Chapter no 16

My Life with the Walter Boys

“Ay me! Sad hours seem long. Was that my father that went hence so fast?’” Danny said, raising a hand to his heart. The other was clutching a script.

“‘It was. What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours?’” Isaac said in a booming voice, flourishing his hands wildly.

“Thank God you’re not in the play,” I mumbled in his direction and shook my head in embarrassment.

Danny, Isaac, and I were sitting on the bleachers at Alex’s baseball game. The seats were metal and burned in the afternoon light. I was wearing a skirt that forced me to sit on the edge of the seat to keep the skin on the back of my legs from getting scorched. My boyfriend was far out in left field, and I could barely see him since the sun was glaring in my eyes.

“‘Not having that which, having, makes them short,’” Danny recited.

When Isaac didn’t answer because his attention was focused on a possible home-run hit, Danny elbowed him in the side.

“Oh, um—‘in love’?” he said, quickly looking down at his copy of the script. Danny was forcing Isaac to run lines with him so I could watch Alex play.

Danny sighed, embodying the lovesick Romeo, “Out.”

Isaac stood up in excitement as the ball flew toward his cousin in the outfield. “Did he catch it?” he demanded a few seconds later. “I can’t tell. The sun is in my eyes.”

“Huh?” I responded. I was trying to watch, but the humidity was making my head feel heavy, and it was hard to concentrate.

“Never mind,” Isaac grumbled and sat back down on the bleachers. “You’re not even paying attention.”

“Neither are you,” Danny told him angrily. “We should be done with this act by now.”

“Dude, why do you even need to go over this? You’ve already had your costume rehearsal,” Isaac complained. When Danny glared at him, he sighed and glanced back down at the script. “‘Of love?’”

“‘Out of her favor, where I am in love.’” Danny said his line without having to look down at the sheet.

“You’re out!” the umpire shouted at a player who tried to slide into home.

“Yes!” Isaac shouted, fixing his attention back down on the field. “Was that two or three?”

“Two, I think,” I answered absentmindedly, but then Alex’s team began to jog back from the field toward the dugout.

Isaac rolled his eyes at me. “Not much of a baseball fan?”

“No, that’s not true,” I said, pressing a hand to my sticky forehead. “I love the Yankees. It’s just that—”

“That she can’t stop thinking about Cole. And you,” Danny said, jabbing his cousin in the chest, “keep forgetting you’re supposed to be helping me practice. God, Isaac, you’re a horrible Benvolio.”

Hey!” both Isaac and I shouted at the same time.

“I’m not thinking about Cole,” I said, defending myself.

“And I’m a great actor. Academy Award winning, thank you very much,” Isaac said, shaking his finger back and forth in Danny’s face.

“Isaac, if I remember correctly, you were the one who couldn’t play a tree in the spring recital without messing it up.”

“That was kindergarten,” Isaac mumbled, but Danny wasn’t listening. “Jackie, I’m quiet, not blind,” he told me. “That dazed look that’s been

on your face ever since you two came out of that closet says otherwise.”

“Say what?” Isaac demanded.

“I wasn’t like that,” I said. “I swear.” Because of his shy nature, Danny might have developed a certain affinity for perceptiveness, but this time he had it all wrong.

“Sure it wasn’t,” Isaac said.

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t telling the truth. Yes, I was thinking about Cole, but not in the way they thought. And that was exactly why I couldn’t quite concentrate on the baseball game. When we were playing hide-and-seek, Zack took forever to find us. Ignoring Benny’s protest, Cole got impatient and opened the closet door. His shower was running, and he didn’t want it to get cold. Danny, who had been looking for someone to read lines with, had seen both of us tumble out of the tiny room. I was worried he would get the wrong idea and tell everyone. What would Alex think if he found out?

“There’s nothing going on between me and Cole,” I objected. “Danny, you saw Benny climb out of the closet too. Tell him that.”

“What the heck was he doing in there with you both?” Isaac said. “That’s disgusting and definitely not PG-rated. Poor Benny is going to be scarred for life.”

“We were playing hide-and-seek,” I said, starting to panic. “Come on, Danny, tell him the truth.”

“I don’t know, Jackie,” he said, his face straight. “Cole didn’t even have a shirt on.”

Isaac shook his finger at me. “Now that’s naughty.” He put his hand on my leg and grinned. “Why wasn’t I invited?”

“God, you’re disgusting,” I said, pushing him away.

“Did you rip his shirt off with your teeth?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows up and down.

“He was going to take a frickin’ shower!” I exploded.

