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Just for the Summer

Recap, Summary & Spoilers

The Full Book Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez are below.

Quick(-ish) Recap

Four paragraph version: Emma and Justin connect over being other people's "good luck charm" since the people they date seem to get engaged to the very next person after them. They agree to a plan to date each other and be each other's "good luck charm". Emma, a traveling nurse, is able to sign a six-week contract to spend time with Justin at his place in Minnesota. As they date, Justin develops strong feelings for Emma, but his personal life is complicated by him needing to take over legal guardianship for his three younger siblings when his mother is sent to prison for white-collar crime.

Meanwhile, Emma develops feelings as well, but she is someone who has always been aloof in relationships and does not like to get attached. Emma does realizes how strong her feelings for Justin are and decides to stay in Minnesota for another six weeks, though she continues to struggle with her desire to remain alone and unattached.

Emma grew up with foster parents because her mother was so unreliable and abandoned her, drifting in and out of her life. Her mother Amber is still in her life and shows up in Minnesota but continues to be selfish with Emma and only calls on Emma when she needs something. When Emma's mother has another breakdown, Emma finally realizes she needs to stop cleaning up after her mother. Then, Emma takes a DNA test and learns that she has a half brother Daniel that her mother hid from her. Daniel reveals they have a large loving family that Emma's mother kept from her, and she breaks down. She finally cuts her mother out of her life.

After the interlude with her mother, Emma is convinced she's incapable of loving someone or being loved because of what she's been through, and she's certain she will sabotage any potential relationship or flee. Her best friend Maddy tells her she needs to learn to work through it and fix this. Emma breaks up with Justin, saying she's not ready to be stable presence in his sibling's lives. She spends six months living with Daniel's family, working and going to therapy. She then approaches Justin to tell him she loves him, and two years later they get engaged.

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary


The book opens with post from Reddit in the r/AmItheasshole subreddit, asking if they’re an “asshole” for “naming my ugly dog after my ex best friend”.

The poster, 29, says that he’s a “good luck charm” in that every woman he dates ends up meeting their soulmate right after they break up. The last woman he dated found her soulmate in the form of his roommate. They wanted to move in together, so his roommate moved out with six months left on their lease, screwing him over. Instead of finding a new roommate, his landlord ended up letting him move into a terrible studio apartment in the same building. He ended up deciding to get the ugliest dog at the shelter and name it after his roommate who screwed him over.

Chapters 1 – 2

Emma, 28, and Maddy are chatting about the r/AmItheasshole post, since Emma also feels like a “good luck charm” with her exes all meeting the One right after they date her. Maddy suggests that Emma reach out to the poster, just_in_267, and try to date him. The poster, Justin, soon responds.

After some light flirting and pictures back and forth, Maddy is able to figure out who he is, what his name is (Justin Dahl), and what his job is (software engineer). Maddy and Justin continue chatting until it’s late, and he tells her that the roommate’s real name is Brad and that the ex is Faith.

Meanwhile, Justin meets with his friends Benny and Brad, and they chat about his viral reddit post. Justin had a bunch of women offer to date him so they can find their soulmate afterwards. Justin also tells Brad about chatting with Emma, a travel nurse, who is also everyone else’s “good luck charm”. Brad encourages Justin to keep chatting with Emma.

Chapter 3

Justin, who lives in Minnesota, messages Emma to ask her out. Emma says she’s in Colorado for the next three weeks and then she’s going to be in Hawaii for the next three months. After that, she doesn’t know where she’ll be, and Justin gamely suggests Minnesota. He says maybe they could be each others’ good luck charms, and they end up talking on the phone. Emma finally says maybe when she’s back in three and a half months they could try dating.

Afterwards, Emma and Maddy talk about Emma’s mother Amber who is always asking her for money. Maddy thinks Emma’s mother is a mess, but Emma maintains her mother can be a mess in some ways, but wonderful in other ways.

