I stood up. “I’m going for a run.”
“Again?” Mom sighed. “Luke, your stomach hasn’t settled yet.”
“I’ll be okay.”
“Wait five minutes.”
I sat back down.
Each ticking of the second hand on the clock felt like torture. I didn’t know why I wanted to run so bad. Why I felt it necessary to beat Lois in a race, but my eleven-year-old brain said that I absolutely had to. So as soon as five minutes passed, I shot to my feet and a few seconds later, I was out the door. I didn’t run far. Our parents had set up boundaries on our land that we all had to stick to so that if anything happened, they wouldn’t have to search far for us. But still, I ran to one border, then to the next, and the next, and the next, again and again, until the burning set in and man, I must’ve really wanted to impress her. I mean beat her.
Dad’s car was gone when I got back to the house and Mom was sitting on the porch, cordless phone to her ear. “Sure, Brian, it’s no problem at all.”
I stopped in my tracks, my eyebrows raised as I tried to catch my breath. “What did he say?” I mouthed.
Mom raised a hand between us.
I stomped my foot. “What did he say?” I asked again.
“Okay, I’ll see both you and Lois Lane tomorrow morning.”
I pressed my lips together to hide my smile.
As soon as she hung up, she looked over at me and grinned from ear-to-ear, her eyes bright against the sun and her long dark hair flying with the wind. Up until I met Laney, I swear my mother was the prettiest woman I’d ever seen. Well, her and Mila Kunis. “So she’s coming over tomorrow for a date,” she teased. Again. “Oh my… Lucas Preston, what are you going to wear? Maybe that ugly sweater your aunt Leslee bought you for Christmas? Or maybe that hideous plaid suit she got you for your birthday. Maybe I’ll just dig out that picture of you as a baby when you decided to go digging around your poopy diaper and eat—”
“Ma, stop!” I yelled, but I was laughing.
Because of all the qualities I love about my mother, being a smartass is one I miss most.
Even though Laney told me what was going on, she still seemed distant, still lost, and I knew she wasn’t giving me everything. I tried to get more out of her, but she kept changing the subject and after a while, I had no choice but to let it go. So we spent the rest of the morning talking about anything and everything other than her feelings. I was pretty good at reading most girls, but Laney… she was something else. The truth is I didn’t make too much of an effort with other girls, but I wanted to with her. She was more than a fling, more than a random attempt to pass the time. She meant a lot to me… in fact, she meant the world.
“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” she asks, her head still in the crook of my arm.
“Well, it’s Sunday, so family breakfast—which I’m dragging your ass to—and then…” I turn to my side so I can face her. “I was thinking of driving down to Charlotte. I hear there’s this amazing craft store that—”
She sits up, her smile instant, and I know I’ve said the right thing. “Shut up!”
“I could use the company on the long drive.”
Her eyes roll, but she’s still smiling. God, her smile does something to me. “It’s only an hour away.”
“So… you’re coming?”
“Why would you spend your last day of summer sitting bored in a craft store while I—”
“Because you’re sad and—”
I take her hand and place a kiss on the center of her palm. A simple kiss. A restrained kiss. A kiss she has no idea drives me insane. “I don’t like seeing you sad, Lane.”
Most people hate Sundays. It’s the day before the norm of the routine begins again. Work, school, whatever.
I’m not most people.
Up until a few months ago, Dad had hired a full-time nanny who lived in the garage apartment that’s now mine. Dad let her go a few weeks after Leo got his license. The twins had a lot of weekend sports, and Lucy was at college, so between Leo, Dad and me, we were able to divide and conquer. Anyway, Virginia (the nanny) started Sunday family breakfasts—a way to reconnect us all so we knew what was going on with each other. Now we all cook breakfast together, even Logan. When Lucy is home from UNC, she attempts to do it all. My sister is a horrible cook, but we all grin and bear it because she’s Lucy and we’re her brothers and we love her. And, if not for her, we probably would’ve been separated years ago.
So, I like my family.
I like the one day a week that brings us all to the same room at the same time to do the same thing.
I like Sundays.
“Laney!” Lachlan practically bounces as he runs toward her, arms out waiting.
“What’s up, Lachy?” Laney says, lifting him off the ground and spinning him around. “Jeez, you’ve gotten big!”
“I’m six!” he tells her.
“Really?” she says in mock surprise. “Another year and you’ll have a beard like your daddy!” He giggles and runs away to continue setting the table.
“You’re staying for breakfast I assume?” Dad asks her, kissing her on the cheek.
“If that’s okay.”
“Of course!” Over his shoulder, he says, “Lachlan, set up another place for Laney.”
The greetings continue, one brother after another—high fives and hugs—everyone except Logan who’s stuck doing the dishes. He’s fifteen, and I guess in his mind he has to hate the world. Dad’s completely set on the idea of Logan being the first Preston to end up in juvie or rehab. Not that Dad would ever tell him that. Laney doesn’t seem fazed by his attitude, though, and slowly makes her way over to him. She nudges his hip with hers and says something too quiet for me to hear. Logan glances at her then drops a spoon back in the sink. He wipes his hand on a cloth before giving her a hug. It’s quick, but it’s real, and for Logan, it’s a pretty big deal.
“What can I do?” I ask the room.
Laney’s the first and loudest to speak, “You sit down. You’ve had, like, three hours sleep and a long day ahead. Relax.” With a smile, she moves to Dad working over the stove and reaches up to grasp his shoulders and lead him to his chair at the head of the table. “You, too, Tom. You’ve worked hard this week.”