“Yeah? Well I don’t like you very much right now either. What in the hell are you doing, Payton? If you’re so miserable without Leo, then talk to him,” she urges, tucking Baby Cecil under one arm as she sits down next to me on the side of the bed.

She grunts a little sound of pain and quickly gets back up, flinging back the covers and grabbing what she just sat down on.

“Why are you sleeping with a spindle from the headboard? Is this some kind of kinky sex toy? Oh, my God! Did you break this off and use it!” she shouts in horror, tossing it across the room where it hits the wall and falls to the ground.

“No, you sicko! I broke it when Leo and I were…when Leo was…” I can’t finish the sentence without crying and Emma Jo sighs, sitting back down on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry I broke your headboard. I promise I’ll buy you a new one.”

I swipe the tears off my cheeks and Emma Jo leans forward, putting Baby Cecil on the floor by her feet, sitting back up and turning to face me.

“I don’t care about the damn headboard, I care about you and what you’re doing to yourself. You let Leo walk away because you said you knew things would never work out and you pretended like it wasn’t serious, even though you knew damn well it was. You talk this big game about how you have a life back in Chicago and you can’t stay here, but yet, here you stay,” Emma Jo states.

“I stay because I’m waiting for all of this mess with Jed to get cleared up so I know you’re okay. If you want me to leave, I’ll leave,” I reply indignantly.

“Stop being such an asshole, it’s giving me a headache,” Bettie announces, walking into the room and making the bed bounce when she flops down on the other side of me on her stomach, pushing herself up on her elbows. “Strap on a set of balls or I’m not letting you drive by Leo’s house anymore.”

“You drove by Leo’s house like some crazy ex-girlfriend?!” Emma Jo exclaims in shock.

Okay, so I got out of bed and out of the house one other time in the last week…

“No! I didn’t drive by Leo’s house like a crazy ex-girlfriend!” I argue as Bettie and Emma Jo both frown at me. “I had Bettie do it while I hunkered down in the passenger seat, thank you very much.”

Emma Jo sighs, closes her eyes and shakes her head.

“It was a pathetic display and I was embarrassed to be a woman that day, but she bribed me with a fifteen percent raise, so what’s a girl to do?” Bettie asks Emma Jo with a shrug.

I feel like the biggest idiot on the planet, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I know what I did was wrong and I know I made the wrong decision, but I can’t take it back now. I can’t fix it, even if I knew how, which I don’t. After Leo left me standing in Emma Jo’s front yard and I finally managed to convince Benjamin to go back to Chicago and never contact me again, I stupidly thought Leo would call or text or come back by the house. I felt worse with every hour and day that passed when he didn’t do any of those things. I deserved his silence, but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less. I tried a hundred different times to pick up my phone and call him, but what the hell would I say? Everything I said is still true, nothing has changed. My life is in Chicago. I moved away from Bald Knob because I needed to get out of this small town where everyone knows your business and there aren’t any opportunities to grow or change or be anything other than a small town girl, living in a lonely world.

Shit. Now I’m using lyrics from a Journey song to justify my life. I’ve reached an all-time low.

Emma Jo leans over and pulls my arms away from my chest, holding my hands in hers.

“Leo called me last night,” she says softly, making my ears perk up and my heart beat double-time. “The mess with Jed is officially cleaned up. I don’t want you to go. I’ve loved every insane minute of having you back home and being your friend again, but it’s okay. If you need to go, you can go. I won’t stop you. I’ll be sad and I’ll miss you, but I won’t stop you if you feel like that’s what you need to do.”

I should feel some sort of relief at her words, but I don’t. I should be scrambling out of bed, grabbing my laptop and booking the first flight back to Chicago, but I can’t.

“What do you mean, the mess with Jed is officially cleaned up. What happened?” I ask, deciding to focus on this mess first, instead of trying to figure out why I’m not more excited to know I can finally go back to Chicago.

“Well, it looks like the medical examiner has officially ruled Jed’s death as an accident,” Bettie informs me.

“What? How is that possible?” I question in shock.

“There were a hundred and twenty-seven people who confessed to his murder at last count,” Emma Jo says, taking up where Bettie left off. “Too many confusing stories and confessions, no witnesses, no viable suspects, and no murder weapon equals case closed. Did you know we have a sprinkler system installed in the yard?”

I shake my head at Emma Jo’s question. She nods and continues.

“Yep. We had it put in about ten years ago. A couple of the spigots have pushed up out of the ground a little higher over the years. The medical examiner concluded that Jed must have tripped over something, landed on one of the spigots, managed to pulled himself off of it, and then bled to death in the yard.”

My jaw drops open and though the explanation seems plausible I guess, something just doesn’t feel right about it. There’s still something unaccounted for.

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