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Lucy Swisher’s life has always been decided for her and her inner anxiety-ridden perfectionist is just fine with it. When her first adult decision leads to a job from hell, she prays for divine intervention to release her from her misery.

 

Saved by an offer to work at Stella’s Diner, Lucy feels like she’s stepped into Heaven. Her anxiety quickly fades, and her confidence blossoms under Stella’s compassionate guidance.

Everything is going well until Lucy pursues a new opportunity outside the diner and she realizes one choice will change her life forever.

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Prologue

“Hi, Aunt Sid!” I trill into the phone sitting on my bedside table after reading the caller ID.

“Where’s your mother?” she croaks.

“At work,” I quickly answer but fear runs through me at the tone of her voice.

“Tell her I need her.” The line goes dead.

I quickly hang up the phone and call my mom at work. She’s working late at the doctor’s office, so I call the second line, so she’ll know to answer.

“Hello?”

“Mom! Aunt Sid needs you!” I rush out.

“I know. I just hung up with her. Get Dad and meet me at her house.”

“Okay, I will. Love you.”

“Love you, too, Lucy.”

I jump off my bed and run for my dad. “Dad! Aunt Sid needs help. We have to go!” I scream down the stairs.

“What? Hold on, I’m coming.” I hear Dad turn off the TV. “What’s going on?” he asks, meeting me at the foot of the stairs.

“Aunt Sid just called, she needs help. She was looking for Mom. I just called over to the office and she said Aunt Sid had just called her, too.”

“Okay, let’s get over there,” Dad says as we sprint to get our shoes on.

Dad grabs the keys off the dish on the kitchen counter and we run out to the garage and hop in his car.

“Okay, now if it’s something serious, you have to be strong for your mom,” Dad starts. “No crying, remember what Granny always says, don’t be a ninny. It’s no time to get emotional.”

“I’ll do my best.” Tears threaten to spill out of my eyes, but I blink to keep them in. I anxiously wring my hands, willing Dad to drive faster.

 

When we arrive at my aunt’s condo, paramedics and firefighters are breaking into her bedroom window to get inside. My mom pulls up and lets us into the building and into her first-floor unit. They rush to her bedroom but ask us to stay in the kitchen. Helplessness overwhelms me. I don’t know what’s going on and I can’t be with her. She was always the one to calm me down and now I wish I could hold her hand and tell her we were there, and she’d be okay. That we got there in time to help her.

Dad just sits at the tiny two-top kitchen table not saying a word while I hug Mom as we wait and watch everything going on in front of us. Men come and go but no one says anything to us. They’re too busy helping my aunt and I’m just fine with that. I wish they were moving faster. I wish they’d come out and tell us something. My heart is beating rapidly against the emotions building up inside me that I can’t release.

We’re startled out of our thoughts when we hear banging. The paramedics are maneuvering the stretcher out of the hallway and they can’t make the turn. They bust a hole in the wall to get around the corner and Aunt Sid’s limp body covered by a white blanket comes into view. Her exposed skin is pink but she’s not speaking. We watch them wheel her out the sliding glass door. I want to scream and run after her, but I have to stay put and hold on to my mom.

“We’re taking her to Franklin Hospital if you’d like to follow us,” the paramedic states.

The three of us look at each other, file out the door, lock up, and get in Dad’s car.

My mom is in tears. Dad is silent. I sit in the back and smoosh my feelings deep down inside, so they stay put.

 

Rushing into the ER, we let them know we are Aunt Sid’s family. My eyes scan for any signs of where she could be. The nurse asks us to take a seat while she gets an update for us. We huddle together as we sit on hard, blue plastic chairs.

It feels like an eternity before a tall, dark-haired doctor with a mustache and piercing blue eyes comes out looking for us. The grave expression on his face lets me know it’s not good news.

“Are you Sidena’s family?”

“Yes,” my mom whispers and stiffens as we all stand to greet him.

“Sidena suffered a massive heart attack. I’m sorry to say we pronounced her dead on arrival. I’ll have a nurse go over the next steps with you.” He pats my mom’s arm and walks away with his head down.

Time stands still as I stare at his back as he walks away until he passes through an automatic door and disappears.

Memories of time spent with my aunt flash in my head. I try to remember our last conversation, our last anything that isn’t the visual of her lifeless body leaving us behind.

Mom falls into Dad’s arms and the tears flood her eyes and soak his shirt. I’m left standing alone, numb.

“Tell her I need her,” are the last words she ever spoke to me and they will haunt me forever.

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