A few moms sitting around us turned to frown at me. Both boys watched me for a moment before bursting into fits of laughter.

“Wow, it’s fun to watch you squirm,” Isaac choked out, and I punched him on the shoulder.

“We were only kidding, Jackie,” Danny said, wiping away a stray tear. “Not appreciated,” I grunted, crossing my arms. I stared down at the

game, refusing to look in either of their directions.

“Come on, Jackie,” Isaac said, putting a hand on my arm. “I was just messing around.”

I stuck out my tongue and continued to watch the game going on below. “Are you going to ignore me for the rest of the day? Because I can be

quite annoying if I want to.” Isaac started poking me repetitively in the cheek.

Pushing his hand away, I answered. “I sure can. Now be quiet. Alex is up.”

All three of us fell silent and watched as Alex hit a grounder. It rolled right between two infielders, and he made it to second base before they could get the ball.

“Go, Alex!” I shouted excitedly, jumping up and down.

“Oh, Alex!” Isaac squealed in a girly voice. “You’re so damn sexy that I was making out in the closet with your older brother!”

Danny choked on air as he tried not to laugh. I spun around and whacked Isaac on the shoulder again.

“Dang, Jackie! You’re going to bruise my delicate skin,” he complained, rubbing the sore spot.

“Good,” I said and sat back down to watch the next hitter.

Danny’s phone rang. “Hey, Dad,” he said in greeting. “Right now?” He paused. “Okay, I’ll be there in a few.” He clicked his phone shut and turned to us. “I have to go pick Zack and Benny up from their soccer game.”

At this, I frowned. There were still four innings left. Danny had driven us, so how would we get home if he left?

“I’m coming too,” Isaac said and stood up. “But what about the rest of the game?” I asked.

“You can stay if you want,” Isaac suggested. “Alex rode his bike here.

He can give you a ride home on the pegs.”


“You did great today,” I told Alex when he found me after the game was over. His team had won by three runs.

He pulled me into a hug. “Thanks, Jackie. I’m really glad you came.” “You’re all sweaty,” I squealed, trying to squirm away. He was going to

ruin my shirt.

“You don’t like that?” he asked with a laugh, locking his arms tightly behind my back.

“No! Alex, let go,” I said, but gave in with a laugh.

Clouds had rolled in near the end of the game, covering the hot sun, but the air was still humid, making our bodies stick together.

“Where’d everyone go?” he asked, letting his arms hang loose.

“Danny had to pick Zack and Benny up. I wanted to stay, so I was hoping you could give me a ride home on your bike. You’re not too tired, are you?”

“A little,” he said, slinging his arm over my shoulder. “But it will be my pleasure.”

We made it about halfway home when it started to pour. Alex pulled off the road and onto a gravel pathway that led to a small, rundown pavilion as lightning flashed across the sky. I jumped off the back of the bike and ran under the overhang to get out of the rain. Taking a ponytail holder off my wrist, I pulled my damp hair out of my face. After leaning his bike up against the brick wall, Alex pulled out his phone and called home. He had a quick conversation with someone and then sat down on an old wooden picnic table that was covered in graffiti.

“Someone is coming to get us,” he said.

I nodded, looking out over a grassy clearing. “What is this place?” I asked.

There was a boarded-up concessions stand, and beyond the structure was a grassy meadow with a large section that was flat and brown. It looked like a dried-up pond.

“It used to be an outdoor ice-skating rink during the winter months,” Alex said, following my gaze out to what must have been the ice patch. Alex took one of my hands and rubbed my skin gently with his thumb. “Ever been skating before?”

It was a harmless question, yet I still felt a sudden jab at my heart. “Yeah,” I said slowly. “My family had this tradition where we’d go to

the rink at Rockefeller Center on my mom’s birthday. I don’t remember how it started since my mom wasn’t very good, but we did it every year.”

Alex wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

“I’m fine,” I told him, resting my head on his shoulder. “It’s one of those nice memories. You know, the kind that makes you sad but you smile at the same time?”

I could almost picture my family gliding across the patch of dried-up grass as I stared out at the meadow, and the memory was so captivating that it took me a minute to realize that Alex hadn’t answered me. When I turned to look at him, I found that his eyes were already locked on me.

The first time Alex kissed me, it was so unexpected that it made my stomach jump in excitement. At the time, I hadn’t known what to think because there was so much adrenaline soaring through me. This time as his eyes fluttered closed and he leaned in, I knew what was about to happen and I could feel the steady beat of my heart.

