control, and owing you more every day we stay here.” “All you owe me,” Belinda said, her tone brooking no argument, “is your promise to do what’s best this time for yourself and your daughter. Be smart about this, Selena.” Belinda was trying so hard to be supportive. Selena knew that. But her mother’s concern, her disappointment at the state of things, dripped from every word. “Be smart about Parker,” Belinda insisted. “About Oliver. About Camille. Stay as long as you need to. I’ve told you that. Get your life straight and figure out what you really want. I’ll take care of what I can in the meantime. You save your money for you and Camille. We’ll make it work.” Liquid sprang to Selena’s eyes, emotion she wouldn’t let fall. We’ll make it work. How many times had her mother said that when Selena had been a little girl and wanted something they couldn’t afford? Something that her friends like Ginger had gotten so effortlessly from their parents. Belinda would inevitably have to say no, butthat they’d make it work somehow. Selena would see, her mother had promised. And now Selena did. She’d blamed both her parents for how hard life had been after their divorce. But Belinda had borne the brunt of everything Selena had thought she’d gone without. Material things Selena had been obsessed with, like pretty new shoes, shiny churchgoing shoes, while her mom insisted on buying sturdier ones that would do just as well for nice as for everyday. Now Selena was relying on Belinda to help her navigate the same limited-income choices for Camille. “Thank you, Mom.” She hadn’t said it enough as a child. She’d never again forget to say it as an adult. “I am going to make this work.” “I know you will. Just steer clear of Oliver Bowman, honey. Don’t go down that road again, unless you’re one hundred percent sure of what you want.” “What I want?” Sometimes Selena wondered exactly what her mother knew, or what Belinda thought she knew, where Oliver, Selena, and Camille were concerned. And after the mess Selena had made of things at the hospital, today of all days, she found herself wishing she and Belinda were close enough to talk about everything. The way other mothers and daughters seemed to so effortlessly share life’s ups and downs. “Mom,” she said, “do you—” “Let’s go make sure your daughter’s not buying out the store.” Belinda left to chat with Ginger and Camille about shoe options. Selena stared after her. She didn’t have the energy to follow. The rest of her day and the decisions she still had to make about Oliver and the Dixons and Camille—while the entire town watched on—were for once making her issues with Parker seemlike the least of her problems. Except that if Parker hadn’t been yanking her around financially all this time in an attempt to manipulate her into taking him back, she and her daughter would be long gone from Chandlerville. Then there’d be no Oliver for Selena to have to deal with. At least not until she’d settled down somewhere with Camille and begun building the happy life she was determined to give her child. Maybe then Selena would have been able to see her way clear to reach out to Oliver on her own terms. Instead of it feeling like the worst possible timing for her to tell the man she’d loved the deepest secrets of her heart—and hope he didn’t crush both her and her daughter with more of the cool indifference he’d shown Selena that morning.
“Leave the boy be for a while,” Joe cautioned Marsha. “Let him settle in before you throw more at him.” Marsha shook her head, her thoughts more scattered than she ever remembered them being. Her Joe was getting worse, not better. And Oliver was back—still struggling with seeing himself as part of their family, no matter how honest and responsible he’d become in the rest of his life. But there was one thing she was certain of. “We don’t have