“All of this is out of everyone’s control and it sucks. Maybe he just needs you to tell him how you’re feeling and that he’s not alone. Be honest with him. Be there for him. That’s all you really can do right now.”

Guilt overwhelms me as I hold my daughter and let her cry. It’s easy for me to give her this great advice. Why isn’t it easy for me to follow it myself?

“I don’t want Aunt Claire to die,” Charlotte whispers.

My throat tightens and I squeeze my eyes closed to keep the tears from falling.

“Do you remember the first time I got my period, you guys both showed me how to put a panty-liner in my underwear?” Charlotte suddenly asks with a laugh.

We both sniffle through our laughter, remembering that day.

“Now there’s a story you could tell Gavin to lift his spirits. We were at your Aunt Claire’s house in her bedroom, sitting on the floor next to a laundry basket of clean clothes. She reached in and grabbed the first pair of underwear she could find and it was one of Gavin’s Spiderman Underoos,” I chuckle.

“Shut up, it was not!” Charlotte exclaims, pulling away to look at me.

I nod my head. “Yep, totally was. Your Aunt ripped off the paper backing of the pad and slapped it on the crotch of Spiderman tighty-whities. We decided Kotex was Spiderman’s new weapon of choice. Instead of a web shooting out of his wrist, maxi pads would fly out, rendering all of his enemies helpless.”

Charlotte and I sat at the kitchen table, reminiscing about the funniest things that have happened over the years and an idea started forming in my head. The one good thing about our group of friends is that we’re never short on laughter. Someone is always doing something stupid or inappropriate and no matter what’s happening in our lives at that point in time, laughter has always been the cure for everything.

I don’t know if I can repair the damage that’s been done to my friendship with Claire, but I’m not going down without a fight. We have too many years and too many memories to just give up. Claire has always believed in me and I need to show her that she still can.

Nineteen years ago…

“WHERE IN THE hell is Jenny?” I asked Claire, glancing around the casino floor.

She shrugged and put another twenty into the machine in front of her. “I don’t know and I don’t care. I have found my Sex in the City machine and all is right with the world.”

When I found out Jim had a meeting for work right next to the casino in Cleveland, Claire decided we should tag along and have a “girls” weekend. We needed it. Claire was running ragged with seven-year-old Gavin and three-year-old Sophie and I was losing my mind with Charlotte, who’s also three, Ava who just turned one, and my newborn, Molly, who is six weeks old today. Jenny, being a new mom of only four weeks with her daughter, Veronica, jumped at the chance to get out of the house for a night.

We had entirely too many fucking kids and we needed a break.

We’d only been here for a few hours and we’d already lost Jenny. She had been way too excited about the prospect of free booze while she played. After six rum and cokes during one hand of Black Jack, Claire and I had walked away and pretended like we didn’t know her. Luckily, Jim’s meeting wasn’t until tomorrow morning, so we put him on babysitting duty to make sure she didn’t get kicked out of the casino. Bringing a first-time mom who hasn’t had a drink in over nine months to a place where you could drink for free as long as you were gambling probably wasn’t our brightest idea.

After a few vanilla vodka and diet cokes, I started to feel warm and fuzzy. When I felt warm and fuzzy, I spoke about things that I normally wouldn’t when I was sober. Like about how being a mom of three little girls scared the ever living shit out of me.

“So, I’m thinking I’m not cut out to be a mom of three girls. Do you think Jim would be mad if I packed up my things and moved to Lithuania?”

Claire paused with her hand above the “repeat bet” button and turned to look at me. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

I shrugged, smacking my hand down on the closest button on my machine just to give myself something to do. “I mean, this shit is hard. What in the hell ever possessed me to have three kids?”

Not only did I have three kids all under the age of three, I also ran my own business that had turned into several chains across the U.S. and had a husband I liked to pay attention to every once in a while. I was drowning in invoices and baby formula and interviewing preschools and managers for the chains, not to mention the fact that I hadn’t gotten more than two consecutive hours of sleep in at least two years.

“Of course it’s hard. Being in a mom is the hardest job in the entire fucking world. I’m not going to tell you that ‘it’s all worth it in the end’ or some stupid shit like that because who knows if it will be worth it? Who knows if when our kids finally grow up we’ll have done a good job or if they’ll need therapy for the rest of their lives? All you can do is the best that you can and believe me, you are doing great. Your kids are all still alive, that’s all that matters. If I’m having a shitty day, the kids are crying, the phone is ringing off the hook and Carter and I are arguing about something, all I do is look at my kids and say ‘Well, at least they’re still alive’,” Claire explained.

“I feel like I’m losing my mind. Why didn’t you tell me being a mom would make me go insane?”

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