“Sounds like a plan to me.” I open the lid on the first small box I get to and let out a yelp.

“What’s wrong?” Nick rushes to my side and pulls the box away.

He takes one look and nearly drops it entirely.

“Not so brave now, huh?” I say as we look down at dozens of dismembered dolls’ heads staring back at us with blank eyes.

“I thought it was a rat or something.” He starts to close the flaps back up on the box. “This is so much worse.”

Sarah comes over and stops him to look in before taking a step back, her palm pressed to her chest. “Sooooo much worse.”

“I say trash,” Nick decides, careful not to look inside the box again.

I can’t blame him.

“Like there was ever a doubt?” I hold open my half-filled trash bag so he can empty the box into it. “What in the world could Aunt Maggie have possibly had planned for those?”

“Uh, sorry to break it to you, Mallory.” Sarah takes the now-empty box from Nick and starts to break it down. “But I’m pretty sure she didn’t have a plan for any of this stuff.”

I stare down into the bag full of disembodied heads. “I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.”

A few of the items are total what-were-you-thinking-Aunt-Maggie, but honestly, we try to treat everything as special to her. With kindness regarding her hoarding compulsion while we decide what to do with the item. After all, these things meant something to her. I can even pick out various collections as memories of things she did over the years, memories she couldn’t bring herself to part with. But the disembodied baby doll heads? That’s just straight-up creepy. Sorry, Aunt Maggie.

“Definitely not a bad thing,” Nick agrees as he holds up what looks very much like a stuffed raccoon. And not of the fluffy stuffed-animal variety, either.

“Was that—” I break off in horror, taking as many steps back as possible before I’m butt-to-headless-torso with a mannequin.

“Once alive?” Sarah lets out a squeal of glee instead of horror. “Oh, yeah. Mr. Buttons here is definitely the result of a taxidermist.”

“Mr. Buttons?” Nick and I ask at the same time.

“That’s what Aunt Maggie used to call him when she brought him out for our breakfast dates. She would make him dance on the kitchen counter.”

Nick and I exchange vaguely nauseated looks.

“Because that’s not weird at all,” I say.

Sarah shrugs. “It didn’t seem weird when I was little.”

“I’m not even sure what to say to that,” I tell her. “Except here.” I take the raccoon from Nick and hand it to her. “My gift to you.”

“Should she even be carrying that thing when she’s pregnant?” Nick’s brows hit his hairline.

“It’s not a litter box,” I answer with a roll of my eyes. “It’s not going to give her toxoplasmosis.”

He leans in closer. “You sure about that?”

“I thought I was sure,” I say as doubt creeps in. “You know what? I’ll hang on to him until you have the baby. Then I’ll give him back.”

Sarah laughs, but she dutifully relinquishes her hold on Mr. Buttons. And I dutifully add him to the brand-new pile for saved items. I’m proud I don’t toss him, even if I do hold him out as far as my arms will allow.

Nick gives me an amused grin before diving into the closest box to him. I grin back before doing the same.

We work pretty much nonstop for the next hour, the only sound being one of my aunt’s Cat Stevens albums drifting up the stairs and an occasional squeak from one of us.

At least until Nick opens up the top of a large, fancy chest and then drops it right back down with a muttered curse. Several seconds go by before he bends and opens the chest again; then he stands over it, peering into its depths as he laughs and laughs and laughs.

Chapter Thirty-Five

   “What’s so funny?” Sarah asks as she maneuvers around one of the piles between them so she can also peer into the box.

A shocked look comes over her face for a full fifteen seconds before she, too, busts out laughing.

I’m really hoping to finish the basket I’ve been working on for the last ten minutes, but now my curiosity is totally aroused. I toss the items in my hands—a giant bag of what looks to be used batteries—into the trash, then walk around the clutter until I can see into the box.

And like Nick and Sarah, it takes me several seconds to comprehend what I’m seeing. “Is that…?”

“Yeah,” Nick says with a wide grin. “It definitely is.”

“Huh.” I bend over to get a closer look. “And the blue one is—?”

“Yep. It’s definitely what you think it is,” Sarah says like she’s got some kind of insider knowledge.

And what do I know? Maybe she is an expert in sex toys—like apparently Aunt Maggie was. Because inside this chest is what has to be a lifetime supply of vibrators, fur handcuffs, and just about every other kind of sex toy one can imagine. Like, every kind. I had no idea vibrators came with a glitter option.

“Did she make these dance around at your breakfast dates, too?” I joke as I swipe a clump of hair out of my eyes.

“Now, that would have been a sight to see.” Sarah cracks up all over again. “What do you think we should do with them?”

“Um, throw them away?” I suggest in my most obvious tone. “I mean, do you really want to hang on to a vibrator Aunt Maggie used?”

The second the words leave my lips, all three of us start laughing again, because it’s not actually that big of a surprise to think about Aunt Maggie having a chest full of sex toys. What is a shock, though, are the breadth and variety of her selection.

“Honestly, most of these don’t even look like they’ve been used,” Sarah says, reaching down to pick up a giant veiny purple vibrator with an extra enhancement for clitoral stimulation. Which, not going to lie, are two words I never thought I’d use in a sentence when thinking about my aunt. “This one is brand-new.”

“Thank God,” Nick mutters from beside me.

I shoot him an incredulous look, but he holds up a hand in a wait-a-minute kind of gesture. “Don’t give me that look. I have absolutely nothing against female self-pleasure. Nothing. But I don’t want to imagine my friend, your sweet, old Aunt Maggie, having anything to do with that.”

I have to acknowledge that he has a point. “Yeah, I don’t really want to think about it, either.”