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James and Blake

James and Blake

Brantford, Canada
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About the author

Lindsay Blake co-authored the award winning book "Act Here. Love Now". (Youth With A Mission, 2011).

A former journalist and photographer for the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, her work has also appeared in publications including The Omaha World Herald, Family Ties Magazine, and on several blog sites.

Her bachelor of arts in studio art photography and minor in communications Journalism was received from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also received an associates of art in mass communication from the University of the Nations.

Lindsay’s dream list is 100 deep. She has traveled to over 32 countries caring for others and exploring our beautiful planet. She’s jumped out of a plane, lived in a mud hut in South Sudan, nearly died from a tape worm in Pakistan, and dreams of flying to outer space. She’s shaved her head twice “just because”.

Lindsay currently lives the good life in Omaha, Nebraska with her and son, Carsen Warner.


Layne James is an introvert who spends as much time as she can reading, writing, and drinking wine. She loves her husband, her sister, and her heart friends fiercely. 

She has been writing since she could hold a pen and has been published in numerous newspapers and blogs over the last decade. 

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Lindsay Grimes

Lindsay Grimes

Omaha, Nebraska

Lindsay Blake co-authored the award winning book Act Here. Love Now. (Youth With A Mission, 2011).

A former journalist and photographer for the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, her work has also appeared in publications including The Omaha World Herald, Family Ties Magazine, and on several blog sites.

Her bachelor of arts in studio art photography and minor in communications Journalism was received from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also received an associates of art in mass communication from the University of the Nations.

Lindsay’s dream list is 100 deep. She has traveled to over 32 countries caring for others and exploring our beautiful planet. She’s jumped out of a plane, lived in a mud hut in South Sudan, nearly died from a tape worm in Pakistan, and dreams of flying to outer space. She’s shaved her head twice “just because”.

Lindsay currently lives the good life in Omaha, Nebraska with her son, Carsen Warner.

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Success! Remember Us has already sold 267 pre-orders , was pitched to 96 publishers , and will be published by Morgan James .
Morgan James logo

$15 the digital

31 readers

For all you out there heading somewhere tropical with your e-reader for the winter, this special digital edition is just for you!

Ebook included

$17 the basic

87 readers

Receive your copy of "Remember Us." (To be read with hot chocolate, wine, or coffee and a blanket only.)

1 copy

$4 shipping

$25 the autographed

58 readers

Receive your very own limited edition signed copy of "Remember Us." Lindsay Blake or Layne James will personalize your copy before sending directly to you.

1 copy + ebook included

Free shipping

$34 the me + you

3 readers

Buy one for yourself and one to share because friendships matter.

We'll make sure these are autographed too.

2 copies + ebook included

$6 shipping

$85 the friendly

10 readers

If you buy this book for yourself and four of your friends/sisters, we'll make sure to have a character in our second book named after you.

5 copies

$15 shipping

$200 the party

1 reader

If you and your entire book club buy our book, we'll try our hardest to make an appearance at a meeting - especially if you serve us wine! If we live in a different country/state than you, we can still skype in and answer any/all questions you may have.

There's a lot of room for discussion between the pages of this book!

FREE shipping with this one and it includes a digital copy with every hard copy of the book.

10 copies + ebook included

Free shipping

$500 the superfan

1 reader

Lindsay Blake or Layne James will autograph 25 copies of "Remember Us" before sending them directly to you with a personalized thank you note.

You will also receive a lifetime of our gratitude for investing in our dreams. Thank you so much for your support and helping this book reach the masses!

Oh, AND we should mention that we will name a main character after you in one of our upcoming books.

25 copies + ebook included

Free shipping

Remember Us

A humorous & poignant story about family - explores love, loss, & the unexpected beauty of forgiveness where "Parenthood" meets "This is Us" with a side of "Arrested Development" dysfunction.

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Literary Fiction Family
96,148 words
100% complete
13 publishers interested


"Remember Us" centers around the Hamiltons and commences thirteen years after Bernice, formally known as Mom, walked out of their lives without a word.

When 25-year-old Ben calls his twin and best friend, Reese, to tell her their father Carl has cancer, she drops everything and races back to their childhood home in Nebraska. Bernice shows up unannounced on the doorstep a few days later at 10 p.m. exactly with three suitcases, her pet chihuahua Rocky sitting high in her fuchsia purse, and mascara running down both her cheeks.

She said she came to be helpful.

Remember Us chronicles the Hamiltons through the next three months as they begrudgingly grow reacquainted with each other. 

At its core, "Remember Us" explores forgiveness, love, loss, and the unexpected beauty of the people who share the same DNA.


Character List:
- Reese Hamilton (protagonist) is a 25-year-old photographer who works with her best friend Charlie in his Atlanta-based media company. She isn’t close to either of her parents because of their decade of absenteeism.
- Carl, her father, was diagnosed with cancer nine months before the story opens.
- Bernice, her mom, left when Reese was 12, but reappears when she learns Carl is sick.
- Ben is Reese’s twin brother; the two of them are quite close.
- Charlie grew up as the Hamilton’s neighbor and is the same age as the twins. He and Reese attended college together, and Reese joined his media business a few months after graduation.
- Blake is a writer. He and Reese met when she was in Ireland three years previously on a photo shoot. They have written letters ever since.

Setting: Modern-day Omaha.

Themes: Family, Forgiveness, Identity

Remember Us centers around the Hamiltons and commences thirteen years after Bernice, formally known as Mom, walked out of their lives without a word.

When 25-year-old Ben calls his twin and best friend, Reese, to tell her their father Carl has cancer, she drops everything and races back to their childhood home in Nebraska. Bernice shows up unannounced on the doorstep a few days later.

Remember Us is written in first-person from Reese, Bernice, and Blake’s POV and chronicles the Hamiltons through the next three months as they begrudgingly grow reacquainted with each other.

The book opens with Carl’s recovery journey and a lot of anger from Carl and Reese over Bernice’s reappearance. We eventually learn that Ben has previously forgiven and reconciled with his mother.

We’ve watched Carl slowly soften towards Bernice through the chapters and, with the added perspective of his near-death, the two of them reconcile. Once Carl is declared healthy, he asks his children and Bernice to accompany him on a road trip to see Mt. Rushmore and a Cubs game, something he’d promised them years before. Reese alone struggles to forgive or connect with her mother, but she continues to stay with the family for the trip. We learn she’s been having a hard time in her job with Charlie, as people want to hire the company but want Charlie to shoot instead of her.

Blake accompanies the Hamiltons on their adventure. The journey becomes ridiculous as the ladies hijacks the trip for a visit to the Grand Canyon. We find out more about Carl and Bernice’s separation and to find out the rest, well, I guess you'll need to read the book.


We can see this book being popular in book clubs everywhere. Everyone has a family and with the span of ages in "Remember Us",  it will be read by ages 20-70 around the world.


Blake & Beckner have a website,, Twitter (@blakeandbeckner), and Instagram (@blakeandbeckner). Their website has a blog that they actively write on and direct their readers to.

Layne James also has an Instagram account (@jonolaynie) and a Facebook page.

Lindsay Blake has an Instagram account (@lindsayblake), a Twitter account (@lindsayblake) and a Facebook page.

Blake & Beckner have also put together a Launch Team of 10+ committed readers to help promote their Publishizer campaign.


"Remember Us" has similar familial themes to Jonathan Tropper’s "This Is Where I Leave You" (Penguin Publishing Group, 2010) and Celeste Ng's "Everything I Never Told You" (Penguin Books, 2014). 

With its light tone, punchy dialogue, and depth of relationship, however, the story of the Hamiltons stands on its own.

