Sum of Us

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Ch.26: Rhys

Kevin transitions back to my playlist once Silver Soul has concluded. One Headlight by The Wallflowers isn’t a romantic song; it’s about the death of ideas and feeling lost without them. But it’s one of the songs Poppy and I loved to sing in the car the first time we dated. That’s why it made the list. Pop doesn’t skip a beat when she recognizes the tune; she switches up her dance moves to match the tempo and takes my hands to prompt me to do the same. I’m happy to follow her lead. I have Kevin turn up the music to accommodate our impromptu dance and karaoke party.

We don’t stop moving until my phone starts ringing close to an hour later. I have the music paused and put the call on speakerphone when I see that it is my sister calling.

Becca gives us a rundown of Harper’s evening. Our girl fared well without us. She asked for our whereabouts, but the potty trick worked as well as it always does. A warm bath and my song put her to sleep. Instead of in her crib, her restful slumber is taking place in Mom’s arms. I doubt she will be leaving them anytime soon; they are wearing matching pajamas. Beck sends a picture to prove it. I disconnect the call when Becca requests a progress report on my date with Poppy. I don’t want to jinx things by saying aloud that it is going well.

“Should I call Mom and verify what Beck said?”

Poppy studies me, a smile growing more and more prominent as time passes.

“What?” I say defensively.

“You are first-time dadding. It's adorable.”

“This is the first night I’ve spent away from her since we met. I didn’t get to put her to bed. Does it get easier to leave her?”

“You’ll always worry, but putting her in the care of people you trust makes it tolerable. She’s in loving arms. Relax, babe.” She rests her hand on my shoulder and massages it.

I take a deep breath and nod.

“But…calling to check-in is standard protocol, and technically, we didn’t call, nor did we speak to the person currently in charge of her care.” She adds.

“I could kiss you.”

“Go for it.” She turns her head, providing me with her cheek.

I kiss it with a smile.

“You’re on a date. Get off the phone and interact with her.” Mom answers the phone.

“Hi, Mom, we’re just calling to check in on Harper.” Poppy puts her arm around my waist.

“Oh! Hey, sweetie, would you like to talk to her?”

“I thought she was already asleep. Becca sent us a picture.” I respond before Poppy does.

“She was. Widget saw her reflection in a mirror and started barking at it. She woke Harper before I could shoo her away. I’ve given Harp a cup of warm milk. I’ll put her back to sleep as soon as she’s finished.”

“I’m going to hang up and video call you. It’d be nice to see her.”

“No, that’s too much. She’ll get all riled up if she sees you. Talk to her in a calm, soothing voice about relaxing things. If you can manage that, I’ll let you sing ’Field’ instead of playing the recording on my phone.”


“She’s right. The potty trick won’t work if she sees we’re not in the bathroom.” Poppy rubs my back.

“I don’t like it when you two gang up on me.” I frown.

“We—” Pop begins to argue.

I hear Harper’s voice in the background but can’t make out what she is saying.

“Mommy and Daddy are still in the potty, but you can talk to them.” This is followed by the sound of shuffling.

“Rhys and Poppy, I have someone who wants to speak to you.” The ambient noises make it obvious she has put us on speakerphone.

“Mama? Daddy?”

“Well, hello, Lovebug, are you being a good girl for grandma?” Pop speaks first.

“You no here.” Harper sleepily whines.

“We’re going to be in the potty all night, but we’ll be back when it’s light outside,” I tell her.

“No mo' potty?”

“We’ll be all done. Both of us are going to spend the day with you.” Poppy answers.

“Usic wit Daddy?”

I smile. “We’ll make as much music as you want, baby girl, and we will eat pizza after we are done.”

“I wike peeza.”

“You are going to love this pizza. Mama and I used to eat it all the time.”

“Pups eats peeza?”

“No, it would hurt their tummies. We’ll pick up some doggy treats for them on our way back to Grandma’s house.” Poppy answers.

“O-tay, Mama.”

“I’m going to sing your special nighttime song, Harp. Would you like that?”

“Yes, pweeze.” Her sweet little voice is at a low volume.

I softly sing "Field" acapella.

“Sweet dreams, Lovebug. Mama and Daddy love you.” Poppy whispers at the end

“She’s asleep. I’ll give her kisses from you. Enjoy the rest of your date responsibly. Use protection.” My mom speaks directly into the phone at a hushed volume.