Maddy also asks if Emma will attend the anniversary celebration for her moms — Janet and Beth, who are Maddy’s mom and Emma foster moms. Emma declines, saying she doesn’t think she’ll get the tine off. She never bonded to then the way Maddy hoped she would, since Emma has her own mom. Seeing Maddy’s disappointment, she offers to at least ask for the time off but inwardly she hopes she doesn’t get it.

Meanwhile, Emma and Justin continue to text and chat and tell each other details about their lives. Emma tells Justin about how she knew she was good at taking care of people since she was ten and caring for her mom. They end up turning their call into a video call, and Emma asks for a tour of his town.

Chapter 4

Later, Justin picks up his younger brother Alex, 15, from summer school and goes home to chat with his mom and Leigh, who is Brad’s mom and his mom’s best friend. Leigh, 48, has been married four times and is currently unmarried. His younger sister, Chelsea, is delighted to see him but the other one, Sarah, 12, has been moody and pissed off lately and he isn’t sure why.

Their lives have recently been complicated by the fact that Justin’s mom is going to prison soon for white-collar crime. She was previously studied accounting and was a CFO for 12 years, but those days are over now.

When Justin and Emma talk again, they discuss what needs to happen and how many dates they need to go on for their good luck charm powers to kick in. They agree on four dates, a kiss and a breakup.

Chapters 5 – 6

In Colorado, Emma suggests going to Minnesota for six weeks instead of Hawaii after they’re done with their stint here. Maddy is very unenthused about the prospect of swapping Hawaii for Minnesta. Emma tells her about the historic cottage on a lake that accessible by pontoon that they could stay in, and she tells her that it’s close to a great hospital, Royaume Northwestern. The downside is that they’d be working in “med surg” (Medical-surgical nursing), and surgeons can be assholes.

After some negotiating where Emma offers to let Maddy pick the places they go for the next six months, Maddy finally agrees to the Minnesota job.

Soon, they’re in Minnesota getting a tour of the cottage on Lake Minnetonka from Maria, who works for the property owner. Emma hasn’t told Justin yet, since she wants it to be a surprise. The cottage is next to an amazing mansion where the owner of the cottage lives.

Once they’re settled, Emma tells Justin the news and he’s ecstatic. They make plans for the next day.

Chapter 7

That night, Emma’s mom calls to tell her she found one of Emma’s beloved stuffed animals, Stuffie the unicorn doll, that Emma thought was lost. She offers to send it to her, so Emma texts her their address in Minnesota.

Afterwards, Maddy give Emma a DNA test she got her, and she encourages her to take it and potentially find out who her biological father is. However, Emma’s mom has already warned her that if she took a DNA test and it caused her biological father’s family to find out about Emma, it would ruin their marriage.

Maddy tells her she can do the test and poke around a little to learn about potential relatives and then set it to private so it won’t be discovered. Finally, Emma agrees.

Emma then sees that Justin has playfully sent her a questionnaire about their date tomorrow as well as an evite for it.

The next morning, Emma is getting ready when she notices the water is a little weird, and when she goes to blow dry her hair, the fuse goes out. They call Maria who tells them that the power is very sensitive in the house. Also, the fact that the boat is the only way on or off the island is not convenient, especially because it has no canopy if it rains. The boat also proves to be more difficult to maneuver than they’d realized.

However, she finally does manage to get across and finds Justin there waiting for her.

Chapter 8

Justin is taken aback by how beautiful Emma is. As they drive, Justin contacts Jane, who is his friend Benny’s girlfriend, to let them know they’re on their way, but he doesn’t tell Emma what they’re doing.

Soon, they meet up with Jane, and she brings out five six-week old kittens for them to play with. As Emma plays with the kittens, Justin suggests that they do more than four dates as long as she’s here for six weeks anyway. Emma happily agrees.

