During her formative years in the booming metropolis of Noblesville, Indiana, Mackenzie Hayes never once heard the term “love at first sight.” As a member of an extended family that prided itself on practicality, she had no doubt that if such a fanciful form of affection ever presented itself, she would be expected to stamp it out.
Not that this was an issue when you were freakishly tall and skinny and shaped way more like a pillar than an hourglass. When boys called you beanpole and skyscraper, and you were expected to go out for girls’ basketball or track in order to utilize the ridiculously long legs and dangling arms that you would have happily traded in or had shortened if such things were possible. When you were plain and shy, it never occurred even to those who loved you that you might love pretty things, especially pretty clothes. Or that you might desperately wish you could wear them.
Under the guise of practicality Mackenzie learned to sew. Then she learned to adapt patterns to fit and suit her. Though not strictly necessary, she began to sketch her own ideas and designs—beautiful things that flattered the figure or, in her case, created an impression of one. And while she never developed the kind of body or beauty that attracted male attention, becoming comfortable in her clothes helped her learn not to slouch quite so much and to at least pretend that her physical deficits didn’t bother her.
Her parents applauded this practicality. Right up until the moment she announced that she was moving to New York City to pursue a degree and career in fashion design.
No one scoffed at the idea of love at first sight in Mackenzie’s first heady year in New York. Which might explain why she succumbed to it so quickly. Why she was struck by a lightning bolt the moment she saw Adam Russell; zapped like a too-tall tree in a low-slung field, her bark singed, her trunk split in two. How one minute she was standing in a neighbor’s postage-stamp kitchen, the next she was toppling over, her entire root system ripped from the ground.
It had been glorious to surrender so completely. To give up rational thought. To be so blatantly impractical. At the time it hadn’t occurred to her that love at first sight might not be mutual. That there could be a striker and a strikee. That the lightning bolt might not feel the same as the tree. That just because someone was your grand passion, it didn’t automatically make you his. And that you might have to work a bit too hard for far longer than you’d ever imagined to convince him you were meant for each other.
“Are you ready?” Adam strode into the bedroom. Even now twenty-two years after that first strike, her husband’s physical beauty sliced through her. Five years her senior, his fifty-year-old body remained firm and well toned. The blond hair that skimmed his shoulders was still thick and luxurious—a person’s hands could definitely get lost in it—and only lightly threaded with gray. A spider web of smile lines radiated from the corners of the clear brown eyes that had first rendered her speechless. Adam Russell had that indefinable something that could light up a room, command complete attention, inspire adoration. To this day he looked as if he belonged on a stage or in front of a camera, not directing others or penning the words that would come out of others’ mouths. Certainly not running a very small community theater in Noblesville, Indiana.
“Almost.” Butterflies flickered in Mackenzie’s stomach as she considered her slightly battered and rarely used suitcase. She was not a happy flyer, could not come to terms with the science that allowed something as massive as a 747 to reach thirty thousand feet and stay there. For a “practical” woman she had been saddled with a far too active imagination.
Determined to squelch the butterflies, she refocused on the suitcase, which sat open on the bed, then surveyed the piles of clothing she’d stacked around it. There was underwear that looked nothing like the lacy things she’d worn the first time Adam undressed her. Capris. Shorts and T-shirts. Two bathing suits and a pair of flip-flops. Several sundresses she’d whipped up the year before. A dressier pair of black pants and a lacy camisole in case they ended up at one of the fancier restaurants near Lake George that hadn’t even existed when she, Emma, and Serena had first started going to Emma’s grandmother’s summer cottage there. A couple of long-sleeved tops. A sweatshirt.
She’d already tucked in playbills from her favorite shows that she and Adam had staged since she’d last seen the women who had once been her best friends. Along with photos of the costumes she’d designed for the two children’s productions they did each year. It was, after all, Emma and Serena who had shifted her focus from haute couture to costumes. Or had it been Adam?
“Stop it.” He gave her a mock-stern look.
“Worrying. Air travel is the safest form of transportation on the planet. You’ll be way safer once you’re on the plane than you will be on the drive to the airport.” Now he sounded like the instructor of the fearful flying class she’d failed so spectacularly.
“Gee, thanks. I feel so much better now.”
He flashed her the dimple. “Do you remember those relaxation techniques?”
