If your own parents don’t care about you, how could anyone?
Derek expects to be expelled from his third foster home while Nate, for whom Angie has become more important than parents, finds himself in his first. It has to be Derek’s fault because they both know who is the family problem.
Derek ran from the room, took the stairs three at a time, wrestled with the front door knob, slammed the door, skidded on the gravel driveway. He raced, slid, leaped down the gravel road toward the school bus stop. He was out of this foster home before they could kick him out…
The warning bell sounded for first period. Sky grabbed Derek’s arm: “Knock knock.”
Derek didn’t feel like her kid jokes, but he answered anyway. “Who’s there”
“Be too who?”
“Be to class on time. See you!” She dashed off.
No wonder Derek hadn’t got along with Mom’s new husband. Nate said “Yes sir,” once in a while, even if he wouldn’t call him “Dad” as Bruce asked. Derek said things like, “The fuck I will,” and “That lawn mower ain’t worth shit.” Maybe the kid would be okay working the traveling carnival, The boss wasn’t bothered by a bit of mouth and Nate could keep Derek from blowing as long as Bruce wasn’t getting on his case.
Angie shook out a sleeping bag from the heap on the camper bed and spread it on the mattress. She sat cross-legged, munching cookies. Nate sat beside her, put an arm around her, lifted the hair that draped over her face with his other hand. He liked the feel of her hair, liked the way she tipped her head toward his face as his fingers caught in the tangles. He set the cracker box aside and rinsed the salty, cheesy taste from his mouth with the Jack Daniels.
“I’m thirsty,” Angie whispered.
Nate handed her the bottle.
“It needs Seven-Up,” she said, but she swallowed some. Nate capped the bottle and tucked it in his duffel bag. He put both arms around Angie and felt her shiver.
“You’re warm,” she said.
“You’re my girl. I’m going to buy Jack out and get us a motor home. We’ll travel with class.”
Nate wished he’d asked Derek more about Bradford’s farm, but how was he to guess he’d ever go there? He was discovering it sure was to-heck-and-gone out of town. Probably the place that used foster kids for slave labor. Jim said foster homes were like jail. Foster parents spied on everything you did and went through your things looking for drugs, but Jim said he came home stoned all the time and they never knew. Renee’, who worked the carnival now that she was eighteen and they couldn’t make her go back, said she sneaked her boyfriend in the window one night and he hid under her bed until her foster parents went to sleep and no one ever found out. Foster parents don’t care about you, they just do it for the money.
The Lindemann’s house wasn’t cool—only bearable. Derek followed Kate beside floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with the most books he’d ever seen in one home. Bet they’d be strict about homework. They’d kick him out when they found out about his grades. A ceiling fan ruffled Derek’s hair. He didn’t even have a comb with him. He hoped he didn’t smell as bad as he felt.