Emma also tells him about Maddy, who she says is her foster sister. She says that Maddy’s parents helped to put her through nursing school. She says she never let them adopt her because she wanted her mom to be able to come back for her at some point, though she never did. She says that her mom left for the weekend when she was eight and only left her twenty dollars and didn’t come back. She ended up going to a neighbor’s for help, and she ended up in foster care for the first time. She explains that her mother struggles with mental health issues.

For lunch, they go to Hot Plate, a small cafe. Justin has ideas for what they should do next, but Emma takes an interest in a woman sitting at the bus stop. She can tell the woman is disoriented and she helps her get in touch with her daughter, Samantha, to come pick her up. Samantha is tearful and grateful to find her mother.

After lunch, they go to Minnehaha Falls. They’re about to part ways when Emma’s mother shows up on a yacht.

Chapter 9 – 10

Maddy is there as well. Emma’s mother Amber is there with a man, who she says is Neil. She explains that she went to the address that Emma gave her, and knocked on the door of the main house and Neil answered. Neil owns the cottage they’re living in, and he offers to host them for dinner and grill lobsters.

Maddy warns Emma that her mom getting involved with their landlord is going to turn into a mess. Maddy doesn’t want to go to dinner, so Justin offers to go instead. Amber soon notes that she’ll be staying with Neil.

On the yacht, Emma tells Justin that there’s only two types of relationships that her mom gets into, “ones where they ruin her life and the ones where she ruins theirs” and she says this is definitely the latter.

As for herself, Emma tells Justin that she came here two only two bags since she doesn’t like to accumulate stuff or get too attached to things. However, Emma is very happy to have Stuffie back. When they talk about Justin’s mom, he doesn’t bring up anything that’s going on with her.

Chapters 11 – 12

Back at the cottage that night, Maddy comments how she’s never seen Emma chase a guy before, since Emma is usually aloof to a fault. Emma laughs when she sees Justin has sent her an exit interview about their date.

At Justin’s apartment, Brad is there and they talk about other dates he can take Emma on. Brad also tells Justin that he should probably be spending more time with his mother who is not doing well and needs his support. But Justin is angry with her and doesn’t want to.

Chapters 13 – 16

Emma and Maddy soon report for work at Royaume Northwestern. They’re told that the Chief of Surgery is Dr. Rasmussen … which turns out to be Neil. Neil Rasmussen greets them warmly. The charge nurse, Hector, tells them that he’s never seen him be that nice to anyone.

After work, Emma goes to the mansion looking for her mom since she hasn’t heard from her all day. Her mom is in the house painting a mural. Emma expresses concern over the relationship, but her mom reassures her that Neil isn’t like other guys she’s been with. She also mentions how she’s been in therapy for the past two years, and she says she’s in a good place.

Back at the cottage, Maddy tells Emma she needs to warn Neil about her mom, but Emma refuses to sabotage her mom’s relationship. Emma is furious for Maddy for not believing that her mom can change.

Feeling frustrated and sad, Emma calls Justin, and they make plans for dinner.

Emma goes over to Justin’s mom’s place for dinner and meets his dog Brad and his sisters. He says that his mom is working and his brother Alex will be back later.

She tells him a little about what’s going on with her and the stuff with Maddy and her mother and how it makes her feel small and alone sometimes.

Emma helps Chelsea get ready for bed, and they put on a movie. Emma ends up mentioning that her birthday is in a few weeks. Justin then finally tells Emma about his mom and how she’s going to prison for six years embezzling a large amount of money, around $200,000. Justin says he doesn’t know why she did it, since it wasn’t like they needed that stuff like landscaping work. She was working for a non-profit, too.

Justin also says that he’s going to become the legal guardian for his siblings in three weeks. He’s going to move back into this house so he can pay the mortgage and they won’t lose the house. He says that all this stuff came together just before they met.

He says his dad died not too long ago, and this happened right on the heels of that. Emma suggests it was grief and trauma that caused her to act this way, and she encourages him to be empathetic towards her instead of angry with her.