Back when they’d been with a national touring company whose travel budget had included puddle jumpers that looked as if they were held together with bailing wire and rubber bands, she’d tried everything from alcohol to hypnosis to take the terror out of what her husband insisted was no more than an airborne Greyhound bus ride.
“Oh, I remember them all right,” she replied. “It’s just hard to conjure the soothing sound of waves washing onto a white-sand beach over the whine of jet engines.” Nor could she completely banish the certainty that any mechanical sound was a harbinger of doom, that the slightest relaxing of her guard or her grip on her armrests would allow any plane she was on to slip into a death spiral.
“You’ll be fine.”
“Absolutely.” As she placed the clothing in the suitcase, she let go of the wish that they were flying together instead of in completely opposite directions. Better to focus on what would happen after she landed at LaGuardia than freaking out about whether she’d ever get there. Carefully, she visualized the cab ride to Grand Central to meet up with Serena Stockton and then on to Emma’s hotel for what she hoped would not be too awkward a reunion. And finally, the drive out to Lake George to the cottage Emma’s grandmother Grace had left her.
She’d printed out her favorite posts from her blog Married Without Children to share, but would hold on to the news until she could tell them in person that she’d been approached about putting together a book comprising her best posts. She, Serena, and Emma had achieved varying degrees of success and now lived in different parts of the country, but Mackenzie could still see them as they’d once been—more different than alike, more scared than confident, determined to realize the dreams that had brought them to what all three of them were convinced was the epicenter of the universe.
Twisting her hair into a knot at her neck, she blew a stray bang out of her eye then tucked her quart ziplock bag into her carry-on. She wore little makeup and should need even less for a week at the lake, especially since Emma and Serena, whose looks were such an integral part of what they did, would have every beauty product known to man plus a few that weren’t. Even Emma’s fifteen-year-old daughter would undoubtedly be far more skilled at face painting than Mackenzie, as she’d discovered the last time they’d held one of their retreats—and Zoe had only been ten then.
Adam zipped the leather Dopp kit he’d retrieved from the bathroom and placed it in the elegant leather duffel that already held what she thought of as his Hollywood wardrobe. For his flight to LA, on which he would undoubtedly be not only completely relaxed, but also pampered by every available flight attendant, male and female, he wore designer jeans, a crisp white T-shirt, and a perfectly tailored navy blazer. She wore one of her own designs—a wrap dress in a supple washed denim that created the illusion of curves and showed off the long legs that had once been her best feature. For the briefest moment she wished she looked as good in clothes as her husband did. Or out of them for that matter.
She watched as he considered himself contentedly in the dresser mirror. The call from his film agent had come unexpectedly the night before and he was flying out on standby today. “So what did Matthew say?”
“He said they were crazy about the treatment. That they thought it would be a perfect vehicle for an ensemble cast.” The excitement in her husband’s voice was unmistakable, despite his efforts to tamp it down. “But you know how it is out there. Great enthusiasm ultimately followed by the inability to remember your name.”
“Maybe this will be it,” she said. “Even if it just makes it to the next level that would be . . .”
“A miracle.” He gave her the self-deprecating smile that along with the smiling eyes and flashable dimple had initially knocked her bark off. Her heart squeezed in her chest. That was the real miracle after all these years. That she’d not only managed to win him but that they’d survived so many disappointments and compromises. That their inability to have children did not define them. This was what she blogged about: How sweet a life could be even without children in it. How much more time and energy a couple could give each other when their family was composed of only two.
Adam lifted their bags from the bed and carried them out to the car while she did a last check for forgotten items. As she locked up the house she reminded herself that if they had had the children she’d once wanted so badly, they couldn’t have both picked up and just left like this; that Adam couldn’t have traveled back to New York as often as he did for an infusion of what they were careful not to call “real” theater. Or to LA, dressed as if he already belonged there, to pitch his latest screenplay and nurture the contacts that might help him break into the exclusive circle of successful screenwriters.
“Are you looking forward to the retreat?” he asked backing Old Faithful, their ancient but mostly reliable Ford Explorer, down the drive.
“Of course. It’s just . . . you know, having to get on a plane to get there.” She reached into her carry-on to make sure the bottle of Xanax was handy. She needed the slight blur they provided to propel herself down the Jetway, onto the plane, and into her seat. “And we haven’t been to the lake or anywhere else together for so long.” Her stomach squeezed this time. She turned to look out the window. They’d always been able to pick up where they’d left off. But they’d never gone so long without seeing each other before. And their separation hadn’t exactly been a mutual decision.
