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Chapter Twenty Three

"I don't think this place has ever smelled so clean."


"Are you sure this is really my barn?"

I smiled. Addy was leaning against a stall, running her hand over one of the horses' muzzles. The horse tossed its head, its nostrils flared as she took a step away.

"I got on a roll," I said. I was dirty, sweaty, and smelly, but overall, I was proud.

"Your mom and dad just might not get you back," Addy said. She slid her hand along her abdomen. "I don't want to lose such a hard worker."

"Thanks," I said. I looked at her closer. She looked exhausted.

"Are you feeling okay?" I asked.

"Tired. Nauseous," she admitted.

"Are you sure we should do a group today?" I asked.

Addy shook her head. "Al, this is why they call this work. I'll be fine. Why don't you go up to the house, take off those boots, and get cleaned up? I have an extra shirt. It'll be big, but it should work."

"Thank you," I said. I propped my shovel up against the wall and wiped my hands on my pants.

I jogged back up to the house. I left my shoes right outside and stepped into the friendly foyer.

"Man, you smell like shit."

"Good morning to you, too," I said. Joe smirked from his perch at the top of the stairs. I ran up and stopped right beside him.

"Why aren't you working?" I asked. Joe cracked his knuckles.

"Kevin had to take Danny Boy to the airport to get his plane ticket straightened out. I guess there was a little mix-up."

"So he left you unattended?"

"He told me to help you clean up the barn," Joe said. I smacked his shoulder.

"So? Where were you?"

Joe laughed. "Eating pop-tarts and not smelling like shit."

"Ugh, you're such a jerk."

"Tell me something I don't know," he said. He stood up and threw his leg over the banister.

"Joe..." I warned. He looked at me and held up his middle finger, blowing on it like a smoking gun. He took off, ass sliding down the banister at a fast rate of speed. When he got to the bottom he crashed onto the floor. He grabbed his crotch and began to scream.

"Crap, crap, crap!" I squealed. I pounded back down the steps, practically sliding in my stocking feet. I knelt down beside him. "Joe!"

He gargled miserably. "My...nuts..."

He held up a hand and I almost passed out. It was covered in blood. I struggled to keep from passing out.

"I'll--I'll call 911!" I said. I jumped up.

It was only after I had the phone in my hand and my finger poised over the '9' that I heard Joe laughing. I looked at him in surprise.

"Ketchup!" he said gleefully, sitting up.

"K--ketchup?" I said, my voice shaking. "I really thought you were hurt!"

"I know!" he shouted.

I walked back to him slowly. He was still laughing like a hyena. I don't know what made me do it. I regretted it. Well, only a little. I shot my foot back and kicked him in the side. He fell like a sack of potatoes.

"Damnit Ally! My rib!" he bellowed.

"Don't ever do that again or I will shoot ketchup up your nose until you die!" I said. I kicked him again and tore up the stairs.

Ten minutes later, I was washing my armpits with a washcloth when Joe walked into the bathroom. I was clad only in my bra and jeans. I wrapped an arm across my chest. Joe was holding his side.

"Don't worry, I've seen the orange pits," he said. He winced. "I just wanted to say that I was sorry."

I stared at him suspiciously, but he looked genuinely sorry. I dropped the cloth into the sink and sighed.

"Did I hurt you?"

"Just a bruise. Your feet aren't that big."

I smiled. "Joe, what is it about Krista that you like?"

"You seriously want to have this conversation when you're just wearing your boob-erang?"

"I just want to know."

"She's nice. And she's had it rough. I understand her."

"How do you have it rough?"

I had moved too fast in the conversation. Joe took a step back. "You better get cleaned up. I'll go tell Addy you're coming out."


He didn't answer. I turned back to the sink and looked in the mirror. I squinted and then stepped back and gasped.

It was small, but it was there.

My family had given me a gray hair.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The gray hair had freaked me out and distracted me. I had tried covering it with mascara, but I only made a huge mess. I desperately wanted to run to the drug store and get some hair dye, but I knew Addy's group was coming soon.

It was with great reluctance that I combed over the offending gray intruder and put on one of Addy's old shirts. I was half-way down the stairs, wondering if I'd see more gray under natural lighting, when the front door banged open. Joe ran in, wild-eyed and still clutching his side.

"Help!" he cried.

I put my hand on my hip. "Joe, I might have fallen for it once today, but I'll be damned if I'm falling for it a--"

"It's Addy! She--"

"Joe, that's not funny!" I snapped. "It was bad enough you did the ketchup thing but--"

Joe was practically near tears. "I'm serious! She doubled over and something's wrong! I think it's the baby or something. Call 911. I'm going back out!"

He didn't wait for an answer. I seemed frozen on the stairs, my heart thumping in my chest.

I don't know what made me jump into action. I jumped some stairs and grabbed the living room phone. I was already dialing as I ran outside.

Off in the distance, I could see Joe kneeling over Addy. I ran towards them.

"911, please state your emergency."

"There's a woman," I said breathlessly. "She's pregnant and she's doubled-over. She's laying in the grass and I need an ambulance."

"How old is the woman?"

I drew a blank. "I dunno! Like fifty?"

"Is she conscious?"

"Joe, is she conscious?" He looked up at me and nodded.

"Yes," I said. I looked down. Addy's face was contorted in pain.


I squinted up at the house and rambled off the address.

"Is she bleeding?"

"Addy, are you bleeding?" I asked.

She sucked in a breath. "I don't know," she whispered. Her hair clung to her forehead. She had begun to shake. Meanwhile, tears dripped down Joe's face. He held onto her shoulders and hugged her.

"It's okay. You and your baby will be okay," he said. He looked at me desperately. "Right, Ally? Right?"

My mouth was dry. The 911 operator was giving me instructions and I felt weak-kneed and incapable. We needed Kevin. We needed Mason.

"Ally?" Joe said, his voice cracking. I blinked rapidly.

"Right," I said aloud.

But on the inside, I wasn't feeling so confident.