“You can’t make a statement with a Cutlass!” Bert said.
“Bert,” Kristy said, “you can’t make a statement, period. I mean, what are you wearing? Didn’t I tell you not to dress like someone’s dad? God. Is that shirt polyester?”
Bert, hardly bothered by this or any of her other remarks, glanced down at his shirt, brushing a hand over the front pocket. “Poly-blend,” he said. “Ladies like a well-dressed man.”
Kristy just rolled her eyes, while Wes ran a hand over his face. Monica, from behind me, said, “Donneven.”
“It’s an ambulance,” Delia said flatly, as if saying it aloud might get her used to the idea.
“A former ambulance,” Bert corrected her. “It’s got history. It’s got personality. It’s got—”
“Final sale status,” Wes said. “He can’t take it back. When he drove it off the lot, that was it.”
Delia sighed, shaking her head.
“It’s what I wanted,” Bert said. It was quiet for a second: no one, it seemed, had an argument for this.
Finally Delia walked over and put her arms around Bert, pulling him close to her. “Well, happy birthday, little man,” she said, ruffling his hair. “I can’t believe you’re already sixteen. It makes me feel old.”
“You’re not old,” he said.
“Old enough to remember the day you were born,” she said, pulling back from him and brushing his hair out of his face. “Your mom was so happy. She said you were her wish come true.”
Bert looked down quickly, turning his keys in his fingers. Delia leaned close to him, then whispered something I couldn’t hear, and he nodded. When he looked up again, his face was flushed, and for a second, I saw something in his face I recognized, something familiar. But then he turned his head, and just like that, it was gone.
“Did you guys officially meet Macy?” Delia asked, nodding at me. “Macy, these are my nephews, Bert and Wes.”
“We met the other night,” I said.
“Bert sprung at her from behind some garbage cans,” Wes added.
“God, are you two still doing that?” Kristy said. “It’s so stupid.”
“I only did it because I’m down,” Bert said, shooting me an apologetic look. “By three!”
“All I’m saying,” Kristy said, pulling a nail file out of her purse, “is that the next person who leaps out at me from behind a door is getting a punch in the gut. I don’t care if you’re down or not.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” Monica agreed.
“I thought she was Wes,” Bert grumbled. “And I wouldn’t jump out from behind a door anyway. That’s basic. We’re way beyond that.”
“Are you?” Kristy asked, but Bert acted like he didn’t hear her. To me she said, “It’s this stupid gotcha thing, they’ve been doing it for weeks now. Leaping out at each other and us, scaring the hell out of everyone.”
“It’s a game of wits,” Bert said to me.
“Half-wits,” Kristy added.
“There’s nothing,” Bert said, reverently, “like a good gotcha.”
Delia, yawning, put a hand over her mouth, shaking her head. “Well, I hate to break this up, but I’m going home,” she announced. “Old pregnant ladies have to be in bed by midnight. It’s the rule.”
“Come on!” Bert said, sweeping his hand across the ambulance’s hood. “The night is young! The Bertmobile needs christening !”
“We’re going to ride around in an ambulance?” Kristy said.
“It’s got all the amenities!” Bert told her. “It’s just like a car. It’s better than a car!”
“Does it have a CD player?” she asked him.
“No,” Wes told her. “But it does have a broken intercom system.”
“Oh, well, then,” she said, waving her hand. “I’m sold.”
Bert shot her a look, annoyed, but she smiled at him, squeezing his arm as she started over to the Bertmobile. Monica stood up and followed her, and they went around to the back, pulling open the rear doors.
“Have a fun night,” Delia called after them. “Don’t drive too fast, Bert, you hear?”
This was greeted with uproarious laughter from everyone but Wes—who looked like he would have laughed but was trying not to—and Bert, who just ignored it as he walked over to the driver’s side door.
“Wes,” Delia called out, “can you come here for a sec?”
Wes started over toward her, but I was in the way, and we did that weird thing where both of us went to one side, then the other, in tandem. During this awkward dance I noticed he was even better looking up close than from a distance—with those dark eyes, long lashes, hair curling just over his collar, his jeans low on his hips—and he had a tattoo on his arm, something Celtic-looking that poked out from under the sleeve of his T-SHIRT.
Finally I stopped moving, and he was able to get past me. “Sorry about that,” he said, smiling, and I felt myself flush for some reason as I watched him disappear around the side of the van.
“Where are we supposed to sit?” I could hear Kristy asking from the back of the Bertmobile. “Oh, Jesus, is that a gurney?”
“No,” Bert said. “It’s where the gurney used to be. That’s just a cot I put in until I find something more comfortable.”
“A cot?” Kristy said. “Bert, you’re entirely too confident about this car’s potential. Really.”
“Just get in, will you?” Bert snapped. “My birthday is ticking away. Ticking!”
Wes was walking back to the Bertmobile as I dug out my keys and started toward my car, passing the van on my way.
“Have a good night,” he said to me, and I nodded, my tongue fumbling for a response, but once I realized that saying the same thing back would have been fine—God, what was wrong with me?—it was too late, and he was already getting into the Bertmobile.
As I passed the van, Delia was in the driver’s seat fastening her seat belt. “You did great, Macy,” she said. “Just great.”
She grabbed a pen off the dashboard, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled napkin. “Here,” she said, writing something on it, “this is my number. Give me a call on Monday and I’ll let you know when I can use you next. Okay?”