I gasp. “Who got you?”
“John freaking McClaren!” She snatches the Popsicle out of Lucas’s hands and finishes it in a gulp.
“Rude,” Lucas says.
“Tell us everything,” I urge.
“John tailed me on the way to school this morning. I stopped to get gas and he jumped out of the car as soon as my back was turned. I didn’t even know he was following me!”
“Wait, how did he know you were going to stop for gas?” Lucas asks. He knows all about the game, which will hopefully come in handy if it comes down to Genevieve and me, seeing as how he lives in her neighborhood.
“He siphoned gas out of my tank!”
“Whoa,” I breathe. It warms my heart that John is taking it so seriously. I’d worried people wouldn’t, but it seems like they are. I wonder what John’s wish is? It must be something good to go to all this trouble.
“That’s legit,” Lucas says with a nod.
“I almost can’t be mad because it’s so hard-core.” She blows her hair out of her face. “I’m just so pissed I can’t make Gen give me our grandma’s car.”
Lucas’s eyes bulge. “That’s what you were going to wish for? A car?”
“That car holds a lot of sentimental value for me,” Chris says. “Our grandma used to take me to the beauty parlor with her in it on Sunday afternoons. By all rights it should be mine. Gen’s poisoned Granny’s mind against me!”
“What kind of car is it?” Lucas asks.
“It’s an old Jaguar.”
“What color?” he wants to know.
If I didn’t know Chris better, I would think that was a tear forming in her eye. I put my arm around her. “Want me to buy you another Popsicle?”
Chris shakes her head. “I’ve got to wear a crop top tonight. I can’t have a gut.”
“So if you’re out, who does John have now?” Lucas asks.
“Kavinsky,” Chris says. “I haven’t been able to get him because he’s always with fucking Gen, and I thought for sure Gen had me.” She glances at me. “Sorry, LJ.”
Lucas and Chris are looking at me with pity eyes.
If Chris had Peter, and John took her out, that means John has Peter now. Which means either Peter or Genevieve has me. And since I have John, that means one of them has the other—which means they must be in an alliance. That means they’ve confided in each other, told each other who they have.
Swallowing, I say, “I knew from the start they were still friends. And, she’s going through a hard time, you know?”
“What’s she going through?” Chris asks, one eyebrow way high up.
“Peter said family stuff.” She looks blank. “So you haven’t heard anything?”
“I mean, she was acting kind of weird at Aunt Wendy’s birthday dinner last week. Like, more of a bitch than usual. She barely said a word all night to anybody.” She shrugs. “So something probably is up, but I don’t know what.” Chris blows her hair out of her face. “Damn it. I can’t believe I’m not getting that car.”
“I’ll take John McClaren out for you,” I vow. “Your death will not be in vain.”
She gives me side-eye. “If you’d have gotten him out sooner, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“He lives half an hour away! I don’t even know how to get to his house.”
“Whatever, I still partially blame you.” The bell rings and Chris stands up. “Later, chicas.” She heads off down the hall, in the opposite direction of her next class.
“She just called me chica,” Lucas says, frowning at me. “Did you tell her I’m gay?”
“Okay, because I told you that in confidence. Remember?”
“Lucas, of course I remember!” Now I’m nervous—did I ever say anything to Chris? I’m almost one hundred percent sure not, but he has me doubting myself all of a sudden.
“Fine,” he says with a sigh. “It’s whatever.” He rises to his feet and offers his hand to help me up. He is ever the gentleman.
IT’S MY FIRST OFFICIAL FRIDAY night cocktail hour at Belleview and the night isn’t going . . . as well as I’d hoped. We’re already half an hour in and it’s just Stormy, Mr. Morales, Alicia, and Nelson, who has Alzheimer’s and whose nurse brought him in for a change of scenery. He is, however, wearing a dapper navy sport coat with copper buttons. Not that many people came when Margot was in charge, either—Mrs. Maguire was a regular, but she was moved to a different nursing home last month, and Mrs. Montero died over the holidays. But I made such a fuss to Janette about how I would breathe new life into cocktail hour, and now look at me. I feel a little olive pit of dread in the bottom of my stomach, because if Janette catches wind of how low the attendance is, she might cancel Friday night social after all, and I had the funnest idea for the next one—a USO party. If tonight’s a flop, there’s no way she’ll let me run it. Also, throwing a party and having four people show up, one of whom is dozing off, feels like a huge failure. Stormy either doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind; she just keeps singing and playing the piano. The show must go on, as they say.
I’m trying to keep busy, keep a smile on my face: Tra-la-la, everything is loverly. I’ve lined up the glassware in neat rows so it looks like a real bar and brought a bunch of things from home—our one good tablecloth (no gravy stains, freshly ironed), a little bud vase I put next to the plate of peanut butter cookies (at first I hesitated at peanut butter, what with allergies and all, but then I remembered that old people don’t have as many food allergies), Mommy and Daddy’s silver ice bucket with their monogram, a matching silver bowl with cut-up lemons and limes.
I’ve already gone around knocking on doors of some of the more active residents, but most weren’t home. I guess if you’re active, you’re not staying in your apartment on a Friday night.
I’m pouring salted peanuts into a heart-shaped crystal bowl (a contribution from Alicia, who brought it out of storage, along with her ice tongs) when John Ambrose McClaren walks into the room in a light blue Oxford shirt and navy sport coat, not dissimilar to Nelson’s! I nearly scream out loud. Clapping my hands to my mouth, I drop to the floor, behind the table. If he sees me, he might run off. I don’t know what he’s doing here, but this is my perfect chance to take him out. I crouch behind the table, running through options in my head.