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Authors: Darlene Ryan

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Saving Grace

BOOK: Saving Grace
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Saving Grace

Darlene Ryan

orca soundings

Copyright © 2006 Darlene Ryan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Ryan, Darlene, 1958-

Saving Grace / Darlene Ryan

(Orca soundings)

ISBN 1-55143-668-X (bound) ISBN 1-55143-508-X (pbk.)

I. Title. II Series.

PS8635.Y35S29 2006        jC813'.6       C2006-903257-2

Summary:
Evie is determined to care for her baby—even if
it means kidnapping her.
First published in the United States, 2006
Library of Congress Control Number:
2006928468

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Getty Images

Orca Book Publishers                               Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626 Station B                              PO Box 468  
Victoria, BC Canada                                      Custer, WA USA
V8R 6S4                                            98240-0468

www.orcabook.com

Printed and bound in Canada

09  08  07  06  •  5  4  3  2  1

For Judy

Chapter One

I ran across the bare front yard. What kind of home for a kid didn't even have any grass? I shoved the car seat onto the front seat of the truck and jumped in.

“Go!” I yelled at Justin.

He stared at me with his mouth hanging open. “Jesus, Evie,” he said. “What the hell did you do?”

“Will you just drive? Come on. Move the damn truck. Go!”

“Go where?”

I leaned across the baby seat and smacked his arm. “I don't care. Just get us out of here now.”

Finally Justin put the truck in gear and pulled away from the curb. I frigged with the seat belt, trying to thread it through the bottom part of the car seat. The baby was still asleep.

I got the belt buckled, sat back and fastened my own. We got to the stop sign where the road from the subdivision crossed the old highway. “That way,” I said, pointing to the right.

Justin looked over at me. Then he looked at the baby. But he turned and started up the old river road. “You said you just wanted to see her,” he said.

“So I lied.”

“Evie, you can't just take someone else's kid.”

I reached into the car seat and stroked the baby's cheek with one finger. It was the softest thing I had ever felt. Bits of dark hair, the same color as mine, stuck out from under her pink hat. “I didn't steal
someone else's kid, Justin,” I said. “She's mine and I'm keeping her.”

Justin pulled one hand back through his own hair. “Dammit,” he muttered.

Okay, so he was kind of pissed. But he'd change his mind. He'd see that this was the right thing to do. And anyway, I knew how to get around Justin.

I looked down at the baby again. My baby. Not the Hansens'. They weren't even good parents. I knew because I'd been watching that house for almost two weeks. They left her with a babysitter all day. Okay, so she was Mr. Hansen's mother, but still. They wanted a baby so much, that's what they'd said on their profile, but then they didn't even spend any time with her. And there weren't any other little babies around there for her to play with when she got bigger, just a big empty lot on one side of that place and a house that had been abandoned, half built, on the other.

That half-finished house turned out to be good for me because I could watch
my baby from there but no one could see me. It wasn't really like I was trying to hide. I just hadn't figured out what I was going to do and I didn't want people bugging me.

At first the only thing I'd wanted to do was see my baby, you know, make sure she was okay. I'd only gotten to see her once after she was born because my dad said it would be easier that way. When we got home from the hospital he'd said, “It's done now. Put it out of your head.” It was like he didn't realize I had just given up my own flesh and blood. I didn't even say anything. I just walked away and went to my room and shut the door. My insides hurt, ached, and I thought that was just from having her, from pushing and all, but that feeling never went away. I couldn't just “put it out of my head.” Finally I knew I had to see for myself that my baby was all right.

My dad had put all the adoption papers in that metal box he kept in the back of his closet. And I knew where he hid the
key—in his sock drawer. Once I knew the Hansens' full names it was easy to go online at the library and find their address. So the next morning I cut school and hitched out there. I took a clipboard. I was going to go to the door and pretend I was doing a survey, but then when I saw the empty house next door, with no one working in it, I figured why not just watch for a while.

My mom liked to go bird-watching. She had a great big book all about birds, and she used to let me look at the pictures. After she died, Dad put all her stuff in boxes in the basement. I had to go through five boxes to find her binoculars. I figured she wouldn't mind me using them to check on her granddaughter.

And that's all I was going to do—just watch my baby. But the more I watched, the more I could see she needed me. In the end I knew I had to do something because a baby needs to be with her mother. And it was easy, which just proves they weren't good parents, because instead of me it
could have been some weirdo who walked away with her.

Every time Mr. Hansen's mother came back from somewhere, she'd put the baby in her car seat on the deck while she carried stuff in—groceries and dry-cleaning and stuff. What kind of a grandmother was she, leaving the baby out there like that? My mom would never have done that with her granddaughter.

