Jess wasn’t in the mood to argue. Picking up Juno, she turned toward the door. “I’ll be in the car. If you’re not out there in three minutes, I’m leaving without you.”
Almost exactly three minutes later, Jamie walked out, still barefoot, and climbed into the front seat. As she passed in front of the headlights, Jess could instantly see that she’d lost weight. Jamie had always been slim, but she got rail thin when she was using.
“Where are your shoes?” Jess asked, putting the car into reverse and backing out of the driveway. Not that it mattered; Jess wouldn’t turn back for them. She’d give up her own shoes first.
Jamie looked down at her dirty feet and frowned. “Oh … I’m not sure.”
It took intense effort for Jess to focus on driving safely. She was so furious, so disappointed, she was afraid to even open her mouth. A glance in the rearview mirror reassured her that Juno was watching Lady and the Tramp on Jess’s iPhone, eyes heavy with exhaustion and headphones firmly in place. With any luck she’d be asleep before they were even on the freeway.
The miles passed in tense silence as they headed toward Jamie’s apartment farther inland—a new address since only a handful of months ago.
“You didn’t have to come,” Jamie finally said, clearly trying to smooth things over by sitting up pin-straight and enunciating. Jess was very rarely mad at her. Her mother had forgotten holidays, mostly missed her high school graduation, and outright lied to Jess about her sobriety more times than she could count, but Jess always let it go. Jamie was her mom. She didn’t have any other choice.
But right now, Jess was so tired. “You asked me to come get you.”
“I could have called an Uber or something in the morning.”
“You said you were in trouble.”
Jess exhaled a slow, calming stream of air. It wasn’t worth getting into it. “You said you’ve been sober for eighteen months, so what are you doing drinking at Ann’s?”
“I had one beer.” Jamie let out a curt laugh and turned toward the passenger window. “Of course, to you that ruins everything. You’re always so quick to judge.”
“I’m not judging. I’m upset that I have a hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of groceries in my trunk, including frozen stuff that’s probably ruined. I’m upset that I dropped everything, and instead of having my daughter asleep in her own bed, I had to drag her to some drug party, and you can’t even be straight with me. What’s going on? How on earth did you get in trouble with the police?”
“It’s a stupid misunderstanding.”
“Skin Glow,” Jamie said. “I ordered some product to sell. But now the owner says she’s going to press charges if I don’t pay her. It’s ridiculous. How am I supposed to pay her for product I haven’t even sold yet?”
“Some creams and serums, vitamins. That kind of stuff.”
“So, you bought stock on credit, and pay it back from the profit, I’m guessing?”
“Mom, I’m sure all of that is in the terms of whatever agreement you signed to buy it.”
Jamie shook her head. “When I went in for the consult, they said I’m really good at sales, and should come in at the Blue level. It’s a really big deal to be told that, trust me, and Trish understood that I was taking on a lot of inventory.” She lifted her chin. “But I had a lot of people who wanted to buy the stuff, and a lot more who are interested in buying, they’re just waiting to get paid.”
Jess felt like she couldn’t breathe, like she knew what was coming but didn’t want to hear it.
“Some bills got a little ahead of me, so I used the money from my first sales to cover them. I was planning to pay it back. I just haven’t had the chance yet, and she’s being such a bitch about it. She says she’ll report all of the inventory as stolen.” Her mother squinted over at her, indignant. “Can you even believe that?”
“You ordered product, sold some, and used the money for your bills instead of paying for the product you ordered?”
Jamie nodded, turning her face to the window again. “It’s not like I’m not good for it. If Trish trusted me to come in at Blue level, then why can’t she trust me to get these orders sold?”
Jess tightened her grip on the steering wheel. “How much?” Jamie didn’t answer, and ice-cold dread slipped over her skin. “Mom, how much do you owe?”
“I don’t know. Like ten thousand.”
Jess gaped at her, eyes wide with horror, and had to swerve to stay in her lane. “Ten thousand dollars?”
Rolling her eyes, Jamie mumbled, “Here we go.”
“You ordered ten thousand dollars in face cream? Wholesale?” Jess … couldn’t even wrap her mind around that. And then it hit her.
Trish was most likely not the only person her mom owed money to.
“You have two felonies,” Jess said, and her hands were shaking on the wheel now. “California is a three-strike state. Do you understand what that means? If this woman presses charges, you could go to prison for twenty-five years.”
Jamie waved this away. “It’s not going to come to that. I just have to pay Trish back.”
“Mom—how? How are you going to do that?”
Her nostrils flared, and she clenched her jaw. “I’ll pay her back out of my cut of the product I have left to sell.”
“You really think you can sell ten thousand dollars of skin care product to your friends?” Jess glanced at her and then back to the road. Jamie’s friends didn’t have money, either.
“Yeah, that’s not going to be a problem, seriously everyone loves this stuff. But I might need you to loan it to me so I can get her off my ass—”
Tearing her eyes away from the road again, Jess cried, “What in the world makes you think I have that kind of money lying around?”
Jamie studied her shrewdly. After a long pause, she said, “I figured you could ask your new boyfriend.”
Jess felt like she’d been punched in the chest. “What?”
“I saw the Today show.” Jamie had the nerve to appear wounded when she looked back over at her daughter. “The guy who started that company that’s going to be such a big deal?”
Jess had to push the words up her throat. “I don’t know if he and I are—”
“You weren’t even going to tell me. Probably because you assumed I’d just come to you looking for money.”
She gaped at the black asphalt ahead, at the mile marker she passed, the speed limit sign. “Isn’t that what you’re doing?”
“Not for a handout! Jesus Christ, Jessica, I’m talking about paying it back within a month! I only need it now because fucking Trish has me backed into a corner! Hasn’t she ever been late on a bill? Haven’t you?”
Glancing into the back seat, Jess was relieved to find that Juno had fallen asleep. She turned and stared straight ahead, blinking back tears. Jess had the money. She’d been holding it for braces and insurance and a rainy day, but she still had it.