Three days until Christmas. Still so much to do.
I huffed in displeasure, watching my breath swirl in the frigid air. “I hate this.”
Prajna rolled her eyes. She deliberately nudged me in the side—now I was that much closer to the entrance of the store. “You’re overreacting, you know. Just go in there and do what needs to be done.”
Right. Like anything was ever that simple for me. I never truly cared about the holidays. The notion of the season was charming, I guess, but finding enjoyment in this sort of thing hinged on the question of whether you liked people or not.
So how were you supposed to feel about Christmas if people didn’t like you?
“May I remind you that this was your idea?” I reminded her sulkily.
“May I remind you that we’re here for your benefit?” She held up the three huge bags hanging from each arm. “I’ve already completed my agenda. My Christmas merriment is secure.”
“Do you want me to help carry those?”
She held the bags close to her chest. “Absolutely not! Some of these things are for you. Wait, shit, forget I said that.”
I laughed. She glared.
“I don’t trust you not to peek!”
“I don’t! Anyway, just go in and do what you need to do.”
Nervously, I bit my nails. Praj noticed the habit instantly.
“What are you so uneasy for?”
“I don’t know. Isn’t getting him a girl’s number for Christmas a little… tacky?”
“I just don’t think it’s… right. I just don’t.” I clasped my hands together. “’Hey, Lyle. Good to see you again! Thanks for nearly dying for me. Know what I got you in return? Bitches. Lots and lots of bitches! All the bitches you could want! Bitches, bitches, bitches!’”
“You’re being obnoxious. Lover’s Delight says—”
“Oh, forgive me for not treating your latest erotic obsession like the word of gospel.”
“It’s a literary milestone!”
I gave her a stern look. “Prajna. It’s smut.”
She gave a little gasp. “I’m going to graciously forget you said that. Look, you’re asking for one girl’s number, all right? Just tell her about Lyle and invite her to Alexandria’s party. If she’s not interested, we’ll figure something else out. I don’t see the issue.”
No, she didn’t. So I told her the truth. “It doesn’t feel like enough.” I turned away, even if that meant facing the stinging snowy winds. I didn’t want to get emotional and ruin this shopping trip for her. “And you know what the worst thing is? I don’t think anything ever will.”
Prajna sighed. “Avalin, you need to let this go.”
“You can’t make this relationship about owing. It’s been years. He’s recovered, he’s moved on.” She gently touched my sleeve. “You should too.”
“If we just had the money—if I just had the money, I mean, I’d do something really memorable. Like—like fly Reggie in so he could make it in time for the holidays.” My heart tugged at the idea. “He’d be so happy. His mom too.”
Praj gave me a tender smile. “Maybe next year.”
“Well, that doesn’t help me now.” I smacked my head against the window, gaining a few strange looks from the staff inside. “God, why did he have to install that sound system in my car? I will never catch up to him at this rate—”
I stopped short as a head of blonde hair caught my attention. It was a boy about Lyle’s height and build, walking down the opposite sidewalk.
“He’s here,” I said.
“What?” Prajna turned. “Where?”
Lyle caught my eye—his face twisted into the strangest expression—and then he turned and ran.
That was so bizarre. Where the hell could he possibly be going? And the way he just looked at me?
“Stay here,” I told Prajna.
“What? But Avalin—”
“I’ll be right back!” I promised, and took off after him.