Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for over 30 years and survived high school and college together. They’ve co-authored seven novels, including the Amazon Charts bestseller, The Good Widow. Their forthcoming book, Forever Hold Your Peace, will be published on July 11, 2023. In addition to writing books, they created a podcast, We Fight So You Don’t Have to: Lessons from a thirty-year friendship. They also appear monthly on a San Diego news station to share their favorite book club picks.  They both reside in San Diego, California with their families and several rescue dogs.

Forever Hold Your Peace

When their newly engaged kids ask all four divorced parents to meet each other over brunch, everyone RSVPs yes–secretly hoping someone at the table will get to the bottom of the bottomless mimosas fast enough to say what they’re all thinking: that this engagement, coming after a whirlwind romance between two people barely out of college, is too much too soon.

But at that brunch, it’s not the impulsive couple’s decisions that end up under the microscope, as it turns out June, mother of the bride, and Amy, mother of the groom, certainly do know each other–they’re ex-best-friends who haven’t spoken since their explosive falling out more than twenty-five years ago. Reeling from their unwanted reunion and eager to shift the spotlight off their past as decades-old secrets and rivalries come to light, the two moms battle it out for the prize of Most Enthusiastic About This Wedding.

But when their history—and their present-day shenanigans—threaten to crack the foundations of the happy couple’s future, June and Amy find themselves becoming unexpected allies in an all-hands-on-deck effort to get their kids (and themselves) a happily-ever-after two generations in the making.

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Chapter 1

It was official, Olivia decided. The Amalfi Coast was the most romantic place in the world. Every Instagram story she’d watched before arriving hadn’t been exaggerated. She now understood that the experience of being immersed in the beauty of the towns speckling the coastline of Southern Italy made you desperate to share. To try to convey that the tomatoes in the quiet fishing village of Praiano were more vibrant than anywhere else, their plump juices sweeter. That the red wine in the mountaintop town of Ravello was smoother. The locals in the coast’s name- sake town of Amalfi did smile wider. And here, in the picture- perfect cliffside city of Positano, love felt deeper. So deep that it became a part of your soul.

She never wanted to leave.

Olivia couldn’t see Zach’s hazel eyes behind his dark aviator sunglasses, but she was sure they were slightly narrowed as he focused on navigating the boat through the crowded Positano harbor. She hadn’t known him long, but she’d already memo- rized so many of his expressions. The way his eyebrows dipped when he concentrated, how he chewed the inside of his cheek when he told her about his childhood, the teasing smile that played on his full lips when he was about to kiss her.

But he still surprised her with a new detail about himself every day. Like when they’d boarded the sleek sky-blue motor- boat earlier and Zach announced with pride that he would be her captain for the day. The words had tumbled out quickly as he’d explained they were riding in a nineteen-foot pleasure craft, a Cayman 585 open boat with a Yamaha 40/70 engine. There was so much she didn’t yet know about him. Those unknowns could fill the biggest tome in her mom’s bookstore back home.

Olivia knew there was only so much to learn about a man in six weeks. That you could spend nearly all that time exploring his body and mind in one of the most romantic cities in the world and still not know everything. Olivia could draw a map to every freckle on his taut chest. She could trace the small birthmark on his shoulder. But she’d had no idea he had a boating license.

They were now past the harbor and he pushed the throttle, accelerating their speed. He drew Olivia to him with one hand, his other lightly gripping the steering wheel. She rested her cheek on his shoulder as the warm summer wind kicked up, and they headed out to sea. She liked that there was still so much to discover about Zach, that she was slowly turning his pages, absorbing who he was. There would be time to learn if he replaced the trash bag in the garbage can after taking it out.

At twenty-four, Olivia was in love for the first time. They could figure out the rest later.

Zach brought the boat to a stop. His forearms flexed as he expertly dropped anchor next to the Li Galli Islands between Positano and Capri. Olivia’s breath still caught every time she stared at the vibrant blue-green hues of the Tyrrhenian Sea. She took in the rocky coastline of the largest island, a half-hidden castle-like villa peeking out from behind the lush trees. Olivia had searched it up—finding pictures of celebrities like LeBron James and Beyoncé and Jay-Z renting out the private com- pound. She imagined them sipping espresso as they watched the yachts glide by.