“It’ll be great,” Adam said as he took the ramp onto the highway and headed toward Indianapolis, but she could tell his mind was already elsewhere. “It probably won’t even take a whole glass of wine before you’re talking nonstop and finishing each other’s sentences.” He glanced into the rearview mirror and smoothly changed lanes.
“No doubt.” She said this heartily, doing her best to sound as if she meant it. “And you’ll be back with an offer.”
But as they neared the Indianapolis airport, her eyes turned to the planes taking off and landing, leaving plumes of white across the bright blue sky. As Adam made his way to long-term parking, Mackenzie washed a Xanax down with a long sip from her bottled water. For the first time she could remember, she wished her nervousness were only about the flying. And not how things might go after she arrived.
Serena Stockton closed her eyes and attempted to think like an animated character. Or more specifically the cartoon version of herself that she’d been voicing for more than a decade on As the World Churns, a remarkably smart and astonishingly popular soap opera parody that featured animated versions of the cast coupled with their voices.
Part Miss Piggy, part Jessica Rabbit, part Family Guy’s Lois Griffin, Georgia Goodbody wore a southern belle’s dress cut low over a too-ample bosom and carried a fan that she sometimes snapped open to fan her face and bosom or snapped shut to use as a weapon on some unfortunate, albeit irritating, member of the opposite sex. Georgia spoke with New York’s take on a southern accent. Which meant you would have had to be out in the back of beyond off some dusty southern road to ever actually hear anything remotely like it. Developing Georgia’s character had required Serena, who had spent years eradicating her own southern accent as a student at NYU’s drama department, to create an accent far more appalling than the one she’d been born with. An irony she tried not to dwell on.
“Why, I can’t imagine what would make you think that,” she drawled, stretching out each syllable, opening up every vowel, as she watched the screen version of herself bat spidery black lashes and pucker bright red lips that were certainly far larger and plumper than her own.
“You know I think the world of you.” The eyelashes batted again. Her cartoon hand landed on her Scarlett O’Hara–sized waist. Georgia had an exaggerated version of Serena’s face as well as her dark wavy hair and bright blue eyes.
Following her script and the character on-screen, Serena sighed dramatically then mimed looking up into her character’s current husband’s eyes. Georgia had been married and divorced more times than Serena could count, while Serena had never actually made it all the way down an aisle. But then Georgia had also been charged with, though not convicted of, second-degree murder and vehicular homicide, come perilously close to death three times, and had amnesia every other year for close to a decade.
As the World Churns was a well-written, equal-opportunity offender that did not require a laugh track. Big-name stars fought and cajoled to be written into an episode. Even Emma had once played an overperky version of herself.
Now in its eleventh season the series still pulled a hefty twenty share and could conceivably go on forever; a mixed blessing for someone who made a generous living off the role, but who could no longer speak in public without eliciting laughter.
Even without the overdone accent Serena’s voice was instantly recognizable. The moment she opened her mouth to speak, others fell open in delighted surprise. Then came the laughter as they peered more closely to confirm that she was, in fact, Georgia Goodbody. Or at least Georgia Goodbody’s prototype.
What had seemed like a well-paid lark a decade ago had turned into her seminal role, the part she’d be remembered for. The last part she might ever get. Irony sucked. But at least it paid the bills.
From the recording studio, she took a cab home and raced around her town house straightening and packing. She still lived in the West Village, where she, Emma, Adam, and Mackenzie had met fresh off the turnip trucks that had deposited each of them in New York City, though her current digs were as far a cry from the crumbling rent-controlled walk-up she’d first lived in as Georgia Goodbody was from her real self.
A little over an hour later she settled into the club chair in her therapist’s office and crossed her ankles on the ottoman. “Maybe I shouldn’t renew my contract. Maybe I should drop out of sight for a year. Have plastic surgery. Try to raise or drop my real voice a few octaves. I could come back under another name.”
James Grant, MD, PhD looked at her and said nothing.
She tried looking back, but he had way more practice with waiting others out. “What?”
“These are things you should discuss with your agent,” he said. “Or the friends you’re going to spend the week with for the first time in five years, but whom I can’t help but notice you haven’t mentioned once during your last three sessions.”
