“Addie,” Christina said. Her tone that suggested I pulled this kind of crap all the time, which I did not.
“Christina, I’m not fooling around, and I’m not being dramatic just to be dramatic. I swear.”
“Well, Joyce just clocked in,” she said grudgingly, “so I suppose the two of us can cover things.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll be back in the quickest jiffy possible.” I started to hang up, but Christina’s tinny voice said, “Wait—hold on!”
I raised the phone back to my ear, antsy to be on my way. “What?”
“Your friend with the dreads is here.”
“Brenna? Ugh. Not my friend.” I had a horrible thought. “She’s not with anyone, is she?”
“She’s not with Jeb, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Thank God. Then why are you telling me?”
“Just thought you’d be interested. Oh, and your dad came by. He said to tell you he took the Explorer.”
“He . . . what?!” My gaze flew to the north end of the parking lot. There was a rectangle of smushed snow where I’d parked the Explorer. “Why? Why in the world did he take my car?”
“His car, whatever. What was he thinking?”
“No idea. Why, do you need it for your thing?”
“Yes, I need it for my thing. And now I have no clue how I’m going to—” I broke off, because ranting to Christina wouldn’t help.
“Never mind, I’ll figure it out,” I said. “Bye.”
I hit the end button, then called my voice mail.
“You have three new messages,” the recording said.
Three? I thought. I’d only heard my phone ring once—although I guess things got kind of loud when the Doggy de Lites came crashing down.
“Addie, it’s Dad,” Dad said on message number one.
“Yes, Dad, I know,” I said under my breath.
“I rode into town with Phil, because your mom needs some groceries. I’m taking the Explorer, so don’t worry if you look out and see that it’s gone. I’ll swing by to pick you up at two.”
“Nooooo!” I cried.
“Next message,” my phone informed me. I bit my lip, praying that it was Dad saying, “Ha-ha, just kidding. I didn’t take the Explorer; I just moved it. Ha-ha!”
It wasn’t Dad. It was Tegan.
“Hola, Addikins!” she said. “Do you have Gabriel? Do ya, do ya, do ya? I cannot wait to see him. I found a heat lamp down in the basement—remember that year my dad was trying to grow those tomatoes?—and I set it up so Gabriel will stay warm in his little bed. Oh, and while I was down there, I found my old American Girl stuff, including a Barcalounger that is just the right size for him. And a backpack with a star on it, though I’m not sure he’ll need a backpack. But you never know, right? Okay, um, call me. Call me as soon as you can. The snowplow is two streets over, so if I don’t hear from you, I’ll just head on over to Starbucks, ’kay? Bye!”
My stomach sank all the way to my toes, and I stood there dumbly as my voice mail announced the final message. It was Tegan again. “Oh, and Addie?” she said. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Well, that made me feel better.
I shut my phone, cursing myself for not going to Pet World at the crack of nine like I’d planned. But rather than whimper pathetically, I had to deal with it. The old me would have stood here feeling sorry for myself until I got frostbite and my toes fell off, and good luck finding strappy heels to wear on New Year’s Eve then, buster. Not that I had anywhere to go wearing strappy heels. But whatever.
The new me, however, was not a whimperer.
So. Where could I get a last-minute pig-rescue car?
Christina? Not an option. She got dropped off this morning by her boyfriend, per usual. Joyce, the barista whose shift just started, was also without car. Joyce walked to work no matter what the weather was like and wore one of those personal pedometers to measure how many steps she took.
Hmm, hmm, hmm. Not Dorrie and not Tegan, because (a) their street was still being plowed (hopefully), and (b) no way was I going to tell them why I needed said car.
Not Brenna, heaven forbid. If I asked her to take me to the south end of town, she’d drive north just to spite me. And she’d blast her reggae-emo-fusion crap, which sounded like drugged-out ghouls.
Which left only one person. One evil, charming, too-handsome-for-his-own-good person. I kicked a whump of snow, because he was the last person in the world I ever wanted to call, ever ever ever.
Well, guess what? I told myself. You’re going to have to suck it up for the sake of Tegan. Either that, or say bye-bye to Gabriel forever.
I flipped opened my phone, scrolled through my contacts, and jabbed CALL. I clenched my toes inside my boots as I counted rings. One ringie-dingie, two ringie-dingies, three ringie—
“Yo, mama!” Charlie said when he picked up. “S’up?”
“It’s Addie,” I said. “I need a ride, and I’m only asking because I have absolutely no other choice. I’m outside Pet World. Come pick me up.”
“Someone’s bossy this morning,” Charlie said. I could practically hear him waggle his eyebrows. “I like it.”
“Whatever. Just come get me, will you?”
He lowered his voice. “What’ll you give me in return?”
“A free chai,” I said flatly.
I tightened my jaw, because the way he said it, even “venti” sounded lewd.
“Fine, a venti chai. Have you left yet?”
He chuckled. “Hold on, babe. I’m still in my skivvies. My venti skivvies, and not because I’m fat, but because I’m”—ridiculous, loaded pause—“venti.”
“Just get over here,” I said. I started to hang up, then thought of one last thing. “Oh—and bring a phone book.”
I hung up, did a shake-it-off shudder, and despised myself all over again for fooling around with such a skeeze. Yes, he was hot—in theory—and once upon a time, I suppose, I’d even found him funny.
But he wasn’t Jeb.
Dorrie had summed up the difference between them one night at a party. Not the party, but just a normal, pre-breakup party. Dorrie and I were slouching on a sofa, rating a bunch of guys according to their strengths and weaknesses. When we got to Charlie, Dorrie let out a sigh.