“Two packages arrived for you!” Rosa had placed them at Wynter’s seat when she came down for lunch on Saturday. “And after Indio sent that book, too.”
Rosa hovered as Wynter checked the addresses. The small, heavy box was from Jesse and she already knew what it was. The other was a large envelope, rather than a package, and it was from Tina.
“I think this is probably for you,” Wynter said. She couldn’t imagine why Tina would send her anything. It felt like paperwork.
“Nonsense. It’s addressed to you. And what’s that from your brother?”
Wynter took her seat, ignoring the question, and opened the envelope. Inside was a note along with a smaller, thick white envelope. She read the note while Rosa fetched the food.
I’ve been giving these little kits to all my girls and boys in foster care. It’s a lovely craft project to make a Mother’s Day greeting card. This is everything you need, including the instructions. Have fun!
Why on earth did Tina think she wanted to give Rosa something meant for mothers? Was it normal for foster kids to do that? Wynter shoved the note away.
“Open the other one, please.” Rosa came back to the table with the pot of soup.
Wynter balked. “It’s definitely addressed to me.”
“I’d like to make sure it’s nothing inappropriate.”
“Jesse says it’s illegal to open someone else’s mail.”
“I’m not opening it. I’m asking you to open it.”
Reluctantly, Wynter peeled the tape off the mailing box, hoping Jesse had done a good job of disguising its contents. She opened the flaps, withdrew a velvet pouch, and loosened the drawstring. A dozen colored rocks spilled onto the table.
“It’s for my science fair display,” she explained as Rosa picked up a piece of citrine.
“Very pretty. There’s a little store in Richland that sells this sort of thing. It’s where I buy those painted candles for the dining room. We could’ve gone there to buy what you needed.”
“I guess he wanted to do something nice for me.”
“Still, I like to support local businesses—”
“I don’t like New Age stores,” Wynter said flatly. “Jesse got these from the science museum.”
“Alright. I understand.” Rosa poked her fingers into the pouch, overly casual to hide the fact she was feeling for contraband. She tilted the mailing box as well, to check it was empty. When Indio’s book arrived two days ago, Rosa had flicked through it out of interest but not bothered checking the envelope it came in. Nor had she complained they could’ve bought the book at a local bookstore.
“If he was going to give me drugs, he wouldn’t mail them,” Wynter said, feeling bold.
“Has he ever given you drugs?”
“Does he do drugs?”
“I don’t know.” That wasn’t quite true. She was fairly sure Jesse did smoke weed sometimes and he’d admitted to eating hash brownies. “I’ve never seen him do drugs,” she amended, wondering why Rosa didn’t ask her if Indio had ever given her drugs, given his history.
She ate quickly and took the rocks, along with the mailing box and Tina’s stupid craft project, upstairs to her room. Dismantling the box carefully, she checked all the seams. Nothing there. Flummoxed, she sat on her bed and wondered what to do next.
> The rocks arrived, she texted Jesse.
>> Go away. I’m not up yet.
> It’s 12:30!
>> I can see that
> I’m confused about the rocks
>> Rocks aren’t my thing. Google it.
> It’s like there was something missing
>> Nope it’s all there
>> Log on and we’ll do a video chat. I want to watch you figure it out.
> So you can laugh at me?
>> I would never laugh at you
Wynter sat at her desk and opened the laptop videochat they’d been using for homework sessions. He called her within seconds, eyes bleary, curls flopping over his forehead at the front and standing on end at the back.
“What happened to you?”
“You look awful.”
“I look fetchingly tousled.” He ran his hand over his head, which made things worse. “Had a late night.”
“Do you always stay up late on the weekend?”
He got defensive. “No. I got nothing on tonight and the house is all mine. I’ll watch Netflix and… I dunno. Dishwasher is fixed, so I’ll cook a five-course meal for one. I’ll be in bed by ten.”
She felt bad because he should surely be going out with his girlfriend, except that his girlfriend had dumped him thanks to Wynter.
“I couldn’t find…” She glanced at the door to check it was closed, and finished in a whisper, “Where’s the cash?”
“You seriously can’t find it?”
Wynter made a show of shaking the empty mailing box.
“Wyn, I’m not gonna help you. I didn’t even think I was being that clever.”
“I took the box apart. I emptied the pouch.” She tipped out the rocks again. “How can you hide almost a hundred dollars in a… Oh!”
