and most loving women he had ever met. He
had never met her husband, but no one had anything bad to say about him. By all
accounts he was equally warm and kind. Why had their daughter turned out the
way she had? Had she always been this way? Or had the weight of life pressed on
her until she was the person who sat across from him staring disapprovingly at
“Everything is so fattening,” she
“You can order from the spa menu,”
Jason said. “That’s what Lacy was going to do.” He handed her the smaller spa
“So expensive,” she commented as
Jason felt a headache starting
between his temples. He hadn’t realized how much he despised negativity until Lacy
entered his life. Her kind, nurturing spirit acted like a pumice stone, filing
away the rough edges around him until he, too, wanted only to be surrounded by
positivity. Now the cynics of the world grated on him because he knew what it
was like to live with someone who saw only possibilities. Lacy looked at a
decrepit, condemned building and saw a bustling marketplace. She looked at an
insane drifter and saw a secretary. She looked at an emotionally damaged loner
and saw a boyfriend.
“You’re quiet,” Frannie said after
they placed their orders. “I suppose you think it’s weird to dine with your
“Not at all,” Jason lied.
Frannie chuckled. To his right,
someone else laughed, and Frannie froze. Jason looked over to see Clint and
Michael eating and talking.
“If you want to go somewhere else,
we could,” Jason said. He didn’t want to, though. He was hungry and the steak
he had ordered—on Tosh’s tab, no less—sounded delightful.
“Don’t be silly, I’m fine,” Frannie
said and now Jason thought she was lying. She picked up the vase to her right
and pulled out the rose, twisting it between her fingers.
Jason hesitated. Instinct told him
to accept the lie and move on. Make small talk until the meal was over, and
then he was free. But Frannie was obviously miserable, and what made her
parents miserable made Lacy miserable. So, as much as he knew he might regret
it, he opened his mouth and jumped in.
“How did you and Clint meet? I
don’t think I’ve ever heard.”
“I don’t ever remember not knowing
him,” Frannie said. “You know how it is in a small town. You go to the same
school your whole lives and move in and out of classes together.”
Jason knew because he and Lacy were
the same way. They were in the same kindergarten class. But he also knew now that
it was possible to know someone forever without really knowing that person at all.
“When did things turn to romance?”
“I started to notice him when we
were twelve. He was the cutest boy in the school, and good at everything. All
the girls liked him, though, so I pretended to loathe him. Worked like a charm.
He asked me to the seventh grade dance and we were together after that.”
“You never broke up?”
Her sad smile slipped. She stuffed
the rose back in its vase. “For a while our senior year.”
“You know how kids are. Oh, here’s
The conversation was clearly closed
and Jason was probably as relieved as Frannie. He wanted to delve into his
girlfriend’s mother’s love life as much as he wanted to have a performance review
with his boss, the sheriff.
The conversation shifted into
neutral territory—the weather, skiing, and mutual acquaintances around
town until the end of the meal when Clint and Michael stopped by the table.
“Jason, Frannie. Where’s Lacy?”
“Detoxing,” Frannie said.
“Detoxing? What does that mean?” He
looked to Jason for an answer.
“She’s sick from too much health
food,” Jason said.
“Sick? What do you mean sick?”
“She’s fine, Clint. Lacy’s a grown
woman, and we checked on her before we left,” Frannie said.
“Maybe I should check on her,”
“Yes, do that. Maybe