“We’re hungry,” I blurt.
He half smiles and nods over to a booth. “Kitchen doesn’t usually open for another hour, but I’ll see what he can whip up for you if you’d like to sit.”
I nod and beeline over to the booth, pulling Janette along with me.
“I was here,” I tell her. “Last weekend.”
“Oh,” is all she says before studying her fingernails.
A few minutes later, the pink t-shirt guy comes out of the back, whistling. He walks over and places two hands on the table.
“Charlie, right?” he asks. I nod dumbly. How does he…? How many times have I…?
“The kitchen was making me a roast chicken. What do you say I share it with you guys? We won’t get busy for a couple more hours, anyway.”
I nod again.
“Good.” He hits the table with his palm and Janette jumps. He points to her. “Coke? Sprite? Shirley Temple?”
She rolls her eyes. “Diet Coke,” she says.
“And you, Charlie?”
I don’t like the way he says my name. It’s too…familiar. “Coke,” I say quickly. When he leaves, Janette leans forward, her eyebrows drawn together. “You always get diet,” she says accusatorily.
“Yeah? Well I’m not quite feeling like myself.”
She makes a little noise in the back of her throat. “No kidding,” she says. I ignore her and try to get a good look around. What were Silas and I doing here? Is it a place we came often? I lick my lips.
“Janette,” I say. “Have I ever told you about this place?”
She looks surprised. “You mean all the times we have heart-to-hearts when we put the lights out at night?”
“Okay, okay, I get it. I’m a really crappy sister. Geez. Get over it already. I’m extending the olive branch here.”
Janette scrunches up her nose. “What’s that mean?”
I sigh. “I’m trying to make it up to you. Start fresh.”
Just then the pink t-shirt dude brings us our drinks. He brought Janette a Shirley Temple even though she asked for a diet coke. Her face registers disappointment.
“She wanted a diet coke,” I say.
“She’ll like that,” he says. “When I was a kid…”
“Just get her a diet coke.”
He holds up his hands in surrender. “Sure thing, princess.”
Janette glances at me from under her eyelashes. “Thanks,” she says.
“No problem,” I say. “You can’t trust a guy who wears a pink shirt.” She sort of smirks and I feel triumphant. I can’t believe I thought I liked that guy. I can’t believe I liked Brian. What the hell was wrong with me?
I pick up my phone and see that Silas has texted me multiple times. Silas. I like Silas. Something about his soothing voice and good boy manners. And his nose—he has a wicked cool nose.
Silas: My dad…
Silas: Where are you?
The guy comes back with the chicken and a plate of mashed potatoes. It’s a lot of food.
“What’s your name again?” I ask.
“You’re such a bitch, Charlie,” He says, laying a plate down in front of me. He glances at Janette. “Sorry,” he says.
She shrugs. “What is your name?” she asks through a mouthful of food.
“Dover. That’s what my friends call me.”
I nod. Dover.
“So last weekend…,” I say.
Dover bites. “Yeah, that was crazy. I didn’t expect to see you back here this soon.”
“Why not?” I ask. I’m trying to be casual, but my insides are jumping around like they’re being shocked.
“Well, your man was pretty pissed. I thought he was going to blow his shit before he got kicked out.”
“Blow his shit…?” I change my tone so it’s not so much a question. “Blow his shit. Yeah. That was…”
“You looked pretty pissed,” Dover says. “I can’t blame you. You might have liked it here if Silas hadn’t ruined it for you.”
I sit back, the chicken suddenly unappealing. “Yeah,” I say, glancing at Janette, who is watching us both curiously.
“You finished, brat?” I ask her. She nods, wiping her greasy fingers on a napkin. I pull a twenty out of my purse and drop it on the table.
“No need,” Dover says, waving it away.
I lean down till we are eye to eye. “Only my boyfriend gets to buy me dinner,” I say, leaving the money on the table. I walk to the door, Janette trailing behind me.
“Yeah, well,” Dover calls, “you live by that rule, you can eat for free seven days a week!”
I don’t stop until I reach the car. Something happened in there. Something that made Silas almost lose his shit. I start the car and Janette lets out a loud burp. We both start laughing at the same time.
“No more Doritos for dinner,” I tell her. “We can learn to cook.”
“Sure,” she shrugs.
Everyone breaks their promises to Janette. She’s got that bitter air about her. We don’t speak for the rest of the ride home, and when I pull into the garage, she jumps out before I’ve turned off the engine.
“Nice spending time with you, too,” I call after her. I imagine that when I walk in, Charlie’s mother will be waiting for her—perhaps to chew her out for taking the car—but when I step into the house, everything is dark except for the light underneath the door to Janette’s and my bedroom. Mother has gone to sleep. Mother doesn’t care. It’s perfect for the situation I’m in. I get to snoop around and try to figure out what happened to me without the questions and rules, but I can’t help thinking about Janette—about how she’s just a little kid who needs her parents. Everything is so screwed up.
Janette is listening to music when I open the door.
“Hey,” I say. I suddenly have an idea. “Have you seen my iPod?” Music tells a lot about a person. I don’t have to have a memory to know that.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “Maybe it’s with all your other crap in the attic.”
My other crap?
I suddenly feel excited.
Maybe there’s more to me than a bland bedspread and a stack of bad novels. I want to ask her what kind of crap, and why my crap is in the attic instead of in our shared bedroom, but Janette has stuck the buds back in her ears and is working hard to ignore me.
I decide the best route would be to go up to the attic to check things out for myself. Now, where is the attic?
The front door to my house opens as I’m putting my car in park, and Ezra walks outside, wringing her hands together nervously. I get out of the car and walk to where she’s standing, wide-eyed.
“Silas,” she says, her voice quivering. “I thought he knew. I wouldn’t have mentioned Charlie was here, but you didn’t seem to be hiding it, so I thought things had changed and she was allowed over here...”
I hold up my hand to stop her from more unnecessary apologies. “It’s fine, Ezra. Really.”
She sighs and runs her hand across the apron she’s still wearing. I don’t understand her nervousness, or why she anticipated I would be angry with her. I shove more reassurance into my smile than is probably necessary, but she looks as if she needs it.