Olivia was so caught up in her thoughts she didn’t hear Zach slide up beside her. He ran his hand over her stomach before pulling her in for a kiss. Olivia’s heart turned upside down as she tasted the sea salt on his lips.

“What do you think of the view?” he asked.

“It’s insane,” Olivia said. “I can’t believe I’m here.” She paused, pulling his aviators down to look at him, her heart catching. “With you. Can we stay forever?”

Zach’s eyes flickered, and Olivia worried she’d said too much, too soon. They’d discussed the future, that they’d intended to continue their relationship when they went back to the States, but hadn’t said the word forever. Hadn’t talked about marriage. But Olivia knew what she wanted—to never wake up without him by her side again.

Zach felt so perfect for her that she’d only told her younger sister, Chloe, about him. She hadn’t wanted to jinx it. She’d called Chlo after the first week, excitedly trying to explain how getting to know Zach was like one of those paper fortune tellers they’d folded up and played as kids. They would write on each flap something positive or negative that could happen to them in the future. One of them would place their thumbs and index fingers inside the origami shape and ask the other for a num- ber. They would count together and open the flap to reveal the answer: a million dollars, bankrupt, beat up chevy or a corvette, four kids, two-story house, or single for life. With Zach, no matter what flap was opened, it revealed something more special than the last. She’d marveled to Chloe that she didn’t know how it was possible that this stranger could land in her orbit one day, and the next, she couldn’t remember her life without him.

Chlo had giggled. “He must be huge.”

Countless times, Olivia and Zach had lain in the tiny bed in her rented flat, their limbs intertwined and their skin slick with sweat from their body heat as they talked about what life together would be like back home. There was no air conditioning in her Positano apartment, but they didn’t care. Both silently sacrificed coolness for closeness. She hoped they’d always want to be touching. That he’d never stop resting his hand on her forearm while they sat at their favorite café sharing a chocolate croissant and two Americanos. That he’d always grab her hand and guide her across the street—whether it be the narrow roads of Positano, where they had to dodge the mopeds flying by, or the wide tree-lined boulevards in Pasadena where he lived.

They’d said I love you for the first time within days of meeting while on a romantic hike. They’d mapped out the best route from Zach’s house (which he owned!) in Pasadena to Olivia’s studio apartment in West Hollywood. They’d debated which one of them would attempt to recreate the lemon linguine they’d noshed on at Da Vincenzo. Which of each other’s friends they would love instantly, and which would take some time to warm to. But the discussions hovered inches above marriage, like a helicopter trying to find the best place to land.

“Did I say too much?” Olivia stammered, wanting to pull her words back inside her. She would wait as long as it took to be his wife. There was no rush. “I’m caught up in the moment . . . it’s so beautiful here . . .” She trailed off as a large cabin cruiser of tourists blew past, forcing their boat to roll in its wake. Olivia grabbed the back of the passenger seat to steady both her body and her emotions.

When she turned back to face Zach, he was balancing on one knee. Or trying to. The boat had other ideas. He was clutch- ing the edge of a small table with one hand, sweat trickling down his face as he held himself in place. In his other hand was a small box, nestling a simple silver ring with a small diamond. It was perfect. Olivia gasped.

“It wasn’t too much,” Zach said. “I don’t ever want to spend another day without you, Olivia. Whether it’s here or Los Angeles or even North Dakota, I don’t care, as long as we’re together.”

“We’ll have to reevaluate things if this relationship moves to Fargo. I don’t do snow.” Olivia laughed and pulled him up to face her and ran her shaking hand through his hair. “Ask me.” She smiled.

“So assertive. One of the many things I love about you.” Zach put his lips to her ear, his warm breath sending a lightning bolt to Olivia’s toes, and whispered, “Olivia Abbott, will you marry me?”

“Of course,” she whispered back, before bringing her lips to his. So this was what it felt like when someone’s heart burst with joy? As an avid reader, she’d read descriptions of love in novels, but found them cliché. Heart pounding? Butterflies? She hadn’t understood. Until now. Now she was every single love cliché. And she couldn’t be happier about it.

