“I guess so.”
When I glance up, Cassie’s looking at me with an expression I can’t read.
And now I can’t sleep. Not even close, though it’s practically midnight. Cassie’s hanging out with Mina at some party.
I feel so twitchy and strange and too hot and too cold. I’m reading my phone in bed, trying to ignore this suffocating feeling, but it’s not working. I feel like I’m drowning in it. I sit up, suddenly, and then I stand up all the way. Because this is stupid. This is ridiculous. I’m taking my laptop, and I’m going downstairs.
I’m extra quiet in front of Xav’s room, and I do my best not to creak on every step. There are yogurt-covered raisins in a container on the kitchen counter, so I bring them to the couch. But I don’t even feel like watching TV. I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t even know what I need right now. I just want to feel normal.
I open my computer and start clicking through some of the wedding blogs, most of which are very hazy and twinkly and dreamy and rustic. And I have to admit, it’s soothing. Just something about the taste of yogurt raisins and professional photos of pies arranged on bookcases. We should definitely do pies on bookcases, and also one of those do-it-yourself photo backdrops. Maybe something simple, like a patterned piece of fabric and some distressed wooden picture frames. I should probably start pinning this stuff.
“Momo? Why are you still awake?”
I look up, and it’s Nadine, wearing pajama pants and a T-shirt and this striped robe thing. She’s disheveled and sleepy looking, and she keeps poking at the corners of her eyes. I must have woken her up.
“Honey, what’s up?” She gestures for me to scoot down on the couch, and she slides in next to me. “What’s . . . are you looking at wedding blogs?”
“Man, you’re hardcore.” She reaches out to tuck my bangs away from my eyes. “Hey. You okay?”
“Mom, I’m fine.”
She’s quiet for a moment. And then she stands up. “Come on. Let’s go for a drive. You and me.”
“Yup. Let’s go. I just need some coffee.”
“Um, it’s midnight.”
“I’m wearing pajamas.”
“So am I.” She grins down at me. “Momo, come on. Stop making the Molly Face. Just trust me.”
It feels entirely surreal to be wearing pajama pants and sneakers, walking out to Nadine’s car at midnight like we’re sneaking out of the house. It’s warm, even this late, and there’s that buzzing insect sound that Patty says is cicadas. Nadine opens the car with her clicker, and I settle into the passenger seat. And then she backs out of the driveway extra slowly, like she’s worried about pedestrians, but the streets are totally empty.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” She’s staring straight ahead, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on her coffee mug, but she’s grinning. I relax into my seat, taking everything in—the streetlights, the porch swings, and the way my neighbors’ houses seem to loom in the darkness. The Applebaums’ cat stares at us through their living room window like the little creeper he is. And then he runs to another window to try to keep up with us. But we keep driving, onto Piney Branch, onto 16th Street. And we’re quiet, but it actually feels nice. We’re almost at Adams Morgan by the time Nadine finally says something.
“So. How are you doing, kiddo?”
“Good,” I say.
She shakes her head. “You are such a little faker.”
“It’s weird, right? Cassie having a girlfriend.”
“She’s not technically her girlfriend.”
Nadine grins. “I give it a week.”
That makes me laugh, but there’s also this sad sort of tug in my chest.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” I say.
“I know. Oh man, Momo. This is a tough one.” She nods, still looking at the road. “You know, growing up, my brother was such a dickwad, but your aunt Karen and I were really close. And I remember this. I remember when she got a boyfriend, and she just fell off the grid. It sucked.”
“And no one warns you about this. No one tells you how hard it is, because, yay, love! And we’re so happy for them! But there’s this sharp edge to it, right? Because yeah, you’re happy for them. But you’ve also lost them.”
My heart twists. I can’t speak.
“But Mo, they come back to us. You know? You roll with it. It’s weird for a while. But they come back. You’ll get her back.”
I tuck my knees up and stare out the window. We’re almost at Dupont, heading downtown. And there are so many people out. There’s this palpable energy in the air. It’s the kind of night where strangers start hugging and everyone’s drunk and loud and happy just to be in the middle of all of this. I bet people will remember today, even when they’re old. I bet I will, too.
“Pretty wild,” Nadine says.
“Yeah.” I nod. And suddenly, I feel like crying, but not in a bad way. More like in the way you feel when someone gives you a perfect present—something you’d been wanting, but thought you couldn’t ask for. It’s that feeling of someone knowing you in all the ways you needed to be known.
“Hey,” she says softly. “Look.”
I look up, straight ahead, and I recognize it immediately from five million Facebook posts. It’s the White House, lit up with rainbow lights. And it takes my breath away. Even though it’s far away, even though we’d have to pass a million cars to get close to the actual house. I don’t even think it’s the front of the building. But still.
“Really cool, huh?”
I nod, feeling choked up.
“Just wanted to see it in person,” she says.
“I’m so happy about it,” I tell her. Suddenly, it feels so important to say that. “And I’m so happy about the wedding.”
“Well, good. Because we need someone trolling wedding blogs at midnight.”
“Oh, I’m on that.” I smile. “But seriously, I’m just so glad this is happening.”