13 publishers interested
Black Rose Writing logo Black Rose Writing

500 copies • Partial manuscript • Looking for fiction, non-fiction, and children's book genres, all having one thing in common: an individual's originality and hardship.
Black Rose Writing is an independent publishing house that strongly believes in developing a personal relationship with their authors. The Texas-based publishing company doesn't see authors as clients or just another number on a page, but rather as individual people who deserve an honest review of their material and to be paid traditional royalties without ever paying any fees to be published. We are proud members of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association), a recognized ITW (International Thriller Writers) publisher, members of Publishers Marketplace, and currently serving on the Ingram Publisher Advisory Board.

Traditional publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Sports & Outdoors

United States, Canada, United Kingdom

The Story Plant logo The Story Plant

500 copies • Completed manuscript • Looking for fiction.
The Story Plant was founded in 2008 by two long-term industry professionals, Lou Aronica and Peter Miller. From the start, the company has been dedicated to publishing quality fiction and to developing authors. Our books regularly receive rave reviews and since our launch, nearly a third of our novels have appeared in the top 100 of one major bestseller list or another – and often several at once.The Story Plant has an absolute dedication to its authors. Both Aronica and Maxwell are novelists as well, and they understand the desires, needs, and insecurities of writers at the most personal level.

Traditional publisher

Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense


Anaphora Literary Press logo Anaphora Literary Press

250 copies • Partial manuscript.
Anaphora Literary Press was started in 2009 and publishes fiction, short stories, creative and non-fiction books. Anaphora has exhibited its titles at SIBA, ALA, SAMLA, and many other international conventions. Services include book trailers, press releases, merchandise design, book review (free in pdf/epub) submissions, proofreading, formatting, design, LCCN/ISBN assignment, international distribution, art creation, ebook (Kindle, EBSCO, ProQuest)/ softcover/ hardcover editions, and dozens of other components included in the basic package.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Austin Brothers Publishing logo Austin Brothers Publishing

100 copies • Partial manuscript.
Austin Brothers Publishing provides all the services of a traditional publisher, working in partnership with the author, to create the book the author desires. Our strength is the ability to fill any role you might have, including ghostwriting, helping you complete a manuscript, publishing, printing, distribution, or any service you might need to complete your book. Our process is determined by your needs. If you want assistance with self-publishing we can help.

Hybrid publisher

Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Travel

United States

HigherLife logo HigherLife

500 copies • Completed manuscript.
HigherLife allows authors to retain all your publishing rights and you pay no publishing fee. Your only cost is to purchase at least 2,500 copies of your book from the initial press run, and this cost typically amounts to a 60%-80% discount off retail. You benefit from a full publishing team of experts: editors, designers, publishing and marketing strategists, copyeditors, copywriters, who know how to take your message and craft it as well as any New York Times best-selling publishing house would do.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future


i2i Publishing logo i2i Publishing

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
i2i Publishing was founded by Lionel Ross and asks for a small financial contribution towards costs.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Society & Culture


Koehler Books logo Koehler Books

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
Koehler Books is an Indie publisher based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Our team of dedicated professionals promises you a holistic publishing experience where you'll receive our full attention, collaboration, and coaching every step of the way. We offer two publishing models: a traditional non-fee model for the highest quality work, as well as a co-publishing model that includes creative development fees for emerging authors. Our titles are broad-based and include nearly every major non-fiction and fiction genre.

Hybrid publisher

Commercial Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, LGBT Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Mind & Body, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Women's Fiction, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Communication Skills, Corporate Culture, Management & Leadership, Marketing & Sales, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Sex & Relationships, Sports & Outdoors, Science Fiction & Humour


Mascot Books logo Mascot Books

Mascot Books is a full-service hybrid publisher dedicated to helping authors at all stages of their publishing journey create a high-quality printed or digital book that matches their vision. With comprehensive editorial, design, marketing, production, and distribution services, our authors have the support of an experienced publishing team while still retaining one of the highest royalty percentages in the business.

Hybrid publisher

All categories

Morgan James logo Morgan James

500 copies • Partial manuscript • Looking for entrepreneurship, business, self-help, and personal growth.

Morgan James Publishing has revolutionized book publishing—from the author’s standpoint, earning 29 NY Times and over 100 USA Today and Wall Street Journal best sellers. We teach authors strategies to leverage their books and grow their businesses—adding value while staying out of the way. Evidenced by more Major Media best sellers than most publishers our size. Regularly ranked by Publishers Weekly as the most recognized and one of the fastest-growing publishers in the nation, Morgan James is reported to be “the future of publishing.”

Hybrid publisher

All categories


Next Chapter logo Next Chapter

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
Next Chapter is a Rapid Versatile Publisher (RVP) that combines the professionalism and quality of traditional publishing with the creative freedom of independent publishing. We have published dozens of bestsellers, and take pride in the transparency of our business. There are no hidden fees or small print. Join us today and take your writing career to the next level.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


WiDo Publishing / E.L. Marker logo WiDo Publishing / E.L. Marker

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
E.L. Marker™, WiDo Publishing’s new imprint, is a hybrid publisher established to meet the needs of authors in a changing publishing climate. Now, more than ever, writers are seeking a blend between self-publishing and traditional publishing. They want an option that offers the higher royalties and greater control associated with self- publishing, while enjoying the prestige and quality provided by a traditional publisher.

Hybrid publisher

Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Travel


Bookmobile logo Bookmobile

100 copies • Partial manuscript.
Bookmobile provides book printing, graphic design, and other resources to support book publishers in an ever-changing environment. Superior quality, excellent customer service, flexibility, and timely turnarounds have attracted nearly 1,000 satisfied clients to Bookmobile, including trade houses, university presses, independent publishers, museums, galleries, artists, and more. In addition, we manage eBook conversions and produce galleys, and regularly provide short-run reprints of 750 copies or fewer for major publishers such as Graywolf Press.

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Colborne Communications logo Colborne Communications

Colborne Communications is a professional editing and publishing services company based in Toronto. Since 1977, we have been providing editing, writing, proofreading, indexing, and research services to a variety of individual, corporate, and government clients, including all of Canada's major publishers.

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Remember Us


“Hi,” she whispered and I blacked out, standing straight up as her pinked mouth moved and the wind blew and my heart crimped along the edges. I should have slammed the door in her face, yelled profanities at the closed structure afterwards, but instead I stood frozen, arm suspended above the handle.

The top of my head tingled. This is a nightmare. And then I thought I hate her.

“I took a taxi, well a plane first, I came to help you know,” dark blonde hair lay in drenched strands plastered around her face; black lines of mascara streaked down each of her cheeks. She was backlit by the porch, by the rain, and I shuddered. “I’m here to help.”

It was 10 p.m. exactly - I remembered seeing the green numbers on the microwave as I’d scooted, confused, through the kitchen to answer the insistent doorbell before it woke him.

The storm pounded to the tune inside me, but I remained a statue, the seconds taut between us.

“Can I,” her voice squeaked. “Can I come in?” Still I stared, all ability to form syllables lost along the distant space of the more than ten years since we’d last been in this place together.

There was a movement at her side and a furry, barking head poked itself from her fuschia purse and into the porch light. She tugged the chihuahua out with ringed hands and shoved the offensive creature toward my face.

“This is Rocky.”

My insides screamed but as I opened my mouth, finally finding my words, there was a pressure on my elbow where Ben had presented himself.

“You need to get out of the rain,” he reached for her three large suitcases as he glanced at me. We shot each other telepathic messages until he shrugged and widened the door, inviting her inside with a wave.

