they were outside the office, and he caught sight of a very concerned Larry.
Larry didn't know yet. Larry didn't know! Phoenix felt he had to warn him, but he suddenly couldn't see through his tears. When he tried to open his mouth a new volley of sobs was all that escaped. He turned away. He couldn't look at Larry, who was ignorant to the fact that the world was over—that Miles was gone, far away, and was never coming back.