You have to fall down, scrape your palms and knees, before you know you have the ability to pick yourself back up.
So don’t worry about me. I’m going to be just fine. Eventually, I’ll be great. We’l be great.
We pull into the rear parking lot of the diner and my mother rushes in through the back door. She left George manning the ship, and she’s a little eager to make sure he hasn’t single-handedly sunk it.
As Delores, Billy, and I walk less hurriedly, Delores asks me, “So what’s the plan, Stan?”
I breath deep and squint up at the sky. And it feels like a new day. A blank page. A fresh beginning. More clichés, I know.
But still—so true.
“I’m going to hang here another day or so. Just . . . recharge.
Then I’m going back to New York. And Drew and I are going to have a long talk. I have some things to say, and he’s going to listen—whether he wants to or not.”
She taps my shoulder. “That’s my girl. Give the bastard hell.”
I grin. Billy opens the door for us but I don’t follow Dee Dee inside. he asks, “You coming, Katie?”
I hook my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m gonna go take a ride.
Clear my head, you know? Tell my mom for me?”
he nods. “Sure. Take your time. We’ll be here when you get back.”
The door swings closed behind them.
And I walk to my car.
So there it is. You’re all caught up now. That’s my story. It was a whopper, huh?
My father used to bring me to this playground when I was young. Even then, when it was newly built, it was never very crowded. I don’t know why the town chose this location to build; it’s an unusual place for a children’s park. There aren’t any housing developments or apartment complexes nearby. And you can’t see it from the main road—it’s off the beaten path.
Time hasn’t been kind to the metal swing set frames and wavy steel slide. They’re rusted, faded, and discolored from the lively primary colors they once were. Still . . . it’s kind of beautiful here—in an industrial modern art kind of way. It’s solitary. Peaceful.
And I need as much of that as I can get. Because thinking about what comes next, what’s ahead of me? I’m not going to lie— it’s scary. It feels like . . . moving into a new house. Exciting, but nerve-racking too. Because you don’t know where the closest gas station is, or the number of the local fire department. There’re so many things to learn.
I read somewhere that babies can actually hear what’s going on outside the womb. That they’re born knowing the sound of their mother’s voice. I like that idea.
I look down at my stomach. “hey, Tadpole. Sorry about everything that’s been going on lately. My life usually isn’t this dramatic.
Although Drew would probably disagree with me on that. he tends to think I’m quite the drama queen.”
Drew. That’s gonna be a tough one. Might as well start now— practice makes perfect.
My hand rests against my stomach, cradling it. “Yeah . . . your father. Your dad is like . . . a shooting star. When he’s around, every other light in the sky just . . . fades out. Because he’s that vibrant— you can’t take your eyes off him. At least I never could.”
I bite my lip. And watch as a hawk soars overhead.
Then I go on. “We loved each other. No matter what’s happened or what will happen from here on out, it’s important to me that you know we were in love. Your father made me feel like I was everything that mattered to him. The only thing. And I’ll always be grateful to him for that. I hope you get to know him one day.
Because he’s actually a really . . . great guy.” I laugh softly. “When he’s not too busy being as ass.”
When I finish speaking the air settles, and all is quiet for several minutes. It’s so different from the parks in the city, with their honking cars, screaming children, and jogging footsteps. It’s serene.
So when a car door suddenly closes nearby, it startles me. My head whips toward the sound.
And standing there is the last person I ever thought I would see out here, in Greenville, at this moment.
He looks awful. Stunningly, breathtakingly awful.
his eyes are bloodshot, his face is pale, there’s a few days of stubble on his chin—and despite all that, he’s still the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.
Looking anywhere else just isn’t possible.
Drew is staring too. his gaze is unwavering—drinking me in—burning me up.
We stand like that for a minute. And then he walks toward me. his steps are purposeful and focused, like he’s marching into a business meeting with his entire career on the line.
he stops just a few feet away.
But it feels like much farther.
And everything I’d planned on saying to him in New York flies right out of my head. So instead, I start off easy. “how did you know I was here?”
“I went to the diner first, saw your mom in the kitchen. She said she didn’t know where you were. And she was looking at me like she wanted to chop my dick off and put it on the Specials Menu. So I went out front—ran into Warren. he told me you’d probably be here.”
Of course Billy would know where I was. Just like he knew I would want him to send Drew to me.
“Did he do that to your face?” I’m talking about the fist-sized welt on his left cheek. It looks fresh—just starting to bruise.