I write about the Re-START trip, and I tell Vanessa about Lou asking my permission to marry my mom. I thought I'd write a small note, but I end up getting carried away. I tell her about Caleb and Trish and Lenny ... by the time I'm done I've filled out the front and back of three pages.

When I get back home, Matt calls. He's really nervous about seeing his girlfriend again.

"I need you as a buffer," Matt says. "Becca agreed to go out with me tomorrow night. I need you there."

"I'm not gonna be a third wheel, Matt." That's the last thing I want.

"Things with Becca have been strained since the accident. I know you two will get along. Just ... come on, Maggie. You need to help me break the ice. Pleeease. I know you're not leaving for Spain for another couple of weeks. What else are you doing besides sulking about Caleb?"

"I'm not sulking."

He laughs. "Okay, what have you done since coming back home from Re-START?"

"I unpacked."

"And ... ? You've been home almost a week."

"And went to see Mrs. Reynolds' daffodils."

"Sounds like a blast so far. And?"

"And I just wrote a letter."

Matt laughs again. "Yeah, I see you have the most exciting life. I'm surprised you have time to talk to me on the phone."

Okay, so maybe Matt's right. I should go out with him and Becca tomorrow, and prove to myself that I'm not living in the past.

"Okay, fine," I tell Matt. "But who am I going to find to go out with me?"

"I've got an idea."

"Oh, no. I feel a headache coming on."

"Be adventurous," Matt says, now totally excited. "I'll find you a date. Just give me your address and be ready to go out tomorrow night at six."

After I hang up, I go to my room. There's a note on my bed. It's from my mom, telling me that my dad called and wants to talk to me.

I crumple up the piece of paper, toss it in the trash, and sit on my bed staring at the garbage can. What's so important that he wants to talk to me now?

I used to call and practically beg for five minutes of his time. I begged him to come back home, but he said he'd moved on. Why should I give him the time of day now? He doesn't deserve it.

If he plans to tell me his new wife is pregnant, does he expect me to jump up and down? Am I a bad person for resenting his new wife and his new life without me? He never once invited me to Texas to visit him. He shut me and my mom out in the same breath.

But what if he's sick? What if it's not that he's having a kid, but that he's got cancer or some other incurable condition? I hate my dad, but I still love him. I know that doesn't make sense, but then again, nothing in my life makes sense lately.

I feel like a hypocrite telling my mom to give Caleb another chance when I'm unwilling to give my father another chance.

I pick up my phone and dial my father's number. I hold my breath each time the phone rings.

"Sweetheart, is that you?"

I feel numb when I hear his voice. Not excited, not angry, not anxiety-ridden. Just numb. "Yeah, it's me. Mom said you called."

I wait for the big news he needs to tell me.

"I've been trying to reach you for weeks. I have news," he says, then pauses.

I brace myself for it. Here it comes ...

"I'm getting divorced," he blurts out.

Whoa, I didn't expect to hear that. "Sorry."

"Don't be. Sometimes these things work out, and sometimes they don't. You want to know the best part?"

I'm taken aback by his nonchalant attitude. "The best part?" I echo.

"I'm moving back in with you and Mom."



It's a mistake.

I must have heard him wrong. "You're moving back here? In our house?"

"I knew you'd be excited."

"Does Mom know?"

He gives a nervous laugh. "Of course she knows, silly. Isn't it great news, Maggie? We'll be a family again."

"Yeah," I say without emotion. I'm stunned, and I feel like my entire world has just tilted on its axis. "That's, umm ... great."

"I'll be flying in on Thursday, and the movers are coming on Friday to move my stuff back in. I've got to get packing and wrapping things up here, so I'll see you next week. Bye, sweetheart."

As usual, he hangs up before I say bye back.

I wait impatiently until my mom gets home at six. Before she can take her waitress uniform off, I corner her in the hall.

"Why are you letting Dad come live here?"

"You called him," she says, stating the obvious. She slowly takes off her apron and drapes it over her arm. "Because he's getting divorced and wants to try again."

"So you're letting him? He left us, Mom. He left us and didn't look back."

"He's looking back now."

I want to give my dad a second chance, but then realize he's had many chances to come back and hasn't. I get a sinking feeling he'll only stay here until something better comes along.

"What about Lou?"

She starts up the stairs. "Lou is great, but he's not your dad. You always said you wanted to be a family again, Maggie. Your dad is the man I married."

"He's the man who divorced you. And replaced you."

She turns around and waves a finger at me. "Don't disrespect me. Your father made a mistake. He wants to make things right."

Tears well in my eyes. "Lou has been more of a dad than my own flesh and blood. He makes you happy. He makes us happy. I don't understand, Mom. It just doesn't make sense."

She stops when she reaches the top of the stairs. "I broke up with Lou tonight. I told him about your father coming back. It's over."

