I actually believe him. He really doesn’t know. He doesn’t know any more than I do. “Sorry isn’t good enough. Sorry doesn’t take away what you said. Sorry doesn’t mean we can be friends again.”

“I know, but …” He trails off. But nothing. He has nothing to say for himself.

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“If you came over here thinking we could just go back to being friends the way we used to—”

That’s what I hope he came over for, anyway. To beg that we could be BFF, best friends forever, like before. And I’ll say no, and Mark’ll keep begging, and then I’ll give in, because that’s what we do.

“No, I know we can’t.”

“You do?”

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“Yeah. I just came to say I’m sorry.”

“Oh.”

Mark stands there, with the sun setting against his back. Then he pulls his bike up off the ground and starts to ride back down my driveway.

I don’t say good-bye, and neither does he.

Chapter 47

All day at school I wondered if Daddy was coming home. That last fight was so bad, I wondered if it was the final straw. I wondered if it meant the D word was right around the corner. I didn’t want to ask Mama. But Celia said not to worry; he’d be there. I hope she’s right. She usually is.

As the clock ticks closer to dinnertime, Mama stays in her room. The door is shut. Celia’s door is shut too. I guess it’s up to me to cook supper.

I’m stirring a pot of macaroni when Daddy strides through the back door. “Hey, Shug,” he says, setting his briefcase on the floor. “What’s cookin’?”

He winks at me, and I can’t remember the last time I was this happy to see him. Dropping the wooden spoon on the counter, I run over to him, my daddy. I breathe in his daddy smell and hug him tight. “Hey, what’s all this for?” he says, smiling and chucking my chin.

“Nothing,” I say, backing away. “Macaroni’s cooking. Mama’s upstairs. So’s Celia.”

Loosening his tie, Daddy says, “Well, I’ll just go get washed up before supper then.” He leaves the kitchen, and as I lean against the counter, my happiness starts to fade away. I wonder what happens next. Did he come home just so he could announce he was leaving for good? Could Mairi’s mother be right? I always thought that I wouldn’t mind if Mama and Daddy got divorced, not truly. I thought, well, maybe it’ll be better that way, maybe some people just aren’t meant to be together. But faced with the possibility, I choose together. I choose us. Even if it is all just pretend.

The four of us sit around the kitchen table, the first time in a long time. For once, there’s no wineglass in Mama’s hand, just iced tea. For once, Celia isn’t rushing off to meet Park, or Margaret, or anybody that isn’t us. For once, Daddy is here.

I keep waiting for Daddy to make his announcement, but it never comes. We eat dinner. There’s not a lot of talk, we just eat.

It’s around 9:30 p.m. when the doorbell rings. Mama and Daddy are watching TV in the den, Celia’s in her room, and I’m doing my homework at the dining room table. Part of me is still waiting for that announcement.

We all look at one another when we hear the door, like, who the heck could that be? We’re not used to late-night visitors. Neither of them make a move from the couch, and sighing loudly, I get up. As I head for the front door, I see Mama put her head in Daddy’s lap, and I feel more okay than I have in a long time.

I open the door. It’s Jack. He says, “Can you come outside for a minute?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” I grab my puffy jacket from the coat hook and zip into it. Closing the door, I holler, “It’s for me!” Not that anybody cares.

We sit down on the front steps. It’s pitch black outside, and the sky is swimming with stars. It’s nights like these that make you realize you’re sitting on a planet. We’re on a planet, in an ocean of stars. They’re so close you could reach out and grab one, put it in your pocket for later. If I had a fishing net, I’d take them all. I’d line my ceiling with them.

Jack pulls a roll of cherry Life Savers out of his pocket. He takes the one on top, then gives me the next one. If you didn’t know him better, you might think he was being rude, taking the first one and all. But I knew that he took the top piece because the top piece of a roll of Life Savers is always linty and fuzzy from being in your pocket. The ones in the middle are the good ones. I pop that good middle one in my mouth.

He says, “You mad at me for getting out-of-school suspension?”

Clicking the Life Saver on my teeth, I say, “Well, yeah.”

“You still mad at me for getting into a fight with Mark?”

“Yup.”

“’Cause you like him.”

“No, because it was stupid. Why’d you have to go and get in trouble again?”

“I don’t know.” He clears his throat. “The thing is, I’m gonna have to go and live with my dad for a while. I’m gonna leave after Christmas. My mom’s actually going through with it. She already called him and everything.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“For how long?”

“Don’t know.”

“Oh.” I bite my lip. I don’t know how to say this next part. “Are you scared?”

He doesn’t say anything for a minute. “No. I mean, I still hate him. I still hate what he did to my mom. But, I don’t know … I saw him last month. He actually came to see me. He seems … better. I don’t know how to explain it.”

I say, “You don’t have to.”

We sit there, not talking, just staring up at the sky. How many times had Mark and I sat together, just like this, on a night just like this one, saying nothing, just sharing the silence? Too many to count. It’s funny, but this night feels different than all those other nights. Like Jack and I aren’t just sharing the silence, but we’re waiting for something.

Jack’s got that look on his face, the look he gets when he’s standing on the pitcher’s mound. That summer we played softball in the park, he was always the pitcher, and he always had the same expression on his face right before he hit you with a real doozy. That’s how he looks right now. Nervous. He looks nervous. Then he says, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” A long pause, and then, “Mark can be such a jerk sometimes.”

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