Mattie sat to the side of the pew in the sanctuary next to the girls. Bruce sat at the step leading up to the podium. Her husband was intent as the group was sharing their typical teenage problems and issues. Typical. She had been a teacher long enough to know that what was typical for kids today was out of the ordinary for her growing up, just a few years prior.

She half-listened as Cody talked about his parents' divorce. Twenty years of marriage, gone like that. Does a kid want his parents to be happily separated or force themselves to stay together for their kids' comfort? The truth was that both situations sucked for the kid. Divorce also happened to be one of those issues she could relate to with the younger generation. It was something she still struggled with. Divorce, the great generational equalizer.

It was a subject she had thoughts on, however unclear and always flowing views, but half of her attention was still in the hallway where they left the kid she had somehow managed to nudge under their collective wings. Who was still out there with a kid that even she, the most annoyingly positive person most people knew, had misgivings for.

Something wasn't sitting right with her and she didn't know if she could trust either of them. She had also been a teacher long enough to know that legitimate bathroom breaks shouldn't take so long.

Her attention came back enough to catch Jenny telling Cody that maybe his staunch belief that everything would work out was God's way of showing him that it would. She smiled. It was a nice thought and sure, it could work out. But sometimes God didn't work things out the way you hoped or thought they should.

"This is always possible," Bruce said, "but you have to prepare yourself that God may have it planned to work out in the end differently than you would think."

Maddie smiled again. There was a reason she liked that guy.

Alex paced the small classroom as Randy somehow felt lower and lower sitting in his chair.

"Now they're taking you for granted," Alex was saying, " You're happy with your new friends, as far as they're concerned. Why should they put any effort in reaching out and connecting with their son when there are others more than willing to do so on their behalf."

Randy wondered if his parents would even notice if he was no longer around. They barely noticed him now. What a burden that would be lifted if he simply ceased to exist in their world. Or any world.

"If we died, they might actually start to care about us," Alex said.

Emotions and thoughts that usually lived on the periphery of Randy's thoughts had embedded themselves at the forefront of his brain. Dangerous thoughts that he fought to keep down, that he never allowed himself to fully contemplate.

"It's sad that we would never live to see them care about us," Alex said.

Randy didn't know if that was irony that he could bring himself to appreciate. But it was certainly poetic.

"Then they would regret every moment that they ignored, talked down, or treated us like we were just in the way," Alex continued. "It would eat them alive, knowing the thing that triggered their caring was the cost of their kids' lives."

They would understand then, Randy knew. He would have their attention then. They couldn't help but notice at that point.

"Wouldn't it be awesome to put them through that?" Alex asked.

Randy slowly looked up from the surface of the somewhat wood-colored table and met his friend in the eyes. He finally saw a spark of life, a hint of purpose in the kid's eyes. Randy should be horrified that it was the thought of death that brought it out, but the only thing he could think of was that the only thing he would regret would be not being able to see the look on his mom and dad's faces.

There was no doubt that Ariel Winders was an attractive woman. Kurt could easily see people getting drawn into her eyes as they spoke. He was finding that true about himself as well. Maybe the feeling in his stomach wasn't unease or cheap pizza, but butterflies from not wanting to acknowledge her charms. Despite her hypnotically green eyes and the way she naturally made him feel in her presence, Kurt was not interested.

There was still a Carrie-sized hole in his heart and it had not fully healed and probably never would. He wasn't sure if he wanted it to. Maybe one day it would heal enough that he could help fill it with another special problem, but that would be a long way away.

Still, it said something about Ariel that Kurt found himself being open about just that. They had finished preparing whatever games were to be played the rest of the night and were sitting on a couple of folding chairs prematurely snacking on pretzels.

"These things are never easy to get past, said the woman who has never faced more than the inconvenience of having to stay late and grade papers," Ariel said. "But the fact that you are here, helping others is a positive thing, I should think."

"One month ago, a couple of weeks ago even, I don't think I could have seen myself on any sort of upswing from where I was. But here I am. Swinging up."

The hiss of escaping carbonation filled the air as he popped his second soda of the night. He could foresee many more. An all-nighter was not something he had pulled in a long time. Old age hadn't caught up with him quite yet, but he would need all the caffeine he could stand.

A sigh that he didn't feel coming in time to stop before it could manifest escaped as he took a sip.

"I still miss her though. Still can't let her go. Being here has been okay and healing in a way, but I will always know that if things went okay, I would be on the other side of the state watching some boring reality dating show because that's what she was wanting to watch and being okay with it, even if it were the most pathetic display of human tastelessness I can barely stomach," he said. "I'm still not over her."

"Nor should you ever be," Ariel said, grabbing his free hand and giving it a friendly squeeze. "You've got to keep that girl alive in your heart, Kurt. Don't let her go. Maybe one day, you'll be able to move on to another girl, who I truly believe will be a lucky girl, but Carrie will always be with you."

"She will be. That's one of the only things in life that I'm one hundred percent positive of nowadays," he said.

Ariel let go of his hand and grabbed a bottled water, taking a drink before popping a couple of pretzels.

"So what kind of person wouldn't you ever date," Ariel said. "Like under any circumstances. What type of girl would a ready-to-date Kurt Collins take one look at and be like 'no thank you, ma'am.'"

