Nathaniel put his arm around Eva's wife, silently supporting her. "But, now," she continued, her voice breaking, "Now I need to be in the capital city full-time. I can't continue to split my time between here and there."
Eva sighed. "Your father and I are going to be moving to the capital," she said. "I want both of you to decide where you want to be. Haley, if you'd like to stay in Sunset Valley, you're welcome to stay in the family home. Ian, Duanne's mom has agreed that if you'd like to stay that you can live with them until your graduation."
She paused to give the kids a moment to let the information sink in.
"So, it's completely your choice, where do you want to..."
Haley glanced over at her brother, surprised that he was so willing to uproot himself right before his senior year. She wondered if it had anything to do with Keely...
Eva smiled sadly. "I thought that would be your answer," she said, rubbing Haley's arm. "I'm going to miss you!" she sniffled, pulling Haley into your arms. "Even if you are all grown up, you're still my little girl!"
"You'll be here for my ceremony! That's what is important!" she'd assured her. Secretly, part of her was thrilled she was going to have the house to herself!
"You know you can always stay, right? You don't have to go with mom and dad," she offered.
Nonchalantly, Ian shrugged again. "Whatever. It doesn't matter where I go."
Haley sighed. She was right. Ian was just leaving to get away from his back-stabbing friend Ellis and his cheating ex. Her heart broke for him. "Well, you know I'm going to miss you, right?"
Ian frowned, uncomfortable with the sisterly affection. Sighing, she turned to leave. Before she'd stepped into the living room, he called out to her, "I'm going to miss you, too!"
Nathaniel slung his arm around Eva's shoulder. "I know. But, Haley will still be here! We'll come down for the holidays!"
Eva patted Nathaniel's knee. "I know. But everything will be different!" she rested her head against her husband's shoulder.
She was surprised when the doorbell rang. "Are you expecting anyone to come say goodbye?" Haley asked her mom.
Eva wrinkled her brow. "No, we had the going away party this afternoon."
Haley smiled. "No, not much. My folks are headed out of town tomorrow morning."
"Oh! I can come back later," Maritza offered.
Haley waved off the suggestion. "No really, it's okay. What brings you by?"
"Okay..." Haley said, not really sure where Maritza was going.
"Oh, I'll just come out with it!" Maritza said nervously. "I'm doing a study on the Sunset Valley indigenous fauna. I was thinking about what a wonderful artist you are and I thought you might be willing to prepare the illustrations for me?"
Nathaniel beamed with pride, "I think that's a fantastic use of your talents, Haley!" Turning towards Maritza, he asked, "So, what plans do you have in place so far? Maybe I could be of some help!"
Maritza was having trouble forming a word. "I... oh... well..." she tried to take a deep breath to calm down. "Oh, Mr. Wolff! I didn't realize you were Haley's father! I am such a fan of yours! Your documentary 'Preserving the Ecological Biodiversity of Sunset Valley' is what made me interested in completing a naturalist study locally! How are we going to know what we're preserving if we haven't made an accurate look at what we have!"
Nathaniel smiled at the compliment. "I'm always thrilled to hear my documentaries have made a difference!" he said, reaching in his pocket to pull out a card and writing his cell phone number on it. "Feel free to give me a call if you ever need any advice on the lay of the land."
Maritza beamed at Haley. "Looks like we have the start of an excellent team!"
There was someone that he was going to miss, though...
Hopefully she liked it...