The Good Luck Charm Page 4

“I don’t think that’s a good idea tonight.”

“I just want to apologize, D—Lilah.”

I exhale a breath, trying to remain grounded, to keep the simmering anger from bubbling over and pouring out. But I’m so tied up inside, so broken by the events of the past twelve hours and the piece of my past standing in front of me, splintering me apart all over again.

“What do you want to apologize for?” I ask on a whisper.

“For the way I handled things.”

“Handled things?” I echo.

He drops his head, peeking up at me through long lashes. “When I was drafted.”

My father was the first man to walk out of my life, and then the dominos began to fall in succession. Ethan was the next to go, then my husband, Avery, and now I might stand to lose Martin, depending on how he comes out of this. I don’t want to lose another man I love, or be faced with heartbreak all over again.

I run my fingertip from the center of my forehead down the bridge of my nose, working to find some calm. “Neither one of us is prepared for this conversation tonight.”

“I know you’re upset, but—”

I hold up a hand. “You’re not hearing me. I can’t do this with you right now. I can’t handle this conversation, and you can’t handle the things I want to say to you.”

“I made a lot of mistakes.” His voice is soft and sad, which only fuels my anger.

“Mistakes? You abandoned me. You weren’t just my boyfriend, Ethan; we grew up together. You were my best friend, and you disappeared from my life for eight years. The only reason I’m seeing you after all this time is because of Martin. Do you know how hurtful your silence has been? Every time you came home and never called, did everything you could to avoid seeing me, talking to me? I can’t forgive you for that.”

His voice cracks. “Not ever?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that now. Not after all these years of nothing. Not with all of this going on.”

He nods slowly, a crease forming between his eyes. “Right. Okay. You’re right. It’s just … I just … I didn’t ever want to hurt you.”

“But you did. I mean it when I say you’re not ready to hear what I have to say, and frankly, I’m not ready to say it. This is too much for both of us. Too much is happening. Can we just deal with your dad being in the hospital? I think that’s enough.”

“Can I at least walk you to your car? Make sure you’re safe?”

“I’m right over there.” I motion across the lot. “You should be with your mother. She needs you.” Unspoken words hang between us like a noose waiting for a neck to tighten around. The implication is there, even if I’m unsure whether it’s true. I don’t need you.

“Okay. You’re right.” Ethan’s defeat makes my heart ache even though it shouldn’t. I was always too soft for him, too quick to fold.

Before I can leave, Ethan takes a step forward, closing the distance between us. I don’t have time to react, to protest, to do much of anything before his body is pressed against mine, his thickly muscled arms wrapped around me.

I feel simultaneously protected and vulnerable.

As much as I want to push him away, I return the embrace instead, aware that he’s struggling, and despite my anger, I’m someone familiar he can lean on. I know better than anyone how tumultuous his relationship with his father has been, and what a shock this must be for him. We all believe our parents are invincible until we find out they’re not. So I give in, allowing his touch to soothe and ignite. I absorb the feel of him, the memory of him made real again. For one beat, my fractured heart feels deceptively whole.

Stubble brushes my cheek, Ethan’s lips at my ear. “I’m so sorry.”

I push on his chest, desperate to hold on and escape at the same time. “I’ll be back in a bit. Jeannie can message if she thinks of anything else she needs.”

I rush across the lot, hands shaking as I start the car and pull out onto the street. I drive around the corner before I pull over and put my face in my hands. “Why? Why, why, why?” I give myself one song on the radio to break down. I need to keep it together for Jeannie. When it ends, I wipe my eyes on my sleeve, find a tissue in the bottom of my purse to blow my nose with, take the hazards off, signal, and pull back onto the road.

The route to Jeannie and Martin’s house is one I could almost drive in my sleep. When my almost ex-husband, Avery, and I couldn’t work things out and the fighting became unbearable, I opted to stay with Jeannie and Martin. I could’ve stayed with my sister Carmen, but she’s not the neatest person. I would’ve driven her nuts with my cleaning.

I pull into the Kases’ driveway beside a fancy pickup filled with boxes. It must be Ethan’s. As always, the door is unlocked. I step inside and inhale the scent of cinnamon and apples. Before I go upstairs to pack a bag for Jeannie, I head to the basement. Occasionally, Ethan and I used to sneak down here during one of our lunch breaks when his older brother Tyler was away at college. If Jeannie came home while we were in the middle of something we didn’t want her seeing, we’d climb out the basement window undetected.

The basement has been redecorated—sort of. All of Ethan’s trophies from high school line one wall, along with the team pictures for each year—his parents’ shrine to their unexpected miracle. Their Ethan. My Ethan. At least he was then.

I stop in the doorway of the wood-paneled bedroom. Ethan’s hockey quilt covers the double bed and more of his high school memorabilia litters the room, including a picture of us at his senior prom. I’d spent so much time as a teenager sprawled across that comforter, trying to make Ethan study for tests. He was easily distractible back then. I grab his duffel from the bed and turn off the light before I head back upstairs. Getting lost in the past isn’t a constructive use of my time.

I find Jeannie’s yoga pants, a sweatshirt, her toiletries, and an extra change of clothes. I throw in a pair of pajamas for Martin, as well as his toiletries.

Before I make the trip back to the hospital, I stop in the kitchen and throw a few snacks in the bag, along with some bottled water. The pie sits on the counter. It looks like it had just gone in the oven before they left. I might be able to take it home and save it. Apple pie for breakfast would make for a nice surprise for them tomorrow morning.

I’m grateful that Jeannie is in the room with Ethan when I return to the hospital. I don’t want to be alone with him. Maybe he wants to apologize to alleviate his conscience. I have no idea. What I do know is a conversation or an apology isn’t going to change anything.

He can never unbreak my heart.

chapter three




Ethan?” My mother puts her hand on my arm after DJ dropped off our bags and bolted from Dad’s room. “Are you okay?”

Isn’t that the question of the week? I glance at my mother, wondering how much better she knows DJ than I do, everything she’s seen in the past eight years that I missed. “She’s stayed close with you and Dad, hasn’t she?”

“We were always her family, and aside from her sister Carmen, everyone else moved away.” She sounds apologetic.

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