Everything about the way he kissed reminded me specifically of him. First it was a slow, barely there kiss, so if I rejected him he could pull away and pretend it never happened. But then, when he realized that I was in fact kissing him back, it was excited and sporadic. His hands never stayed in one spot. First they would be in my hair, then grasping my arms, and finally moving to my waist before the whole procedure would start over again. It was a little wet, but I didn’t think it was slobbery enough to call it sloppy.

At the same time, I didn’t have much to compare it to, so for all I knew, Alex could have been a great kisser.

As weird as it sounded, he reminded me of a puppy. Puppies are good, right? Everyone likes puppies. And just like a dog, he had boundless make-out energy. I needed a breath, to stop and surface, but Alex was pushing me down onto the picnic table.

Just as I was running out of air, a car horn honked from out in the rain and Alex quickly jumped back. Standing up, I tugged down my shirt, which had ridden up while we were kissing, and smoothed out the wrinkles. Alex shot me a cheeky grin before grabbing my hand and pulling me to the edge of the pavilion.

“We can finish this later,” he whispered before stepping out into the rain to grab his bike.

To shield myself from the downpour, I lifted my arms over my head and sprinted to the truck. When I reached the passenger-side door, I yanked on the handle, but it was locked.

“Open up!” I shouted over the rain, pounding my fist against the window. It was coming down so heavily now that I couldn’t even see who was inside. I heard the distinct click of the lock and threw myself into the truck a second later. “God, it’s nasty out there,” I said, patting down my hair. My shirt clung to my skin, and I could feel the crumbs of someone’s morning Pop-Tart sticking to the back of my leg as I sat back.

Nobody answered, and I turned in my seat to find Cole behind the wheel. He was glaring out the windshield so fiercely that I was afraid he would burn a hole through the glass and the storm outside would pour in.

“You okay?” I asked, but there was a sinking feeling in my stomach.

When he said nothing, I knew he had seen Alex and me making out.

I waited in awkward silence as Alex threw his bike in the bed of the truck. The air-conditioning hummed softly, drying my damp skin and leaving behind a trail of goose bumps. I could feel the anger pouring off Cole, so I forced myself to concentrate on the radio, repeating the string of lyrics in my head. But he was impossible to ignore, and I found myself

wishing I had sat in the backseat. Finally, after three uncomfortable verses, Alex climbed in the back and Cole stepped on the gas, reversing down the gravel path at full speed.

“Whoa!” Alex shouted as he was thrown backward before being able to buckle his seat belt or even breathe. The truck took a sharp left, back onto the main road, and Alex was thrown into the window. “What the hell?”

“Cole, slow down,” I said quietly.

He narrowed his eyes at his brother in the rearview mirror but let up.

The rest of the ride home was completely silent, and an uncomfortable tension filled the small, confined space. It didn’t help when a love song started to trickle out from the radio, its melody sickly sweet. Thirty seconds into the cheesy lyrics, I leaned over and switched it off. Alex heaved a sigh of relief.

When we pulled into the Walters’ driveway, Cole parked at the bottom of the hill. I turned to give him a puzzled look as he yanked the key from the ignition. We were going to get soaked walking all the way up to the house. Why wasn’t he parking in the usual spot underneath the basketball hoop? Cole answered my unasked question by pulling out an umbrella and getting out of the truck. He slammed the door shut, and Alex and I sat in shocked silence, watching him make his way toward the house.

“What’s his problem?” Alex demanded.

Frowning, I told Alex what I had feared since leaving the ice-skating rink. “I think he might have seen us.”

Alex shook his head. “Jackie, I can barely see out the window right now with the rain coming down so hard. How could he possibly have seen us?”

I shrugged my shoulders, not knowing how to answer his question. Even if Cole hadn’t caught us, he was definitely mad about something.

“So what do we do now? I can call my mom again and ask for someone to bring us an umbrella,” he suggested.

I shook my head no. “I’d prefer not to give Cole that satisfaction. It’s only water and we’re halfway wet already. Besides, you still smell. A shower would do you good.”

“But my cell phone.”

“Just leave it in the truck,” I said, opening the door. “You’re not going to die without it.”

As we walked up the driveway toward the house, the rain let up. Giggles filled the air as we approached the front porch, and I looked up to find most of the Walter boys sitting under its shelter.

“What are they doing?” I asked Alex.

“Watching for a thunderstorm,” he answered. “Haven’t you ever sat outside during one? It’s really peaceful.”