After their date, Emma finds herself even more interested in Justin, which is rare for her, since she usually starts to lose interest by now. Before she leaves him, she lets him know that she’s starting work full time tomorrow so she’ll have less free time.

Chapters 17 – 20

Six days later, Justin and Emma have dinner plans again. Tomorrow, Justin’s mom is leaving to go to prison. Tonight, his mom and Leigh are going out for one last hurrah.

Justin goes to see Brad and Benny, and they tell him that they want to help him renovate the house a little since he’s moving back in there. Justin thanks them, but he also asks if they can help babysit a little while Emma is here so that he can see her more before she leaves, and they agree.

That night, Justin and Emma are headed to Stillwater for dinner, wine and antiquing. At the antique store, Justin mentions that he wishes his mom could meet Emma, and she offers for them to go back if he wants since this is his mom’s last night. He says no, but Leigh and his mom soon call, clearly both drunk. They need a ride home, and they’ve both been banned from taking a Lyft or Uber.

Soon, Justin has picked up his mom and Leigh. They tell them the elaborate story about how they got banned from Uber. Eventually, the subject of the prison sentence come up though and the two women cry. Emma tells her that she worked for three months in a women’s prison once and that there’s a lot of interesting people and a lot of time to learn new things and read.

When Justin goes to drop Emma back off, she finds herself feeling glad that he’d told her mom about them and that it wasn’t just a fling. She finds herself wanting a kiss, but Justin kisses her on the forehead instead. When she asks for a kiss, he flirtatiously tells her they have two more dates.

Chapter 21

After their date, Justin is sure he wants to find a way to convince Emma to stay. He didn’t kiss her purpose, since he knows she thinks they need to kiss in order for their “good luck charm” plan to really work. He’s hoping that by putting it off, he can convince her to go on more dates.

Today, it’s also time for Justin’s mom to go to prison. She talks to her kids one by one, with the hardest goodbye being with Chelsea who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Justin is also upset that he suspects he’ll lose Emma because of all of this. Emma doesn’t like being tied down, and Justin now has three children that he’s responsible for. It’s a lot of baggage to deal with, and Justin feels overwhelmed by the responsibility.

Brad and Benny meet up with Justin and tell him that they’ve arranged for him to spend the day at Mall of America for a few days, and they and their girlfriends will move his stuff in to his mother’s former room. It’s one less thing for him to deal with and valuable time for him to focus on his silbings.

Chapter 22

Justin calls Emma to let her know that he’ll be gone for a few days, but Emma tells him that she’s actually there, too. Jane had texted her about it last week and invited her to help cheer Justin up. They meet up, and Maddy joins them.

They’re having a good time, except for Sarah who is grumpy. Emma recommends letting Sarah bring a friend next time since she’s at the age where that’s probably what she would prefer.

Justin brings up the prospect of Emma signing another contract to stay in Minnesota longer, but Emma tells him that she previously agreed that it would be Maddy’s turn to pick where they go next.

Emma leaves and Justin senses her aloofness and feels a little heartbroken. He realizes that this relationship doesn’t seem to mean as much to Emma

Chapters 23 – 24

After they leave the park, Maddy teases Emma saying that Justin is clearly in love with her and that Emma clearly likes him back. Emma is dismissive though, saying that she’s worried about his being the guardian for his siblings since he’s going to be raising them for the next six years.

Maddy points out that Emma is just looking for a reason to disqualify him. She says that Emma likes to constantly travel because she’s used to living in chaos. Maddy tells her that Justin is a good man and that she’s giving up too easily if she’s concerned about his siblings. She also says she think he just might be The One for Emma, and she doesn’t want to see her screw it up.

Emma keeps insisting that their lifestyles are not a good fit, and that it’s Maddy’s turn to decide where they go next. However, Maddy says it’s not on her to decide for Emma, and that Emma is the one standing in the way of her own happiness.

