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By:Kim Linwood

Chapter 3: Angie

“So.” Mom looks at me from across the kitchen table, the corners of her soft eyes crinkled in concern. The delicious smell of dinner cooking in the oven fills the room, though I hardly notice, lost in my own thoughts.

It’s been almost three weeks since The Incident, as I’ve come to think of it, and I’ve been on edge since, hardly leaving the house. I’ve hardly spoken to Paul, though he’s called a couple of times, wanting me to come over. Mostly to fool around, I think. I just don’t know how to face him after what I did, or almost did, depending on how you look at it. One stupid night, and now suddenly everything feels weird and wrong.

I’m sure Mom’s noticed, but I haven’t brought it up and she’s let me be. I doubt that’s what she wants to talk about, though. She’s never liked Paul anyway. Not even Cassie knows exactly what happened that night, since I haven’t been willing to talk to her either. It’s stupid to be mad at her, since it’s not like she forced me out on my one-night-stand attempt at gunpoint or anything. I still am, though.

I put down my book and meet Mom’s gaze with raised eyebrows, trying to forget about my messed up life for a few minutes and inviting her to continue.

“You remember Herbert, right?” She’s playing with the hem of her shirt nervously. Usually that means she’s going to tell me something I don’t like, or that she’s nervous. It doesn’t happen often though, and I get a funny feeling about this conversation. “The man who’s been visiting my flower shop.”

Yeah, I remember him. The guy she’s been seeing for a few months now, even if she refuses to come out and say it. I think it’s kind of cute.

Mom’s got a little shop that she’s been running for years. It’s not doing that great. Everything was good for a couple of years, but then the neighborhood gentrified, rent skyrocketed, and some unexpected maintenance killed her budget. She might have to close, which is really too bad. Me and that shop are her whole world, and I’m about to head off to college.

Herbert is a super-rich CEO type. Apparently he came in one day to buy a bouquet, and somehow they hit it off. It sounds like something out of a cheesy romcom, but she’s happy, so I hope it lasts. She’s been alone a long time.

Four years, eighty-two days, but who’s counting?

I put on an encouraging smile. “Yeah, sure. Well, not that you’ve let me meet him yet. Why, what’s up?” This is it, right? When she finally admits they’re a couple? I get why she’d be nervous, but this seems over the top.

She smiles, but it doesn’t take away any of the anxiousness. Her fingers have left her dress, but now they’re tapping a tattoo on the table, her long nails clacking quickly on the imitation wood. Her anxiety brings it out in me too, and I have to consciously keep my fingers in place so I don’t do the same as her. She’s about to spring something big.

Straightening in her chair, she chews her lip nervously. “Angie. This is going to seem really sudden.” She clears her throat. “You know I loved your father. I still do, but he’s been gone four years.”

Oh God, she had to go there. Even now, my chest gets tight. I was fourteen when it happened, but it hurts just as much now as it did then. Dad was a hot shot helicopter pilot in the Navy, but after flying who knows how many missions in Iraq, he was given the option to come home and become an instructor and he jumped at the chance.

We’d been so happy. He’d finally be home with us and we could be a normal family. Then a few years later, he led what was supposed to be a routine exercise, teaching a couple of students to fly in formation. They were barely off the pads when one of the helicopters veered into his and they both hit the ground.

Nobody survived.

It’s ironic. All that time praying for him overseas in combat, and it was some green kid at the academy who ruined it all. We knew there were always risks with flying, but it doesn’t mean I miss him any less.

Mom watches me silently, probably knowing what I’m thinking, and waiting for me to give her my attention again. It was hard for both of us. I swallow back the big lump in my throat, then give her a slight nod.

“After I met Herbert... well, I’ve begun to remember some of the things I missed. Having a partner, someone to confide in, to be close to.” She notices my sharp look. “Honey, of course we’re a team. You also fill a lot of those roles, but it’s not the same. You’re about to set out and start your life for real. The thought of my little girl moving out breaks my heart.” She smiles fondly. “But I’m also so proud of you. My baby, going to college. Pre-med, no less.”