“She said yes!” Zach yelled to a man and a woman in a small speedboat. When they looked confused, he repeated it in Italian. “Lei ha detto si!”

They cheered.

“How did you know how to say that?” Olivia asked. Zach’s Italian was rudimentary at best. He basically charmed his way through most conversations. It was Olivia who did most of the talking to the locals, but she was still far from fluent.

“I looked it up and practiced,” Zach said. “I wanted to be able to say it in every language so the whole world could know!”

Olivia laughed. “French?”

Elle a dit oui!” he blurted in a horrible French accent. “German?”

Sie sagte ja!” he said, his syllables hard.

“You put a lot of thought into this,” Olivia teased, trac- ing his abs beneath his white linen shirt. Speaking foreign languages was a major turn-on, but more than that, she was touched by the care he’d taken in preparation of this proposal. “I’m impressed.”

“Then let me impress you some more,” Zach said, pulling her into him and wrapping his arms around her. “Ti amo.”

Ti amo,” Olivia echoed, and let herself melt into the moment. Let herself feel all the things those fictional characters in her novels had been feeling for years.

*  *  *

Two hours later, Olivia nervously entered the password on her phone. She remembered this feeling when she arrived at the Naples airport two months before. It seemed a lifetime ago when her Italian consisted of only per favore and grazie. When she’d needed to use the Google translator app to ask for help finding the bus to Positano. Had it only been eight weeks since she’d dragged her luggage up the steep stone stairs in search of her apartment? She’d prayed she was following the map correctly, that she hadn’t ascended one hundred and eleven stairs only to learn she was lost. And yes, she had counted them.

The now familiar steps that no longer made her calves burn when she walked them were so narrow that Olivia couldn’t extend her arms without hitting the ancient buildings on either side, and only a sliver of the June sunlight could squeeze its way through. When she emerged at the top, sticky with sweat and heavy from the weight of twenty-one hours without sleep, she’d been ready to call her mom and announce that she’d made a huge mistake. That she had been a fool not to learn Italian first. That she had been too out of shape to trek these stairs every day—they were much steeper and more treacherous than they looked on TikTok, by the way. Cursing under her breath, wish- ing she’d known the Italian word for fuck, she’d turned back in the direction from which she’d come and gasped.

The view. It had taken her breath away. The sea that hugged the rocky shoreline was a brilliant sapphire blue—the water so clear she could practically see the mackerel and sea bass that she knew swam below its surface. The yachts that bobbed in the bay seemed tiny, reminding her of the ones that she’d captained in her mom’s claw-foot bathtub as a child. The picturesque houses that were inconceivably perched on the vertical cliffside were painted in vibrant shades of red, pink, and yellow. The gorgeous California coastline, where she’d built sandcastles as a toddler, lain out with her friends as a tween, and leaned against a lifeguard stand in her senior class photos, simply could not compete. She’d said later that it was the view that changed her life, because it convinced her to give Positano one more day.

And now, Olivia hoped that her mom’s reaction to her news would pleasantly surprise her the way the view still did. But what she couldn’t possibly know was her mom’s response was the last thing she should be worried about.

*  *  *

June Abbott fumbled for her cell phone, knocking over a tumbler of water that sent her cat, Meowsers, darting from the room. She was disoriented, straddling sleep and consciousness, as she searched her overcrowded bedside table. She turned on the lamp and pushed aside a stack of half-read novels with her reading glasses perched precariously on top. She located the charging cord and followed it to her phone hanging off the side of the nightstand. She squinted at the screen. Why would Olivia be calling in the middle of the night?

June’s heart started to pound as she imagined worst-case scenarios that were more likely to be the plots of her favorite thrillers than to happen in her real life. Her daughter had been kidnapped, and the call was about the ransom request for her safe return. Or Olivia was dangling from one of the many cliffs she perched next to while posing for Instagram. Or her first- born was lost at sea—an innocent day trip to Capri gone awry. June frantically pressed all the wrong parts of her iPhone until she finally got it right and her daughter’s face filled the screen.

“Hi!” Olivia said, her sea-glass-blue eyes shining, her blonde hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun. Her smile faded halfway when she noticed her mom’s strained expression. “Everything’s fine! I’m okay!”

