He pulls me closer until I’m on my side and my head’s resting on his chest. Then he kisses the top of my head and wraps both his arms around me. “She may be my mom but she loved you beyond words, Lois Lane. And next time you feel like this, tell me and we can miss her together.”
PAST | LUCAS
“It looked like you got on well with Laney. You like her?” Mom asked, her hands and fingers working frantically on whatever knitting project she was working on while sitting on the couch opposite me. It had been more than a few hours since Lois and her dad had left, and the house was a rare kind of quiet. The twins were in bed, Logan was off being Logan, and Leo and Lucy were lost in their own fictional world, as always.
I feigned disinterest, kicked out my legs and got more comfortable on Dad’s recliner. “Her name’s Lois, not Laney.”
Mom smiled. “Well, I think I’m going to call her Laney. I like it better. It suits her.”
I scoffed. “You can’t just go changing people’s names, Ma.”
“Why not, Bobby Jo?” she sang.
“Who the hell is Bobby Jo?”
She laughed under her breath. “You are now.”
I laughed with her. “I think I prefer Lucas.”
“You still didn’t answer my question, Bobby Jo.”
I ignored her use of my new name. “She’s cool.”
“And cute,” Mom added.
I pretended to wipe my mouth with my forearm, hoping it would somehow hide my blush. “She’s cool,” I repeated.
“Mmm-hmm…” She tried to hide her smile, but I didn’t need to see it to hear it. “I was thinking—”
“Uh-oh. This can’t be good.”
“Smartass.” She grinned. “Brian mentioned that Laney would be staying home alone for a couple of days while he works, just until he can decide if she’s old enough to stay on her own for that long a period. But if you don’t mind, I thought I might invite her to spend the summer with us. It might be nice to have an extra hand around here.”
“So you’re using her for child labor?”
She laughed at that. “I didn’t think of it that way. But I don’t know. It’d be nice to have another girl around, and besides, I think we’d be good for each other. I just don’t want your mom to cramp your style by asking your crush to come over.”
“She’s not my crush,” I said. Way too loud. Way too obvious.
Mom didn’t respond to that. Instead she said, “She kicked your ass in that race.”
I lifted my chin. “Like I care.”
“About what? Her spending the summer with us or her kicking your ass?”
I set my alarm and woke up early the next morning. It was barely light out, and the twins weren’t even up yet. Slowly, and as quietly as possible, I made my way downstairs and to the kitchen where I left a note for whoever would find it.
Gone for a run.
Won’t leave our property.
Don’t drink all the milk, Logan.
And with that, I slipped on my sneakers by the front door, tied them extra tight, and I ran. I ran and I ran and I ran until my legs burned worse than my lungs and by the time I was back at the house, my t-shirt was covered in sweat and the rest of my family were all sitting around the kitchen table.
“Did you speak to Lois’s dad?” I huffed out, taking my seat opposite Lucy.
“Good morning to you, too.” Mom ruffled my sweaty hair and poured me the few drops of milk leftover in the carton.
I glared at Logan, who gave me a shit-eating grin. He was such a douche.
I pushed the glass of milk away and opted for water instead. “So, is she coming?” I asked Mom.
“Why so eager?” she teased.
“I want to race her again.”
“Right. Well, it’s early and Brian doesn’t start work until tomorrow, but I’ll call later today.”
She looked at her watch. “I’ll wait another hour, okay?”
“Luke and Laney, sitting in a tree…” Logan sang.
“Enough,” Dad warned.
“May I please be excused?” Leo asked, already standing with his bowl and glass in his hand.
Dad nodded, and a moment later, Leo set the bowl in the sink and took his glass with him to wherever he was going. The twins—age four—spoke to each other in a language that was part English, part something they’d made up. Logan ate as if there was a competition to see who could eat the loudest and messiest. See? Douche.
Lucy was… sigh. Lucy was a mess, milk stains down her top from being too busy reading to concentrate on eating. She dropped her spoon an inch from the bowl and reached out in search of her juice, knocking over a pile of napkins and salt and pepper shakers on the way. I rolled my eyes and picked up her glass and physically placed it in her hand.
Mom set a plate of bacon, eggs and toast in front of me, squeezing my shoulder as she did—a silent acknowledgment that she’d seen what I’d done and even though Lucy was too zoned out, Mom noticed and she appreciated it.
The thing about Lucy, though a little kooky, is that she’s my only sister. Our only sister. And it was an unspoken oath between us Preston boys that we all look out for her. Even if it meant handing her a glass or moving a toy out of the way while she walked around the house, nose in a book, so that she wouldn’t trip over it. Some of our friends called her a princess, and maybe they were right, and if that made my mother a queen, so be it. I’d seen the way Dad had treated the two women in the family—different to the boys—and growing up I knew it had to mean something, I just wasn’t sure what. Yet.
I ate my breakfast slowly, so slowly it was almost a chore, and I kept my eye on the clock. Seconds ticked by, turned into minutes and by the time my body had finally stopped sweating, only fifteen minutes had passed. I sighed loudly, annoyed.
Mom must have noticed because she said, “If you’re that desperate, you could call her yourself.”
Logan chimed, “Who? You’re giiirlfriend?”
“Lucas,” Dad warned. Then added, “Shut up, Logan.”