"Cool. Give me a fist bump, Dennis." Lenny holds out his fist mid-air and waits for my dad to do the same.

My dad doesn't. I'm not sure he's ever given anyone a fist bump. It's not that my dad is stupid or old fashioned. He's just ... proper. He doesn't stray from the norm, because he likes his life neat and tidy.

Me being home is messing up his tidy life.

I'm sure it's killing him that my mom is in rehab. He probably doesn't know what to do about it, and there's no rule book or game plan when it comes to the grim realities of our lives.

"Are you guys, uh, in town for a while?" Dad asks me. "Or are you just passing through?"

It's a question you'd ask an acquaintance, not your son.

Leah is leaning against the stairs, waiting intently for my answer.

I'm tempted to say I'm just passing through. It would be easier than telling the truth, that Lenny's story made me realize I need to come back and make peace with my family.

"I was thinking of staying for a few weeks," I mumble.

"At a hotel, or..." Dad's voice trails off.

"I was hoping to stay here, Dad."

Lenny sticks his chin on my shoulder. "Me too, Denms.

My dad scratches his head. "Umm ... I guess, umm ... we don't really have beds to spare. We turned your room into an office."

"I'll sleep on the couch," I tell him, feeling like I'm begging for a place to stay in my own house. It doesn't sit well in my gut.

"I'll sleep on the floor," Lenny chimes in, apparently having no problems begging. "Unless you want me to sleep in bed with Leah." Lenny holds his hands up when all of our heads snap up at his last comment. "Just kidding."

My sister steps forward and says, "I'll go get some sheets and blankets from the hall closet."

"Okay," my dad says. "But you boys better keep the house clean. My wife hates a messy house."

"Got it," I tell him, wondering if I need to remind him that "his wife" is my mom. And that she's in rehab, not here.

The loud sound of Lenny clapping his hands together makes us all turn to him. "Now that that's settled, what's for dinner?"

"Maybe we should order in some pizza," Dad says as he walks upstairs. He always changes into jeans and a T-shirt after work. It's his ritual.

When my sister and dad are out of hearing range, I let out a slow breath.

I'm home.

It doesn't feel like home, though. I wonder if I'd get a better reception if I showed up at Maggie's house. Who am I kidding? Her mom would toss me out or call the cops to have me thrown back in jail.

"Your dad is one weird dude," Lenny says. "But I like him."

At dinner, when Lenny excuses himself to go to the bathroom, I ask, "So, can I go see Mom?"

My dad puts down his pizza. "I don't think so, Caleb."

"Why not?"

"Because she's fragile. I'm not sure she could handle it right now."

"I'm her son," I say through clenched teeth.

"After you left, she said you were dead to her."

I look to my sister for confirmation, but she's staring at her plate. Anger starts to fire up in my veins. "Leah!"

She looks up. "What?"

What? All she can say is what?

I stand, my chair scraping the floor. "Thanks a lot, Leah," I grind out. "Thanks a lot for nothing."



'peek into my mom's room as I'm getting ready for the .double date. She's sitting on her bed, staring at the open box with the ring Lou gave her still inside. She didn't say yes to him when he came over last night and proposed, but she didn't say no.

She said she needed time to think.

She's definitely thinking.

"Did you tell Dad about Lou?" I ask her.

"I called him today," she says, her voice sad and wistful.


"And ... I don't know," she says, then shrugs. "I'm confused. I thought I knew what I wanted, but when Lou came by last night he got me thinking, and now ... now I'm just confused."

I sit on the bed next to her and smile. She brushes the hair out of my face and sighs. "I thought for so long that if your dad came back, it would make our lives whole again."

"I know. I did, too. Until Lou came along."

"But he's not your dad. I fell in love with your dad first, and I don't know if I can give Lou as much of myself as I gave your father."

"He loves you, Mom."

"I know. But is it enough?"

"That's for you to decide. I'll support you, no matter what you choose."

"I just thought ... well, forget it. Don't think about anything except having fun. I'm glad you're going out."

"Me too." I hadn't been looking forward to tonight, but when I took a shower and started getting ready, I got excited. Well, not excited for my mystery date, but excited to be doing what I said I was doing-moving on with my life.

Sometimes moving on takes effort.

Sometimes moving on is harder than it looks.

Going out is the first step to Maggie Armstrong moving on in life. I may have a limp, but that doesn't mean my social life or dating life has to be dead.

I take a deep breath and tell myself, it is what it is. I can't turn back the clock and undo the accident. It happened. This is who I am now, take it or leave it.

But when I look at my clock and notice it's five fortyfive, I have second thoughts. I don't know if I'm ready to move on. I can't imagine myself kissing anyone besides Caleb. I know that's ridiculous, but right now it's true.

At five after six, as I'm ready to bite my fingernails to the core with anticipation and anxiety, the doorbell rings.

I plaster a smile on my face and open the front door. Standing in front of me is Matt, a girl with short spiky blonde hair, and ...

