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“You think it went okay? Mama didn’t really say much.” I frowned. It still amazed me, after everything we went through, that I still craved her approval. Maybe that would never truly go away. Maybe a person always craved their parents’ love and understanding.

“Maybe her not talking was a good thing,” Judy remarked. “Maybe that meant she was taking it all in.”

“I hope so.” I truly did.

“I’ve never seen that look before,” Mama commented, walking into the kitchen and leaning against the doorframe. Her voice was so soft and low that I was almost confused if she was my mother after all. “The way that boy looked at you. The way you looked at him…” Her eyes watered over, and she wiped away a few falling tears. “I didn’t understand.”

“Mama…” I whispered, stunned to see emotion falling from her eyes. In all my life, I’d never once seen my mother cry. Not even during the darkest days.

“My stubbornness kept me from understanding. My pride got in my way, but Gracelyn Mae, the way the two of you look at one another floored me. It was as if you could truly see each other. I’ve never seen that in all my life.”

“Except for you and Dad,” Judy remarked.

Mama frowned.

Tears kept falling.

“What’s going on?” I asked, completely confused by her emotions.

She couldn’t talk. Judy and I hurried over to her and wrapped her into our arms. I didn’t have a clue what was breaking her. I didn’t have any idea why she was falling apart. All I knew was that she needed me there for her, and right there was where I’d be.

There was something so heartbreaking about seeing your parents fall apart.

It was as if you were watching Superwoman fall from the sky.

“Is everything okay?” Dad asked, walking into the room. His glasses sat on top of his head as always, and he stuffed his hands into his pockets as we released Mama.

“He loves her, Samuel,” Mama confessed, gesturing toward me. “That boy loves her.”

“What? No…” I whispered. Jackson didn’t love me…

Jackson Emery didn’t love at all.

“Yes,” Dad agreed, “he does.”

Mama wiped at her eyes. “Even after what I told him, he still stood by her side. For the past years, I’d been trying to delete that woman from our lives, and then her son has the nerve to fall in love with my daughter.”

“That woman?” I questioned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Mama sighed, wiping her eyes, and then she walked out of the room, leaving a confused Judy and I standing there.

I turned to my father. “Dad? What is she talking about?”

He swallowed hard, and I watched as the emotion that once lived in Mama swarmed his eyes. “We should have a talk.”

* * *

“You’re upset,” Dad remarked, meeting me on the front porch where I’d been sitting for the past ten minutes after he told me about his past.

“I’m confused,” I corrected.

He sat down beside me, guilt written all over his face as we both stared out into the night sky.

“Jackson’s mother…did you love her?” I asked.


“If she were alive, you’d still be with her?”

He frowned. “Yes.”

“Do you love Mama?”

“Your mother has been my rock for years now.”

I gently laughed, shaking my head. “That wasn’t my question.”

“I know.”

“Before Hannah Emery, were there other women? Or was she the only one?”

“Grace…you must understand…” he started, but I rolled my eyes.

“No. I get it. You were unfaithful to a woman who stood by you no matter what. It all makes sense to me now. Mama being so pushy about me going back to Finn. She truly believes that no matter what, you’re supposed to stand by your man. That’s all she’s ever done, too. She’s always stood by you, and you kept betraying her.”

He sniffled, glancing up at the stars in the sky. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes.”

“You’re not wrong, and you used her loyalty to abuse her heart. No wonder she’s so cold. She doesn’t know what love is anymore.”

“You hate me,” he remarked.

“Yes.” I paused. “No.”

It was complicated, my feelings for my father. I felt as if I’d been hit by a freight train, and I was left trying to gather all the pieces of my soul.

“You told me when I came here this summer that we were created to feel, and sometimes our feelings came out of order. You said in one second, your heart can beat for love, and in the next, hate could show up. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Just confused.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. It’s just funny. I always wondered where I went wrong with Finn. How I stumbled into a relationship where the foundation of loyalty didn’t exist.” I took a deep breath and looked up at the same stars he studied that night. “It just turns out that I married a man who was exactly like my father.”