his imagery is slightly disturbing.

“That’s gross, Drew.”

he’s unperturbed. “You say tomato, I say tomahto.” Then he kisses me quickly. “Go get ’em, killer.”

he walks away and I head into the conference room to seal the deal.

So you’re starting to get it now, aren’t you? The problem, the big picture? I know it’s taking a while, but we’re getting there.

Enjoy the good times while you can—they won’t be lasting much longer.

The reason I’m showing you all this, is so you’ll understand why I was so shocked. how accidental—unintended—it all really was.

I guess life is like that.

You think you have it all under control. Your path so perfectly mapped out. And then one day you’re driving along and Bam! You get rammed from behind on the freeway.

And you never saw it coming.

People are like that too. Unpredictable.

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No matter how well you think you know somebody? how confident you are of their feelings, their reactions? They can still surprise you.

And in the most devastating of ways.

Chapter 4

Visiting with Drew’s family is never boring. Coming from a single-child home, I found the family gatherings a little overwhelming at first. But now I’m used to it.

Drew and I arrive last.

Frank Fisher—Matthew’s father—and John Evans stand by the wet bar in the corner, trading stock quotes. Delores is perched on the arm of the recliner beside Matthew, watching the football game, while Drew’s sister, Alexandra, aka “The Bitch,” and her husband, Steven, sit on the couch.

Mackenzie, Drew’s niece, sits on the floor. She’s changed since the last time you saw her. She’s six years old now, her hair is longer, her face a little thinner—more girlish, less toddler, but still adorable. She’s playing with a gaggle of dolls and miniature nursery accessories.

Drew’s mother, Anne, and Matthew’s mom, Estelle, are most likely in the kitchen. And if you’re wondering where Steven’s widowed father, George Reinhart, is, we won’t be seeing him until later.

As we walk into the room, Steven greets us and offers us both a drink.

We settle on the love seat, drinks in hand, and watch the game.

Mackenzie pushes a button on one of her dolls, and an animatronic voice fills the room. “No, no, no! No, no, no!”

Mackenzie’s head tilts as she looks at the annoying doll. “I think you’re wrong, Daddy. No-No Nancy doesn’t sound like Momma at all.”

The comment gets Alexandra’s attention. “What do you mean, Mackenzie?”

Behind his wife’s shoulder, Steven shakes his head at his daughter, but unfortunately for him, she doesn’t get the message.

Instead she explains, “The other day, when you were out, Daddy said No-No Nancy sounds just like you. But instead of no, you say, ‘Nag, nag, nag.’” All heads turn to Alexandra, watching her like a ticking time bomb counting down to zero.

Steven tries valiantly to defuse her. he smiles and teases, , “You have to admit, honey, the resemblance is uncanny. . . .”

Alexandra punches him in the arm. But he tightens his bicep before she makes contact, absorbing the blow. She punches him again, less playfully.

Steven just boasts, “You can’t dent steel, babe. Be careful— don’t want to hurt your hand on the gun.”

Faster than a speeding bullet, Alexandra’s fingers lash out and pinch the tender flesh on the back of his tricep, bringing him to his knees.

Drew grimaces and rubs the back of his own arm in sympathy.

“That’s gonna leave a mark.”

Alexandra’s voice is firm. And final. “I don’t nag. I’m a kind, nurturing, supportive wife, and if you would just do what you’re supposed to, I’d never have to say anything at all!”

he yelps, “Yes, dear.”

She releases his arm and stands. “I’m going to help my mother in the kitchen.”

After she leaves, Mackenzie looks down at the chastising doll thoughtfully, then up at her father. “Actually, you’re right, Daddy.

Momma really does sound like Nancy.”

Steven puts his finger to his lips. “Shhhh.”

A while later, Drew, Matthew, Delores, and I are in the den for Mackenzie’s guitar lesson.

I’m teaching her to play. I was five when my father taught me.

he told me music was like a secret code, a magical language that would always be there for me. To comfort me when I was sad, to help me celebrate when I was happy.

And he was right.

It’s a lesson I’ve treasured my entire life. A small piece of him that I was able to hold on to after he was gone. And I’m thrilled to be able to pass that knowledge on to Mackenzie.

She’s playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” right now.

She’s good, isn’t she? Focused. Determined. I’m not surprised—she’s Drew’s niece, after all. As she finishes the song, we all clap.

Then I turn to Delores. “Billy called me last night. he’s got a few weeks off. he’s coming to the city next week and wants to meet up for dinner.”

Sarcasm drips off Drew’s words like chocolate on a strawberry.

“Jackass is coming to town? Oh, goody. It’ll be like Christmas.”

Delores looks at Drew. “hey—Jackass is my nickname for him. Get your own.”

Drew nods. “You’re right. Douche Bag has a much nicer ring to it.”

Are you wondering about the Bad Word Jar? For those of you who don’t know, the Bad Word Jar was started by Alexandra to financially penalize anyone—usually Drew—who cursed in front of her daughter. Originally, each curse cost a dollar, but when Drew and I were working through our issues, I convinced Mackenzie to bump the price up to ten. Color me vindictive.

Anyway, these days, the Jar is no longer used. Mackenzie has a checking account now. And since she’s old enough to write, she keeps a log of who owes what in that blue notebook there—the one she’s scribbling in right now.

We’re all expected to pay our fines before we leave. Or run the risk of a 10 percent late fee.

I have a feeling Mackenzie’s going to be a brilliant banker someday.

She puts her book down and goes back to strumming her guitar. Then she turns to Drew.

“Uncle Drew?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Where do babies come from?”

Drew doesn’t even hesitate. “God.”

I got the basics when I was eleven. My mother took the “stay my little girl forever and don’t ever have sex” approach. Amelia Warren, on the other hand, was more than willing to fill in the gaps. She wanted her daughter Delores and me informed. And prepared. By the time we were thirteen, we could get a condom on a banana faster than any hooker on the strip.