From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hat Club comes a story about two unlikely friends who would never have imagined they'd end up married to the same man
Neighbors Betsy Callison and Kat Ellis were oil and water when they met thirty-five years ago. Betsy was a prim, neat freak, Republican wife, and Kat was a wild, irreverent, hippie Democrat. But they soon discover common ground that creates a bond that lasts for decades. Until Betsy's husband leaves her for his secretary, then comes sniffing back around two years later and convinces newly widowed Kat to marry him! Not that Betsy wants him back, but it's hard to move on when the newlyweds are flaunting their love right across the street. But there's trouble brewing in Paradise, and no one knows philandering Greg better than his ex-wife Betsy. Can Betsy get involved in her best friend's marriage--even if it means helping her wife-in-law figure out the same man she shared a bed with for thirty years? Told with Haywood's Smith inimitable southern voice, WIFE-IN-LAW provides loads of laughter, insight, and plenty of heart.
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St. Martin's Press
September 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Wife-in-Law by Haywood Smith
Somebody once asked me how I pick my friends, and I just laughed, because God usually does the picking for me, and believe me, He has a wicked sense of humor. So when it came to my best friend in the world, never in a million years would I have chosen Kat Ellis. And never in a trillion years would I have ever imagined that we'd both end up married to the same man--or that one of us would kill him.
Los Angeles, California. July, three years ago
The drive from my daughter's house in Fullerton to the L.A. airport was like a tour of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Smog bathed "paradise" in pollution, while the huge refineries we passed just belched out even more, along with the endless, suicidal traffic that filled the freeway twenty-four/seven.
Wonderful jobs had brought my elder daughter Amelia and her husband Sonny to Tinseltown, but my poor little granddaughters ... How they could escape getting emphysema before kindergarten was beyond me. But being the good mother-in-law that I am, I'd held my peace all week and not insisted that Sonny move the family to a nontoxic environment. I waited till I kissed him and the children good-bye, then announced that I'd be sending them all respirators, as soon as I could find some in toddler sizes.
I wasn't kidding, but Sonny just laughed. Sigh.
Now, on the way to LAX for my flight back to Atlanta, Amelia turned her eyes from the insanity on the freeway to shoot a brief frown of concern my way. "Mama, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, honey." As fine as a dumped housewife could be. At least Greg paid my alimony and health insurance on time, thanks be to God. "How about you?"
All week, Amelia'd been holding something back, shooting me sad looks when she thought I couldn't see her, but we'd both been so busy with Macy, three, and Madison, one, that we hadn't had much time to talk in private. But Amelia never could keep a secret, so I wasn't surprised when she'd announced that Sonny would be keeping the kids while just the two of us went to the airport. "You've seemed so preoccupied all week," I prodded.
She scowled at the traffic ahead. "I ... I'm fine, Mama, really."
"Really?" I nudged. "Everything okay with you and Sonny?"
She nodded rapidly, eyes ahead. "Fine. Fine."
Right in front of us, a flame-bedecked lowrider--bass throbbing--started to "hop" at sixty miles an hour, and I slammed my foot to the floorboard at the same instant Amelia, along withall the other drivers in the vicinity, braked to give him wide berth.
Heart racing, I gasped out, "People are crazy in this town."
Amelia grinned. "Yep. That's one of the things I like best about it."
She'd always been the artistic one in the family--flamboyant, dramatic, marching to a different drummer from the other suburban kids back in our Atlanta suburb, Sandy Springs. Then she'd aced prestigious Parsons School of Design and started doing costume work for Broadway, so I'd reconciled myself that she wouldn't be coming home. Her current success designing and coordinating wardrobes for TV and movies was a dream come true, but was it too much to ask for my grandbabies to be able to breathe?
I bit back the question before it escaped, saying instead, "Is everything okay with work? Really?"
There was a recession, after all. It cost a fortune to live in L.A. And even though Sonny was one of the most sought-after young cinematographers in town, they weren't making movies at the rate they used to. Plus, bargain-basement reality series were slowly eating up time slots on TV.
"I already told you, Mama, we're fine financially," Amelia said with a hint of annoyance, stomping the brakes to avoid hitting a car that cut right in front of her, which set off a series of screeches behind us. I flinched, waiting for the crunch of metal that never came, but Amelia just kept right on with our conversation. "Business is great. Did you think I was lying when I told you?"
