Sandy drove along, listening to the radio, his arm hanging out the window. Another day. Another very long day.

They all felt long, after Ryan disappeared. He hadn't said a word last spring. All he'd left was a note.

I'm fine. Don't try to find me. I think it'd be better if everything just went back to normal.


Like anything had been normal since Ryan left. Sandy shook his head.

Seth had been moping all summer, lonely and angry, by turns spending his days either playing endless rounds of 'Ninja Fighter III" or at the comic book store. He didn't hang out with the girls...the car never disappeared and came back smashed into pieces...there were no impromptu trips to Tijuana. Sandy missed it.

And he knew Kirsten did too. He'd catch her pouring an extra cup of coffee sometimes, and then looking at it sadly before dumping it down the drain. She bought less cereal, since Ryan wasn't there to eat it straight from the box.

Even Rosa wasn't immune. Sometimes Sandy would look out the window to the pool house and see her straightening the sheets on Ryan's old bed. It was hardly a secret that Ryan had been her favorite.

Nope. They all missed the kid. And they were all worried where he might have gone, and why.

Sandy thought Ryan had known that he and Kirsten would always help him if he had a problem. No matter what. So if there was a problem, why would he have just ran off like that?

And if there wasn't a problem, why would he feel he had to leave?

Sandy shook his head. He'd gone over these questions so many times, but he never came up with new solutions. And yet his mind kept stirring through them, over and over.

The traffic slowed to a crawl. Sandy checked his watch. Damn. He'd thought he was going to miss rush hour completely, but he'd gotten stuck in the tail end. Ah, well. It was a nice day. He'd enjoy the sunshine and the view.

He looked out his passenger window, to a half-finished construction site. As he crawled forward, he watched the workers. Ryan had wanted to be an architect, Sandy thought. He wondered again where the boy was.

His eyes caught a familiar looking figure. The way that guy was standing...that looked like Ryan.

Sandy sighed. He was always seeing young men who he mistook for Ryan. Everywhere he went, someone was slouching around in a gray sweatshirt, hands in his pocket, looking uncomfortable. He'd tapped a few of these guys on the shoulder, and it had never, ever been the kid he was looking for.

But he still studied the figure in a white teeshirt and hard hat. Could this one be him? How likely would that be? How many construction sites would hire a sixteen year old? Although, Ryan didn't look sixteen; maybe he could be mistaken for someone in their early twenties. But he'd need documentation.

Sandy sighed. He was almost positive that a kid from Chino, like Ryan was, would know how to get fake papers if he needed them.

The traffic inched forward, and Sandy got closer to the figure, who nodded his head twice at the man he'd been talking to, and turned away, heading towards a wheelbarrow.

Sandy nearly choked. It was Ryan. It really, truly was.