Read The Way Home Online

Authors: Becky Citra

The Way Home (8 page)

BOOK: The Way Home
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Chapter
Twenty

The next day, at lunch, Cathy said, “Linda called while you were playing outside. She thinks it would be a good idea to get you settled before school starts. You're going to Daphne at the end of the week, on Friday. By then, all the paperwork will be finished.”

Friday!

“I thought I was staying two more weeks,” said Tory weakly. She had been so sure that Daphne wouldn't want her anymore, and that Linda would have to look for another home.
She pushed away her peanut butter sandwich. She would be sick if she ate another bite.

For the next two days, everyone was extra nice to Tory – even Julia, who let her listen to her iPod and play her best computer games. Oliver took her out on the ATV, and Cathy made pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast.

“This isn't really good-bye,” said Cathy, when Linda came to get Tory on Friday. “You'll come back to visit us.”

Yeah, right
, thought Tory. Cathy and Oliver and Julia would forget all about her by tomorrow. She stared straight ahead as she and Linda drove out the driveway. She was positive that by now Daphne would have told Linda about her stealing
Black Beauty
. She braced herself.

But Linda just said, “Did I tell you I'm taking you out for a hamburger and a milkshake and anything else you want?” Then she put some music on the radio and didn't say anything else.

Tory leaned back against the seat. This was weird. Usually Linda chatted nonstop, trying to get her to talk about her feelings.

“I have to talk to you about something,” said Linda.

When someone said that, it always meant something bad was coming. Was it about stealing the book? Was it about the way she got mad at people? Tory scraped up the last scoop of ice-cream sundae and let it slide down her throat. She stared at Linda.

“Last week, I arranged for a girl called Hilary to live with the family at Rainbow Ranch.” Linda glanced at the café door and then away again.

“I know,” said Tory. “I've been to Rainbow Ranch. That's where Lucky is.”

“Yes, Cathy told me.” Linda leaned across the table. “It hasn't worked out for Hilary.”

“It hasn't?”

Those were the words Cathy used when she talked about Tory.
It hasn't worked out. We want our little family back.

“Didn't they like her?” said Tory.

“Oh yes, they did,” said Linda. “But it turns out that Hilary's terribly allergic to cats and dogs. She's never been around them much before, so no one knew. By yesterday, she couldn't stop sneezing and she could hardly breathe. So I brought Daphne out to the ranch last night to meet her.”

“Hilary is going to live with Daphne too?” said Tory slowly. She tried to imagine sharing that yucky pink bedroom with another girl.

“She's there now. Hilary is a real bookworm, just like Daphne. I think they'll get on fine.”

Linda sighed, but it didn't sound like a real sigh. It sounded like a pretend sigh. “Now we have a great big problem. Daphne has room for only one foster child.”

“And she'd rather have Hilary,” whispered Tory. “She hates me. She thinks I'm stupid.” To her surprise, she felt a little bit jealous of Hilary. The apartment was awful, but Daphne was sort of nice and she had kept Tory's secret about the book.

“She doesn't hate you at all,” said Linda, looking surprised. “Why on earth would you think that? She told me you had spunk. And she wants you to come back to the bookstore and visit. But I told Daphne that I'd had second thoughts that an apartment might not be the best place for you. I think that you would be much happier if you could have a pet.”

Tory went still inside. “Summer said Hilary was an emergency. Am I an emergency now?”

“Not an emergency.” Linda grinned. “But you are the girl that Jonah and Summer really want. Right away.” Linda looked up at the door again, and this time she waved.

Tory spun around. Summer walked into the café, wearing a long patchwork skirt and something around her ankle that looked like love beads. Behind her came Jonah, and then Patrick. Sum-mer and Jonah smiled at Tory. Patrick's face was red and he stared at the floor in front of his feet.

Summer said, “Patrick?”

Patrick raised his eyes. He took a step toward Tory. “I'm sorry I shouted at you,” he said.
“I was just so…upset. But I didn't mean the things
I said.”

“That's okay,” whispered Tory. She shouted at people too, when she got upset. She knew what it felt like.

“I wanted to keep Lucky so much. He helped me.” Patrick looked right at her. “It's really hard to talk about. Some day I'll explain.”

“You don't have to,” said Tory.

“Anyway, I really want you to live at Rainbow Ranch.” Patrick's words poured out now. “Lucky wants you to come too. We could hang out together. And I could even help you with your reading. If you want.”

Tory sucked in her breath.

Patrick's face split into a wide grin. “So, will you come?”

Tory thought he would make a pretty neat brother. Jonah and Summer were nice, and she could play with the orange cat and all those dogs. Best of all she would see Lucky every single day.

Tory grinned back. “You bet I will!”

Tory rode Lucky along a trail beside the river.
A cool September breeze ruffled her hair. The air was crisp and it seemed ages since the terrible days of the forest fire.

Last week, Oliver had phoned and said that Lucky could stay at Rainbow Ranch forever. Tory and Patrick were sharing him, and Jonah said he would look for another pony to keep Lucky company.

Jonah had put shoes on Lucky and his hooves made a clopping sound. Tory rode past the cabins and all the way to a dead tree that leaned over the water. This was the place where Jonah and Summer said she should turn around. She tipped forward and patted Lucky's neck. Her head whirled with plans.

That morning, she had baked a pan of chocolate brownies all by herself. Summer had helped her read the recipe, and had given her some neat tricks for sounding out hard words. They had a deal. Tory could cook anything she wanted, as long as she read the recipe herself, with Summer's help.

In the afternoon, Tory and Patrick were going to eat brownies in the old hippie bus. Patrick was reading
Black Beauty
to her and she couldn't wait for the next chapter.

A bright yellow leaf twirled down from a tree and landed like a butterfly on the ground. In the distance, she heard Charlie, the spaniel, barking. She remembered that she had promised to help Patrick brush burrs and mats out of all the dogs' coats today. She clucked to Lucky and squeezed her legs on his sides to get him moving.

For once, Lucky didn't mind trotting.
He knew that the two of them were on the way home.

Acknowledgments

I would like thank everyone at Second Story Press who worked so hard on this story, particularly my editor, Gena Gorrell, whose insight and ideas were invaluable.

I would like to thank my good friend Helen Helvoight who answered my many questions about social workers and foster children. Thanks also to my writing pals, Ainslie, Kathy, and Ann, who listened to the early drafts and, as always, were encouraging, supportive, and so much fun!

About the author

Becky Citra
is a former teacher and the author of seventeen books for children. She lives on a ranch in Bridge Lake, British Columbia where she loves to ride horses, hike, snowshoe, and cross-country ski. She brings her knowledge of the outdoors into her books, often writing about ranch life and the wilderness.

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