We leave the osteo office, we leave the wing, we leave the hospital, we even leave the bus stop, and stroll into the sunlight. On the sidewalk, the steps I take are light. Nervous. I test my leg and give it more. I bend my knee and we hear my ankle pop.
People stare at us as we walk by and I’m like, yup. That’s me, that’s her.
“I don’t want us to be horrible anymore,” she says.
It’s like a little dagger that came out of nowhere. “You don’t?”
“No,” she says. Jamie’s hand sneaks toward mine. Her fingertips brush against the back of my hand, and I weave my fingers through hers. “I want us to be good.”
“Let’s be good,” I say.
Our shadow below shows us walking as one, stretched out and long. Jamie takes a picture. I lean my head back and take in the light. Rain again tomorrow, but I don’t care about anything but her hand in mine. It’s all I need.
I give it a squeeze. “Want to see how fast I can eat like ten pretzels?”
She sends me one back and laughs. “Yes, immediately.”
I tried to kick off thanking so many wonderful people with something witty, but it quickly devolved into why type O blood saved a significant amount of people from bubonic plague in medieval Europe and then that somehow morphed into a line about boob sweat and I was like, you know what? Forget all that. I need to salute the real MVPs because that’s far more important and coherent.
Two people—straight up, no chaser—come first because without them, oh man…I don’t even want to think about it. This book would be nowhere without my amazing agent, Mackenzie Brady-Watson. Tenaciously whip-smart and clever, she saw the story I first delivered and knew the bones could bear more weight. I can’t thank her enough for loving Dylan and Jamie and always wanting more from both them and me. And it’s almost unfair to merely say thank you to my extraordinary editor, Erin Clarke, whose thoughts and notes crackle with fire, because there’s so much I need to pack into those two words. Thank you for believing in these characters and knowing just when to administer CPR. And thank you for giving this book life.
So to these two brilliant women, my eternal gratitude for all the very many big and little things. You know them all, and I thank you, thank you, thank you.
My cover. Oh my god, it’s gorgeous. I was filling up my car when I first saw it and immediately started getting all weepy at the gas station. Leo Nickolls, you’re the best. And when I’m done gushing about your work, I’ll let you know, but I fear it will be never.
To everyone at Random House, thank you for being so very excellent. Big shout-out to the copy editors because—holy cow!—I repeat myself so much. It’s a tic, repeating myself (have I mentioned I tend to repeat myself?), and they endured a whole manuscript. True professionals, I’m telling you.
I am one lucky duck because, along the way, I’ve gotten to know some truly great people. Major recognition and thanks to Billie Bloebaum, Kiersi Burkhart, Cara Hallowell, and Cynthia McGean. Martha Brockenbrough is a gem. Meredith Russo is a badass. To a very special person, Sara Gundell Larson: the book world is a better place for having you as its champion. Thank you for being a dear friend and good heart. With love, I thank you for absolutely everything.
And to Whitney Gardner: You knew every iteration of this book, from beginning to end and all my flailings in between. One time when I was filled with doubts about this book and everything inside it, you wrote in the margin, “If you don’t finish this, I will cry and cry and cry and cry.” It’s tiki time. (tiki emoji)
Love is love is love. I wish all couples joy and happiness and the freedom to fight over stupid things like who gets the remote and why do you always leave your socks on the floor when the hamper is right there, why?
If you’re thinking about harming yourself, please go to twloha.com.
We love you. I love you. Be well.