“How old are you guys?” Tegan said. “And hey, quit passing the phone around. All I want to know . . . Excuse me, could we get back to . . . ” Her jaw dropped. “No! Absolutely not. I’m hanging up now, and I think you should . . . go play on the swing set.”
She shut the phone. “Can you believe that?” she asked Dorrie and me indignantly. “They’re eight years old—eight!—and they want me to tell them how to French-kiss a guy. They are seriously in need of deprogramming.”
Dorrie and I looked at each other. Dorrie turned to Tegan and said, “The person who called Addie was an eight-year-old girl?”
“There wasn’t just one. There was a whole gaggle, all yapping away. Yap, yap, yap.” She shook her head. “I sure hope we weren’t that annoying when we were that age.”
“Tegan?” Dorrie said. “You’re not giving us much to work with, babe. Did you find out why this gaggle of eight-year-olds called Addie?”
“Oh. Sorry. Um, I don’t think it was them, because they said it wasn’t actually their phone. They said they found it a few hours ago, after some girl flung it in a snowbank.”
“Come again?” Dorrie said.
My palms felt itchy. I didn’t like the sound of this girl. “Yeah, please tell us what the heck you’re talking about.”
“Well,” Tegan said, “I’m not convinced they knew what they were talking about, but what they said was that the girl—”
“The phone-flinging girl?” Dorrie interrupted.
“Right. That she was with a guy, and that they were in loooooove, which the eight-year-olds knew because they saw the guy ‘plant a juicy one’ on the girl. And then they asked me to teach them how to French-kiss!”
“You can’t teach someone to French-kiss over the phone,” Dorrie said.
“Plus, they’re eight! They’re babies! They don’t need to be French-kissing, period. And ‘plant a juicy one’? Please!”
“Um, Tegan?” I said. “Was the guy Jeb?”
The giggliness went out of her. I could see it happen. She bit her lip, flipped my phone back open, and hit redial.
“I am not here to chat,” she said, right off the bat. She held the phone away from her head, wincing, then drew it back. “No! Shhh! I have one question and one question only. The guy with the girl . . . what did he look like?”
Chipmunk chatter burbled from the phone, but I couldn’t make out the words. I watched Tegan’s face and gnawed my thumbnail.
“Uh-huh, okay,” Tegan said. “He did? Aw, that’s so cute!”
“Tegan,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Gotta go, bye,” Tegan said, snapping shut the phone. She turned to me. “Most definitely not Jeb, because this guy had curly hair. So . . . yay! Case solved!”
“What made you say, ‘Aw, that’s so cute’?” Dorrie asked.
“They said that the guy did this dorky happy dance after kissing the phone-flinging girl, and that he thrust his fist into the air and yelled, ‘Jubilee!’”
Dorrie drew back and made an okay-that’s-weird expression.
“What?” Tegan said. “Wouldn’t you want some guy yelling ‘jubilee’ after kissing you?”
“Maybe they’d just had dessert,” I said.
They looked at me.
I looked back at them. I flipped my palms up, like, C’mon, guys. “With cherries? Cherries Jubilee?”
Dorrie turned back to Tegan. “No,” she said. “I wouldn’t want some guy yelling ‘jubilee’ about my cherry.”
Tegan giggle-snickered, then stopped when she saw that I wasn’t.
“But it wasn’t Jeb,” she repeated. “Isn’t that good?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want Jeb kissing strange girls in Virginia, but if the eight-year-old Kissing Patrol had somehow possessed news of Jeb—well, I would very much have appreciated hearing it. Just say the guy they saw didn’t have curly hair, and instead of kissing some girl, he was, like . . . locked in a Porta-Potty or something. If the Kissing Patrol had told Tegan that, then yes, it would have been good news, because it would have meant Jeb had an excuse for not meeting me.
Not that I wanted Jeb to be locked in a Porta-Potty, obviously.
“Addie? Are you okay?” Tegan asked.
“Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?” I asked.
“Huh?” she said.
“I don’t, ’cause I’m Jewish,” Dorrie said.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Never mind, I’m just being dumb.”
Tegan looked at Dorrie. “Do you believe in the magic of Hanukkah?”
“Or, I know! Angels!” Tegan said. “Do you believe in angels?”
Now Dorrie and I both stared at her.
“You brought it up,” Tegan said to me. “The magic of Christmas, the magic of Hanukkah, the magic of the holiday season . . . ” She held her hands out, palms up, as if the answer was obvious. “Angels.”
Dorrie snorted. Not me, though, because I guess maybe that was where my lonely heart was headed, even if I didn’t want to say the word.
“Last year on Christmas Eve, after Jeb kissed me at Starbucks, he came over and watched It’s a Wonderful Life with Mom and Dad and Chris and me,” I said.
“I’ve seen that movie,” Dorrie said. “Jimmy Stewart almost jumps off a bridge because he’s so depressed about his life?”
Tegan pointed at me. “And an angel helped him decide not to. Yes.”
“Actually, he wasn’t an angel yet,” Dorrie said. “Saving Jimmy Stewart was his test to become an angel. He had to make Jimmy Stewart realize his life was worth living.”
“And he did, and everything worked out, and the angel got his wings!” Tegan finished. “I remember. It was at the end, and there was this silver bell on the Christmas tree, and out of nowhere the bell went ting-a-ling-a-ling without anyone touching it.”
Dorrie laughed. “‘Ting-a-ling-a-ling’? Tegan, you kill me.”
Tegan plowed on. “And Jimmy Stewart’s little girl said, ‘Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’” She sighed happily.
Dorrie swiveled the computer chair so that she and Tegan faced me. Tegan lost her balance but grabbed the arm of the chair and righted herself.