Someone Like You (The Baxters #30) - Karen Kingsbury

1

Like a tumor in her chest, for twenty-two years Brooke Baxter West had carried the lie.

Every morning she woke to the reality of it. She lived and loved around it and tried not to think about the way it pressed against her heart and soul and how it sometimes took her breath. But the bombshell that was her very life had never felt more ominous, never consumed her the way it did today.

Here in Amon G. Carter Stadium at her daughter Maddie’s graduation from Texas Christian University.

Brooke slid a little closer to her husband, Peter. He was on her side, at least that. She put her arm around their younger daughter, Hayley. Brooke’s dad and stepmom were here, too—John and Elaine Baxter. Also Maddie’s longtime boyfriend, Connor Flanigan.

All six of them sat in the stands together, thrilled that the day had finally come. Brooke glanced at Connor, at the anticipation in his expression and the way his eyes locked onto the place midfield where Maddie sat with her class. The boy had loved Maddie for years. He’d already talked to Peter. The engagement was coming. Probably as soon as they returned to Bloomington. Maybe even at the party the extended family was throwing for Maddie.

A party happening tomorrow night.

She drew a deep breath and leaned into Peter’s shoulder. Graduates were still streaming into the stadium, still filling the seats while a marching band played from the bleachers across the field. The ceremony wouldn’t begin for another ten minutes at least. “Can you believe it?” Brooke turned to her husband. “When did she grow up?” Brooke found their daughter amidst the sea of students on the field. Tan high heels and a white sundress beneath her navy gown.

“One day at a time.” Peter shaded his eyes and looked at the field. “Every morning moved her closer to this day. Diapers and pigtails, homework and prom dates. All of it went way too fast.” Peter took Brooke’s hand and sat a little straighter. His smile barely lifted the corners of his mouth. “I’m proud of her. All she’s accomplished.”

He was right. Better to think about Maddie’s success than Brooke’s own weighty lie. Maddie had started her college career as a dancer. Back then all she talked about was Broadway and the New York City Ballet. But midway through her sophomore year she found a different passion.

Working with animals.

On breaks from school, Maddie had volunteered at the Humane Society and spent twenty hours a week at a local veterinarian’s office. Last summer she interned at the Indianapolis Zoo in the animal husbandry division and now she was waiting for a call from her supervisor about a more long-term position.

“I like the stripes.” Brooke’s dad grinned at her from two seats down. “She’s easy to spot.”

“That she is.” Brooke smiled down at their daughter, her cap decked in black-and-white zebra stripes. “She should hear about the position by the end of the week.”

Hayley nodded. “Maddie is a zoo worker. I know it … I already talked to Jesus.”

Of course she had. Brooke patted Hayley’s hand. “You’re such a good sister, Hayley.”

She smiled. “I try.”

For a long moment Brooke studied her other daughter. Hayley was only a few years younger than Maddie, a pretty blonde with special needs because of a near-drowning accident when she was only three. Hayley had a job at the local market with a group of friends who shared her limitations. She also had a boyfriend. But still Brooke wondered.

Was Hayley’s accident a punishment from God? His way of repaying Brooke for the lie that at the time of Hayley’s accident was