"No, honey. Of course not," I said, breathless from the close call, "but obviously something's bothering you." I knew it wasn'tthe kids. Both Amelia and Sonny were calm, adoring parents who rolled with the punches. "If it's not Sonny and it's not work, what is it?"
A pinch of pain flashed across her strong profile.
"I'm your mother, honey. You know you can tell me anything."
She risked letting go of the steering wheel with her right hand long enough to grip my left one briefly. "I know, Mama. I know."
Just then, some idiot on his cell phone in a Land Rover with DRECTER plates swerved over on us, so we had to swerve over on somebody else, setting off another chain reaction that prompted my sweet, precious Southern daughter to blare her horn and let loose a stream of profanity that would scorch the paint off an army tank.
"Amelia Harcourt Wilson," I gasped out in shock, "wash your mouth out with soap!"
"Sorry," she said without conviction.
Like an EEG settling down after a petit mal seizure, the traffic around us smoothed back to its steady pace as if nothing had ever happened, but I was still floored by Amelia's language. "I hope you don't talk that way in front of my precious grandbabies!"
Amelia chuckled. "Only when I'm alone, Mama." She signaled for the turn into LAX.
"Alone? What am I, chopped liver?" Jolted back into mother mode, I jabbed a finger her way. "This place is corrupting you."
My daughter responded with her favorite phrase from adolescence: "Oh, Mama, lighten up." She headed into short-term parking. "Nobody can drive in this traffic without cussing sometimes.It's legally required. Anyway, a little private profanity is good for the soul."
"Yours wasn't private," I reminded her.
"Sorry," she repeated, then scanned the crowded rows of parked cars for an open space. "Don't you ever cuss?"
"Only when I'm alone. Really alone."
I'd cussed a lot when her father ran off with his secretary two years before, but it hadn't helped. Only time and therapy had helped. And a shipload of antidepressants and antianxiety drugs.
Good old drugs. They'd definitely gotten me over the hump. I planned to wean myself off them, but not just yet.
Amelia spotted an empty space and pulled in. She turned off the ignition and paused as if she was going to say something, then changed her mind and opened the door with a too bright, "Well, here we are. I'll get your luggage."
"You don't have to go in with me, honey," I said for the third time. "I promise, I can manage."
"Mama, we went over this. I want to be with you till the last minute. We only see each other once a year." Avoiding eye contact, she gathered my things and led the way into the terminal. After I'd checked my bag, she kept glancing around the concourse, anxious, as if she was looking for something. "Are you hungry, Mama?" she asked. "Why don't we find someplace to eat?"
At the airport, paying three prices for everything? "We just finished that lovely breakfast you made," I reminded her.
There was that look again. I stopped short. "Amelia, I wish you'd just come out and tell me what's bothering you."
"Mama, I ... Not here. It's so public."
Good Lord. What on earth was it?
All kinds of dire possibilities flooded my brain. My heart dropped to my bladder and bounced. "Oh, God. You're not sick, are you? Or the children? Or Sonny?"
"No, no," she hastened to assure me. "Please don't faint." She hustled me to a nearby bank of worn chairs. "It's nothing like that. Here. Sit." Leaving the seat between us empty, she sat too. "Mama, I didn't mean to upset you. I'm so sorry. We're fine."
"Thank God." I pressed my hand to my racing heart. "You scared the life out of me."
She shot me that pained look of pity for the fortieth time.
I'd had enough of this pussyfooting around. "Then what is it? Spit it out, before I have a heart attack."
Her eyes filled with tears. "It's Daddy." She pressed her left fist to her chin as if to block what she was saying. "He and Kat are getting married."
"Duh!" No surprises there. "I figured they would. Your daddy never could take care of himself."
Poor Kat. Desperately lonely after Zach died of ALS, she'd been a perfect target when Greg had come back to Atlanta looking for somebody to nursemaid him. Thanks to therapy, I'd known better than to encourage him when he came sniffing around, but Kat ...
"Mama," Amelia protested, "she's your best friend! I can't believe she'd even date Daddy, much less marry him!"
"Oh, honey, it's okay." Why did everybody want me to be madat Kat, anyway? She'd had nothing to do with the breakup of my marriage.
