And tears well up in my eyes. “I didn’t think we’d ever . . . when you said . . .”
“Shh . . . I didn’t mean it. I swear on Mackenzie I didn’t mean any of it. I never wanted to . . .” he buries his face in my neck, and his regret leaks from his eyes and soaks into my shirt.
I press closer against him. “I know, Drew. I know you didn’t.”
his hands run through my hair—they caress my face, my arms, my back. “I love you, Kate. I love you so much.”
Last year, Drew and I went to Japan. One day we stopped in a bonsai tree shop. They’re kind of strange-looking, don’t you think?
With their stunted trunks and twisted branches. The shop owner told us that it’s the knots and twists that make them strong, that keep from splintering even during the harshest storm.
That’s what Drew and I are like.
his lips touch my forehead, my cheeks. he holds my face in his hands, and I frame his with mine. And we kiss. Our mouths move in sync—fierce and bruising, tender and slow. And all the rest, every injury, every harsh word, melts away like snow in the sunlight.
They don’t matter. Because we’re together. We’ll find our way.
Drew presses his forehead against mine, then his hand covers my stomach. his touch is reverent and his voice is awed. “Are we really having a baby?”
I laugh, even though the tears are still falling. “Yeah. We are.
Do you really want to?”
he wipes the wetness from my cheeks. “With you? Are you crazy? It’s one of the few fantasies I have left. I’d have twenty kids with you—give those freaky Duggar people a run for their money.”
I laugh again, and it feels so good. So right. I lay my head on Drew’s shoulder. his face rests against my hair, breathing it in.
And then he vows, “It’s okay, Kate. We’re gonna be okay now.”
And I believe him.
I don’t know how long we stay like that, on the ground quietly clinging to each other, but when we rise the sun has moved low in the sky, beginning its descent into dusk. Drew convinces me to leave my car here, that we’ll come back for it later. he’s worried that I’m too exhausted, too emotional to drive safely. For once, I don’t argue with him.
As he drives us back to the diner, he keeps one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on me—my thigh, my shoulder, or softly entwined with my own. And it’s reassuring. Wonderful. I’d hoped for this moment, wanted it more than I ever wanted anything else.
To have him here, with me—loving me—after I’d honestly never thought we’d be together like this again.
It’s like a movie. The reunion. The reconciliation. The happy ending.
The only problem is, in real life, there’s no theme song that plays afterward. No rolling of credits. In real life, you have to deal with what happens after the reunion. The fallout from the things you said, the consequences of the things you did, that almost destroyed it all.
That still could.
That’s why we watch movies like that—because real life is just never that easy.
And it’s not that I’m not deeply happy in a way I can’t fully describe. Despite what I said earlier, there is warm comfort in the knowledge that Drew’s words, the stripper, all stemmed from a terrible misunderstanding.
It’s the prayer of every person who’s ever been told heartbreaking news. Your son was killed in a car accident, you have stage-four cancer. The hope is always that the bearer got it wrong. A misiden-tification. A misdiagnosis.
But what happens after the “mis”? After you’ve accepted tragedy as truth, or blown your life savings because you thought you only had weeks to live? What do you do then?
You step forward. You rebuild. You climb your way up from rock bottom with the determination that not only will life go back to normal, but that it will be better, sweeter.
Because hindsight is more than 20/20. Perspective doesn’t just change how you look at things, it changes how you feel.
And once you think you’ve lost it all, you value every moment infinitely more.
We pull into the parking lot of the diner and walk through the back door into the kitchen, hand in hand. Like two teenagers who didn’t just stay out past curfew, but stayed out all night, scaring everyone who cares about them nearly to death.
My mother stands at the counter, furiously chopping raw carrots with a gleaming knife. It’s not difficult to guess she’s imagining the carrot is something else entirely. George sits at the small table beside Billy. Dee Dee’s on the other side of him, her cell phone at her ear.
When she spots us, she says in a low voice, “They’re here. I’ll call you back.” And ends the call.
My mother’s head jerks up. She slaps the knife down and turns to face us. Then she zeroes in on our joined hands and glares at Drew.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, showing your face here again.”
Drew takes a resigned breath and tries to answer, “Carol—”
My mom cuts him off at the knees. “I don’t want to hear it! You don’t get to talk.” She points at me. “I realize my daughter is a grown woman, but to me? She’s my baby. My only baby. And what you’ve put her through is inexcusable.”
he tries again. “I understand—”
“I said you don’t get to talk! There’s nothing you can say that will make this better.”