June’s exhale of relief was audible.

“I wasn’t kidnapped by Italian pirates roaming the Tyrrhenian sea.”

June rolled her eyes. “I wasn’t thinking that.” She put her hand over her chest, her heartbeat so rapid she might have just sprinted. Except she didn’t sprint. Ever.

“Uh-huh. I got the hiking boots you sent. I’m sure they were a million dollars to ship!” Olivia twisted her mouth. “Based on the most recent series of scream emojis you left on my Insta, I’m guessing you want me to wear them so I don’t slip off a cliff while I’m posing for photos?” Olivia smirked. “So subtle, Mom.”

June shrugged. “Can’t hurt.”

“My high-tops are fine—they will save me.” Olivia smiled. “Will they?” June asked, remembering the image of Olivia leaning back on a rock with her chin tilted toward the sun, her eyes closed (closed!), the ocean appearing to be thousands of feet below.

Olivia sighed, and June knew what she was thinking, because she’d said it many times since she’d arrived in Italy. Why send your young adult daughter on vacation alone to a foreign country if all you were going to do was worry?

She had a point.

But still, the worry always seemed to win.

“So, if everything’s okay, why are you calling in the middle of the night?” June asked, her alarm bells still ringing. It was three am in California. Did good news ever come at three am? “Miss me so much you can’t sleep?” June hoped as she stared at herself in the little box on her screen. Her forehead wrinkles were like deep rivers running under her blonde hairline. She should cut bangs. And the bags under her own sea-glass-blue eyes were heavy and dark. She flipped off the lamp.

“Mom! I can barely see you now.”

Reluctantly, June turned the light back on and vowed not to look at herself. But it was impossible. Her middle-of-the-night face was screaming that she needed Botox—maybe fillers? She’d told herself (and her daughters) that it was okay to age. But with every new line that showed up, she found herself warming to the idea of doing something. A little pop of poison between her eyebrows wouldn’t hurt, right? she thought as she stared at Olivia, who could have been her twenty-three-year-old self ’s twin.

“I did miss you, yes, but also—” Olivia waved her left hand.

June squinted at her daughter’s fingers moving back and forth. There was a diamond ring on the important one.

June’s mouth fell open. She’d figured the call might be about something man related, but a fiancé? No, that couldn’t be what this was. Olivia wasn’t dating anyone. If she was, June would know. A week or so after Olivia arrived in Italy, once she’d picked up a few more Italian words and found the confidence to go out for a glass of wine alone, she’d had a fling with a local—a short but well-built waiter whose name escaped June now. Verenzio? Vindonio?

“Is that—”

A coy smile clung to Olivia’s lips.

June kept her face still, but her stomach roiled. Maybe, just maybe, it was a gift Olivia had given herself.

“It is! I’m engaged!”

June couldn’t find her voice and grabbed for the tumbler of water, remembering that it was on the floor. How was her daughter engaged? She didn’t have a boyfriend.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Olivia said. “You didn’t even know I was dating someone.”

June moved her head up and down robotically. She wanted to dig into that. To ask why Olivia hadn’t mentioned him. But she didn’t trust herself to say it without sounding judgmental and, if she was being honest, hurt. She had naïvely believed Olivia told her everything. That they were that mother and daughter. She’d bragged about it to her book club while drink- ing sauvignon blanc!

Was Olivia pregnant? Is that why she hadn’t mentioned him? No, she couldn’t be. After Olivia told June about the one-night stand with the waiter, June had immediately shipped off a Costco-size package of condoms. Another not-so-subtle gesture.

Was this the part where Olivia revealed that the condom had broken, and her fiancé was the Italian waiter? That she and Vincenzo—that was his name—would raise the baby on the Amalfi Coast? June fought her rising panic as she imagined see- ing her daughter and future grandchild once a year. She made her voice sound as neutral as possible. “I am a little surprised.” June’s throat constricted as she eyed the puddle of water on the floor that Meowsers was now licking.

“I know. I am too.”


