The Way to Her Heart
for dinner? Best food in town, you know?”
    He laughed, glad to break the tension. “Yeah. Best food in town. Thanks, Mom. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. I’ve been dating her for over a year.”
    “I don’t think this past year really counts as quality dating time, do you?”
    He shook his head. “No, probably not.” They ate in silence for a few moments. “We’re doing better, aren’t we?”
    She didn’t answer right away. “I think so. Most days, anyway. I’m going to ask Dr. Monahan to start weaning me off the antidepressants. I think I’m ready. I’m tired of being a zombie too.” She smiled weakly at him.
    “You don’t think…?” He let his words fade, unsure of how to express what he was thinking.
    “Tell me, son. Please.”
    “They won’t think we’re trying to forget them, will they?” he whispered, unable to look at her.
    She stepped around the table and put her arms across his broad shoulders, laying her head atop his. “No, sweetie. Your dad and brother would never think that.”
    He couldn’t stop the hot tears streaking down his cheeks. “I miss them so much, Mom. It still hurts so bad.”
    There was nothing she could possibly say to ease his pain, so she simply cried with him.
     
    ***
     
    “ Who is that, Josh?” Kayleigh asked as she plucked a French fry from his tray. She always ordered a salad, was always on a perpetual diet.
    “Who?”
    “That girl over there. The one with the short hair. You’re staring at her.”
    “No, I’m not,” he said and looked away quickly. He had been staring at her, of course, wondering why she sat alone in the cafeteria. She was nice and they’d had some interesting conversation the other night at dinner, so he didn’t understand why she wasn’t sitting with friends. Plus, she was really pretty. Didn’t any of the guys around here have eyes?
    “Do you know her?” Jeez, Kayleigh was a pit bull. The last thing he needed was a jealous girlfriend. She pinned him with her gaze, eyebrows raised, demanding an answer.
    “Um, yeah. She’s my econ partner. We got assigned to work on a project together.” He tried to downplay their relationship.
    “What’s her name?”
    “Bernie.”
    “Really? That’s kind of fun, huh? Why is she by herself? Go ask her to come sit with us,” she ordered. Kayleigh was such a social butterfly he was sure she could never imagine someone might enjoy time by themselves.
    “Oh, I don’t think so.” He panicked, positive it was a terrible idea for his girlfriend to meet his econ partner. Kayleigh was far too perceptive and was sure to pick up on his latent attraction to Bernie. “She’s, um, she’s shy. Yeah.”
    “Oh, Josh!” She sighed and pushed him. “Go!”
    He went, albeit reluctantly. “Hey, Bernie.”
    “Hey.” She looked up briefly before returning her attention to her burrito.
    “So, um, do you want to, um, come sit with us? Over there.” He waved vaguely toward his table.
    “I’m sitting here.”
    God, had he really thought she was easy to talk to? “Oh. Okay.” He turned to retreat and bumped into Kayleigh.
    “Hi! I’m Kayleigh,” she chirped and plopped down across from Bernie.
    Bernie looked at her with a completely blank expression before turning her questioning gaze toward Josh. He had absolutely no answer, so he merely shrugged.
    “Josh says you’re his partner for economics. That’s great! I love your name!” The thing was, Josh knew she was sincere; she really thought it was great and she really loved her name. Kayleigh was the kindest person he had ever met. “I’d really love it if you came and sat with us. Please?”
    Bernie stared at him again, her jaw tense. She looked pissed. But she nodded and began to gather her lunch. Kayleigh elbowed Josh, so he took the tray from Bernie and carried it to their table. Kayleigh performed the introductions all around; Bernie gave a slight smile and nod to their friends but didn’t say anything.
    Kayleigh didn’t seem

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