"No way!" I say with a smile.

My physical therapist, Robert, opens his arms wide. "You didn't think I'd let you leave for Spain without one last goodbye, did you?"

I narrow my eyes at Matt. "Did you have this planned all along?" I ask him, as Robert hugs me like a brother.

"Yeah. So shoot me if we wanted to surprise you. Becca, this is Maggie. Maggie, Becca." While I greet Matt's girlfriend, Matt nudges Robert. "Maggie even put on makeup for you. I've never even seen her with makeup on."

My mom comes in the foyer, pretending she was just passing through on her way upstairs instead of having it all timed so that she could meet my "date."

"Robert?" she says, confused.

Robert, wearing a fashionable brown sports jacket to match his fashionable glasses says, "I couldn't let Maggie leave for an entire year without a goodbye celebration. She's my date tonight."

My mom has known Robert for almost two years now, ever since he came to the hospital after my surgery and was assigned to be my personal torture instructor ... I mean physical therapist. I used to fantasize about pulling his perfectly spiked hair right out of his head when he wouldn't give up on me and I desperately wanted him to.

More times than not, I cried in front of him. I hated when Robert expected me to push myself to the limit. When I thought I couldn't bend my leg any more, Robert would make me go one step further.

I didn't appreciate him at the time, that's for sure. It took us a while to become friends. I was actually entertained by all of his stories about dating girls. Robert is a self-proclaimed bachelor and says he'll never settle down because he gets bored easily when it comes to girls. He says just like he can't eat Chinese food every day, he can't date the same girl without getting the itch to find someone different.

I once told him he'd die a very lonely man, and his good looks would one day fade, but he didn't seem worried. The guy has way too much confidence, but I wouldn't trade him for anything.

After my mom hugs Robert and meets Matt and Becca, she says, "You kids stay out at long as you want. Just have fun."

We decide to go to Dusty's Sports Bar & Grill. They serve food in the restaurant, so as long as you don't drink, you can be there if you're under twenty-one. Robert is already twenty-four, and he orders a beer while the rest of us order sodas.

It's nice that my first real date is a nondate, so I don't have to obsess over whether or not my disability is going to be an issue.

"Maggie, have you been doing the stretching exercises we'd discussed before you went on your trip this summer?" Robert asks.

I take a fry from the basket we'd ordered and dip it in some ketchup. "Can I lie?"

Matt, Becca, and I all laugh while Robert shakes his head. It feels good to go out and get my mind off of Caleb. I feel like every minute my mind isn't occupied, it wanders to thoughts of him.

Like now. While I'm having a good time, way better than I expected, I wonder if Caleb would have his arm around me like Matt has his arm draped around Becca, if we were on a date. And the way she looks up at him reminds me of-

"I bet you've been stiff," Robert says.

Right. Back to the here and now. Stop thinking about Caleb.

I roll my eyes. "You're off duty. Remember, you're supposed to be my date tonight, not my therapist." My fingers make quotation marks in the air when I say the word "date."

"She did complain of stiffness on the trip," Matt chimes in. He holds his hands up when I mumble traitor. "I'm just sayin'."

Robert moves his chair back and says, "Give me your leg, Maggie."

I blow out a frustrated breath and rest my leg on his knee. "It's fine. I'm fine."

"Flex for me."

I look over at Matt and Becca across the table as I flex. "Better you than me," Matt says, chuckling.

"Do you give a physical exam to all your dates?" I ask Robert as he cradles my jean-covered calf in his hand and watches how far I flex.

"No." He winks at me. "It's a first for me."

If it were any other guy, that wink would be cheesy, but I bet Robert practiced it in front of the mirror until it looked cool.

I cock an eyebrow and say, "I don't fall for your charms."

"Really? Wait, let me try it again." He winks a second time.

"Nope, doesn't do it for me. Besides, it's really inappropriate," I tell him, totally joking and he knows it. He's given me such a hard time in the past, I feel it's only fair for me to return the favor. "I'm your patient."

"Not anymore, you're not. You quit physical therapy. You're fair game."

"Ugh, you're too old."

"I'm twenty-four. How can that be too old?"

"I think you have some gray hair, Robert."

Robert's mouth goes wide and his hand cups his perfect head of hair. "I. Do. Not."

"Umm, Maggie," Matt says, then coughs a bunch of times. "I think the guy you really want just walked through the door."



'm trying to act like seeing Maggie with another guy is no big deal. I've wanted to call her since I came back. I should have called her. I didn't, and now she's out with a guy. She's got her leg resting on his knee, her calf cradled in his slimy hand.

What the fuck?

Does the dude know that a week ago she was lying in bed with me?

When Maggie looks my way, she whisks her leg off the guy's lap.

"Maggie! Matt!" Lenny practically yells across the bar. He's standing next to me, waving his arms as if he's on a desert island attempting to flag down a passing ship. Nobody's missing his presence, that's for damn sure.