Out of Tune (Wynter Wild #2)

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Hooky

Wynter was full of news when they got back that evening to find Caleb waiting. Lights out was postponed for the first time ever. Caleb already knew Indio had been at her graduation—he had photographic evidence. She showed Caleb her diploma and the two videos people had already sent her of the Clockwork Toys’ performance.

“So how was it, being up on stage in front of hundreds of people?”

“Like being on top of the world. The kids were screaming for us. Even some of the parents were bopping their heads. I think they loved it. It made me feel like I was really there. Really here, I mean.” Like I exist. That’s what she wanted to say.

Then she told him about Indio’s tour. She wanted to call Jesse about it, too, but Caleb said Jesse was out with friends celebrating the end of finals week.

“Get some sleep,” he told her. “Busy day tomorrow.”

“What are we doing?” But he wouldn’t tell her.

On Saturday morning, when they crossed paths outside the bathroom, he told her to wear jeans and boots. She knew what that meant. But Caleb had driven up in the Silverado, no bike in the truck bed.

He told Rosa they’d skip breakfast because he was taking Wynter for a drive and they’d stop along the way. They’d find a nice scenic route, he said, perhaps even as far west as the national parks and forests. They got in the truck and Caleb drove two blocks to a parking garage. The Beast was right there, where he’d left it overnight. He wheeled it into the truck and secured it.

“Aren’t we riding?”

“One more stop.”

They headed west on the I-82 for an hour, listening to Caleb’s old blues CDs. He exited the highway at Selah and pulled into a service station. There in the parking lot was Jesse with his motorcycle.

Yes!

She was practically bouncing in the seat. “Where are we going?”

“Canyon Road. Due north and back again.”

“Can I ride with Jesse for once?”

“Nope.”

She gave him a look of mock disappointment, too excited for it to be effective.

“Breakfast first.” Jesse gave Wynter a huge hug that instantly made up for him not being at her graduation. “I’ve been waiting forty minutes.”

They ate a huge cooked breakfast in a tiny diner. Jesse was in a fantastic mood—excited about his summer because as of last night’s party he had a new girlfriend. Excited for Wynter because of the Clockwork Toys and her Greece trip.

“Did you upload my song yet?” Wynter asked him.

“First thing this morning—you didn’t see? Well, there’s nothing to see, actually. Indio does visit my channel now and then, so in order to keep the guitar a secret I only uploaded the audio.”

“That’s fine.”

Jesse checked his phone. “Two views so far. Well done! I added a snare track. Didn’t want to swamp those unique lyrics with the full kit.”

Caleb had watched their conversation closely. “What guitar? What secret?”

“It’s a surprise,” Wynter said, uncertain how Caleb was going to react to her little scheme. “I managed to buy back Indio’s Fender.”

“How?”

“I saved up my allowance.” A third of that payment to Giselle had been her allowance.

He nodded approvingly. He would assume, of course, that Wynter had paid only fifty dollars for it. “That’s a nice thing to do for him. He loves that guitar.”

Wynter gave Jesse a smug look.

Then geared up for the ride. Caleb showed her a map of the route, a twisty road hugging the Yakima River.

“We’ll take it nice and easy,” Caleb said. “I’ll set the pace. Take the curves safely and enjoy the scenery. We’ll stop at some lookouts along the way.”

“Are there bald eagles in the canyon?” She had never seen one.

“Wrong season, but you might see a golden eagle or some hawks. If I see something first I’ll do this—” He made a sharp pointing signal with his left hand. “And if you see something, tap my left shoulder and point. Right shoulder taps mean stop, remember?”

He fitted her helmet and she hopped on behind him. They set out along Canyon Road. Wynter’s blood hummed with the thrill doing something forbidden, not only because they were on the bikes but because she was in an entirely different place from where Rosa thought she was, and not doing what Rosa thought she was doing.

The day was cool with patchy clouds. Traffic was light and they were in no hurry, stopping a couple of times to look across the river. Jesse took pictures of the rock formations and the distant mountains. They saw bighorn sheep and beautiful tiny birds. She and Jesse looked up pictures on their phones to identify the species.

“Did Indio tell you his news yet?” Wynter asked as they walked along the river bank, having parked the bikes at a scenic rest stop. “He’s gonna be a rockstar for real.”

“He already is,” Jesse said.

“He’s going on tour!”

“He took the guitar tech job?”

“He’s playing guitar for them.”

In the time it took for her to explain that was pretty much all she knew, Jesse had exchanged a dozen text messages with Indio to get the details.

“Wages and Gifts… a Christian rock band?” Jesse stared at his phone, laughing in disbelief. “Holy… um, wow, this is the real deal, Caleb. They’re supporting Charity Thorne—she’s huge in Texas. Indio’s first tour and he has to be a good boy.”

“I would say that’s a feature, not a bug,” Caleb said. He looked pleased, though.

“Can we afford tickets to see them in Seattle in August?” Wynter said.