“We’d discussed the future, but not marriage.” Olivia looked at her ring. “I hoped he wanted all the same things I did. But I didn’t think he’d ask this soon. But I’m so happy he did!” June rolled the word we’ d over in her mind. Her daughter was now one half of a we. Her stomach rolled again at the thought of Olivia sharing her life with someone else. She wanted her daughter to be happy. To find someone. But June had figured she’d have plenty of time to get used to the idea while Olivia narrowed down her choices to the right man. This felt sudden. And very unlike her daughter.

“We’d said I love you—pretty early on, in fact, I told him first!” Olivia giggled and watched her mom’s face for a response.

June pushed a sound out of her throat that she hoped was in the ballpark of a laugh.

“He said he’d never wanted to spend another day without me. And I felt the same way. I’ve never felt like this before. I don’t think I’ve been in love before now. I thought I had. Remember Jason?” she scoffed.

June half nodded as she struggled to conjure an image of Jason. It was years ago, and the relationship hadn’t lasted long, but June remembered a head of thick black hair and that he had a tall, lanky frame.

“Now I know what love is supposed to feel like.” Olivia grinned. “He just asked me—a couple of hours ago. On a boat! That he drove! I had no idea he could do that.”

June bit her lip. Boats are one of about a thousand things you probably don’t know about him.

“It was so romantic, Mom. Like right out of one of the romance novels you and I love.”

June agreed. She and Olivia talked multiple times a week. Her daughter constantly updated her on her life. June wondered again why Olivia had left out the most important thing of all.

“Then he called out, ‘She said yes!’ To everyone we saw. In multiple languages. It was so cute.” Olivia’s eyes sparkled. “I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

June smiled brightly but felt dizzy. Her daughter’s words had come at her fast, with shallow breaths in between, remind- ing June of when Olivia was a child. When the twangy music from the ice cream truck would ring through the neighborhood and an eight-year-old Olivia would fling open the front door, eyes wild, and say, in one long run-on statement, MomtheicecreamtruckishereIneedyourwallethurryfastbeforeImissit.

“Mom?” Olivia said, looking intently at June.

June looked away, wishing they weren’t on FaceTime so she could hide. Her feelings. Her face. All of it.

“I know it’s a lot of information, but I’m happy,” Olivia said. “Oh, and I didn’t tell you the best part. He lives in Pasadena! Insane coincidence, right?”

June exhaled. Pasadena wasn’t far from where June lived in Long Beach. Only a jaunt up the 710 freeway to the 110. June finally made her mouth work. “What are the odds of that?” What were the chances that two people who met in a tiny sea- side village in Italy lived only thirty miles apart in California? One in a thousand? A million? Had they been fated to meet?

Olivia mimicked June’s thought. “It’s like we are meant to be.”

June thought of her ex-husband, William—Olivia’s dad. Their argument over Olivia’s college graduation gift came crash- ing back. It had been June who’d pushed for Positano, who’d said that the cost she and William would incur would be worth it. That it would be good for Olivia to have an adventure. Their daughter had worked as a tutor through college, not because she had to pay for her tuition but because she wanted to build her savings. She’d made the dean’s list every semester. She’d graduated early with honors, only to immediately throw herself into studying for the LSAT. She’d passed and been accepted to UCLA School of Law, where she was enrolled this fall.

June prayed that was still the plan. June couldn’t remember Olivia taking a real break in the last four years and had felt the Amalfi Coast would be the perfect reprieve for her daughter. But William had pushed back, countering that Olivia was practical, like him. She’d want money. She’d prefer the option of how to spend it—if she chose to spend it at all. Maybe she’d invest! He’d accused June of trying to live vicariously through Olivia. Because June had never taken the trip to Italy she’d always talked about. June had bitten back at that. But inside, she knew her ex-husband wasn’t entirely wrong.

June had won the argument in the end—like she did most times with William. But she wondered now if she had pre- vailed. What would William say to June when he found out that their level-headed daughter was engaged to a man she’d known for five minutes? A man Olivia had met because June wouldn’t relent about wanting Olivia to immerse herself in a different culture? To experience luxurious beaches! To marvel at the charming harbors! When June had been perusing guide- books on Naples and the Amalfi Coast, she’d imagined the way the Mediterranean sun would feel against her own cheeks. But now she could see that her selfish motives might have led to this three am FaceTime.

