38. Alice, from Wonderland

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Shana was sprawled out on the couch, a Harlequin novel about an Italian millionaire's secret baby tented beside her

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Shana was sprawled out on the couch, a Harlequin novel about an Italian millionaire's secret baby tented beside her. "Have I got a surprise for you, honey. What're you standing there for? Get in here quick before you let all the cold air out."

Shutting the door to her trailer behind me, I walked in and scooped up a red faced and wailing Cadence off the floor. "What's wrong with him?"

"Ear infection. Both ears. He's been screamin' his head off all day, wearin' me out for real."

I batted at his little fist and cooed, then tried blowing raspberries against his cheek. But he was inconsolable. "Poor thing. What's the surprise?"

Shana rested her hand on her belly and wiggled her eyebrows. "I got you a dress."

"Don't lie! Really?"

Shana nodded, her eyes bright with excitement. "Ta-da!" With a flourish of her hand, she reached behind her and pulled off a sheet that had been draped over an exquisite blue dress.

"Shana! You didn't buy this, did you?" I didn't have to know anything about fashion to know that this was an expensive dress, probably worth more than everything in this trailer combined.

"Oh please. Billy and I are so broke, we've barely got a pot to piss in."

Shana only knew one person who would have access to a dress like this. "Dawn?"

Her smile wobbled at the mention of the name. Dawn was Shana's horrible cousin who reveled in making Shana feel bad about herself. To get a dress like this out of her, Shana would've had to beg, plead and grovel, then subject herself to hours of blatant verbal abuse.

Tears welled in my eyes. Shana never begged. Not even during that dry spell when Billy was out of work and they were having trouble keeping their lights on. I'd had to give Billy the money to pay their bills behind Shana's back because she was that proud.

"You didn't have to do that." I laughed a shaky laugh. "But I'm glad you did because I was planning to wear my mom's old prom dress."

Shana burst out laughing. "Can you imagine?"

Picturing the sea foam green taffeta number in my head, I laughed too, then started weeping out of gratitude again.

"No, honey, don't cry. If you cry, I'll cry, and I ain't in no mood for cryin' right now. I just wanted to do something nice for you before-" Shana's voice cracked and her eyes turned red around the rims. "Aw hell, Layla..."

A cold chill ran down my spine. "Before what?"

She was quiet for a long time, her eyes downcast, as if she were mustering up the courage to say the words. "Billy and me, we're thinkin' of leaving town."

"What?"

"Don't break my heart about it," she said quietly.

"Go where?" I croaked out. "When?"

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