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Page 37

That was the typical back-and-forth with us.

My friends had spent the rest of the weekend at my place, and they’d even talked me into having lunch with Janet and her new husband. I’d sworn each of them to silence about Reese. If Janet found that out, friends from when I’d gone to camp as a child would come out of the woodwork. I also made sure they were tight-lipped about Damian. I was better about talking about that situation, but I still didn’t care to go there with Janet.

I’d also returned to my therapist.

She was surprised by my willingness to open up, but we were peeling away one painful layer at a time. Turns out I suffered from something called caregiver’s toxic guilt.

It was a mouthful to type and say, so I kept that to myself as well. Just easier. My friends knew I was going through a level of guilt they couldn’t understand, so they had refrained from asking too many questions.

Reese was the only one who brought Damian up these days, and it was just every so often and always a roundabout question—like what other teams Damian had liked. He was never direct or demanding, but he’d bring Damian’s name up until I peeled another layer back and gave him some details about the past. Once I’d done that, he’d change the topic.

Touch and go. That’s what we were.

But it’d been two weeks of that: texting, phone calls, pictures, jokes, memes, crude gifs.

Until today. Today was game day. The Seattle Thunder was in town to play the Coyotes for the regular season.

Trent was flying in, and he’d said he was bringing a date with him. Owen and Hadley had already arrived, and we were in the car to go pick them up.

When it had slipped at Janet’s two weeks ago that they were coming back for the game, she and her husband mentioned they were going to try to get tickets. I’d looked down at my lap because I knew a few pointed looks were likely coming my way, but nope—I wasn’t interested in assisting with that in any way. Janet had never made my life any easier, and she hadn’t kept in contact with me. She’d been the easiest to stop talking to because we’d never really talked in the first place. So no, I wasn’t going to ask Reese for another set of tickets. It burned my ego to allow the ones he had offered up in the first place. I kept wanting to pay him back, but he hadn’t paid for them. He said each player had a few they could use each game, but he never used them so he had a surplus.

We were all supposed to do dinner together later tonight, though, and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that situation.

Reese had to travel back with the team, but they weren’t flying back till the morning. That was also a touchy subject I was putting off until later. Trent and his date were going to sleep at my place. Grant, Sophia, Owen, and Hadley were all staying at Janet’s.

Where I was sleeping, I wasn’t sure yet.

“What’s holding you back?” Grant asked as we pulled up to Arrivals.

He meant what was holding me back from taking the job offer at the camp. Lack of money was one, but also, I wasn’t sure I wanted to upend everything and move there. The only place to live near camp was a small town. It was a whole different culture.

I could’ve said all those words, but there was another reason. Damian.

Fuck it. What’d it matter if I told them the truth?

“Damian is here.”

Cue the nerves now.

But the car went quiet.

Finally, Grant cleared his throat. “We don’t know what to say to you. It’s obvious you don’t want to talk about him. We get that, but we have no clue how to handle this. Do we ask questions? Do we not? What do we say to make you feel like we’re here for you, but not pry because we know it’s a touchy subject. You loved the guy, and his mind was slipping, but we have no clue what even transpired. So…”

“Grant,” Sophia warned.

“You have to take the lead when you bring him up,” he said, sounding strained. “We don’t know.”

Hadley leaned forward, her hand touching my arm. “But we love you, and we’re here for you.”

Grant coughed from the driver’s seat, pulling forward into a line moving at a slow pace. “Yeah. That sentiment.” He frowned, ducking his head to see the passengers lined up on the curb. “Trent flew Delta, right? This is the right baggage claim?”

Just then, Trent and a woman came out, both pulling suitcases.

He saw us at the same time we saw them, and the entire group started laughing at his immediate frown.

We pulled up, and I opened the side door, but he just shook his head.

“Are you guys serious? The camp van?”

Hadley and I were laughing as we jumped out to hug Trent, and then hug the girl.

“Oh.” She blinked, and her arms jerked up. “Hi there.”

But our hugs were quick. We were already done and climbing into the farthest back seat.

Sophia got out and was a more gracious hostess. She hugged Trent first, then greeted the girl. Grant came around to hug Trent and shake the girl’s hand as Owen collected their suitcases, putting them in the back.

Trent was still scowling at the van, rolling his eyes.

“Stow it,” Grant said. “We figure it’s good marketing, and we all came down together anyway.”

“Right.” Trent poked his head in, glaring at me. “You could’ve warned me I was getting the camp van greeting at the airport.”

I shrugged. “It’s how we roll. You should know that.”

He grunted in response, but his scowl faded. “It’s good to see you guys.” His hand came to his date’s back. “Guys, this is Lauren. Lauren, the official camp greeting. All except Charlie, in the Thunder jersey.”

“Hi.” She smiled as she climbed in and took the middle seat. “Hi, everyone.” A pause. “What are your names again?”

We went around, but her dazed look never diminished. She was a deer in headlights.

Grant pulled the van back into the driving lane. “We all work at camp.”

“Still?” Her hand came to rest on Trent’s arm. “Or you used to work with Trenton?”


Hadley and I shared a look of delight.

Trent noticed, turning back to us. “Not a word.”

Hadley squeaked.

I scooted down in my seat, whispering under my breath, “Trenton. I love it.”

Trenton was in love. I could tell.

Lauren was exquisite—long, flowing black hair, lips like a doll’s, and dark almond eyes. I was tempted to ask if she was a model, but decided to wait until Sophia had warmed her up, which she was doing.

Trent brought a date! He brought a date to a camp social gathering. That was serious.

Right? Right. I felt it was.

Owen leaned forward from the other side of Hadley. He and Sophia had somehow become the appointed hosts of the group.

“Hey.” Grant raised his voice. “Are we going straight to the game or swinging back to Charlie’s? What’s the plan?”

Trent looked back at me. “We have time to drop our stuff off? Maybe clean up a little?”

“Oh, yeah. I guess it depends on how long we want to wait for concessions, but yeah, we have time.”

It was an hour before the game. There was plenty of time.

“I’d like to wash up a little, maybe not leave our suitcases at the arena, you know?”

“Say no more.” Grant flipped on the turn signal, veering toward the next exit for my apartment.

My phone buzzed.

Reese: You wearing my jersey?

Me: Coyotes.

Reese: I’m calling to take away your ticket—just yours. Not your friends’.

I bit the inside of my cheeks. Every time my phone buzzed, I knew everyone was wondering if it was Reese or someone else.

I loved that Trent had brought Lauren, but I was highly uncomfortable. We were going to Reese’s game. I was wearing his jersey—one I’d bought that he didn’t know I’d bought—and we were using his tickets for the game. Janet couldn’t get tickets anywhere near where we were sitting, and I was already feeling that pressure. Reese was doing dinner with us, and my friends were in town for the whole weekend, but I wanted tonight with Reese.

I just didn’t know how to maneuver all of those moving pieces.

Maybe it was unrealistic, but I didn’t want Janet to know about him or Lauren to spill the beans, if she found out too. And I didn’t know if Trent had told her where he got the tickets or not.

And then part of me felt I was stressing too much. I should just let it all lay how it was going to lay, but I was coming off quite a few years where I hadn’t told anyone what was going on with me.

Habits were hard to break.

People knowing my business gave them reason to form opinions, spread gossip. I was sweating just thinking of all the talk that’d rip through the group about Reese and me.

“Hey.” Hadley leaned close. “No stressing, okay? We all took a pact. No one will say a word.”

I loved her. I truly loved her.

My chest felt lighter.

“What about dinner? How do we do that?”

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