As they’re driving Maddy realizes that she left her purse with Justin, so they have to turn around to go get it. Maddy admits that she engineered it on purpose so Justin and Emma could have a private moment to kiss.

Justin and Emma kiss, though Emma notes it needs to be an open mouthed kiss for the good luck charm to work. That night, Justin thinks about how his mom went to prison that day, but because of Emma he still goes to sleep smiling.

Chapter 26

At work a week later, Emma is still thinking about the kiss and debates whether to just hook up with Justin.

Amber shows up around lunch since she’s meeting up with Neil. However, Amber is upset when the nurses she speaks to doesn’t know that Neil has a girlfriend. Emma tells her mom that Neil doesn’t really share about his personal life with the nurses.

Maddy notes that Amber only wants to spend time with Emma when Neil is around because it makes her look bad that she doesn’t ever want to spend time with her daughter. Maddy reminds Emma that Amber only calls on Emma when it suits her to do so. She points out how Amber always forgets Emma’s birthday and how she skipped her graduation, but wanted pictures so she can make other people think she’s a doting mother.

Today, Justin shows up at the hospital with Chelsea, wanting to surprise Emma. He brings by brownies and tells her to check her e-mail for details about date three.

On the phone that night, Justin talks about being overwhelmed by taking care of his younger siblings, like getting Alex’s ADHD medication fulfilled and needing to get him glasses. The house is also a mess, and even though he makes decent money, it’s harder when he has to take care of three other people.

Justin asks if she can over for the night, Emma agrees, but then it starts raining and she can’t take the boat out in the rain.

Chapter 27 – 29

Justin and Emma’s third date rolls around. He shows her the terrible apartment he was forced to move into because of Brad, which he still has for now, and they laugh about it. He shows her the horrible Toilet King Billboard that is his view outside the window. They go for gelato, but then Justin gets a call from Leigh that his siblings all have lice. Leigh says that he probably has lice too. He awkwardly asks Emma if she wants to come with him, and she agrees to help him deal with the lice situation.

Back at his house, they get to delousing the kids. When Emma helps Sarah, she tells her about her time in foster care and how it’ll be okay that her mom is gone. Sarah also talks about the kids at school making fun of her because her mom is in jail. As they chat, Emma offers to dye Sarah’s hair for fun, and Sarah is excited. After the lice is dealt with, Justin sets up a picnic in the backyard.

Afterwards, back on the island, they eventually end up finally really kissing, and Emma suggests going back to his apartment to move things further. However, when he agrees, Emma asks if he’s okay with it just being casual sex, and it sobers Justin up since he knows that’s not what he wants. He ends up telling her that he knows he likes her more than she likes him.

Justin asks her if the kids are a factor, and she doesn’t say anything. She admits that she has real feelings for him though.

They’re interrupted by the sound of Amber screaming at Neil, accusing him of ignoring her and breaking a glass object, but Neil says he was in surgery. However, Neil manages to calm Amber down and she cries in his arms.

While Emma goes to help clean up the mess that Amber made, Justin and Maddy talk. He asks her if there’s a chance for them to work. Maddy says that he will probably never get her to love him. She says that her parents kept trying their whole lives and she would never let them. Justin says it’s because of his life situation, but Maddy disagrees. She says if it wasn’t that, then she would’ve found a different reason. When Justin says he doesn’t want to give up, Maddy tells him that she hopes Emma’s curse is real because she wants him to find his happily ever after.

Chapters 30 – 32

Emma helps Amber get cleaned up, and she spends the next few days wanting to hide away. Neil takes Amber on a surprise getaway to Mexico.

Emma’s fourth date with Justin is a few days away and she finds herself not looking forward to it. She gets her DNA test back, but she doesn’t want to check the results. Sarah has been messaging Emma, and it hurts to see glimpses of Justin.