She sighed Georgia Goodbody’s sigh. This was what happened when you paid someone to reach inside you and rearrange your guts. She arched an eyebrow dramatically just as Georgia often did. There was the barest twitch of amusement at the corner of his lips.
“I think it’s a good thing it’s Georgia and not you who owns the kick-ass lethal fan,” he said genially. His face reflected no agenda, nothing to react to.
She settled back into the chair. “It’s been five years since I’ve spent more than an hour or two with either of them. And a year since Zoe turned up on my doorstep while Emma was out of the country on location. I hardly recognized her—that’s how involved a ‘fairy godmother’ I’ve been.”
“Okay. Let’s go with that. Why do you think Emma stopped inviting you to the lake house? And why did she invite you now?”
These were very good questions. To which she had no real answers. He watched her with a pleasant but unworried look on his face. As if he thought she could answer them if only she tried.
“I don’t know,” she said finally. “I don’t remember anything in particular happening; she just stopped inviting us. None of us are the people we were back when we met. Not that we even knew Emma was Emma then.”
“She introduced herself as Amelia Maclaine and she didn’t seem to have any more money than the rest of us. She took classes at NYU like I did and waitressed while she made rounds. Nobody recognized her or had any idea who she was. Not until she started getting parts. I think it was Starlight Express or Into the Woods when she made it out of the chorus that she got outed. We were all kind of freaked out when that happened—I mean, she’d been a child star, a member of the frickin’ Michaels family who divorced her parents and then just dropped out of sight. But she was so ridiculously proud of being hired on her own merit. It was only later that we met the grandmother she’d gone to live with, the legendary Grace Michaels who had the house out on Lake George.” Serena smiled, remembering. “If it had been me I probably would have had Michaels tattooed on my forehead or shown up at auditions with a note from my famous mommy and daddy.”
“But you were friends.”
“Oh, yeah. The best.” There was a time she would have sworn to this in a court of law; now not so much. “Emma named us Zoe’s fairy godmothers and insisted we all spend a week at the lake house for like ten years running. It was a blast. I never saw myself having children but it felt like Zoe belonged to all of us, you know? And then all of the sudden Emma wasn’t really available anymore.” She tried to keep the hurt out of her voice. She had once considered Emma and Mackenzie sisters. “She had a big career and a child and Mackenzie was busy in the hinterlands with Adam, and well, I guess we didn’t really have all that much in common anymore.”
“So why now? Why did she invite you? And why did you say yes?”
James Grant should consider a career in journalism if this psychiatry thing didn’t work out. “Honestly, I have no idea. But I’m more than a little ticked off that she thinks she can just disappear and reappear whenever she feels like it. I said I’d come, but I still have a good mind to back out.”
The session ended and as she paid at the front desk, Serena told herself she could still cancel, could still change her mind. Shit happened. She could claim an emergency and just send a note with her apologies along with the gift she’d packed for Zoe. Wouldn’t that just serve Emma right?
Standing in the Hall of Fame. Da-da. Da-da. And the world’s gonna know your name. Unbidden, the lyrics from one of her daughter’s favorite songs drifted through Emma Michaels’s mind. The melody was catchy, the tone triumphant. It wasn’t really about baseball as she’d thought the first time she’d heard it, but determination. Dogged persistence. Success. Fame and/or notoriety as the ultimate achievement.
Emma happened to know that having an instantly recognizable name was not all it was cracked up to be. She knew this because her last name was Michaels. As in the large and unwieldy theatrical family, all of whom were descended from actors, and who when left to their own devices found other actors with whom they ultimately created little baby actors. Kind of like a virulent strain of thespian rabbits.
Her particular branch of Michaels had once excelled at playing the perfect family. Put any or all of them on a stage, in front of a movie camera, or even out in public together and they could make you wish your family were even half as close as theirs. Unfortunately, their day-to-day reality was quite different. Which was only one of the reasons she’d legally detached herself, fled to her grandmother’s, and ultimately pretended, at least for a while, not to be a Michaels at all.
Today she was in New York with hours to kill before heading to the lake. At her daughter’s request they were having lunch at one of the fancier restaurants on the Upper East Side not far from the Carlyle, where her grandmother’s apartment had been and where she and Zoe had taken a hotel room. Emma sincerely hoped this would be the last time she’d be required to dress up to consume food for the next week.
