“Give me back the phone book,” I demanded.
He let go of it, and I pulled it into my lap. I opened it back up, scanned the entries and—aha!
“Billingsley, Constance,” I read out loud. “108 Teal Eye Court. Do you know where Teal Eye Court is?”
“No clue,” he said. “But never fear, Lola is here.”
“Do guys always name their cars?”
He punched commands into his GPS system. “Quickest way, or most use of highways?”
He hit SELECT, and a sexy female voice said, “Please proceed to the highlighted route.”
“Ahhh,” I said. “Hello, Lola.”
“She’s my girl,” Charlie said. He shifted the Hummer into gear and bumped over the ridges of snow, slowing when he reached the parking lot’s exit. At Lola’s prompting, he took a right, drove half a block, and took another right into the narrow alley behind the stores.
“Prepare for a left turn in point one miles,” Lola purred. “Turn left now.”
Charlie wrenched the wheel to the left, taking the Hummer down a dinky, unplowed cul-de-sac.
There was a bing, and Lola said, “You have reached your destination.”
Charlie stopped the Hummer. He turned to me and lifted his eyebrows. “This is where you needed a ride to?”
I was as baffled as he was. I craned my neck to read the street sign at the corner of the cul-de-sac, and sure enough, it said Teal Eye Court. A hundred feet away was the back of the Starbucks. The entire ride had taken thirty seconds, tops.
A laugh rolled out of Charlie.
“Shut up,” I said, willing myself to stop blushing. “You didn’t know where it was either, or you wouldn’t have had to use Lola.”
“Don’t you tell me you’re not zesty,” Charlie said. “You are zesty with a capital Z.”
I opened the door of the Hummer and hopped out, sinking deep into several feet of snow.
“Want me to wait for you?” he called.
“I think I can make it back on my own.”
“You sure? It’s a long way back.”
I shut the door and started walking.
He rolled down the passenger’s-side window. “See you at Starbucks—I’ll be waiting for my chai!”
I waded across the snowy alley to the apartment complex at 108 Teal Court, praying that Constance Billingsley didn’t have a little kid, because I didn’t know if I could take a baby pig from a little kid.
I also prayed she wasn’t blind, or paralyzed, or a dwarf like that lady I saw on the Discovery Channel who was less than three feet tall. I could not take a teeny-tiny pig from a teeny-tiny woman, no way.
Someone had shoveled the walkway leading to the individual apartments, and I climbed over the ridge of packed snow and hopped down to the much less treacherous pavement. One-oh-four, one-oh-six . . . one-oh-eight.
I set my shoulders and rang the bell.
“Why, hello, Addie!” exclaimed the gray-braided woman who opened the door. “What a treat!”
“Mayzie?” I said, befuddled. I glanced at the credit-card receipt. “I’m . . . uh . . . looking for Constance Billingsley?”
“Constance May Billingsley, that’s me,” she said.
My brain struggled to catch up. “But . . . ”
“Now, think about it,” she said. “Would you go by ‘Con-stance’ if you had a choice?”
“Uh . . . ”
She laughed. “I didn’t think so. Now, come inside, I have something to show you. Come, come, come!”
She led me into the kitchen, where on a blue quilt folded several times over sat the most adorable piglet I’d ever seen. He was pink and black and looked soft to the touch. His snout was a funny, squished thing, and his eyes were curious and alert. The curl of his tail said sproing even without being stretched and released, and yes, he was just the right size to nestle snugly into a teacup.
He oinked, and my insides went buttery.
“Gabriel,” I said. I knelt by the edge of the quilt, and Gabriel stood and trotted over. He nosed my hand, and he was so sweet, I didn’t care that I was being slimed with pig snot. Anyway, it wasn’t snot. Gabriel had a damp snout, that was all. No biggie.
“What did you call him?” Mayzie said. “Gabriel?”
I looked up to see her smiling quizzically.
“Gabriel,” she said, trying it out. She scooped Gabriel up. “Like the Angel Gabriel!”
She put on an I’ll-be-quoting-now face. “‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—of cabbages—and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot—and whether pigs have wings.’”
“Okay, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.
“‘And whether pigs have wings,’” Mayzie repeated. “An angel pig, you see? The Angel Gabriel!”
“I don’t think my friend was being that deep,” I said. “And please don’t start talking about angels again. Please?”
“But why not, when the universe has such fun revealing them to us?” She looked at me with pride. “You did it, Addie. I knew you would!”
I put my hands on my thighs and pushed myself up. “What did I do?”
“You passed the test!”
“And so did I,” she went on exuberantly. “At least, I think I did. We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.”
Something tightened under my ribs. “Mayzie, did you go to Pet World and buy Gabriel on purpose?”
“Well, I didn’t buy him on accident,” she said.
“You know what I mean. You read my note, my pig note. Did you buy Gabriel just to mess with me?” I felt my lower lip tremble.
Her eyes widened. “Sweetie, no!”
“I went to Pet World, and Gabriel wasn’t there . . . and do you know how frantic I’ve been?” I fought back tears. “And I had to deal with Nathan, who hates me.” I sniffled. “Only it’s possible he doesn’t hate me anymore.”
“Of course he doesn’t,” Mayzie said. “How could anyone hate you?”
“And then I had to deal with Charlie, which, believe me, you don’t want to hear about.” I ran the back of my hand under my nose. “Although weirdly enough, I handled it pretty well.”