Was it what we did yesterday? I asked as we cut toward my house. I shook my head. I’m dating Chris. I just screwed up with Ian.

OK. He slips effortlessly to the floor. He puts his hands into his pockets, crosses his feet at the ankles, and leans back against the wall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so still. I think he’s trying not to spook me.

I text him back, already feeling the steady thrum of my heart picking up speed.Brielle: When and where?

Hale: You’ll see.His reply is coy and guarded, but before I can ask what he means, Kirby rises from the couch and clicks off the TV. You ready?Sure. I stuff my phone back into my purse, already hot with anticipation for tonight.

After several hours of touring condos in high-rise buildings around the city, I finally make my way home. There’s a large black box with a red ribbon waiting for me outside my door. Somehow I know it’s from Hale. I take it inside, eager to see what it holds.I head into my bedroom and set the box down on my bed. It’s fairly weighty, and I have no clue what it could be. Lifting the lid, I see crisp white paper lining the inside and a square card nestled on the top. I pull the card from its envelope, appreciating how thick the card stock feels between my fingers.

The message is brief, handwritten in neat black ink.

Be at the corner of Lakeshore Drive and Grand Avenue. 7 p.m.I shuddered, knowing that was a terrible way to look at this. I’ll get you some blankets and stuff.

I’ll be waiting.Turning, I hurried up the stairs, not surprised to find my mom waiting outside of her bedroom. In her arms were blankets and a pillow. She’d been amazing through all of this, but I knew her. I knew none of this could be easy.

Hell, how could it be easy for anyone?I slowed down as I approached her.