The pouch crinkled in her hand. She took a closer look and realized the lining was a different color. In fact, it was a second pouch. She pulled that out, along with the bills wrapped around the outside. He’d hidden the cash between the two layers of fabric.
“And, see? I’m not even laughing at you. I’m too tired to laugh at you. Ninety-six dollars in under two weeks. I’m impressed.”
“It’s not enough yet. You kept the $12.99 for the rocks? That’s important.”
“I’ve done everything exactly as instructed, on your assurance no federal crimes are being committed.”
The other delivery was weighing on her mind. “Tina sent me some stuff to make Rosa a card for Mother’s Day.”
“Why on earth would you make her a card?”
“Am I supposed to?”
“No way! That’s nuts.”
Wynter peeked inside the inner envelope Tina had sent. “There’s bits of colored paper in here. Pretty patterns. I could make a thank you card for Ms Driscoll. She’s been helpful with the Clockwork Toys, letting us rehearse in the music room and showing us how to use the mics.” Wynter glanced through the sheet of instructions, which included basic flower-shaped templates. “If I was six I might enjoy making this,” she muttered. “Why is the red dot flashing on my screen?”
“I’m calling Indio to join us. He texted me so I know he’s up. He’s actually the last person I want to talk to right now, but he might have a better idea on how to use that paper.”
Indio’s face appeared in a new frame on Wynter’s screen. He looked a good deal more alert than Jesse, probably because he’d just had a shower—his damp uncombed hair made wet patches on the shoulders of his t-shirt. Wynter had been up for five hours already and found it ridiculous her brothers had barely started their day.
“That’s origami paper,” Indio said when Wynter showed him what Tina had sent. “You could make a 3D card or an animal, something like that.”
A link appeared in the chat box. Wynter clicked it and found herself on a website full of origami animal designs.
“These look complicated.”
A minute later, all three of them were busy folding, with Wynter and Jesse following online instructions to make animals, Jesse using cut-down printer paper, and Indio doing his own thing.
“None of my corners match,” Jesse grumbled, unfolding and re-creasing yet again. “I should stick to paper planes. I am the king of paper planes. Pure engineering. I can’t believe I’m making an origami turtle.”
“I can’t believe how badly you’re screwing it up,” Indio said.
“I can’t believe we get to do something fun together when we’re hundreds of miles apart!” Wynter said. She was enjoying it immensely, both for the interaction with her brothers and the precise work required, which she was good at. She showed off her completed goldfish. “This is too simple. I was hoping for something useful and a bit more impressive that I can give to Ms Driscoll a day or two before the graduation concert auditions.”
“She’s a judge?” Jesse asked.
“Yes. A homemade gift might sway her opinion in our favor.”
“That’s perilously close to bribery, Wyn. I don’t approve.”
Indio held up his effort to the camera—a tiny, flat rectangular box with a flip-top lid that he flapped up and down as he said, from the corner of his mouth, “I approve of bribery. Anything goes when there’s a gig at stake.”
“How’d you make a hinge like that?” Jesse said.
“Is that made from a dollar bill?” Wynter asked, fascinated.
“All these instructions start with a square piece of paper, not a rectangle.”
“I like to be different.”
“Can you make me one of these cranes or bunnies from a dollar bill?”
“I can make cute things from squares like the ones you have, but from a dollar bill I can only make this one thing.”
“Is it a useful thing?” Jesse asked derisively.
“Holds a few quarters. Some sticks of gum. Funnily enough, it’s exactly the right size for a fifty-pack of cigarette papers.”
“Might fit a few joints.”
“A few of your joints, yeah, cuz you roll pathetically thin sticks.”
Wynter was eager to turn the conversation away from drugs. “I could make Ms Driscoll a gift box and fill it with candy.”
“Use a piece of sheet music,” Indio said. “Never a bad idea to give a teacher a themed gift. Gotta go. We’re playing over your way tonight, Jesse. You should come.”
“Where? In Seattle?”
“That’s two hours away!”
“It’s in Washington.”
“Barely. I’ve got plans, sorry.”
Indio signed off with a shrug.
“You told me you had nothing on tonight,” Wynter said.
Jesse chewed his lip for a moment. “Thing is, I have to have a difficult conversation with him, so I’d rather not see him face to face until I’m ready.”
“So you’re gonna wait until we all get together later this month? Will it ruin our weekend?”
“Yeah, it just might.”