Let's Get Textual (Page 30)

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“We do too use it!” Rose calls from the kitchen.

Zach eyes me and shakes his head in the negative. “It’s all for show.”

“There are no pictures on the wall. I figured there’d be photos of you and your brother.”

“No one wants his ugly mug on their wall.”

“Zach…”

“Fine. We don’t do pictures around here. I know homes are typically full of them, but my family is big on the ‘no posed moments’ thing. Every now and then we’ll snap a candid shot, but we tend to live in the moment most of the time.”

“I think…I think I kind of like that. It’s sweet, but what happens if one of you…”

“Passes?”

I nod. “Don’t you want that keepsake?”

Zach shrugs. “I guess? I have two photos of my mother, plus my memories. It doesn’t sound like much, but I cherish them more than anything. It kind of forces me to keep her in my heart, keep her in my mind so I don’t forget, you know?”

“You’re going to make me sad, and I don’t want to be sad.”

“I’m sorry. Let’s keep going. I’ll show you our real living room. Maybe my dad’s back there and you can meet him.”

We travel through the next room, the dining area. Rose has the table already set and I have to chuckle at her arrangement.

“I think I really like your mom. She uses paper plates instead of fancy dishware on Thanksgiving—less to clean up. Smart lady.”

“She likes to keep it real. By the way, she’ll be eating dinner in those pajamas she’s cooking in. That’s why I’m in basketball shorts. I bet you ten bucks my dad is in sweats.” He eyes my outfit of skinny jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and a black cardigan. “You’re way overdressed.”

“I’ll have to remember to change before dinner then.”

“Probably a good idea. We kind of do this thing where we try to eat all the food and not leave any leftovers—like, at all.”

“Are you telling me I can eat to my heart’s content and not have to feel embarrassed about loading my plate over and over again?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

“I love this family.”

He snorts and pulls me through the closed double doors.

Sitting inside what I assume is their “real” living room is his father, and he shoots off the couch the moment we walk in.

I was right—Zach’s dad is a total hottie.

I elbow Zach and quietly say, “Told ya he was smokin’.”

“Stop. It.”

“Zach, my boy, come here.”

His dad folds him into a big hug, the two holding on to each other for a moment. I won’t lie, my heart does a little flippy thing watching them together.

They pull apart and Mr. Hastings turns my way.

“Delia, it’s lovely to finally meet you.”

“Likewise, Mr. Hastings.”

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“No, no, Jack is fine.”

My mouth drops open. “You’re Jack, and…”

“She’s Rose.” He grins, and he has the same dimple his son does. “Yeah. It’s kind of a funny story.”

“Not this again. He loves it when people connect the dots,” Rose hollers from the kitchen.

“What, babe? It’s a good story!”

Rose appears in the doorway and leans up against it, eyeing her husband. “Go ahead—I know you’re dying to.”

“So,” Jack starts, “we met in grief counseling.”

“That, uh, sounds…”

“Utterly heartbreaking?” Rose offers. “I know, sweetie.”

“So there I was, sitting in the chair my parents forced me into. I was a young twenty-something widower and couldn’t even haul my a*s into the shower more than once a week. I needed therapy, so my family stepped in.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” I mutter. “Both of your losses.”

Rose holds her hand to her heart and Jack nods, acknowledging my sentiment.

“It was my third week, her first day. As usual, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, explain why we were there. I stood in front of the mic and—”

“He said, ‘I’m Jack. I’m here because I smell like a*s and my family is sick of my s**t. My wife’s dead and so am I. That’s all I have.’”

My heart crumbles at the words, but I listen with rapt attention as Jack picks the story back up.

“I take a seat and we go through a few more introductions. I’m barely hanging on to reality and can’t pay a lick of attention. Then she”—he nods his head toward Rose—“saunters up there, and all hell breaks loose.”

“Stop it. It wasn’t that awful.”

“You snotted all over the podium, and me. It was horrific.”

“Well if you hadn’t—”

“Shh! You’ll ruin the best part. Anyway, she’s up there and says, ‘My name is Rose.’” A s**t-eating grin breaks out across his face. “And I yell, ‘There was room on that board!’”

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“And I burst into tears.”

“Snot is flying everywhere and she rushes off the stage and out the door. I jump to my feet and race after her to find her sitting in the middle of the parking lot, sobbing into the quiet night. So, I wrap my arm around her and let her wipe her boogers all over me.”

Rose huffs. “It wasn’t that bad!”

“Right, babe. Sure. Once I have her settled down, I ask her if she wants to go out and grab an ice cream with me. She holds my stare and says, ‘There was no way I was sharing that chunk of door with a jackass like you.’”

“And the rest, as they say, is history.”

“You jump,” Jack says.

“I jump,” Rose finishes.

They stand there smiling at one another like fools, love shining so bright in their eyes. It’s the most romantic moment I have ever witnessed.

“I think I’m going to puke,” Zach says.

“I think I’m going to cry. That is the saddest, sweetest story I have ever heard.”

Jack slaps his knee. “Enough of the boo-hooin’. Tell me about you, Delia. You’re a student, yes?”

“I am. I’m in my senior year, journalism major.”

“And how’s that panning out for you? Any leads for when you graduate?”

I slide my eyes Zach’s way. “There may be something I’m interested in.”

“Do you have any siblings?” Jack asks.

“One, an older brother. He’s a teacher on the other side of town, where I live.”

“What does he teach?”

“Middle school math. He loves it.”

“I used to want to be a teacher,” Zach says.

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“Really?”

He nods. “I would have had so much fun giving those turds homework.”

“I bet you’d have all the girls fawning over you with those sexy glasses of yours.” I slap my hand over my mouth, my eyes shooting to Jack. “Oh crap. Sorry,” I mutter.

Jack laughs. “Please, honey, he gets his looks from me, and I ain’t no troll.”

“Ain’t no troll my a*s,” Rose murmurs before turning away and heading back into the kitchen.

Her husband leaps off the couch, following her and arguing the whole way about how “handsome and sexy” he still is.

Zach’s grinning from ear to ear, proud of his papa. “And you said I was bad.”

“You’re way worse than that, trust me. Now, how about leading me through those double doors and out to that patio I’m spying. I want to swing on that loveseat thingy.”

We make our way outside to do just that, snuggling up next to one another and enjoying the moment.

“It’s so peaceful out here, so different than where we live.”

“Would you ever want to live in the middle of nowhere?” Zach asks.

“Hmm…probably not. I’d miss delivery too much.”

He chuckles. “Figures.”

I pinch his nipple and he yelps. “You think you’re so smart, huh?”

“I know you, is all.”

“Oh, do you now?” I sit up, eyeing him. “What’s my favorite color?”

“Teal.”

“Did my room give that away?” He nods. “What’s my favorite food?”

“All of it.”

“HA! You’re wrong! It’s brownies.”

“Is it really?”

“Yes. Well…most days.”

“Cheater.”

I shrug. “You know superficial things about me. Name something else.”

“You’re a really good kisser.”

“This is true.”

“You like to be the one to get the last word in.”

“Hm. Okay, okay, keep going.”

“You blush…often. You do this thing when you’re trying to fall asleep where you twitch—scared the s**t out of me the first time you did it, by the way. You raise your left eyebrow when you’re concentrating really hard on something, and though you don’t talk about it often, you’re scared of the future, worried you picked the wrong major.”

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