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Good morning.

V: I would ask if you needed anything, but I’m about to board a plane for a three day road trip, so if you needed anything, I wouldn’t be much help anyway. I still wanted to say hi though.

His words made me smile.

I’m good anyway. Don’t need anything, but thank you. Good luck on the road.

He didn’t text back again, but I was sure he wanted to; and I know he wanted to because I wanted him to. Every time we were together, this pull between us got stronger and stronger, but neither of us was willing to acknowledge it, and that’s the way it needed to stay. For Mike.

I took a deep breath and puffed my cheeks out, determined to get out of the house and do something fun with Matthew and Maura. We’d spent enough time cooped up in the house as depressed balls of nothingness. I quickly packed up lunches and a bag for the day and woke my babies, ready to go have some fun. Ready to show them a momma who could handle anything life threw at her.

HOURS LATER, I pulled onto my street and hit the garage button on my visor. I turned into the driveway, startling Jodi, who was stepping off of my porch. She waved at me and crossed her arms, walking over to my van.

“Hey, you,” I said as I opened the van door, gently lifting a sleeping Maura out of her car seat while Matthew hopped out on his own.

“Hi. Where have you guys been all day? I’ve knocked like three times.” She reached over, took my bag from me, and threw it over her shoulder.

“Thanks.” I hit the button to close the van and scrambled to find my house key on the ring. “First, we went to the petting zoo, and Matthew fed a goat while Maura ate the goat food off the ground.”

“Gross.”

“Then we went out to lunch at this place Viper took Matthew, and I spent the whole time pulling whole peanuts out of Maura’s mouth.” I laughed, finally getting the door open. “Needless to say, I’m ready for a glass of wine. Wanna join me?”

“Yes, please,” Jodi answered eagerly.

I put Maura in her bed and put SpongeBob SquarePants on for Matthew before pouring two very large glasses of wine for Jodi and me.

“Look at you today.” She shook her head. “You’re supermom.”

“Ah.” I waved her off. “I’m just trying to be a regular mom, Jodi. I’ve spent the last several months since Mike died sitting around here feeling sorry for myself, when I should’ve been thankful I had nine years with him at all.”

“Wow. Just when I think you can’t impress me any more, girl, that’s exactly what you do.” She held her wine glass up for me to clink.

We touched glasses and I took a big long drink.

“Oh! I almost forgot…” She set her glass down and jumped off the chair, pulling a small silver envelope out of her back pocket. “This is for you.”

I looked down at the shimmery envelope.

Mrs. Michelle Asher and Guest

I dropped the envelope into my lap and rolled my eyes dramatically at her. “Is this what I think it is?”

“If you’re thinking it’s a wedding invitation, then yes.” She gave me a thumbs-up as she took another sip of wine.

“I love you, but you’re a bitch. Don’t make me do this.”

Jodi frowned at me. “What do you mean? Weddings are fun.”

“You would know. You’ve thrown enough of them,” I teased, glaring down at the invitation again. “I’ve barely left my house for six months and before that, I hated social situations as it was. Weddings are so not my thing.”

“Well, next month, they’re going to be your thing at least once.”

“What if I RSVP no?” I laughed.

Jodi winked at me. “Then I egg your house.”

I looked up at the sky and tilted my head back and forth like I was considering it as she kicked me under the table. “Ow!” I yelled out, rubbing my leg. “Fine, I’ll be there.”

“What about your plus one?” she asked slowly, avoiding eye contact with me.

“What about it? No. It’ll just be me,” I said sternly. “And do not even think about trying to set me up with one of Vince’s stupid friends, got it?”

“Mmhmm.” She nodded, grinning at me unconvincingly.

After Jodi left, I gave both the kids baths at the same time in the same tub because let’s face it, the petting zoo wore me out more than them. I sang a little bit to Maura before curling up in my bed with Matthew to read a few books.

We were on our fourth Clifford the Big Red Dog book when my phone beeped on my nightstand.

It was a text from Viper.

V: Hey. I know I don’t normally text at night, but I’m in the hotel room and bored, so I thought I’d say hi again and see how your day went.

“Matthew, lean in close to me. Let’s send a picture to Viper, okay?”

“Can we make silly faces?”

“Good idea!”

He lay down next to me and we squished our cheeks together, crossing our eyes and sticking our tongues out as I snapped the picture.

“Too bright,” Matthew complained, rubbing his eyes.

“I know, buddy. Sorry.” I hit the button on my phone and sent the picture to Viper as my response to his text.

My phone beeped while we were reading the rest of the book, but I left it until we were done. I desperately wanted to know what he said back, but I didn’t want to ditch Matthew for my phone. Once we got to the end of the book, Matthew sighed. “Can I sleep in here, Mom?”

Matthew had asked to sleep with me several times since Mike died, but I’d been hesitant about starting that habit simply because we both slept better apart. That night, though, it sounded fantastic.

“Yes, you can. I’d love it, actually. We can be snuggle buddies all night long.”

He grinned at me and leaned over, kissing the tip of my nose. “You’re the best mom in the whole wide world.”

My eyes watered. “Thanks, buddy. It’s pretty easy to be a good mom with a good son like you.”

He lifted his arm, I thought to give me a hug, but he handed me the remote instead. “Can you put on Ninja Turtles for me?”

I laughed out loud as I took the remote from him and put his show on.

Suddenly I remembered my phone under my pillow. I pulled it out as fast as I could.

V: I miss those faces… a lot.

Six words. Six words were all it took and those damn butterflies sprang into action again, bumping into each other as they swirled around in my belly. I also didn’t know how to respond. Was it appropriate to tell your dead husband’s best friend that you missed him too?

Same here.

Nice, Michelle. Way to be lame on that one.

Within a couple seconds, my phone beeped again. This time it was a picture message. My mind raced inappropriately for two seconds before I came to my senses. I opened it. It was obviously a picture he took of himself. He looked like he was lying in a hotel bed. The way his free arm tucked behind his head made his bicep muscle flex, and my mouth water. Tattoos covered his whole body, all the way up most of his neck. I was used to seeing the ones on his neck pop out of his shirts, but I hadn’t ever taken a close look at the ones on his chest and arms. A huge grin was plastered on his face, and suddenly he didn’t feel like he was a thousand miles away.

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