"What a devious subject and totally unchristian-like thing to ponder," Kurt said, raising his eyebrows at her. "Frankly I'm surprised someone that seemed as nice as I assumed you were would want to talk smack about certain types of people and what would Jesus even think about you right now and the answer is obviously anyone named Rosie."

Taking a sip of water, Ariel almost snorted it all over the table.

"Rosie? How weirdly specific."

"Yeah, you know. Rosie. Anyone in the entertainment biz named Rosie. Rosie Perez, Rosie O'Donnell, Rosanne Barr…"

"Also weirdly old school," Ariel laughed.

"I'm an old soul."

"Painfully obvious choices as well," she pointed out.

"I suppose you have a candidate that's not as high on the radar?" Kurt asked.

"That snooty maitre d with the impossibly high head and acrobatic eyebrows in Ferris Bueller's Day off."

"Speaking of old-school. Also, you had that one in the barrel ready to fire, so that's kind of concerning that you think about this guy so much," Kurt says.

"Every time I watch that movie, my all-time favorite, by the way, every time I get to that scene, that guy just oogs me out. Like…" Ariel shuddered for effect.

Kurt stared straight ahead. It wasn't butterflies in his stomach. The feeling was much more intense now.

He looked up at Ariel, trying to shove the despair down deep.

"Something's wrong," Kurt said. "Deathly."

He stood up and shot through the door into the hallway. Ariel was right on his heels.

There was an instinctive sense of direction in Kurt's gut. He knew exactly where to go and somehow realized the main church building was not his destination. Near the end of the hall, a door stood off to the left opposite the restrooms. Even if light didn't sneak out through the edges of the door frame, Kurt knew that was where he must go.

He just didn't know what to do once he got there. If he had to call on this weird power he possessed, his only hope was that it would manifest when needed. Because he had no idea how to bring it forth on his own. And if he couldn't, he had a distinct feeling that it would be the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, he would not have the opportunity to find out. He yanked the door open and immediately knew he was too late.

Randy sat on the floor, his back to the wall. An open pocket knife hung limply in his left hand. Blood was flowing from his wrists.

"Oh no…"

Kurt leaned over the boy who seemed to be totally out of it. He gave him a shake.

"Randy!"

Randy's head hung limply down, chin touching his chest. Kurt looked back to Ariel.

"Get something to wrap his wrists. Find Mattie!"

Before he could even finish saying it, Ariel had already turned around and rushed through the door and down the hall.

"Randy, hold on…"

He was too late. The feeling had been bugging him all night and he had been kind of ignoring it because it wasn't overpowering until it suddenly was. He should have been more vigilant. Should have dragged his lazy butt up and down the hallway every couple of minutes to be sure nothing happened.

Something had happened. While he was there. Another death that he could have prevented if only he had been more attuned to this stupid gift that had been foisted on him. He frantically searched the room for paper towels. Anything.

In the end, he took his shirt off, tore a piece of fabric from the sleeve, and tried to wrap it around Randy's bloody wrists.

Randy's eyes fluttered open and slowly focused on Kurt. Kurt met the boy's eyes. Randy smiled weakly.

"Th… they'll pay attention now," he whispered just barely enough for Kurt to catch the words. "They..."

The whispered words trailed off as his eyes fluttered back shut just as Mattie burst into the room followed closely by Bruce. The fabrics of Kurt's gray shirt were dark with blood.

"Randy!" Mattie shrieked, making her way to him. Kneeling by his side, she grabbed his head against her body in an embrace, frightful tears blurring her vision.

"Where's Alex?" Bruce asked.

Kurt looked around the room, noticing for the first time one of the windows leading to the exterior of the church was open.

"Guess he got scared and made a run for it," Kurt said.

He should have kept a better eye on him. Mattie sensed it. She warned him. He should have trusted both of their instincts and kept an eye on the boy. Randy had obviously wounded himself, but Alex could have had some influence.

Ariel came in seconds later wielding wet towels. She handed them to Kurt and Mattie who did their best to redress the wounds. The remainder of Kurt's shirt did very little to keep the flow of blood from escaping. Both he and Mattie were shortly covered in red.

"I had Jenny call nine-one-one.," Ariel said. "Someone is on the way."

Kurt put his fingers up to Randy's neck, checking for a pulse. If there was one, it was faint. He was no medical expert, so he prayed he just wasn't doing it correctly. How was he so out of his league? Why did Joey have to be gone?

An acrid metallic smell started to permeate the air. It was the smell of too much blood lost and impending death. He was certain the smell was all over the supermarket that dark day a couple of months before, but he had no memory of it. All he remembered was the acrid smell of gun smoke hanging like death itself. And the burned image of Carrie's body, bloodied and lifeless.

In his young life, he had found out that death could look and smell different but was always recognizable.

"It might not be fast enough," Kurt said.

Mattie began to sob, sitting down on the floor and pulling Randy against her, embracing him from behind.

"Randy. Hold on… please… hold on," she pleaded quietly.

Sirens sounded from the distance. Kurt did what he could to keep the wet towels around the bleeding wrists. Mattie continued to hug Randy from behind, whispering prayers in the boy's ears. Bruce and Ariel could do little more than stand silently by, offering their prayers and hoping help arrived in time.

Continued…