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“Oh my gosh, Grace! What’s wrong?! What’s going on?” she asked, but she didn’t wait for a reply before wrapping me into her arms.

I began sobbing uncontrollably onto my baby sister’s shoulder as she gently rubbed my back.

“Can I stay with you and Hank?” I choked out, unable to say anything else at all, but that seemed like more than enough for Judy.

“Always, Grace,” she whispered, pulling me closer to her body. “Always and always.”

* * *

I told her and Hank everything. The words poured out of me, and truthfully, so many of them were hard for me to believe. It all felt like a nightmare that I simply couldn’t wake from.

As we sat on the living room couch, Hank kept refilling Judy’s and my wineglasses. Hank was such a gentle man. I’d never once heard him raise his voice, and he never saw the bad in anyone.

Even when Judy and I slipped into our gossipy nature, Hank never spoke a word about a soul. His main goals in life were living it to the fullest and taking care of his love. And boy, did he love my sister. There were so many times I’d catch him staring at her when she wasn’t looking, and it would give me butterflies.

“I’m so sorry, Grace,” Hank told me, giving me a slight frown. “I can’t believe he’d do that to you. I can’t believe they’d both do that. I just…I can’t believe it.” He appeared stunned. Finn was one of his closest friends, and he just kept saying he couldn’t believe it could happen.

Me either.

We stayed talking for a while, and when the doorbell rang, Judy hopped up to answer it.

I turned to face Hank and crossed my arms. “Hank, can I ask you something?”

“I didn’t know, Grace,” he said as if he could read my mind. “I had no clue about Finn and the cheating, and if I’d known, I would’ve told you. I understand why you think I wouldn’t, seeing how he’s my friend, but you’re family, Grace. I swear on my grandfather’s grave, I would’ve told you. And truthfully, it’s hard for me to even realize who Finn is anymore, or how he could do this to you.”

I lowered my head and stared at their carpeted floor. “Thank you, Hank.”

“Always and always,” he replied, stating my family’s favorite phrase. Those were the words my family had always exchanged with one another since the beginning of time. Always and always. It was a promise that no matter what, we’d stand by one another—through the good days and the bad.

Every time I heard the words, I felt less alone.

“You have some nerve showing up here!” Judy barked, making both Hank and me jump up from the couch. Judy never raised her voice—ever.

“I’m sorry, Judy. It’s just…”

My skin began to crawl as I heard Finn’s voice. “Is Grace here?”

“That’s none of your business,” Judy snapped again. “You should go.”

Oh, sister, I love you.

“Yeah, of course, it’s just…” He paused, and I heard something moving. “She left her suitcases at Autumn’s place.”

It was painful when hearts stopped beating.

I listened to Judy pulling the suitcases into the house. “Fine. Now leave.”

He didn’t say another word, and I was certain he was walking back to go find Autumn.

“And Finley James?” Judy said, using his middle name. That was how you knew my sister was serious—when she used a person’s middle name.


“You should be ashamed of yourself. Both of you.”

“Is she okay?” he asked, and it almost sounded as if he cared.

“She will be,” she swore. “Because she’s strong. She’s stronger than any betrayal you could’ve ever brought to her doorstep.”

Then the front door slammed.

It slammed.

Judith Rae never slammed doors.

As she rounded the corner, her eyes locked with mine. We could’ve easily been twins, she and I. She always said I had Dad’s crystal blue eyes, and I always said she had those bluest of blues. We smiled the same too, a bit of a lopsided grin to the left side. Our hair was long and naturally blond. Mama would’ve killed us if we ever dyed it—because one didn’t mess with God’s creation. Also, our hearts kind of beat in the same rhythmic pattern.

If sisters were soul mates, Judy would be mine.

“So,” she breathed out, giving me a gentle smile. “How about some more wine?”

* * *

I hadn’t slept a wink the prior evening. The next morning, the sun came up, and I watched it rise with a cup of coffee in my hands. I stood on the back porch, feeling the warmth against my skin. It amazed me how hollow I could feel, watching the morning light fill the sky. Dad used to always tell my sister and me that the morning sun was Jesus’ kisses against our skin.

As a kid, I never mentioned the scientific truths I learned at school about the sun rising and setting because it wasn’t really my place. Sometimes, people needed to believe what they needed to believe to get through each day.