I turn to him. “Did you know about this?”

“I had my suspicions. But I was hoping I was wrong.”

Delores agrees, “Weren’t we all. I don’t know what was worse— having to listen to my mother moaning in ecstasy, or hearing him beg for more and having to visualize what the f**k she was doing to him.”

I cover my mouth.

And laugh.

We all do. It starts off small, and then builds—to a tablesmacking, eye-tearing, bent-over-at-the-waist crescendo.

“Oh . . . my . . . God!”

And even though Delores is cackling, she insists, “It’s not funny! I think my girl parts are broken. Every time I think about it, my vagina clamps down like a littleneck clam fighting to stay closed.”

We howl louder. And it’s the first real, genuine laughter I’ve had since this all began. My cheeks hurt and my sides ache—and it feels wonderful.

You know, sometimes I try and picture what my life would be like if Dee Dee wasn’t in it. And then I stop.

Because I just really can’t imagine it.

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Chapter 13

After we got Delores settled in my room, Billy put a call in to his manager. he planned to do a show here at a little bar called Sam’s Place, where he used to play in high school. he wanted to honor the place where he came from—give something back to the locals, like Bruce Springsteen always does at the Stone Pony.

And Sam’s Place is where we are right now.

It’s packed—standing room only. Delores and I are in front, our arms bumping against each other as we dance and sing. Billy’s up on stage, a few songs into his first set. he looks fantastic. Dark jeans, a crisp white button-down, and a clean-shaven chin.

he knows just how to work the crowd—when to get them fired up with a guitar-screaming riff or settle them down with soft ballad.

I’ve never been more proud of him.

The song ends and someone in the back yells that they love him. Billy looks down and laughs, a little bashful. Then he brings his mouth to the microphone. “I love you guys too. So this next song is new. I haven’t played it for any of the suits yet, but I wanted to play it for you tonight. It’s for someone . . . who believed in me . . . even when there wasn’t much of a reason to. And I want her to know that I’ll always have her back, that she’ll always be in my heart, and she’ll never be alone.”

his eyes find mine in the crowd. And he winks. I nod, message

received. Then he starts to sing.

Years feel like yesterday

And I can’t believe how fast time flies

Don’t want to let another second go

Without letting you know

What you always should have known

I’ll catch you if you stumble

Pick you up if you fall

Hold you when you’re hurting

But baby, most of all,

I’ll be there . . . so you’ll never be alone

Don’t ever feel alone

The beat pulses in my stomach. And I listen to the words. And I think about how lucky I am to have all the things I do. Priceless, precious blessings. I have a family that loves me. Friends who would kill for me. Literally.

And I think about who I am. I survived my father’s death with my soul intact. I graduated Wharton School at the top of my class.

Remember when I first started working at the firm? And Drew Evans was the golden boy? And I put him right in his place— kicked his ass from one end of the office to the other.

I did that.

Because I was stubborn. And smart. And because I believed I was capable. Drew once told me you can change the color of the walls, but the room would still be the same.

And he was right.

I was all those things before him—and I’m still all those things now.

Without him.

From now on, each day that goes by Gonna give it my best try To show you what you mean to me ’Cause if I don’t have you on my side None of this means anything Don’t want to let another second go Without letting you know What you always should have known have you ever lost your keys? And you check all your pockets and pull the cushions off the couch. And then—after searching for ten minutes—you turn around and there they are. On the table.

Right in front of you the whole time.

Almost . . . like the answer was too easy to see right away.

That’s what this feels like.

Because suddenly I know what I want. I’m confident. Certain. And I know what I’m capable of. It won’t be easy—the greatest achievements in life never are. Things like climbing Everest, or becoming the president? They’re difficult. But so worth it.

I’ll catch you if you stumble

Pick you up if you fall

Hold you when you’re hurting

But baby, most of all

I’ll be there . . . so you’ll never be alone

Don’t ever feel alone

I imagine myself a few years from now, walking home on the city streets from the job I love—one hand holding a briefcase, the other holding the small, sweet hand of my little girl or boy.

And I picture us at the dining-room table, working on homework and talking about our day. I see story times, and bedtimes, tickle-times, hugs, and butterfly kisses.

Being a single mother wasn’t something I’d ever planned to be . . . but now? It’s who I want to be.

I’ll be there every step of the way

Won’t miss a moment

I’ll be there every step of the way

Won’t miss a moment

You know that saying? The best-laid plans of mice and men . . . ?

You might want to remember that right about now.

Because as soon as the decision takes root in my mind, I feel a dull throbbing. You ladies will know what I’m talking about. That pulling cramp in my lower abdomen. And a thick, warm wetness oozes out from between my legs, seeping into my underwear.

My heartbeat pounds against my chest, and I head for the restrooms. hoping I’m wrong.

But once I’m in the stall, I see that I’m not.

I stumble back out of the bathroom, into the crowd. My hands shaking with dread, with fear. Because this is wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I grab Delores’s arm and tell her. But the music’s too loud, and she doesn’t hear me. I pull her to the back of the bar, where it’s quieter, and I force the words out.

“Dee, I’m bleeding.”

Forest Gump had it all wrong. Life isn’t like a box of chocolates.

Doctors are.

The vivacious but inexperienced physician right out of medical school, or the battle-hardened know-it-all finishing the last minutes of a twenty-hour shift—you never know what you’re gonna get.