Frankly, I felt sorry for her. Lord knows, she'd seen what Greg had done to me, and I'd warned her that he would probably just do it again, but she'd simply stopped calling me. Word on the grapevine was, Greg had told her I was just jealous. And frigid. And a prescription-drug addict. All bald-faced lies, and Kat knew it, but Greg was so charming, he could make you believe your mother was a monkey.
Kat also knew how selfish he was--and I'd done my share of making him that way--but she'd been so lonely since Zach died that I guess she'd convinced herself Greg had really turned over a new leaf.
Who knows? Maybe he had. For Kat's sake, I hoped so. I only knew I didn't want to be his mother anymore. Taking care of my own kept me plenty busy.
But how could I explain all this to Amelia without saying anything bad about her father? She still wouldn't speak to him or let him see the girls, even though he'd moved his mistress to L.A. after our breakup, ostensibly to be near Amelia and her family. As it turned out, the mistress thing hadn't worked for him either. Women our daughter's age don't wait on men the way I'd always waited on Greg.
I collected my wits. "Honey, listen to me about your daddy." Careful. He was still her father. "As Aunt Emma used to say, 'That train has left the station.'" I shot her a wry smile. "After it ran over me about six times." I'd tried desperately to save our marriageat first, but one person can't do it alone, so I'd finally seen our relationship for what it really was--and wasn't--and let go. "I've moved on, and so has your dad. I really hope he and Kat will be happy together," I said with absolute conviction.
Let her take care of him. At least the girls wouldn't have to worry about him anymore.
A delicious thought occurred to me, one I planned to act on as soon as I got home.
Amelia scooted into the seat beside me for a big bear hug. "Oh, Mama, you are too good. Daddy didn't deserve you."
I stroked her hair, meeting her grief with calm. "Your daddy deserves to be loved for who he really is." I'd loved him for rescuing me and making me respectable. I'd loved our life, and all the things he'd given us. But that was just as selfish as he had been in the end.
Amelia started to cry. "I hate what he did to you, to all of us. And now this. I hate him."
"Well, you can hate him if you want to," I soothed, quoting another of Aunt Emmaline's wise sayings, "but it won't change anything, sweetie. It'll just make you miserable, and I don't want you to be miserable."
"I can't help it," she said, her voice tight. "It's awful. Awful."
"It's all going to be okay, honey," I promised. "You love Kat and her kids, and that's fine with me. Maybe your daddy can be happy with them. I hope so." God, it was good to be over Greg at last.
Catching a glimpse of the clock, I gave Amelia a parting squeeze, then stood. "I'll call you after I get home, and we can talk some more. But for now, I need to head for security if I'm going to make my flight."
Amelia wiped her eyes as she stood, the weight of the world on her shoulders. "I just hate this. Hate it all."
Poor kid. Smiling, I lifted her chin with a wry, "Lighten up, kiddo. Look at the bright side. When you come home to visit, you'll just have to cross the street to see your daddy."
Oh, man. How was that going to play out?
Maybe I'd get lucky, and they'd move.
The past. Sandy Springs, just outside of Atlanta. June 1974
It rained the morning that providence brought Kat Gober and me together, leaving the air heavy and humid, rich with the smell of wet lumber and exposed red clay from the construction all around us in Eden Lake Estates (which had no lake, and only the inklings of a swim/tennis club, so far). Sandy Springs was the hinterlands of Atlanta, beyond even the new, barely used Perimeter Highway. But our first house was as close to town as my up-and-coming accountant husband could afford, so I'd made up my mind to be the best housewife and the best neighbor in the subdivision.
All my life, I'd dreamed of having a home of my own, and now, at last, my dream had come true, complete with stylish harvest-gold appliances, shag carpeting in the den, and an elegant avocado-green powder room. All I needed were some neighbors.
A month ago, a SOLD sign had gone up at the house across the cul-de-sac, and I'd found out from the sales office when the buyers--a couple our age--would be moving in. Grateful for our very first neighbors, I'd spent the day before their arrival cookinga meal to welcome them, all from scratch: my famous devil's food cake with seven-minute icing, a nice pot of pole beans (peeled down both sides, lest anyone, God forbid, get a string), and three dozen ears of fresh stewed corn. I'd left frying the chicken till that morning, so it would be perfectly room temperature when I delivered it under a new red and white kitchen towel that would serve as a welcome gift.
