"I'm done with this," said Adrian.
In a flash, he downed his martini and was out of his seat, heading toward the door. Nathan continued eating undisturbed, but I was on my feet as well. It was only when I was halfway across the pub, trying to catch up with Adrian, that Nathan bothered to say anything else.
"Miss Sage?" Every part of me wanted to run after Adrian, but I paused to glance back at his father. Nathan had taken out his wallet and was flipping through a stack of bills. "Here. Allow me to pay you for your gas and your time."
He held the cash out, and I almost laughed. Adrian had forced himself to come here for all sorts of reasons, money being one of them. He'd never gotten a chance to ask for it, yet here his father was, offering it up. I didn't move.
"I don't want anything from you," I said. "Unless it's an apology to Adrian." Nathan gave me another blank look. He seemed sincerely confused. "What do I have to apologize for?"
Adrian had either taken the stairs or immediately caught an elevator because there was no sign of him outside the pub. I went back up to the lobby and peered around anxiously. A bellman passed by, and I flagged him down.
"Excuse me. Where's the nearest place you can smoke?"
He nodded back toward the front door. "Far side of the circle drive." I thanked him and practically ran outside. Sure enough, over in the designated smoking area, Adrian was leaning against an ornate fence in the shade of an orange tree, lighting up. I hurried over to him.
"Adrian," I exclaimed. "Are you okay?"
He took a long drag on his cigarette. "Is that really a question you want to ask, Sage?"
"He was out of line," I said adamantly. "He had no business saying any of that about you." Adrian inhaled on the cigarette again and then dropped it to the sidewalk. He stamped the cigarette out with the toe of his shoe. "Let's just go back to Palm Springs." I glanced back at the hotel. "We should get you some water or something. You took down that vodka pretty fast."
He nearly smiled. Nearly. "Takes a lot more than that to make me sick. I won't throw up in your car. I promise. I just don't want to stick around and risk seeing him again." I complied, and before long, we were back on the road again. We'd spent less time in San Diego than it had taken to drive there. Adrian stayed silent, and this time, I didn't try to coax him out or distract him with meaningless conversation. No words of mine would help. I doubted anyone's words would help. I didn't blame Adrian for his mood. I'd feel the same way if my father had laid into me like that in public. Still, I wished there was something I could do to ease Adrian's pain. Some small comfort to give him a moment of peace.
My chance came when I saw a small gas station outside of Escondido with a sign reading BEST SLUSHES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HERE AT JUMBO JIM'S! I remembered his joke about switching to a slush-based diet. I turned my car off the highway, even though I knew it was silly. What was a slush compared to the disaster we'd just left behind? Still, I had to do something - anything - to make Adrian feel better. He didn't even seem to notice we'd stopped there until I was getting out of the car.
"What's up?" he asked, managing to drag himself out of his dark thoughts. The look on his face tore me apart. "You've got half a tank."
"Be right back," I said.
I returned five minutes later, a cup in each hand, and managed to knock on his window.
He got out of the car, truly puzzled now. "What's going on?"
"Slushes," I said. "Cherry for you. You have to drink it out here, though. I'm not risking the car."
Adrian blinked a couple of times, as though maybe I was a mirage brought on by too much sunlight. "What is this? A pity party for me? Because I'm so pathetic?"
"It's not always about you," I scolded. "I saw the sign and wanted a slush. Figured you'd want one too. If you don't, I'll throw it away and just drink mine." I only got one step away before he stopped me and took the bright red slush. We leaned against the car together and drank without talking for a while. "Man," he finally said, when we were about halfway through. There was a look of wonder in his eyes. "I'd forgotten how good these are. What kind did you get?"
He nodded and slurped loudly on his. That dark mood still hung around him, and I knew a childhood beverage wasn't going to undo what his father had done anytime soon. The best I could hope for was a few moments of peace for him.
We finished shortly thereafter and tossed the cups in the trash. When we got back in Latte, Adrian sighed wearily and rubbed his eyes. "God, those are awesome. I think I needed that. The vodka may have hit me harder than I thought. Glad you decided to branch out into something that isn't coffee for a change."
"Hey, if they'd had coffee flavor, you know I would've gotten it."
"That's disgusting," he said. "There isn't enough sugar in the world to make that even remotely - " He stopped and gave me a startled look. In fact, he looked so shocked that I stopped backing up and kicked the car back into park.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"The slush. That thing's like 99 percent sugar. You just drank one, Sage." He seemed to interpret my silence as though perhaps I hadn't understood. "You just drank liquid sugar."
"Maybe you drank liquid sugar," I said. "Mine was sugar free." I hoped I sounded convincing.
"Oh." I couldn't tell if he was relieved or disappointed. "You freaked me out there for a minute."
"You should've known better."
"Yeah. I suppose so." He fell back into his blue mood, the slushes only a temporary distraction.
"You know what the worst part of all that was?"
I knew we were back to his father, not slushes. "What?"
"You'd think it'd be that I didn't get the money or that he just ripped my life apart or that he has no faith in me sticking to college. But that's okay. I'm used to that from him. What really bothers me is that I really did ruin my mom's life."
"I can't imagine you did," I said, shocked at his words. "Like you pointed out, we still love people who make mistakes. I'm sure she loves you too. Anyway, that's something you need to discuss with her - not him."
He nodded. "The other thing that bothered me... well, he said all that in front of you." That was a shock too. I brushed it off, feeling a little flustered that he would think so much of my opinion. Why should he care? "Don't worry about me. I've been with much more abrasive people than him."