Read The Way Home Online

Authors: Becky Citra

The Way Home (6 page)

BOOK: The Way Home


A week went by and no one phoned about Lucky.

“Go outside and play, Tory,” said Cathy. “You're as jumpy as a rabbit.”

“She's driving me crazy,” complained Julia. “All she talks about is Lucky.”

On Thursday morning, Tory went to the general store with Oliver to buy some milk and pick up
the mail. She ran to the bulletin board to look at her
sign. Her heart sank when she saw that all the little tabs with their phone number were still there.

When they got back to the house, Tory spotted Linda's blue car right away. Sometimes Linda came just to say hello and visit, but this time Tory was sure that Linda was going to tell her about her new foster family. She felt sick to her stomach at the thought of moving into a house full of strangers and starting all over again.

Tory took her time getting out of the car. Julia was coming back from the barn after riding Barnabas. “Your
social worker's
here,” she said unpleasantly.

that,” said Tory.

She slipped in the front door. She wanted to sneak up the stairs to her room, but Cathy called out from the living room, “Come on in here, Tory. Linda's got some news.”

The two women were drinking tea. Linda grinned at Tory. “Hi, kiddo,” she said.

“Hi,” mumbled Tory. She liked Linda. Linda was always cheerful and friendly, and she had a long braid almost to her waist that Tory admired. But today Tory didn't smile back.

“Sit down,” said Cathy.

Tory thought Cathy sounded nervous. She perched on the edge of an armchair.

“Linda's found you a new foster home,” said Cathy quickly. “You're going to live with Daphne Minter. She owns the bookstore in Springton. I've met her and she's a very nice lady.”

Cathy said the words
very nice
in a loud voice. She's feeling guilty, thought Tory. She looked at Linda. “Does she have any pets?”

“She lives in an apartment right in town,” said Linda. “She's in that new building. I don't think they allow pets. But there's an indoor swimming pool.”

She added softly, “I want you to give it a
chance, Tory. Really try to like it there.”

A hard lump filled Tory's throat. Sometimes Linda seemed like her friend, but today it felt as if she was a traitor. Tory wouldn't look at her.

“I'm going to take you into town tomorrow to meet Daphne,” said Linda. “You can have a visit at the bookstore and then she'd like you to see the apartment and have lunch with her.”

“How long will I have to stay?”

“Just an hour or two. Just to get acquainted. That way it won't feel so strange when you move in.”

Cathy straightened a stack of magazines that were already tidy. She didn't meet Tory's eyes.

“Can I go to my room now?” whispered Tory.

Tory's feet felt like lead as she climbed the stairs. That night, when she went to bed, she tried hard to get excited about the swimming pool. But she couldn't. And she knew she would hate living in a stuffy little apartment instead of a real house with a yard.

Then she felt a flicker of hope. If Daphne Minter owned a bookstore, she must love books. She would hate the fact that Tory was a terrible reader. She probably would be so disgusted that she wouldn't want to keep her.

The next morning, Cathy told Tory to take her backpack, with an apple for a snack, and her jacket, because it was going to rain. She had never fussed like that before. Tory wondered if she was feeling a teeny-tiny bit sorry about forcing Tory to go to a new home. She backed away when Cathy for once tried to give her a quick hug.

Linda tried to talk to Tory on the drive into town, but Tory stared out the window and didn't answer her. With a sigh, Linda gave up and turned on the radio.

Some days it seemed to take forever to drive to town, but today the trip flew by. When Linda pulled up in front of the bookstore, Tory felt sick. She wasn't ready. She wanted to be somewhere else – anywhere else.

The store was called Huckleberry Books.
It had a big front window full of books with bright covers, and a red door. Tory had walked past the store before, but she had never been inside.

“You'll like it in here,” said Linda.

She opened the door and a bell jingled.
A woman with short silver hair was lifting books out of a cardboard box on a counter. She smiled. “Hi, Linda! And you must be Tory. Hello, Tory! I'm Daphne.”

“Hi,” mumbled Tory. Daphne had dangly earrings that were tiny gold books! Tory knew she was staring and pulled her eyes away.

“I'll drop her off at your office at one o'clock,” Daphne told Linda.

Linda squeezed Tory's hand. “Have fun,” she said, and then she was gone.

Tory studied a rack of bookmarks, pretending to be interested. She was afraid that Daphne was going to ask her a bunch of questions. Her throat felt dry and she didn't think she would be able to talk. But Daphne just said, “Would you like to take off your backpack and leave it with my purse?”

“No,” said Tory. She liked wearing her backpack. It made her feel that she could leave at any minute if she wanted to.

“Well then,” said Daphne. “I won't be too long, and then we'll shut up the store and go for lunch. Why don't you go and pick out a book to keep? The children's books are on that far wall.”

Tory drifted over to the wall. She didn't want a book but she thought Daphne might get mad if she said so. So she found a shelf with chapter books and she pulled them out, one at a time, and pretended to be choosing.

A woman came in and asked about gardening books. Then a man came in looking for a book about training dogs. After that the store was quiet.

