Chapter 37: One Hope

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Caleb distracted himself from his rumbling stomach with a stiff whiskey from the drinks cabinet in the dining room. Wynter and Jesse were at the table, heads bent over an old book that Caleb recognized from his childhood, a heavily illustrated kids' science encyclopedia.

"Dough's rising. Pizza in one hundred and twelve minutes," Jesse informed him, without looking up. "We've timed it to go into the oven just as the final credits for the first movie start rolling. And that movie will commence in four minutes."

"Sounds great. What are you studying there?"

"I hadn't planned to study anything cuz we were going out. But, turns out today is the anniversary of the launch of Salyut 1, the first space station."

Caleb hovered over them. "I remember that book. Must be completely outdated now."

"Indio used to read me bedtime stories from this book."

"The crew lived on the space station for three weeks," Wynter said, "and they were all killed on the journey home. What was the point of that?"

"They gave their lives in the name of science," Jesse said.

"Would you do that?"

Jesse hesitated a moment before answering, "Not while I'm still in my teens, no."

"Caleb risked his life on the water all the time in his teens."

"Caleb's indestructible. Right, bro?"

Caleb downed the whiskey without responding. He hadn't given his family the details of where he was headed out of Florida. No point worrying them unnecessarily—the risk was low but it was always there.

"Okay, time to cue up our first movie," Jesse said, closing the book. "We're starting in the 'fifties with Forbidden Planet. Wyn, it's about humans on another planet but was released years before we walked on the moon, even before the first man went into space. After that, pizza and Them!, which is about giant ants. If you're still awake, The Incredible Shrinking Man, where a tiny guy fights off a tarantula with a dressmaker's pin."

Caleb said, "How about you let Wynter choose one of the movies?"

"I don't know any movies," she said. "I don't care what we watch, as long as it's not about high school kids fighting with their parents and gossiping and tongue-kissing."

In the end, the movies were good choices—plenty of unintentional laughs, which they all needed, and a running commentary from Jesse on the social significance of the screenplays. The pizza was good, too, and Jesse was already planning an elaborate Thanksgiving meal using his scheduling technique.

They went to bed very late. Some time later, Caleb heard Wynter's footsteps and then running water in the bathroom that lasted longer than it should. He got up. The bathroom door was ajar and she was wiping her face and neck with a wet cloth.

"Nightmare?" he asked from the doorway.

She nodded, glancing at him in the mirror. "I'm okay now." She didn't look okay. She looked pale and miserable. She turned off the faucet and stared at her reflection. "I know I have to be patient, and that isn't even the hard part. The hard part is that I hardly felt hope before. I didn't know what it was, or maybe I forgot what it was. And now I'm full of hope and it's the scariest thing, hoping for something you have no control over. Like this weekend—I thought we had longer but I have to catch a bus in four hours. I know it's a trivial thing, but when the trivial things don't work out I get scared about hoping for the big things."

"You mean the custody hearing?"

She nodded.

Caleb was no stranger to hope or to disappointment. But hope itself had never been something he feared. "I think it will work out," he said. "I hope it will. But if it doesn't, we'll address that challenge. We'll find a different way forward."

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