“I wasn’t kidding when I said that he just found out a little bit ago, and he hasn’t told me a whole lot. All I know is that he tore his ACL and needs surgery.” I got up from the stool and walked to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water for myself. “And apparently he’s going to be out for like six months.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Holy shit.”

“I know. And I get that he’s not happy about it, I totally get that. I just hope that maybe once surgery is over and he’s on the mend, he snaps out of this a little bit.”

She twisted the cap off her water and took several big gulps. “I hope so, too. How are you going to take care of both him and Gam?”

“Well, in an ironic twist of events, before he even got hurt, he hired a nurse for Gam. Not that she needs a ton of medical care, just someone to help out with whatever she needs.” I grabbed a bag of Cheetos out of the pantry and tossed them on the counter. “Don’t judge me, I’m starving.”

Jodi pulled her bottom lip up and shook her head. “No judging here. I’ll even open them.” She pulled the top of the bag apart. “The nurse is a good thing though, right?”

“Oh, for sure!” I agreed. “We met her today . . . she seems nice. And Gam seems to like her a lot, and that’s what really matters.”

“That’s good. I guess it frees up some time for you to help take care of him.” She pointed a finger toward the ceiling.

“It does. I’m just worried about the kids.” I grabbed a handful of Cheetos from the bag and put them in front of me.

“The kids? Why?” She popped a Cheeto in her mouth and crunched it loudly.

“Well, the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing a lot of driving back and forth to Gam’s house, and now we’re driving Viper everywhere.” I glanced down at the island and picked at the corner of a napkin that was sitting there. “A couple days ago we went to Kacie’s and he was so excited to play with her kids. He still has preschool a couple days a week, and that’s great, but he just wants to play.”

“Oh! Oh!” Jodi perked up and held her hand over her mouth, chewing as fast as she could. “Sorry, I got excited. Get this! Vince has a buddy who just rented the house across the street from us . . . and he has a son!”

“Seriously? How old?”

She pinched one eye shut and looked up in the air. “I don’t know, I have to ask, but I think he’s around Matthew’s age. He’s not quite in school yet either.”

“Really?” Excitement shot through me. “You have to find out details for me. That would be awesome!”

“I’ll ask Vince tonight. I’ve never met the guy, but I think he works with him or something. Oh my God, take these away from me before I eat all of them.” She pushed the bag across the island.

“You and me both. I swear I’ve become an emotional eater lately. That’s all I’ve been doing.” I grabbed a few more Cheetos and set them in front of me before I rolled the top of the bag down and put it back in the pantry.

Jodi and I chatted for a little while longer until Matthew came downstairs and complained that he was starving to death.

 

She went home and Matthew and I had a quiet dinner of macaroni and cheese. It was kind of nice spending some time alone together.

“Do you know what Miss Jodi told me today?” I asked.

He shook his head as he shoveled a huge spoonful of noodles into his mouth.

“She told me that Mr. Vince has a friend who is moving in across the street and he has a son who she thinks might be close to your age. How cool is that?”

His blue eyes lit up. “Does his son want to be my friend?” he said through a mouthful of food, sending a few noodles back into the bowl.

I couldn’t help but giggle. “I bet he will. And maybe you guys can have campouts in the backyard and go sledding and do all sorts of fun stuff together.”

“Will he be here tomorrow?”

“Mmm, I don’t think tomorrow, but I’ll ask Miss Jodi later if she knows when he’s moving in, okay?”

He nodded excitedly. “I bet he likes Ninja Turtles like I do.”

“You might be right, buddy. Ninja Turtles are the coolest.” I reached over and smoothed his crazy blond hairs down.

 

Matthew told me all there was to know about Ninja Turtles as he finished eating. Then I gave him a quick bath and tucked him into bed. I peeked in on Maura one more time, who not only slept right through dinner, but hadn’t moved a muscle since I put her in there.

“Sweet baby girl,” I whispered to myself as I closed her door and tiptoed to my bedroom. The room was quiet and pretty dark except for the glow of the TV Matthew had left on when he went downstairs. I set the monitor on the nightstand and slipped off to the bathroom for a quick shower.

When I got out, Viper was sitting up in bed, looking down at his phone.

“Hey. How are you feeling? Do you feel better after getting some sleep?” I pulled the towel off my head and squeezed my hair with it.

Viper just shrugged without looking up.

“Are you hungry? Want me to make you something to eat?”

“No thanks,” he muttered.

“Okay then.” I turned and headed back toward the bathroom to brush my hair and put pajamas on.

The TV and all the lights were off when I came back. Viper had rolled over and was facing away from me.

I climbed into bed quietly and nudged him. “You still awake?”

“Mmhmm.”

I picked my phone up from the nightstand. “I need to set my alarm. What time are you supposed to go see Dr. Jennings?”

“Andy’s taking me,” he said flatly.

“What?”

“I said Andy is going to take me,” he repeated a little louder.

“I heard what you said, I’m just wondering why.”

“Why not? We were talking a little while ago, and he said he had the morning free and offered to take me, so I said fine.”

I was a little shocked and a little more hurt that Viper didn’t want me to take him, but fighting with him about a ride was the last thing on my mind. “Okay.” I set my phone down. “Will you at least call me and let me know what happens?”

“Sure.”

He was being so cold and dry with me that tears stung my eyes. I’d done as much as I could have done for him the last couple days and he was keeping me at arm’s length. I swallowed the pre-cry lump in my throat and lay down on my pillow, determined not to take any of Viper’s actions too personally . . . and also praying that he’d be back to normal soon.