Read The Way Home Online

Authors: Becky Citra

The Way Home (7 page)

BOOK: The Way Home


When they got to Linda's office, Daphne didn't say anything about Tory stealing the book. But Tory knew she would as soon as she got a chance. It made Tory feel awful. She wanted Linda to like her, but she wouldn't after she heard about this. Who would like a thief?

On the way back to Cathy and Oliver's, Tory pretended to be asleep. Linda didn't have time to come in, but she said she would see Tory soon. Tory mumbled, “Good-bye,” and walked to the house, her feet dragging.

When Tory opened the door, the phone was ringing in the den. She heard Oliver pick it up and then, after a few seconds, say, “Really!
All that way!”

Her heart jumped.

She raced into the den and stood beside Oliver, almost afraid to breathe, as he said things like, “How extraordinary.… His name is Lucky.… It was because of the fire…Well, we are grateful.” Oliver gave her a thumbs-up.

In the long pauses while the person on the other end was talking, Tory thought she was going to explode. “Is he okay? Is he
?” she screeched in Oliver's ear.

Oliver frowned at her to be quiet. He listened for a few more minutes and said, “Yes,
I know how to find your place. Tomorrow afternoon, then. And thank you again.”

Cathy was standing in the doorway, listening too. Oliver hung up. “You'll never believe this!” he told them. “Lucky went right over the mountain. He showed up at a place called Rainbow Ranch. I remember it from when I was a kid. Hippies used to live there.”

“Hippies!” said Cathy.

“That was forty years ago. It sounds like there's just a couple and a child living there now.” He grinned. “I was talking to a woman called Summer. Her husband's name is Jonah. I'll bet they wear love beads and bell-bottom pants!”

Tory wasn't sure what hippies were, but she didn't care. “Is Lucky okay?” she demanded.

“He wasn't at first,” said Oliver. “Their boy found him. Patrick. He's eleven and he's a foster child like you, Tory. Summer said Lucky's legs were badly cut, probably from barbed wire. But he's getting better quickly. They sound like people who care a lot about animals.”

“How did they know to call us?” said Cathy.

“They went into Springton today to sell vegetables at the farmer's market. They stopped at the feed store to pick up some grain and spotted one of Tory's signs on the bulletin board.”

“Thank goodness,” said Cathy. “Good for you, Tory, for thinking of making signs! Now maybe we'll have some peace around here.”

“Can we go right now? Please,
!” said Tory.

“Tomorrow.” Oliver was using his no-nonsense voice.

Tory sighed. Tomorrow! How could she ever wait that long?

The next day, Oliver hooked up the horse trailer. Tory sat on the edge of the truck seat all the way to Rainbow Ranch. They had to drive halfway to Springton and then over the mountain before they turned off on a gravel road that Tory had never been on before. The road followed a river that Oliver said was called Rainbow River.

While he drove, he told Tory more about hippies. “They lived together and grew their own food and played guitars and the men all had long hair. They didn't have proper jobs. They said things like
far out

“And they wore love beads and bell-bottom pants,” she reminded him.


Tory thought it must have been a lot of fun to be a hippie. She especially loved the peace sign that Oliver showed her how to make with her fingers. She leaned out the window and flashed the sign at some cows in a field.

When they arrived at Rainbow Ranch, a little gray dog, a black and white spaniel, and a golden retriever all rushed out to greet them. Summer was thinning carrots in a large vegetable garden beside the house. She stood up and waved and walked over to the truck. Tory was disappointed. Summer was wearing ordinary blue jeans and a plaid shirt. There was no sign of any love beads! But she had a friendly smile.

“I hope you don't mind dogs,” she said. This is Monty, Charlie, and Emma. They can be a bit wild, but not one of them would hurt a flea.”

“I love dogs!” Tory laughed when Monty, the golden retriever, put his front paws on her chest.

“Down, Monty,” said Summer, but she didn't sound cross. “Jonah's out in his workshop. I'll tell him you're here and then I hope you've got time for some iced tea and cookies.”

“I'll take you up on that,” said Oliver, “but
I think Tory here will burst if she doesn't see old Lucky.”

“He's in the barn with Patrick,” said Summer. “The wire cuts have mostly healed. Patrick's looked after him all by himself. He's been marvelous. He's put ointment and new bandages on every day.”