“Ma, --”

“Goodnight.” She hangs up on us.

“I would apologize and say that I’ll never happen again, but you know how she is.” I return my phone to my pocket.

“It’ll never not being embarrassing when she brings up our sex life, but it’s sweet in a weird way. She meddles out of love. I’m a big fan of being loved.”

“You are in luck. I am a huge fan of loving you.”

“Wow, real smooth.” Her musical giggle brings a smile to my face.

“Peanut butter smooth.”

“I’m more of a crunchy PB gal.”

“I know, but let me have my analogy.”

“I will if you show me what you’ve been working on all day.”

“It’s on the top floor. We will have to backtrack to complete the tour.”

“We could use a bit of cardio after two days of high-calorie feasting. Going now will be a win/win.”

“We should probably pace ourselves. You can get a cramp if you walk too soon after eating.”

“That’s swimming. Stop stalling and take me.”

“You’re not allowed to deduct points if you hurt yourself.” Taking her hand in mine, I lead her where she wants to go.

“I hope you like it, of course, but give me your honest opinion. You have great ideas and I want it to be perfect.” My hand rests on the doorknob.

“If this is what I think it is, I know I’ll love it, but if this is a sex dungeon, the answer is ‘no’.” She rubs my arm with her free hand.

The sweet smile and gentle tone she uses completely contradicts the tail-end of her sentence.

I try my best not to laugh. “You haven’t even seen it. Walk in with an open mind.”

“I will not sign a creepy contract on our first date. You in that shirt will not even change my stance on that.”

“What about our second date?”

“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.”

“You twisted sense of humor is phenomenally sexy and one of the things I love most about you.”

“I’m quite fond of yours as well, but I’m going to need you to stop stalling.”

“Does this look like stalling to you?’ I finally grant her access to Harper’s room.

Her steps inside are tentative. I wait on bated breath as she examines it.

The plan for her room began to take shape during my Target excursion. The desire to buy furniture and assemble it grew from a desire to a burning need over time. Worried I was losing my mind, I researched my construction impulses online. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when I learned it’s a common phenomenon among expectant parents called, "nesting."

It typically only affects mothers, but it isn’t unheard of for it to inflict fathers as well. It’s a physical way for us to feel involved in the pregnancy and prepare for our new life as a provider and protector. My inability to witness Harper’s nine first months of development and year that followed made me all the more anxious to put together a den suitable for my cub.

I put a reading nook in the corner by the window. The bookshelf is lined with Harper’s favorite books and ones she’s sure to enjoy. The gauzy purple tent nearby is big enough for Poppy and me to climb in with her. A fuzzy rug and plush blankets make it a cozy place to read and play.

The toy zone in the opposite corner is still a bit barren. Christmas is on the horizon and she has plenty of toys on the tour bus. For now, it only has a kitchen playset, a child-sized activity table with four chairs (one of which is occupied by a Peppa Pig plush), a litter of puppy stuffed animals in a real dog bed, and a microphone on a lavender stand.

The gray loveseat is primarily for me and Poppy to use when we are in here, but I’m sure Harper will have plenty of fun climbing all over it. Her changing table is nothing special, but I did put extra packages of wipes in its storage drawers. She likes to play with them while she gets changed. Near the changing table is her crib.

After weeks of research, I found one that has high safety ratings, looks good and can be converted to a toddler bed. It’s got the same floral bedding as the one on the tour bus. She called it ‘pwetty’ when I asked her if she liked it, and it goes well with the framed watercolor paintings of animals wearing flower crowns hanging on the brick walls.

I had the lyrics ‘So I Start a Revolution from my Bed’ from Oasis’s Don’t Look Back in Anger painted on a canvas in a whimsical font. Hanging it above her crib was the final touch I put on my most personal project to date.

“You hate it.” I guess.

We’ve spent too much time in silence for Poppy to like it.

“How could I – what—this – she has a room, her very own room. It’s – it’s—” Pop shakes her head as a little giggle escapes her lips and tears stream down her cheeks.

I tend to what I hope to be happy tears with my thumbs.

She takes a deep, cleansing breath. “I was saving up for this, a place where she’d have enough room to grow and play. I’m standing in it, looking around and—” She clinches her eyes shut and more tears escape her eyes.

I draw her to my chest and hold her tight. She’s drenching the front of my shirt, but I couldn’t care less.

