“Maybe they’d just had dessert,” I said.
They looked at me.
I looked back at them. I flipped my palms up, like, C’mon, guys. “With cherries? Cherries Jubilee?”
Dorrie turned back to Tegan. “No,” she said. “I wouldn’t want some guy yelling ‘jubilee’ about my cherry.”
Tegan giggle-snickered, then stopped when she saw that I wasn’t.
“But it wasn’t Jeb,” she repeated. “Isn’t that good?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want Jeb kissing strange girls in Virginia, but if the eight-year-old Kissing Patrol had somehow possessed news of Jeb—well, I would very much have appreciated hearing it. Just say the guy they saw didn’t have curly hair, and instead of kissing some girl, he was, like . . . locked in a Porta-Potty or something. If the Kissing Patrol had told Tegan that, then yes, it would have been good news, because it would have meant Jeb had an excuse for not meeting me.
Not that I wanted Jeb to be locked in a Porta-Potty, obviously.
“Addie? Are you okay?” Tegan asked.
“Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?” I asked.
“Huh?” she said.
“I don’t, ’cause I’m Jewish,” Dorrie said.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Never mind, I’m just being dumb.”
Tegan looked at Dorrie. “Do you believe in the magic of Hanukkah?”
“Or, I know! Angels!” Tegan said. “Do you believe in angels?”
Now Dorrie and I both stared at her.
“You brought it up,” Tegan said to me. “The magic of Christmas, the magic of Hanukkah, the magic of the holiday season . . . ” She held her hands out, palms up, as if the answer was obvious. “Angels.”
Dorrie snorted. Not me, though, because I guess maybe that was where my lonely heart was headed, even if I didn’t want to say the word.
“Last year on Christmas Eve, after Jeb kissed me at Starbucks, he came over and watched It’s a Wonderful Life with Mom and Dad and Chris and me,” I said.
“I’ve seen that movie,” Dorrie said. “Jimmy Stewart almost jumps off a bridge because he’s so depressed about his life?”
Tegan pointed at me. “And an angel helped him decide not to. Yes.”
“Actually, he wasn’t an angel yet,” Dorrie said. “Saving Jimmy Stewart was his test to become an angel. He had to make Jimmy Stewart realize his life was worth living.”
“And he did, and everything worked out, and the angel got his wings!” Tegan finished. “I remember. It was at the end, and there was this silver bell on the Christmas tree, and out of nowhere the bell went ting-a-ling-a-ling without anyone touching it.”
Dorrie laughed. “‘Ting-a-ling-a-ling’? Tegan, you kill me.”
Tegan plowed on. “And Jimmy Stewart’s little girl said, ‘Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’” She sighed happily.
Dorrie swiveled the computer chair so that she and Tegan faced me. Tegan lost her balance but grabbed the arm of the chair and righted herself.
“Christmas magic, Hanukkah magic, It’s a Wonderful Life?” Dorrie said to me. She lifted her eyebrows. “You going to connect the dots for us?”
“Don’t forget angels,” Tegan said.
I sat down on the end of my bed. “I know I did a terrible thing, and I know I really, really, really hurt Jeb. But I’m sorry. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
“Of course it does,” Tegan said sympathetically.
A lump formed in my throat. I didn’t dare look at Dorrie, because I knew she’d roll her eyes. “Well, if that’s true”—it was suddenly hard to get the words out—“then where’s my angel?”
“Angels, schmangels,” Dorrie said. “Forget angels.”
“No, don’t forget angels,” Tegan said. She flicked Dorrie. “You pretend to be such a Grinch, but you don’t mean it.”
“I’m not a Grinch,” Dorrie said. “I’m a realist.”
Tegan got up from the computer chair and sat beside me. “Just because Jeb didn’t call you, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Maybe he’s on the reservation, visiting his dad. Didn’t he say the res has crappy cell service?”
Jeb had taught us to call the reservation “the res,” which made us feel tough and in-the-know. But hearing Tegan say it just deepened my despondency.
