“And you’re okay with that?”

She sits cross-legged on the floor, a bowl of cereal balanced precariously on her lap. “If you’re harboring feelings of hatred toward Shep because of me then you’re harboring those feelings for the wrong reasons. I don’t hate Shep. I hate what he did, but I don’t hate him. We had a long talk over the weekend and we’re in a better place now.”

I sit forward. “You talked to him?”

“He came over for personal pizzas and finally gave me a real apology. It was…actually kind of nice. He was nice. Letting go of that hurt was nice. I mean, I’ll never forget what he did, but I can be adult enough to move on from it.”

She shovels a few bites of cereal into her mouth and shrugs.

“He…apologized?”

“Vwep,” she answers, milk dribbling out of her full mouth.

“In case you were wondering, that’s Delia speak for yes.” Zoe pinches her arm. “You pig.”

Looking embarrassed, Delia swallows and uses her t-shirt to wipe her chin off. “Sorry, I mean, yes, he did. He made sure to tell me he wasn’t doing it for you or himself, but for me.”

“Did he mean it?”

“You know, back when he first apologized, it was the most awkward thing of my life. It was completely half-assed and he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.” She sets her bowl aside and pulls her knees up to her chest. “But when he was sitting in our kitchen, he faced me straight on, and it wasn’t like the first time at all. It wasn’t rehearsed or forced. It was genuine.”

I consider her words, rolling them around in my head.

She rests her hand on my leg. “It’s okay to forgive him. I do.”

“You do?”

“Yes. I can’t hold on to all that anger forever. It’s not me. He made a mistake. He apologized. He’s my boyfriend’s brother. I can’t freeze him out forever.”

“You totally could,” Zoe interjects.

“But that’s not who I am, Zoe, and you know that. Hell, you should know that better than anyone. I mean, I did totally give you permission to date my ex-boyfriend.”

“And I love you for that, I really do. Caleb is…” She fans herself. “Gah, I can’t.”

“He is pretty cute,” Monty chimes in.

“I know! And that baseball cap.” Zoe practically swoons. “Okay, okay, I’m done.”

“Are you? Need a few minutes alone in Denny’s bathroom?”

“You are not doing that in my apartment!”

Zoe shrugs. “I’ll just wait until everyone’s asleep.”

“You’re all a bunch of horndogs,” I grumble, sinking lower onto the couch.

“You’re just jealous because we all have hot wieners at home waiting for us and you don’t.”

“Oh my god, way to rub it in my face, Montana!”

“Can I just say Robbie was right? You saying wiener is the funniest fucking thing I’ve heard in my entire life.” Zoe taps around on her phone and shoves it into Monty’s face. “Say it again. I want to record this shit.”

Monty’s face flames red. “N-No!” She shoves the phone away. “You are like the female Robbie. It’s so creepy.”

“Creepy or cute?” Zoe argues. “Say wiener!”

“No, you creep! Go away!”

Monty flies off the couch, darting down the hall with Zoe hot on her heels, teasing her the entire way.

Delia laughs and pulls herself up on the couch, making herself comfortable next to me.

“You know, I used to believe in love and fate and the universe. I thought they were pushing me toward Shep, but now…now I’m not so sure. I don’t know how any of that is possible knowing what he did.”

“Wanna know my theory?” she says after a few moments of silence.

“Shoot.”

“I think maybe the universe is pushing you toward Shep, and I think that’s because you make him a better person.”

“But do I, Delia? I mean, look what he did to you because of me. That doesn’t scream good person to me.”

“I’m not going to be mad at you for loving Shep. It’s okay. You shouldn’t be basing your decision to be with him off me anyway. Even if he never apologized, I still wouldn’t judge you if you were with him.”

“Love?” I choke out. “Who said anything about love?”

She bumps her shoulder against mine. “You can’t fool me. I know what it’s like to love a Hastings/Clark family member. It’s exhausting and thrilling and that all-consuming kind of love. Even when you don’t want to love them, you do.”

I nod.

“It’s okay to be mad at him and still love him, to want to wring his neck and kiss him all at once. No one is perfect. Sure, what Shep did was exceptionally wrong, but that doesn’t make him a bad person entirely. He actually spent a good portion of Sunday telling us about the children’s diabetes charity he’s part of.”

My lips involuntarily curl into a smile as I think of how excited Shep gets when he hears how much money has been raised for the charity at each gala we attend.

“He’s so proud of it. The only time I’ve ever seen him so passionate about something and interested is when he’s talking about baseball.”

“And you,” she adds. “He’s like that when he’s talking about you too.”

“Moooooonty!” Zoe bangs against the bedroom door. “Just say wiener!”

“Go away!”

Delia and I fall into a fit of laughter.

I don’t know what the future holds for me and Shep, but I do know I feel better knowing he stepped up and did the right thing by Delia and Zach. It doesn’t erase all the worries I have about our future, but it’s a start.

And a start is better than nothing.

“So what’s going to happen with your article? Did you finish it?”

“Almost, but now I’m not sure I’ll be able to submit it. I didn’t quite finish out the agreement I had with Shep, so I don’t know how ethical it would be to run something.”

“I don’t think Shep will, like, go after you or anything,” Delia says, trying to reassure me.

“Did you think he would send a naked photo of you out to the entire baseball team?”

She opens her mouth then slams it closed again, shaking her head. “Touché.”

“He wasn’t always a total jerk, you know.”

“I don’t think he was ever a jerk. I just don’t believe he thinks things through very well and acts on feelings rather than rationale. He just needs to…grow up a bit.”

“How can you be so chill about all this?” I ask her. “So forgiving?”

“I learned a long time ago that I could harbor bad emotions for people and let them eat away at me, or I could face those emotions head-on and be happy.” She smiles. “I choose happy.”

“Choose happy, huh? Even if you’re scared?”

“Oh god, especially if you’re scared. That’s usually the best kind of happy.”

“I like you, Delia. I think I might keep you around for a while.”

“I got that on video for Allie! Don’t you dare try to replace me, Delia!”

Delia whips a pillow Zoe’s way, smacking her phone out of her hand. “Monty’s right, you are a creep.”

“Ha! Take that, you wiener!”

“NO!” Zoe whines, scrambling for her phone and rushing back down the hall. “Say it again! I wasn’t recording!”

“Do they make you want to nap too?” Delia says.

“All the time.”

“Have you read the paper today?”

“Um, Allie, I work at the paper.”

“Yes, I know, but you work in the sports department. Have you read the rest of the paper?”

“No. Why?”

She sighs. “Look in the personals.”

“Allie, if this is another attempt to get me interested in someone else to get over Shep, it’s not going to work.”

“It’s not,” she promises. “Just go look. I’ll stay on the line.”

“Ugh,” I groan. “Let me go grab a copy.”

“I can’t believe you don’t read your own paper.”

“Hush, Allie.”

She doesn’t hush. She keeps yapping away in my ear as I pull myself out of my chair and find a paper stuffed into my box in the mail room.

“—and then he asked me to lick him…there!”

“Oh my god, are you talking rim jobs right now?” I lean against one of the tables, balancing the phone between my ear and shoulder so I can use two hands to open the paper.

“Have you not been listening to me? My husband is a freak! It’s like he saved all this weird shit for marriage and I cannot handle it.”

“Can you not tell me about how you licked your husband’s butthole?”

Susan, one of our interns, glances over at me with wide eyes.

“Hi, Susan, sorry. My friend is insane. I’m not the butthole licker, that’s her.”

I laugh at the alarmed look on her face and Allie yelling my name in my ear.

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