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Zach doesn't make a habit of lying to people, and he certainly doesn't lie to people he respects. Not if he can help it.

Which is why when he said Shaun's book was good, he meant it. So Zach was sure that the envelope he found sandwiched between the letter from Cody's school and this month's Surfing magazine with a return address from Shaun's agent contained only good news.

"I'm home," he called out as he slid his finger into the top of the envelope from Meadows Elementary School.

Cody came running into the kitchen, and Zach set down the mail to pick him up and spin him above the counter. After setting Cody down, he let himself relax into Shaun's brief embrace.

"What'd you do today?" Zach asked Cody, handing Shaun's letter to him.

"We went to the park and then we got ice cream." Cody looked up to Shaun, who was reaching around Zach for the letter opener, for confirmation.

"What kind of ice cream did you get?"


"Awesome," Zach said.

"How's your dad?" Shaun asked.

"The same. What's in the letter?" he asked Shaun.

"This one? Nothing."


"My publisher wanted me to do a book tour. My agent sent me an e-mail earlier; I already said no."

"Are you sure? Because I could—"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

When Jeanne does visit, she forgets the paperwork for Cody that Zach took such care to mail her. And she doesn't mention it right away, waiting until an hour before the school closes for the weekend. Shaun smiles and assures Zach that he can pick up another copy of the proper forms, no problem.

Zach is all set to work on the painting he's doing in the kitchen to give Jeanne a little time and space with her son, but she draws Zach into conversation before he can do so. "You ready to go back to school and listening to professors?" she asks him.

"Yeah," Zach says, thinking about how Jeannie has never realized that having a boss instead of a teacher, a boyfriend instead of a back-stabbing excuse of a best friend, a child instead of a drug habit hasn't actually made her more independent.

"What's a professor?" Cody asks.

"Just like a teacher," Zach answers, when it become clear Jeanne's not going to. "Like you'll have when you start school."

"Are they nice?" Cody says.


Jeanne snorts, and Zach glares at her. "Hey, Cody," he says. "Jeanne brought you a present. You want to open it?"


Zach, who could just sit in one position and draw until his foot falls asleep and his leg cramps up, no longer made fun of Shaun's writing process. He still found it good for an evening's enjoyment, but since Shaun was letting Zach see early drafts of his next book Zach couldn't deny that his method was effective.

"What's Shaun doing?" Cody asked, looking up from the game of Sorry Zach had been engaging him in.

Zach looked up as well, to see Shaun standing on top of the kitchen table. "He's working."

"You don't work like that."

"Shaun and I do different kinds of work. His sometimes involves tables."

"Oh. Can I do that kind of work?"

"Maybe when you're older."

"You're more nervous about letting Cody go than he is about leaving."

Zach shrugged. "He was just putting on a brave face until he left."

"He'll be fine."

"I know. I just wish there was a way to make this easier on him."

"There isn't. That's a very important lesson from kindergarten."

"All these years and I'm still learning."

"It never ends. Hey, want to hear about Gabe's first day of kindergarten?"

"What about yours?"

"I don't remember mine."

CalArts was nothing like high school. It was also nothing like Gabe's stories of college, and Zach loved it for that.

CalArts was amazing.

But sometimes, when Zach melted into a hug from Shaun or spun Cody laughing around a playground, he wondered if he even needed it.