Chapter One.

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THREE YEARS LATER

Avery

"Psst."

"Yeah?"

"Can you do me a huge, amazing, life changing favor?"

"Yeah!" she exclaims excitedly, sitting up from her spot that I made for her next to me.

"I left my coffee cup on the table in the living room," I tell her, pushing her hair back off her face. "Can you bring it to me?"

"Okay," she smiles. She goes to turn around but I take a hold of her hand before she can. "And you can take that cookie that Uncle Finny left for you there, too. But don't tell your dad, okay?"

She has her bottom lip tucked between her teeth as she grins and nods enthusiastically, before she's off and out of the library with only the sounds being her tiny feet pattering against the hardwood floors.

I smile to myself as I settle back in my office chair. We added a desk in the corner of the library for me to work when I was in grad school and I'm in love with this space. It's cozy and has become such a safe space the last three years.

I finished grad school a little over a year ago and have been working at a local library as a head librarian since. It was a lot of late nights studying that lead to Finn falling asleep on the couch in here so I wouldn't be alone.

Though they were long nights and I told him repeatedly he didn't need to do that, looking over and seeing him crunched up and fast asleep on the loveseat in here while Olive would sleep in her bed next to me never failed to make me smile. I love them with my whole heart.

My favorite little girl comes running back inside with my iced coffee being held in both of her hands. I gasp dramatically when she does, reaching out and taking it from her. "Thank you, lovely. Did you get your cookie?"

She grins and nods, taking the pastry Finn got for her from the coffee shop out of her pocket. I tuck her hair behind her ear and smile at how fucking adorable she is and say, "Good. Let's sit and eat that while I finish working and then we can play until daddy and Finny get home, okay?"

She agrees and sits on her pillow next to Olive, who's fast asleep, and starts chomping down on her snack.

I turn back to my lesson plan, taking a deep breath as I look it over. I left my job at the library and now I'm starting my first teaching job at the University of Washington this week and I'm real nervous. The rounds of interviews were nerve wracking as hell but I was really proud of myself with how I handled all of it.

Getting the call that I got the job was incredible. Finn and I were having a lazy day when my phone rang and he damn near had his ear pressed against mine when I was holding my phone to listen to them. When the chairman of the department told me that I got the position, he flew off the couch instantly and started jumping around with Ollie in his arms. I was trying so hard to not laugh and cry at his reaction, but when we hung up he put Olive down and picked me up in the tightest embrace. He just kept telling me how smart and talented I was and how proud of me he was.

I finish up the section of my syllabus that I wanted to get done and close my laptop, looking over at her. She still has half her cookie in her hand but she's distracted as she pets Olive quietly.

I slip off my chair and onto the floor next to her, folding my hands in my lap as I tell her, "You're being very polite to Olive."

She nods as she says, "Mommy told me that Dot and Ollie will love me more if I'm soft."

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