Poppy dealt with skeevy drunk guys hitting on her and girls who couldn’t hold their liquor at Eclipse. She endured two years of poor tippers during the graveyard shift at a diner before that. All of it was done to give Harper a comfortable life. I’m able to do it with ease because of the bullet she took for me. This realization has me getting a little choked up too.

“I’m done, no more crying.” She remains in my arms but lifts her head off my shoulder.

“You can if you need to.” I settle my arms around her waist.

“I’m good for now, but thank you.” She removes her glasses and uses the sleeve of her sweater to dry her eyes.

“Is it too much? I didn’t exactly think before going full force. In hindsight, I should have included you.”

“I love what you did and how you went about it. It’s as much you as this room is her.”

“I have a confession to make.”

“You hired an interior designer? That’s fine. It doesn’t lessen the gesture. You had to describe what you wanted to them.” She’s cleaning her glasses.

“No, I flew solo on this. The truth is, this wasn’t a romantic gesture. I nested. I hardcore nested like a mama bird. It was like I was possessed or something.”

“Even better.” A glowing smile spreads across her face.


“Nesting is a bonding exercise. I like that I had nothing to do with your desire to take her under your wing. I know you collected the twigs, but did you at least have help arranging them? A lot of this requires four or more hands.”

“Taylor and I Property Brothered for a bit. There’s no way I could’ve gotten out of the crib alone, but I kicked him out before I started decorating.”

“I’m sorry. Do you mind repeating what you said? It sounded like you said you spent time in her crib.”

“Someone had to test it. I figured if it could withstand my weight, she’d be good to go.”

“Did it?”

“It’d be in the trash if it didn’t. It didn’t so much as creak, even when I jumped in it. The bars handled the shake test without jiggling too.”

“Why did you climb out instead of lowering the gate?”

“Climb test. She’s my daughter. She’s going to try to scale it eventually. I had to make sure it wouldn’t wobble or break before we could get her off the ledge.”

She tilts her head to the side and stares at me as though I have lost my mind.


“You stood on her changing table.” She doesn’t ask. She states.

“I sat on it. I’m not crazy.”

“I’m not so sure about that.”

“Tay spotted me the entire time and it’s bolted to the wall. I was safe. He and I take our house flipping very seriously. Construction is just as important as decorating, Penelope.”

“Do you have matching tool belts and hard hats?”

“Not matching, complimentary. We’re cooler than that.”

She shakes her head with a smirk playing on her lips.

“Accept me as I am.”

“I do. You keep me thoroughly entertained.”

“Would you like to continue the tour? It’s our entertainment for the evening.”

“We’re not done in here yet. I haven’t even tried out the tent.”

“We’ve got to take our shoes off first. I want the rug she lays on to be as clean as possible.”

“I was going to suggest that.” She toes out of her ankle height boots and neatly places them by the wall. I do the same with my Chuck Taylors.

Poppy pulls back the curtain and gestures for me to crawl in first.

“That’s my job.”

“I want an equal opportunity relationship. Get in the tent or you lose 50% of your points.”

“Fine,” I grumble as I lower myself onto the floor.

She crawls in once I have settled into a spot.

“It’s spacious in here.” She looks around.

“Harper has to share her permanent blanket fort with us. She doesn’t get to have all the fun.” I lean on a pillow.

“We can validate it to ourselves and others by saying this is too much tent for such a little person. She’ll get lonely in here if we don’t join her.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

She shifts to lay on her back. “Can this be my room?” She rolls on her side to face me.

“Your legs are a little too long to fit in the crib comfortably, but who am I to crush your dreams?”

“Not the whole room, just the tent. The curtain closes. She’ll still have her own room.”

“I planned on renovating on one of the spare bedrooms for you, but if this is where you want to sleep, I’m not going to stop you.”

“A personalized room is a major commitment. Any ole guest room will do. It doesn’t even have to be a bedroom; I can sleep on a couch whenever I’m here.”

My chest constricts. A war is waged within my mind to repress my disappointment.

She doesn’t see herself as a permanent fixture in my life.

“You’re free to follow your heart. You can sleep in a bathtub if you’d like.”

“You’re no longer a tour guide; you’re a real estate agent.” Poppy tests each pillow Goldilocks-style. “Now, continue to sell me on your lovely home.”

Hope. There’s hope.

I give Poppy an in-depth tour of Harper’s room, showing her all the nooks and crannies and giving design choice explanations.

