ALSO BY JAMIE MCGUIRE
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd A CBS COMPANY Copyright © 2013 by Jamie McGuire This book is copyright under the Berne Convention. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved. The right of Jamie McGuire to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 1st Floor 222 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8HB www.simonandschuster.co.uk Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi A CIP catalogue copy for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: 978-1-47111-514-1 eBook ISBN: 978-1-47111-515-8 This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental. Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
To Jeff, my very own BEAUTIFUL disaster
PROLOGUE CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN CHAPTER EIGHTEEN CHAPTER NINETEEN CHAPTER TWENTY CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT EPILOGUE
EVEN WITH THE SWEAT ON HER FOREHEAD AND THE skip in her breath, she didn’t look sick. Her skin didn’t have the peachy glow I was used to, and her eyes weren’t as bright, but she was still beautiful. The most beautiful woman I would ever see. Her hand flopped off the bed, and her finger twitched. My eyes trailed from her brittle, yellowing nails, up her thin arm, to her bony shoulder, finally settling on her eyes. She was looking down at me, her lids two slits, just enough to let me know she knew I was there. That’s what I loved about her. When she looked at me, she really saw me. She didn’t look past me to the other dozens of things she needed to do with her day, or tune out my stupid stories. She listened, and it made her really happy. Everyone else seemed to nod without listening, but not her. Never her. “Travis,” she said, her voice raspy. She cleared her throat, and the corners of her mouth turned up. “Come here, baby. It’s okay. C’mere.” Dad put a few fingers on the base of my neck and pushed me forward while listening to the nurse. Dad called her Becky. She came to the house for the first time a few days ago. Her words were soft, and her eyes were kinda nice, but I didn’t like Becky. I couldn’t explain it, but her being there was scary. I knew she might have been there to help, but it wasn’t a good thing, even though Dad was okay with her. Dad’s nudge shoved me forward several steps, close enough to where Mommy could touch me. She stretched her long, elegant fingers, and brushed my arm. “It’s okay, Travis,” she whispered. “Mommy wants to tell you something.” I stuck my finger in my mouth, and pushed it around on my gums, fidgeting. Nodding made her small smile bigger, so I made sure to make big movements with my head as I stepped toward her face. She used what was left of her strength to scoot closer to me, and then she took a breath. “What I’m going to ask you will be very hard, son. I know you can do it, because you’re a big boy now.” I nodded again, mirroring her smile, even if I didn’t mean it. Smiling when she looked so tired and uncomfortable didn’t feel right, but being brave made her happy. So I was brave. “Travis, I need you to listen to what I’m going to say, and even more important, I need you to remember. This will be very hard. I’ve been trying to remember things from when I was three, and I . . .” She trailed off, the pain too big...
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