She blushed. “I don’t know, like a month. Or two.”

“Two months?”

“Maybe seven. Or eight.”

“Eight?! What? We’ve been talking every day. How has this not come up?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “You were going through so much with Steven, you know? And it seemed kind of heartless to talk to you about my sexlationship.” Faye never had relationships, but she was a pro at sexlationships. “My shit was small, yours was…” She frowned and stopped pushing on the teeter-totter, leaving me hanging high in the air. There weren’t many moments when Faye grew serious, but Steven had been like a brother to her. They’d fought and bickered more than any pair of siblings I’d ever met, and they’d cared for one another so much. She’d actually introduced us to one another during college. They’d known each other since the fifth grade and were the best of friends. I hadn’t really seen her eyes grow sad since he’d passed away, but I was almost certain that they did often. I was probably living in my own world of despair, missing the fact that my best friend had also lost her best nonrelated-brother. She cleared her throat, giving me a tight smile. “My shit was small, Liz. Yours wasn’t.”

She pushed up into the air. “Well, I want you to always feel like you can tell me everything, Faye. I want to know all about the wild old man sexcapades you’re having. Plus, there’s nothing about your life that’s small. I mean, for the love of God, look at your boobs.”

She laughed wildly, tossing her head back. When Faye laughed, the whole universe felt her happiness. “I know! These tits are no joke.”

“We should probably get you back to work before you’re fired,” I suggested.

“If he fired me, he would be hiring blue balls into his life.”

“Faye.” I blushed, looking around at all the people staring our way. “You need a filter.”

“Filters are for cigarettes, not for humans, Liz,” she joked. We started walking back toward the café, her arm linked with mine, our footsteps matching each other’s. “I’m happy you’re kind of back, Liz,” Faye whispered, laying her head on my shoulder.

“Kind of back? What do you mean? I’m here, I’m back.”

She looked up at me with a knowing smile. “Not yet. But soon enough, you’ll get there, babycakes.”

The way she could see my hurt under the surface was remarkable. I pulled her closer to me, certain I wouldn’t let her go any time soon.

Chapter Five


“Liz, you have some nerve leaving like you and Emma did without even giving me a call!” Mama scolded me through the telephone. Emma and I had been back in our house for two days and Mama was just now calling me. It was either because she was upset with me for only leaving her a note, or because she’d been off running around town with some stranger and had just now returned home after all that time.

I was leaning toward the second option.

“I’m sorry, but you knew we were planning on leaving… We needed a new start,” I tried to explain.

“A new start in your old house? That doesn’t make much sense.”

I didn’t expect her to understand, so I changed the subject. “How was dinner with Roger?”

“Richard,” she scolded. “Don’t pretend like you don’t remember his name. And it was amazing. I think he could be the one.”

I rolled my eyes. Each guy she saw was the one—until they weren’t.

“Are you rolling your eyes at me?” Mama asked.


“You are, aren’t you?! You’re so disrespectful sometimes.”

“Mama, I need to get to work,” I lied. “Is it okay if I call you back later?”

Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe next week.

I just need space.

“Fine. But don’t forget who was there for you when you had no one, baby girl. Sure, Steven’s parents are probably helping you now, but there’s going to come a point when you realize who your real family is, and who isn’t.”

I’d never been so thankful to end a phone call.

Sometimes I stood in the backyard and stared out into the wild bushes and tall grass, trying to remember what it had used to look like. Steven had made the place beautiful. He’d always had an eye for details when it came to landscaping, and I could almost imagine the smell of the flowers he’d planted, which were now all dead.

“Close your eyes,” Steven whispered, walking up to me with his hands behind his back. I did as he said. “Name this flower,” he said. The smell hit my nose and I smiled.


I smiled wider when I felt his lips kiss mine. “Hyacinth,” he echoed. My eyes opened. He placed the flower behind my ear. “I was thinking of planting a few by the pond in the backyard.”

“It’s my favorite flower,” I said.

“You’re my favorite girl,” he replied.

I blinked, and I was back, missing the smells of the past.

My eyes shifted to my neighbor’s house, whose lawn was even worse off than mine. The house was made of reddish-brown bricks and had ropes of ivory wrapping around each side. Their grass was ten times longer than mine, and on the back porch I saw a garden gnome that was shattered into pieces. A plastic yellow kid’s baseball bat was hidden in the ever-growing strands of grass, along with a toy dinosaur.

A small table saw was set up by the shed, its red paint peeling. Stacks of wood were leaning up against the shed, and I wondered if anyone actually lived in the house at all.