This was written on another piece of the original notebook paper. All familiar characters are Janet's. For readers hoping for the usual Olive update, I promise to post it as soon as it's finished.
"Where are you?"
"At Ranger's," I tell my Mom after I answered my cell.
"Why are you there?"
"He had beer."
"Honestly, Stephanie. You shouldn't be drinking in the afternoon."
"Says the woman who spends a lot of time by the pantry, chugging something that definitely isn't olive oil."
As I predicted, she immediately changed the subject.
"When are you getting here?"
"Ummm, turns out I'm not coming."
"Ranger asked me to stay here, and that's what I've decided to do."
I gave the guy we're discussing a small smile. I didn't expect what happened when he came upstairs, but I can't complain about how things ended up.
"You can see that man tomorrow. You said you were coming to dinner and I already set you a place at the table."
"Actually, I said I might swing by. And now I'm not. You're welcome. Now there'll be less dishes to wash."
"Why do you always do this?"
"Do what?" I asked, stepping back into Ranger's body when he came closer to provide moral support.
"Punish me just for asking you to dinner."
"I'm not punishing you, Mom. I'm making myself happy. Ranger and I have a few things to talk about and I need to be here for that. You don't need me there just to eat dinner."
"What do you have to 'talk about' that's so important?"
"Looks like I'm moving in with him. And we need to work out how - and when - to get my crap here and where we're gonna put it." I should've started with that since she'd gone speechless at the news. "Okay, I'm gonna hang up now. I'll talk to you later."
"Don't you dare hang up on me, young lady! After dropping a bomb like this!"
"There's nothing to say. It doesn't change your life at all. Only ours."
"Are you doing this to spite me? Unless you've been keeping secrets from everyone in your life, the two of you aren't even dating."
"Dating isn't really required when we've loved each other forever and we've already lived together in the past. There's no reason not to hit fast forward on the getting-to-know-you part. Ranger wants me here and I wanna be here with him. Like I said, I'll talk to you later … or not if you're going to go psycho over this."
I hung up and turned in Ranger's arms, just wanting to hold onto him for a minute and suck up some of his usual calm.
"I can tell Gene to block all calls and visits from the Burg if you think it's necessary," he told me, brushing the backs of his fingers gently along my cheek.
"It's not. I've made up my mind. If you haven't changed yours … nothing she says will affect my decision. I'm notoriously not good at relationships, but I want to put everything I have into this one."
Before I'd even finished speaking, Ranger's mouth covered mine. I got lost in the feel of his lips and tongue showing me that I picked the right place and time to make a stand.
He lifted his head when I was on the verge of moaning. "You belong here, Babe. I've always known it."
I tightened my hold on him and looked up until I met his eyes. "I guess the only difference between then and right now is ... I believe that too."