Tory could hear the pride in Summer's voice. No one ever sounded like that when they talked about
. “Can I go see Lucky now?”

A shadow passed over Summer's face. “Of course, but, oh my, this is going to be hard for Patrick.” She hesitated. “I wasn't going to tell you, but I think I should. Patrick came to live with us four months ago. He didn't talk, not one word.”

Tory was shocked. Oliver had said Patrick was eleven. What kind of eleven-year-old didn't talk? “Why?” she asked.

“Patrick has been through a very bad time. But he's healing, like Lucky.” Summer's face broke into a smile. “That's when Patrick started to talk to us, when he found your pony. I think Lucky opened up a door inside him that had been shut tight. And he's been talking more and more.”

“That's wonderful,” said Oliver. “It's hard work being a foster parent.”

“We're getting another foster child tomorrow,” said Summer. “We wouldn't right now except it's an emergency. Her name is Hilary. Her current foster home can't keep her.”

Tory fidgeted.

“Off you go, Tory,” said Summer.

She pointed out the way and Tory raced to the barn.


Lucky was standing in a stall, in a deep bed of clean straw. His front legs were wrapped in bandages right up to his knees. There was no sign of Patrick.

“Lucky!” cried Tory. Her throat closed up and tears burned behind her eyes. She opened the stall door and flung her arms around Lucky's shaggy neck. The pony's ears flickered back and forth and he nickered softly.

Tory knelt down and inspected Lucky's legs. The bandages were clean and white.

She was impressed by how neatly and snugly they were wrapped. Summer was right – that boy, Patrick, had done a good job.

Lucky nuzzled the back of Tory's neck. She grinned, stood up and gave the pony another huge hug. “You're going home today,” she told him. “You're going home, Lucky.”

Something stirred inside Tory – a little voice that reminded her. It was Lucky's home. Not hers. She only had two more weeks and then she would be gone. Cathy had said that if she didn't move too far away, she could come sometimes on the weekends and ride Lucky. But Tory knew it wouldn't be the same. Besides, Cathy would probably forget that she had ever promised that.

She blinked hard.
I won't think about that right now
, she thought.
Something in the corner of the stall caught her eye. The straw was pressed down, as if someone spent a lot of time sitting there, and there was a book with a bookmark in it. Tory wouldn't have been interested except for the picture of a black horse on the cover.

She stared in disbelief. It was
Black Beauty
! The book was much older than the one in the store, and the cover wasn't shiny. She picked it up and opened it to the first page. It was a jumble of words she couldn't read. Just for a second, she wished she were a better reader. Then she told herself, fiercely,
I don't care!

“What are you doing with my book?” said a cold voice.

Tory looked up. A boy stood in the doorway of the stall, holding a handful of carrots that were still covered in dirt from the garden. He had brown tousled hair, a pale white face, and blazing dark eyes. His eyes were swollen and rimmed with red, as if he had been crying for a long time.


She dropped the book into the straw. She stared back at him, her heart thumping.

He stepped into the stall. “What are you doing here?” he said.

She swallowed. “I've come for Lucky.”

“You can't have him.” His voice was low, like a whisper, and Tory thought she had heard wrong.


“You can't have him. He's mine.”

“No he's not!” said Tory.

Two red spots appeared in Patrick's cheeks. “I found him! I looked after him! He would have been dead if it wasn't for me. You didn't care about the fire. You didn't care what happened to him. You just left him to die!”

Tory's mouth dropped open. It wasn't true.
It was Oliver who had abandoned Lucky, not her. Anger flared inside her.

“How dare you!” she shouted. “How dare you say that! You don't know. You weren't there!”

“Go!” said Patrick. “Now! I mean it! Get out of here! Just go!”

He raised his arm and Tory thought he was going to fling the carrots at her. Or maybe even hit her. “

She sucked in her breath. Oliver would know what to do.

She marched past Patrick, out of the stall.

“I'll be back!” she said.


Oliver was sitting on the porch with Summer and Jonah.

“Oliver—” began Tory.

He frowned. “You're interrupting.”

Summer smiled. “Go inside the house and get yourself a juice box, Tory. Then bring it out here and you can have some cookies.”

