“I can’t do that!”

“Why not?”

I gritted my teeth and let out a heavy sigh. “Because I can’t put weight on this leg yet.”

“Exactly!” Sherman said as he reached over and bumped my forehead with the heel of his palm. “Now stop questioning me and just do it.”

I sat stunned, staring at him incredulously. “Did you just bump my forehead?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry I had to get violent, but you’re being so difficult.” He said as he flailed his arms around. I couldn’t decide if he was gay or just dramatic.

“You weren’t violent. It’s just that no one has ever done that to me before,” I said as I pulled my toes back and started doing his exercises.

“Really?” He pulled his top lip up and thought about it for a second as his eyes traveled the room. “Hm. I’m surprised by that, as stubborn as you are.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Sherman was not at all what I’d been expecting in a therapist, but with any luck he knew what he was doing . . . and at the very least he made it interesting.

 

After therapy I was surprised by how exhausted I was. A couple of weeks ago, I could skate around the ice, chasing the puck and crashing into people, for three to four hours straight, and after just one therapy session all I could think about was a nap. As I was icing my knee at the end, Sherman told me I’d feel tired, but I argued and told him no way. I was more and more convinced that man knew everything, not that I would ever admit that he was right.

We picked Matthew up from preschool and headed home.

“You want some lunch?” Michelle asked as we all hustled into the house from the rain.

I set the paperwork Sherman gave me for my home exercises on the island and thought about it. “Um . . . nah. I actually think I’m gonna go lie down for a bit. Brody’s supposed to come over later, but I want to take a nap first.”

Her shoulders slumped as she pressed her lips together and gave me a small nod. “Matthew, Maura . . . you guys hungry.”

“Y-E-S!” Matthew yelled out from the family room. “That spells yes!”

“S-S-S!” Maura tried to copy.

Michelle pulled a loaf of bread out of the pantry and giggled.

“All right.” I cleared my throat. “I’m gonna go lie down. Let me know when Brody gets here, okay?”

“Yep,” she said with a sigh as I left the room.

 

 

The kids and I sat and had lunch . . . alone . . . again. Well, they had lunch. I didn’t have much of an appetite.

“Why aren’t you eating, Momma?” Matthew asked as he took another bite of his sandwich.

“Mommy had a big breakfast, buddy. I’m not hungry right now,” I lied, taking a few grapes out of the bowl and popping them into my mouth, more for his benefit than mine.

Before he could respond, the doorbell rang.

Matthew gasped and hopped off the stool. “I’ll get it!”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I called, hurrying after him. “We talked about this. You’re not supposed to open the door without me.”

He sprinted to the front door and stopped, lifting onto his tippy toes to see out the window. “It’s Miss Jodi!”

“Okay, hang on. I think it’s locked.” I flipped the lock to the left and opened the door. “Hey! Oh—hi!” I said, realizing she wasn’t alone.

“Hey, is this a bad time?” she asked reluctantly.

“No, no. We’re just finishing up lunch. Come on in.” I stepped back, putting my arm around Matthew’s shoulders and pulling him with me.

Vince followed in right behind Jodi. “Hey, Michelle.” He reached down and gave my cheek a quick kiss. “This is my buddy Joel. He’s the one moving in across the street in a couple days.”

Joel stepped into the house and held his hand out with a smile. “Hi, Michelle.”

“Hi,” I greeted, not expecting to have a houseful of people so suddenly.

Joel was tall with broad shoulders and had short dark—very dark—hair. His eyes were almost a startling turquoise blue that made you forget whatever it was you were saying when you looked at them.

“Sorry for dropping by like this, but I was signing the lease over at the new house and stopped by to say hi to Vince, and Jodi insisted we come over and meet you guys,” he said nervously.

I waved my hand. “Oh, please. It’s no problem at all. Who’s this little guy?” I asked, leaning to my left and directing my attention at the small dark-haired boy hiding behind him.

“This is my son, Gavin. He’s not normally shy, but apparently he thought now was a good time to try it out.” Joel reached around and scooped Gavin out from behind him. “Gavin, be nice and say hello please.”

Gavin chewed on his fingers nervously and stared up at me with his father’s same beautiful eyes. “Hi.”

“Hi, buddy. Nice to meet you. I’m Michelle, and this is my son, Matthew.” I patted Matthew’s shoulder and he giggled.

“Hi!” Matthew said excitedly.

I leaned down a little closer to him. “Matthew, these guys are moving in across the street from us soon. Won’t that be fun to have someone your age in the neighborhood?”

He nodded but didn’t say anything else.

“We’re moving in this weekend, actually,” Joel added, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets.

“Wanna go see my room?” Matthew blurted out, taking a step closer to Gavin. “I have Ninja Turtles in there.”

Gavin’s eyes shot up to his dad’s but he didn’t say a word.

“If you want to, buddy, go ahead.” Joel shrugged, reading his son’s mind.

Gavin looked back at Matthew and nodded, and with that, they both sprinted up the stairs.

“Hey, Matthew?” I called out. They stopped at the top of the stairs and turned to face me. “Remember that Viper is napping. Keep it quiet, please.”

“Okay,” he hollered back just before they both disappeared down the hall.

“So much for him being quiet.” I sighed and rolled my eyes playfully as I bent down and picked Maura up in my arms. “You guys want something to drink?”

Jodi nodded and they all followed me to the kitchen.

“Sorry everything is kind of a mess. There just aren’t enough hours in the day lately.” I set Maura down and she ran over to play with her ponies that were still on the coffee table from earlier.