After I’m done, I start down the stairs, calling out to Tyler. I frown when he doesn’t respond, and I go in search of him. He’s not in the living room or the kitchen; he’s not even outside on the back deck. When I go to the front door and look out the glass window, I see that his truck is gone.

“He left,” I say to the empty room as the unease that’s settled in my stomach grows, and my heart actually aches. I knew he was mad at me, but I didn’t think he was mad enough to leave me here without a word. Feeling like I might cry, I go to the kitchen. I need to get my phone so I can call him and some caffeine to help me think and come up with a plan.

If he’s so mad that he’s not coming back, I need to go home. I know if I called my mom or my brothers, they’d come get me without a question. I also know that I can get a cab to the airport and book a flight once I’m there. I’m not crazy about the idea of waiting at the airport for hours and hours to catch a plane on Thanksgiving Day, but if I have to, I will. When I reach the kitchen, I find a small white piece of paper propped up against the coffeepot. I unfold it and close my eyes after I dissect Tyler’s horrible penmanship.

Ran out to get you some pain meds. Be back soon.

He didn’t leave me. He just went to the store. Relief hits me hard, and I lean against the counter. After a moment, I pour myself a cup of coffee and add milk and sugar, and then I start to go outside, needing some fresh air, but stop when someone knocks. When I turn to face the front door, my body gets tight. Tyler’s mom is standing outside, and I can’t even pretend like I’m not here, because she’s looking directly at me through the window.

With a heavy sigh, I head to the door and unlatch the lock, opening it for her to come in. “Hey.” I try to smile, but I know it looks as forced as it is. “Tyler isn’t here. He went to the store.”

“I know.” She walks in, and her fancy boots click on the wood floor. I shut the door and pray she gets whatever she’s going to say out quickly so I can drink my cup of coffee and figure out how to smooth things over with her son. “I heard about what happened last night.” She turns to face me.

I cringe inwardly but lift my chin and stand a little taller. “Like I told Tyler, I won’t apologize for what I did. I had to help. I couldn’t just walk away.”

She crosses her arms over her chest, scrutinizing me, and I realize that unlike her—dressed for the day in nice jeans and a sweater—I’m only wearing a T-shirt. I don’t even have panties on. Talk about awkward.

“What you did was impulsive,” she states.

“What do you think I should have done?” I ask, then shake my head and mutter, “Never mind.” Even knowing it’s rude, I hold up my hand, palm facing her. “I keep thinking about it, and I know if I had left Bell alone, something much worse could have happened to her. Yes, what I did was impulsive and maybe even reckless, but I don’t regret my actions, and I refuse to feel bad for helping.” I pull in a breath and let it out slowly. “I know you don’t like me, and I’m okay with that. If you need me to be the villain, there’s nothing I can do that will change your opinion of me. But.” I lean slightly toward her, and her eyes widen, like she’s surprised I’m confronting her. “This isn’t really about me. It’s about your relationship with your son. I know you love him and he loves you.”

Her expression softens slightly, and I continue. “Still, he doesn’t deserve to feel bad about taking an opportunity to better his life. He doesn’t deserve to feel bad about his decision to move away, even if him moving hurt you.” I close my eyes briefly, then lower my voice and look her in the eye. “I know you love him. I understand, because I do too. But you need to see that what you are doing is hurting him.”

“I know,” she says, and I blink in disbelief. Her acceptance is way too easy. “One day, when you have children of your own, you’ll understand just how amazing and difficult it is to watch them grow up and move on with their lives. I love my babies more than anything else in this world. I miss them.”