There's grief and despair, but also hope, measured in years or months or weeks or a single day. A woman in recovery for thirty-seven years. A girl who says she's been sober three days. And everyone in between. A girl tells Nic that she spent her last twenty dollars on his book instead of meth. “I'm going from here to a meeting,” she says. At a high school auditorium, in a sea of thousands of children, a girl near the back rises and begins sobbing. “My father's a meth and coke addict,” she says. “He beat me. Now I'm using meth and cocaine, and I'm afraid I'll turn out just like him.” It's heart wrenching, but openness is the first step toward recovery. “To anyone going through this, I'm here to tell all of you not to give up,” a gray-haired woman says at a bookstore. “My daughter was addicted to heroin. She lived on the street, was raped, stole, was in prison, and after all that, she disappeared. I didn't know where she was. For a year I thought she was dead. She's back, though. Here.” She looks at the girl sitting nearby. “Three years sober and the most extraordinary person I know.” The girl, with dark hair and a beatific smile, her serene eyes sparkling, rises, embraces her mother.
The final leg of the tour brings us to the Bay Area. Nic and I have a free weekend, which he spends with us in Inverness. On a cool sunny Saturday, we pack the car with a picnic and wetsuits and surfboards and Charles Wallace, our new puppy. At the beach, Nic and Jasper don their black neoprene suits. Jas is almost as tall as Nic now. It's startling to see them together—how much Jasper has grown. It's almost inconceivable that he's a teenager starting high school, that Daisy's twelve, a seventh grader, or that next month Nic turns twenty-six. The two boys grab boards and run into the surf, where they paddle out into the peeling waves. Daisy and her friend build a fort into the side of a cliff. Charles Wallace repeatedly ransacks it.
Nic returns to Savannah, Georgia, where he's lived for the past two years. Three months later, he moves back to Los Angeles. The move worries me. Los Angeles is filled with ghosts for Nic. Ghosts can be triggers. I caution him but remind myself, It's his life.