“We’ll get free tickets, silly,” Jesse said. “What’s the point of having a rockstar for a brother if you don’t get free tickets? I bet he can get us backstage, too. Look at this schedule. These are big venues—five thousand people, some of them.”

Wynter was struck by a sudden fear. “Will I be living at home by August? What if I’m still at Rosa’s and she won’t let me go?”

Caleb said, “I’ll get a commitment out of her.” There was an edge of uncertainty to his voice that made Wynter’s stomach flip. “I haven’t had much luck getting Tina to help me out, so I’m working with a lawyer who specialises in custody matters.”

“Will it work? How long will it take?”

“We still have to wait until July before I can file the petition. A court-appointed psychologist will interview you and write a report for the judge. You can tell him or her where you want to live, and why.”

“What do I have to say?”

“I can’t tell you that, hun. Tell the truth. The psychologist makes a recommendation based on your preference, and also on what’s in your best interests. The judge takes that into consideration, along with the information I provide and the recommendation from Social Services.”

“Did you sort things out with your executive officer?” she asked. He was supposed to have a Family Care Plan, as a single parent, to nominate a caregiver in case he was deployed.

It took Caleb a moment to answer. “I’m looking at options. You don’t have to worry about that.”

She returned his smile, but worry niggled at the back of her mind.

“Hey, we should record a music video, right here.” Jesse threw out his arm to take in the scenery. “Your song’s about rocks, and here we are, surrounded by rocks.”

“Can we do that?” Wynter glanced through the trees to the parking lot. There were cars and people around.

“Sure, why not? I’ll use my phone. Sit right here and lip-sync. Wander through those trees, run your hands over the rocks…” Jesse moved down the riverbank, excited by his ideas. “I can shoot from both directions to capture the different scenery. Some long shots, some close-ups.” He framed his shots like he’d found a sudden calling as a photographer.

Wynter agreed to it because she was keen to feed his excitement. Caleb agreed to it because he was in the kind of mood to agree to anything today. While he looked on with bemusement, Wynter put herself under Jesse’s direction. With the song playing over her own phone, Jesse recorded her lip-syncing in various locations along the riverbank, among the trees lining the edge of the rest stop, and sitting on the rocks.

“Is anyone going to tell me what the hell that song is about?” Caleb said as they prepared to continue their ride.

“It’s an offshoot of my science project,” Wynter said in all honesty. “I know it’s awful, but it means something to me.”

“Well, I hope Indio appreciates it.”

“Oh, no, Indio must never hear it. The guitar is for him. The song isn’t.” She jammed on her helmet to escape his curious look.

They reached the end of the road at Thrall and continued into Ellensburg for lunch.

“We have loads of time left,” Wynter said. “Can we go somewhere else?”

Jesse whipped out his phone and looked up things to do around Ellensburg. “We could take a look around CWU,” he suggested.

“Isn’t there a wind farm near here?” Caleb said.

“Wild Horse Wind Farm, a few miles east.”

“Wild Horse—I like that name,” Wynter said.

“Then that’s where we’ll go,” Caleb said.

They rode out to the wind farm and arrived in time for the free tour. Jesse kept the tour guide busy with his questions and they all found it fascinating. Then, back to Ellensburg, a historic town with plenty to see. Wynter was counting down the hours. Rosa wanted her back by ten, and would no doubt send a text an hour or so before that to make sure they were on their way. So, text at eight, and it was gone six now.

A flyer in a store window caught Wynter’s eye.

“Look, a carnival. Can we go?” She did the calculation. “If we take the highway to Richland afterward, that takes—how long?—an hour and a half? So, we could go to the carnival and stay until 8:30.”

“We have to go via Selah to pick up the truck,” Caleb pointed out. “Unless you want to show up at Rosa’s on the bike.”

“That still gives us a couple hours at the carnival.” That sounded like heaven.

Caleb studied the flyer. “It’s not local, hun. This is over an hour north of here.” He looked up the route on his phone. “Right through the forest. Nice ride, but we don’t have the time.”

“Can’t you call Rosa and tell her you’ll be a couple hours late?” Jesse said.

Wynter didn’t like that idea. “What if she says no?”

“If she says no, then we can’t do it,” Caleb said.

Wynter knew Rosa would say no. She had to study for those make-up tests and Rosa would enforce her bedtime. Frustration churned her gut. She’d had a perfect day and she wanted to go to that carnival.

“What if the truck broke down?” she said.

Jesse and Caleb exchanged a look. Wynter waited them out.

Caleb stared at his phone for a long time as Wynter and Jesse watched him. She should feel awful, asking him to lie, but she didn’t. His thumb clicked the contacts list and then Rosa’s name. She exhaled the breath she’d been holding.

“Rosa, hey. We’ll be a little late. The truck needs some work before we can set out.” Not quite a lie. The truck could always use some work. “…No, can’t tell you for sure. I’ll let you know when we’re on the road and give you an ETA then.”

He put the phone in his pocket, put his hands on his hips and stared at the pair of them like they’d done something naughty.

He said, “I guess it’s carnival time.”

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