Caleb pulled Wynter up by the hand, picked up her backpack, and opened the truck door for her.
"One hundred miles to Ellensburg, which is halfway," he said as he turned the truck around in a strip mall parking lot. "Let's see if we can beat that bus, and you can get back on it. Rosa will never know."
"Isn't that a lie?"
"We're fixing a mistake."
She could hardly believe it, but he wasn't angry. She couldn't figure out what he was feeling. Did he even know what he felt? She'd turned his life upside-down in a way he couldn't possibly have expected. Maybe he was as confused about the world—this new world with her in it—as she was.
She said, "I thought I was supposed to go. I found a quarter to make up the fare. I should've put it in a charity box, like Jesse told me once."
"Jesse said you wanted to talk to Joy?"
Wynter remembered the photo and took it out of her bag. "I need to give this back to you. I only borrowed it."
He glanced at it. "You can keep that, if you want to."
"Take it back, otherwise you'll have a blank space in your album. I wanted to remind Joy she used to be happy being part of the family."
"She was happy. She was quiet—maybe overshadowed by the three of us. But I remember her being happy."
"The happier the Light makes her, the less she'll want us in her life."
"I know you're worried about that." He looked at her again, and back to the road ahead. "Hun, I understand you wanted to see her, but next time, to avoid these complications, you could just mail her the picture."
She gave a quick nod, then pressed her lips together, gathering courage to ask the next question. "Did you have a fight with Bea for leaving early?"
The flat way he said it made her think they probably had fought. Well, he didn't want to discuss it neither did she.
"If you marry Bea, will you be Jilly's dad?"
"I'm not getting married any time soon, hun."
"But if you did?"
"She'd be my stepdaughter. Then, if I adopted her, she'd be my daughter."
"Would you love her like a dad is supposed to?"
"Bea and Jilly are a package deal. I wouldn't marry Bea if I wasn't fine with that. I would decide to love Jilly like my daughter."
"How can you decide to love? I thought love just... happened. Like in the songs and the stories."
Caleb thought about her question for a moment. "Look at it this way: we both know you can decide to stop loving. You can decide to abandon someone, even your own child. To break off contact, to stop caring if they're okay." There was a hint of bitterness in his tone—just a hint. She'd never heard it before. "Deciding to love is the opposite of that. You take care of someone, give them attention, do what's best for them. You decide to take on that duty. And that duty, the act itself, that's love."
"When did you decide to love Bea?"
"I think, with romantic love, it's a gradual thing. You get to know someone, you want to be with them for whatever reason. You want to be part of each other's world, to support each other and lift each other up. At some point you decide to put in the effort to maintain the relationship. That's a daily decision but it should be an easy one. In a family... well, it's different. The duty is there from the start. The decision is whether to accept that duty."
YOU ARE READING
Out of Tune (Wynter Wild #2)General Fiction
#1 in #littlesister (Feb 2019) Wynter is struggling to find her place in the world. Now in foster care, her only desire is to move home with her brothers, who become increasingly frustrated by her inability to tell them about her childhood. While sh...