“Fine, fine.” She handed him the cup.
I pulled my gaze away from the “me”s, which were mesmerizing.
“I can’t believe you’re dressed like that, especially today,” I said. “Please tell me you’ve got a sweater on under that tinfoil.”
“What tinfoil?” he said.
“Ha-ha,” I said. “For real, Travis, aren’t you cold?”
“I’m not. Are you?”
“Um, nooo. Why would I be cold?”
“I don’t know. Why would you?”
I half laughed. Then stopped. Travis regarded me from beneath his craggy brows.
“I wouldn’t,” I said, flustered. “I’m not. I’m totally, completely comfortable, temperature-wise.”
“‘Temperature-wise,’” he scoffed. “It’s always about you, isn’t it?”
“What?! I’m not . . . talking about me! I’m just telling you that I’m not cold!”
The intensity of his gaze made me feel itchy.
“Okay, maybe I’m talking about me this very second,” I said. “But it’s not always about me.”
“Some things never change,” he said scornfully. He strode off with his doll-size cup, but at the door, he turned for one last parting shot. “And don’t bother asking for a tow. I’m off duty!”
“Well,” I said. He’d actually hurt my feelings, but I didn’t want to let on. “That was interesting.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard Travis deny anyone a tow before,” Christina said. “Seriously, I think you’re the first.”
“Please don’t sound so impressed,” I said faintly.
She laughed, which was what I wanted. But as she refilled the napkin container, Travis’s words came back to me: It’s always about you, isn’t it?
It was disconcertingly similar to what Dorrie said to me last night: Have you truly looked inside yourself? Do you even know what you need to change?
Or something like that.
“Hey, um, Christina . . . ?”
“Is there something wrong with me?”
She glanced up from the napkins. “Addie, Travis is nuts.”
“I know. But that doesn’t mean everything he says is nuts, necessarily.”
“Just tell me the truth: Am I a good person? Or am I, like, too self-absorbed?”
She considered. “Does it have to be either/or?”
“Ouch.” I drew my hand to my heart and staggered back.
She grinned, thinking I was being Funny Addie. And I was, I guess. But I also had the strangest fear that the universe was trying to tell me something. I felt as if I were teetering on the edge of a great chasm, only the chasm was in myself. I didn’t want to look down.
“Look lively,” Christina told me. “Here come the seniors.”
Sure enough, the Silver Sneakers van had pulled up outside Starbucks, and the driver was carefully helping his load of senior citizens navigate the sidewalk. They resembled a line of well-bundled bugs.
“Hi, Claire,” Christina said as the first of the seniors jingled through the door.
“Nippy, nippy!” Claire said, slipping off her colorful hat.
Burt made his way straight to the counter and ordered a shot in the dark, and Miles, shuffling in behind him, called out, “You sure your ticker can handle it, old man?”
Burt thumped his chest. “Keeps me young. That’s why the ladies love me. Right, Miss Addie?”
“Absolutely,” I said, putting the universe on hold as I grabbed a cup and handed it to Christina. Burt had the biggest ears I’d ever seen (maybe because he’d had eighty-odd years to grow them?), and I wondered what the ladies thought of them.
As the line grew, Christina and I fell into our crunch-time roles. I took orders and manned the register while she worked her magic with the steamer.
“Grande latte!” I called.
“Grande latte,” she repeated.
“Venti soy toffee nut mocha single shot no whip!”
“Venti soy toffee nut mocha single shot no whip.”
It was a dance. It pulled me out of myself. The chasm still gaped within me, but I had to tell it, Sorry, caz, no time.
The last of the seniors was Mayzie, with her gray braids and a beatific smile. Mayzie was a retired folklore professor, and she dressed all hippy-dippy in battered jeans, an oversize striped sweater, and a half dozen beaded bracelets. I loved that about her, that she dressed more like a teenager than an old lady. I mean, I didn’t want to see her in super-low-rise Sevens and a thong, but I thought it was cool that she did her own thing.
No one was waiting behind her, so I rested my hands on the counter and allowed myself a breath of air.
“Hey, Mayzie,” I said. “How you doing today?”
“I’m terrific, hon,” she said. Today she was wearing purple jingle bell earrings, and they tinkled when she tilted her head. “Ooo, I like your hair.”
“You don’t think I look like a plucked chicken?”
“Not at all,” she said. “It suits you. It’s spunky.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said.
“Well, I do. You’ve been moping around for too long, Addie. I’ve been watching. It’s time you grew into your next self.”
There it was again, the prickling sense of standing on a precipice.
Mayzie leaned closer. “We are all flawed, my dear. Every one of us. And believe me, we’ve all made mistakes.”
Heat rushed to my face. Were my mistakes so public that even my customers knew? Did the Silver Sneakers gang discuss my hookup with Charlie over bingo?
“You’ve just got to take a good hard look at yourself, change what needs to be changed, and move on, pet.”
I blinked at her dumbly.
She lowered her voice. “And if you’re wondering why I get to tell you this, it’s because I’ve decided to pursue a new profession: Christmas angel.”
She waited for my reaction, her eyes bright. It was strange that she would bring up the whole “angel” thing after I’d talked about angels with Dorrie and Tegan last night, and for a teeny-tiny fraction of a second I actually wondered if she was my angel, here to save me.
Then cold, hard reality thudded back down, and I hated myself for being such a fool. Mayzie was no angel; today was just the Day of the Nut Jobs. Apparently, everyone had eaten too much fruitcake.