As they melted into the house behind me, I moved into the rain and sat onto the wet porch as if I could float away on the sea of the storm.


I’d spent the entire 8-hour plane ride back to Omaha drinking mimosas, one after the other like cheap beads tucked along a string, and wondering how I could fix the chaos that was my life.

I’d been back for a few days, but hadn’t found the crux of the information I so desperately needed.

“Tell me again how you found out Dad was sick?” It was easiest to direct my anger at my 25-year-old twin.

The oppressive green walls of our childhood kitchen had not faded with time, and I sat at the scratched oak table with Ben pestering him for answers yet again. This had become a ritual since I barreled into town the previous week, but his explanations never seemed to satisfy.

“Reese, we’ve been over this. I found a dozen pill bottles in his medicine cabinet. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something was up.” My brother leaned back in his chair and exhaled. His espresso-colored hair stuck up at different angles, a sea of exclamation marks.

“But why were you going through his medicine cabinet in the first place?”

He tapped out a beat on the table in front of him and smiled. “Would you rather me tell you I needed a band-aid or are you okay with the fact I always go through people’s cabinets when I visit?”

“You count moving back in with Dad for two whole months as a visit then?”

“Don’t nitpick my terminology, sister. Your twenty questions are almost up. And then it’s my turn, I have some questions for you about Charlie.” Behind the black frames, his dark eyes were infuriatingly calm. We’d looked at each other like this so many times through the years, his stormy eyes as familiar to me as my own, our prolonged stare full of unspoken questions and an overarching understanding, the mountain of unsaid things between us prodigious and daunting. I sighed and shook my head.

“Ben, don’t be lame. This is serious.”

“Okay, actually, I’ll save us both time. Let’s re-cap for the upteenth time. My company is starting a branch here in Omaha. You do remember I work for a marketing firm?”

“I will not deign to answer such ridiculous queries,” I punched his arm.

“Right, well, said Big Deal Marketing firm sent me over to little ‘ole Omaha to be the project manager for our latest plant since I’m a native and ‘know the vibe.’ Maya came with me for the first week, because we hadn’t been up to see Dad since Christmas, and we like to come a couple of times a year anyway. You know, like kids do.”

“Don’t. Just don’t.”

“So here we were. Here, also, were the pills and a little thing called cancer which Dad had hidden from all of us. I called you right away. Anyway, he’s at the end of his treatments. I knew even though ...” Ben trailed off at the sounds of bustling behind me.

The determined click of heels and smell of wisteria meant I didn’t need to turn around to know whom I’d see.

It had been two days since Bernice, formerly known as Mom, had shown up like an apparition - more like a nightmare - in the night. I couldn’t stand the sight of her.

The last two days had been a dance of avoidance between the two of us. The day before she’d waited outside the bathroom for me and even at 7 in the morning her slightly chubby five-foot, two-inch frame was bejeweled from head to toe. Her blonde bob was coiffed into big curls, tightly sprayed. I tripped down the hallway in my hurry to escape.

“I only want to help.” Her hopeful yells chased me down the hall in surround-sound.

Her version of being useful was to give us each worried looks in turn and spend hours in the kitchen concocting a variety of casseroles, soups, and hams. She was from Mississippi and her love language was of the greasy variety.

We didn’t invite Bernice, didn’t expect to see her, but I wasn’t accounting for her strength of personality, her need to be at the center of any drama. Lord knows, she loves to be needed. I was still confused how she found out about Dad in the first place, but didn’t have the energy to ask.

She ran toward Ben with a weepy look and open arms, and I left.

I ignored Dad’s prone figure on the couch and headed outdoors.

The air was warm, dense, and replete with the sounds of insects chattering. I plopped onto the porch swing and gave myself a push. I had always loved our front porch, it had been my favored escape for as long as I could remember. When things were tense between my parents or when everyone had been in the house for hours glancing through each other rather than at them, I’d abscond being a Hamilton and look for better things outside our walls.

I’d sneak out in the summer, late at night to be alone and breathe in the air of the stars and dream about my new life and my new family far away from Omaha. Vines grew along the western side of the porch, sprawling, darkened in the golden hues of the late afternoon light.

My first and only kiss for a long time was with Carsen Finkle, after a swim meet in the fifth grade, right outside the pool where I’d just won my heat. But in subsequent years, I’d had my share of kisses on this porch. The summer of my eighth grade year, after Bernice left, I made out with the entire track and field team on this porch. Ben finally put a stop to it, storming out and ordering Philip Dyer to go home and tell his friends none of them were welcome to come back.

Ben grew more protective after our parents split. Dad worked later and later at the office, so it was Ben who cooked our dinners and biked the packages of hotdogs and macaroni and cheese home from the grocery store.

Dad ate his dinner cold when he finally made his way home, long after Ben and I had headed upstairs to our separate rooms, separate lives. I knew this because I once went back downstairs to talk to him after I heard the door close firmly upon his entrance, a bolded period at the end of a sentence.

I descended the steps covertly and paused in the kitchen doorway. The tiles were cold beneath my toes, the only part of me brave enough to enter the room. There was my father, head bowed, pushing around the congealed dinner we’d left him hours earlier. My mother had bought us a brand new set of bright red plates around the time I was five, she said it gave our family a bit of class and energy all at once. That night Dad’s tater tots and pizza looked an offensive shade of yellow against the ruby-tinted circle before him.

He held the edges of the cheery plate, and it wasn’t until I moved closer that I saw the tears at the edges of his eyes, vivid and insistent. I turned on my heels and left without a word. He noticed neither my presence nor my absence. In later years, Ben and I dubbed our teenage years “The Black Hole with Dad.” Even before she left, he’d grown absent, cool, distant.

I came home early from school a week later, not bothering to excuse myself at the principal’s office. I couldn’t be at school another second, so I instructed Ben and Charlie to tell the teachers I was sick if they asked and bolted home on my bike.

Dad’s truck was parked out front and I raced inside, suddenly cheerful at the thought of a whole afternoon with my father. He stood in the kitchen, with his back to me, packing up the red plates. One after the other, he settled them into a large brown box. When he got to the last plate, he held it for so long I thought he’d fallen asleep, but without warning, he turned and threw it at the far wall, shoulders heaving, sobs leaving his body in stuttered cadence.

The crash of it hitting the corner sounded deafeningly through the afternoon quiet of our kitchen. I jumped.

He propped himself against the counter, as if the granite top would give him the strength he needed for a lifetime alone.

I moved forward then, tentatively reached to pat his back and convey that I, too, felt weak, let loose.


After a long pause, he turned and gave me a forced smile.

“Hey kiddo.”

With that he shuffled over to the stacked boxes. He walked with a slow limp, and I noticed grey at his temples for the first time.

“Wait!” I raced to where he’d halted in the doorway.

“I want two of them.” I placed one of the plates on the kitchen table and aimed the other one at the facing wall.

“This sucks.” I threw the red plate hard and watched it fracture into its new configuration.

“Reese, honey,” I whipped around fiercely, and he stopped himself.

We stared at each other over the expanse of the kitchen.

Finally, “I’ll sweep it up later. Be careful for now, don’t walk around on that side of the kitchen in your socks.”

He didn’t ask me about school or where Ben was.

As he escorted off our dishware, I took the second red plate up to my room and reverentially placed it beneath my second pillow, the serene pink roses on my pillowcase reassuring any viewers all was ordinary.



Ben stood in my bedroom doorway, his frame shadowed in the hallway beyond. The sounds of the kitchen television floated up to the second story. His face was darkened, but I could see the lines of hope, worry, tiredness, spreading themselves across his forehead.