As they entered, there was a muted stutter of surprise followed by a brief pause before conversation resumed. The other diners pretended not to notice them as they were shown to a white-cloth-covered table overlooking a walled garden. But if there was anything Emma knew how to recognize, it was an audience.
“Ms. Michaels.” The maître d’ smiled and pulled out her chair.
“Emma.” She smiled back, automatically mirroring his vaguely midwestern accent; she had been born and bred with a finely tuned ear and could do almost any American dialect, with the possible exception of the unnamed one on Swamp People, which even the locals required subtitles to understand. “Please. Call me Emma.”
He nodded and smiled again as he pulled out the other chair for Zoe. Her daughter was fifteen and had somehow ended up with far more than her fair share of the Michaels gene pool. Her thick red-gold hair was straight and chopped in angled layers that Emma’s curls refused to be ironed, blown, or wrestled into. She was even taller than her grandparents and aunts and uncles, and had the creamy skin, finely chiseled features, and gray-green eyes that attested to their English/Irish heritage. Emma’s complexion was only partly creamy and was sprinkled with nutmeg-colored freckles that not even the best studio makeup people could completely obliterate.
Emma had learned to make the most of what she had. But when you were the runt of the litter and looked more Cockerdoodle than Great Dane, you didn’t do Shakespeare. You didn’t star with Humphrey Bogart or James Stewart like her grandmother had. Or take direction from Mike Nichols or Stanley Kubrick like her mother. You didn’t even play the tragically damaged wife of an unfairly convicted murderer on death row, a part her sister Regan won an Oscar for. You played the girl who couldn’t quite get the guy. Or the spunky heroine who picked herself up after her husband left her and somehow finds a modicum of happiness as a greeter at Walmart. Emma had made a great living playing those kinds of parts. At forty-five she didn’t get quite as many romantic comedy leads as she used to, though it was possible she’d still be offered the occasional dimple-and-giggle part when she was white haired and stooped from arthritis. Not that her estranged parents and siblings would be any more impressed by her body of work then than they were now.
They looked over their menus, and Emma considered how best to say all the things she wanted to say to Zoe. Conciliatory things that would convince her once and for all that Emma loved her and only wanted what was best for her. Even though despite all efforts to the contrary, she’d somehow turned out to be almost as abysmal a parent as the mother and father she’d so publicly “divorced.” Uncertain, she reached for the bread. If she kept her mouth full she wouldn’t be able to say the things she needed to say. But she might not say the wrong thing, either.
In just a few hours the one week she used to look forward to most every year—her lake retreat with the two women she’d known longest and best—would begin. They were the only people on earth who really understood why she’d come to New York all those years ago. They were Zoe’s “fairy godmothers.” The only friends around whom she’d never needed to be “on” and who remembered Zoe as the little girl she’d carted from country to country and movie set to movie set. Her daughter’s memory of those happy years seemed to have disappeared along with her chubby cheeks and angelic smile.
If Mackenzie and Serena were here with them at the restaurant, Emma was pretty sure the bread she’d just swallowed wouldn’t be turning to lead in her stomach. She was counting on them to help her fix things with Zoe and then somehow, before they all went back to their real lives, Emma would have to find a way to finally share the secret she’d had no right to keep. Then she’d see her attorneys to finish off all the paperwork. Even a benign tumor made a person want to put things right.
They placed their orders. Their retreat, at which calorie counting had always been banned hadn’t officially begun so despite all the bread she’d already consumed, Emma ordered rabbit food. Zoe, who got the Michaels metabolism, which appeared to be unfairly tied to height, ordered a burger and fries.
“I spoke with Calvin,” Zoe said after the waiter left. Calvin Hardgrove, movie heartthrob, got top billing as Zoe’s father on her birth certificate but made only cameo appearances in Zoe’s life. “He said that he’d be away on location all summer but that if I want to stay in his guesthouse while I work on Teen Scream I can.”
Zoe’s lips tightened, but not enough to prevent a response. “Why not?”
Another basket of bread arrived. Emma managed to ignore it.
“Because you’re fifteen years old. You can’t live alone in a Malibu guesthouse without supervision. And I read the script. It calls for nudity.”
“But my character doesn’t undress. And it’s not gratuitous nudity,” she countered. “There’s a reason why the characters take off their clothes.”
