Rosie’s head felt like a full water balloon. She groped around for her phone on her bedside table, blindly patting away the alarm. A text from Alice waited for her: a screenshot of an Instagram ad for an adult diaper. She could hear Jordan’s voice from another room. Of course, I told them that. Do you think I’m an idiot? Then came another voice, a woman’s, and a third, a man’s. Jordan’s parents. They were in the apartment. The sharp morning light stabbed through the fire escape window, and Rosie surveyed the bedroom, mentally retracing her steps from the night before. In the Uber home, Jordan had pressed his forehead against the window, his arms crossed over his chest, breathing so loudly she thought he might be crying. Rosie had spent the ride home trying not to puke. She’d put down the window and stuck her head out like a dog.

In the bathroom, she exhaled against her palm and smelled her breath. The sight of the toilet bowl made her nauseated. Maybe she could get back into bed. She tried to tune out the conversation.

You bid how much? For how many bedrooms?

Three beds, two baths.

Well, that’s insane. And you can’t get out of it?

Could we try a different bank? That was his father’s voice.

No! No lender can get a loan approved in a matter of hours.

Rosie slowly brushed her teeth and spat into the basin, trying not to gag. She closed her eyes and held the edge of the vanity. Her head throbbed. She’d gotten two hours of sleep. She needed a coffee but didn’t want to walk into the kitchen and encounter Jordan’s parents. She let the water run to drown them out. She considered slipping out the fire escape and walking to a café.

No. They were married now. They faced challenges head‑on, together. They had promised each other that in their vows, which were framed and hanging in their bedroom. She turned off the faucet, rubbed her temples, and did a breathing technique Claudine had recommended for fight‑or‑flight scenarios.

In the living room, Jordan’s mother stood with her arms crossed, wearing a houndstooth pantsuit. Jordan’s father sat on the sofa, one foot crossed over his knee. “There she is,” he said, glancing at his watch as Rosie entered. He was dressed like a father in an REI camping ad.

Rosie smiled weakly at them.

“I hope we didn’t wake you,” Jordan’s mother said judgmentally.

“We heard you had a tough night,” Jordan’s father added.

“Jordan told you the news, I guess,” Rosie said.

“He’s been on the phone with your lender all morning,” Jordan’s mother said. “While you were sleeping, in what I imagine are your clothes from last night.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a bottled green smoothie branded with her company name: Golden‑Drop. “Perhaps you could use one of these.”

Rosie uncapped the bottle and drank while everyone watched. It tasted like grass.

“The bank is reneging on the loan commitment,” Jordan said, staring at the rug. “As expected.”

“So we’ll pull out,” Rosie said wearily. She couldn’t even begin to process the embarrassment of announcing a big life change only to have it fall through. What would they tell everyone?

“No.” Jordan shook his head. “I begged. But the sellers put an offer on another house and they need the cash. Even if the other bidder buys the house, they’ll keep our deposit.”

“Is that even legal?”

“It’s a standard part of the contract.” Everyone looked at Rosie, as though she were supposed to have a solution. A pressure had built in her head. She imagined drilling a hole into the back of her skull to relieve it.

“Well, I don’t see the point of the suspense,” Jordan’s mother said finally. “We’re buying you the house.”

“What?” Rosie looked at Jordan. “No, no. You can’t do that.”

“On the contrary, I can. Consider it a loan, a zero-­percent- interest mortgage. We’ll pay cash for the house, and you’ll give us your down payment. You can start repaying us after you get settled.”

“I think, on principle, we can’t,” Rosie said.

“On principle,” Jordan’s mother said, “you shouldn’t throw ten years of Jordan’s savings out the window if you can help it, and you can help it. Do you have a better idea?”

Rosie steadied herself against Jordan’s rowing machine.

“Good. It’s settled,” his mother said. “When you pay it back, we’ll transfer the deed to you.”

Jordan turned to his mother. “Could you give us a minute, Bridey?”

Jordan’s father pressed himself up from the sofa. “We’ll wait in the car.”

When the door shut behind them, Jordan looked at Rosie and smiled meekly.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Rosie said.

“I don’t see what other choice we have.”

“Your mom is going to feel entitled to make decisions for us.”

Jordan took Rosie’s hand. “Just think of her as the bank. She has no interest in controlling us.”

Rosie pinched her nose. “I just feel like she’s going to find some way to put her foot on the scale. It’s already starting – giving us that Jumbo Prawn baby bib?”

“What’s wrong with that? Eventually, we’ll have a use for it, right?”

“Has she asked you about our timeline for having kids?”

Jordan hesitated. “Well, yeah. Of course. She’s my mom.”

“What did you tell her?”

He let go of her hand. “Nothing specific. She was expressing doubts about how fast we made this decision. And I told her about how we saw ourselves in Scout Hill. I showed her the photo of the nursery and said how great a mom I think you’ll be. And how excited we are to move our lives forward. And she asked if we were, you know, trying.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said no, not yet. But that you’re coming around to the idea. You brought up those sheepskin slippers and baby blankets and stuff. I told her that was what you imagined for us there. A quieter life away, while we started our family.”

“She’s getting ahead of herself,” Rosie said. “She’s trying to nudge us forward.”

“So she’s excited about having grandkids. That’s pretty normal.”

“Excitement is one thing; pressure is another.”

“I’ll make sure she stays in her lane,” Jordan said. “But I don’t think we have anything to worry about. OK? She’s doing us a huge favour.”

“Just promise me you’ll play defence,” Rosie said.

Jordan laughed. “I promise,” he said. “I know it’s not ideal.”

“I feel like a bag of sand,” Rosie said, holding back tears.

The family friend chimed. So sorry to interrupt, guys. Just wanted to give you the running list I have here in case you needed me to or‑ der anything before the weekend. I’ve got Sheepskin Slippers for Baby Indoor Outdoor Shearling Cozy, Bag of Sand 20 or 50 Pounds Premium Play Quality Heavy Duty Burlap Bag, Fizzing Hangover Relief Fifteen Minute Tablets Fast Dissolving Multipack –

“No, no, shut up,” Jordan said. “Thank you.”

My bad! the family friend said.

“Look,” Jordan said, standing to face Rosie. He held her face in his hands. “This is the best possible news, given the situation we’re in. My parents are saving us from financial ruin. Don’t worry about Bridey. Let’s take a deep breath, go downstairs, go to the bank, and take this next step. One day we’ll look back on this moment and laugh.”

Excerpted with permission from Trust and Safety: A Novel, Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman, Dutton.