In my pocket is a slip of paper the office manager just gave me citing the law firm administering the trust paying for Deb’s new room. It’s incredibly upgraded—not just in privacy, but in understated touches like the chair and the south-facing window, the better-quality bedding and furniture, the patterned rug underfoot. When I get home, I’l explore the law firm’s website and look for clues to the anonymous benefactor. For now, I’m here with Deb, alone in the mute space between us, missing her laughter and her listening ear.

“Hey Deb,” I say, my voice just above a whisper but crashing like waves into the silence. She doesn’t stir, of course. “I like your new room.” Out her window, clouds move in streams across the leaden sky, lazy and slow. It never gets frigid in LA, but winter is stil chil y. “Next time I come, I’l bring a heavier sweater and we’l check out the garden.” Staring at her, I wonder if it’s possible that she can hear me, even if she can’t respond.

I clear my throat. “I’m going to find out who your secret admirer is, too.” I remember giving Bradford the box of clothes and the ivy plant, and I can’t speak around what feels like a fist in my throat. I’ve discarded the notion that the room is from him. He’s too immersed in medical school debt to do anything so extravagant. He checks in with Mom now and then, but the frequency is fal ing off. Bradford is moving on with his life, because he can.

“I decided to go ahead and start at Berkeley next month.” I glance at my watch. “But I’l be around for a few more weeks, and I’l visit on long weekends and breaks.” I’ve only been here eleven minutes. How does my mother stay here, chattering to herself, basical y, for an hour or more at a time?

“I’m starting a new Habitat project in a couple of weeks.

Roberta’s the crew leader on this one. I’m cal ing her tonight, to get details. I’l tel you about it next time.” I adjust her chair so she can see out the window without catching any glare should the sun emerge. I don’t know what she sees, or if she can perceive or mental y process what she sees. Kissing her forehead, I squeeze her limp hand. “I’l be back soon. I love you.”

Using the cal button, I let the nursing staff know I’m leaving and walk down the hal way. Not until I reach the stairwel do my eyes wel up with tears. I breathe in and out, concentrating on keeping control, and I congratulate myself for visiting my sister, alone, for twelve whole minutes.

Chapter 47


“Okay, I’m returning your cal —or should I say calls—since apparently, blatantly ignoring you doesn’t work like it does on normal people. What d’you want, Reid?” I knew this wasn’t going to be painless, but good God, Brooke can stil wind me up as much as she did at fifteen.

When she’s pissed, her Texas drawl shows up. So as much as she’d like me to believe she’s only bothered, the accent tel s me she’s stil angry.


My therapist would say this is a good time to utilize those anger-management tricks I’ve been practicing when dealing with my father. One deep breath, in and out, and then another. Counting to three or ten or fifty before replying. “I don’t want anything, Brooke. I just need to say something, and I’d like you to let me say it. Please.” Silence. Shock? Considering the things we said to each other during our last few conversations, shock would be about right. “So talk,” she says, not as tough as she’d like to sound.

“I want to apologize—”

“Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of twelve-step bul shit? We haven’t spoken in months. You made what you think of me loud and clear. This, Reid, is what’s known as too damned late.”

I run a hand through my hair and over my face and I admit, my first instinct is to abandon this whole plan. After al , Brooke hating my guts matters nada in the general scheme of things. I’m a bigger Hol ywood entity than she is, so I don’t need to worry about her vetoing my ability to obtain roles. But this isn’t about me.

Sucking in another deep breath and pushing it out, slowly, I’m determined to get this apology out or die trying.

“Brooke, I was wrong to abandon you when you found out you were pregnant, no matter what had happened between us. You were my girlfriend, and I should have been there to support whatever decision you made.” She’s not butting in, so I plunge ahead. “The only excuse I have is that I was a child then. Stil , I screwed up, and I’m sorry.” There’s no answer, and I count seconds, wondering if she hung up somewhere during that speech. Almost two minutes tick by. And then, “I was thinking about… trying to find him,” she says. “Not to interfere or anything. Just to make sure he’s okay. Would you… would you want me to let you know what I find out?”

My jaw clenches while I fight the deep-rooted soreness of her betrayal, like a toothache that’s never been dealt with. Not for the first time, I wonder why she acts like she knows it was mine. I’m not saying that to her, though. Not again. With time comes perspective. It doesn’t matter if it—

if he—was or wasn’t mine. “Sure. That’d be fine.” She sighs. “I know what you’re thinking. At the risk of trashing this little interlude, I’l repeat what I’ve said before.

He’s yours. He can’t possibly be anyone else’s because when I turned that stick blue, I’d never slept with anyone but you. So unless it was an immaculate conception, he’s yours.”

