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Pretending everything was fine was exhausting. Soon, she’d be forced to give up the charade, but at least now, there would be fewer people around to see her fall apart, to fuss over her and treat her differently.

“Whitney, what a surprise. We weren’t expecting you today,” Molly, an evening-shift nurse, said as she approached the desk. “They say the roads are terrible for driving.” She wrapped her cardigan tighter around her body over her uniform as she nodded toward the storm.

“It’s treacherous out there, for sure. I know Mom doesn’t like nights like this… Is she awake?” It was only a little after nine, but her mother spent a lot of time sleeping these days.

“I think so. Go on in and check. Mary’s making the rounds soon for lights out, but feel free to stay as long as you want,” she said. Her forehead wrinkled. “Whitney, is everything okay? You look really pale, dear.”

She nodded, demanding her voice not to break, hoping the rain could be blamed for her running mascara. “I’m fine. Just tired from long hours at work.” It wasn’t a lie, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. But how could she admit that her deteriorating health was slowly killing her?

“Okay…well, if you need anything, let me know. We can roll in a cot for you if you want to stay the night.”

It was a rare exception she was offering, and Whitney was grateful. “I’ll let you know. Thank you.”

Walking down the hall, her chest tightened. It was quiet, and the activity rooms were empty. From several open room doors, she saw residents sitting in their chairs or getting ready to call it a night. They all had their own pain, their own heartache, their own illnesses… How had she thought she could find a sense of peace here? Maybe she should just leave. Could she handle her mom not knowing her right now?

Pausing at the door, she quietly opened it. Her mom was in her usual chair near the window, and she turned, hearing her enter.

The smile that spread across her face gave Whitney a sense of relief, and her knees sagged a little beneath her.


“Hi, Mom,” she said, rushing over to hug her.

She wrapped her arms around Whitney and squeezed tight. Her mother’s hug was the only thing keeping the pieces of her heart together. “I didn’t expect you tonight. I’m so glad you’re here. Though this weather isn’t great for driving…”

Her mother’s eyes shone with clarity when she pulled away, her face beamed, and Whitney hated that she wasn’t able to fully appreciate this rare moment with her. She longed for times like this when they could talk, reminisce about the past, plan for an uncertain future without allowing reality to give them doubt.

But she was overcome with gratitude for this opportunity that came when she needed it most. Selfishly, she needed this.

“You’re upset,” her mother said.

Whitney shook her head, but it was no use. She’d never been able to keep things from her mom. Growing up, the woman had known everything she’d tried to hide.

“Where’s Trent?” she asked, looking at the open door behind her.

“He’s not coming,” she said, a sob escaping her. He might never be coming again. Wasn’t that how it worked after a breakup? You also broke up with the family. Her mom, both in her lucid and non-lucid state, would miss him, but it was too much to expect that he’d continue to visit now.

“Darling, what’s wrong?” Lydia studied her face, brushing her damp curls behind her ears, the way she had when Whitney was a child.

Unable to speak over the lump in her throat, she knelt on the floor and rested her head in her mom’s lap.

“Oh, sweetheart,” her mother said, stroking her hair.

Whitney closed her blurry eyes and allowed her body to sag. Her mother’s soothing touch and words helping to ease the ache in her chest. “It’s okay… Whatever it is won’t seem so bad in the morning.”

She always said that. That troubles always looked darker and more insurmountable at night. Daybreak brought with it a new perspective, a new hope…

Unfortunately, these troubles weren’t something that the light of day could chase away.

Chapter Twenty-One


He had a kid.

No matter how many times he repeated that in his mind, Trent couldn’t quite believe it. The night before, there had been no resolution to the discussion with Angel. After Whitney’s unexpected entrance, he’d needed to just shut it all down.

He’d needed to shuthimselfdown.

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