Emma finds herself feeling sick and nauseous. After she throws up a few times, she calls in sick to work, saying she thinks she has the norovirus. She continues to feel sick and calls her mom, but it goes to voicemail. The smoke alarm low battery alert starts going off, but she doesn’t have the energy to change it, but it keeps her from getting good sleep. When Justin calls again, she drowsily tells him she’s sick.

Justin rushes out the door after hearing how disoriented and unwell Emma is. The boat is at the island, so Justin needs to find another way to get there. He ends up taking a floatie slowly and painfully across. He finds her looking weak and she says she’s been throwing up for 36 hours. He calls Benny’s sister Briana, who is an ER doctor at Royaume. Briana tells him to meet her at the dock in twenty minutes.

Soon, Briana and her husband Jacob are with Emma administering medicine and IV fluids. Within half an hour, she’s feeling better. Before she leaves, Briana tells Emma to come say hi at the hospital sometime. She also mentions that Neil dated a friend of hers for a long time and that he’s an asshole.

Emma advises Justin to leave because norovirus is very contagious, but Justin says he’s not going anywhere. Emma takes a shower and then goes to sleep. She’s disappointed when she sees that Justin has left. But then she sees him sleeping on the bench by the window and it brings a smile to her face. She realizes she’s finally let him in. She wakes him up and invites him to sleep in bed with her.

Chapters 33 – 35

In the morning, Emma is feeling better. She tells Justin that she missed him when she was out of touch with him for a while. Then, Justin feel nauseous and he realizes he’s sick and needs to vomit.

Justin stays with Emma as he deals with his bout of the illness. He’s feeling better after about six hours. When he’s recovered, they continue to cuddle.

The next day, Justin finally asks Emma what exactly they’re doing. Emma thinks about how she could see her falling in love with him and this place and his family. She also thinks about how the lack of permanence in her life has always been her protection.

He asks her to please stay, and they have sex, but she starts crying. Emma says she thinks there’s something wrong with her that’s broken. She tells him that she likes him more than she’s ever liked anyone and it scares her.

Chapters 36 – 37

Maddy returns to find Emma and Justin kissing. She says that she saw Neil and Amber together and they seem to be doing well again. Neil is on the dock and is able to take Justin back, and Emma suggests she goes with him since it’s raining. He doesn’t want her to have to take him back in the pontoon later, so he agrees.

Before Justin goes, he asks Emma about getting together that week, but Emma tells Justin that she needs to think.

Back in the swing of things, Justin is four days behind on everything and spends all his time wishing he were back on that island. He feels miserable. When she call, he knows Emma is going to break things off with him. But instead, she tells him that she wants to stay and give them a chance.

Later that night, Emma is in Justin’s room. Emma and Maddy have already signed the contract for another six weeks at Royaume. Emma thinks about how her mother never returned her calls about being sick or called to check in on her. They’ve been spending time a lot of time at his apartment since Emma doesn’t want Justin’s siblings to get too attached to her while they’re still figuring things out.

Today, however, they’re at Justin’s house after Chelsea has asked to sleep in Justin’s room. In the morning, Emma has breakfast with the family.

Chapters 38 – 39

A week and a half later, Emma has been spending every night with Justin. She helps out with his family.

Today, she gets a frantic call from Maria saying that Amber is freaking out and that Emma has fifteen minutes to deal with it before she calls the police. She says that Amber is throwing clothes out on the lawn. She also says that she sleeps for days and then is awake for a week straight painting her mural.

When Emma gets there, she sees that Amber looks like a mess and she’s trashing the house. Amber says that Neil has accused her of stealing some things, and he’s asked her to leave the house, saying that they need a break.

In frustration, Emma asks Amber why she always has to ruin things when they’re going well. Amber mentions that Neil has offered to pay for an in-patient program for Amber to get treatment, but she refused. Emma asks her mother about what her therapist has been saying, and her mother reveals that her “therapist” is actually a spiritual advisor.

Emma tries to get her mother calmed down and to get the house cleaned up. Maddy comes by to help as well. Maddy tries to comfort Emma by saying that it’s beautiful that she has empathy for her mother, but she can’t keep caring more about her than she does about herself.

