Chapter 51: A Whole New Light

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"Hey, Wynter!" Hunter ran down the street after Wynter. "Bus stop is back there. You're gonna be late if you walk."

That afternoon, eighth grade had been dismissed early so the kids who would be attending the local high school could go to an induction there. The school was a few blocks down the street, and while the others waited for the bus, Wynter had taken off walking. She was not going to the induction. If she visited that school, it was as good as admitting she might be enrolling there in September.

"I'm going to high school in Seattle," she told Hunter, not for the first time. "And we should be rehearsing for the audition next week. This is such a waste of time."

Fifty yards behind them, the bus pulled up and the kids piled on.

"If you don't run and catch that bus, you'll be late," she said.

"That's okay. I'll walk with you. I thought it would be fun to hang out together for the afternoon."

Wynter pushed her hands into her pockets and marched on. "We spend three hours together every week. Isn't that enough?"

"That's working, as you keep reminding us. And we'll do great at the audition. Everything's sounding good. Everyone says so."

"Who's everyone?"

"Other kids. They stand outside the door when we're rehearsing. Aren't you flattered?"

"I guess so." Wynter took a right turn toward the strip mall.

"Hey, this way," Hunter said.

"I'm not going. I'll hang out here for a while."

"C'mon. My mom says they have a great music program and a massive gymnasium."

"A what? Why would I care? I'm not going to that school!" She was yelling now, and instantly regretted it. Hunter was only trying to be nice.

He gave up, walked back to the main road, and disappeared around the corner. Wynter spent two hours wandering through the stores and was back in time to catch the regular bus home.

# # #

Rosa knocked on Wynter's door on Sunday morning, when she was still in bed.

"Come down to the the study, please. There's something I need to discuss with you."

Her portentous tone sent a nervous shiver through Wynter. She pulled on her robe and slowly made her way downstairs. Rosa was waiting outside her study, arms folded, fingers tapping. Wynter had never been inside that room before. Rosa always kept the door closed, whether or not she was working in there. The door was open today. Wynter stopped a few paces away and found she couldn't take a step closer.

"Inside, please."

Her breath stopped in her chest. "I didn't do anything..."

Even so, her mind backtracked over all the little things she had done lately that might get her into trouble. Skipping the high school visit on Friday. The civics test she'd failed on Thursday. The outing with Indio weeks ago. The money Jesse had secretly sent. The emails she'd written to the Light to trick them out of that money...

Rosa waited in silence. Wynter edged closer, until she could see through the doorway. The study was smaller than expected, given every other room in this house was huge. Nothing but a desk and a laptop, a swivel chair, and glass-fronted bookshelves lining one wall. No knick-knacks or fresh flowers or pictures like the rest of the house—only a big wall calendar with nothing written on it. Caleb had a calendar at home and it was covered with his handwriting, along with pithy comments from Jesse on tiny colored sticky notes. The stark decor reminded her of another office, a dark place she'd tried to forget. Rosa's near-silent severity only magnified the memory.

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