“Thanks.” I give in because I know, just like my mom and dad, that she won’t be swayed. And the truth is I need all the help I can get. My house is trashed. It’s going to take a few days to get all the garbage out and a couple more to get everything cleaned up and organized again.

“Wow, that was easy. Are you feeling okay?”


“Shut up.” I roll my eyes and head for the couch. “We have to wait for the officers to come get us before we can go to my place. Hopefully, it won’t be much longer.”

“Well, while we wait, I want to hear all about your trip. How did it go?”

“Ooh, I want to know too,” Mom inserts, looking excited.

Dad stands up and comes over to me and kisses the top of my head. “I’m going to go outside and wait on the porch.”

“You don’t want to hear about my trip?”

“No,” he states firmly, and I laugh as he leans over to kiss my mom before heading outside.

“All right, your dad’s gone. Tell us everything.”

I look between my mom and my best friend, then tell them everything. About meeting Tyler’s mom for the first time and how horribly that went. About going to the bar and getting in a fight. About thinking Tyler had left me. About the talk with his mom and her acceptance of me. Then about lunch with his grandma. When I’m done, both Chrissie’s and Mom’s mouths are hanging open.

“How long were you there for?” Chrissie asks, and I smile at her.

“Just the long weekend.”

“You were busy,” she mumbles.

“You’re not wrong,” I mumble back, and she laughs.

Mom reaches over, resting her hand on my knee and gaining my attention. “You and Tyler’s mom are okay now, right?”

“We’re okay now,” I assure her, and then I look at the door when it opens.

“Ready to go?” Dad asks as he pokes his head inside.

“Yep.”

When we all get outside, two officers lead us over to my house. They explain what they did and how long it will take for them to get the prints into the system. They seem hopeful about their findings, which makes me feel a little better. After they leave, I do a walk-through of the house with Chrissie and my parents, and they’re all visibly upset but glad I wasn’t here.

After I assure them I’m okay, we go to the kitchen and start to clean the food off the walls and floor before it starts to stink or mold. When Tyler shows up, he tells me that some of his guys are coming with their trucks to help him get rid of furniture and stuff that’s no longer usable. My mom, Chrissie, and I fill bags in my kitchen, and my dad and Tyler drag my couch and mattress outside so it will be easier to remove them later.

While we’re cleaning, the security system installers show up, and they work quickly to put in the systems at Tyler’s house and mine. They run through how to use them and what will happen if the alarm is triggered. I’m a little overwhelmed by the complicated system, but I don’t admit it, because they make it seem like a child could figure it out. Once they leave, I attempt to scrub the word whore off the wall. Since they used ketchup to write the word, it’s left a stain that will have to be painted over.

Five hours later, tired, sweaty, and hungry, I look around my living room at my best friend, my parents, and my brothers—who came over when they got off work—and watch them haul the last of the garbage outside. I glance across to Tyler, his guys Jake and Mike, and Scott, who are in the process of seeing if the TV might still work, and let out a deep breath. Because of all of them helping clean and haul garbage to the local dump, my house is just about back to normal. I still need to wash my clothes and put them away and then get a couch and a new mattress, but for the most part, things look like they did before I left. I thought it would take me days to clean everything up, but with everyone’s help, it’s just about done.

“If I had millions of dollars, I’d buy you each a car or a house or whatever you wanted,” I say, and everyone turns to look at me. “Thank you.” I wave a hand around the room. “I don’t even know how to tell you how grateful I am for all your help.”

“Think you just did, sweetheart,” Scott says, smiling. “Though if you were a millionaire, I’d ask for Jet Skis.”

“I’ll remember that if I ever win the lotto,” I reply, and he grins at me before turning back to the TV just as it suddenly comes to life.

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