“Is there anything you want to add?” I ask once our tour ends.

“Hmmm…” She looks around the room. “Maybe some twinkle lights. She loves the ones in her bedroom at Mom’s house. On the ceiling, maybe? I think she’d pull them down if we put them in the tent.”

I look up at the ceiling.“Lights would look great up there. They can be draped from the beams. I’ll get them ordered and put up before we return for Christmas.”

“I’m relieved to hear that you won’t be Spidermaning your way up there to do it yourself.”

“Scaling buildings is pretty high up there on the dangerous activities list. I can’t play in here if I break my neck trying to make it perfect.”

“Thank you.” She kisses me on the cheek.

“Ready to backtrack?”

“I will be as soon as I take some pictures.” She pulls her phone out of her pocket.

“It’s not finished yet. Hold out for the finished product.”

“I have to do it now. I need proof that this isn’t a figment of my imagination.”

“My word’s not enough?”

“No, you could be gaslighting me.” She snaps the first couple of shots.

“What’s ‘gaslighting’?”

“It’s when someone intentionally manipulates information to the point of making another person question their memory, reality, and sanity. The term comes from a 1940s movie with the same name.”

“That sounds like a lot of work. I don’t have that kind of time with my wooing, playing, and renovating schedules. I barely have time for work, let alone dish out complex emotional abuse. You’re in the clear on the gaslighting front.”

“The pictures kept will be for sentimental reasons, then.” Her phone is returned to her pocket. “Time to move along.”

“Where to?”

“The nearest bathroom.”

“It’s going to take a while to get there. I hope it’s not an emergency.” I take her hand.

“I know you’re joking.”

“No, you don’t.”

“She’s in diapers now, but Harper won’t be forever and she needs to bathe and brush her teeth. You wouldn’t put her room far away from something she needs on a daily basis.”

“She’s afraid of potties. Her location is to keep her out of harm’s way. She’s not going to live in a constant state of terror.”

“Just show me the room, Wilde.”

The nearest bathroom is beside Harper’s closet. I open its door for Poppy.

“Yet you say you’re not gaslighting me.”

“I thought I’d give it a try.”

“How do you like it?”

“Eh, it’s okay but kinda boring.”

Poppy pretends to think it over. “I can see that. You’re not one for patience or subtlety.”

“It’s good you know that about me.”

“They’re pretty significant traits. It’s hard to miss them.” She lets go of my hand to go into the bathroom.

I had a significant amount of contractor help with Harper’s bathroom. They built a half wall to hide the toilet from view and painted the walls lavender. The only things I had to do were hang the picture my sister painted and arrange Harp’s toiletries.

“You might have done the impossible. Harper could potentially like coming into this potty. It’s a shame you’ll be receiving cease and desist letters in the mail for it. There is no way that picture of Rapunzel, Moana, Tiana, and Mulan crossing Abbey Road is licensed.” Pop points to focal piece of art. “Disney doesn’t play around with their money.”

“I won’t get one if you don’t snitch. I commissioned Beck to make it and she took a blood oath not to tell anyone.”

“Except for Lindsay.”

“Obviously. She might even be making a variation of it for Courtney for Christmas, but that’s her business.”

“I won’t tell a soul. I’m not trying to get taken out by the Mickey Mouse Mafia.”

“No pictures either. They have eyes everywhere.”

“Kevin could be a liability.” She whispers.

“Don’t worry. We have an understanding.” I reply at the same volume.

“An understanding understanding?”

“Yes. I’m not afraid to break a few kneecaps to preserve that majestic piece of artwork.”

“Do virtual assistants have kneecaps?”

“They can be installed.”

“Sounds like a lot of work.”

“Worth it.”

“Can you leave so that I can verify that it is?”

“I’ll be in her room.” I exit, shutting the door behind me.

I sit on the couch and unlock my phone. There are several notifications. I start with the emails that have piled up in my work account’s inbox. One sender’s name makes my blood run cold. I select the email with trepidation.

Hi Rhys!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I write bearing great news: I’ll be in Minneapolis next week too! It’s one of the stops on my tour. You’re performing two days before me. Hanging out with you and the rest of the Wilde Knights will be a great use of my down day. We can spend the day catching up backstage. I’ll get to check out your show that night. The reviews of your most recent ones have been stellar. I can’t wait to see it for myself. Maybe we can go to a club or bar afterward for old times’ sake. We’ll play it by ear. See you soon.



