he glances at my mother, but there’s no reaction. he goes back to whisking and says, “It’s like I was telling Kate a few weeks ago— some guys need to learn when they’re beaten.”

My mother slaps a bill on the table and picks up the next one in the pile.

Drew sighs. Then he puts the bowl on the counter and sits down across from my mother. She doesn’t acknowledge him at all.

he thinks for a moment, rubbing his knuckles against the scruff of his chin. Then he leans toward my mother and says, “I love your daughter, Carol. Like . . . I’d-take-a-bullet-for-her kind of love.”

My mother snorts.

Drew nods. “Yeah, I get it. That probably doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot to you. But . . . it’s true. I can’t promise that I won’t screw up again. But if I do, it won’t be as epic as my most recent clusterfuck. And I can promise I’ll do everything I can after to make it up to Kate . . . to make it right.”

My mother continues to stare at the bill in her hand like it has the cure for cancer on it.

Drew sits back, gazes toward the window, and smiles a little.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be my father. he always wore these awesome suits and he went to work at the top of a huge building.

And he always had everything together, like the whole world was at his fingertips. When I met Kate . . . no . . . when I realized Kate was it for me, all I wanted to be was the guy who made her happy.

Who surprised her, made her smile.”

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For the first time, my mother looks at Drew. he returns her stare and tells her in a determined voice, “I still want to be that guy, Carol. I still think I can be. And I hope, one day, you’ll think that too.”

After a moment, Drew stands and goes back to making breakfast at the counter.

I wait, watching, as my mother continues to sit at the table, silent and unmoving. Isn’t that what every parent wants to hear?

That the singular goal of the person their child loves is to make them happy? I can’t believe she’s not moved by Drew’s words.

She says, “You’re doing that wrong.”

Drew stops whisking and turns to my mother. “I am?”

She stands and takes the bowl from his hands. “Yes. If you stir too much, the pancakes will be heavy. Too thick. You need to mix it just enough to blend the ingredients.” She gives Drew a small smile. But it’s enough. “I’ll help you.”

Slowly, Drew smiles back. “That would be great. Thank you.”

Yep—cue the warm and fuzzy. My heart melts just a little.

Because every girl wants her mother to see the good in the man she loves.

I breeze into the kitchen. “Morning.”

“Morning, honey. how are you feeling?” my mother asks.

“I’m good. Really good.”

I walk up to Drew, who kisses me softly and wraps an arm around my shoulder. “What are you doing up? Didn’t you get my note?”

“I did. But I wanted to see what you were up to. how’s it going?”

he winks. “We’re getting there.”

We stay in Greenville for another day before taking a late-night flight back to New York. First thing Saturday morning, we step over the threshold together into our apartment.

I glance around the living room as Drew puts our bags in the corner. The apartment is freshly cleaned, sparkling, and smells of lemon-scented furniture polish. It looks exactly the same as when I walked out a week ago. Unchanged.

Practically reading my mind, Drew offers, “I had the cleaning people come by.”

I look down the hall toward the bathroom. “And the bonfire?”

We’d talked about Drew’s foray into pyromania. he said he’d burned a few pictures, but there are copies. Nothing was lost that can’t be replaced.

Kind of poetic, don’t you think?

Somberly, I tell him, “Drew, we need to talk.”

he regards me cautiously. “No conversation in the history of the world that started with that phrase has ever ended well. Why don’t we sit down.”

I sit on the couch. he takes the recliner and swivels to face me.

I get right to the point. “I want to move out.”

he rolls my words around in his head as I brace myself for the argument that I know is coming.

But he just nods slightly. “You’re right.”

“I am?”

“Yeah, of course.” he looks around the room. “I should have thought of this before. I mean, this is where your worst nightmare came true. Like the Amityville Horror house—who the hell would want to live there?”

he’s taking this much better than I thought. Until he continues, “My sister has a great real estate agent. I’ll call her right away.

We can stay at the Waldorf if you want, until we find a new place.

In this market, it shouldn’t take long.”

“No, Drew—I said I want to move out. Alone. I want to get my own apartment.”

his brow furrows. “Why would want to do that?”

You’re probably wondering the same thing. I’ve been thinking about it, planning it out in my head, since I decided I wanted to keep the baby, with or without Drew. Because there are different kinds of dependence. I’ve always wanted to be financially secure, and now I am. But I’ve never been emotionally independent. On my own. And at this point in my life, it’s something I want.

If only to prove to myself that I’m capable of it.

“I’ve never lived by myself. Did you know that?”

Still bewildered, he says, “O-kay?”

“First year of undergrad, I lived in the dorms. Then Dee, Billy, and I and a bunch of other people got a place off campus. After that, it was always me and Billy or me, Dee, and Billy sharing a house or an apartment. And then, I moved in here with you.”

Drew leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “What’s your point, Kate?’ “My point is, I’ve never not had someone to come home to.

I’ve never decorated or bought a piece of furniture without consulting someone. I’m twenty-seven years old, and I’ve practically never slept alone.”

he opens his mouth to argue, but I go on, “And . . . I think you made a valid point about us rushing into things. We went from a weekend hook-up to living together overnight.”

“And look how great that turned out! I know what I want, and I want you. There was no point in waiting, because—”

“But maybe there would’ve been a point in waiting, Drew.