“Reese?” I didn’t realize I hadn’t answered and wondered how many seconds or minutes had passed while he stood there, waiting. I motioned him in without words.

When Ben and I were kids, I’d sneak into his room almost every night after Mom and Dad tucked us into bed. We needed to dissect the events of the day. We were as quiet as could be, but almost nightly Dad would yell from the bottom of the steps for us to get back into our own beds. The ritual stopped sometime in our early teenage years, when our family structure had disintegrated into a hundred unrecognizable pieces, and communication had been relegated to the category of artifacts.

Ben had lugged the cumbersome box TV from the basement and placed it on my desk. I couldn’t see which VHS sat on top with a bag of M&Ms and a bowl of popcorn, didn’t ask what it was, but I wasn’t surprised when Hayley Mills came to life across the screen.

The Parent Trap was Ben’s favorite childhood movie, and I pompously indulged him with a viewing when I could. It was a treat generally reserved for the rare Christmas I deigned to come home, but it had been three years since that happened.

Ben has always been fascinated with other twins’ stories, even fictional ones, and therein lies the only explanation I can find for his long-standing loyalty to this movie.

His girlfriend, Maya, said his guilty pleasure was cute.

I teased him that Jung and Freud would point out the obvious - he had a subconscious drive to lead our parents back to one another, but he shrugged it off.

“Thanks for this,” Ben lobbed a fuzzy blanket at my head.

We leaned against the pillows and drifted back to California 1961.


I responded to work emails all morning, and by mid-afternoon, I drifted through the silent house to the kitchen. The sun slanted sideways through the windows creating a friendly pool of light on the counter where Ben had meticulously lined a row of full shot glasses across the length of the granite.

“Drinking again, brother?”

“Please darling, I never stopped.” I rolled my eyes at his bow tie and the two empty shot glasses off to the side.

He motioned for me to sit down and before I could refuse, he pulled a package out from under the counter.

“What’s that?”

“It’s for you, and here’s how this will work. I’m going to ask you a question and you will tell me an answer. For the sake of your conscience and liver, I recommend the truth. I am Sherlock Holmes. We will drink if I think you’re lying.”

“Umm, I’m Sherlock. You’re Watson, and I’m not playing.” I scrunched up my nose.

“As I was saying, when all the shots are gone and the whole truth is out and about, you may have your precious package. By the way, it’s heavy - could it be gold? Clearly it’s gold, it was mailed three days ago and expedited. Please do introduce me to Croesus when you get a chance.”

“Bennjjjjiiii. Your absurd game doesn’t even make sense, you weirdo.” I tugged at the edges of my t-shirt. “And why aren’t you at work?”

He took a slow sip of the water with his left hand and ignored my eye rolls.

“I took off early. This is Scotch, rum, bourbon, some of Dad’s fancy Irish whiskey, vodka, gin, and tequila. As you can see, I’ve arranged them from lightest to darkest, but we may proceed in any order you’d like. This one here is water; you’re welcome.” He strummed his fingers along the counter and paused for effect. “For example, how is Charlie? I only hear from him on occasion, and you were with him up until two weeks ago. What’s happening with my brother? Don’t be pithy.”

“He’s not your brother, you nob.”

“Oh, but he is. As our lifetime neighbor and subsequent best friend, he is better than any brother Carl and Bernice could have given me.”

“Charlie is, you know, Charlie. He’s getting jobs left and right. He’s full of charm and natural talent. Everyone loves him. Everyone wants him. He has enough ideas for the next five years and is always on the lookout for something new. He only launched the media company two years ago, but he’s ready to add a video component to our team and a product line and, and, and. He’s great. May I have my package now?” I forced a polite smile.

“I need a re-cap. You two graduated photo school four years ago and got an internship or two together. Then you each set out to freelance on your own, but you signed up to work with him three months later. Am I missing anything?”

“Ben, you make it sound like I didn’t try. Three months is a long time and you don’t know everything that happened. You’re not always as smart as you think you are. Working with Charlie was the wise choice.” I reclined my arms on the counter.

“You mean the safe choice.”

“I mean the choice that made sense then.”

“And now? You’re content, working with him still? Are you considered partners or is he your boss? Actually, hold those answers. Which shot are we doing first?”

“Hey, that’s not fair - I answered your dumb question.”

“Aha, you did.”

“Ben! It’s three in the afternoon.”

“Reese, Reese, calm down. Alcohol should be consumed with joy, not angst. I’m thinking you’re thinking gin, so here you go.”

“You’re impossible.”

He successfully blocked my lunge toward the package and shook his head, nodding toward the drink.

“Bottoms up, babycakes.”

“Charlie is great, ecstatic actually. He loves that we work together, tells everyone we make the best team. And we do. He loves the fashion side of photography, so he’s in his element. By the time he’s 30, you can officially say your best friend is a big deal. He’s well on his way. Just remember you heard it from me first.”

“You’re still pulling the best friend card, are you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean it’s easy and a cop out. I’m both surprised and not surprised that after all these years you’re still trying to fly under the radar of the whole best friend notion. I thought you were better than such small-mindedness.”

“Now you’re making me angry. You don’t know anything about it.”

“Okay, fine. Are you happy?” He sounded somber.

“I mean, I’m happy. Of course. I’m a photographer traveling the world with my best friend. People would kill for my job. I am the poster child for a happy life.”

I batted my eyes and grabbed a full shot glass which I threw back without his nudging and continued. “I guess I always thought I would go a bit more in the documentary direction, be more gritty with my work, but that can come later. These photo shoots and experiences are invaluable and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I mean, I met and photographed Taylor Swift. I’m living anyone’s wildest dreams.”

“Wait what?” I took Ben’s brief interruption as an opportunity to snag another shot, and as I slammed the glass on the table, my cheeks flushed.

“Well, you know Charlie’s parents. They know everybody. So we got in as assistants on the shoot. It was small. But still.”

“Did you actually talk to Taylor? How have you never told me this before now?”

“I mean, no, but she said ‘Hi’ to Charlie right before the shoot. Of course, who could resist his handsome face? She probably wanted to date Charlie.”

“And then write a song about him.”

“She probably kissed him!”

Ben slid a shot glass of rum in my general direction and plowed forward.

“Sister dear, you’re looking a bit green and we are getting off track. Speaking of dating, are you and Charlie snogging?”

“What, are you Harry Potter now and is this rum?” My nose touched the glass. “You know I hate rum.”

“Then drink it fast. One, two, three, go.”

“No, I’m not dating or snogging Charlie! No. Not then. Not now. Wow, I’m feeling the gin.”

“Are you sure it’s not the rum?”

“He’s adorable. Brilliant. Hilarious. Too-much-to-handle. My best friend. Gorgeous. Have you ever noticed his lips? Of course you haven’t. Well I have, and Charlie Beck has great lips. Not that I’ve ever touched them. But they sure do look nice on his face. Only it’s not like that.” My sentences ran together.

“Then what is it like? I’m not an idiot. I know there’s always been a little something between you two. You’ve loved him forever; I knew it after the one Halloween party when the three of us dressed as the Three Amigos and sang ‘My Little Buttercup.’ I was Chevy Chase playing the piano and you two were Martin Short and Steve Martin singing. I saw you fall in love with him that night.”

“Sure, Dr. Phil. Sure.”

“Reese, mine eyes have seen the glory.”

“Maybe I have thought about settling down in a cottage built for two with him. So what! But Charlie will never, and I mean never like me like that. We are Snoopy and Charlie. Period.”

“Wait, are you Snoopy or are you Charlie?”

“I’m leaving.”