Of course William would blame her for this. She was already blaming herself.

And what if Olivia really was pregnant? June was not ready to be a grandmother!

Not that June could have asked at this moment. Or bring up Olivia’s father. Olivia was too happy. Her smile was so wide, the rest of her face disappeared behind it. June recognized that ear-to- ear grin. When your happiness couldn’t be contained. It exploded out of your eyes, your face, your walk. June had felt that way about a man once too. Not William. Someone before him.

“What’s his name?” June asked.

“Zachary. Well, Zach. I call him Z most of the time.”


“What’s he like?” June asked, as her mind drifted. She wondered what had changed for Olivia. She’d viewed her oldest daughter as a staunch feminist who wore her ten-year life and career plan around like a medal of honor. A plan that Olivia had always been quick to remind June had zero room for marriage until after she was gainfully employed as a lawyer. Was Italy to blame? Had Olivia been hypnotized by the romantic Amalfi Coast? What had June recently read? That it was one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world?

“He’s . . .” Olivia paused, a deep blush spread across her cheeks. “He’s so great. He’s kind. And smart. He’s so well read that he makes me look like I hardly ever pick up a book. You’ll love this—he’s finished over half of the one hundred classics you should read before you die! Including, wait for it, Moby- Dick! I was like, my mom challenged me to read that, and after seventy-five pages of harpoons and whale blubber, I felt like my soul had been sucked out of me and I gave up. And you know what he said?”

June shook her head.

“But it’s based on a true story!”

I said that to you too, a million times.

“You said that to me!” Olivia echoed June’s thought.

“I did.” But did he make it through Infinite Jest? June thought. Then tried to shake her internal dig away. As a bookstore owner, June should have been happy to hear this part about her future son-in-law. But she couldn’t get there. Not quite yet.

Olivia pressed on, seemingly oblivious. “And he’s funny— like witty funny. There’s so much to love. You’re going to adore him. And not only because he’s so adorable!” Olivia giggled.

June twisted her lips into a smile. “Of course. Yes. When you get back, we’ll—”

June stopped. A handsome man with dark hair that curled around the ends, a long nose, and green eyes sat down next to Olivia. June hadn’t thought she was going to meet him right now. She sat up straighter and pulled her duvet over her loose top.

“It’s so nice to meet you. V has told me so much about you,” he said. His incredibly white teeth made June squint.


V and Z?

Will their future kids be named W, X and Y?

Zach—Z—was still talking. “As Olivia said, I’m a bibliophile. I can’t wait to see your bookstore. Well, the inside, any- way; Olivia showed me the exterior online. I’m impressed you’re an entrepreneur.”

Oh, he’s good. Using the word bibliophile.

Zach was talking with his hands, the leather bracelet wrapped around his wrist swinging as he spoke. “But you just met me, literally seconds ago, so maybe I should tell you a little bit more about myself before I crash your workplace?” He laughed awkwardly, and Olivia squeezed his bicep. He studied June’s face, searching for what, she didn’t know. Acceptance? Scrutiny?

June was doing her best to keep her face neutral, but William always told her she would make a terrible poker player.

“Thank you,” June managed.

“I’m sure you’re shocked. I’m a perfect stranger who’s now going to be your son-in-law!” He looked at Olivia as if he still couldn’t believe it was true.

That makes two of us, June thought.

“You must have questions. I know my parents will, for Olivia. Ask me anything!” He thumped his chest and flashed a smile, again revealing two rows of bone-white teeth. “I’m an open book—which I’m sure you appreciate.” He laughed at his own pun.

Do you tip well? Do you want kids? Who did you vote for in the last election? June knew she couldn’t ask these things. But had Olivia?

Olivia leaned against his shoulder. The two of them were sitting so close together that June wasn’t sure where Olivia ended and Zach began.


June knew that voice. Olivia was pleading with her to ask him something.

“Sorry, I’m taking it all in.” “I get it,” Zach placated her.

But he didn’t get it. There was no way he could get what June was feeling. June could barely comprehend it herself.

June forced her mind to stop spinning and focused. “I always love a good story of how couples met.”