Justin shows up to help as well after getting a call from Maddy. As they’re cleaning, Justin asks Maddy what to do when Emma starts feeling “small” and distant. She says that he should give her space and leave her alone, but not to let her take off since she won’t come back. Justin thinks about what Emma’s childhood must’ve been like to deal with this constantly.

They manage to get the place cleaned up before Neil is set to arrive at home. Justin has lost a whole day of work helping out, but he thinks to himself that he’s happy to adjust his life to fit Emma in.

Chapter 40

The next day is Emma’s birthday. Emma wakes up at Justin’s place and is glad that he took care of her the day before. Meanwhile, she wonders what’ll happen with her mother and Neil, and it frustrates her that this is her problem. She thinks about how her mother is only going to contact her on her birthday if she needs her help. Emma knows that something needs to change in her relationship with her mother instead of her waiting around for the next time her mother needs help.

Emma has breakfast with Justin’s family and they have some birthday decorations set up. At noon, Maddy comes by to take Emma to lunch. Maddy tells Emma that Amber and Neil have broken up. Neil saw video footage of what happened and still offered to pay for treatment, but when Amber refused, he finally had to kick her out. Emma struggles knowing what will happen next — she knows her mother will vanish for a while and she wonders how long her mother can keep this up before she only has Emma left to rely on.

Emma feels resentment knowing that this was her mother’s best chance at getting help and support and that she refused.

Maddy also asks Emma about the DNA test, but Emma says she’s still set to private so she hasn’t seen if or who any potential relatives are. Justin and Maddy encourage her to take a look. She’s surprised to see that it says that Emma has a half brother “Daniel Grant” on her mother’s side, but Emma didn’t think Amber had ever had any other children. It also says she has two aunts and two cousins on her mother’s side.

When Emma messages Daniel Grant, he asks her to please call him. Emma talks to him and he says that Amber and his maternal grandparents (Amber’s parents) raised him, but that Amber never mentioned having a daughter. Amber had him when she was 15. Her parents died eight years ago. Emma’s head swims learning this information. She’s unable to believe the amount of lies that Amber had told her.

Daniel tells her about the huge family they have, with lots of cousins and nieces and nephews. He has a daughter, Victoria, who’s two. It turns out he lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He offers to meet up with her later that day.

A car ride later, Emma, Maddy and Justin meet with Daniel and his wife, Alexis, along with their daughter. Justin recognizes Alexis, since she’s friends with Briana.

Daniel gives her a tour of the house, which he says has been in the family for many generations. He tells Emma that Amber’s parents left it to her, but he bought it from her for half a million dollars. Emma thinks about how she didn’t really hear from her mother the last three years and she realizes it was because she didn’t need money during that time. She must’ve finally run out, which is why she showed up looking for Emma and came to Minnesota and latched onto Neil.

Daniel also shows Emma pictures of their grandparents William and Linda. He says he had a wonderful childhood with them and that they were the best people he’s ever known. Emma thinks about this and feels robbed.

Then, she sees pictures of the Fourth of July when she was eight, the first time her mother had abandoned her. She recalls starving and struggling and being scared as a child and sees that it was because her mom had left to come celebrate over here. Finally, Emma says that she needs to leave. She’s crying and having a panic attack. She goes to the car, sobbing, realizing how much she was robbed of a loving family. Emma thinks about how her mother chose that life for her.

Chapter 41

Emma goes straight to Neil’s mansion to confront her mother. When she does, her mother isn’t even sorry. She says that her parents didn’t have a legal right to her and that she was in a difficult place when she had her. She asks her mother why, and her mother says that her parents would’ve kept her, but she wanted to keep Emma. Emma responds that she should’ve loved her enough to let her go, and she leaves, knowing she will never see her mother again.

