Authors: Colleen Hoover
I unbuckle Diem from her booster seat and help her out of Ledger’s truck. I already have the cross in my hand, so I grab the hammer from the floorboard.
“You sure you don’t want me to help?” Ledger asks.
I smile at him reassuringly and shake my head. This is something I want to do with Diem.
I lead her to the edge of the road where I first found the cross, and I kick around in the grass and dirt with the toe of my sneaker until I find the hole the cross was in. I hand the cross to Diem. “See that hole?”
She leans forward to inspect the ground.
“Stick it right there.”
Diem drives the cross into the hole. “Why are we putting this here?”
I push down on the cross, making sure it’s stable. “Because it’ll make your nana happy to know it’s here, in case she ever drives by.”
“Will it make my daddy happy?”
I kneel down next to Diem. I’ve missed so much of her life, which is why I want every minute we spend together to be authentic. I’m always as truthful as I can be with her.
“No. Probably not. Your daddy thought memorials were silly. But your nana doesn’t, and sometimes we do things for people we love, even though we wouldn’t choose to do those things for ourselves.”
Diem reaches for the hammer. “Can I do it?”
I hand her the hammer, and she hits the cross a few times. It doesn’t do much, so when she hands the hammer back to me, I hit it three times until it’s secured into the ground.
I wrap my arms around Diem, and we stare at the cross. “Is there anything you want to say to your daddy?”
Diem thinks about it for a moment and then says, “What do I say? Do I make a wish?”
I laugh. “You can try, but he’s not a genie, or Santa Claus.”
“I wish for a baby sister or a baby brother.”
Don’t you dare grant her wish yet, Scotty. I’ve known Ledger for all of five months.
I pick up Diem and walk her back to the truck. “It takes more than a wish to make a sibling.”
“I know. We have to buy an egg from Walmart. That’s how babies grow.”
I buckle her into the booster seat. “Not exactly. Babies grow in their mother’s tummies. Remember how I told you that you grew in my tummy?”
“Oh, yeah. Then can you grow another baby?”
I stare at Diem, not sure how to answer that. “How about we just get another cat? Ivy needs a friend.”
Diem throws her hands in the air, excited. “Yes! Another kitten!”
I kiss her on the head and shut her door.
Ledger is side-eyeing me when I open the passenger door. He points to the middle of the seat, so I scoot all the way over and buckle in. He grabs my hand and threads our fingers together. He’s looking at me with a glimmer in his eye, as if the idea of giving Diem a sibling excites him.
Ledger kisses me, and then he starts to drive.
For the first time in a long, long time, I want to listen to the radio. I want to hear any song, even the sad ones. I lean forward and turn on the radio. It’s the first time we’ve listened to anything in this truck other than the safe playlist Ledger made me.
He glances at me when he realizes what I’ve done. I just smile at him and lean against his shoulder.
Music still makes me think of Scotty, but thinking of Scotty no longer makes me sad. Now that I’ve forgiven myself, the reminders of him only make me smile.
I’m sorry I hardly write to you anymore. I used to write to you because I was lonely, so I guess it’s a good thing the letters are few and far between now.
I still miss you. I’ll always miss you. But I’m convinced that the holes you left behind are only holes felt by us. Wherever you are, you’re complete. That’s what matters.
Diem is growing so fast. She just turned seven. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that I wasn’t here for the first five years of her life because it feels like I’ve always been here. I’m sure that has a lot to do with Ledger and your parents. They tell me stories about her growing up and show me videos, so it sometimes seems like I missed nothing at all.
I don’t know that Diem even remembers a life without me in it. To her, I’ve always been here. I know that’s because all the people who loved you gave her everything she needed when you and I couldn’t be there.
She still lives with your parents, although I see her every day. She stays with Ledger and me at least
two nights a week. She has her own bedroom at both houses. We eat dinner together every night.
I’d love for her to live with me full time, but I also know it’s important she keep the routine she’s had since birth. And Patrick and Grace deserve to be the major component in her life. I would never want to take that from them.
Since the day they accepted me into her life, I’ve never felt unwelcome. Not for one day or even one second. They didn’t accept me with conditions. They just accepted me like I belong here with all the people who loved you.
You were surrounded by good people, Scotty. From your parents to your best friend to your best friend’s parents, I have never met a family more loving.
The people that were in your life are now the people who are in my life, and I’ll do everything I can to continue to show them as much love and respect as you gave them. I’ll treat each of my relationships with the same level of significance and respect I give to the naming process.
You know how seriously I take naming things. I thought long and hard about what to name Diem when she was born, and I even took three days to name Ivy.