This can't be happening. Just when things were going right, they're all going wrong. I press my hands to my eyes, trying to shut out the world. But it's not about me. It's about my mom.

I hobble as fast as I can up the stairs and envelop her in a big hug. I start to cry. "I just want you to be happy, Mom."

She hugs me back and squeezes me tight. She's crying, too. "I want you to be happy, too."

We stand here, crying and holding each other for what seems like forever. We're two women who've been left to fend for ourselves for a long time now. When the doorbell rings, it startles both of us.

My mom wipes her eyes with the skirt of her uniform and heads back downstairs to open the door.

"Lou!" she says, startled.

Lou is holding a huge bouquet of red roses in one hand and a ring box in the other. He kneels on the porch, and I notice his eyes are bloodshot and puffy as if he's been crying.

"Marry me, Linda." He opens the ring box and takes my mom's hand gently in his. "Please tell me I'm not too late."



eah, Lenny, and I are sitting in my parents' living room, waiting for my dad to come home. Leah's got her fingers folded neatly in her lap and Lenny is looking at her with one cocked eyebrow. I drilled him endlessly before we came here, making sure I had his word that he wouldn't talk about the accident or the fact that he knows I wasn't the one who really hit Maggie.

"So, Leah," Lenny says as he looks across the room at Leah with one eyebrow cocked. "You got a boyfriend?"

I whack Lenny on the chest with the back of my hand. "What're you doing?"

He looks at me as if I'm the crazy one. "Makin' con versation, Caleb. Someone around here has got to fill the dead air. Neither of you is doin' such a bang-up job at it."

"You don't have to fill the air with bullshit," I tell him.

Lenny rolls his eyes. "Okay, Mr. Crabbypants."

"Didn't anyone ever tell you to talk only if you have something to-"

"No," Leah interrupts, her voice almost a whisper.

Lenny and I both look at my sister.

She looks down at the carpeting. "I meant no, I, uh, don't have a boyfriend."

Lenny leans forward. "Why not?"

She shrugs.

"Maybe if you smiled it would help."

What is this, the Lenny Self-Help Show? "Seriously, man, shut the fuck up. What do you know about girls, anyway? You're in love with Trish and all you can do is piss her off and dump her in a lake. You don't know shit about girls."

"And you do?" Lenny laughs. His stupid long hair falls in his eyes and he flicks it back. "I got one word for you, Mr. Crabbypants-Maggie."

At the mention of Maggie, my sister's eyes meet mine. I bet we're both thinking about our little deception that messed up both our lives.

"I'm going to get some water," Leah mumbles, then scurries away.

As soon as she disappears, the door opens. I stand, stiff at attention, as my dad walks through the front door. He's wearing a suit, carrying the briefcase he's had for the past ten years, and sporting the same mustache he's had for the past twenty years.

When he sees me, his expression goes from blank to shocked. He freezes in his tracks.

"Hey, Dad," I manage to say.


I walk toward him, not knowing if I should hug him or shake his hand or pat him on the back or ... do nothing. It's sad when your own father has become a stranger.

I stop in front of him. He's still holding his briefcase and staring at me. What do I say to him now?

I blurt out, "I know I should have probably called and told you I was coming, but-"

"We haven't heard from you in months, Caleb."

"I know. I couldn't stay here anymore, Dad. Not like the way things were."

"Your mother is sick," he tells me. "She's been in the hospital on and off for months now."

He says it as if she has a terminal disease. I bet calling her "sick" is the standard excuse he's decided to use instead of saying "she's in rehab" or "she's a drug addict."

"I know."

I step back, realizing this isn't going to be a joyous reunion where my father welcomes me back with open arms. I should have had a clue that's the way it was going to be when I saw my room had been converted to an office and all signs I'd ever existed had vanished.

He's holding his briefcase in front of him, almost like a barrier between us. "We didn't know if you were dead or alive. Your mother had to make up a story."

I shouldn't be surprised. My mom is the queen of making up stories to make our family look good. "What did she say?"

"She said we sent you to an exclusive boarding school in Connecticut."

A hearty, snorting laugh comes from the couch. Or, to be exact, it comes from Lenny who's sitting on the couch.

"Who's that?" my dad asks.


Lenny springs off the couch and envelops my dad in a huge bear hug. My dad steps back, totally caught off guard, but keeps his balance. I bet he's silently thanking his high school football coach for those balance drills in high school.

"Nice to meet you, Dad," Lenny says. "Or should I call you Dr. Becker? Or Dr. B., or just Doc?"

I push Lenny off my dad. "Lenny's kind of a friend of mine," I tell my dad. "More like a sidekick."

I figure that's better than explaining that Lenny is a delinquent who thinks he's funny and doesn't have a filter when it comes to his mouth.

My dad puts his briefcase in the hall closet and says to Lenny, "You can call me Dennis."