“How are you getting along?” called out Daphne.

“Fine,” said Tory.

She slid a book off of the shelf and her heart gave a little jump. On the cover was a glossy picture of a black horse. The first word in the title was easy –
. She could guess the second word –
Tory had seen the movie, and she had cried and cried in the sad parts. She loved the pony called Black Beauty almost as much as she loved Lucky. But she hadn't known there was a book. She flipped through the pages. There were no pictures, and the print was small, and the book was thicker than the others she had looked at. But the cover was so beautiful! She took the book up to the front of the store and showed it to Daphne. “I've picked one,” she said.

Daphne frowned. “I'd like you to choose something you can read,” she said.

Tory's cheeks felt as if they were on fire. Linda must have told Daphne that she was a bad reader. “I want this book,” she said in a low voice.

“It's too hard for you,” said Daphne firmly.

“But I want it,” said Tory.

“I'm planning to help you with your reading, Tory,” said Daphne in a softer voice. “You'll just get discouraged with a book that's too difficult. How about one of the Magic Tree House books? Or the Polk Street series? They don't have so many words. And I've got some great picture books.”

Picture books! Did Daphne think she was a
? Did she think she was
? What exactly had Linda told her? Heat rose up Tory's neck. Before she could stop herself, she kicked out at the stand of bookmarks. It teetered and then toppled over with a crash.

Tory gasped and her heart pounded. She waited for Daphne to yell at her. She took a big breath, so she would be ready to yell back. She was ready to tell Daphne that she didn't want her help, and she
want to live with her.

Daphne sighed. “Put the book back, Tory. You can pick one some other day.” She sounded a little cold, but she didn't scream or anything.

Her legs shaking, Tory took the book back to the children's section. She looked longingly at the cover. Then she glanced over at Daphne, who was kneeling on the floor, picking up bookmarks.

Tory slipped the book into her backpack.


Tory was instantly sorry that she had taken the book – sorry and frightened. She had never stolen anything before. But it was too late to put it back. Daphne was right beside her, telling her
it was time to go.

They walked to Daphne's apartment building, which was only a few blocks away. The whole way, Tory felt hot with shame about the book in her backpack.

Everything about the apartment building looked new – the row of skinny trees along the walkway, the gleaming black-and-white tile floor in the entrance, the rows of shiny mailboxes. They took an elevator to the third floor, the top floor.

When Daphne opened the apartment door, she let Tory go in first. Tory glanced around. The living room was small and there were shelves crammed with books on every wall. “Where's the TV?” she asked.

“I don't watch TV,” said Daphne. “So I don't have one.”

Tory was shocked. “Do you have a computer?”

“I use the computer at the store. I really don't want two.”

No TV! No computer! Tory felt panicky. What was she going to do every day?

Daphne told her to leave her backpack by the front door. She gave her a quick tour of the kitchen and bathroom. She pointed to a closed door. “My bedroom's in there.” She opened the door beside it. “And this is your room.”

The room was small. It had a bright pink bedspread on the bed, a pink carpet, and pink curtains. In one corner was a dollhouse, almost as tall as Tory.

“What do you think?” said Daphne.

“It's okay, I guess. “

“Well,” said Daphne, sounding disappointed. Tory hunched her shoulders. She wasn't going to pretend she liked pink. She hated pink.

“Why don't you play with the dollhouse while I make us some grilled cheese sandwiches?” said Daphne.

Tory didn't like playing with dolls and she had no idea what to do with a dollhouse. Instead, she stood by the window and looked out at the back alley. She watched a thin striped cat nosing around a pile of old boxes beside a dumpster.
The cat was like her. It didn't have a home. Nobody loved it. Tory wished she could scoop it up and bring it inside, but there was that stupid rule about no pets.

She was glad when it was time to eat. She had refused breakfast and now she was hungry. Grilled cheese sandwiches were one of her favorite things.

“Well, at least I got something right,” said Daphne, watching her gobble up the sandwich. That made Tory feel guilty but she hardened her heart. Why should she care about this woman's feelings?

Daphne glanced at her watch. “We're going to have to eat and run. It's almost one. I'll just throw these dishes in the sink. Do you want to use the bathroom?”

The soap in the bathroom was pale purple and shaped like a shell. There was a bottle of coconut hand cream. Tory rubbed cream on her hands, and on her arms too, because it smelled so good.

When she came out of the bathroom, Daphne was standing beside the door, waiting for her. Tory froze. In Daphne's hand was the book
Black Beauty

Tory stared at her backpack, which was open at Daphne's feet.

“It's started to rain,” said Daphne. “I was looking to see if you had a jacket.”

Tory's legs felt like jelly. She swallowed.

“Oh, Tory,” sighed Daphne. She put the book on a table. “I'll take it back to the store later. Linda will be waiting. We should get going.”

It would have been better if Daphne had screamed at her. Then Tory could have screamed back that Daphne had no right to snoop in her backpack.

This way, she wanted to curl up in a ball and die.

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