Author’s Note: Yeah… I would share every moment that Quinn and Candelaria have, but I think that’s a bit excessive. Still, I wrote one involving the whole locker thing (ugh… I forgot I did that with Cress and Enya in Fire and Water, but this is different, I hope,) and then had to go back and look at this scene, one that’s basically their first meeting.
Quinn is such a brat, but I like him. I shouldn’t, but I do.
“They’re not our parents. I refuse to call them that.”
Candelaria rolled her eyes, wondering how much trouble she’d get in if she shoved the older boy off the balcony. She didn’t know how long he’d been on the streets, but he didn’t impress her any. He was just like the others, trying to make people think he was tougher than he was. He’d have them believing that he didn’t care about any of this, didn’t need it, but he was an idiot if he really believed that. This house was the nicest she’d been in since the accident, and she knew that it wasn’t just about the house. They all had their own rooms, they had clothes that fit and plenty of food, but the most important thing was that the people here were good people.
Most of them, at least. She didn’t think very much of this kid, but she liked her new foster parents. They’d taken her and her brother in, and she knew that she’d always be grateful for that. She’d started to believe that she’d lose her little brother forever. No one wanted kids their age in the first place, and they didn’t want two of them. They’d been passed over time and time again because they had begged not to be separated.
These people had room, and they shared it. She didn’t know why, but she did know that she was grateful. That boy should be, but he had confused being rude with being tough.
“And I don’t have any siblings.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “As if anyone would want to be related to you. Not only would we have to put up with your personality, but we’d get stuck looking like you, too.”
He grunted. “Sometimes it’s a good thing not to be attractive. Bet you don’t know anything about that, though. How’d you make it through that group home and come out so innocent anyhow?”
“I don’t know. What crawled up your butt and died?”
“Candelaria! I know you two are adjusting to being members of the same house now, but that is not the kind of talk we want under this roof,” Mrs. Howell said, and Candelaria winced, not wanting to seem ungrateful, not like the boy she’d been ready to hit.
“Sorry, Mrs. Howell.”
“You don’t have to be so formal. You can call me anything—including Mama if you feel comfortable with it,” the older woman said, smiling. Her eyes always seemed so warm, and that bit of gray by her forehead was kind of pretty somehow. “I came to tell you that supper is ready. Your brother and sister have set the table, so all you have to do is come eat with us.”
That was one of the rules—everyone ate together. Candelaria liked it. “Okay.”
“I’m not hungry. And they are not my brothers and sisters.”
Mrs. Howell turned to the boy, walking out to where he stood, defiant, and Candelaria wondered if the woman would try to spank him. He was a bit old for it, but he deserved it.
He drew back when she tried to touch his face. “I know you have never known a home or a mother, and I’d like to—”
“Just send me back. Everyone does. It’ll save you time and a lot of headaches. I don’t do anything right, I can’t learn that school stuff, and I don’t like people. I told them not to try and place me again, but I’m just a kid so no one listens to me. I don’t belong in anyone’s ‘home,’ and I don’t want a mother.”
Mrs. Howell managed to catch him the second time, her hand going under his chin. “Well, you’ve got one now, and we’ll just see if you don’t belong here because I think you do. You don’t have to eat with us tonight. If you get hungry, you’ll have to help yourself from the fridge—but you won’t be able to heat any of it. No stove and no microwave, understood?”
He nodded, pushing her hand off his face. “Not that I don’t know how to use them, but I told you—I’m not hungry.”
She sighed, and Candelaria followed her as she left the room, glancing back at the boy with a frown. “Why are you letting him get away with acting like a brat?”
“If someone had put drugs in my food in the past, I wouldn’t want to eat what someone else gave me, either. I don’t know that he’ll ever trust us enough to eat with us, but that has to be his choice.”
Candelaria bit her lip, her eyes going back to him again, but this time, he wasn’t there.