As she walks out, Emma feels her heart close. She thinks about how she will leave Justin if things get hard or sabotage the relationship. She knows she’ll flee rather than let him leave her. She knows she doesn’t know how to love or be loved.

Chapter 42

Justin and Maddy have been waiting outside the house when there’s the smell of smoke. Maria yells that the house is on fire. They see Neil outside, and ask him who is in the house, but he says it’s empty. He says that Amber left in a taxi and he saw Emma leave.

Neil also says that he knows Amber set the fire before she left. He talks about how he was a real jerk before and how he lost the only woman he ever loved because if it. He’s worked on being a better person since then, and he thinks that Amber was his penance and he’s proud of himself for never wavering despite her behavior.

Justin thinks about how framing is everything — if you can find a way to frame things in the best way possible then that’s where true happiness comes from.

Maddy interrupts Justin’s thoughts saying that Emma has left. It looks like her luggage is gone and her AirTag shows that she’s headed for the airport.

Chapters 43 – 44

Meanwhile, Emma is staying at a hotel room near the airport. She feels hungry, dehydrated and completely detached. Maddy comes knocking on the door and says that she found her by tracking her AirTag. Maddy brings her a sandwich and tells her that she is not what happened to her. Instead, she is what she chooses to do next. Maddy tells her she needs to face things and fix them or she’ll always be running from what Amber did to her.

The next morning, Emma goes to talk to Justin. She tells him that she is not okay and that she should not be around kids. Justin insists he cam help her through what she’s going through, but Emma tells him he can’t undo 29 years of conditioning. She tells him that the more she cares about them, the more she wants to run. She says that she needs to deal with her stuff before she can be a spouse or parent to anyone since she doesn’t want to be the “Amber” in their lives.

She tells him that the person he meets next will be his soulmate.

Chapter 45

Six Months Later

Six months later, Emma is living at the Grant House and working at Royaume’s satellite clinic in Wakan. She has been ever since she and Maddy left Royaume. She was hired by Alexis (who turns out to be Neil’s ex), who is a general practitioner there and the town doctor.

Maddy is seeing Daniel’s best friend, Doug. In the past six months, Emma and Maddy have talked a lot, with Maddy admitting that a lot of the moving around was something Maddy did for Emma. She was worried about Emma going off on her own and never coming back.

Emma has been seeing a therapist, and she’s continued to ignore when her mother calls though internally she’s started to forgive her.

Today, Emma goes by to see Justin for the first time, but she gets a call from Sarah when she’s on her way. Her period has started and she’s in the nurses office, and Emma is still on the emergency contact list. She doesn’t want Justin. Emma goes by to pick Sarah up, and she takes her home. She talks about how they have a chore chart at home now to pitch in with stuff. Emma apologizes to Sarah for abandoning them, but Sarah says she never felt abandoned because she knew if she called Emma then she would come.

Justin thinks about how for a while after Emma left he was miserable, but he knew he had to let her go. Today, Sarah is home from school early and tells him to come downstairs.

He sees that Emma is sitting on the sofa. He’s disappointed when she says that she’s just there because Sarah needed her help. He wonders why they couldn’t have been together if she was just two hours away the past six months. They ask each other if they’re seeing anyone, and they both say no. But Justin tells her that this is difficult for him and he wishes she wouldn’t have come.

Emma apologizes and is about to leave, but then she tells him she loves him and explains what she’s been going through.

When she’s done talking, he asks her to please stay and she says she would stay forever.


In the epilogue, Justin posts on reddit whether he’s “the asshole” for “proposing to my girlfriend on a Toilet King Billboard?”

Justin describes how it’s been two years since he and Emma have been dating and how he planned on proposing. He mentions that his mom is being released from prison early in a few weeks, so he and Emma are moving into their own place. He’s planning on bringing her by his old apartment where there’s a Toilet King Billboard that was an inside joke and wants to propose on there, but there’s debate about whether it’s a good idea.

In an update, he writes that he did it and she said yes.

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