His entire face brightened. “I was taking pictures—I’m a photographer—and there she was—”

Olivia jumped in. “Like with an actual camera, Mom. Not an iPhone. He’s been the one taking my Insta pics. The secret is out—he’s the reason my feed is the bomb now.”

June sighed quietly as she absorbed his career, feeling like that was the real bomb. Photographer. How were they going to afford to live in Southern California? Olivia still had three more years of school before she would be able to make a living.

As if Zach had read her mind, he added, “That’s not what I do to pay the bills. I take pictures for fun. I’m in real estate, Mrs. Abbott.”

“Mrs. Abbott,” Olivia groaned. “That sounds so old-school.

You can call her June, right, Mom?”

Or J?

June nodded again, because she didn’t know what else to do. Was this how things worked now? Out with the old school, in with the new? You meet your daughter’s fiancé on FaceTime while wearing a ratty Depeche Mode T-shirt and he calls you by your first name?

Thankfully, Zach didn’t call her June when he continued. She wasn’t ready for that. She wasn’t ready for any of this. “I was reloading my film—there’s this spot where I love to take pictures on Via Arienzo. You have an amazing vantage point of the beach, the port, and the west side of Positano. And I looked up, and there she was. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.” He smiled at her. “They say it’s impossible to meet someone without a dating app these days, but we’ve beaten the odds!”

“I deleted my profiles the first day I met him!” Olivia told June. “I had a feeling.”

June had never been on a dating app, although Olivia had encouraged it many times. But June wasn’t interested in dating. She liked her easy, predictable life that would only be disrupted by a man. But June had listened patiently as Olivia walked her through it. Tinder was for one-night stands. Hinge was for relationships. Olivia had shown June her profiles—giving her a tutorial on how they worked. June couldn’t remember it all now, but it had involved a lot of swiping, liking, and matching. It seemed like a lot of work.

“Anyway, I walked up to her and said hi.”

Olivia picked up the story. “He scared the shit out of me. I was looking at something on my phone and didn’t see him. I dropped everything I was holding—the phone, my bag, my coffee. He was, like, a total stalker!”

“I wasn’t that close,” he interjected.

“I could see the sweat on your forehead!” she said, her eyes twinkling. “I was sure he was a creeper at first. I saw the camera and thought he’d been taking pictures of me. I asked him to show me—to prove he hadn’t!”

“And then my charm and good looks won you over.” He laughed.

“Whatever.” She pushed him lightly.

“For what it’s worth, you’re way more beautiful than any- thing I photographed in the Amalfi Coast.”

“Isn’t he so sweet? And that’s how he really talks!”

June felt like she was watching a little old couple being interviewed in When Harry Met Sally. She had to admit, it was cute. But it also felt like a dream. Her daughter couldn’t be engaged to a man she’s known for . . . ?

“When did you meet?” June asked casually. Olivia and Zach shared a look.

Zach answered. “Six weeks ago.”

“Almost seven,” Olivia added, as if that would help.

June weighed her next words carefully. She realized that asking them if this was some terrible TikTok prank that Gen Zers were playing on their parents wouldn’t go over well. She also didn’t want to make the same mistake her mom did when she told her she was engaged the first time. June could still remember the heavy weight of her mom’s disapproval as she drove from her childhood home back to her campus apartment. She didn’t want to make Olivia feel like that. Ever. Plus, he’d read Moby-Dick. He couldn’t be that bad. June struggled to find something to say, but she was coming up blank.

“Mom, you must be exhausted. We should let you go. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Olivia said, the smile that had lit up her face gone. June’s heart hurt. She couldn’t let her daughter hang up feeling badly.

She struggled to find something positive to say. “I’m happy for you both, sincerely. I’m a little surprised. That’s all. It was nice to meet you, Zach,” June said, and found that she meant it. She only wanted the best partner for Olivia, and if this amateur photographer/real estate agent was him, then she would work hard to embrace him. “Call me tomorrow,” June added, hoping her daughter understood that’s when she would feel comfort- able saying more. And asking the complicated questions. Like, Why did you keep this man a secret?

Because in June’s experience, secrets only led to disaster.

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