“Okay, okay, Snoopy, I didn’t mean to get your fur ruffled. But speaking of drinking...”

“I said nothing about drinking.”

“Here’s your Scotch. Drink it like a good girl.”

“He’s too busy becoming famous to think about love anyway. At least that’s what he tells me.”

“But you love him.”

“I mean. Whatever. We’re best friends. You’re best friends with him too - does that mean you’re going to marry him? Does Maya have a little competition? So you have noticed his lips. I’ll need another Scotch when I break the news to her; make it an entire bottle.”

“Your belligerence has earned you your fifth shot. Dealer’s choice. There’s a lot more where that comes from. Ah, the Irish whiskey, an excellent choice. Speaking of the Irish, how are things in Ireland these days?”

“Oh, ya know. Green and magical, as always.”

“So. Did you make any friends while you were over there? Anyone to write home about? Anyone special?”

“You are spectacularly annoying.”

“The fact that you just enunciated ‘spectacularly’ correctly lets me know it’s time for our next shot. Let’s go for the bourbon and save the vodka for a clean finish. So what’s up with Irish men sending you packages?”

“Oh wait, that’s from … He’s this guy I met when I was there three years ago. It’s not a big deal.”

“Sister, Irish Santa Claus beamed you a package from halfway around the globe. That’s not nothing.”

“Is it going to sound bad if I say we met at a pub?”

“Only if you had six shots with him. Keep going.”

“Well, he’s nice. And gentlemanly. Our age. He studied his undergrad at one of those proper schools, Oxford or Cambridge or something.”

“Oh, you mean Hogwarts?”

“He’s getting his Master’s in writing at some fancy university, and he lives on a sheep farm with his grandpa and dad.”

“You’re making this up. Sheep farming writer, yeah right. Take a shot, take two for that matter.”

“Whatever, Ben. He’s a really, really nice guy. A good guy.”

“He sounds boring.”

“Right? Only he’s hot. I mean not.” I blushed. “He’s smart, but he never talks down to me. He’s quirky and witty in an understated way. We hung out every day for two weeks straight when Charlie and I were there assisting for that Guinness shoot three years ago.”

“I’m sure Charlie loved him.”

“Well, they never met. Charlie doesn’t know about him. It never came up. He was busy during the trip, so I was busy. Blake, this guy, and I only got to hang out a couple of times on this past trek to Ireland before you called me back to the home front. Thanks for that, by the way.”

“You’ve been dating an Irish guy for three years, and you’ve never once mentioned him to dearest me or Charlie? Drink this vodka, and tell me exactly how hot he is.”

I took the glass, threw it back and continued. “Ughhh, no, we’re not dating. We’re letter writing. We’re friends. We’re nothing.”

“You’re ‘letter writing?’ What the hell does that even mean?”

“Like I said, he’s clever and wants to write for a living. You know how much I hate social media, so when we met three years ago, he asked if we could write letters, and I agreed. He said something like, ‘I find handwritten epistles of this variation modish in a manner little else in this frenetic world is.’ I didn’t understand half of it, but it sounded like fun.”

“Really, it did?”

“It is fun. Remember having pen-pals from South Africa in third grade? Blake and I have never even exchanged numbers; we thought it would be more real this way. And Blake is one of the nicest things in my life right now. It’s simple. He’s simple.”

“Can you use the word simple one more time. And there’s no love there? Reese, people don’t just write letters. Tell me you’ve kissed.”

“Well, don’t you ask a lot of questions.”

“So that’s a yes.”

I avoided eye contact, only smiled.

“How did this Blake get our Omaha address? That’s pretty creepy, Reese. Creepy Irish man who refuses to be on the grid knows where you live. I’m imagining a hobbit looming over me in my sleep tonight.”

“Hobbits are from New Zealand and leprechauns are from Ireland.”

“Well, technically ...”

“Shut up. Sending him my specific geographical location is a habit now. You know I travel a lot, so I have a stack of postcards in my purse. I send him one as soon as I land any place new I’ll be for more than two weeks. I think I even mailed it on my way to the airport when I left Ireland. Like I said, it’s uncomplicated. He’s probably been the most stable part of my last three years. Hey, what’s that?”

By the time Ben turned around, my package and I shoved past Bernice who stood like a fixture in the kitchen doorway.

“Don’t forget to hydrate,” Ben called after me.

I closed the door to my room with epic force, the noise reminding me of the headache that was slowly making its entrance. I settled into the middle of my sagging mattress and opened the package with more anticipation than I’d known in ages. A dear black box sat inside.

As I held my camera close, I allowed myself to rest in the peace of something familiar. It wasn’t until I grew aware of the wet on my hands, saw it on the black of my camera that I realized I was crying, sobbing really. I rocked back and forth, slowly taking it all in; an old friend had come to visit.

After a few moments, an hour maybe two, I noticed the protruding corner of something else in the bottom of the box. I pulled out a book and ran my fingers over the front cover, taking note of the bumps and worn edges. It was Tolkien; I never saw Blake without it. I opened the cover and skimmed the pages. It looked tired, with its pages yellowed from age. It smelled musty and keeping it flat was a chore, as its permanent place seemed to be his back pocket.

The inscription on the title page stopped me short:

To my dear, darling son. Blake, you ever bring me great joy. I love you everywhere and back. A billion times forever. Never forget. Love, Mum

p.s. remember
Not all those who wander are lost.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Courage is found in unlikely places.
Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.

And deeper in the box still, I saw a note, folded. I held my breath as I opened it. The sound of the paper unfolding sounded loudly into my room. Scrawled in dear, familiar writing, it simply said,

“Reese, I found your camera after you left the house in a hurry. Sorry it took so long to find its way back home. Please know you’re in my every thought. Know that I am here if you need me and when you’re ready. With hugs, B”

It was enough.

I laid back on my pillow, closed my eyes, and let my thoughts carry me to sleep.

When I woke up three hours later, I forgot for a moment that I was back in Omaha, that Bernice was in town, that life as I knew it was on a decided pause. For sixty seconds squished in a blissful row I was content, relishing in the feeling of a lazy afternoon and toasty covers.

And when I remembered, when it came back to me piece by painful piece, I went to find my brother.

“Want to go outside with me?”

We sat in our tree house until after sundown, poking sticks along the crevices of the wood. The two of us had built these four walls together one summer, all hammers, nails, and heart. Charlie was in acting camp that year and when he came home, we blindfolded him and marched him promptly to our beloved resort. It was our feeble attempt to imitate the Swiss Family Robinson, and I loved it more than I loved most people. We’d dragged an old rug out here, pieces of cloth had been hammered to the windows. I’d hung a shelf and snuck out a few of Dad’s books to brighten the space. The boys mocked my domesticity, but I spruced up our mini home with every treasure I could find. With Dad’s guidance we’d waterproofed our home away from home and even after all these years, the interior was as dry as straw. Now the decorations looked tired, put out. They added a wistful ambiance to our hideaway.

I imagine it was an hour before either of us even spoke and for once Ben broke the silence first.

“Remember that time you had a sleepover up here with Sarah and Natalia, and you wouldn’t let me come? So I snuck up after you were asleep and stayed just to prove myself to you.”

And so it began.

“Remember that time Uncle Paul brought us a birthday cake to the family reunion, only he’d forgotten to add sugar?” We stopped going to family functions around the time we were 11. First, because Mom was too busy to make it happen and Dad didn't even notice. Then because Mom left.

“He was always so strange. I always thought you looked a little like him.”

“Stop! Remember that time Mom was so angry that she threw both her shoes at the kitchen wall?”

“They were her red heels. She always had a thing for the loud colors. I think the marks are still on the wall.”

