I looked up at about the “nothing was at stake,” and I waited all the way until the “everything” and then I couldn’t wait anymore, and my hand was on the back of her head, and then her lips on mine, the cold air gone and replaced with the warmth of her mouth, soft and sweet and hash-brown-tastic, and I opened my eyes and my gloves touched the skin of her face pale from the cold, and I had never before had a first kiss with a girl I loved. When we parted, I looked at her, bashful, and said, “Wow,” and then she laughed and pulled me back toward her and then from above and behind us, I heard the ding-dong of the Waffle House door opening.
“HOLY. CRAP. WHAT. THE. HELL. IS. HAPPENING.”
I just looked up at JP, trying to wipe the goofy smile off my face.
“KEUN!” JP shouted. “GET YOUR FAT KOREAN ASS OUT HERE.”
Keun appeared at the doorway, looking down at us. JP shouted, “TELL THEM WHAT YOU JUST DID TO EACH OTHER!”
“Um,” I said.
“We kissed,” the Duke said.
“That’s kinda g*y,” Keun said.
“I AM A GIRL.”
“Yeah, I know, but so is Tobin,” Keun said.
JP was still shouting, seemingly unable to modulate his voice. “AM I THE ONLY PERSON PROFOUNDLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE WHOLE MAKEUP OF OUR GROUP? WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE GOOD OF THE GROUP?!”
“Go gawk at cheerleaders,” the Duke said.
JP looked at us for a while and then he smiled. “Just don’t get all gooey with each other.” He turned around and walked inside.
“Your hash browns are getting cold,” I said.
“If we go back in, no flirting with cheerleaders.”
“I only did it to get your attention,” I confessed. “Can I kiss you again?” She nodded and I did, and there was no second-kiss drop-off whatsoever. I could have kept going forever, but finally, through the kiss, she said, “I actually really do want my hash browns,” and so I opened the door and she ducked beneath my arm and we ate dinner at three A.M.
We hid in the back amid the giant steel refrigerators, our time interrupted only occasionally by JP coming back to give us the hilarious details of his and Keun’s aborted attempts to engage the cheerleaders in conversation. And then the Duke and I fell asleep together on the red tile of the Waffle House kitchen, my shoulder as her pillow and my jacket as mine. JP and Keun woke us up at seven, and Keun briefly broke his vow never to abandon the cheerleaders and drove us to the Duke and Duchess. It turned out that Tinfoil Guy drove the tow truck for them, and so Tinfoil Guy gave us a tow, and I jacked the car up in the driveway so the axle wouldn’t break and just put the wheel in the garage, and then the Duke and I went over to her house and opened presents, and I tried not to make it incredibly obvious to her parents how incredibly gooey I felt about the Duke, and then my parents came home and I told them the car got jacked when I was trying to drive the Duke home, and they yelled at me about it, but not for too long because it was Christmas and they had insurance and it was just a car. I called the Duke and JP and Keun that evening after the cheerleaders had finally left the Waffle House and everyone had eaten their Christmas dinners. They all came over, and we watched two James Bond movies and then stayed up half the night recounting our escapades. And then we all fell asleep, all four of us in four sleeping bags, like we’d been doing forever, and nothing was different except that I didn’t actually fall asleep, and neither did the Duke, and we just kept looking at each other, and then finally got up at, like, four thirty and walked a mile in the snow to Starbucks, just the two of us. I overcame the confusing French of the Starbucks ordering system and managed to get a latte, which contained the caffeine I so sorely needed, and then the Duke and I were sitting next to each other in plush purple chairs, sprawled out all over those chairs, as tired as I had ever been, so tired I could barely even smile. And we were talking about nothing, which she was still so good at, and then there was a pause, and she looked over at me with sleepy eyes and said, “So far so good,” and I said, “God, I love you,” and she said, “Oh,” and I said, “Good oh?” and she said, “Best oh ever,” and I put the latte down on a table, awash in the happy middle of my greatest adventure.
the patron saint of pigs
For Dad and for the lovely mountain town of Brevard, NC . . .
both chock-full of grace
Being me sucked. Being me on this supposedly gorgeous night, with the supposedly gorgeous snow looming in five-foot drifts outside my bedroom window, double-sucked. Add the fact that today was Christmas, and my score was up to triple-suck. And add in the sad, aching, devastating lack of Jeb, and ding-ding-ding! The bell at the top of the Suckage Meter couldn’t ring any louder.
Instead of jingle bells, I had suckage bells. Lovely.
Well, aren’t you a merry little figgy pudding, I said to myself, wishing Dorrie and Tegan would hurry up and get here. I didn’t know what figgy pudding was, but it sounded like the sort of dish that sat cold and alone at the end of the buffet table because no one wanted it. Like me. Cold and alone and probably lumpish.
Grrrrrr. I hated feeling sorry for myself, which was why I’d called Tegan and Dorrie and begged them to come over. But they weren’t here yet, and anyway, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself.
Because I missed Jeb so much.
Because our breakup, which was only a week old and as raw as an open wound, was my own stupid fault.
Because I’d written Jeb a (pathetic?) e-mail asking him please, please, please to meet me at Starbucks yesterday so we could talk. But he never showed up. Didn’t even call.
And because, after waiting at Starbucks for nearly two hours, I hated life and myself so much that I trudged across the parking lot to Fantastic Sam’s, where I tearfully told the stylist to lop my hair off and dye what was left of it pink. Which she did, because why did she care if I committed hair suicide?
So of course I felt sorry for myself: I was a brokenhearted, self-loathing, plucked pink chicken.
“Addie, wow,” Mom had said yesterday afternoon when I’d finally come home. “That’s . . . a pretty major haircut. And you got it colored. Your beautiful blonde hair.”
I gave her a why-don’t-you-shoot-me-now look, which she answered with a tilted head warning that said, Watch it, sweetie. I know you’re hurting, but that doesn’t give you permission to take it out on me.
“Sorry,” I said. “I guess I’m just not used to it yet.”