Chapter 68: Some Nerve

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Duty was a familiar enough weight on Caleb's shoulders. Failure, and fear of an even greater failure, were not. This time it was Wynter who would suffer along with the rest of them. He'd made promises he couldn't keep. He couldn't see how to fix it.

Jesse and Wynter were in the jamroom editing the recorded drum track so the rest of them could do their tracks. Caleb downed his second whiskey and wondered if his playing would be affected by having a third. Surely not.

Indio came home and handed him an envelope. "One thousand in cash. That's my upfront payment from the tour."

"You won't need it?"

"I'll give you the other two grand as soon as I get back."

Caleb bit his tongue on some speech about how proud he was Indio was taking responsibility for his financial obligations. He'd likely get a sarcastic response and was in no mood to hear it.

Instead, he said, "It didn't take you two hours to go to the ATM."

"I rode up to Cougar Mountain."

"To Patty's? That's a long way to go for a drink."

"To talk to Patricia. She says she'll call you tomorrow to discuss being Wynter's emergency caregiver."

Caleb felt his expression freeze. Why would you do that? He couldn't get the words out. It had never occurred to him to ask Patricia. He didn't know her, not really, had never once met her outside her diner. And yet she'd become a part of their lives, somehow. Always taking a kindly interest, as though they mattered to her.

"It's not ideal, I know that," Indio said. "Wynter would still have to switch schools for as long as you were away, unless Jesse could work it into his schedule to drive her back and forth. And her caseworker will probably object to her living over a bar. But Patricia would take proper care of her. We both know that."

Still speechless, Caleb covered his face with his hand.

Indio pressed on. "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I've got some nerve going to a woman we hardly know. You don't like asking for help, least of all from someone who has no duty toward us. But I was thinking, we've been going there since we were kids. She always welcomed us, no matter how many times Harry made a scene, no matter how many times Jesse broke something or got into an argument with another customer. All these years, all she could do for us was feed us. Now she gets the chance to do more. I think she... she loves our family, for some reason. And Wynter is part of us."

He was speaking the words that exactly matched the thoughts going through Caleb's mind. Indio understood as clearly as he did what Patricia was to their family. Still...

"You shouldn't have asked that of her. It's too much."

"You're welcome." 

His brother walked past him to head downstairs. 

Caleb ground his teeth and composed himself. Already he was mentally rehearsing what he must say to Patricia when she called. So kind of you... Can't possibly accept... Too much to ask... But thank you for your support... Don't worry about us... Everything will work out.

I will fix it.

"Are you coming?" Wynter said from the hallway door. "Indio says he'll stay a bit longer. We can record all three guitars together. Save time."

He looked at her over the back of the couch. "We don't have to do our tracks tonight, hun. Plenty of time to finish up tomorrow."

"Come on. I'd rather we played it together. I think it'll work out better that way."

Caleb smiled and got up. "Sure."

He must look exhausted, because a look of alarm crossed her face.

"Is everything gonna work out?" she said.

"Yes." He put his arm around her. "Let's go to Patty's for breakfast tomorrow."

"But Sunday is for your pancakes."

"Patricia's are better."

"That's not possible."

He squeezed her shoulder. He'd promised himself a long time ago he'd do whatever was necessary for Wynter. Allowing Indio to fix things—that wasn't easy, but this time it was necessary.

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