In his brother’s room, Charlie sat me down on the bed and told me he needed advice about Brenna, a girl from our grade he sometimes hooked up with. He looked at me in an I-know-I’m-cute-and-I’m-going-to-work-it way and said how lucky Jeb was to be dating someone as great as me.
I snorted and said something like, “Oh, yeah, whatever.”
“Are you guys having problems?” he asked. “Tell me you guys aren’t having problems. You guys are golden.”
“Uh-huh, that’s why Jeb’s upstairs doing God knows what, and I’m down here with you.” Why am I down here with you? I remember wondering. And who shut the door?
Charlie pushed for details, charming and sympathetic, and when I got teary, he moved in close to comfort me. I protested, but he pressed his mouth to mine, and eventually I submitted. A guy was paying me all sorts of attention—a really cute and charismatic guy—and who cared that he didn’t mean it?
I did. Even during the moment of betraying Jeb, I cared. I’ve replayed that moment again and again, and that was the part that killed me. Because what was I thinking? Jeb and I were having problems, but I still loved him. I loved him then and I loved him now. I would always love him.
Only yesterday, when he never showed up at Starbucks, he sent the message loud and clear that he no longer loved me back.
A ping on my windowpane intruded into my pity party. It took me a minute to pull myself back to reality. There was another ping, and I craned up from my bed to see a heavily bundled Tegan and an even more heavily bundled Dorrie standing atop a drift of snow. They beckoned with mittened hands, and Dorrie called in a glass-muted voice for me to come out.
I clambered to my feet, and the strange lightness of my head reminded me of my hair disaster. Crud. I looked around, grabbed my throw blanket off my bed, and put it over me like a hood. Holding the fabric beneath my chin, I walked to the window and jerked it up.
“Get your booty on the dance floor!” Dorrie hollered, the sound of her suddenly much louder.
“That’s not a dance floor,” I said. “That’s snow. Cold, frozen snow.”
“It’s so beautiful,” Tegan said. “Come see.” She paused, regarding me quizzically from beneath her striped wool hat. “Addie? Why do you have a blanket on your head?”
“Ehhh,” I said, waving them off. “Go home. I’m a bummer. I’ll bum you out.”
“Oh, don’t even,” Dorrie said. “Exhibit A: You called and said you were having a crisis. Exhibit B: Here we are. Now get down here and experience this glory of nature.”
“It’ll cheer you up, I swear.”
She rolled her eyes. “Such a baby. C’mon, Tegan.”
They high-stepped out of my sight, and a couple of seconds later, the doorbell rang. In my bedroom, I adjusted my blanket to make it more of an official turban-y thing. I sat on the edge of my bed and pretended to be a nomadic desert wanderer with startling green eyes and a desolate expression. After all, I knew all about desolation.
Parental chatter floated up from the hall—“Merry Christmas! You girls walked all that way in the snow?”—and Dorrie and Tegan annoyingly chose to reply. Their happy voices made happy Christmas chitchat, making me grouchier and grouchier until I wanted to yell down, “Hey! Girlies! The wretched soul you’re here to comfort? She’s up here!”
Finally, two sets of stockinged feet jogged up the stairs. Dorrie burst in first.
“Whew,” she said, lifting her hair off her neck and airing herself out. “If I don’t sit down, I’m going to plotz.”
Dorrie loved saying “I’m going to plotz.” It was her catchphrase; it meant she was going to explode. She also loved Cheerwine, bagels, and pretending she was from the Old Country, which was where Jewish people lived before they came to America, I guess. Dorrie was big into her Jewishness, going so far as to call her awesome curly hair a “Jew fro.” Which shocked me the first time she said it, and then made me laugh. Which was pretty much Dorrie in a nutshell.
Tegan came in behind Dorrie with flushed cheeks. “Omigosh, I’m totally sweating,” she said, peeling off the flannel button-down she wore over her T-shirt. “Getting here about killed me.”
“You’re telling me,” Dorrie said. “Five thousand miles I trudged to get from my house to yours!”
“And by that you mean . . . twenty feet?” Tegan said. She turned to me. “Think that’s about right, twenty feet from Dorrie’s house to mine?”
I gave her a steely-eyed look. We were not here to discuss the foot-by-foot boringness of how far apart their houses were.
“So what’s with the headdress?” Dorrie asked, dropping down beside me.
“Nothing,” I said, because it turned out I didn’t want to discuss that, either. “I’m cold.”
“Uh-huh, sure.” She yanked the blanket from my head, then made a sound of strangled horror. “Oy. What have you done?”
“Gee, thanks,” I said sourly. “You’re as bad as my mom.”
“Whoa,” Tegan said. “I mean . . . whoa.”
“I’m assuming this is your crisis?” Dorrie said.
“Are you sure?”
“Dorrie.” Tegan swatted her. “It’s . . . cute, Addie. It’s very brave.”
Dorrie snorted. “Okay, if someone says your hairstyle is brave? You pretty much want to go back and demand a refund.”
“Go away,” I said. I pushed at her with my feet.
“You are being mean to me in my time of need, so you’re no longer allowed on the bed.” I put some muscle into it, and off she thunked.
“I think you broke my tailbone,” she complained.
“If your tailbone’s broken, you’ll have to sit on an inflatable doughnut.”
“I’m not sitting on an inflatable doughnut.”
“I’m just saying.”
“I’m not being mean to you in your time of need,” Tegan interrupted. She nodded at the bed. “May I?”
Tegan took Dorrie’s original spot, and I stretched out and put my head in her lap. She stroked my hair, gingerly at first, and then with more assurance.
“So . . . what’s going on?” she said.