If your own parents don’t want you, why would anyone else? Who cares about current events, or fractions, or topic sentences? School is irrelevant and his caseworker plans to send him to the nut house (she calls it something else, but that doesn’t fool Derek) so why keep on living?
Nate: That Judge has no right to take a kid from his job in a traveling carnival and dump him in foster care. As soon as Nate can cover his tracks and get back to Angie, they’ll make a real home together, a home like Nate dreams about, and nobody—not even his brother–had better get in his way.
Tomorrow–first day of another school year. Derek’s stomach knotted.
His foster mother said, “You’re the kind of kid I loved to have in class when I was teaching.”Crossroads, chapter 1.
That wasn’t what Derek’s teachers said.
She flipped a dishtowel against his arm. “I bet you misbehaved just enough to be a challenge. Proves you have great possibilities.”
Was she teasing? Laughing at him? No. She sobered up fast.
“But I don’t know whether—that is, your caseworker called me—She says your mother thinks you might be ready to go home. You’d have to promise not to cut school—and to respect your stepfather.” A slight wrinkle to Jean’s nose indicated she might have understood more than Derek had told her.
Nate Tanner stretched the tightness out of his back, flinging out his arms, enjoying the heft of the wrench. He could knock down the kiddie-train track as fast as anyone, pack the pieces, finish his part of the tear-down, before anyone jumped on him. “Just ‘cuz I can do it faster don’t mean nobody ought’a help,” he muttered. “Fuck, Angie, you only got the popcorn stand. How come you ain’t over here with me? Mollie ain’t Jack, and you don’t have to do what she says.” Nate looked around for someone with nothing to do. A tall, skinny kid appeared from the shadows around the stock barns, wandering a little this way, a little that way, like he didn’t know the way somewhere. Looked like—like Derek.Crossroads, Chapter 2
CROSSROADS ON THE WAY…
I know where Derek and Nate are coming from, and I know where they are going. I’ve met most of the people along the way, their foster parents, their friends, Angie and Skylark. I know the choices they make, but I’m not sure exactly what they do in some situations. I haven’t figured out what they are thinking and feeling at some point. When I answer all my questions the book will be done.
What I like about fiction is that I can–and must–get inside Nate’s and Derek’s heads. What confuses or frightens them? What must they run from? Whom do they admire? Most important, what do they want at each point of their journey?
Most of our foster children, like Derek and Nate, were in their mid teens. Some were mapping a road to the future. Others couldn’t begin that road until they recovered from trauma. Too many didn’t seem to have good options ahead. I don’t know where most ended up; we cared about them for a few days or a week or so before they returned to a parent or what we hoped would be a long-term foster home. Some of those we did follow made good choices; some didn’t. Don’t ask me why; I couldn’t get inside their heads or feel the raw emotions or choose roads for them.
I never knew the whys and wherefores. I write because, for Derek and Nate, I can know why.