“Maybe you could take their order?” Christina prompted, knocking whatever it was right out of my head. Oh, well. Stuart was with a lovely girl named Jubilee, and she wasn’t a stripper. That’s all that mattered.
“As in, now?” Christina said.
“Uh . . . yes!” I said enthusiastically. Possibly too enthusiastically. “In just a second, ’kay? I just have to do this one teeny thing.”
“Addie,” Christina warned.
To my right, Tobin stirred in the purple chair. Was he just now waking up? He blinked at me and said, “Whoa. Your name’s Addie?”
“Um, yep, that’s me, Addie,” I said, thinking, See? Knew you didn’t know my name. I juggled Gabriel to keep him hidden under my coat, and he made a funny noise that sounded like wheep. “And now I’m just going to run to the back—”
Gabriel wheeped again. Louder.
“Addie,” Christina said in a trying-not-to-freak voice. “What do you have under your coat?”
“Addster!” Charlie said from the bar. “You gonna set me up with that chai?” He grinned, and I realized why when I saw his arm slung around the girl beside him. Oh my God, this was like Christmas Miracle Central.
“Hi, Addie,” the evil Brenna said. “Nice hair.” She might have smirked, but I wasn’t sure, because she didn’t look quite as evil as I remembered her. Today she looked more glow-y than snarky. Maybe because of Charlie’s arm?
“Seriously,” Tobin said. “Your name’s Addie?” He nudged Angie, who woke up and rubbed her nose. “Her name’s Addie,” he told her. “You think she’s the Addie?”
“The Addie?” I asked. What was he talking about? I wanted to push for details, but I got distracted by the sight of Tegan’s Civic turning into the parking lot. Dorrie was in the passenger seat, clutching Tegan’s shoulder and speaking intently, and I could only imagine what she was saying. Probably something like, “Now, remember, this is Addie we’re talking about. It’s highly possible she’s having some crisis and didn’t get Gabriel after all.”
“Adeline,” Christina said. “That’s not . . . a pig, is it?”
I glanced down to see Gabriel’s head peeking out from the top of my zipper. He wheeped and looked around.
“Well,” I said proudly, since the pig was out of the coat, so to speak. I rubbed Gabriel’s ears. “Not just any pig, but a teacup pig. Very rare.”
Jubilee glanced at Stuart and grinned. “You live in a town where people carry around elf-size pigs?” she said. “And here I thought my life was weird.”
“Not elf. Teacup,” I said. “And speaking of, I need one of the holiday mugs, ’kay, Christina? You can take it out of my paycheck.” I headed toward the display shelf, but Tobin stopped me by grabbing my elbow.
“Are you the Addie who goes out with Jeb Taylor?” he asked.
That threw me. Tobin didn’t know my name, but he knew I went out with Jeb?
“I’m . . . well, um . . . ” I swallowed. “Why?”
“Because Jeb gave me a message for you. Crap, I completely dropped the ball.”
My heart whacked around in my chest. “He gave you a message? What was the message?”
Tobin turned to Angie. “I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t you remind me?”
She smiled drowsily. “That you’re an idiot? Okay: you’re an idiot.”
“Oh, that’s great, thanks,” he said. She giggled.
“The message?” I managed to say.
“Right!” he said. He turned his attention back to me. “The message was that he got delayed.”
“By cheerleaders,” Angie contributed.
“Cheerleaders?” Jubilee said, somewhat manically. She and Stuart came over to where we were standing. “Oh my God, cheerleaders!”
“The cheerleaders were on a train with him, only the train got stuck,” Tobin said.
“I was on that train!” Jubilee shouted. Stuart laughed the way you do when someone you love is a goofy nut. “And did you say Jeb? I gave him a microwavable pizza disc!”
“You gave Jeb a . . . what?” I said.
“’Cause of the storm?” Charlie asked.
I turned to him in a daze. “Why would she give Jeb a microwavable pizza disc because of the storm?”
“Dude, no,” he said. He hopped off his stool and pulled Brenna along with him. They joined us by the purple chairs. “I mean did the train get stuck ’cause of the storm, asshat.”
Tobin twitched at the word ASSHAT and looked up at Charlie like he’d seen an apparition. Then he shook it off and said, “Uh, yeah. Exactly. And then the cheerleaders abducted Jeb, because they had needs.”
Charlie laughed. “Right on.”
“Not those kind of needs,” Angie said.
“Yeah,” Brenna said. She jabbed Charlie in the ribs.
“What kind of needs?” I said, feeling lightheaded. In the back of my consciousness, I registered the sound of a car door shutting, and then another. In my peripheral vision, I saw Tegan and Dorrie hurrying toward the store.
“Huh,” Tobin said, and he got that inward look of his I was growing familiar with, the one that meant that no answer was forthcoming.
“Well . . . was there more?” I said, trying a different strategy.
“More what?” Tobin said.
“More to Jeb’s message!”
“Oh,” Tobin said. “Yes! Yes, there was!” The set of his jaw was purposeful, but after several seconds, he deflated. “Ah, crap,” he said.
Angie took pity on me. Her expression went from giddy to kind.
“He said he’s coming,” she said. “He said you’d know what he meant.”
My heart stopped, and the cheerful buzz of Starbucks receded. It was as if someone pressed a mute button on the outside world, or maybe what was going on inside of me was simply drowning everything else out. He said he was coming? Jeb was coming?!
A jangling penetrated my consciousness, and in my muddled state, I had the most random thought: Every time a bell rings, an angel gets her wings. Then a burst of cold air brought me back to reality, and I realized it was the bell on the door making such a clatter.
“Addie, you’re here!” Dorrie cried, barging toward me in a bright red hat.
Beside her, Tegan beamed. “And he’s here! We saw him in the parking lot!”