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“Thanks for throwing me under the bus, Dad.”

“Hey, if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.”

Judy threw her hands up and walked over to the cabinet with the wine glasses. She pulled two down as Laura retrieved a bottle from the fridge. As an afterthought, she grabbed one more for Cassie.

“I didn’t want you to worry,” she said.

“So, what was the plan?” For the first time, Laura sounded more hurt than exasperated. “Tell us after you had it removed?”

“In an ideal world, yes.”

“And what if something had gone wrong?” Cassie’s voice shook, and she hated the sound of it. “Then you would’ve taken away any chance of us being able to say goodbye.”

The room fell dead silent. Cassie could feel the hypocrisy crawling across her skin. She’d pushed them away for ten years. She’d never given them room to work through what had happened right alongside her. And her last run-in with Novak? She’d waved it off like it was nothing, despite the fact that she’d almost died. Again.

“That was never my intention.” Her mom’s voice was quiet. Angry. Barely controlled. “I just didn’t want you to worry, that’s all.”

Laura placed a hand on top of their mother’s. “We know. And we’re not staging an intervention here. We just wanted to visit. Catch up. Have a little family bonding time.”

“Which I think is an excellent idea.” When Judy shot him a look, Walter grabbed his keys from the hook. “I also think picking up some more wine is an excellent idea.”

“And cheese. And orange juice. Eggs. We’ll need two more steaks.” Laura chimed in.

“I’ll be back soon.” Walter leaned over and kissed Cassie on the forehead. “I’m really glad you came.”

Laura scoffed. “What am I, chopped liver?”

“No one deserves to be liver.” Their father scratched his head. “More like moldy cheese. Or watery sour cream.”

“Soggy pizza,” Cassie offered.

Walter winked. “You could do worse than soggy pizza.”

Judy tried not to laugh. “Go to the store, Walter.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Get me chocolate.”

“Yes, dear.”

The momentary easiness that came with their usual banter left the house as soon as Walter closed the door behind him. Cassie was too nervous to sip her wine, so she just left it on the countertop to gather beads of condensation.

“Well, you girls look tired. Let me get your room ready so you can take a nap before dinner.”

“The drive wasn’t bad—”

“I slept on the way here—”

Judy waved them off. “It has to be done sooner or later. Might as well do it now.”

Cassie trudged up the stairs after them. The house was familiar enough, but the details were foreign. She remembered the bannister being an ugly pine color. Now it was a dark mahogany. The downstairs bathroom was pale green instead of an ugly mauve. She also could’ve sworn there hadn’t been French doors leading out to the back porch.

They had done a lot of renovating over the past ten years.

Judy led them to one of the guest bedrooms and pushed open the door. She fluffed the pillows and slid back the closet door. “Laura, last time you were here, you left one of your sweatshirts. I washed it for you.”

Laura pulled out a gray hoodie with the words San Francisco embroidered across the chest. “Sweet. I was looking for this.”

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