“Okay,” I said. “Confess. What are you doing tonight?”
She smiled slyly, dropping the candy by the register. As the guy ran it up, she said, offhandedly, “Got a date.”
“Lissa,” I said. “No way.”
“Three seventy-eight,” the guy said.
“I’ll get hers too,” Lissa told him, nodding at my Diet Zip.
“Thanks,” I said, surprised.
“No problem.” She handed the guy a couple of folded bills. “Well, you know that P.J. and I have been kind of circling lately.”
“Yeah,” I said as she took her change and we headed for the door.
“And the summer is close to over. And today, when we were at this craft festival KaBooming, I just decided the hell with it. I was tired of waiting around, wondering if he was ever going to make a move. So I asked him out.”
“Lissa. I’m impressed.”
She stuck her straw in her mouth and took a dainty sip, shrugging. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought, actually. It was even… kind of nice. Empowering. I liked it.”
“Watch out, P.J.,” I said as we came up to her car, both of us climbing up to sit on the hood. “It’s a whole new girl.”
“I’ll drink to that,” she replied, and we pressed our cups together.
For a minute we just sat there, watching the traffic pass on the road in front of us. Another Saturday night at the Quik Zip, one of so many in the years we’d been friends.
“So,” I said finally, prompted by this, “my mom and Don are over.”
She jerked her straw out of her mouth, turning to look at me. “No.”
“No way! What happened?”
I filled her in, going all the way back to seeing the picture at Flash Camera, stopping at certain intervals so she could shake her head, request specific details, and call Don all the names I already had that day, which didn’t exactly stop me from chiming in again, for good measure.
“God,” she said, when it was all done. “That sucks. Your poor mom.”
“I know. But I think she’ll be okay. Oh, and Chris and Jennifer Anne are engaged.”
“What?” she said, shocked. “I can’t believe that you stood there calm and cool, fixing a Diet Zip, and had an entire conversation with me when you had such big information, Remy. God!”
“Sorry,” I said. “It’s just been a long day, I guess.”
She sighed loudly, still upset with me. “What a summer,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago your mom and Don were getting married and I was getting dumped.”
“It’s been a shitty season for relationships,” I agreed. “Enough to make you give up on love altogether.”
“Nah,” she said easily, not even considering this. “You can never really do that.”
I took a measured sip of my drink, pulling my hair out of my face. “I don’t know,” I said to her. “I did. I mean, I don’t believe things can really work out. And this latest with Don just confirms it.”
“That relationships suck. And that I was right to break things off with Dexter, because it never would have worked. Not in a million years.”
She thought about this for a second. “You know what?” she said finally, crossing her legs. “Frankly, I think that’s a bunch of shit. ”
I almost choked on my straw. “What?”
“You heard me.” She pulled a hand through her hair, tucking a mass of curls behind one ear. “Remy, as long as I’ve known you, you always thought you had it all figured out. And then something happened this summer that made you wonder if you were right after all. I think you always believed in love, deep down.”
“I did not,” I said firmly. “Things have happened to me, Lissa. I’ve seen stuff that-”
“I know,” she said, holding up her hand. “I am new to this, I’m not disputing that. But if you truly didn’t believe in it, why did you keep looking all this time? So many boys, so many relationships. For what?”
“Sex,” I said, but she just shook her head.
“Nope. Because a part of you wanted to find it. To prove yourself wrong. You had that faith. You know you did.”
“You’re wrong,” I told her. “I lost that faith a long time ago.”
She looked at me as I said this, an expression of quiet understanding on her face. “Maybe you didn’t, though,” she said softly. “Lose it, I mean.”
“No, just hear me out.” She looked out at the road for a second, then back at me. “Maybe, you just misplaced it, you know? It’s been there. But you just haven’t been looking in the right spot. Because lost means forever, it’s gone. But misplaced… that means it’s still around, somewhere. Just not where you thought.”
As she said this, I saw a blur in my mind of the faces of all the boys I’d been with, literally or just figuratively. They passed quickly, their features melting into one another, like the pages in one of my old Barbie dream date books, none of them truly distinct. They had certain things in common, now that I thought about it: nice faces, good bodies, so many of the qualities I’d drawn up in my mind on yet another checklist. In fact, I’d always approached boys this way, so methodically, making sure before I took even one step that they fit the profile.
Except, of course, for one.
I heard a horn beep, loud, and looked up to see Jess pulling in beside us. To my shock, Chloe was in the passenger seat.
“Hey,” Jess said as they got out, doors slamming, “nobody said anything to me about a meeting. What gives?”
Lissa and I just sat there, staring at them. Finally she said, “What on earth is going on tonight, anyway? Has everyone gone crazy? What are you two doing together?”
“Don’t get too excited,” Chloe said flatly. “My car got a flat over at the mall, and neither one of you was answering the phone.”
“Imagine my surprise,” Jess added drolly, “when I was her last resort.”
Chloe made a face at her, but it wasn’t a mean one, more just rankled irritation. “I said thank you,” she told Jess. “And I will buy you that Zip Drink, as promised.”
“The deal was Zip Drinks for life,” Jess said, “but for now I’ll just take one Coke. Extra large, light on the ice.”