last night . . . I was upset and I . . . drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes.” I lower my voice. “And marijuana. A lot.”

A montage of Special Report News flashes through my mind: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Super-preemies.

Low Birth Weight.

he puts his hand on my shoulder reassuringly. “You’re not the first woman to engage in some rather . . . unhealthy behaviors before learning she was pregnant, Kate. Babies in utero are heart-ier than you think. They have the ability to overcome momentary exposure to drugs and alcohol. So as long as you abstain from these substances from now on, there shouldn’t be any lasting effects.”

I throw my arms around his neck, almost knocking him over.

“Thank you! Thank you, Dr. Santa—this is the best Christmas present ever!”

I run back to Delores and Billy. “he said it’s okay!” We jump up and down in a circle like three kids on the playground doing Ring Around the Rosie.

And it’s almost perfect. Almost. Because there’s something missing.

Someone.

The only other person on earth who’s supposed to be as happy as I am at this moment. he should be here. he should be picking me up, spinning me around, and kissing me until I pass out.

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And then he should be telling me that of course the baby’s fine— because his studly super-sperm is indestructible.

Can’t you just see it?

But he’s not here. That’s just the way it is. I’d like to tell you it doesn’t hurt—that I don’t miss him—that I don’t really care anymore. But that’d be a big fat lie. I love Drew. I can’t imagine ever not loving him. And I want to share this with him, more than anything.

But we don’t always get everything we want; sometimes we just have to be grateful for what we have. And I am. Grateful, I mean.

happy. Because I’m going to have this baby and take care of him.

And I don’t have to do it alone. Between my mother and George, Delores and Billy, there won’t be any shortage of helping hands.

he’s going to be loved enough for ten babies.

Forty-eight hours ago, I didn’t know what I was capable of, what kind of steel pumps in my veins. Now I do. And I guess that’s the moral of the story.

You have to fall down, scrape your palms and knees, before you know you have the ability to pick yourself back up.

So don’t worry about me. I’m going to be just fine. Eventually, I’ll be great. We’l be great.

We pull into the rear parking lot of the diner and my mother rushes in through the back door. She left George manning the ship, and she’s a little eager to make sure he hasn’t single-handedly sunk it.

As Delores, Billy, and I walk less hurriedly, Delores asks me, “So what’s the plan, Stan?”

I breath deep and squint up at the sky. And it feels like a new day. A blank page. A fresh beginning. More clichés, I know.

But still—so true.

“I’m going to hang here another day or so. Just . . . recharge.

Then I’m going back to New York. And Drew and I are going to have a long talk. I have some things to say, and he’s going to listen—whether he wants to or not.”

She taps my shoulder. “That’s my girl. Give the bastard hell.”

I grin. Billy opens the door for us but I don’t follow Dee Dee inside. he asks, “You coming, Katie?”

I hook my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m gonna go take a ride.

Clear my head, you know? Tell my mom for me?”

he nods. “Sure. Take your time. We’ll be here when you get back.”

The door swings closed behind them.

And I walk to my car.

So there it is. You’re all caught up now. That’s my story. It was a whopper, huh?

My father used to bring me to this playground when I was young. Even then, when it was newly built, it was never very crowded. I don’t know why the town chose this location to build; it’s an unusual place for a children’s park. There aren’t any housing developments or apartment complexes nearby. And you can’t see it from the main road—it’s off the beaten path.

Time hasn’t been kind to the metal swing set frames and wavy steel slide. They’re rusted, faded, and discolored from the lively primary colors they once were. Still . . . it’s kind of beautiful here—in an industrial modern art kind of way. It’s solitary. Peaceful.

And I need as much of that as I can get. Because thinking about what comes next, what’s ahead of me? I’m not going to lie— it’s scary. It feels like . . . moving into a new house. Exciting, but nerve-racking too. Because you don’t know where the closest gas station is, or the number of the local fire department. There’re so many things to learn.

I read somewhere that babies can actually hear what’s going on outside the womb. That they’re born knowing the sound of their mother’s voice. I like that idea.

I look down at my stomach. “hey, Tadpole. Sorry about everything that’s been going on lately. My life usually isn’t this dramatic.

Although Drew would probably disagree with me on that. he tends to think I’m quite the drama queen.”

Drew. That’s gonna be a tough one. Might as well start now— practice makes perfect.

My hand rests against my stomach, cradling it. “Yeah . . . your father. Your dad is like . . . a shooting star. When he’s around, every other light in the sky just . . . fades out. Because he’s that vibrant— you can’t take your eyes off him. At least I never could.”

I bite my lip. And watch as a hawk soars overhead.

Then I go on. “We loved each other. No matter what’s happened or what will happen from here on out, it’s important to me that you know we were in love. Your father made me feel like I was everything that mattered to him. The only thing. And I’ll always be grateful to him for that. I hope you get to know him one day.

Because he’s actually a really . . . great guy.” I laugh softly. “When he’s not too busy being as ass.”

When I finish speaking the air settles, and all is quiet for several minutes. It’s so different from the parks in the city, with their honking cars, screaming children, and jogging footsteps. It’s serene.

So when a car door suddenly closes nearby, it startles me. My head whips toward the sound.

And standing there is the last person I ever thought I would see out here, in Greenville, at this moment.

It’s Drew.

Chapter 15

He looks awful. Stunningly, breathtakingly awful.