Trisha circled Emmie's living room, inspecting the canvases and open sketch pads propped up against chairs and walls

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Trisha circled Emmie's living room, inspecting the canvases and open sketch pads propped up against chairs and walls. "Jesus, Emmie, it's like the art co-op seeped up through the floorboards and took over your apartment.

"I've been doing a little drawing."

"A little! And the Titanic was a little boating accident." She picked up a charcoal drawing from the coffee table, raised an eyebrow, then placed it back down. "Do you even sleep?"

"Of course, I sleep. Sometimes. This is just... therapeutic." After her dramatic exit from Trisha's, Emmie had allowed herself one night of self-pity. Well, okay, maybe two. It had been Christmas, after all. She'd come home from the holiday gathering exhausted and disheartened. She'd felt justified to let herself wallow. But when the twenty-sixth rolled around, it was either do something constructive or succumb to despair. She couldn't very well do the second... so, creative outlet it was.

Melody was working the register at the co-op that morning when Emmie made her way down just after opening. "Well, nice to see you Emmie. How was your Christmas?"

"Oh... um, it was fine. Quiet. How was yours?"

"All five of the grandkids were there. Definitely not quiet! Albert played Santa and they were all so happy! Well, except for Kelvin. He's thirteen and spent all his time snapchatting or whatever it is they do. Is there something newer the teens are into now? Anyways, the younger ones were over the moon. It was a lot of fun, but I did most of the work. I'm glad it's over. And I ate too many cookies."

"Wow, that sounds... mainly good." Emmie smiled, hoping that her own lack of enthusiasm wouldn't show. Melody, however, was too perceptive to miss her tone.

"The holidays can be hard on us, for a variety of reasons. You're welcome over to our home anytime. I'm sure you were in good hands at Trisha's, though. Dan knows how to cook a feast, not like some husbands. I'm sure it was amazing!"

"Oh yes, the food was wonderful. Trisha was wonderful. I'm so glad she invited me." Please don't mention Ryker, please don't mention Ryker.

"Ryker showed up, didn't he?"

Dammit. "Are you psychic, Melody?"

She laughed. "Albert always asks me that when I tell him he's going to forget his wallet if he doesn't leave it in the bowl on the counter with his keys. Then he asks me the same thing ten minutes later when he has to come back to the house to retrieve that wallet from wherever he left it. But no, it's not psychic powers, it's simply a matter of understanding human nature. Well, male nature at least. Ryker is a creature of habit. He loves his family and even though he said he had other plans, he wouldn't miss Christmas. That's just him."

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