"Yeah, and I bet I know her better than you."

Just when I'm about to laugh at that ridiculous comment, Leah says, "Julio's right. For the longest time I wanted to tell you how I felt, but I couldn't. You were sad or angry or pissed off... and I was afraid of hurting you again."

My sister chokes back tears and runs into my arms. "I'm so sorry about what I did to you. Julio told me how it was in jail for the two of you, and I'm just ... so sorry." She swipes at her eyes and says, "I think we need to call Dad and have him meet us at the rehab center. Whether Mom realizes it or not, she needs her son back."

An hour later I'm sitting in the waiting room of New Horizons Recovery Center. My dad didn't really want us to have this meeting because he thinks my mom's emotional status is too fragile, but when Leah and I said we were coming to see her with or without him, he agreed to meet us.

A woman with the name Rachel on her nametag greets us, then has us go into what's called a group therapy room to wait for my mom. It makes me feel stiff and uncomfortable, because we had mandatory group therapy sessions when I was in jail. I have to remind myself that this isn't jail. My mom wants to be here. She could leave on her own, but has chosen to stay because she doesn't trust herself not to use prescription drugs as a crutch when things get tough.

"You can have a seat, Caleb," Rachel says in a soft voice probably meant to calm me.

I try not to pace back and forth in the room like a caged animal, but I can't sit because I've got a bunch of pent-up nervous energy. "No, thanks."

The chairs are situated in a circle. My dad is sitting in one chair in his three-piece suit and tie. My sister, surprisingly, isn't slumped in her chair. She's sitting straight up and has a determined look on her face. If Julio was the one who talked her into facing all this crap head-on, he's a fucking genius.

My sister doesn't know it yet, but I'm not abandoning her. She's not the only one who made mistakes the night of the accident.

As soon as my mom walks in the room in grey sweats with the New Horizons logo on the front, I realize she's different. Her face is drawn and her spirit seems somehow ... lost.

My first instinct is to go up and hug her but I figure out, by the way she has her hands folded on her chest, that she doesn't want any affection from me or anyone else in the room.

Mom stops in her tracks when she sees me step toward her. "Why are you here?"

My veins are pumping hard and I'm so damn tense my arms are stiff at my sides. This is already a billion times harder than I imagined. "I came back. Maggie told me you guys needed me. At first I didn't want to believe her..."

"You left me. A good son doesn't leave his mother."

Her words cut deep. Oh, man, I should never have left. I thought it would be best, that everything would be okay if the "Caleb Quotient" was out of the equation. I was wrong. I've managed to screw up so much in such a short amount of time.

"I'm sorry, Mom."

Deflated, I sit in the chair next to Leah.

"I'm sorry, too," Leah says. "I need to apologize to everyone in this family."

My sister turns to me and puts her hand on my knee. I put my hand on top of hers.

I feel her hesitation and fear as if it's my own. But I also feel her determination to set the wrongs of the past right.

"Mom, Dad," Leah says after I nod to her, giving her silent support. "I was the one who hit Maggie the night of the accident."

Watching the expression change on my parents' faces is pure torture. At first they cock their heads to the side as if they've heard the words wrong. When Leah doesn't say anything else, the reality of what she said starts to sink in.

"No," my mom whispers, shaking her head. "No. No."

"What are you saying, Leah?" my dad asks, his voice about to crack. "What. Are. You. Saying?"

A stream of tears start flowing down Leah's face. "I was at the party. I'd had maybe two beers. When I was driving home, I swerved to hit a squirrel. I didn't mean to hit Maggie." She's choking on her tears now, and I look up at the ceiling in an attempt to hold myself in check.

It's not working.


Tears start forming in my eyes. I try to blink them back, but it's no use. Seeing my sister so upset, seeing my dad and mom frozen in shock, and knowing that one fateful night destroyed my family and permanently damaged Maggie's leg is just too much for me.

I dab at my own tears and attempt an explanation.

"When Leah came back to the party all freaked out, I told her I'd take care of it," I tell them. "I was so wasted that night, I wasn't thinking straight. When the cops asked who was driving, I said it was me."

"Oh, God, Caleb, I'm so sorry," Leah cries out. "I don't know how you could ever forgive me. I don't deserve forgiveness for the hell I put you through."

She buries her head in her hands.

"I can't believe this is happening," my dad says. "This can't be happening."

"No," my mom says again.

I look over at Rachel. I think she was expecting a regular family therapy session, and from her deer-in-headlights look I think we've shocked her into silence.

I nod. "It's true." Man, I feel a sort of freedom I haven't felt in a long time. I want to share this with Maggie. I guess now is as good a time as any to say the other piece of news I've been holding back.

"I know this is another bomb I'm dropping, but Maggie Armstrong and I are dating. I didn't mean for it to happen. I denied it for a long time, then hid it for a while ... and I'm not gonna do that anymore."