“I lived on the top floor of an apartment building,” I told him as water squished inside my flats. I should have taken them off before getting out of the car, since they were ruined for sure, but the gravel on the driveway was sharp and I didn’t want to cut my feet.

“Oh right,” Alex said. “Well, we do it all the time.”

“Enjoying the weather?” Nathan asked when we reached the house. Alex gave him the finger, and everyone burst out laughing as we trudged up the steps.

“Jackie, you cold?” Isaac asked. “Your headlights are on.”

Resisting the urge to cross my arms, I answered him. “Actually, I am. Maybe a hug would warm me up?” I took a step toward him with my arms wide open. Isaac backed away quickly, not wanting to get wet, but Alex ambushed him from the side.

“Dude, really?” Isaac complained. “Now I’m soaking.” “That’s what she said,” Lee said, making all the boys laugh.

“Not soaking,” Alex answered Isaac, shaking his head in disagreement. Isaac had splotches of damp on his clothes, but it was nothing compared to us. “Let me fix that for you.” With one quick push, Isaac was out in the rain. Danny gave Alex a high five as Jack and Jordan stepped out onto the porch.

“What’s he doing out there?” Jack asked as he wiped his already foggy glasses on his shirt.

“We don’t like him anymore,” Danny said. “He was voted off our island.”

“Really?” Isaac demanded from out in the rain. “Who’s going to read lines with you then?”

“Definitely not you,” Danny said, rolling his eyes. “You’re terrible.” Isaac smirked as he climbed up the steps. “‘O Romeo, Romeo,

wherefore art thou, Romeo?’” he called, descending upon his cousin.

“Stay back,” Danny said, jumping up out of his seat. “I don’t want to get all wet.”

“Too bad,” Isaac laughed and pushed him off the porch.

Lee burst out laughing. “Hey, look! Romeo’s all washed up,” he said, pointing a finger at his cousin. In response, Danny yanked him out into the rain. “What the fudge?” Lee demanded.

Benny, who had been standing next to me quietly, tugged on my hand. “Jackie, can I go out in the rain too, or does someone have to push me?”

I broke into a grin. “If you want to play in the rain,” I told him, “go for it. I’ll even play with you. First one to jump in a puddle wins?” I asked.

Benny’s eyes lit up, and he bounded off the porch in his yellow rain boots.

“Care to join me?” I asked, grabbing Alex’s hand.

“It would be a pleasure,” he said, grinning at me, and we both stepped back out into the rain.

The cool water felt relaxing as it ran down my back, and I ran my fingers through my soaking hair, lifting the new weight off my neck.

“Jackie! I beat you!” Benny called.

“Did you, now?” I responded, splashing toward him. “Well, guess what? You’re it,” I said and tapped him on the shoulder. It only took Benny a moment before he was chasing after one of his older brothers in a game of tag.

“You know what this weather reminds me of?” Jack asked his twin. “That pirate movie we watched last night, where there was a sword fight in the middle of the storm.”

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Jordan asked, picking up a broom.

He swung it at his brother’s face. “En garde!”

Jack grinned and swiped a stick out of the flower bed. The two started to sword fight across the slippery wooden porch, pretending it was the deck of a pirate ship.

“I get to be the captain,” Jack called.

“You have glasses,” his double said. “That makes you a loser. Captains are never losers.” With that, he pushed his brother off the steps with a quick jab of his sword. Jack fell back into a puddle of water and sprayed mud everywhere. When he stood up, his pants were covered.

“Looks like you shit your pants,” Lee teased.

“Well, it looks like you shit your face,” Jack shot back. He scooped up a handful of mud and threw it at his cousin, splattering brown muck on Lee’s face.

“Oh, hell no,” Lee said, wiping the mud off. He bent down and grabbed his own handful. “You’re gonna regret that.” He sent the mud flying in Jack’s direction, but he ducked and it sprayed across Nathan.

“What the…?” Nathan said in confusion.

“Mud fight!” Jordan shouted, throwing a goopy fistful at Danny.

Everyone joined in quickly.

“Jackie!” Alex called, dark sludge oozing out from between his fingers. “I’m going to get you!”

“Please don’t,” I said, backing up slowly. “This is a nice shirt. You’re going to ruin it.”

But Alex was still advancing on me, an evil grin on his face. Spinning on my heels, I dashed off in the opposite direction. Water splashed up to my knees as my feet pounded across the sopping grass. I could feel the exhilaration pumping through my body, and I stole a quick glance over my shoulder to see how close Alex was.

“Jackie, look out!” Danny called.

