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Charlie holds back a smile. He manages to keep his face serious. “I don’t want to put you in any more of a weird spot than I already have,” he says.

“It’s fine,” I tell him. “You should do it. He’ll say yes. I know he’ll say yes.”

“You think so?” Charlie asks, letting his excitement show just a little bit.

“Yeah,” I say. “He will.”

We hug, and Charlie looks at his watch. “Holy shit, I’m late,” he says. “You know what? Fuck it.” Charlie calls out to the bedroom. “Natalie, are you able to take the day off ?”

“What?” I hear from the other room.

“Could you take the day off ?”

“Um . . . I guess? I was going to leave early for a doctor’s appointment anyway,” she says, her voice getting closer as she joins us.

“How about you?” Charlie says to me. “Can you take the day off ? We can go see a movie or something?” Natalie is now standing next to him, her arm draped around his waist, her head tucked into his arm. Look at them. Look at my brother. A pregnant woman at his side.

“Oh,” I say. I start formulating an answer.

“Wait a minute,” Charlie says. “If you and Ryan agreed not to talk for a whole year, how did you know I told him about the baby?” Charlie’s voice isn’t the least bit suspicious. It’s curious and lively.

But I feel as if I’ve been caught red-handed, the criminal in the interrogation room under the hot lights.

“I should get to work, actually. I’m already an hour late, and traffic is going to be murder. You two have a nice, romantic day!” I say. I’m already heading for the door.

April 20

Dear Lauren,

Charlie called me today and said he spoke with you and that it was OK with you if he asked me to be his best man.

What is happening in the world? I remember when he used to beg me to play Grand Theft Auto with him when you and I would visit on weekends from college. I didn’t even like that game, but I used to do it just to get him to shut up. And the whole time, he would just talk about girls. The. Whole. Time. And he was so stupid about girls. It baffled me. For a boy living in a house with three women, you’d think he knew how to talk to girls, but he just had no idea. And so I told him about how I asked you out. I told him that whole thing about how I pretended that it was you who was asking me out. And how it’s normal to be nervous, but you just have to do it anyway, because the girls are usually nervous, too, and they don’t notice that you’re nervous, and just stupid shit like that.

And now he’s getting married and having a baby. With someone he really seems to like.

And you and I aren’t speaking.

Thank you for saying it was OK. I miss your family a lot. That phone call from Charlie, it made my day. Hell, it might have made my year. This year has been so hard and so confusing, and when I heard Charlie’s voice on the phone, it really reminded me of what I’ve been missing.

I’m looking forward to this wedding. If only because I know I’ll get to see you again.



Natalie is wearing a maxidress. She’s the sort of pregnant that makes you want to offer your seat to her on the bus. Due in six weeks, she is glowing, but when you tell her that, she says, “It’s sweat. Trust me. I’m sweating like the house is on fire.”

I didn’t tell anyone it’s going to be a boy, so we stuck with yellow as the shower theme. My mother insisted on hosting it, and she’s gone a little over the top. There are yellow balloons and yellow streamers. There are gifts wrapped in yellow. And a yellow cake, courtesy of Rachel. I think perhaps there is also an unspoken theme of ducks that I didn’t get the memo about. The buffet table and the coffee table are covered in rubber duckies. Rachel even made a rubber ducky out of fondant and put it on the top of the cake.

“Guess it’s more of a fondant ducky,” I say when she shows us.

My mom laughs. “That’s what I said, but she didn’t seem to think it was funny.”

“This cake is beautiful,” Natalie says. “Rachel, I can’t thank you enough. It looks professionally done.”

I know that Rachel has baked this same cake five times, decorating it just this way, to be sure that she could do it. I know that she was up until the early hours of the morning getting the duck right. But she acts as if it was a breeze. “Oh, please,” she says. “It’s my pleasure.” Rachel has on a cute short red dress with a square collar. She was wearing high heels for the occasion but kicked them off about ten minutes ago, well before anyone was even here. “Although I did take a picture of it for my portfolio.” She’s supposed to hear news on the loan any day now.

Mom comes out from the kitchen with a platter. “OK, you three girls will tell me if I’ve overdone it,” she says. “But look! How cute, right?” My mother shows us a plate of cucumber sandwiches.

“It’s not high tea, Mom,” Rachel says. “It’s a baby shower.”

My mom frowns, but Natalie turns it right around. “They are adorable, Leslie. Really. Thank you so much. And my friend Marie, who is coming, is a vegetarian and always worries that there won’t be things for her to eat. So it’s perfect.”

“Thank you, Natalie. I’m relishing this time before you feel as comfortable around me as my daughters do. This is when I still get compliments and not things like ‘It’s not high tea, Mom.’” My mother’s impression of Rachel sounds absolutely nothing like Rachel and everything like Minnie Mouse.

Natalie laughs. “I really do like them, though!” she says.

“OK, Natalie,” I say. “You’ve proven your point. She likes you best.”

My mom laughs and puts the platter down and goes back into the kitchen to get more.

“Do you need help?” Natalie asks.

Rachel puts her arm out to stop Natalie from saying any more. “Relax,” she says. “You’re the pregnant one,” she says. “We are the ones who should be offering to help Mom, and we aren’t.”

“Yeah, so don’t make us look bad,” I say.

Natalie laughs and sits down on the couch, crossing one leg underneath her and smoothing out her dress. “Well, since I have you two, I actually wanted to ask you a favor,” she says. “As I know you know, Charlie asked Ryan to be his best man.”

Rachel’s jaw drops, and she whips her head at me. “What?” she says.

I shrug. “It’s what Charlie wants. What was I going to say?”

“And you’re OK with it?” Rachel asks. “How have we not talked about this?”

“It’s fine,” I say to Rachel. I don’t want to get into it and complicate things in front of Natalie.

Natalie looks at me. “I want to say thank you for that,” she says. “It has made Charlie really happy, and obviously, I’m not as well versed in the details of you and Ryan, but I would imagine it takes a big person to . . . just . . . thank you.”

I nod at her. It’s such a complex issue, with so many feelings involved, I fear that if I speak, even if only to say You’re welcome, I’ll start crying, and I won’t even know exactly why.

“Anyway, Ryan is Charlie’s best man, and it turns out his friend Wally is going to be able to make it to the wedding, so Charlie wanted him to be up there with him, too,” Natalie says. “Which means I’ve got two spots on my side, and I’d love it if you two would be my bridesmaids.”

“Wow,” Rachel and I both say at the same time.

Rachel continues. “Are you kidding? That is so thoughtful of you.”

“I know that it’s short notice,” Natalie says. “I wasn’t sure what was happening with Charlie’s side, but now that it’s all settled, I really do think it worked out perfectly. I would love to have you two up there with me.”

“Are you sure?” I ask. “I mean, our feelings won’t be hurt if you have friends you’d like to ask.”

“No,” Natalie says. “I mean, I have people I could ask. I have girlfriends I love. But you guys are family. I love the idea of being a part of a big family. My family is just me and my parents. I’m excited to have sisters.” Natalie tiptoes around the word sisters as if she’s not sure that it’s OK for her to be so presumptuous, and because of that, I feel the need to go overboard in letting her know that I absolutely do want to consider her my sister. That I want her to be a part of our family.