“And me, too?” Logan asks, eyebrows raised.
Laney laughs. “You finish those dishes.”
He groans but does as she says.
A moment later, Laney’s moving around the kitchen as if she lives here, opening and closing cabinets, working on the stove, pouring Lachlan’s infamous Coco Pops and Froot Loop mix into a bowl with milk, flipping pancakes and plating bacon. “Eat!” she orders, so they eat. I don’t. Instead, I watch her. And I find myself smiling, though I don’t really know why. She places a plate of Dad’s regular Sunday breakfast in front of him and says, “Dad tells me the Baldwin development is ahead of schedule.”
“Thank you,” he tells her. “And yes, your dad managed to get two weeks ahead.”
“Something about council permits, right?”
“Right,” Dad confirms, but he’s looking at me. He waits until Laney’s at the other end of the table, sitting down with her own plate and talking to Leo about what he’s currently reading, before leaning across Lachlan and toward me. His smile reaches his eyes. “It’s like having your mother back.”
PAST | LUCAS
My mom used to tell me that I loved numbers, that ever since I could count, I used the skill on everything. I mean, everything. How many peas were on my plate, the steps from the front door to the fence. Obviously, as I got older and my strides got longer, the steps lessened, but still, I counted. Then I learned how to tell time. I counted that, too. How many seconds it would take for Mom’s morning coffee to brew, how many times droplets of water leaked from the kitchen tap right after being shut off. The number of clicks per minute, per second, Mom’s knitting needles clicked together. Two per second, just in case you’re wondering. So, it’s no surprise when I raced Laney, I counted. The first race, I counted my steps. The second, I counted the time.
I won both races, just so we’re clear.
She was also wearing flip-flops, which I’m sure didn’t help. But if it was the reason I won, I wasn’t going to mention it.
The first few days spent with Laney went by quickly. Mom called them play-dates. She also called us inseparable. Every morning I’d wake up early and run, come home, have breakfast, and wait. Laney’s dad would drop her off, offer my mom money (to which she declined), then Laney and I would spend the day racing each other, the distance getting farther each time. On the fourth day, she wore sneakers. She still didn’t win, but she was closer. No more than five strides behind me each time. The next day, while sitting out on the dock by the lake, our feet in the water, bodies sweating as we tried to catch our breaths, she asked why all we did was run. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. Telling her that I was trying to impress her would’ve made me a loser, and if she had to ask why then it probably wasn’t working.
She looked out beyond the lake and toward the horizon, kicking her feet beneath the water. “Next week, if I bring my swimsuit, can we go in?”
“Next week?” My eyes snapped to hers. “You not coming tomorrow?”
“It’s the weekend. My dad’s home.”
“Oh.” I was confused by the sudden ache in my chest. “So I won’t see you all weekend?”
“My dad and I are going to the hardware store to pick out paint for my new room. He said I could have the whole finished basement to myself. It has its own bathroom. How cool is that?”
“It’s cool,” I said. I almost offered to help just to be around her more. But that would make me lame. And desperate. So I kept my mouth shut.
I sat on the couch next to her. “I don’t think Laney likes running,” I told her.
“Well, yeah, I don’t think many kids your age want to spend their summers chasing after a boy… even if he’s as handsome as you.”
I stayed silent, my mind lost in thought until she stopped knitting and turned to me. “Maybe you guys should do something she likes. What is she into?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I never asked.”
“Well, maybe you should, and that way you can split your time with the activities.”
I picked up a random magazine off the coffee table and pretended to flip through it. “She’s painting her room with her dad this weekend. You think I should call them and offer to help?”
“You can’t. Garray’s coming over for the weekend. You’re camping out back. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh yeah.” After everything that had happened throughout the week, I’d almost forgotten about Garray—my best friend since first grade. His parents couldn’t decide between Gary and Gray, so they called him Garray. It was a dumb name, so much so that Logan called him Dumb Name to his face. Then everyone started calling him Dumb Name behind his back. Even Dad. Mom said it was mean, but I knew she thought it was funny. “I forgot about Dumb Name.”
Mom smiled, but it was sad. “Besides, I think maybe you should give the two of them the weekend. They’ve been through a lot, and this move was a big change for them. They need to spend some quality time together.”
My brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean they’ve been through a lot? Is Laney okay?”
“Oh, she’s fine, Lucas.”
After a beat, I asked, “Do you know what happened? Why is it just her and Brian? Did something happen to her mom? I mean, did she die or something?”
“No, sweetheart.” Mom shook her head. “Some parents just don’t end up together forever.”
“But you and Dad will, right?”
Mom picked up her knitting needles, a wistfulness in her tone when she said, “Your dad and I are forever, Luke. Eternal. Like the rise and fall of the sun. I promise.”
“Good. I’m glad her mom’s not dead. I don’t know what I’d do if something ever happened to you.” I kissed her cheek and stood. “Besides, you’re the best mom I’ve ever had.”
“I bet you say that to all your moms.”
It was a Sunday night. I remember it clearly. Garray’s parents had picked him up right after dinner, and Lucy and I were cleaning the larger dishes in the sink (her washing, me drying) when the home phone rang. Dad mumbled something about telemarketers while Logan walked past, pushed all the already dry dishes back into the sink water and shouted, “Lucy Goosey! Lucas Pukas! Logan Rules!”