My mother was full-on laughing by the time Dez was finished with her less than accurate impersonation, and the peal was music to my ears. I hadn’t heard her laugh like that in so long I’d nearly forgotten what it sounded like. Of course, had my father heard Dez’s mockery, he wouldn’t have found it quite so humorous. Good thing he was at the house getting things ready for my mother’s return.

It had been ten days since her transplant, and so far so good. All her color was back, and she was sitting up, laughing, eating, smiling … living. The scar on her chest was an angry red in color, but it, too, had healed significantly, and she claimed that it only hurt a little if she coughed. That may or may not have been true, but the sparkle was back in her eye and she was soaking up every single bit of information she could about how to maintain her health so her body wouldn’t reject her new heart.

The only source of worry I could find was Faye’s concern for the family of the young lady who had given her another chance to live. She wanted to offer her condolences and thank them properly, as we all did, but Daniel said it was the family’s choice not to have their information disclosed. Upon his suggestion, I sat down with my mother and we wrote them a letter that he agreed to deliver, hoping they would one day find peace with their loss. I’d also hoped my mother would find peace with her gain, but she was a sentimental person and I knew the idea that someone else had had to die in order for her to live would haunt her for the rest of her life.

“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that,” Polly chimed in.

“It was exactly like that,” Dez argued.

I knew better. “Mack does not say ‘goodies.’ ”

My mother interrupted with a devilish grin. “Um, yes, he does.”

“Oh, gross! Mom!” I did not need those mental images. I contemplated checking the janitor’s closet to see if there was some bleach—or whatever it was hospitals used to keep everything so sterile—I could use to scrub my brain. It was definitely going to take something industrial-strength and then I’d probably still be scarred for life.

She scoffed. “Oh, please, Lanie. How do you think you got here? I assure you, it wasn’t by immaculate conception.” She got this dreamy look in her eye like she was reminiscing. “We sure did have a lot of fun making you. The things your father can do with his—”

I plugged my ears with my fingers and started singing to drown her out. It didn’t work. I could still hear her over my own hideous screeching.

“ … your dad has this fascination with the Statue of Liberty, so I have this outfit—”


“Stop! Stop! Stop! Pleeeeease stop,” I begged.

Faye finally fell silent at my outburst and gave me a look. “Don’t act like you’re so innocent,” she said, smoothing the sheets over her midsection. “I’ve seen that piece of man meat you’ve been wearing. You two haven’t been able to keep your hands off each other. I bet he’s good in the sack, too, isn’t he? I mean, he’s Noah Crawford, Chicago’s most eligible bachelor.”

“Seriously? I’m going to puke,” Lexi said in a bored tone as she examined her nails. Then she sighed and straightened in her chair. “I love my cousin and all, but I really don’t want to hear this.”

My mom did that thing where she tried to be less like a mom and more like one of the girls. “You shush it, girlie. I want to know everything,” she told Lexi, then turned back to me. “So just how big is the big spender?”

“I’m soooo not going to answer that question,” I said, appalled and embarrassed. I wanted to curl up into a fetal position and suck my thumb until it all just went away. “What are you, some kind of cougar? Need I remind you that I’m your daughter, and this is beyond inappropriate?”

Dez came to my mother’s defense. “Stop being such a prude, Sandra Dee, and let your inner Cha Cha DiGregorio shine through. You’ve shimmied your way into your paintedon leather, strapped on your peep-toe heels, colored your lips red, and snagged Danny Zuko.” Her obsession with Grease bordered on insanity.

“Let us live vicariously through you. I mean, you’ve scored the jackpot, honey, so the least you could do is gloat about it for the less fortunate.” Dez crossed her legs, propped her elbow on her knee, and rested her chin in her palm. “What’s he working with? And don’t try to lie, either. I’ve seen the size of his feet and his hands.”

“Oh my God! I can’t believe this is happening,” I mumbled, running my hands over my face. “I’m being punked, aren’t I? Where are the cameras?”

Dez made a fist with one hand and started rotating the other as if she were holding a movie camera aimed straight at me. “Lanie Marie Talbot, this is your life,” she said with a game show host’s intonation. “So tell us … Vienna sausage or Peterbilt truck?”

“Just tell us,” Polly chimed in. I was shocked. She sounded like I was about to reveal the secret to eternal life or something. Noah was her boss, and her husband was probably the closest friend Noah had, yet she was all up in my business, wanting to know how long his schlong was.

Lexi sighed and rolled her eyes. “Tell them, for God’s sake, so that we can move on from this horrendous topic.”

“Fine!” I yelled, throwing my hands up in defeat. “He’s colossal, okay? Huge! And the sex is epic! He knocks it out of the park each and every time he’s at bat. He’s got me speaking in tongues and my head spinning around on my shoulders like I’m possessed or something. If the absolute greatest sex in the universe were to manifest into a physical being, it would clone itself after Noah Crawford. He is the poster child for massive orgasms, the alpha and omega of cocks everywhere. His junk should be stuffed and mounted like a trophy over a fireplace, put on display behind bulletproof glass with heat-sensitive alarms and motion detectors at the Smithsonian of Cockdom! It is the holy grail of penises everywhere, and only he has the ability to harness its full power. In short, Noah Crawford is the epitome of sex. He makes my toes curl and my body convulse. There. Are you happy?”

The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. My mother’s jaw was slack and Polly’s eyes were bulging out of her head. And then there was Dez …

“So if you had to put a specific measurement on it, what would it be?”

I heard a throat clear at the doorway and my head snapped in that direction to find Noah leaning against the door frame with his hands in his pockets. Judging by the egotistical smirk on his face, I’d say he’d heard just enough of my speech to make him impossible to live with.

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