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  • Home > Jamie McGuire > Happenstance 2     

    Chapter 1

    EVEN THOUGH THE LIGHT WAS OUT AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT, something was drawing me to Alder’s room. I had been living with my real parents three weeks, and I had never seen Alder’s door open, but every time I passed by the white painted wood with the pastel wooden letters that spelled ERIN, something inside me told me to open it.

    I won’t, I promised.

    My second evening at the Aldermans’, Julianne had sat with me on my queen-sized bed and flipped through catalogs of comforters, wall décor, and clothing. She asked me to mark everything I liked and must have ordered it all, because the boxes were arriving nearly every day.

    The doorbell rang, and I trotted down the wooden stairs, trying not to make too much noise, even though I knew Sam and Julianne were awake and in the kitchen.

    After wading through boxes, I opened the door, grinning when I saw Weston jerk his head to the side to get his bangs out of his face. His hair was still wet, and his eyes were a bit puffy. We’d been up late on the phone the night before.

    “Smells like they’re trying to lure you into the kitchen again,” Weston said, leaning over to peck my lips.

    “Morning,” I said when he pulled away.

    His eyes fell to the floor, scanning over the different-sized boxes. “More stuff?”

    “More stuff,” I said, casting my eyes over the dusty cardboard in awe.

    “Weston!” Julianne called. “There is a plate piled with bacon in here!”

    He passed me, taking my hand on the way. We walked down a lightly colored hallway and turned to the right, under an arched doorway. Julianne was fond of pale colors and lots of natural light, which made sense, because she embodied sunshine. The entire house was decorated in mostly whites or shades of white, pale blues, and sheer curtains.

    On the stove was a pot full of white pepper gravy, and as promised, on the far side of the granite island was a serving dish full of crispy bacon.

    “Are you hungry?” Julianne asked, cheerful. She was wearing a yellow-and-blue plaid apron over her pink angora sweater and jeans. Her russet hair bounced and shined like it always did.

    Weston looked to me with his big, emerald eyes, because she wasn’t speaking to him.

    “I’m sorry.” I cringed. I hated disappointing her, but I’d never eaten breakfast that I could remember, and it felt weird to eat in the mornings. Gina hadn’t cooked for me since I was old enough to make a sandwich, and sleep and the walk to school took priority over cooking eggs, even if Gina had ever bothered to stock the cabinets or fridge with breakfast foods, which she hadn’t.

    Julianne shrugged, trying to make light of it. “Just take a couple of pieces on your way out, sweetie.”

    “Did you make…biscuits and gravy?” Weston asked, lifting his chin as he took in the savory smells.

    “And sausage,” Julianne said, her eyes bright again.

    Weston looked to me and then to his watch. “We’ve got time.”

    I let my brand-new green backpack fall gently to the floor, and I took a stool at the bar that protruded out from the island. “Yes, we do.”

    Julianne flipped around, scooped two biscuits off the aluminum sheet pan, and then cut them in half. With a small ladle, she smothered them with gravy.

    Weston swallowed, already salivating.

    “Doesn’t your mom make breakfast?” I asked.

    “Sometimes,” Weston said. “But she doesn’t cook as well as Julianne. I don’t know if anyone does.”

    “Aw,” Julianne said. “Flattery will get you everywhere in this house.”

    I squirmed in my seat. It occurred to me that it wasn’t the first time Weston had sat in Julianne’s kitchen and eaten her food with her daughter. But it was a different daughter.

    “He’s right, honey,” Sam said. “You’re a fantastic cook, and I’m a lucky man.” He took a handful of bacon and kissed Julianne on the cheek. “If all goes well, I’ll be home around eight. I have a late case.”

    Julianne nodded and leaned in, offering her cheek to his lips.

    Sam walked over to me, leaned over, and kissed my hair. “Have a good day, kiddo.” He paused. “Do you have to work tonight?”

    I nodded. “I usually work every evening, four to eight.”

    “That’s a lot,” Julianne said, unhappy.

    Sam nodded to Weston. “Are you picking her up?”

    Weston bobbed his head.

    “Can I pick you up from work tomorrow?” Sam pushed up his glasses, looking at me expectantly with his naturally puffy eyes.

    I glanced at Weston and then nodded.

    Sam shrugged. “I’d like to take you out for ice cream.”

    Everyone in the room gave him a look.

    “I’m kidding,” he said with a chuckle. “I thought maybe we could have a late dinner?” He looked to his wife for approval.

    “Sure,” I said, taken a little off guard.

    He squeezed my shoulder and then grabbed his jacket, rushing down the hall toward the back door that led to the garage.

    “Sam?” Julianne called. “Your purse!” She winked at me.

    Sam jogged in and picked up a brown leather bag. “It’s not a purse!” he said, exasperated. He disappeared again. Seconds later the back door slammed behind him.

    A low hum sounded, signaling the garage door.

    Julianne shook her bangs from her eyes. “I have got to get a haircut. It’s driving me bananas.” She looked at me with excitement in her eyes. “Do you want to come?”

    I looked down at my hair, the color nearly identical to Julianne’s russet tresses, minus her highlights. I’d braided it because it was still a little moist from my shower the night before. Most of the time I kept it in a bun or ponytail because it just got in the way. Gina had cut it a few times when I was in grade school. The one time I tried to cut it on my own was in the ninth grade, and that was an epic failure, so I had just let it grow. Now, the ends hung right at the middle of my back.

    Weston looked to me.

    “Uh, sure,” I said.

    “How short?” Weston asked with a frown.

    “As short as she wants,” Julianne said, only half kidding.

    “Just asking,” Weston said, holding up his hands.

    “I’ll call and make an appointment. When is a good time?”

    I shrugged. “Saturday morning?”

    “I’ll make it happen,” she said, rinsing off a skillet.

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