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Now we just had to wait for Dave Harper to show up at the post office parking lot. We decided to meet thirty minutes early so we could find the best place to watch the scene unfold.

I hadn't counted on my parents getting in the way. Mom thinks that dinner is a sacred time, which wouldn't have mattered if it weren't for the fact that Dad came home an hour late.

"Maybe I should fire my client. The man never stops talking." He pitched his briefcase onto the recliner. "Even the three-hundred-dollar-an-hour fee doesn't shut him up. Sorry I'm late. What's for dinner?"

When he eyed the plates, forks, and knives arranged on the dining room table, I recognized my mistake. I'd never set the table in my life without the requisite lecture on teamwork and family. But today was different. I had somewhere to be.

"Let's eat," I said. "I'm starving."

Dad glanced at the table, then at me. "Looks nice."

"I didn't even have to nag," Mom said.

"I knew you'd be hungry when you got home, Dad."

Mom spooned corned beef onto our plates. My parents complained about the high heat bill. I dug in, eyeing the clock.

"How was school?" Mom asked.

The conversation was so ... Disney. I had an urge to be honest, to poke holes in the family armor. I'm going to sneak out with my friends, Mom and Dad. We're going to do something bad, and you can't stop me.

The word "bad" stuck in my mind, bold as a marquee. I filed the image away. "Uh-huh," I said.

The forkful of limp cabbage paused halfway to Mom's mouth.

"Oh, fine, nothing new to report," I corrected.

Dad winked. "Same old, same old, huh?"

"Right."

Another fifty seconds were gone. What if I ran into Dave Harper on the way to the post office? Justin would be furious.

"So Ariana, I have something to run by you," Dad began.

Oh God, not now! Dad's favorite dinner activity was to explain a case he'd been working on, then see how fast I could figure out a solution to his legal problem. If I got it right, he thumped me on the back. If I got it wrong, he lectured me on my fallible strategy. I was correct about 75 percent of the time, which Dad says is impressive, given my lack of training. But the thought of stumbling through a maze of legalities at that very moment made me want to vomit.

"My client hit a child with his car last year. He broke the boy's leg in six places. The small-time police department botched the job and didn't give him a Breathalyzer. He ended up walking, which irked a few hundred residents. Fast-forward two months. This same guy passes out in a stolen BMW, wrapping it around a utility pole. Here's the question: Can he get a fair trial within a hundred miles of his hometown?"

"Unlikely." I glanced at the clock and watched the second hand march forward. "The trial should be moved to a neighboring county to prevent juror prejudice."

Excellent, Ari. I mean, Ariana. That was a good, succinct answer!

"But what about—?"

I cut him off. "Dad, I'm feeling kind of tired. Think we can talk tomorrow?"

He raked his fingers through his thinning hair, leaving neat little rows of scalp. "I suppose it will still be an issue tomorrow."

Mom started clearing the dishes. "Why don't you go to bed, Ariana? Make it an early night."

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