Chapter One

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I've often heard that few people actually remember things that happened to them before the age of three. My dad once told me his earliest memory was at age four, and I told him that mine was at two. He didn't challenge it. And for a really long time, I truly believed that the memory of my mom and me in the snow was real. Don't get me wrong—it was real in the sense that it happened, but that memory, well, it came from a home video.

In the video, my mom held me in her arms. Bundled up in a pink parka and braving the cold in the Colorado Rockies, I looked like a little fish swallowing flakes as fast as they fell. My mom wore a pink coat too—only hers had a fur-trimmed hood framing her wind-chapped face. As I devoured huge crystal snowflakes, Mom laughed and smothered my fat cheeks with kisses. Years later, Dad told me we'd taken that trip to the mountains for Christmas—our last with her. That was the only memory I had of my mom, and every time it snowed, images of that day resurfaced in my mind.

Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, snow swirled in the gray sky like mini-tornados. I pushed away the thoughts of my mom and looked at the woman across from me at the kitchen table. "Do you think we'll get the storm?" I asked her.

"I'm not sure, Farris." She tapped her slender fingers on the slick black tabletop and turned slightly in her seat.

I watched her gaze out the window into a sea of other high-rise buildings like ours—mine and Dad's, not mine and Lucy's.

"It's been a crazy winter, a crazy February. Did you know it's colder here than in New York and Chicago right now?" she asked.

"Really?" I asked, poking at the wrinkled green peas on my dinner plate. They collided with the mountain of mashed potatoes Lucy had piled on for me. I told her I wasn't hungry, but she insisted on loading my plate with two slices of roast and heaping sides.

"Yeah. It's beautiful though," she said, turning back around.

"I hope we get a ton of snow, so Kelsey and I can go snowboarding in the park tomorrow."

Lucy bit her lip. "Snowboarding, huh? But you don't have a board, do you?"

"No, but if it snows really hard, I'm buying the one at All Seasons Sports. I've been eyeing it for weeks, but I figured what's the sense of having one in Georgia, right?"

Lucy shoveled in a forkful of meat and nodded. Mid-chew, she said, "Henry and I should come with you guys, if the snow sticks."

"Sure. Wait—where is Henry?" I asked her, shocked I hadn't noticed until that second.

"With his dad. Speaking of dads, have you talked to yours?"

I looked up from my peas to Lucy, who was waiting for my answer. A soft dusting of teal shadow accented her deep blue eyes edged with tiny creases—but not enough to count since she was only twenty-seven. I had known Lucy for four years, ever since Dad and I moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta for his job. He hired Lucy as his personal assistant and, as he put it, my "caregiver" since he was a corporate lawyer with ridiculously long hours and I had no mom. Someone had to pick me up from school, help me with homework, and feed me dinner, and that was Lucy. After Mom died, it became Gram's job, but she had stayed in California.

Dad told me he chose Lucy because she was a single mom working her way through graduate school. She was the niece of one of the senior partners at his firm. This last part I learned later. At first, I hated the idea of someone coming into my life and playing "mom" Monday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. until my dad got home. I had loved our life in LA with Gram. But eventually, I got used to having Lucy and Henry around every day, and sometimes even on weekends if Dad was working on a big case.

The Broken One by Christine Bailey-Chapter OneWhere stories live. Discover now