“Um, Junie, I just want to say that I know we didn’t get off to the best start when your dad brought you to me for mentoring,” I say. “But I’ve really grown to appreciate you, and love you as a friend.”

She nods and laughs.

“Trust me, my dad was off his rocker. He thought I was lesbian for a while there! That’s obviously totally been wiped out,” she adds with a mischievous smile. “But it’s totally fine, Alizeh. Yes, we didn’t get along like a house on fire at first. You came off as prim and proper, and I came off as crazy and off my rocker, but it’s okay. We’ve found a middle ground, and I treasure you as a friend too.”

She gives my hand a comforting squeeze, and then sashays out of the kitchen. I watch her hips as she goes. Honestly, I wonder if June is pregnant, and not me. With three men, it could happen even faster for her.

But I’m happy about where my life is. I’m with two men, and Torrent and Trainor treat me so well. I shiver and shake in their arms, and then laugh and joke with them in the next breath. What if I am pregnant? I look down at my stomach thoughtfully. It wouldn’t be so bad. I’ve wanted to be a mom for a long time now, and I’ve been jealous of all the girls who have been having babies. I’d feel proud and blessed to have my men’s child in me now.

But all in good time. I finish my cereal, put the dish in the sink, and then skip off to my room. I’ve got to pick up some clothes, and tidy up a bit. And then, I’m off to see my men again.

9

Alizeh

When I get back to my room in the ladies’ side of the house, I cock my head and look around. I used to live here mere weeks ago, and yet it feels different. This is a little girl’s room. Here’s my narrow twin bed, with the virginal white coverlet. Here’s the half-finished embroidery that I used to do, and the dog-eared cover of The Thief and the Lady that I’d read under the covers sometimes. Here are my favorite Harlequin paperbacks, and my collection of sparkly pink lip glosses.

But now, all of that seems far away. Now, I’m in a relationship with two men who leave me no need to dream about a handsome rogue whose breeches are eternally too small. I don’t need to fantasize about savage pirates, bold cowboys, or ice-cold billionaires. Instead, I’m with Torrent and Trainor and they’ve taught me what it’s like to be a real woman. Now, I feel spent after my sessions with them, my heart overflowing with love and appreciation for these generous, giving men.

Love? Appreciation? My pulse races as my cheeks heat. Oh my god, June could be right. But is love what they want from me? I have no idea. It seems too early to broach the subject, but then again, sometimes Cupid’s bow strikes, and there’s no fighting it. I press a hand to my heart, and sure enough, it feels like it’s pounding right out of my chest. My breathing is uneven, and I drop limply into the hard wooden chair in front of my desk. Goodness. This is unexpected.

Then, a ping startles me. My laptop’s been open this entire time, and I must have just received a message. I touch the mouse and immediately, the computer lights up.

There are a few messages in my inbox, but the top one is from my father. Damn. My heart begins racing even faster, and my mouth tastes sour all of a sudden. My dad doesn’t contact me often, but when he does, it’s usually because he wants something. After he was run out of Dads and Daughters, he had to quit trucking because no one would hire him. As a result, he works at our local Waffle House, making breakfast for a living.

It’s an honest job, and there’s no shame in doing it. But I know Michael thinks it’s below him. He hates how everyone who works at Waffle House has a nickname, and how his is “Big Mike.” There’s nothing wrong with the name because it’s an accurate description. My dad is six two, and overweight. He’s round, shaped like an egg, and to be honest, sometimes I think he blames his current obesity on Dads and Daughters too. The truckers in the group work out like fanatics, but after Mike was kicked out, he lost the will. He kept piling on pounds, to the point where now he resembles Humpty Dumpty with his big paunch and red-faced, sweaty visage.

But Mike is still my dad. Grimacing, I click on the message. It reads:

Hi honey,

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