Emma tried to sound calm but firm, but it was a stretch. “Yes, I believe that reason is so that they can have sex.”
Zoe quickly changed tack. “You’ve left me alone plenty of times when you’ve been on location.”
“I’ve left you with a sitter and a staff when I’ve had to,” Emma replied. And only after Zoe got too old to miss so much school. “That’s not the same thing at all.” It wasn’t, was it? Her voice faltered as she realized she was asking Zoe to accept things she’d never forgiven her own parents for. If Emma hadn’t had Gran, she would have been completely lost.
“You’re always trying to hold me back.” Zoe’s voice rose. It was a favorite complaint and one she’d clearly come to believe. She delivered it with conviction.
Emma knew her daughter could act. She was fairly certain she’d been emoting in the womb and she’d done really well at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. She just didn’t think there was any reason to start a career so young. Nor did she think a teen exploitation film in which most of the characters would be screaming their heads off while naked was an acceptable first vehicle. And Emma should know. She’d walked away from childhood stardom, but that didn’t mean she didn’t remember every painful moment of it.
Their food arrived. She checked her watch and wondered if eleven thirty was too early for a drink.
“I’m trying to protect you, Zoe. If you decide you want to act, there’s plenty of time for that. After you finish school. Not before.”
“Sonya is tutored on set,” Zoe argued.
Sonya Craven was sixteen and had a regular role on Teen Bitch, er, Teen Witch. From what Emma had seen of Sonya—and her mother, with whom Emma had had the “pleasure” of performing—this was a clear case of typecasting and required almost no acting at all.
“You’re not Sonya. And I am not Sonya’s mother.” Their voices were rising.
“That’s such a cop-out.” Zoe quivered with righteous indignation. “At least Sonya’s mother nurtures her talent instead of trying to squash it.” Zoe’s eyes plumbed hers. She could feel her daughter’s awareness of the scene they were playing. When you were born into a theatrical family, there was no escaping theatrics.
Zoe put her glass down on the table and crammed a French fry into her mouth.
As emotional earthquakes went this wasn’t even a five on the Michaels Family Richter Scale. Compared to some of the rows that had taken place while Emma was growing up, it was barely a tremor. But there was something about the wrath of a fifteen-year-old girl to whom you’d given birth and loved more than you’d ever imagined you could love anyone, that could yank the ground right out from under your feet.
Emma glanced around the restaurant. At a Michaels family gathering this altercation would hardly be enough to make people stop chewing let alone end a meal. But the other diners had fallen silent and were no longer pretending they weren’t listening. It wasn’t every day you got to watch this kind of performance between two members of the Michaels family without buying a ticket.
“Oh, what’s the point?” Zoe, who knew intuitively how to end a scene and make an exit, removed the napkin from her lap, dropped it on the table, and scraped back her chair. “I’m out of here.”
“Zoe!” Emma put some bills on the table as she stood. Then she was speed walking out of the silent restaurant. The last time Zoe had stormed off she made it onto a cross-country flight from LAX to Serena’s in New York City.
Emma’s heart beat frantically as she shoved open the door. Out on the sidewalk she saw Zoe already across the street and two blocks down. This was the Upper East Side of New York not West LA, but Zoe was a fifteen-year-old girl and bad things happened in expensive neighborhoods every day.
“Zoe!” Her eyes on her daughter, who was studiously ignoring her, Emma began to sprint across the street. Which was when something hard slammed into her with the force of a freight train and sent her hurtling into the air. She flipped a couple of times, bounced off what might have been the roof or trunk of a car, and slammed into the concrete. Stray thoughts filtered through her head; she empathized with Humpty Dumpty. She congratulated herself for having on clean underwear.
There was no pain, which definitely seemed wrong. She heard feet running and voices and then a siren in the distance. It occurred to her that she could die, and regret flooded through her. She’d already cheated death once. Now she’d never get the chance to prove to her daughter how much she loved her. Never see Mackenzie or Serena again. Her last thoughts began to run together: She should have scheduled the attorney before they left for the lake. Should have confessed the secret she’d been carrying. Should have begged forgiveness. Should have . . .
Darkness descended. Panic came with it. There was something she was supposed to take care of. Something that would alter the lives of the people who meant the most to her.
Her world was going black. And she couldn’t for the life of her remember what it was.