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Going through the forest is my favourite part of the walk. Benji loves it too. There are rabbits to run after and old leaves to smell. Benji’s my dog, by the way, and I’m Grace. I live on a farm with my parents and take Benji for a walk most days after school.
While Benji runs ahead, I stop and take a photo of a butterfly. A new Facebook photo? Maybe, but my friends already call me 'Nature Girl', so perhaps not. Suddenly, I hear Benji’s bark. I look up and see Benji jumping and running round a boy. The boy’s about my age and looks worried. 'Benji, stop! Come here!' I call and reach into my pocket for his ball. I’m about to apologise to the boy, but he’s gone, disappeared between the trees.
I’m out with Benji again. It’s cold and rainy today, so we’re going fast. As I’m coming through the forest, it starts raining hard, so I run. Suddenly, I’m slipping and falling and, before I know it, I’m lying on my back. Ouch! That hurt.
Then there’s someone there and a voice says,
'Are you all right? That was a bad fall.' I look up and see the boy from yesterday.
'I’m OK, I think,' I say slowly and the boy helps me up. Benji arrives and the boy pats his head.
'I haven’t seen you at school. Do you live near here?' I ask.
'No, I’m from Manchester,' he says. 'Listen! I have to go. Are you OK to walk home? Do you need help?'
'No, I’m fine. Thanks!' I say, as the boy walks away.
'Hey, I’m Grace. What’s your name?' I call, but he’s already gone.
Back home, Mum’s watching the news.
'Hi Grace. Have you heard about this boy, Mark?' she asks.
'No, what boy?' I say.
'A boy from Manchester. He’s run away from home. Look! This is his dad.'
There’s a man on TV sitting next to a policeman. He’s crying and looks as if he hasn’t slept for days. Then they show a photo of the missing boy. I know him. It’s the boy from the forest. He’s Mark. Should I say something? Should I tell Mum?
'Poor man,' says Mum. 'I just hope they find his son soon.'
No, I mustn’t say anything. If I tell Mum, the police will come and find Mark. What if he’s run away for a good reason? I have to talk to him first.
I’ve looked everywhere but I can’t find Mark. If I’m not home soon, my parents will worry. So I try shouting.
'Mark, where are you?'
Nothing, no answer.
'Mark,' I shout again, 'I know about you.'
After a moment, I hear his voice.
'What do you know? How do you know my name?' I turn and there he is.
'Your dad was on TV last night. The police are looking for you.'
He looks shocked and asks, 'Did you say anything? Have you told them?'
'No,' I say. 'I wanted to talk to you first. What’s happened? Why have you run away?'
He looks at the ground.
'I had an argument with my dad. A bad one.'
'What about?' I ask. Mark points to a fallen tree and we sit down.
'My mum died four years ago. It was very hard for me and for Dad. He was sad for a long time, but then he met someone new. Mel’s her name.'
'Oh, and don’t you like her?' I ask.
'No, not much. She’s not a bad person, but we don’t really connect. She wants my dad for herself and isn’t interested in me. I don’t think she wants me around.'
'But, what about your dad? Have you talked to him?'
'He keeps telling me to make an effort with her, but I can’t. The night I ran away, he came to my room and said that we’re all moving to London. Mel’s from London, you see. And then he told me that he and Mel want to get married and have a baby. We both got angry and I told him I’m not moving to London. I took my tent and left in the middle of the night.'
'But what will you do? You can’t live in the forest', I tell him.
'I know, but my grandad and my friends are in Manchester. I don’t want to move to London.'
'You might like London,' I say.
'That’s what my dad says too.'
I feel sorry for Mark, but I think of his dad crying on TV and feel sorry for him too.
'What are you going to do?' I ask.
'I don’t know. I need time to think.'
Mark’s waiting for me in the forest. I’ve brought him a sandwich. I’ve also got some news.
'Mark, Mum says the police came to the farm this morning. They’re going to search the forest tomorrow.'
Mark shakes his head, 'I didn’t want this. My dad on TV and the police and everything. I don’t know what to do.'
'I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you live with your grandad in Manchester? Let your dad and Mel move to London and visit them in the holidays.'
Mark doesn’t answer at first, then he looks at me and smiles.
'Can I use your phone?' he asks. 'I need to call my dad.'
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Did you like the story? Do you think Grace did the right thing?