The house was very messy. In the living room there were newspapers scattered on the couch, a rubber bone and ball on the floor, mugs on the coffee table, and a pile of knitting in an armchair. Tory spotted the orange cat asleep on the windowsill, and she stroked his head carefully.

She found the kitchen, got a juice box out of the fridge, and headed back through the living room. But she paused in the doorway to the porch.

Cathy had once told her that it was a very bad habit of hers, standing in doorways and listening to people's conversations. She said it was sneaky. But Tory knew that when adults lowered their voices, they were often talking about her. And sometimes that was the only way she could find out what was happening.

She held her breath so they wouldn't hear her. But this time, the adults weren't talking about her. They were talking about Lucky.

“How would you feel if we left Lucky at your place?” Oliver asked.

Tory felt as if she had been slammed in the chest. She squeezed her hands into fists.

“From what you tell me, he's made such a difference to Patrick,” Oliver went on. “I think it's marvelous how Lucky has helped the boy talk again. They've obviously formed a bond. And we really have no need for the pony. My daughter, Julia, outgrew him years ago.”

An icicle slid down Tory's back. Me.
What about
? she thought.

“I don't know,” said Summer slowly.

“It would be a better home for him,” said
Oliver. “We could consider it a loan. He's
neglected at our place. We have enough work with the show horses. To be honest, we don't want Lucky.”

“Tory does,” said Jonah.

Oliver sighed. “Tory does,” he agreed, “but she's leaving, so it really doesn't matter. And you say you have a little girl coming here tomorrow. She might like to have a pony too.”

“Well,” said Summer, “even so, we wouldn't want Tory to be upset.”

“Yes,” said Jonah. “We'd feel better about it if Tory agrees.”

Tory clenched her fists. Never,
, would she agree to leave Lucky with that horrible Patrick.

She ran through the living room and out of the house.

She raced down a path that led along the river. As she ran, Oliver's words pounded in her head.
We don't want Lucky. We don't want Lucky
. How could Oliver be so cruel?

She passed some old cabins. Then she spotted something bright and colorful tucked into the trees. She went closer for a better look. It was an old bus, decorated with painted flowers and peace signs. A hippie bus, she guessed.

She opened the door and peered inside. It was empty except for a plaid sleeping bag spread out on the floor. Some books and a drawing pad and a box of pencil crayons were scattered about.

Patrick must come here
, she thought. She hesitated and then climbed inside. Patrick was in the barn with Lucky. She could hide here. Far away from Oliver, who wanted to give her pony away. Far away from Summer and Jonah, who wanted her to say that was okay.

If they took Lucky away, would Patrick stop talking again? She swallowed hard.

She tried to imagine something so terrible happening to her that it made her not want to talk. She couldn't imagine anything that bad. But why was she thinking about this? She didn't care about Patrick. She

She sat down on the sleeping bag. She glanced at Patrick's books but they had boring covers, and they were thick and probably very hard to read. She opened the drawing pad and gave a little gasp.

Patrick had drawn Lucky, standing in a field of green grass with a blue river behind him. It was a perfect picture. He had drawn Lucky's big dark eyes and shaggy mane just right. She couldn't take her eyes off the picture. Lucky looked so happy, as if he belonged.

After a long time, she heard Oliver's voice in the distance, calling her. Then the bus door opened and Summer's tanned face peered in. “Here you are.”

“How did you find me?” asked Tory.

“Patrick always comes here when he wants to think.” Summer smiled. “And also it was a lucky guess.”

Summer sat down on the sleeping bag beside her. Tory's head was filled with a jumble of thoughts.
We don't want Lucky
, Oliver had said. But Patrick wanted him. He loved Lucky. Tory swallowed. If Patrick stopped talking again, it would be her fault.

She took a deep breath.

“I think Lucky should stay here,” she said.

Oliver was proud of Tory. He told her so over and over again on the way home.

“That was a hard thing to do, but it was the right thing,” he said.

Tory stared out the window and wished he would stop talking.

When it was time to go, Summer and Jonah had hugged her good-bye. Patrick had muttered, “Thank you,” in a gruff voice.

And then they had left and it had been too late for Tory to change her mind. All the way back, she tried to make herself feel better by thinking about how Lucky had found a new home with a family that really wanted him.

She blinked back tears.

What was going to happen to her?

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