By: Melanie Harlow

“Well, it isn’t right. I don’t deserve this! I don’t even swear, at least not out loud!” Molten fury was rising in me. “And I really feel like swearing out loud right now.”

“Go ahead, if it’ll make you feel better.”

“Fuck that guy!” I exploded, stabbing the crumbs with my broom. It did kind of make me feel better, so I went on. “Fuck that guy for coming into my house and taking my things. Just fuck him!” I might have stopped there except I made the mistake of looking at Charlie, who was pressing his lips together in a minimal effort not to laugh at me. I pointed the broom handle at him. “And fuck you too, for coming in here and making me feel like this was my fault! I can’t even believe you’re a cop after all the mean stuff you did to me when we were kids.”

A loud knock on the back door made me jump, and I gasped, my hands flying to my chest, the broom hitting the floor with a loud whack.

“It’s OK,” said Charlie, moving toward the back door. He passed me on the way and put both hands on my shoulders. “Relax. You’re safe.”

I nodded, fighting tears, wondering if I’d ever feel completely safe in my house again. Maybe I would look into getting an alarm.

Charlie let go of me, went to the door and looked out the window before pulling it open. After a cool blast of autumn wind, Mia rushed in, followed by Coco, both of them in wool dress coats and heels.

“Oh, honey.” Mia came right to me and took me in her arms. Her perfume was sweet and reassuring. “You’re shaking. Are you OK? I can’t believe this.”

“Seriously,” said Coco, rubbing my shoulders. “Who’d have thought?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “A little shaky maybe, but I’m OK.”

“How did they get in?” asked Mia, releasing me but holding onto my hand.

“Through the back door.” I met Charlie’s eyes, expecting him to comment on my carelessness, but he didn’t. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say he looked a little sorry for me.

Mia looked confused. “Did he break the lock?”

“No. I accidentally left it open. He just walked in.”

“Asshole!” Coco shook her head and pursed her bright red lips together. “God, I can’t believe someone had the nerve to come in here while you were home.”

“What did he take?” Mia glanced around. I recited the stolen items in a sullen tone as she shrugged out of her coat. “Let’s make a list now so you don’t forget. You’ll have to file an insurance claim tomorrow. You have insurance, right? Had you backed up your computer?”

“Did he take your purse? You need to cancel your credit cards right away in case he tried to use them!” Coco exclaimed.

I nodded, feeling completely overwhelmed. “Yes. I’d backed up recently. Yes, I have insurance. Yes, he took my credit cards.”

Charlie spoke up. “Actually, sometimes that helps us catch these guys. A lot of times they’ll try to use the credit cards right away at a gas station or something, and those usually have cameras installed. Maybe give a call to the company now and see.”

I nodded, glad to have something to do. “Can I use somebody’s phone?”

“Of course.” Coco set her shoulder bag on the island and dug into it. Mia was studying Charlie, as if she was trying to place him.

“Mia, do you remember Charlie Dwyer?” I asked, because manners are manners, even if he was still a big jerk.

Her face went blank for a second, but then it dawned on her. “I thought you looked familiar. You lived next door to Erin on Butler when we were kids, right? Across from me?”

Charlie nodded. “Yes.”

“But you moved away shortly after my family moved in. To Ohio or something.”

“Iowa. But I still have family up here.”

“You just moved back?”

“Last year, actually.”

“I’m Coco.” Coco handed me her phone, then stepped toward Charlie and offered her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too.” They shook hands, and when Coco turned around to walk back toward us, she wiggled her eyebrows at me. I could tell she had Ideas.

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