The last name I handed out two weeks ago was by far one of the more important ones, yet somehow the easiest name to come up with.
When they placed our newborn son on my chest, I looked down at him through teary eyes, and I said, “Hi, Scotty.”
KENNA ROWAN’S PLAYLIST
1) “Raise Your Glass”—P!nk
3) “Happy”—Pharrell Williams
4) “Particle Man”—They Might Be Giants
5) “I’m Good”—The Mowgli’s
6) “Yellow Submarine”—The Beatles
7) “I’m Too Sexy”—Right Said Fred
8) “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”—Justin Timberlake
9) “Thunder”—Imagine Dragons
10) “Run the World (Girls)”—Beyoncé
11) “U Can’t Touch This”—MC Hammer
12) “Forgot About Dre”—Dr. Dre featuring Eminem
13) “Vacation”—Dirty Heads
14) “The Load Out”—Jackson Browne
15) “Stay”—Jackson Browne
16) “The King of Bedside Manor”—Barenaked Ladies
17) “Empire State of Mind”—JAY-Z
18) “Party in the U.S.A.”—Miley Cyrus
19) “Fucking Best Song Everrr”—Wallpaper.
20) “Shake It Off”—Taylor Swift
You might have noticed there was never a location specified for where this story actually takes place. I’ve never had this issue in a book—solidifying a location for the characters. I just kept placing Kenna in different towns while writing her story, and none of them felt right because they
There are people like Kenna everywhere, in every town. People who feel alone in the world, no matter where they’re located. When I finished the book, I realized I still didn’t pinpoint the exact setting, but the ambiguity of where Kenna’s story unfolds somehow felt right. So this is your permission to imagine this story takes place wherever you are in the world. No matter how whole our neighbors appear on the outside, we have no idea how many broken pieces they’re made up of on the inside.
Reading is a hobby, but for some of us, it’s an escape from the difficulties we face. To all of you who escape into books, I want to thank you for escaping into this one. But I also want to apologize for never being able to write romantic comedies, no matter how much I try. I started this one thinking it was going to be a romantic comedy, but obviously the characters weren’t in the mood for that. Maybe next time.
I also want to thank those who read this book early and gave me such helpful feedback: Pam, Laurie, Maria, Chelle, Brooke, Steph, Erica, Lindsey, Dana, Susan, Stephanie, Melinda, and I’m sure there
are more who will read it and give me feedback after these acknowledgments are submitted, so this is also a thank-you to those who help me out last minute but don’t get the public credit.
And a huge thank-you to two sisters, Kenna and Rowan. I saw your names in my reader group and stole them for this book because I thought they’d make a great character name, so I hope I did your names justice!
I want to thank my agent, Jane Dystel, and my foreign rights agent, Lauren Abramo. You ladies and your team of coworkers are so attentive and amazing and
A huge thank-you to Montlake Publishing, Anh Schluep, Lindsey Faber, Cheryl Weisman, Kristin Dwyer, Ashley Vanicek, and everyone else who had a hand in the creation and distribution of this book. You guys have been a dream to work with, and I appreciate the entire Montlake team so much.
Thank you to my hype team, Stephanie and Erica.
Thank you, Lauren Levine, for believing in me. Always.
A huge thank-you to all the people who work so hard for the Bookworm Box and Book Bonanza. The charity wouldn’t exist without any of you.
Thank you to my sisters, Lin Reynolds and Murphy Fennell. You’re both my favorite sisters.
Thank you to Murphy Rae and Jeremy Meerkreebs for answering my early questions. Your advice resulted in the idea for this novel, so thank you both!
To Heath, Levi, Cale, and Beckham. Thank you for treating me like a queen. I’ve been gifted the best four men on the planet, world. Don’t @ me.
To my mother. Thank you for being my first and most enthusiastic reader of every single book I write. Not sure most of them would get finished if it weren’t for you.
Also, um, TikTok! What the heck? WHAT IN THE HECK? I don’t even know what to say. Those of you on the BookTok side of that app have helped not only my books reach new readers, but the books of so many authors. Your love for reading has made new readers and has helped the entire publishing industry in huge ways. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
And lastly . . . thank you to the members of Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts on Facebook. You guys brighten my day every day.
Thank you, world, and all who inhabit it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Photo © Chad Griffith
Colleen Hoover is the #1
New York Times
bestselling author of several novels, including the bestselling women’s fiction novel
It Ends with Us
and the bestselling psychological thriller
. She won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance three years in a row—for
It Ends with Us
was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Hoover and her family founded the Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service offering signed novels donated by authors. All profits are given to various charities each month to help those in need. Hoover lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Visit