“Go on,” Mayzie said encouragingly.
“I think he’s even more messed up than I am.”
Mayzie looked intrigued. “Maybe he’ll be my next case.”
With those words, my next case, I remembered that Mayzie wasn’t my friend anymore, if she ever had been. She was just a kook who had my friend’s pig.
“Are you going to give Gabriel back?” I said, keeping my voice as level as I could.
“Why, yes. I was never going to keep him.” She lifted Gabriel so that she and he were nose to snout. “Although I will miss you, Mr. Gabriel. It was nice having company in this lonely apartment, even for just a while.” She nestled him back into the nook of her elbow and kissed the top of his head.
I curled my toes inside my boots. “Are you going to give him back today?”
“Oh, dear. I’ve upset you, haven’t I?”
“Whatever, just let me have Gabriel.”
“And here I thought you’d be happy to have an angel looking out for you. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Enough with the angel bit,” I said. “I’m not kidding. If the universe gave me you as my angel, then I deserve a refund.”
Mayzie chuckled. She chuckled, and I wanted to throttle her.
“Adeline, you make things so much harder for yourself than you have to,” she said. “Silly girl, it’s not what the universe gives us that matters. It’s what we give the universe.”
I opened my mouth to tell her how stupid and hokey and woo-woo that was—but then I didn’t, because something shifted inside me. Big shift, like an avalanche, and I could no longer resist it. The feeling inside of me was so big, and I was so small. . . .
So I let go. I gave myself over to it and let go . . . and it felt marvelous. So marvelous that I couldn’t understand why I’d resisted at all. So marvelous, in fact, that I thought, Holy cow, has this been here all this time? A state of being that isn’t tight and tangled and full of me me me? Because damn it felt good. And damn it felt pure. And maybe I could be full of light, like Nathan said, and maybe I could just . . . let that light be, and let it shine, and say screw it to being pinchy-squinchy-life-sucks-I suck-guess-I’ll-go-eat-worms. Was that possible in this existence of mine? Could I, Adeline Lindsey . . . could I evolve?
Mayzie escorted me to the door. “I think it’s time for you to get going,” she said.
“Uh, okay,” I said. But I dragged my feet, because I no longer felt bitter toward her—and, in fact, I felt bad that I was about to be leaving her all alone. I wanted her to feel as expansive inside as I did, and I worried that might be hard in her single-person, soon-to-be-pigless apartment.
“Hey!” I said. “Can I, um, come visit you sometimes? I promise I won’t be boring.”
“I don’t think you could possibly be boring, even if you tried,” Mayzie said. “And I would absolutely love it if you came to see me sometimes.” To Gabriel, she said, “See what a good heart she has?”
Something else clicked in. “And I’ll get your money back from Pet World. I’ll explain the whole crazy mess to Nathan.”
She chuckled. “If anyone can, you can.”
“So . . . yeah,” I said, feeling pretty good about things. “I’ll bring you your refund, and I’ll bring those chocolate-covered graham crackers you like, too. And we’ll have tea, ’kay? We’ll have a ladies’ tea every week. Or coffee. What do you think?”
“I think that’s a splendid idea,” Mayzie said. She handed Gabriel to me, and he paddled his legs, searching for purchase. I breathed in the heavenly scent of him. He smelled like whipped cream.
Gabriel pressed his snout against my coat as I tromped through the alley snow. I wished the Silver Sneaker van would miraculously appear and pick me up, even though I was sixteen instead of seventy-six. Although, at least I could muscle through these drifts. If I were seventy-six? No way.
Gabriel squirmed, and I said, “Hold on, little guy. It won’t be long now.”
Halfway to Starbucks, I saw Tegan’s Civic pull to a stop at the traffic light two blocks down. Eek, she’d be here in, like, two minutes! I picked up my pace, because I wanted to get inside before Tegan arrived. I wanted to settle Gabriel into an actual teacup—or coffee mug—because wouldn’t that be the cutest thing in the world?
I used my hip to push through the door, and Christina looked up from the espresso machine. The other barista, Joyce, wasn’t in sight.
“At last!” Christina called. “Can you take these guys’ or-ders?”
She gestured at the guy and the girl standing at the counter, and I did a double take.
“Stuart!” I said, because it was Stuart Weintraub of the Stuart-and-Chloe-heartbreak-forever duo. Only, the girl he was with wasn’t Chloe; in fact, she was pretty much the opposite of Chloe with her short bob and cute little cat-eye glasses. She smiled at me kind of shyly, and my heart went awwwww, because she looked nice, and she was holding Stuart’s hand, and she wasn’t wearing bright red lipstick. She did not look like the kind of girl to have skanky bathroom make-out sessions on guys who weren’t her boyfriend.
“Hey, Addie,” Stuart said. “You cut your hair.”
One hand went to my head; the other kept a firm hold on Gabriel, who was trying to snuffle his way out of my coat. “Uh, yeah.” I jerked my chin at the girl he was with. “Who’s this?” It probably came out abrupt, but good heavens! Stuart Weintraub was not only without Chloe, but also without sad Stuart eyes! I mean, he still had eyes, but they were happy eyes now. His happiness made him look super-cute, too.
Yay, Stuart, I thought. Yay for Christmas miracle happening after all.
Stuart grinned at the girl and said, “This is Jubilee. Jubilee, this is Addie. She goes to my school.”
Awwww, I thought again. How adorable that he was going out with someone named after a yummy Christmas dessert. How adorable that he got his yummy Christmas dessert—even though he was Jewish or whatever.
“Thanks for that,” Jubilee said to Stuart, blushing. To me she said, “Weird name. I know. I’m not a stripper, I promise.”
“Uh . . . okay,” I said.
“You can call me Julie,” she said.
“Nah, I like Jubilee,” I said. Saying her name out loud made a memory ping in my brain. Tegan . . . the Kissing Patrol . . . some un-Jeb guy thrusting his fist into the air . . .