Ch 20 - The only choice

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The dusty red pickup truck bounced and creaked as they rolled over a pothole on the way out of town. Where was Teasel now—or her good luck or guardian angels or whatever.

As much as she liked peach milkshakes and dodging chores now and then, her helpful brownie never seemed to come through on the big things.

Mom.

If only Mom would come back. She wouldn't have to sit here dying in the silence.

"What did the sheriff have to say?" Pippa's voice held an equal mix of curiosity and suspicion.

Rhianna wasn't sure she wanted to answer. But talking about the sheriff was much easier than confronting Gran with what she had overheard Gran say at the Soda Shoppe—or the whole fairy thing.

"She told me about what you did," Rhianna said, quietly, not knowing why she chose to phrase it that way.

"What I did?" Some of the waspish tone present in the conversation with Barton came back.

"You were the one who sent her away to that place. She says it broke her."

"She was already broken before I sent her away, and it's not like they gave me a choice." Gran's voice caught at those last words, as though she might cry.

Rhianna squirmed in her seat, wishing she had't said anything. Gran looked out across the cornfields out the driver side window.

After a moment Gran said, "They didn't give me a choice."

"Who?" Butterflies tickled the inside of Rhianna's stomach.

Her knobby-knuckled hand went to her brow, framed by silver hair, and then dragged down her face as though trying to clear away the years of frown lines.

Gran looked at her sidelong and raised one eyebrow, her hand still covering her mouth.

Rhianna found herself leaning toward her, waiting for the answer. But Gran turned her attention to the road again.

Rhianna straightened her back. She had thought for a moment Gran was going to tell her about the fairies. Then maybe they could have a conversation about it without Rhianna admitting she had broken the rules and gone into the forest. Gran's silence was starting to offend her.

She had let it go when it became apparent Gran wasn't the huggy, touchy, feely type. Neither was Rhianna so it was no big deal that their relationship stayed strictly business. Especially since Rhianna wasn't planning to stick around.

She had even let it go when Gran started foisting all the chores on her, like she was a new beast of burden added to the farm stock. Rhianna's mother had always taught her not to let herself get tangled up in debt to others. It suited her to work for her room and board, as much as she groaned about it.

And when she heard the venom in Pippa's voice as she called her a thing. She had tried to respect her grandmothers' privacy and pretend she hadn't heard—hadn't been hurt.

But it was her life and her history they were talking about. She had questions about where she had come from. If she had a father she should know about. And she deserved an answer.

"I want to know." It was almost a whisper.

Pippa rubbed at her eyes and then pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. "The sheriff did give me a choice. But it was an impossible one. I could voluntarily put Katrin into the facility, or her would take away my right to choose. All it would take was a little piece of paper signed by a judge and I would not be her mother anymore. Then she would end up in that place anyway."

Rhianna was startled. It wasn't a surprising revelation. Her mom had often talked about how they could take Rhianna away from her. But she had been expecting to hear about the fairies finally.

While she was trying to think of a way to steer the conversation in the direction she wanted, Gran seemed to take her silence for something other than a mental regrouping.

"Fine, don't believe me. I am sure whatever your mother told you is the real truth."

"She didn't really tell me anything. You two are a lot alike."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Gran sounded genuinely shocked, as though Rhianna had just told her that the sky was green and monkeys had wings.

"Who was my father?"

Silence. The truck bounced as they pulled up the drive to the farm.

Gran pursed her lips and screwed her mouth sideways. She pulled to a stop beside the house, but neither of them moved to get out. The silence drew on like a game of chicken and neither daring to be the first to act.

The frown lines threatened to take over Gran's face completely. Finally, she made a tetchy noise and turned to Rhianna. "A deceitful, scheming devil—" She swung her gaze to the forest and then added, "I am sure, but Katrin never said his name to me, so I am not able to repeat it to you."

Pippa wrenched the door open and stalked toward the house. She stopped just before the porch and said through clenched teeth, "That laundry isn't going to take itself off the line, and it looks like there is another storm brewing."

Rhianna slid out of the truck, her feet barely touching the ground before Pippa had disappeared behind the clack of the screen door.

Dark clouds rolled in from the direction of the woods. There did seem to be another storm on the way.

She set her back pack, with it's precious book, under the cover of the porch and jogged over to the clothes line strung between two oak trees to pull down the bedsheets from her sleepover.

Fine. Rhianna had friends now. Friends who were dying to go back into the woods with her. She had no choice but to go looking for her own answers.

Friday could not get here fast enough.

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