Take the rest of the week off. See you Friday at the airport.
“Everything okay?” Mer asks as I set my phone on the table.
“Yep. Isaac just gave me the rest of the week off.”
“I like him so much,” Mer says with a grin. I can’t help myself, I lean in and kiss those lips before taking a sip of my wine. “Me too.”
“Okay, men, I need you in the kitchen,” Dad announces as he starts pulling stuff out of the fridge.
“That’s my cue,” I whisper and kiss Mer’s cheek before joining Dad and Luke in the kitchen. To my surprise, Leo joins us too and smirks when I raise a brow at him.
“What? I can cook.”
“Want to wear one of Mom’s aprons?” Luke asks and then laughs when Leo flips him off.
“Livie!” Nat jumps up and runs after her daughter who has gone straight for Mom’s bells again.
“Okay, troublemaker,” I say and scoop Livie into my arms. “You’ve wrecked enough havoc today. You can come cook with me.”
“Unca Mawk,” she says and grins. “Cook wif you.”
“That’s right.” I plant her on my hip and set about getting the rice ready and glance over to see Mer laughing with Nat, Sam and Mom.
She fits perfect here.
And then I remember Logan’s remark at the airport and all of the air leaves my lungs.
Leo blows a raspberry on Liv’s cheek as he walks by, making her giggle and pulling me out of my depressing as fuck thoughts.
“Daddy’s cookin’,” she says and points at Luke.
“He thinks he is,” I reply and whisper in her ear, “but he’s not as good as Uncle Mark.”
Liv giggles and Luke flips me off behind her back.
“So, Nat,” I begin and watch Luke with a smug smile. “When are you going to run away with me?” I cross to where she’s sitting at the table and rest my hand on her shoulder. Mer’s pursing her lips, but her eyes are laughing at me.
“I have to check my calendar,” she says and leans her face on my arm.
“Dude, get your hands off my wife. You have your own girl.”
“I don’t know,” Mer says, playing along. “I think they make a cute couple.”
“You’re not supposed to encourage him,” Luke says, glaring at Mer.
“You know you prefer me,” I continue. Livie is watching us avidly, turning her gaze from her mom at my side to her dad, who is now leaning on the kitchen counter glaring at me.
“Mmm…” Natalie acts like she’s thinking it over, then shakes her head. “No, I’m still gonna stick with him.” She points to Luke and then pats my arm consolingly. “You have a better option over there anyway.”
“I guess our love was never meant to be,” I say, my voice full of drama.
“I guess not.”
“You’re all sickening.” Sam rolls her eyes. “Seriously, run while you still can, Mer. They’re all a bunch of crazies.”
“I think I’ll stay,” Mer says with a laugh. “I kind of like it.”
Yes, for the love of all that’s holy, stay.
“My kind of girl.” I kiss Mer’s cheek and lower Liv into her lap on my way back to the kitchen. I busy myself chopping vegetables for the salad, listening to the girls chatter and laugh. Luke and Leo are talking about a mutual friend in LA. Dad is seasoning the steaks for the grill.
I glance over at Mer to find her watching me with sober eyes, her lips tight. What is she pissed about?
Before I can ask her, Mom stands, lowers Keaton into his portable crib and gestures to the girls. “I want to show you girls my garden.”
“Will you guys listen for Keaton? We’ll take Liv with us,” Nat says.
“Sure, baby. Enjoy.” Luke smiles at his beautiful wife as the girls file out the patio door to the back yard.
Meredith won’t meet my eyes.
What the fuck just happened?
“My kind of girl.” Mark kisses my cheek and lowers Liv gently onto my lap before joining the others in the kitchen. Liv looks up at me with wide eyes.
“Your name?” she asks with her sweet little voice.
“Meredith,” I reply.
“Meme,” she replies and smiles widely, then slaps her hands on the table and glances over at her mama. “Hi, Mama!”
“Hi, baby,” Nat says and smiles at her daughter.
“What are you packing for this weekend in Vegas?” Sam asks us.
“Are we doing formal stuff?” I ask and brush my fingers through Liv’s fine brown hair.
“Maybe. I don’t really know what the plan is,” Nat says with a shrug. “I’ll probably bring a cocktail dress and heels, just in case. I’m definitely taking my bathing suit so we can lounge by the pool.”
“I hate you for just having a baby a few months ago and you already have your pre-baby body back.” Sam glares at Natalie.
“I’m telling you,” Nat says with a grin. “It’s the yoga.”
“You do yoga?” I ask eagerly. “I’ve been trying to find a class since I moved back.”
“I teach a class,” Nat says. “You should come.”
“Well, I’m not taking yoga,” Sam says.
“You don’t need it,” Leo calls from the kitchen. Sam blows him a kiss.
“Okay, so something nice and a bathing suit,” I say and mentally thumb through my closet. “I guess I’ll take some jeans and tops too.”
“Yeah, bring a little of everything,” Sam says with a nod.
“How are you doing, Meredith?” Lucy covers my hand with her own and offers me a kind smile. She was always so nice to me, and the feel of her hand on mine reminds me of my mom and I’m caught in the grip of grief so quickly, I didn’t see it coming. My chest aches with a longing I’ve become used to feeling, but I keep the tears at bay and offer Lucy a smile.
“I’m doing well. The studio is doing great.”
“It’s such a joy to be able the spend time with you again,” Lucy says and pats my hand before turning her attention to Liv, who’s trying to squirm out of my lap so she can climb into Lucy’s.
Before I can respond, I see the screen on Mark’s phone light up at my elbow. I glance down to see a message from someone named Tami.