I didn’t speak. I wanted to tell them, but at the same time I didn’t. Forget my hair—the true crisis was so much worse that I didn’t know how to get the words out without bursting into tears.
“Oh, no,” Dorrie said. Her face mirrored what she must have seen on mine. “Oh, bubbellah.”
Tegan’s hand stilled. “Did something happen with Jeb?”
“Did you see him?” Dorrie asked.
I shook my head.
“Did you talk to him?”
I shook my head again.
Dorrie’s gaze shifted upward, and I felt something pass between her and Tegan. Tegan nudged my shoulder to make me sit up.
“Addie, just tell us,” she said.
“I’m so stupid,” I whispered.
Tegan put her hand on my thigh to say, We’re here. It’s okay. Dorrie leaned over, resting her chin on my knee.
“Once upon a time . . . ” she prodded.
“Once upon a time Jeb and I were still together,” I said miserably. “And I loved him, and he loved me. And then I screwed up big-time.”
“The Charlie Thing,” Dorrie said.
“We know,” Tegan said, giving me several comforting pats. “But that happened a week ago. What’s the new crisis?”
“Other than your hair,” Dorrie said.
They waited for me to reply.
They waited some more.
“I wrote Jeb an e-mail,” I confessed.
“No,” Dorrie said. She bashed her forehead against my knee, bam-bam-bam.
“I thought you were giving him space to heal,” Tegan said. “You said the kindest thing you could do was stay away, even if it was super-hard. Remember?”
I shrugged helplessly.
“And not to be a downer, but I thought Jeb was hanging out with Brenna now,” Dorrie said.
I glared at her.
“I mean, no, of course he isn’t,” she amended. “After all, it’s only been a week. But she’s going after him, right? And as far as we know, he’s not exactly pushing her away.”
“Bad Brenna,” I said. “Hate Brenna.”
“I thought Brenna got back together with Charlie,” Tegan said.
“Of course we hate Brenna,” Dorrie said to me. “That’s not the issue.” She turned to Tegan. “We wanted her to get back with Charlie, but it didn’t take.”
“Oh,” Tegan said. She still looked confused.
I sighed. “Remember how braggy Brenna was the day before winter break? How she was going on and on about how she was going to see Jeb during vacation?”
“I thought we thought she was just trying to make Charlie jealous,” Tegan said.
“We did,” Dorrie said, “but still. If there were actual plans involved . . . ”
“Ahh,” Tegan said. “Got it. Jeb’s not a ‘plan’ kind of guy, not unless he means it.”
“I don’t want Jeb having plans with anyone—especially Brenna.” I scowled. “Fake white-girl dreadlocks.”
Dorrie exhaled through her nose. “Addie, can I tell you something you’re not going to want to hear?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“She’s going to anyway,” Tegan said.
“I realize that,” I replied. “I’m just saying I’d rather she didn’t.”
“It’s the holidays,” Dorrie said. “Holidays make people lonely.”
“I’m not lonely because of that!” I protested.
“Yes, you are. Holidays bring out neediness like nothing else—and for you it’s a double whammy, because this would have been your and Jeb’s one-year anniversary. Am I right?”
“Yesterday,” I admitted. “On Christmas Eve.”
“Oh, Addie,” Tegan said.
“Do you think couples all over the world get together on Christmas Eve?” I said, wondering this for the first time. “Because it’s all . . . Christmasy and magical, only then it’s not, and everything sucks?”
“So the e-mail you sent him,” Dorrie said in a let’s-not-get-distracted tone. “Was it a ‘Merry Christmas’ kind of thing?”
“Then what did it say?”
I shook my head. “Too painful.”
“Just tell us,” Addie urged.
I got off the bed. “Nope, nuh-uh. But I’ll pull it up. You can read it yourselves.”
They followed me to my desk, where my white MacBook waited cheerfully, pretending it wasn’t a participant in my disgrace. Puffy Chococat stickers decorated its surface, which I should have scraped off after Jeb and I broke up, since Jeb was the one who gave them to me. But I couldn’t bear to.
I flipped the computer open and clicked on Firefox. I went to Hotmail, pulled up my “Saved” folder, and dragged the cursor to the e-mail of shame. My stomach knotted. Mocha lattes? read the subject line.
Dorrie slid into the computer chair and squished over to make room for Tegan. She pressed the mouse-bar thingie, and the e-mail I wrote two days ago popped onto the screen, dated December 23:
Hey Jeb. I’m sitting here scared, typing these words. Which is crazy. How can I be scared talking to YOU? I’ve written so many versions of this, and deleted them all, and I’m just sick of myself in my own brain. No more deleting.
Although there is something I wish I *could* delete—and you know what it is. Kissing Charlie was the biggest mistake of my life. I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I know I’ve told you that again and again, but I could keep telling you forever and it wouldn’t be enough.
You know how in movies, when someone does something really stupid like fooling around behind his girlfriend’s back? And then he says, “It was nothing! She was nothing!” Well, what I did to you wasn’t nothing. I hurt you, and there’s no excuse for what I did.
But Charlie *is* nothing. I don’t even want to talk about him. He came on to me, and it was like . . . this rush, that’s all. And you and I, we’d had that stupid fight, and I was feeling needy or whatever, or maybe just pissed, and it felt good, all that attention. And I didn’t think about you. I just thought about me.
It’s really not fun saying all of this.
It makes me feel like crap.
But what I want to tell you is this: I screwed up big-time, but I learned my lesson.
I’ve changed, Jeb.
I miss you. I love you. If you give me another chance, I’ll give you my whole heart. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.