Chapter 1: Monumental Responsibility

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In Wynter's pocket was the key to Caleb's house in Columbia City, Seattle. The key was attached to the rocketship keychain Jesse had given her. But she was sitting in the truck with two of her brothers traveling in the opposite direction. To Rosa's house in Richland.

"I can't believe they canceled your visit this weekend," Jesse said for the fourth time. He was skipping classes to join them—three hours each way—as a show of support.

"They" were Social Services—specifically, Tina, Wynter's social worker, who had dropped in that morning to find out why Wynter had run away the day before and taken a bus to Oregon. Wynter had told the truth, because Caleb was right there, although not the whole truth. She'd told them she didn't fit into this world. The girls at school didn't like her, which she admitted was partly her fault for lying to them. Their mother in Thailand didn't want her. Their sister Joy wouldn't take steps to file for custody. Caleb had said he would, but he was about to be deployed so it would be months before that happened. So, she'd run. She'd thought she was running to Roman, her friend from the ashram in Arizona.

She told them all this, but she kept Xay to herself.

"I'll visit the first weekend in March," Caleb said. "And you'll be in Seattle for your birthday. After that, I'm pretty sure I can fit in one more visit before I leave."

"You don't have to," Wynter said quietly. "You have to teach your karate class on Saturdays."

"I can run that class," Jesse said.

"But then you won't be able to visit."

"We'll alternate." Jesse thumped his fist on the side window. "She can't just cancel your visit, though. That's gotta be illegal."

Wynter stopped herself whining aloud about it. Indio had told her to accept the way things were, and she was trying to do that. He'd also told her to make one promise to herself—and she had. She'd promised herself to find Xay. Now, she set the promise aside. The universe had put up a very clear roadblock on that path. When she could think straight again, she'd find some other promise.

"Let's deal with what we've got," Caleb said. "Wynter, I'll be home in June. I'll petition for permanent custody when you've been here six months. That's when you become a Washington resident."

Wynter did a quick calculation in her head. Six weeks ago, in early January, she'd arrived on Caleb's doorstep. Six months was early July, and until then...

"One hundred forty days." She sighed, wondering how many of those days it would take to make the girls at school like her again. After that, it wouldn't matter. In September she'd be going to her brothers' old high school in Seattle.

And how many days until Joy forgave her?

"Let's stop for lunch," Caleb said, taking the off-ramp.

"Tina said we had to go straight to Rosa's. We're not even halfway back."

Caleb threw her a look in the rear view mirror. "Tina also said you need to put on ten pounds. There's an awesome Italian steakhouse down the street here."

"The one with the carpeted floor?" Jesse said. "I don't trust a restaurant with carpet."

"Are you seriously saying no to spaghetti?" Caleb said.

"I'm saying no to eating on carpet. Who thought that was a good idea?"

Wynter smiled to herself at Jesse's habit of being contrary for the sake of logic, which really didn't bother her at all because it was usually good-natured. She made the effort to put herself in a better mood, too. She had the key to Caleb's house in her pocket and in one hundred forty days she'd be going home forever.

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