"Does she know..." my dad says, his voice trailing off. I know he's on the brink of breaking down. I can see it in his trembling lip and shaking hands.

"Yeah, she knows." I look over at Leah. "Maggie knows everything."

My mom looks at me. It's the first time she's looked at me without contempt or scorn since I was arrested. She keeps shaking her head, as if she's trying to wrap her brain around this new, totally unexpected information. "Leah, how could you?" Mom asks, her words coming out slow. "How could you stand by and let your brother go to jail for something you did?"

"I don't know, Mom. I don't know. But I'm going to make it right." Her puffy, bloodshot eyes meet mine. "I'm turning myself in tomorrow."



aggie, can I come over?" Caleb's voice comes .through the phone. He doesn't sound happy.

"Sure. What's wrong?"

"I'll tell you when I get there."

My mom and Lou are right downstairs. I haven't told her about Caleb. I wanted to. To be honest, I've been stalling because the last thing I want to do is upset her when she's still trying to figure things out with my dad and Lou.

It's time I confess to my mom the truth about me and Caleb.

Lou and my mom are in the kitchen. They're both chopping vegetables for some sort of soup concoction they're making. She's still not wearing his ring, but he's come over every day and is really fighting for the right to be with her forever. She made my dad postpone his move here ... indefinitely.

"Mom, can I talk to you?"

My mom, complete with flour in her hair and a carrot in her hand, looks up from the cutting board. "Is anything wrong?"

"No. It's just that ... if it weren't for Caleb, I might have given up on life."

My mom stops chopping. "What?"

"After the accident, it was Caleb who made me realize life was worth living."

"Maggie, that's a bunch of nonsense."

"No, Mom, it's not. You want to know why?"

"I'm sure you're going to tell me no matter what I say."

I don't know how she's going to react. She's not exactly happy, but at least she's listening. "Because he pulled me out of my depression. You didn't even see it because you were so happy I was home and not living in hospitals anymore. But I wasn't happy. I was miserable until Caleb came back from jail and helped me realize I was worth something even though I had a disability."

"Why are you telling me this now?" my mom asks.

"Because he's coming over, and I want you to be prepared..." The doorbell rings. "That's him, Mom. Just, be nice and don't judge him until I tell you everything."

I rush to open the door. Caleb's bloodshot eyes greet me. He doesn't say anything; he just pulls me close and hugs me tight right on the front steps of my house.

"I saw my mom today," he mumbles into my hair. "Oh, God, Maggie, it was so awful. Leah told our parents she was the one who hit you."

I know that was probably the hardest thing Leah has ever done. "How is she?"

"She was crying. A lot." He pulls away, but holds on to my hands. "She's determined to turn herself in. I don't know what's going to happen. I just called Damon. He's coming over tomorrow to advise us on what to do."

I touch Caleb's forehead to mine. I can see in his face how much this is tearing him apart. "I'm sorry. I'll go with you. Whatever I can do to help, I will."

"What's going on?" my mom asks, confused. "I don't know why you're here," she says to Caleb. "And pray tell, why are you two holding hands?"

I take a deep breath and squeeze Caleb's hand. We're going to do this together. I lead him inside my house and stand before my mom and Lou. "Caleb and I have something to tell you both." I look at Caleb through watery eyes. "I know this is going to be a shock, but try and understand..."

This has got to be one of the toughest days of Caleb's life. While he's freeing himself from blame, the reality is that he's incriminating his sister at the same time. "I wasn't the one who hit Maggie," he says. He clears his throat. "Umm..." He holds my hand tight. "It was Leah."

"You're lying."

"He's not, Mom," I tell her.

"Why?" my mom asks, tears now streaming down her face. I'm crying, too.

Caleb gives a half-shrug. "I thought I could handle it better than Leah. I thought I was sparing her from going through something that would ruin her. I could handle going to jail, but my sister couldn't. The whole thing just kind of spiraled out of control, and I realized I was wrong, but it was too late." He looks at me. "And Maggie was caught in the middle of it all."

Lou walks out of the room for a minute, then reappears with a box of tissues. He hands a few to my mom. She dabs her eyes with the tissue. "This is a lot to take in. Maggie, did you know about this?"

I nod.

"How could you not say anything? I'm your mother."

"I didn't figure it out until right before Caleb left. I didn't say anything because I wanted Caleb to be the one to reveal it. Somehow I felt it was his secret to tell. Besides, I was desperate to stop reliving the accident. I wanted it over. I needed to move on for my own sanity." I look up at the boy who filled the void in my life. "Caleb helped me realize I couldn't stop living my life because of my disability."

My mom shakes her head. "I need time to digest this. This is just... too much for me. I need to be alone right now.

She hurries up the stairs. A minute later, I hear her door shut, and I wince. I never wanted to hurt her or make her feel betrayed by either of us.