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Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat

Page 41

“Of what?”

“That I should stay home.”

Now Mom’s rolling her eyes. “You want to miss prom because of a bra?”

“Because of the lack of a bra,” I correct her. “And because I have no way of getting a bra.”

Mom doesn’t respond—she just digs into her purse for her phone. Then she taps into her favorite contacts.

“Who are you calling?”

She ignores me.

“Oh hell no.” I make a grab for the phone, but she yanks it out of reach. “Are you calling Wells?”

No response. She presses send.

“Please tell me you’re not asking Wells to buy me a fucking bra.”

“Why not?” The phone starts ringing.

“Because it’s a bra.”

“So?”

“So, that’s disgusting.”

“What, a bra? You’re grossed out by bras?” I open my mouth, but she just keeps talking. “Man, if you can’t handle bras, wait till you learn about boobs—hi, honey.” She cuts herself off, and her whole demeanor changes. I picture Wells on the other end of the call, phone mashed up to his tiny ear.

I smack her in the arm, and she turns to me and winks. “Leah and I need a favor.”

I shake my head frantically, but Mom turns away, ignoring me. “So, the car just died, and we just realized that Leah doesn’t have . . .”

I hug my arms across my chest.

“. . . something she needs,” Mom continues. Then she pauses. I can just barely hear Wells’s voice through her speaker. “Right. Not till five.” She pauses again, and then laughs. “Yeah, totally dead.” Then she nods and flicks her eyes toward me, smiling. “Thanks, hon. Love you.”

Okay, first of all: ick. Second of all: oh, fudge. So, Mom and Wells are at the love you stage. That’s pretty fucking vomity.

She ends the call and turns toward me. “He’ll be here in fifteen minutes to jump the car.”

“Great.”

“Uh, you’re welcome.” She raises her eyebrows.

I blush. “Thanks.”

And it’s weird. We don’t move from the car. We don’t even unbuckle our seat belts. It’s like someone paused the universe. Everything smells like hair spray, and I have that key-change, offbeat feeling again. That little itch in my gut. Mom drums on the steering wheel, humming.

“So are you and Wells secretly engaged or something?”

Her hands freeze. “What? Where did that come from?”

“It’s just a question.”

Mom sighs. “Leah, no. I’m not secretly engaged.”

“Are you getting engaged?”

“Um.” She smiles. “Not that I know of.”

“Would you say yes if he asked you?”

“Leah, back up a minute. Where are you getting this?”

“It’s just a hypothetical question.” I tuck my feet onto the seat and turn toward the window. Everything’s sun-soaked and green. Stupid perfect April day.

“If he asked me today? I don’t know,” Mom says. “Marriage is a big thing. I know I love him a lot.”

I look at her. “Why?”

“Why do I love Wells?”

“I get the money thing, obviously.”

“Um, excuse me?” Mom’s eyes flash. “You know what? That’s really hurtful, and it’s not true.”

“Then I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”

“I mean, you’re not marrying him for looks,” I say, and before the words are even out of my mouth, I regret it. I feel heat rise in my cheeks. I don’t know why I’m so mean.

“Okay, seriously?”

“I’m sorry,” I mutter.

“You know, I happen to think he’s really handsome.”

“I know. I get it. I’m a jerk.”

“You don’t think he looks a little like Prince William?”

“Uh, isn’t Wells like fifty?”

“He’s forty-two.”

“Still.”

“Like a slightly older, balder Prince William. I’m just talking about his face.” She pokes my knee. “You totally see it.”

Fuck. I totally do. And even his name is so on point.

“So this whole relationship is literally a thing because of your lifelong Prince William fetish?”

“Okay, it’s not a fetish. I just think he’s sexy.”

“You did not just call Prince William sexy.”

“I did. It had to be said.” She smiles, almost sadly. “You know, you’d probably really like him if you gave him half a chance.”

“I don’t have to like him. I’m graduating, remember?”

“Oh man. Do I remember.”

And something about the way she says it makes my heart catch in my throat. I stare at the glove compartment, hugging my knees. “Sorry,” I mutter.

“Sweetie, it’s fine, you know? It’s just—”

She cuts herself off as Wells pulls up next to us in his Beemer. He looks extra golfy today, in a tucked-in polo shirt, and now I can’t unsee the Prince William thing. So, that’s a little disturbing. He pops open the hood of his car, and Mom pops ours open beside it. Car foreplay for this car booty call. Mom slides out of the driver’s seat and fishes a set of jumper cables out of the trunk.

I watch from the passenger seat as they clip their little alligator mouths somewhere in that mess of engine and battery parts. A moment later, Wells starts his car, and Mom leans in through the driver side door.

“Lee, try twisting the ignition.”

I do, and it roars to life immediately.

“So, that’s it?” I ask. “You fixed it?”

“Well, it started, which is good, but we’ll need to keep the battery running for a while. Why don’t you hop to the back?”

“Why?”

“Because Wells is going to drive us to Target, so he can keep the car running while we run in.”

“Oh. Okay.” God. Prom errands with Wells. But I guess he technically did just come to rescue us, and technically, I should be grateful. Or something.

Mom fills Wells in on prom gossip the whole way to Target. She remembers every detail I’ve ever mentioned. “Okay, Abby dumped Nick, so that’s the main thing, but there’s also Morgan creating issues,” Mom explains. “And Garrett has a crush on Leah.”

I lean forward. “That’s hearsay.”

“But,” Mom plows on, twisting around to smile at me. “I think Leah likes someone else.”

“Mom.”

Holy shit. Like, she better not be implying what I think she’s implying.

“I’m just saying.” She grins. “It’s going to be an interesting night.”

As soon as we pull into the parking lot, Mom’s phone rings.

“Oh, crap. I need to get that.” She answers it, scrunching her face at me apologetically, and mouthing, work.

Awesome fucking timing.

For a minute, Wells and I just sit there, while Mom nods and says, “Uh-huh. Okay. Right. Uh-huh.” She gropes in her purse for a pen and scribbles a few things down on the back of a receipt. “Well, I really—oh. Oh. Okay. No, no.” She shoots me a look that’s half guilty, half frantic. “Mmhmm,” she murmurs. Then she unbuckles her seat belt and twists back to meet my eyes.

I look back at her and raise my eyebrows.

“Yes. Okay. Absolutely,” she says into the phone. But she nods her head pointedly at me. Then she passes me her credit card.

“I’m supposed to do this myself?” I ask quietly.

She shrugs, gestures at her phone, and then points at the clock on the car’s dashboard. Which has been broken for years, but I get what she’s saying. Garrett will be at our house in two hours, and I’m wearing jeans and not a trace of makeup.

“I’ll go with you,” says Wells.

“Um. That’s not necessary.”

“It’s actually perfect. I need to pick up a birthday card anyway.”

I shoot Mom a look that says are you fucking kidding me. She shrugs and tips her hands up, eyes twinkling.

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