“Oh yeah, right by the hutch.”

“Remember that time we smoked a cigar with Anne in the field before prom?” There were no parents around to take photos, but we'd learned self-sufficiency, and shot an entire roll with Charlie the hour before prom. I went with Charlie, he'd broken up with his girlfriend the week before. I hung on his arm, ignoring the glares of his ex and her friends.

“My date wouldn’t kiss me the entire night. It sucked.”

“Speaking of proms you remember that time you went to prom with Cambria VanHolteren, and she tried to kiss you right in front of Bernice?” We both were laughing. “Or what about that time I caught you kissing Naomi out by the shed? I didn’t even know it was your first time. You kissed her a lot more after that. I always see her drinking gin at The Upstream in the Old Market any year we have Christmas in Omaha. I’m pretty sure she’s not over you yet.”

“Remember that time Andrew spent the summer here - the summer all his pants were too short, not the next year? We called him Tristan all summer just to mess with his head.”

“Remember that time I made you cry because I wouldn’t let you borrow my bike to go visit Jaylene?”

“Ughhh, you were the worst with bike sharing.”

We simultaneously hushed and stared at those stars.

The luminous fireballs held our united gaze, stalwart and true.

Even when the world was crumbling, falling into a thousand minuscule bits at my feet, those Midwestern stars were peace. They were home. And tonight, they were exactly what we needed.

Ben coughed. “I remember our parents laughing together late at night after we’d gone to bed. I remember Saturday morning snuggles and Sunday morning pancakes. I remember Dad filling the kitchen with Mom’s favorite flowers on their anniversary every single year and taking the day off work every year for her birthday. I remember Mom rubbing Dad’s shoulders after a long day at the office after we ate dinner.” He ended in a whisper.

“Ben, don’t.”

“Why do you refuse to re-live the happy moments from our family? You go about as if the joy we shared in droves during our earliest years was something contrived, ethereal, from someone else’s story, not yours.”

I squinted at him, unable to move.

Ben looked down at his hands before he continued. “I don’t understand why Mom left us - that’s something I can’t talk about with her, no matter how she tries to bring it up. But I refuse to accept that our lives have been all bad, as if we were the victims of some poorly-written novel. I remember us as a family.”

“Maybe we were, once upon a time. But now?” I held his gaze.

He shook his head and laid back down flat on his back.


“When are you leaving?” My voice rang tight.

Bernice, who’d been roosting atop the kitchen stool, looked startled and put down her pen.

“Well, honey, I only want to be helpful, so as long as your Dad is sick, I can be here to cook or run errands or take him to the doctor’s or whatever.”

“Ben’s here. He can do all those things,” My arms were statues across my chest.

“Uh, well, technically speaking maybe, but also I’m working.” He ignored the daggers I shot in his direction, grabbed a spoon and dug into his cottage cheese.

“Sweetie,” Bernice looked uncomfortable.

“Don’t call me that.”

“It makes sense for me to be here. You both need to work. I can work from here. It’s no bother for me, really.”

As Ben inched his way closer to my side, my nostrils expanded three sizes.

“It made sense for you to be here before too, but where were you then?”

“Maybe I should have come back sooner.” Bernice looked miserable.

“Maybe?” The snarl shot around the room.

“Reese, honey, I did try, but ...” her lips trembled.

“No, you clearly didn’t.” I stomped away.


And just like that, we were transported back to square one.

As the silence grew, so did the tension. I realized the weight of why we were together, in every inch between us. I stood beside Ben in the unfriendly hallway outside Dad’s hospital room, praying I wouldn’t need to ask him.

Ben held my gaze for what seemed like hours, trying to find the words.

“How bad is Dad?”

“We’re still waiting on the test results. But Dad’s a fighter. He’ll bounce back.” Ben was forever positive, overly optimistic. My throat throbbed from the stream of questions I wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

I’d escaped that morning to look for tickets to fly back to Charlie and enjoy some alone time. In that infinitesimal space, Dad passed out and fell down the stairs. And with my phone on a blissful silence, it took them hours to reach me.

We weren’t yet sure if it was a full-blown relapse or something minor.

“Dad’s not invincible, Ben.”

“The Superman t-shirt he’s wearing under his gown tells me otherwise. He’s going to be okay, Reese.” Ben thought he looked like Superman. He did look like Superman, so Clark Kent was forever his superhero of choice. He hugged me again, but I didn’t hug him back.
I hated placation.

The air was stale and the insistent beeping of the machines annoyed me at every turn. The movement of nurses and fellow patients bustling up and down the hallway provided a hum of activity for any hour of the day or night.

Bernice and Ben went back to the house each night, but I refused what felt like solace and the cowardly way out. I hadn’t left the hospital since I arrived. I had no concept of time and hovered in a state of exhaustion and constant worry. Night after night, I arranged myself into the blue chair by the head of Dad’s bed. Sometimes I entered some version of sleep, other times I studied my sleeping father and asked myself how we’d gotten here.The long hours I spent staring at my sleeping father were easily the most time we’d spent together in the last decade.

Dad looked tiny in his hospital bed, pale and fragile. The wires crossed over his body were a neutralizer between the two of us and our demons.

Dad stirred. I was the only one in the room and he rolled over and stared at me. He reached his hand across the bed and held mine fast. I wanted to pull away, but accepted the reach of his hand passively. “I need a notebook.”


“I need to write down a few thoughts,” he coughed.

“Fine, I’ll ask Ben to grab one on his way here after work.”

“Fine,” he closed his eyes again.

The one time Dad visited me in Atlanta, he, Charlie and I spent the entire weekend talking about the Braves. Baseball ran thicker than blood in our family, so we went and saw a game which was the solitary highlight of my adult life with my father.

“That was nice,” Charlie stood with me on the street as we waved Dad goodbye.

“Uh, were you in the same universe as me? That was ridiculous. He didn’t even ask one thing about my life or job here in Atlanta.” I crossed my arms and didn’t look up at Charlie.

“Reese, I think he was trying.” After spending all those years with my family, I was shocked at his ignorance.

It was easier to talk about baseball than it, easier to keep the conversation light than to deal with the accretion of resentments that lay heaped in disarray between us.

And I don’t think Dad even noticed the difference, knew that there was a Before, an After.

It was as if, somewhere along the way, he’d completely disconnected the father veins inside his brain. He could have been the mailman I saw in passing every day. It was as if he’d forgotten what happened between us, as if he was struck with selective amnesia.


When Charlie, Ben and I were little, we played superheroes more than we played all our other pretend games combined. We’d make our visiting cousins sit by the maple tree for hours, ropes flung all around them, while Ben and I fought off the dark villains side by side.

That’s what I thought about on those days as we sat on either side of Dad’s bed, taking turns fetching the paper or helping him walk down the hall. He didn’t need both of us to help, but it made us feel better, made me feel better.

I wished that we - Ben and I  - could put on our capes once more and fight off the litany of bad days to give him a whole string of great ones from now until forever and ever, amen. I wished for it with all my might.

The doctors didn’t say much, and I became paralyzed, fixated on the reality of death. It was as if, for the first time, I allowed myself to acknowledge there truly was an end in this life.

The knowledge settled in my bones, seducing me with the notion of staying here, caught in time, of family too, forever.

“We need an army of stormtroopers to rescue Dad.” Ben pushed his glasses toward his face as Dad slept under a blue blanket between us. It was past my bedtime too, but I was wide awake. My eyes hurt and there was a crick in the confines of my neck which I massaged at intervals.

“Well, strictly speaking, I don’t think we’d want stormtroopers,” I offered him a superior expression and shook my head.

