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A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

Chapter 24

The story so far: Kacie and Kinney realize they are true family.

Kacie studied the card in her hands. She flipped it open, scrutinized it.

“Could’ve done better,” she said aloud.

Gina’s voice echoed in her head: “Could’ve done worse.” A pang of loss swept through Kacie, until she thought of Kinney. That thought made her smile.

Yes, her mother was right. She could’ve done worse.

It had been two months since her mother’s death. Now, in late August, she could feel the seasons beginning to change.

Life with Kinney wasn’t always easy. He could be touchy, moody, withdrawn at times. But whenever the memories became too heavy to hold, he was always there for her. He was trying to talk more these days and that made a big difference. Talking helped them to name the sorrow, to reach out and hold it, together. They both needed time to heal. They both needed each other.

It took some persuasion for county officials to agree to the arrangement, but Ronnie stressed that she would be deeply involved with Kacie along with Kinney. That seemed to make the difference. The officials tentatively approved the situation, reasoning that staying in Bayfield would give Kacie a more stable home life. But they made it clear that they would be checking in on her regularly.

Kacie placed her card on top of the others.

She was standing outside Thea’s place, near the empty bench. She scanned the lake horizon. Still 15 minutes until Mainlander returned from her afternoon run. Kacie strolled down to the City Dock, ready to kill some time.

As she approached the beach, she heard a burst of splashes.

There was the shy kid, skipping stones off the waves. He didn’t seem to notice her. He was alone.

Kacie headed toward the dock, but felt the wind shift. At the last second, she decided to tack. She veered toward the beach. She set her cards down on a dry rock and faced the kid.

“Hey.”

He turned, a bit wary. “Hey.”

There was an awkward pause, then both spoke at once: “Sorry…” Both stopped.

“You first,” said Kacie.

The kid dug his toe into the sand. “Hey, last time I saw you, I didn’t mean to make you sad. About your mom. I just wanted to say I was sorry, that’s all.”

Kacie nodded. “I know. I’m sorry I ran away. It was just … too much at the time.”

“I know. My dad died a couple years ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too. It sucks.” He picked up a rock and slung it into the lake.

Tomorrow: Chapter 24 continues.