As soon as I kissed Greg off to work at Arthur Andersen Accounting and cleaned up after breakfast, I put on a kettle of water for iced tea and started frying, grateful to God Almighty for air-conditioning, my favorite thing about our new house.
Aunt Emmaline had always said that air-conditioning destroyed the sense of community in the South, and she may have been right, but to me, it was well worth the sacrifice.
I used up five pounds of flour and four fryers before I was done. Then I cleaned my kitchen till it sparkled, taking great satisfaction in the ritual.
After the chaos and grime of growing up with Mama, the order and newness of my own home made me so happy, every single day, that I couldn't imagine considering cleaning it a chore. I loved the fresh aroma of Pine-Sol and the shine of the new appliances and fresh, cheerful vinyl and Formica, and the pattern the vacuum left on my soft, carpeted floors. Never mind that Greg accused me of making up the bed when he went to the bathroom in the middle of the night; I loved my all-brick, colonial basement ranch with a passion I would never feel for a mere man.
Once the house was spotless, I bathed, then freshened my perfect blond flip and makeup. Appearances mean so much. I'd onceread in one of Mama's old Ladies' Home Journals that if a man ever saw you looking less than your best, he'd never forget it, so I always got up well before Greg to put on my face and fix my hair. I have no eyes, au naturel.
Next, since I only had one chance to make a good first impression, I decided to wear a black A-line skirt I'd copied from Ladies' Home Journal, with matching sandals and a cute little fitted white blouse with a Peter Pan collar that looked just like a real John Meyer. And pearls, of course (only cultured, but I'd never tell).
Not too dressy, not too casual. Wouldn't want to put the new people off.
Then I sat in one of my new flame-stitched wingback chairs by one of the full-length windows in the living room to wait and watch for the movers. I'd finished the current issues of Good Housekeeping and Southern Living, cover to cover, before I heard the rumble of a truck and looked across the cul-de-sac to see a battered U-Haul pull into the opposite driveway, followed by a Volkswagen Vanagon with dealer tags and a big peace sign on the bumper. To my dismay, a herd of hippies erupted with a halfhearted cheer in a cloud of smoke from the van, then set about unloading the sorriest collection of garage-sale rejects I'd ever seen (and believe me, I'd seen plenty growing up).
But hope springs eternal, so I told myself they were probably just a bunch of Gypsy movers, and the real neighbors would arrive eventually. Then a frizzy-headed, petite, skinny redheaded girl in bell-bottom hip-riders and a halter top started directing the men where to take the furniture, so I had to wonder. A man's paisley necktie circled her forehead ? la Jimi Hendrix, and hercommands easily reached me across the cul-de-sac, her cracker accent as broad as the Chattahoochee, and just as red.
The princess phone beside me rang, causing me to jump. "Hello?"
"Did they come yet?" Mama demanded.
"I'm not sure." I had no intention of telling her that hippies had invaded the neighborhood. She'd get too much satisfaction from it. "The movers are unloading now."
"And?" Mama insisted. Never mind that she hadn't set foot outside her house since Daddy left when I was five. She lived vicariously through me. "What kind of furniture do they have? You can tell a lot about people by their furniture, you know."
Why I couldn't just lie to my mother, I have no idea, but she had an uncanny ability to see right through me, so half-truth was the best I could ever get away with. "It looks ... ordinary," I reported. And old. And battered.
"That doesn't tell me anything," she fussed, picking up on my hesitation. "What kind of ordinary? Williamsburg? Mediterranean? Traditional? French provincial?" Mama might be crazy, but she was still intelligent and reveled vicariously in the minor mysteries of my life. "Don't tell me it's contemporary," she said. "I can't stand contemporary people."
"It's eclectic," I offered. "A mix. Not everybody decorates in a particular style." God knew Mama didn't, but she was the first to criticize the rooms in the decorating magazines she insisted I pass on to her. She was always telling me about recipes from Southern Living too, but she hadn't been able to get to the stove since I thank-God-and-hallelujah married up, moved out, and gave her the extramicrowave we'd gotten from one of the partners at Greg's firm.
"You're no help," Mama grumbled. "Take pictures, so I can see for myself."