“Ummm, I am not turning away any help,” he waved his hand over Dad’s insensate form.

“Stormtroopers are part of the evil empire, Ben.”

“Wait, what? I thought they were good.” His eyes were wide.

“Stormtroopers were only 'good' for episode 1, 2, and half of 3.”

“Well what happened in the second half of 3?” He kicked off his shoes and placed his patterned socks on the end of the bed.

“They turned on the Jedi halfway through 3.”

“So they were bad halfway through 3 until forever?”

“Yes. Do you not pay attention when you watch these movies every year?”

“Who says I watch them every year?”

“You know, May the 4th be with you? Revenge of the 5th? Never mind. They were clones in 6, 7, and 8. But in the new movie they aren't clones anymore. They are normal people who were brainwashed since childhood.”


“The stormtroopers. Do you really not know this stuff?” He put his hands on his head, his slim fingers stark and white against his dark hair. Ben smirked and gave me a slow wink.

“Maybe I was testing you.” He held my gaze, and I squinted at him to gauge his sincerity. “Because what Dad really needs is The Force.” He rolled up his plaid sleeves, a giveaway that he was getting serious.

“Ben, I don’t care. I’m suddenly exhausted.” Ben liked to show off his smarts on any subject and now that I knew he’d been kidding, this wasn’t a hornet’s nest I wanted to disturb.

“Important it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I’m just saying if we’re going to make a galaxy-wide plan for Dad, we’re going with mine.”

“Your what?”

“Come on Reese. Stay with me. The Force. Dad needs The Force.”

“Hmmmmm.” I rotated my neck back and forth steadily.

“Yoda? Luke Skywalker? Obi Wan? The Force is a metaphysical and ubiquitous power.”

“Isn’t Luke a twin?”

“Yeah, with Leia.”

“Luke and Leia Skywalker.”

“Not really.”

“Not really what?”

“Technically Leia’s last name is Organa. And she is a princess.”

“Okay, I knew that. All hail Carrie Fisher.”

“But she is badass because later she becomes a general.”

“I can be badass.”

“She lost everything and was never once tempted by the Dark Side.”

“I can be badass.”

“You already are.” He leaned forward and patted me on the head.


We went to church when we were growing up, some Sundays, most Sundays. It was a fuzzy memory that held little beyond the story of Noah and his boat. But what I vividly recalled was Dad dressing us on Sunday mornings, year in and year out until we were old enough to dress ourselves.

While Bernice declared a coup on the parameters of their bedroom and the bathroom on church mornings, Dad was in charge of making sure we wouldn’t be visiting God with dirty ears.

Dad made a game with us about picking out our clothes. He’d pick an item, then we’d pick an item until we had the entire ensemble in order, ready to march straight to heaven’s gate.

“Well, aren’t you three just pleased as punch,” Mom would say with a shake of her blond head and a pink-lipsticked smile. She pursed her lips at our plaids and patterns, our bright colors and accessories, but she never intervened.

She always wore heels to church, a flowered dress, an extraneous squirt of hairspray to fortify her curls on high.

She smelled differently on Sundays, and I melted into the sturdy comfort of Chanel N°5, week after week. The only other times she brought out the golden bottle was on very special occasions, holidays, or in February on Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Even after all these years, I would catch a poignant whiff of Chanel from a stranger on the street or at a restaurant and float back twenty years to a sense of love, security, and home.

While she was getting ready, I’d sit on the edge of her bed for an hour straight as she curled her hair with studied precision, adjusted her shoulder pads, applied her eye shadow in carefully studied strokes. She didn’t talk to me, but I didn’t mind. I was mesmerized at how beautiful she was, art breathing, fragile and flawless.

Then I would be called back to my father, to start or to finish my preparation. Namely the hair. When I was growing up, my thick brown hair fell in waves down my small back and on Sundays, it was up to Dad to tame the beast. Dad and I consulted on my hair style as well. I went one entire year demanding braids and he’d sit me down for a laborious half hour, swearing and sweating above me as he commanded his hands to weave the sections of hair just so.

The results were generally dismal, but by the time the verdict rolled in, it was too late to remedy the situation and Dad would quickly add another bow or three as Bernice shooed us out the door.

“Carl, we can’t let her go out in public like that.” She whispered, but I heard her, shimmering above me.

“Bernice, it’s fine. She’s five. We can pay for her to go to counseling later, but for now, we can’t keep God waiting.”

“Well, fine then, but make sure she’s walking in with you. Maybe I can do something in the car.”

She spent the entire ride making swats at my hair with her saliva-licked fingers. My mom always had soft hands, lotioned and with clean, manicured nails.

I pranced into church between Dad, Mom and Ben, feeling loved, feeling pretty.

Through the years, I often wondered when those feelings of security dissipated. Was it one second at a time over the span of decades, or was it all at once in one moment of anger?

As I watched the lines of Dad’s heart machine, I told myself I may never know.

We waited in the white and blue hospital room, holding hands, saying little and wondering where this road would lead, praying the minutes we had left to fix us would be infinite, that they would guide us home.


I picked up his notebook and reconsidered before opening it. But then again, he’d been writing in it every time he was awake. I read with it half closed, in case he stirred.

"When Dr. Robertson told me I had cancer, I didn’t believe him. I walked around for an entire week thinking I was in a dream or in a scene from someone else’s movie.

It was the first time in years that I missed my mid-week badminton and squash games. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or their mother so I ordered take-out for days on end and sat on my couch with the curtains closed.

I didn’t tell the kids.

I’d always been fit. I was the star starter on my basketball team in high school for pete’s sake. I know my desk job as an architect had slowed me down over the years, but not this much.

I knew I’d lost weight, had been more worn out over the last months, that when I gazed into the mirror, my eyes stared back at me pellucid and uninspired. I told myself I was getting old, that was it. But my yearly check-up confirmed what I hadn’t dared envision.

I showed up at Dr. Robertson’s office a week later, without an appointment, and paced in his waiting room until he finally called me back.

The doctor gave me five minutes.

I knew I barged in on him but I had to make a plan, had to know my options.

The last time I was in, we had scheduled an appointment but I couldn’t wait. I just needed to know if I was going to die."

His handwriting went slanty, as if he’d fallen asleep while writing. Then it perked up again.

"When my son flew down the stairs, leaping past them two at a time with his hands full of pill bottles, I considered denial.

I listened to his torrent of questions and finally patted the couch beside me.

You weren’t going to tell me, tell any of us, were you?

I didn’t meet his look.

Dad, why? I need to know about this. I hate knowing this, but I’m your family. Your son. You don’t have to do this alone.

So I should probably tell you that I have cancer. I was diagnosed in June. I kept working for as long as I could, first full-time, then part-time as my chemo treatments intensified. Recently my lifetime’s worth of saved vacation days were my lifeline. I was tired, so tired, and couldn’t imagine making it to work, let alone concentrating for hours on end. My boss said I can return when I am ready, and not a day before.

Oh Dad, shit. He paused for so long I thought the conversation was done. Last June. Okay, we’ve got a long ways to go. But I saw you in November and then in December. How did you not tell me?

You have a busy life. I thought you might propose to Maya at Christmas, I didn’t want to get in the way.

You’re unbelievable, Dad. What are they saying, how many rounds of chemo do you have left? Let’s talk about our options.

Our options, as if he were the one with the broken body, heaving through the night, taking a taxi to and from the hospital because he was too weak to drive himself.

I’m actually on the uphill swing. I’ve gone through most of my chemo treatments, and I’ll be dancing in no time.

