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“Ugh, yeah, but she’s just so…so…ugh! She’s so mean to you. I couldn’t imagine ever saying the things she said to another person, let alone to my own daughter. It just pisses me off.”

Her face was bright red, and I felt her body shaking as she grew more and more upset about the things Mama had said to me. I almost laughed out loud because seeing Judy so angry was such the opposite of who she was ninety-nine percent of the time. Her version of cursing was saying “pisses me off,” and it took a lot for her to get to that point. Mainly, she only grew angry if someone attacked the people she loved the most.

“You’re my favorite person,” I told her.

“You’re my favorite person,” she replied. “I’m just shocked neither of us picked up smoking to deal with her stressful ways over the years.”

I laughed. “Or cocaine.”

Judy smiled my way and shrugged. “I have no idea how Dad has spent so many years with her dramatics.”

“A separate bedroom helps.”

Judy looked up at me and clasped her hands together. “This is going to be good for you, Grace—a reset to your life, a rebirth. Please do me a favor and don’t let Mom get too much into your head. I know you overthink things, but this is good. You made the right choice. Finn is a piece of crap, and don’t even get me started on Autumn. I knew something was off with her from the first day I met her. I hate her. I hate him. I hate them.”

“I appreciate the hate.”

“I’ll always hate for you. I love you, sister.”

“I love you, too.”

“What can I do? How can I make you feel better?”

I shrugged. “I think I need some time alone.”

She frowned. “Not to overthink, though, right?”

“I think overthinking is the only thing my mind can do right now.”


“I’m okay, Judy, I swear. I just need some time.”

Judy agreed even though she didn’t want to do such a thing. She left the room, and I lay there in the bed with only my thoughts.

That was the worst companion I could’ve had that night.

After a while, my phone began to ring, and Finn’s name flashed across the screen. I didn’t answer because I knew if I did, he might’ve lied to me, and I stupidly might have believed him. He called me three times after that and left a voice message every single time.

Like a fool, I listened to them.

He asked me if we could talk. He begged me to hear him out.

Yet I didn’t have any desire to see him anytime soon, so in the darker room, I sat as my anxiety began to build. Anxiety was a wild beast. It attacked me most in the quiet moments when the world was calm and I, too, should’ve been calm. Yet that was when my mind began to spin. I stayed in bed, overthinking every aspect of my life. My heart and my mind were at war.

There was no way I’d be able to sleep. My body was exhausted, yet whenever I closed my eyes, Finn popped in my head. Right after his image, I’d see Autumn and her beautiful tears and her perfectly perfect body.

Walking over to the full-length mirror in the corner, I inhaled deeply and exhaled it slowly. There were purplish bags beneath my eyes, my T-shirt was tucked into only one side of my jeans, and my hair looked awful.

I couldn’t blame Finn, really. I hadn’t put a lot into myself over the past few years. Even though it hurt me, I understood why his eyes wandered. Maybe Mama was right. Maybe part of the flawed marriage had to do with me.

Unable to shake off my hurts and Mama’s insults, I did the only thing I could think of that would make me feel better.

I went to visit Dad at the church. If anyone in the world knew how to soothe sad hearts, it was the first man who ever loved me.

* * *

Walking into the church, I felt the emptiness of the space that was recently packed with individuals full of belief or searching for hope. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw Dad standing at the podium, wearing his thick-framed glasses and staring down at his upcoming sermon. He was such a handsome man. He had a head full of hair peppered with gray, crystal blue eyes like the sea, and a smile that could make the saddest soul feel whole.

Judy always said I had his eyes, and I always noted that she had his smile.

As he spoke into the microphone, his voice would echo throughout the space, bouncing off the walls. Then he’d grimace, shake his head back and forth, and mark up his sheets of paper.

“No, no, no, that’s not it,” he murmured into the microphone, displeased with his delivery.