Okay, wait. “Brooke, the story, the photos, that guy—”

“Complete tabloid lies. I never cheated on you. Yes, after we had that fight I dirty danced with that guy at that club. I wanted to make you crazy jealous. I wanted you to come running back to me and say I was yours and no one else could have me. I did not, would not have cheated on you. Not with him, not with anyone.”

I’ve been pacing my room, and now I sit heavily on the edge of my bed, suddenly really glad I didn’t cal her when I was out driving around because the surge of adrenaline is making my whole body quake.

“Brooke, why did you let me think—”

“Because I thought you loved me and I didn’t think I should have to convince you that I hadn’t done something I hadn’t done! And then I found out I was pregnant… and you didn’t—” She stifles a cry. “I can’t talk about this anymore.

What’s done is done. If I find him, I’l send you the info. If you want.”

My thoughts are spinning too quickly to take shape. “I do.

I do want.”

She sniffs, her voice smoothing out. “Okay. I’l let you know. Goodbye, Reid.”

She hangs up before I reply.

I don’t know why I believe her now, but I do. I have a son.

Correction: I had a son, for a few minutes. Now he belongs to someone else—and that’s definitely just as wel . We were children. We would have had no business trying to raise one. That kid is, what, four? And this is the first time I’ve ever real y thought about him. That’s fucked up.


The wal above my desk is covered in cork squares.

Tacked to these are photos of those important to me—my parents and Deb, Kayla and Aimee, Nick, and of course, Esther. In one corner are two group shots of my VBS kids from last summer—one taken the night of their parent program, everyone standing straight and tal around me, al toothy smiles and Sunday best clothes, and the second with Mrs. K at the pool—the kids clustered al around her like bees on a honeycomb, Jonathan clinging to one hip and Keisha to the other, grinning at each other. There are snapshots of people from Habitat, from church, from Quito, and people from school I may never see again. Everyone who matters to me is represented on this board.

Except Reid.

I checked the law firm administering Deb’s trust. It isn’t his father’s firm, and I didn’t recognize any of the attorneys on the site by name. I couldn’t find a connection.

I’l be helping out on a new Habitat project for the next couple of weeks, until I leave for Berkeley. When I talked to Roberta last night, she told me that an anonymous someone donated three new cars to the Diegos the day they got the keys to their house. I was in Quito then, and hadn’t talked to her about anything but Deb since I got back.

“You have no idea who did it?” I pressed.

“None at al . I confess, I thought perhaps Mr.

Alexander… but he’d have wanted the publicity, wouldn’t he?” I heard the other question in her voice. Like everyone else, she’d seen the reports of the two of us together and she suspected I knew more than I was letting on.

“I don’t know.” It’s been a month since that last phone cal . I’m fine when I’m busy, when I purposeful y throw myself into anything that wil block out the thought of him. Like when I was in Quito, though, the nights are the worst—

staring into the darkness and recal ing everything I’d begun to love about him, from the way he chal enged me to the way he touched me.

“We have a celebrity group helping out this time,” Roberta said, switching gears. “I thought you’d be ideal for this project, with your celebrity experience.” I wanted to interrupt her to ask exactly what experience she was referring to, but decided against it. “There may be paparazzi issues again.” She actual y sounded a bit enthused by this idea, and I fought not to snicker. Roberta, starstruck. “People filming from rooftops and leering over fences—insanity!”

I shook my head, glad she told me this over the phone so she couldn’t see me fighting back laughter. “Who are the celebrities?”

“They’re from some movie that’s coming out soon,” she said, vaguely. “These publicity things are so helpful.

Remember when we had those people from that soap opera? Donations and volunteers were up for months afterward.”

“Which movie?”

“Hmm, I can’t quite recal …” Too weird. Roberta is never unfamiliar with the people showing up on her worksite. She launched into project talk, and I forgot to ask again.

Now I’m staring at an email from Ana Diaz, the mission director in Quito. We’ve been emailing about what had happened to Deb, and how I plan to start at Berkeley a semester late, and whether or not she can use my help this coming summer.


I can’t believe I forgot to tel you—several months ago, we received a large donation from an anonymous source. It was enough to balance our books for the first time in a decade. Then, just before Christmas, a law firm in Los Angeles contacted us about a trust someone set up. The disbursements are enough to run the entire program, leaving other donations to rebuild schools and fund medical programs. I only wish I knew who to thank!


I hit reply to ask the name of the law firm, and minutes later, I get her answer. It’s the same firm administering Deb’s trust. Ana included the name of the contact attorney

—Chad Roberts. I have no idea who he is, but I’m determined to find out.

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