The Good Luck Charm Page 13

I pack up the rest of my things, stop at home to take my dog, Merk, for a quick run, and then walk over to meet my sister at our favorite boardwalk restaurant. Mondays we typically have a standing date unless Carmen has to show a house—which happens on occasion since she’s a real estate agent. Although we’ll have to rearrange it once my course starts.

Of my five older siblings, Carmen is the one I’m closest to, in part because she’s only a few years older than I am, and also because our brothers are scattered across the country. One by one they found someone to love and disappeared. The age gap was significant, so I was never close to any of them. They were more like pseudo–absentee fathers, too busy with college and girlfriends to really be bothered with me.

Ever since I was young, I think it was when my father left, I’d been the one to make sure everything was taken care of, that Mom never had to worry about anything. I was always tidying up, making sure there was milk in the fridge and cereal in the cupboard since my brothers were already all but out of the house by then. My memories of them are vague, limited to requests for a ride to the store if we ran out of something important. They didn’t have a lot of time for me, and Ethan’s family became my refuge.

So when I moved into Avery’s condo and she knew I wouldn’t see her as often, my mother decided to go to one of my brothers’, where she could be a grandmother to their children. In some ways it felt like I lost another parent, but I understood why she moved. Besides, I had Avery, and he needed me in much the same way.

“Can you stop looking at your phone for five minutes? You’re worse than a teenager. Who is that, anyway? Wait—” Carmen holds up a finger. “Let me guess. It’s Ethan.”

“He just got home. He’s updating me on Martin.”

She scoffs. “Uh, yeah, that’s, like, the biggest load of bullshit ever in the history of bullshit. You were at the Kases’ this morning, and you talk to Jeannie pretty much every day and have since you were six.”

“He’s been gone a few days. He might see progress we don’t.”

“Still not buying it. So what’s going on there, anyway? Is this a trip down memory lane for you two? Are you going to compare his previous skill set in bed to his skill set now? Do you think he can still go forever? I mean, he’s a professional athlete. That has to translate into a superior bedroom experience.”

“Carm!” I glance around the patio, but the music is loud and the tables closest to us are more concerned with their menus than my sister’s inappropriate, but potentially accurate, hypothesis.

“What? You two used to screw like bunnies.”

“How the hell would you know that?”

“Oh, come on. We were forever getting phone calls from the school that you’d missed second period, which I intercepted—you’re welcome very much. I’m sure you and Ethan used that time to study human biology. Besides, all teenagers screw like bunnies.”

“We’re just friends, and I’m not going to sleep with him.”

Carmen raises an eyebrow. “Seriously? Just friends? So all those text messages are about his dad?”

“I’ve just finalized my divorce and I’m about to start a course that’s going to eat up all my spare time. I don’t need to add another complication to my life, especially not with Ethan.”

“That’s a pretty convenient excuse, and don’t think I didn’t notice how you sidestepped my question.”

“He already broke my heart once. I’m not all that interested in letting him do it again.”

She takes a sip of her margarita and motions me to go on.

I sigh. Carmen is persistent. “He wants to go for coffee, or drinks, or whatever. Just spend time together as friends.”

“As friends, huh?”


“With benefits?”


Her eyebrows lift when my phone buzzes again. “If you say so.”

I put my phone on airplane mode and shove it in my purse without checking it this time.


The following evening Carmen’s number appears on my phone minutes after I arrive home from work. We don’t have plans tonight, and usually she sticks to texting instead of phone calls, so it must be important.

“Hey, Sis, everything okay?”

“Hey, hi. How’s it going?” The honk of a horn tells me she’s in traffic.

“Did you call me while you’re driving?”

“It’s hands-free. Don’t worry—I’m obeying the rules of the road.” I can hear the smile in her voice. “Are you still at work?”

“I just got home. What’s up?”

“You have yoga tonight, right?”

“Usually, but the instructor is on vacation.”

“Thanks for using your signal, dickhole!” she yells. “Sorry. Asswipe in a BMW just cut across three lanes of traffic and nearly caused a goddamn fucking pileup.”

“Maybe you should pull over to have this conversation.” Carmen’s road rage is unparalleled.

“It’s fine. He took the exit. Anyway, I need a favor.”

“Do you need me to check on Barkley?” He’s her Boxer dog. Sometimes her hours get messed up, so I stop by her place to feed him or take him for a walk. When I’m there, I’ll do a little tidying or make sure she has something other than junk food in her cabinets and enough dog food for Barkley to make it through the week. She keeps telling me I don’t need to do this stuff, but I can’t help it.

“Please? I’ll owe you big-time. Last time I was this late, he pooped on the throw rug in my bedroom.”

“Yuck. I’ll pick him up on the way to the dog park. Merk will love the company and we can avoid poop carpet bombs.” Avery was allergic to dogs. Once I moved into my own place, I finally decided to get one, partly to feel protected and also to feel less alone. Merk isn’t much of a guard dog, but he’s a great companion.

“You’re a lifesaver. Pineapple flavored.”

“I prefer the green-apple ones.”

“You always did.” She laughs. “I have another favor, though, apart from walking Barkley.”

“Do not ask me to pick up your dry cleaning.” She’s done it before. And I picked it up, of course, but there was some guilting afterward. I’m happy to help, but picking up her dry-cleaned lingerie is where I draw the line.

“That was only one time and I didn’t have time to pick it up before my date! I’m stuck in the city and there’s wicked traffic. Even if I take all the back roads, my GPS is still putting me in Forest Lake after seven thirty, and I have a showing at seven.”

“I’m not following.” I have no idea what a showing has to do with me.

“It’s for Ethan. It’s the Hoffmans’ house on Crescent Street. You know the one I’m talking about?”

“Carmen,” I warn.

“Oh, come on, Lilah.”

“Isn’t it illegal or something for me to show a house when I’m not even a licensed agent?”

“I’ve cleared it with the owners. I’ve even emailed you the lock code and everything. Can you help me out on this? I could really use the commission, and it’s a private showing. I don’t want to miss out, and I don’t know when, or if, I’ll be able to reschedule.” She’s rambling now. It’s how she guilts me into things. “Please? You know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I know your history with Ethan hasn’t always been easy, but he seems to want to mend his broken fences or whatever the saying is.”

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