“Jeb did go to the res,” I said. “But he’s back. And how I know this is because evil Brenna just happened to come to Starbucks on Monday, and she just happened to trot out Jeb’s entire Christmas break schedule while waiting in line to order. She was with Meadow, and she was all, ‘I’m so bummed Jeb’s not here. But he’s coming in on the train Christmas Eve—maybe I’ll go meet him at the station!’”
“Is that what made you write the e-mail?” Dorrie asked. “Hearing Brenna talk about him?”
“It’s not what made me, but it might have had something to do with it.” I didn’t like the way she was looking at me. “So?”
“Maybe he got stuck in the storm,” Tegan suggested.
“And he’s still stuck? And he dropped his phone in a snowdrift like the kissing girl, and that’s why he hasn’t called? And he doesn’t have access to a computer because he had to build an igloo to spend the night in and he doesn’t have electricity?”
Tegan gave a nervous shrug. “Maybe.”
“I can’t get my head around it,” I said. “He didn’t come, he didn’t call, he didn’t e-mail. He didn’t do anything.”
“Maybe he needed to break your heart the way you broke his,” Dorrie said.
“Dorrie!” Fresh tears sprung to my eyes. “That’s an awful thing to say!”
“Or not. I don’t know. But, Adds . . . you hurt him really bad.”
“I know! I just said that!”
“Like deep, wounding, forever bad. Like when Chloe broke up with Stuart.” Chloe Newland and Stuart Weintraub were famous at Gracetown High: Chloe for cheating on Stuart, and Stuart for being unable to get over her. And guess where their breakup occurred? Starbucks. Chloe was there with another guy—in the bathroom! So skanky!—and Stuart showed up, and I got to be there for it all.
“Whoa,” I said. My heart started thumping, because I had been so mad at Chloe that day. I’d thought she was so . . . heartless, cheating on her boyfriend like that. I told her to leave, that’s how worked up I was, and Christina had to give me a little talk afterward. She informed me that in the future, I was not to throw out Starbucks customers just for being heartless bitches.
“Are you saying . . . ” I tried to read Dorrie’s expression. “Are you saying I’m a Chloe?”
“Of course not!” Tegan said. “She’s not saying you’re a Chloe. She’s saying Jeb is a Stuart. Right, Dorrie?”
Dorrie didn’t immediately answer. I knew she had a soft spot for Stuart, because every girl in our grade had a soft spot for Stuart. He was a nice guy. Chloe treated him like dirt. But Dorrie’s protectiveness went even deeper, I think, because Stuart was the other Jewish kid at our school, so he and she sort of had a bond.
I told myself that was the reason she brought Stuart and Chloe up. I told myself she didn’t mean to compare me to Chloe, who, in addition to being a coldhearted bitch, wore red lipstick that was totally the wrong shade for her skin.
“Poor Stuart,” Tegan said. “I wish he’d find someone new. I wish he’d find someone who deserves him.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I’m all for Stuart finding true love. Go, Stuart. But Dorrie, I ask you again: Are you saying I’m the Chloe in this scenario?”
“No,” Dorrie said. She squeezed shut her eyes and rubbed her forehead, as if she’d developed a headache. She dropped her hand and met my gaze. “Adeline, I love you. I will always love you. But . . . ”
Prickles shot up and down my spine, because any sentence that combined “I love you” and “but” could not be good. “But what?”
“You know you get wrapped up in your own dramas. I mean, we all do, I’m not saying we don’t. But with you it’s practically an art form. And sometimes . . . ”
I rose from the bed, taking the blanket with me. I rewrapped it around my head and clutched it beneath my chin. “Yes?”
“Sometimes you worry more about yourself than you do about others, kind of.”
“Then you are saying I’m a Chloe! You’re saying I’m a heartless, self-absorbed bitch!”
“Not heartless,” Dorrie said quickly. “Never heartless.”
“And not a”—Tegan dropped her voice—“you know. You are not that at all.”
It didn’t escape me that neither of them denied the “self-absorbed” bit. “Oh my God,” I said. “I’m having a crisis, and my best friends gang up and attack me.”