I turned in time to see Zack standing in front of me. His neck was craned up at the sky, his tongue stuck out to catch the falling raindrops. I nearly

crashed into him, but I managed to dig my heels into the ground seconds before we collided. Alex, on the other hand, wasn’t so quick to react and smashed right into me. We both toppled over, sending mud in every direction. On top of me, Alex winced.

“Crap, I’m sorry, Jackie,” he said.

I chose not to respond as I let everything sink in. The mud had splattered across my face, and I knew that my top was covered in it too, completely ruined. Part of me knew I should be mad because that was how I normally would have reacted, but something about playing in the rain was so completely freeing that, for once, I didn’t care.

“Well,” I finally said, digging my fingers into the ground. “You’ll just have to pay.” I smeared a handful of mud on his cheek. He blinked in surprise and then we both burst out giggling.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in forever,” Alex said. He bent down and pecked me on the lips.

“PDA alert,” Isaac shouted from across the lawn, making us both glance up. “You two are disgusting. Get a room.”

Alex rolled his eyes, and when he turned back to me, I knew he was going to ignore Isaac and kiss me again.

“Oh no.” I pushed him off me. He looked confused for a moment, but then he saw me scoop up another handful of brown slime. “Isaac is so asking for it,” I told him.

“Well,” Alex said with a huge grin on his face. He stood up and held a hand out for me. “We should give him what he wants.”


As we filed into the school auditorium Monday night, the lights started to dim. We were running late, as usual, since it was nearly impossible to tear Katherine away from the kitchen. Given that she was such as amazing cook, she’d decided to prepare all the food for the reception instead of paying for a caterer who she said couldn’t possibly make as good a meal as her. The result was that, for the past three days, there had been a tiny tornado in the

Walter kitchen as Katherine rushed about kneading bread, mixing sauces, and chopping up different roots, vegetables, and fruit.

Occasionally she would run out of an ingredient or realize that she had forgotten an item on her grocery list. Then she’d panic until someone jumped in the truck and rushed off to the store to pick up whatever she needed. The wedding was still two weeks away, but with so many people to cook for, she had to start early.

When we needed to leave for Danny’s play, Katherine was still at the sink, unconvinced that her kitchen was clean. Quite the opposite was true; I had never seen the place so sparkling. George was finally able to pull the rubber gloves from her hands and drag her to the car, but as soon as we pulled out of the driveway, Jack and Jordan realized they forgot the tripod for their camera, which they needed to film the play.

Five minutes later, Nathan remembered that he left the iron on and we had to turn back around again. When Parker noticed that she was wearing two different colored socks, everyone groaned in frustration. But this time, George told her to suck it up, and we continued on our way to the high school.

Only the row in the very back of the auditorium had enough empty seats for our entire group to sit, but we had to scoot by a family to get to the middle.

“Ouch, that’s my foot,” someone hissed as the curtain opened. I sat down, Alex on one side and Nathan on the other.

“Up,” Cole whispered to Nathan.

Nathan leaned forward and saw that Zack and Benny had taken the seats after Cole. He shook his head. “No way, dude, I’m not sitting next to those two monsters.”

For that I was thankful. Since the party, Cole was different. Instead of his cocky obnoxious self, he was withdrawn and spent most of his time out in his garage. As a result, the dynamics of the Walter household had changed drastically. Without his outgoing attitude, which was the glue that got all of the guys and their different personalities to stick together, the

house was silent. Everyone did their own thing—the days of baseball games and movie nights were fading.

On a rare occasion when I ran into Cole in the hallway, he would smile. However it was never a real smile, because it didn’t reach his eyes. I almost missed the smug smirk that was normally on his face. Alex on the other hand, was his happy-go-lucky, clueless self when his older brother was around. He flirted and laughed, acting like life couldn’t get any better. I tried to tone down the happy-couple vibe whenever we were around Cole, but Alex seemed to think that since his brother wasn’t acting mad, everything was fine.

It was a struggle for me to be around both of them at the same time when I could see so much happiness in one of them and so much hurt in the other. Knowing that I had caused all this didn’t help me feel any better. I didn’t want to feel the awkward tension of sitting between both boys for the entire play, because I wanted to focus on Danny’s performance.

“Too bad. I’m older than you, so I get to pick where I sit.”

When Nathan laughed, a woman sitting in front of us turned around. “Would you both be quiet?”

Cole glared at Nathan for a moment longer before giving him the finger and dropping into the only open seat next to Zack.

“Hey, Cole?” I heard Zack whisper. He held his finger an inch away from Cole’s cheek. “I’m not touching you.”

