Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat

Page 44

How do parents do this? How do they always manage to say true things without knowing they’re true?

Mr. Spier is just about to step in it by demanding a couples’ shot of Nick and Abby—but Simon heads it off at the pass, and then the limo pulls up. I slide in between Garrett and Nick while Simon’s mom pokes her head in to snap more pictures.

The inside of the limo is essentially a strip club. Not that I’ve actually been inside a strip club. But there are seats on both sides, and a thin, fluorescent stripe along the wall, like a color-changing glow stick. And there’s a minibar—with bottles of water instead of booze. But still. I feel like I’ve stepped into someone else’s life. Like a Kardashian, or Beyoncé. I don’t want to look out the windows, or I’ll remember we’re in Shady Creek.

“I bet people think we’re famous,” says Simon.

“I mean, that’s what I’d assume, seeing a limo full of high school kids rolling through the suburbs in April,” Abby says. “Definitely a film premiere.”

“Or the Oscars,” chimes Bram.

“Couldn’t be prom.”

“Shut up.” Simon grins and elbows both of them at once.

Then Garrett stretches and—honest to God—slips his arm behind my shoulders. Master of subtlety. I scoot forward, just an inch. Far enough to put a little space between us, but not far enough for anyone to notice.

Except Abby notices. She raises her eyebrows, almost imperceptibly, and shoots me a tiny, secret smile.

And yeah.

Holy shit.

This is going to be quite a night.


THE DRIVER CAN’T FIND THE restaurant. He rolls down the divider, peering at us in the rearview mirror. “The American Grill?”

“The American Grill Bistro,” Garrett says.

“And you’re sure this is the mall?”

“Positive.” Garrett extracts his arm from behind my back, leaning forward in his seat. “North Point Mall, the American Grill Bistro.”

We circle for a few minutes, until the driver gives up and lets us off at Macy’s. Walking through the mall in formal wear is surreal. There are old ladies smiling at us and little kids staring, and one dude even snaps a picture.

“Creeper,” says Morgan.

Garrett takes the lead, guiding us past Forever 21, the Apple store, and Francesca’s. But we get all the way to Sears, and there aren’t any restaurants. Garrett looks perplexed. “It was definitely down this way. Definitely.”

“Should I check the map?” Anna asks.

“It should be right here.”

We all stand there for a minute in our dresses and tuxes. It’s a little disorienting. Like, I’m a suburban girl—I know malls. But this isn’t my usual mall, which means it’s like stepping into a parallel universe. I watch Simon chew on his lip while Garrett stares at the directory. “Maybe we should eat at the food court,” Anna suggests.

“No, wait,” Abby says, hand flying to her mouth.

“Are you okay?”

She nods slowly. “Let me just . . . I’ll be right back,” she says, furrowing her brow—and then, a moment later, she disappears around a corner.

Garrett drifts back toward me, looking distraught. “I swear, I made a reservation. I talked to someone. On the phone,” he adds.

“Garrett, it’s fine.”

“I did, though. I promise.”

“I believe you,” I say, scanning the floor for Abby. There’s a Starbucks and a set of escalators and dozens and dozens of people. But she’s nowhere.

“I want a massage chair,” says Simon, staring into Brookstone.

“I’ll be your massage chair,” says Bram.

“You did not just say that.” I scrunch my nose at him. But he just squeezes Simon’s shoulders, and then tugs him closer. Simon smiles and leans back.

“Hey,” Abby says breathlessly. I look up with a start. And she’s a sunbeam. She has her smile cranked up to a million, and her eyes are bright and crinkly. “So, Garrett,” she says.


She takes both his hands. “We have a reservation.”

“We do?” He looks hopeful. “Where did the restaurant go?”

“It’s not a restaurant,” Abby says.

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