She may look like a pop superstar, but Zara Slate is a zombie. We had a one-night-stand her two years ago. Taylor told me to stay away from her; he said she was trouble. Trouble’s what I wanted. I thought a dose of danger would make me feel something. Instead, I realized how numb I was becoming.

I told Zara the truth the next morning -- I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and I wasn’t ready to do anything else with her. She said she understood. She even wished me well and gave me a hug.

Months later, Taylor waltzes into my bedroom without permission and plays Zara’s newly released ode to heartbreak.

Oz tells the tale of a long-hair singer from Seattle (referred to by its nickname, Emerald City) who fooled her into believing he was worthy of her love in order to get what he wanted (i.e. sex). She slept with him before she could realize the truth – he’s a mere mortal, not the magical being people perceive him to be. Zara’s modernized Wizard of Oz allegory had all the right ingredients to become another mega-hit in her ever-expanding romantic misadventure discography.

I was in denial at first. I thought, “there’s no way she’s talking about me”. Taylor burst my bubble by calling our siblings, playing the song, and asking for their thoughts. They came to the same conclusion and asked for my side of events. Taylor recounted it for them as I furiously paced the room.

Tay confiscated my phone before playing the song, knowing my instinct would be to call her as soon as possible. He didn’t give it back to me until I could form a sentence at a normal volume. He monitored my conversation with her to ensure I didn’t lash out too hard in a fit of rage.

Zara’s a power player in our industry. She’s been around a lot longer than us. Pissing her off could’ve ended our careers then and there. She’s lampooned her exes in the past. Regardless of what they did or said in response, their public images were never the same. She remains pristine.

The newest addition to my vocabulary best describes her response to my response. Zara hardcore gaslit me. I went from furious to apologizing to her. Taylor took my phone from me mid-apology, made a U-turn, and went back to arguing that I was wrongfully accused of something I didn’t do. He did it as me, not himself.

We’ve mastered each other’s speaking voices and speech patterns. It’s how we pulled off trading places when we were younger and physically indistinguishable. He was a little rusty, but he still managed to fool Zara. His parting words to her were, “I won’t say anything, but I want nothing to do with you. Have a nice life”. He blocked her number from my phone and that was that.

...or so we thought. The song reached new heights. Zara scooped up award after award for it. I witnessed most of her fake-shock acceptance speeches. Wilde Knights’ management team forced us to congratulated her. Zara used our obligations as opportunities.

She hugged us for the cameras and asked us to go out with her. Zara spent those outings trying to bait me into giving her new song inspiration. I made a point to never be alone with her or talk to her directly. She perceived it as me playing hard to get and it only made her pursue me harder.

Her interest in me died when I escaped to Seattle to write Wilde Knights’ second album. Zara started dating an A-list actor. They were going strong for almost a year, but they broke up recently. A one-night mistake with someone you know is trouble in the wake of a recent split is prime song material. She’s back on the market, on the prowl for brains, and she knows I’ve got the goods.

Damn Zombies.

I forward her email to George and our publicist with a demand that she not be allowed anywhere near me for Poppy and Harper’s sake. I send Zara’s message to my spam folder without replying.

Doing so would only give her the ability to say I led her on or gave her false hope for a happy reunion. Her resurgence from the dead’s the last thing I need right now.

“Why didn’t you tell me I looked like a panda?”

I nearly leap out of my skin at Pop’s sudden reappearance.

“Everything okay, jumpy?” She says on a giggle.

Her face has been scrubbed free of makeup, but the glow she has had tonight remains.

She looks relaxed and happy for the first time in a long time. Why risk changing that over something that is going to be taken care of by well-trained professionals?

I lock and pocket my phone. “I was better when my date was a bear, but I can’t complain.”

“You have your pantry mama bears. Don’t get greedy.”

“They’ve got nothing on you.”

“I’m better than imaginary bears. Wow. I must be pretty hot.”

“Smokin’. I’ve got the fire department on speed dial.”

“Where to now?”

“Square one.”

“In keeping with the evening’s theme. I like it.”

“Well, I love you, so…” I take her hand.

“Back at it with the wooing.” She intertwines our fingers.

“I didn’t make this playlist for nothing.”

I take her to the great room first. It’s where we typically convene with visitors. The music studio is next, which we’ve put forth extra effort to keep unauthorized people out of by putting a password on the door. The equipment is way too expensive to be played with.

