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She nodded fiercely, all agreeableness.

“How do you make something right that can’t be fixed?”

“I don’t know. I guess you can’t,” Glynnis said, renewing her sobs.

I scooted over and put my arm around her thin shoulders. “I can’t replace those tomato plants, but I still have plenty of herbs and vegetables in the garden. You can’t work with what’s gone, but you can work with what’s left. And you will. Every day after work until the end of the season.”

“Okay,” she said, breathless and grateful. “I can do that.”

I gave her a side-hug. “So can I.”

CHAPTER 30

Petra Polly Epilogue: A Note on Success

Some say success, like love, comes when you least expect it. I don’t believe this to be true. If one works hard, both singly and in tandem with others, success is always a presence. It’s like the sun on an overcast summer’s day—you may not be able to see it, but you will be drawn to its warmth. When it envelops the body, true change occurs. Success gives one a solid base from which to grow, and just as the individual mind requires continued growth in learning to stay healthy into old age, so does the collective. The most simple definition is this: success is increased opportunity. So explore. Take educated risks. Stride confidently into the unknown. But . . . make choices with the long-term health of your organization in mind. Keep a steady pace, and adhere to a stable, ethical framework. There are a few certainties about the business world. Competition will always increase. The future keeps changing. The bar keeps being reset, higher and higher. A company that follows the Petra Principles won’t have to rise to meet these goals, because it will already be there, wondering what to conquer next.

Best of luck,

Petra Polly

It seemed like a good idea when I called Sean and talked it over with him, but now, as we stood in the empty parking lot of an abandoned distribution center, I wasn’t so sure.

“I require payment for this service,” he said. “Did you bring it?”

I handed him a paper bag containing one perfect tomato, still warm from the plant. The lone survivor had thrived, bearing fruit bigger than my fist. I’d already eaten one with Trey, sliced and salted and better than the steak it was named for, and it was perfect. I gave another to Mykia, one to Jackie, and one to Mr. Eckhardt just this morning.

Sean gazed into the bag and smiled, and then glanced up at Trey. “Is he going to get out of your car? It sure doesn’t look like it.”

Trey sat in the passenger seat of my SUV, feet up on the dash.

I waved at my son, and he ignored me. “Let me go talk to him.”

I slid into my car and immediately popped the earbuds from Trey’s ears. “Well?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just don’t know. Doesn’t Sean have to be at work?”

“Not for an hour.”

“Can’t he get into trouble for this?”

“He’s willing to take the risk, but just this once. He trusts you.”

“Why?”

“Because he knows you’re afraid, so he also knows you’ll be careful.”

“I’m not sure I follow his logic,” Trey said with a sigh. “Maybe we should just go home.”

I pointed at Sean’s squad car. “Police cars are very durable. They’re a thousand pounds heavier than a civilian car, and they have stronger brakes. They’re built to sustain a lot of impact and keep the driver safe.”

When Trey spoke, I could hear the tears in his voice. “Could it sustain crashing into a median?”

I placed my palm on the back of his head, like I did when he was little and needed comforting. “There aren’t any medians here, my sweet boy. It’s all open space, perfect for practicing. There are a few telephone poles, and a dumpster or two, but those are easy to avoid because you’ll be driving slowly and in total control.”

“Dad always had control. It was one time he didn’t. One time, Mom. And he died because of it.”

I took a breath. “Okay,” I began. “You could die behind the wheel of a car. I’m not going to lie and tell you the thought of that won’t keep me up some nights, staring at the ceiling, imagining all kinds of horrible scenarios. But the more likely scenario is you drive yourself to school, to Colin’s house, to your favorite Thai restaurant, to anywhere you want to go. You might have a fender bender or scrape the paint off trying to get into a tight parking space, but the likelihood of something truly catastrophic happening is slim.”

“But it could happen.”

“It could.”

“And you’re okay with that.”

I mussed his hair. “I’ll never be okay with it. But that doesn’t mean I should stop living my life, or you should stop living yours.”

He spent a long moment staring at the squad car. I was asking a lot of Sean, but we both agreed that this was an important milestone for Trey, and maybe for me, too. I wondered if I should say more to tip the balance, but then Trey unclicked his seat belt and hopped out of the car. I quickly followed.

“I’m going to do it,” Trey said to Sean. “But only if you and my mom will be in the car with me.”

“I have to be,” Sean said. “This solution has its legal limits. Paige?”

“Of course. But can I be a back-seat driver through the glass partition?”

Sean laughed. “Just knock once for slow down, and twice for speed up.”

“What if he needs to brake?”

“Scream?”

I glanced at Trey, fearing our banter would increase his nerves, but he laughed. It was a shaky one, but definitely sincere.

Sean helped him adjust to the unique position of being the driver of an official police vehicle. After giving Trey a lecture about not touching anything that wasn’t absolutely essential, he opened the door for me, and I slid into the back seat, wishing I had some antibacterial wipes as I wondered who’d last sat there. I tried not to touch anything, straining to resist the urge to wipe away the smudges on the glass partition.

I felt, rather than heard, the engine roar to life. I wished I could see Trey’s face, that I could hear what he said to Sean before cranking it into gear. The car moved slowly forward, then climbed to a comfortable speed.

We approached the first telephone pole. Sean said something to Trey, and he turned the wheel, avoiding the pole by driving in a slightly jerky half circle. Then he righted the wheel, and the car picked up speed again, this time more smoothly.

“Good job, Trey,” I whispered, fighting tears. He was doing it. Driving. Without any help from me. It should have been a bittersweet moment, but it wasn’t, just triumphant. This was yet another step toward healing, and those were nothing less than magical.

We reached the end of the parking lot. Trey came to a jerky halt at a stop sign. If he didn’t back up, he’d have to turn onto the main road. I rapped on the glass partition. Trey turned for just a second and flashed me a smile.

Then he took his foot off the brake and drove us into the future.

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