"Mama, I have no intention of sneaking pictures of my new neighbors' furniture from behind my drapes to satisfy your curiosity." Maybe it was the threat of hippies, but I got so annoyed, I blurted out the unspeakable. "If you want to see what they have, come over and look for yourself."
She could, if she would just take her meds like she was supposed to. But no. She said they made her feel "flat," whatever that was. To me, it sounded like her paralyzing phobias had become her friends, better friends to her than she would ever let me be.
After a wounded pause, Mama accused, "That was cruel, Betsy. I was just being curious. You had no cause to be so cruel. I didn't bring you up to be so mean to your mother."
She didn't bring me up, period. I'd had to take care of her.
"I'm sorry," I apologized, as I always, always did, no matter who was wrong. "I just think it would be very rude to take pictures of their stuff. They're the only neighbors we have. I want to start out on the right foot."
"I still don't see why you and Greg bought the very first house in that subdivision," Mama harped. "That was very risky, you know."
"Which was why we got such a good deal," I responded on cue. The only thing my husband hated worse than taking chances was spending more than he had to.
Across the street, the redhead continued to direct the movers, then planted a peck on the cheek of a particularly scruffy manwearing shirtless overalls that exposed a huge tattoo on his upper arm (!), his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail that was almost as long as his scraggly brown beard. Please, no.
"Mama, I think I see them driving up now," I lied, surprised that I sounded so convincing. "Gotta go take them the meal I made and introduce myself."
"What'd you fix?" Mama demanded. No matter how often we talked, she never let me go when I asked her to.
"Fried chicken, pole beans, stewed corn, and a devil's food cake with seven-minute icing," I rattled off, glad for the diversion.
"Sounds yummy." A pregnant pause followed.
I rolled my eyes. "I made enough for all of us. I'll be over by four to bring you some." It would take me half an hour to get down to Mama's ratty little house on Rhomboid Avenue, off Defoors Ferry near Howell Mill, and I needed to be home with supper ready and Greg's martini made when he walked in at six.
Mama's mood lightened. "Good. That's a good girl." I'd always done the cooking, even when I was little. "And don't forget my magazines."
"Okay," I said. We had a deal: she got my old magazines as long as I could take out the ones she'd read, along with one other thing. "Go ahead and pick something out for me, but remember, jewelry doesn't count. It has to be at least as big as a shoe box." Last time, she'd tried to get away with a broken plastic necklace and earrings, which didn't qualify.
"I don't know why I ever let you badger me into this arrangement," she muttered.
Because I'd threatened to quit coming to see her if she didn't,and meant it. Frankly, though, it only gave me the illusion that I was making a difference. The truth was, as long as she had a phone, Mama kept right on squandering her disability check on "treasures" from catalogues and the want ads, so the stuff that clogged all but the narrow pathways through her house never really diminished, no matter what she gave me to throw away.
"It's my life, not yours," she whined for the jillionth time. "My things. What harm does it do you? Or anybody?" she went on, according to script. "I don't know why you insist on torturing me this way, but I'll pick something out." I heard what sounded like a minor avalanche beside her chair as she hung up with a parting, "Torture."
I closed my eyes, holding the phone to my chest in exasperation, then heard a commotion outside. The movers were pulling away, crammed into the cab of the truck, leaving the ZZ Top guy with his tattooed arm around the skinny redhead as they waved their helpers off with thanks.
There goes the neighborhood.
Greg would die when he found out. He'd been hoping for another Young Republican to play tennis with, as soon as the club was available.
Oh, well. Might as well make the best of it. I headed for the kitchen to load up the tray with food, topping the containers off with red plastic plates and cups, and a bread basket filled with red and white checkered paper napkins wrapped around sets of plastic cutlery and tied with white curling ribbon. The effect was festive and perfect.
Even hippies had to eat, and I certainly didn't want to get on their bad side.
By the time I reached their front door with the heavy tray, they'd gone inside, but the Vanagon was still there. I rang the bell several times and waited before I finally heard some muffled cursing from inside, then laughter, followed by approaching footsteps and the redhead's hollered, "Git decent. We've got company."
The door flew open to reveal her flushed and tying her halter top. "Sorry," she said, "my old man's an animal." She caught the aroma of the food and zeroed in on it, wide-eyed. A harsh, sweetish, acrid odor wafted out from behind her. "Wow. You a caterer, or somethin'?"
