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I slump back into my seat. Her disappointment fills me up and makes me weary. I’m not the only one with problems. I sometimes forget that fact. This is how I get when I’m Daisy instead of Grace. I start thinking that I own the title of Girl with the World’s Biggest Problems.

That’s why I changed my name and started a new life. Daisy is a victim. Daisy is weak, and sick, and pathetic. Grace is graceful. Grace is strong, and determined, and brave. I’ve tried so hard to put my past away. Just lock it up and forget about it. Be the new girl. Be Grace.

But this today… I just don’t know what it might mean. Will I ever be able to go back to being just Grace? Will I have to be Daisy again? Will I be some very fucked-up version of both of them?

I just don’t know.

The road winds a little and there are thick patches of juniper and spruce trees, so when we finally round a corner and the resort comes into view, I’m breathless. I drop the pity party and take it all in. “Wow. It’s stunning.” There’s a huge lake, man-made obviously, surrounded by a scattering of bungalows. The main building is a Santa Fe-style adobe, with a large terrace filled with empty tables. A café, I realize.

We pull up to the valet area, but no one comes to take our car. Kristi shuts the engine down and we just sit for a moment. “I knew they would be gone, I guess. What did I expect?” She looks over at me and a tear slips down her cheek. “They close the place down every year at this time so they can travel. So I planned the wedding during vacation and sent the invitation. Hoping, ya know?”

I nod. Because I get it. I get that desperation, that one last grab for love and acceptance. I had friends and relatives back in my hometown, but half of them thought I was guilty at first. And I can’t live with people who think I could’ve done what I was accused of. The other half kept pestering me for ‘my story’. They wanted me to talk to the media. Get paid for interviews. Write a book about my experience.

Use me. They wanted to use me. So I pulled back, severed all ties, and boxed that life up and packed it away. And ever since then I’ve had this wall around me. Oh, it’s transparent, people get in, but there’s a limit as to how close. Even Bebe. When I think about it, I’m a little bit ashamed that I never told her everything. I know she’d be there for me. But when you’re safe, why invite the danger in?

I guess I can relate to Vaughn in that respect. He has his own wall. No authentic relationships. And if I had been honest with him about… well, pretty much anything… then he’d have bounced that question right back to me.

Because all my relationships are fake too.

The temperature in the car is rising fast, and the rush of hot wind as Kristi opens her door draws me back to my reality. We’re on the run and now we’re stopped. Decisions have to be made. “So what are we doing here, Kristi? Do you have keys to get in?”

She’s wringing her hands in her lap with worry. “My brother is here. He was going to come to the wedding, but I called him last night and talked to him for a long time and he…”

I suddenly have a vision of Vaughn and his sister on her wedding night. How she went to him to confide her fears. How he was afraid of influencing her. “What did he say?” I ask. I need to know. I need to know this so badly because it’s just not fair that I don’t have a big brother to call for help. “What did he tell you?”

“He told me to come home and he’d make it all better.” And then Kristi looks past me and a sob escapes. I turn to find what’s grabbed her attention, and there he is. Her brother. Standing there in the huge doorway that leads into the lobby.

He smiles at her and she’s out of the car so fast, running into his arms, I am left confused and feeling out of place. I’m spying on that private moment again. The one where people have actual blood relatives who love them. The one where little sisters get to run to big brothers and get everything they need in a hug. The one I wish for so badly it makes my chest hurt.

Kristi’s brother embraces her and all those saved-up sobs come pouring out.

I get out of the car and wander up to them. He is whispering softly to Kristi now, telling her all the things a woman needs to hear after she runs out on her wedding day. And then he notices me for the first time and gives me a smile as well. He’s obviously older—the small lines around his eyes tell me that. And he’s nice-looking. Rugged and rustic. Like he’s lived on a desert ranch his whole life. He’s wearing jeans, not shorts, which, when paired with the boots, makes him look a little bit cowboy. The white t-shirt is now stained with Kristi’s make-up and he notices me staring at it and laughs. “You’re ruining my shirt, Krissy! You didn’t say you were bringing a friend. I’m Jack,” he says, peeling an arm from around Kristi to extend it my way. “Jack Bolton.”

Bolton. I never even bothered to press her for her last name. I shake his hand out of habit, but then my mouth goes dry and I’m not sure what to say back. I’m a whirling mess of guilt, regret, fear, and sorrow all twisted together right now.

“This is Grace, Jack. She’s in the same situation as me.”

I squint my eyes at her. “Not really.” No matter what her secret is, she’s so much better off than me. And maybe that’s selfish to think my problems are more overwhelming. It probably is. But I’d give anything to be running away from a wedding right now instead of the past.

“The media is after her. And so is Vaughn Asher.”