Peter’s mom’s minivan pulls up at seven forty-five, which is annoying. I could’ve slept a whole hour longer. I run out to the car and hop inside, and before I can say a word, he says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. But look what I brought you.” He passes me a donut in a napkin, still warm. “I stopped and got it special, right when they opened at seven thirty. It’s mocha sugar.”
I break off a piece and pop it into my mouth. “Yum!”
He gives me a sidelong glance as he pulls out of my driveway. “So I did the right thing being late, right?”
I nod, taking a big bite. “You did the exact right thing,” I say, my mouth full. “Hey, do you have any water?”
Peter hands me a half-full water bottle and I gulp it down. “This is the best donut I ever had,” I tell him.
“Good,” he says. Then he takes one look at me and laughs. “You have sugar all over your face.”
I wipe my mouth off with the other side of the napkin.
“Cheeks, too,” he says.
“All right, all right.” Then it’s quiet, which makes me nervous. “Can I put some music on?” I start pulling out my phone.
“Actually, do you mind if we just drive in quiet for a while? I can’t have music blaring in my face before my caffeine kicks in.”
“Uh . . . sure.” I’m not sure if that means he wants me to be quiet too. I wouldn’t have agreed to come on this little outing if I’d known I would have to be silent.
Peter has a serene look on his face, like he is a fishing-boat captain and we are floating placidly along in the middle of the sea. Except he isn’t driving slowly; he is driving really fast.
I stay quiet for all of ten seconds and then say, “Wait, were you wanting me to be quiet too?”
“No, I just didn’t want music. You can talk as much as you want.”
“Okay.” And then I’m quiet, because it’s awkward when someone tells you you can talk as much as you want. “Hey, so what’s your favorite food?”
“I like everything.”
“But what’s your favorite? Like, your favorite favorite. Is it macaroni and cheese, or um, fried chicken, or steak, or pizza?”
“I like all that stuff. Equally.”
I let out an aggrieved sigh. Why does Peter not get the concept of picking a favorite thing?
Peter mimics my sigh and laughs. “Fine. I like cinnamon toast. That’s my favorite thing.”
“Cinnamon toast?” I repeat. “You like cinnamon toast better than crab legs? Better than a cheeseburger?”
“Better than barbecue?”
Peter hesitates. Then he says, “Yes! Now quit picking my choice apart. I stand by my choice.”
I shrug. “Okay.” I wait, give him a chance to ask me what my favorite food is, but he doesn’t. So I say, “My favorite food is cake.”
“What kind of cake?”
“It doesn’t matter. All cake.”
“You just gave me so much shit for not picking,” he begins.
“But it’s so hard to pick one kind!” I burst out. “I mean, there’s coconut cake, the kind with white frosting that looks like a snowball—I like that a lot. But then I also like cheesecake, and lemon cake, and carrot cake. Also red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting.” I pause. “Have you ever had olive-oil cake?”
“No. That sounds weird.”
“It’s really, really good. Really moist and delicious. I’ll make it for you.”
Peter groans. “You’re making me hungry. I should have gotten a whole bag of those donuts.”
I open up my brown paper bag and pull out his sandwich. I wrote a P on his in Sharpie so I’d know whose was whose. “Do you want a sandwich?”
“You made that for me?”
“I mean, I was making one for myself, too. It would have been rude to just bring one sandwich and eat it in front of you.”
Peter accepts the sandwich and eats it with the bottom half still wrapped. “This is good,” he says, nodding. “What kind of mustard is this?”
Pleased, I say, “It’s beer mustard. My dad orders it from some fancy food catalog. My dad’s really into cooking.”
“Aren’t you going to eat yours, too?”
“I’m saving it for later,” I say.
Halfway into the ride, Peter starts weaving in and out of traffic, and he keeps looking at the clock on the dashboard.
“Why are we in such a hurry?” I ask him.
“The Epsteins,” he says, rapping his fingers on the steering wheel.
“Who are the Epsteins?”
“They’re an old married couple with an antiques store in Charlottesville. Last time, Phil got there five minutes before me and cleared the whole place out. That’s not gonna happen today.”
Impressed, I say, “Wow, I had no idea this business was so cutthroat.”
Like a know-it-all Peter smirks and goes, “Isn’t all business?”
I roll my eyes at the window. Peter’s so Peter.
We’re at a stoplight when Peter suddenly sits up straight and says, “Oh, shit! The Epsteins!”
I was halfway asleep. My eyes fly open and I yell, “Where? Where?”
“Red SUV! Two cars ahead on the right.” I crane my neck to look. They are a gray-haired couple, maybe in their sixties or seventies. It’s hard to tell from this far away.
As soon as the light turns green, Peter guns it and drives up on the shoulder. I scream out, “Go go go!” and then we’re flying past the Epsteins. My heart is racing out of control, I can’t help but lean my head out the window and scream because it’s such a thrill. My hair whips in the wind and I know it’s going to be a tangled mess, but I couldn’t care less. “Yahhh!” I scream.
“You’re crazy,” Peter says, pulling me back in by the hem of my shirt. He’s looking at me like he did that day I kissed him in the hallway. Like I’m different than he thought.
We pull up to the house and there are already a few cars parked in front. I’m craning my head trying to get a good look. I was expecting a mansion with a wrought iron gate and maybe a gargoyle or two, but this just looks like a normal house. I must look disappointed, because as he puts the car in park, Peter says to me, “Don’t judge an estate sale by the house. I’ve seen all kinds of treasures at regular houses and junk at fancy houses.”