“We’re not attacking you!” Tegan said.
“Sorry, can’t hear you,” I said. “Too busy being self-absorbed.”
“No, you can’t hear us because you have a blanket over your ears,” Dorrie said. She strode over to me. “All I’m saying—”
“La-la-la! Still can’t hear you!”
“—is that I don’t think you should get back together with Jeb unless you’re sure.”
It was insane how fast my heart was going. I was safe in my room with my two best friends, and I was terrified of what one of them was about to say to me.
“Sure of what?” I managed.
Dorrie pulled down my hood. “In your e-mail, you said you’ve changed,” she said carefully. “But I’m just wondering if you really have. If you’ve, you know, looked inside yourself to figure out what you even need to change.”
Spots popped in my brain. It was extremely possible that I was hyperventilating, and I would soon faint and hit my head and die, and the blanket clutched around me would turn red with blood.
“Leave!” I told Dorrie, pointing at the door.
Tegan shrank into herself.
“Addie,” Dorrie said.
“I’m serious—just go. And Jeb and I didn’t get back together, did we? Because he didn’t show up. So who cares if I’ve ‘really’ changed? It doesn’t frickin’ matter!”
Dorrie held her hands up. “You’re right. I suck. That was completely bad timing.”
“You’re telling me. You’re supposed to be my friend!”
“She is your friend,” Tegan said. “Could you stop bickering? Both of you?”
I turned away, and as I did, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in my dresser mirror. For a second I didn’t recognize myself: not my hair, not my scowl, not my anguished eyes. I thought, Who is that crazy girl?
I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Addie, I’m sorry,” Dorrie said. “I was talking out of my butt like I always do. I just—”
She broke off, and this time I did not say, “You just what?”
“I’m sorry,” she said again.
I dug my fingers into the fibers of my throw blanket. After several long seconds, I gave a tiny nod. But you still suck, I said in my head, even though I knew she didn’t.
Dorrie squeezed my shoulder, then released me. “We probably should get going, huh, Tegan?”
“I guess,” Tegan said. She fooled with the hem of her T-shirt. “Only I don’t want us to end the night on a bad note. I mean, it’s Christmas.”
“It’s already ending on a bad note,” I muttered.
“No, it’s not,” Dorrie said. “We made up. Right, Addie?”
“I wasn’t talking about that,” I said.
“Stop,” Tegan said. “I have something good to tell y’all—something that has nothing to do with sadness or broken hearts or arguing.” She gave the two of us a pleading look. “Will you listen?”
“Of course,” I said. “Well, I will. Can’t speak for Grinch here.”
“I would love to hear something good,” Dorrie said. “Is it about Gabriel?”
“Gabriel? Who’s Gabriel?” I said. Then I remembered. “Oh! Gabriel!” I didn’t look at Dorrie, because I didn’t want her using this as proof that I thought only about myself or whatever.
“I got the most amazing news right before we came over,” Tegan said. “I just didn’t want to bring it up while we were still dealing with Addie’s crisis.”
“I think we’re done with Addie’s crisis,” Dorrie said. “Addie? Are we done with your crisis?”
We will never be done with my crisis, I thought.
I sat down on the floor and tugged Tegan to make her sit beside me. I even made room for Dorrie. “Tell us your good news,” I said.
“My news is about Gabriel,” Tegan said. She smiled. “He’s coming home tomorrow!”
“I have his bed all set up,” Tegan said. “I have a special Piglet stuffed animal to make him feel comfortable, and I have a ten-pack of grape Dubble Bubble.”
“Ah, yes, because Gabriel loves grape Dubble Bubble,” Dorrie said.
“Do pigs eat gum?” I said.
“They don’t eat it, they chew it,” Tegan said. “And I have a blanket for him to snuggle on, and a leash, and a litter box. The only thing I don’t have is any mud for him to roll around in, but I figure he can roll in the snow, right?”
I was still hung up on the gum bit, but I pulled myself out of it. “Why not?” I said. “Tegan, that is so awesome!”