Ben never could leave well enough alone. Since he found out The News, we had four days alone together before Reese showed up and then another four before Bernice arrived.

Ben gave me no warning. I was surprised by the former, utterly unprepared for the latter.

It has been a bit ridiculous having them all here, which is why I didn’t tell any of them in the first place. The whole lot of them annoy me, stomping around, making noises, hovering about day and night. I have a variety of glares reserved for each of them in turn.

We are all grownups and know it doesn’t take three adults to nurse one man back to health.

But here we are. My kids are Hamiltons through and through - none of us do stuff in half measures. It is all or nothing.

Except my sickness. I am only half sick.

I don’t know how long they plan to stay, but they seem single-minded for the first time in ages, united in their desire to nurse dear, old Dad. It would be touching except this group gathering is the first of its kind in nearly 15 years. The upside is it has been years since someone cooked for me so regularly, and I pretend they are my servants.

I am furious with Bernice, and while I wait for her daily attendance I imagine sitting her down and shouting through her long list of transgressions. The anger fuels me, gives me strength.

But when she enters the room, I see the rage exit, or maybe it is my courage that leaves me without a trace.

I wait for the inevitable moment when she will walk out the door again. She sees my look and beams back at me, pushing back her shoulders as if her charm and smile will mend the thousand misunderstandings between us. She is the optimist, living in a dream world of her own making. I am the realist, looking at the cruel, callous facts."

There was a page of doodling.

"The first time she left, I came home late from work. I finished up the drawings for one last building before I turned off my computer and drove home fast through the cold and windy spring night.

The house was dark when I arrived, and it took me long minutes to find Reese and Ben in their rooms, wrapped up in their teenager world, inattentive to the muted kitchen and the desolate rooms about them.

Bernice never worked past five, and I got the answering machine when I called her office. I ordered pizza and told myself she’d be here by the time it arrived, all steaming hot and dripping with cheese. She’d come in with a collection of shopping bags and a laugh to explain her delayed arrival. I watched the clock and the door and listened to the sounds of my children far above me.

I asked Reese and Ben if they’d seen her, but they shrugged in turn, oblivious to the panic escalating inside me.

As the minute hand crept soundlessly along the parameters of the clock, her non-appearance grew louder. Right when I was about to call the police, the Marines, spend the night scouring the streets, I found her note, scrawled in cursive across a pink card. It was on our bed, on her half, as if her words could replace her very being.

Carl, I’ve tried, but I can’t live like this right now. I need a night away by myself to think. Maybe three nights. I don’t know. I feel isolated, overwhelmed, desperate. I can’t do this right now.

It was unsigned, as if the conversation were still open for discussion, as if it was an acceptable way to shred my heart into infinite fragments.

Only it wasn’t.

She looks at me now, as if we are in the middle of something. Something intimate. Like we made love this morning, had breakfast in bed, were hours into a cozy weekend morning in our home of domestic bliss.

Only we aren’t."

“What are you doing?” Dad peered at my hunched form suspiciously from the bed.

“Nothing,” I moved one hand to his head and slammed the notebook shut with my other.

“I’m tired,” he croaked.

“I know, Dad. I know.”

Please log in to comment.

  • Anne Alley
    on Jan. 26, 2018, 2:03 p.m.

    I am so thrilled to be a part of this campaign for a book I love! And authors I adore! Happy Launch Day!

  • Mindy Dann
    on Jan. 26, 2018, 7:42 p.m.

    Love you ladies & LOVE watching this dream unfold!!!

  • Rachel Chambers
    on Jan. 26, 2018, 10:14 p.m.

    I am very proud of you and excited to read this very anticipated book

    on Jan. 26, 2018, 10:31 p.m.

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS LAYNIE! I can't wait to have a physical copy of your book in my hands someday and to be reading something that you two have created after hearing so much about it. You're an inspiration!

  • Jordon Johnson
    on Jan. 27, 2018, 9:45 p.m.

    It’s the least I could do for all the help so far and the kindness you’ve showed us. I’m buying it for Paige as a gift so shhh.

  • Emylee Bogart
    on Jan. 27, 2018, 11:22 p.m.

    Layne is an amazing person! She loves life to the fullest. She is a great mentor, leader and friend. I can’t wait to read her book❤️

  • Anna marie Adams
    on Jan. 28, 2018, 2:56 a.m.

    I’m so excited for my friend Lindsay on the huge accomplishment of writing a book! I can’t wait to read it! Help her get a great publisher by preordering it!

  • Suzanne Cox
    on Jan. 29, 2018, 1:34 a.m.

    I can’t wait to get my hard copy and reread this book.

  • Sharon Molnar
    on Jan. 29, 2018, 3:27 p.m.

    So happy to know such an incredibly talented young woman. You're going to set the world on fire and this is only the kindling!

  • Lindsay Thomas
    on Jan. 30, 2018, 1:51 a.m.

    We love you Layne! From John, Lindsay, Grace and Luke

  • Sarah Brokenshire
    on Jan. 31, 2018, 1:34 a.m.

    Love you! So proud of both of you and I can't wait to read it.

  • Nicole Coppaway
    on Jan. 31, 2018, 2:38 a.m.

    I can't wait to curl up with a cozy blanket and get lost in this book, Layne! Best of luck ❤️

  • Rebecca Bell
    on Jan. 31, 2018, 1:43 p.m.

    So so excited to read this book by two amazingly beautiful awesome women!!!

  • Megan Monteith
    on Feb. 5, 2018, 6:12 p.m.

    Looking forward to sitting back, relaxing and reading YOUR book!!! :)

  • Amber Richmann
    on Feb. 10, 2018, 3:46 p.m.

    So excited about this book and thrilled for you both to follow your dreams and do something so big like this! I know it’ll be a GREAT successs!

  • Sandra Ozdemir
    on Feb. 20, 2018, 2:46 a.m.

    Love you Lindsay. I have such fond memories of my life in Omaha because of your friendship. So proud of you!

  • Stephanie Lopez
    on Feb. 21, 2018, 2:22 a.m.

    I’m excited for your book ladies. The portions you shared made me want to read more. Love you Layne ❤️

  • Rhonda Ulysse
    on Feb. 21, 2018, 4:48 a.m.

    Layne, christophe and I totally admired your gifting and look forward to reading your book!

  • Sara Munroe
    on Feb. 23, 2018, 4 p.m.

    Congratulations beautiful Layne! So looking forward to reading the result of all your tireless work and creativity.

  • Emma Bailey
    on Feb. 23, 2018, 5:26 p.m.

    So excited to read! Here's to dreaming big and loving bigger!

  • Alicia Carroll
    on Feb. 23, 2018, 6:58 p.m.

    Kevin and I are totally last minute but made it at the eleventh hour!! Can’t wait to read it!!! Xoxo Alicia & Kev

  • Grace Dahlke
    on Feb. 24, 2018, 4:42 a.m.

    Finally ordered it! So excited!! 😍😍😍

  • Karyn Melfi
    on Feb. 24, 2018, 2:44 p.m.

    So proud of you!!!!!! I can't wait to get my hands on this physical book! What an accomplishment ladies!!! :)

  • Loretta Greene
    on Feb. 24, 2018, 6:03 p.m.

    We are so proud of you Layne. Uncle Ed and Aunt Loretta

  • Jonie Smith
    on Feb. 25, 2018, 3:11 p.m.

    Finally ordered! Excited to read your book!

  • Dayan Inclan
    on Feb. 25, 2018, 4:11 p.m.

    I'm looking forward to reading your book in Oklahoma with (I don't do wine) an home brew IPA or Bourbon. I'm so proud of you, Lefty!!