She closed her eyes and drank in the salty smell of the water, the mist that clung in the air on this gray morning.
“Look, see that over there?” her father said, pointing as they stood on the pier.
“What, Daddy?” She glanced over, but could only see water.
“Watch for it.”
A jet of water spouted from the surface and she saw a smooth, effortless black back just peek out of the water.
“Oh! What is that?”
“An orca pod. See—there are several of them. They travel together. They’re a family.”
Evelyn smiled and squeezed his hand. “Mommy loved orcas.”
Her dad nodded solemnly. “She did. She loved them so much.”
“I love them too. I will love them forever, and when I see them I’ll think of Mommy.”
Her dad hugged her tight and kissed the top of her head.
“Yes. Do that. That is what she would want you to do. She dreamed of her spirit roaming free over these waters with them.”
The horn from the ferry startled her. She quickly wiped away her tears and looked back.
Mo was in the window, waving at her and Derek was gazing at her, a strange look on his face. Their gaze locked for a brief moment and then he looked away.
Evelyn took a deep breath and headed back into the solarium as the ferry began to pull away from the docks, leaving Hoonah behind, headed to Juneau on the far side of the passage.
“Hey, Evie!” Mo shrieked, bouncing up and down in her seat.
Evelyn resisted the urge to hug her. She didn’t want to overstep her boundaries with Derek. She knew he was protective of his daughter, and rightly so.
“Hi! Did you have a good sleep?”
“Yep!” Mo said, and then went back to her book, sitting with her legs crossed in the air as she read her alphabet story book.
Evelyn couldn’t help but chuckle.
“You okay?” Derek asked.
“Fine. I just needed some fresh air, but it’s kind of drizzly out there so I came back in. The water is a bit choppy today.”
“Hopefully the sun will come out. After I get Mo settled with her grandparents we can take a trip up the gondola to the summit of Mount Roberts.”
“A gondola ride?”
“Sure. You said you’ve never been to Juneau, and we have some time to kill before we meet with the chief for dinner and discuss our plan of attack at the hospital tomorrow.”
“It’s nice you want to entertain me, but I don’t want to take you away from your family.”
“You’re not. You’re doing me a favor. My in-laws are nice people, and great grandparents to Mo, but they were never fans of me.”
Evelyn was intrigued. “Why is that?”
“I took their daughter away,” he muttered under his breath. “Although truthfully she was already gone. She came to Wolf’s Harbor. I didn’t meet her in Juneau and whisk her away. She was trying to escape them. Vivian was a bit of a free spirit.”
There was a pained sense of longing in his voice and Evelyn was envious, because she’d never felt that way about anyone ever—because she’d never let herself.
“Well, then, yes—I wouldn’t mind a gondola ride to the summit of Mount Roberts. I think that might be fun. I’ve never been up a mountain.”
He smirked. “You’re born and raised in Alaska and you’ve never been up a mountain. Pathetic.”
“Don’t fight,” Mo chirped from behind her book.
They both laughed at that.
“Who’s hungry?” Evelyn asked.
“Me!” Evie shouted, putting her book in her knapsack.
“Let’s get some lunch. We can come back after and see if we can see some whales in the water.”
Mo grinned and took Derek’s hand. “Sounds good!”
Evelyn picked up her bag and they made their way to the cafeteria. Derek and Mo were walking ahead and her heart skipped a beat, aching with a sense of longing to belong. To have family.
She hadn’t felt this way since she’d lost her father, and even then it had been fleeting because her grandmother had taught her to harden her heart. To be emotionless.
“It’s how I coped with my disappointment with your father.”
Whatever, it had served her well.
Or had it?
Now, watching Derek and Mo, she wasn’t so sure.
She wasn’t sure what she wanted, but the part of herself she always relied on was telling her to run before she was hurt. To walk away from the family she so desperately wanted.
A family she didn’t really deserve.
THE TIME PASSED faster than Evelyn had expected. Mo kept them both on their toes and Derek teased her about letting her have a chocolate chip cookie and chocolate milk on the ferry.