All I had to do was wait by the corner of the house. I did lie to Justin. I told him I just wanted to look in a window and see her. It was easier than getting into a long explanation beforehand. I knew once he'd spent some time with his daughter he'd see that the three of us were meant to be a family.

Chapter Two

I glanced at Justin. He must have felt me looking at him. “I thought this was all decided,” he said. He didn't take his eyes off the road.

“I never decided anything,” I said. “My father did. He said, ‘Just because you were stupid enough to get yourself pregnant doesn't mean you're going to ruin the rest of your life.' He's the one who called the social worker. He's the one who went through all the files on the
people she picked out. He decided on the Hansens. Not me.”

Justin shrugged. “I thought they seemed nice.”

“Yeah, well they're not Brianna's real parents. She should be with her real mother. Me.”

“Brianna? I thought her name was Grace or something like that.”

“Her name is Brianna now. Grace is an old-lady name.”

“So now what?” Justin said. “Do you have some kind of plan or are we just going to drive around forever?”

I didn't like the snarky sound in his voice.

“Of course I have a plan,” I said. “You think I'm stupid? We're going to Montreal. Why do you think I told you to turn right back there?”

“I'm not driving all the way to Montreal,” Justin said.

“Well, we can't exactly stay around here, can we?” I said. Sometimes he was so stunned.

“Yeah, but why Montreal?”

“Because it's a big place. No one will find us there.”

“All you told me was you wanted to see her. You didn't say anything about taking her, about going to Montreal.”

I reached over and squeezed his leg. “I'm sorry, okay? I just didn't know if you'd help me if I told you what I was going to do.”

“I wouldn't have.”

“See? That's why I didn't tell you.”

Justin made a growling sound in the back of his throat. He reached for the radio. I grabbed his hand. “No, you can't put that on,” I said. “You'll wake the baby.”

Justin yanked his hand away and held it up between us. “Don't talk to me, Evie,” he said.

That was fine with me. We drove in silence for a while, just the headlights of the truck shining through the darkness. Then I heard a whimper from the car seat. The baby's little face was twisted
into a frown and she was waving her arms, her two tiny hands clenched into fists. I leaned over to tuck the blanket around her a bit better, but she started crying. For a little baby she was loud.

The truck zigzagged on the road. “Christ, Evie,” Justin said. “Do something. I almost went in the ditch.”

“She's just hungry,” I said. I reached for my backpack on the floor. I'd brought everything I figured Brianna would need—bottles, diapers, blankets. I gave the bottle of formula a shake and took the cap off. “Here, sweetie,” I said, putting the nipple in her mouth. She sucked on it for a minute, then made a sour face and spit the nipple back out again, crying even louder than before.

“Why doesn't she want it? ” Justin said.

“I don't know,” I snapped. “Maybe she's not hungry. Maybe her diaper's wet or something.” I slid my hand partway under Brianna's backside. Her sleeper thingy didn't feel wet, and the diaper
didn't seem very squishy. I stuck the bottle in her open mouth again. She barely drank any before she spit it out, and she turned her face away when I tried again. And she kept on doing that. She'd take maybe one drink and then spit out the nipple and cry again. Over and over.

Chapter Three

“Justin, you have to pull over,” I said finally. He didn't hear me. I leaned across the seat and whacked his arm with the back of my hand. “Pull over,” I said again.

“What for?”

“I wanna burp her.”

“So? Do it.”

“I have to take her out of the seat, asshole,” I said, shouting so he'd hear me over Brianna's crying. “Just pull over.”

Justin puffed out his cheeks and then let out a breath. “Fine,” he grumbled through clenched teeth. He slowed down, pulled over onto the gravel side of the road and put the truck in park. Then he turned off the ignition, grabbed the keys and got out. I heard him swearing under his breath.

Brianna was still hollering. Her face was all red and wrinkly and her eyes were squeezed shut. Geez, how could someone so small make so much noise? The sound made my stomach into a big, hard knot.

I lifted her out of the seat. She was heavier than I'd thought and hard to hold with her arms and legs going all over the place. She hadn't taken very much of the bottle, but I knew she had to be burped anyway.

When I'd decided that Brianna needed to be with me, I'd gone to the library and gotten the biggest book on babies I could find. And I'd read it from one end to the other. I had taken a babysitting class at
the Y, but that was three years ago. And I hadn't paid attention to everything. It had been my dad's idea for me to go in the first place, so I could earn my own money instead of him always having to give me an allowance.

“Shush, shush,” I said. I held Brianna up against my shoulder the way they'd showed us in the class. Between what I remembered and the book, I knew a lot about babies. I rubbed Brianna's back as she twisted and squirmed, but she wouldn't burp. She coughed a couple of times. She even tried to climb up over my shoulder. Mostly she cried. And I wanted to cry too. “Please burp,” I whispered against her ear.

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