“Boys!” Katherine hissed at her younger twins. “If you don’t behave yourselves, then no dessert at dinner.”

They didn’t take their mother’s warning seriously because as the first actor stepped out onto the stage, I heard the twins’ evil giggles.


“Danny, that was amazing!” I exclaimed, pulling him into a hug. He had joined us outside the auditorium after the show, and he was still in his Romeo costume.

“Truly a heart-wrenching performance,” Isaac said, wiping away pretend tears. “Can I have your autograph?” Danny rolled his eyes and gave his cousin a small shove. They both laughed. “Really, dude,” Isaac said, getting serious. “It was great.”

“Thanks,” Danny responded, nodding his head. Doing one of those silly man hugs, they clapped each other on the back.

“Danny Walter?” a woman asked, coming up to our group. “Yes?” He turned to look at her.

“Hi,” she said, extending a business card. Danny took it from her outstretched hand and quickly glanced over the tiny text. “My name is Jillian Rowley, and I’m a talent scout from the Starlight Group. We’re a theater company in New York, and I was wondering if you had a moment to spare.”

“I—um, yeah!” Danny said, looking back up. His face was neutral, but I had come to learn that Danny was very good at masking his emotions. The small stumble in his sentence said it all: he was ecstatic.

“Wonderful,” Jillian said and led him away from our group.

“What was that all about?” Alex asked, joining us. One of Kim’s sisters had been in the play, and after it was over, he’d gone to find Kim to talk about the latest GoG news.

“Danny told me about a potential talent scout attending the play this year,” I explained. “It was why he was so anxious about auditions. He wanted to make sure he got the male lead in case the talent scout came.”

He hadn’t said it, but I knew Danny thought his future depended on tonight’s performance. He hadn’t applied to college, not only because his parents couldn’t afford it, but also because he didn’t want to go. His dream was to be an actor, and even if nothing came out of this performance, he was going to move to New York City and follow his dream. It just meant that he was going to have to do it the hard way—waiting tables while auditioning for everything and anything.

“Jackie?” Katherine called. She and George were standing with the parents of the actress who played Juliet, and the other three were still deep

in conversation.

“Yes?” I asked, coming up next to her.

“What was that all about?” she asked, nodding her head in Danny and Jillian’s direction. The woman was still talking, and he was nodding his head eagerly to every word.

“I’m not entirely sure yet,” I responded. “But she introduced herself as a talent scout for a New York theater company.”

Katherine raised an eyebrow. “Well, now,” she said, a flicker of a smile playing on her face. “That’s interesting news.” I could tell she was thrilled but was holding back in case things didn’t turn out the way we hoped.

“Did I hear something about a talent scout?” Cole asked, appearing next to his mom. After the play was over, he was charged with taking the younger kids to the restroom. Now Zack, Benny, and Parker were chasing each other about the auditorium lobby, weaving in and out of the crowd, but Cole was done with his babysitting job.

“Apparently the woman speaking with Danny is one,” Katherine told him.

“What woman?” Cole asked.

We all turned toward Danny and Jillian, but she was gone and he was making his way across the room toward us with a grin on his face.

“Guess what?” he asked.

“She wants to make you the next A-list actor in Hollywood, and you’re going to become so famous and rich that you can buy me a house?” Cole asked. We all shot him a look, but Danny was too happy to care.

“I’ve been offered a spot in their company’s summer training camp. After the program, if things go well, I could be in New York productions this fall!”

“Oh, honey,” Katherine said, pulling her son into a hug. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Congratulations, Danny,” I said, waiting for my turn to hug him. “This is so exciting!”

“Thanks, Jackie. I really owe you,” he said, pulling away from his mom to face me. “If you hadn’t spent all that time reading lines with me, I don’t know if I would have gotten the part.”

“That’s not true,” I told him. “But I’ll accept your gratitude anyway.” “So when does this training camp begin?” Katherine asked.

Danny hesitated. “That’s the thing. I’d have to leave for New York as soon as summer starts.” When he saw the frown on his mother’s face, he added. “I am, after all, an adult and the company will provide lodging until I find a place to live.”

“Okay, dear,” Katherine said. “Why don’t we discuss this later?”

“All right,” said Danny. It wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear, but there was still a huge, excited smile on his face.

“Mom! Mom!” Zack and Benny shouted as they crashed into their mother’s legs. “We’re hungry.”

“Come on, Walter clan,” she said, raising her voice so we all could hear her. “Head out to the cars. We have a celebratory dinner to prepare.”

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