"No." I did my best to look friendly, which wasn't easy in light of the smell from the house, one I recognized as the stink of burning hemp twine. I was so na?ve, I didn't even know what it was. "Actually, I'm your new neighbor Betsy Callison from across the street. I figured you wouldn't be set up to cook today, so I brought y'all some food to welcome you to the neighborhood."
"Wow. Great." She studied me with intense, light brown eyes, as if I were some kind of alien. "I'm Kat Gober. My old man's Zach." She grinned, her pale red lashes visible for an instant. "We been together five years now, since I was sixteen. Met at a love-in at Piedmont Park."
Together? Oh, Lord. This was supposed to be a respectable neighborhood.
This woman needed a marriage license almost as much as she needed some mascara.
I was so nonplussed, I forgot to hand her the tray.
"Come on in." Kat motioned me inside, hungrily eyeing the tray. "What a feast."
I felt myself blush and extended the food her way. "Just plain old Southern country cooking."
Kat shoved aside some boxes on the scarred dining room table. "Here. You can just set it down here." She glanced, frowning, toward the kitchen. "God knows where the dishes are."
I smiled and pointed to the eating supplies. "Oh, I brought everything." As I set the pitcher of tea on the table, a loud belch behind me drew my attention to the bearded man, who stopped short in the hallway and stared at me in amazement.
"Damn," he breathed out, sending those acrid, sweetish fumes my way as he rubbed his eyes. "Am I trippin', or is Betty freakin' Crocker in our dining room?" His cultured Southern accent didn't fit his coarse comment.
"Mind your manners, Zach," Kat scolded. "This is our new neighbor, Betsy ... sorry, I didn't catch--"
"Betsy Freakin' Callison," I said, smooth as my smile, "of Greg and Betsy Callison, your only freakin' neighbors in the subdivision. So far."
Zach grinned with a definite spark of intelligence. "I like you," he said, extending a callused hand with grease under its nails. "Glad to meet ya." He followed the flick of my eyes to his nails, then hastily withdrew his hand. "Sorry. I'm a plumber. It's hard to get 'em clean."
Embarrassed that he'd noticed my reaction, I shifted to the food. "I hope y'all like fried chicken and stewed corn and pole beans."
"Do we ever." Zach eyed the cake keeper with alacrity. "And cake."
"It's devil's food with seven-minute icing," I couldn't resist bragging. "My specialty."
Zach plopped down into a chair, untying a set of utensils. "Man, oh man." He grabbed a paper plate, then pulled back the checkered dishtowel and helped himself to a chicken leg. "Maybe you could teach Kat to cook," he said as he heaped on a pile of pole beans with the slotted spoon. "She doesn't even make coffee."
"I kin make vegetable soup," Kat defended, clearly feeling at a disadvantage.
Zach guffawed through a mouthful of chicken. "Only if somebody dies or seriously screws up." He waggled the half-consumed chicken leg my way. "You ever see her making vegetable soup, head for the hills, 'cause there's a funeral or a tongue-lashin' in it for somebody."
Kat shifted uncomfortably. "Hush up, Zach. We just met this woman. She don't care why I make soup."
I felt sorry for the girl, married to such a mannerless man who looked like a hobo and told their secrets to strangers. Or not married to him. Or whatever.
"Well, I guess I'll just head home," I told them. "I have to go visit my mother and take her some supper."
Kat brightened with interest. "Your mama live nearby?"
I knotted up inside the way I always did when anyone asked about Mama, but didn't let my expression show it. "Down in town."
Kat eyed my clothes. "Buckhead, I bet."
I just smiled, a master at avoiding awkward questions. "Y'alluse the tray and the dishes as long as you need, but the dishtowel is a housewarming present." I started edging toward the door. "Don't get up," I said with more than a hint of sarcasm as Zach shoveled in the food I'd made. "I know you must be tired. I'll just let myself out."
Kat followed me, suddenly shy. "Thanks so much for the food and all. Maybe we'll see each other around on the weekends."
"I'm sure we will," I said with a warm smile and a wave good-bye, silently dismissing the couple as potential friends.
The other four houses on the cul-de-sac were almost finished. Surely somebody with whom Greg and I had more in common would move in soon. Kat and Zach just weren't our kind of people.
But God, as He so often does, had other plans.