“So, this is where the magic happens.” She examines the soundboard.

“You could say that.”

“Do you know how to use all of this?” She gestures to the recording equipment.

“Yes. Ian trained us on it. These tools are basically his babies. He’d have a Harper Cloud meltdown if any of us broke them.”

“He’s always been our resident IT guy.”

“You should see him in here. It’s next level.”

“When do you think you’ll be able to make that happen?”

“During our holiday break. We’ll be here for close to a month.”

“You already have new material to record?”

“There are songs that have been written that we decided not to put on our most recent album for some reason or another. We can mess around with them and see what happens. We like to do that here from time to time. It keeps us sharp.”

“Am I allowed to sit at the soundboard or do I have to take the couch?” She thumbs to it.

“You have free reign in the castle. Do what you will with that freedom.”

“I will bring as many giant lid-less drinks in here as I can carry and sit on top of the recording equipment as I consume them two at a time.” She mischievously grins.

“I’ll support you 10,000 percent.”

“Harp could end up an orphan.”

“We chose kick-ass godparents. She’ll be in good hands.”

“It’s something to think about.”

She lets go of my hand to explore the room. I use it as an opportunity to check my phone. Thankfully, there’s a response from George waiting for me.

You will have to see her. However, the amount of time can be limited. I can book an extra interview and have Trina put together a last-minute fan meeting opportunity. Three interviews, soundcheck, and two meet & greets should be enough to keep you occupied all day. Keeping her away from the show will be impossible. It would raise red flags if she were banned from backstage. I suggest that Poppy and Harper remain in Seattle until after the holidays. It would be the easiest solution and the only way to make sure they don’t run into Zara. Think about it tonight. Call me first thing tomorrow.


I swallow the sigh bubbling in my throat and return my phone to my back pocket. Poppy’s checking out the awards’ shelf when I reach her.

“How did it feel when you won?” She asks, her eyes remaining on our display shelf of awards.

“Bittersweet, extra emphasis on ‘bitter’.”

I had a habit of calling her after each win and speaking to the automated ‘customer is unavailable’ message that started being produced when she blocked my number. I’d apologize, tell her how much I missed her, and always ended with ‘I love you’. It’d take a few calls to get it all out, but stepping outside to do my pathetic ritual was a nice break from the insincere praise.

“Same.” She agrees.

“Did you want to hit me with a car?”

“Why do you sound excited about that prospect?” She smiles over at me.

“You would’ve been there with me.”

“We’ll unpack that at a later date.”

“That’s probably for the best.”

She links her arm with mine. “Let’s carry on.”

I escort her through the communal areas and Taylor’s side. He sends me a warning text before coming home. We’re safely on my side before he and his house guests arrive. The tour of my domain is short. At the moment, most of the rooms are active construction zones that we’re allowed to enter. We revisit Harper’s room before walking across the hall to my bedroom.

Poppy unabashedly snoops through my things. Once she has finished, she joins me on the couch in front of the fireplace. I put my arm around her and her head falls to my shoulder.

“You have a stunning home.”

“I’d prefer cool or bad-ass, but I’ll take ‘stunning’.”

“It’s coolness and badassness are what makes it stunning.”

“I’m glad you like it.” I kiss the top of her head.

“I love it.”

“Do you want to stay here?”

“For good?” She leaves the confinement of my arm.

“N-ye-maybe? That’s not what I’m asking, though. Slow. I know you want slow. Um, Seattle, that’s what I’m talking about right now. You and Harper can stay if you want a break from all the traveling. We’ll be back in three weeks.”

Her jokey air disintegrates and her expression goes cold. “We left Boston to be with you.”

“I know. I just wanted to put the offer on the table. Life on the road can be a lot.”

“We left Boston for YOU.” She reiterates with extra emphasis on ‘you’.

“I know, Pop, I--”

“You were freaking out about being away from Harper for one night earlier. Now, you’re proposing a plan that will separate you for twenty-four of them? What happened?” Her voice’s steadily rising.

“I don’t want to ruin our night.” I sheepishly admit.

“Withholding vital information from me will do a whole lot more than that. Secrets destroyed us the first time. Telling the truth -- the whole truth -- is the only way to prove we’ve changed. Say what needs to be said or we’re done, Rhys, for good.”

I run a trembling hand through my hair. “Have you heard Oz by Zara Slate?”

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