history’s a lot like shampoo that way—rinse, repeat, and repeat again.

Delores was crushed. And Billy . . . Billy was f**king furious. I was with him the day he stole a white Camaro from the Walgreen’s parking lot. I followed him in the Thunderbird to a chop shop in Cleveland, where he got paid three hundred dollars for it.

Just enough to pay for the abortion.

We could’ve gone to Amelia, but Delores was just too ashamed.

So we went to the clinic ourselves. And I held Delores’s hand the whole time.

Afterward, Billy dropped us off at my house. Then he went looking for Garrett Buckler. When he found him, Billy broke his arm and fractured his jaw. And he told him if he ever breathed a word about Delores to anyone, he’d come back and break his other four appendages—including the one between his legs.

To this day, it’s the best-kept secret in Greenville.

“You know what? Fuck him. You make good cash, so you sure as shit don’t need his money. And as for the whole dad thing? Overrated. You had a father for like, five minutes . . . me and my cousin never did. And the three of us turned out great.”

he rethinks that statement.

“Okay—maybe not Delores. But still—two out of three ain’t bad. We could—”

I cut him off. “I think I’m gonna get an abortion, Billy.”

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he goes silent. Totally. Utterly.

Completely.

But his shock and disappointment pound loudly—like a big bass drum.

Or maybe that’s just my own guilt.

Remember about twenty years ago, when that Susan Smith lady drowned her two children, because her boyfriend didn’t want a woman with kids? Like the rest of the country, I thought she should’ve been strung up by her fingertips and had the skin scraped off her body with a cheese grater.

I mean, what kind of woman does that? What kind of woman chooses a man over her own flesh and blood?

A weak one.

And that’s a characteristic I’ve already admitted to, remember?

It’s been in my mind for a while now—like a cobweb that’s clinging to a corner but you walk on past because you just don’t have the time to deal with it.

I’m a businesswoman, first and foremost. I’m analytical.

Practical.

If one of my investments isn’t turning out the way I thought it would? I get rid of it. Cut my losses. Simple mathematics—if you take the emotion out of it, it’s a no brainer.

I know. I know what you’re thinking. But what about that little boy you pictured? That beautiful, perfect boy with dark hair and the smile you love?

The truth is, there is no little boy. Not yet. Right now, it’s nothing more than a cluster of dividing cells. A mistake that’s standing in the way of me and the life I was supposed to have.

I don’t know if Drew and I can ever get back to where we were—but I know giving birth to a child he obviously wants nothing to do with isn’t going to win me any points. And it would make everything so much easier.

Like getting my eyebrows waxed. A simple procedure for a lifetime of convenience.

You think that makes me a cold bitch, don’t you?

Yeah . . . well . . . I guess you’re right.

Billy’s voice is cautious. hesitant. Like he doesn’t want to ask the question, and he wants to hear the answer even less. “For him?

You’re gonna get an abortion because of him?”

I wipe at the wetness on my cheeks. I didn’t even know I was crying. “I can’t do this on my own. Alone.”

It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?

Billy grabs my hand. “hey. Look at me.”

I do.

And his eyes are burning. With tenderness. And determination. “You are not alone, Kate. And you never will be. Not as long as I’m breathing.”

I bite my lip. And shake my head slowly. And the lump in my throat makes my voice raspy and frail. “You know what I mean, Billy.”

And he does. Billy understands better than anyone, because he was there. he knows how hard it was, how bad it felt. All those nights when I went out with him, for ice cream or to the movies— leaving my mother home in an empty house.

All the awards and graduation ceremonies, when my mother’s face glowed with pride, but her eyes shone with sadness. Because she had no one to share it with.

Every holiday—New Year’s Eves and Thanksgivings and Easters—when I couldn’t make it home from college, and I’d cry in his arms after getting off the phone with her, because it killed me that she was spending the day by herself.

Billy was there for all of it.

And Amelia. he saw his aunt struggle—financially, emotionally—trying to be two parents in one for him and Delores. he watched her date guy after guy, looking for a Mr. Right who never showed up.

Theirs were the anti-lives. The ones I never wanted for my own.

And yet, here I am.

Billy nods. “Yeah, Katie—I know what you mean.”

I rub my eyes hard. Frustrated. Aggravated . . . with myself. “I just need to make a goddamn decision. I have to figure out a plan and stick with it. I just . . .” My voice breaks. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Billy breathes deep. Then he stands up. “All right, screw this.

Let’s go.”

he walks around the corner and digs into the cabinet under the kitchen sink. I have no idea what he’s looking for.

“What do you mean? Go where?”

he pops up holding up a screwdriver. “To the place where our problems can’t touch us.”

Billy pulls the truck into the parking lot. And the headlights illu-minate the huge darkened sign.

Can you see it?

ROLLER RINK We climb out. “I don’t think this is a good idea, Billy.”

“Why not?”

We walk to the side of the building. here’s some advice I learned young: When you’re walking in the dark? Or running from the cops through the woods? Step high. It’ll save your shins and the palms of your hands a world of pain.

“Because we’re adults now. This is breaking and entering.”

“It was breaking and entering when we were seventeen too.”

We get to the window. I can just barely make out Billy’s face in the moonlight.

“I know. But I don’t think Sheriff Mitchell’s going to be so quick to let us off the hook now.”

he scoffs. “Oh, please. Amelia said Mitchell’s been bored out of his gourd since we left. he’d kill for some excitement. Kids today . . . too lazy. There’s no creativity to their vandalism.”