That night she lay in bed, exhausted but unable to fall asleep. At a quarter past eleven, her cell phone vibrated on her nightstand. She assumed it was a text, but when the vibrating continued, she remembered that she’d turned her ringer off after Owen had fallen asleep. She grabbed the phone quickly and accepted the call even though she didn’t recognize the number.
“Hello?” she said in a half whisper, tiptoeing to her door and closing it so she didn’t wake her son.
“You were sleeping. Shit. I shouldn’t have called so late. Sorry if I—”
“I wasn’t asleep.”
“And—I’m glad you called.”
He was silent for a few beats, so she waited, giving him his space.
“He’s my son.”
“Yeah,” she said again, her voice breaking softly as she crawled back into bed. He’d said it with such conviction she wasn’t sure what to make of it. But that didn’t matter. He knew about Owen and acknowledged him, and that was already more than she could have hoped for after all this time.
“Of course I want to meet him. I never for a second should have made you think I didn’t.”
“It’s okay.” She swiped at a tear, then rolled her eyes at herself. Hadn’t she cried enough for one day? But this was a happy tear. A hopeful one. She kind of liked it for a change.
“No,” he said. “It’s not okay. I was an asshole for letting you leave today without saying anything, but it’s been a hell of a two days.”
She laughed at this, and God it felt good to smile. The weight hadn’t lifted from her chest, but it was suddenly a lot lighter. “I think you’ve earned a free pass or a get-out-of-jail-free card. Or something.”
A deep, soft laugh sounded in her ear, and it only made her smile broaden.
“Jack Everett, did you just laugh?”
She heard the sound again.
“I think maybe I did,” he said.
She opened her mouth to say more but then bit her tongue. She liked being the reason he laughed, but knowing it was enough. She wasn’t going to break the spell by gloating.
“What about tomorrow after school?” he asked.
She grinned. “He gets out early. Noon, I think. Teacher in-service day or something like that. Are you free for a late lunch?”
“How about this great little barbecue place in town, BBQ on the Bluff? I hear they buy local, and from what Luke and Walker tell me, Crossroads Ranch has some of the best beef in the area.”
She laughed again. “Did you make a joke?”
“I think maybe I did.”
“We’d love to meet you for lunch,” she told him. “And as far as Owen knows, you’re my good friend Jack who I haven’t seen in years.”
He cleared his throat. “So, one o’clock?”
She let out a long breath and nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see her. “Yeah. One o’clock. We’ll see you then.”
“I’m glad I called, too.”
And then he was gone.
After the adrenaline wore off, her head sank against her pillow. She barely had time to double-check that her alarm was set before she drifted off into her first restful night of sleep in years.
She dreamed of kissing a boy under an olive tree—and what it would have been like if he’d stayed.