Page 19

Guidebook Lady had said the Burren was depressing, but this was over-the-top.

Ian pointed to a small, drab structure in the distance. He was already poised for takeoff, seat belt undone, notebook in hand. “The Poulnabrone is a tomb. It’s over two thousand years old.”

I squinted my eyes, turning the tomb into a gray blur. “A tomb? No one said anything about a tomb.”

Rowan slid the car into park, and Ian launched himself out the window feetfirst, his notebook tucked securely under his arm. “See you there!” he called over his shoulder. His sneakers made wet squelching sounds as he sprinted toward the tomb.

Rowan whistled admiringly, keeping his eyes on my brother. He’d been quiet ever since I’d conceded defeat to the Titletrack plan. Ian had talked more, but he looked slightly uncomfortable, like he was wearing a shirt with a scratchy tag. Detecting Ian guilt was a subtle art; his natural energy made it difficult.

“He looks like one of those Jesus lizards. You know, the ones that move so fast, they can run on water?” Rowan said.

I heaved myself into the passenger seat. “Promise me you won’t tell him that. The last thing we need is for Ian to get a Jesus lizard complex.”

His dimple reappeared. “Promise.”

The parking lot was one large, sludgy puddle that seeped into my sneakers the second I hit the ground. A thin shroud of clouds covered the sun, erasing even the illusion of warmth, and I wrapped my bare arms around myself. Why had no one bothered to tell me that Ireland was the climatic equivalent of a walk-in freezer? Once I arrived in Italy, I planned to spend my first few hours there baking in the sun like a loaf of ciabatta bread. And talking to Lina.

Lina will know soon. A violent shiver worked its way down my spine.

“You cold?” Rowan asked, looking at me over the top of the car.

“What makes you think that?” I asked jokingly. My teeth were seconds from chattering.

“Maybe the fact that you’re shivering like a puppy in one of those animal cruelty commercials? You have those commercials in the States, right? For just sixty-three cents a day, you, too, can stop a blond girl from shivering. . . . They used to be on the television all the time.”

“Yep, we have those too.” Archie had a soft spot for animals, and when we were young, we used to wait for the commercials to come on so we could call him into the room and watch him tear up. Siblings can be a special kind of cruel. When my dad found out, he’d lectured us on the fact that we were being cruel about an animal cruelty commercial, and we’d all donated a month’s worth of our allowance to an animal rescue organization.

I plucked at my shorts. “When I packed, I was thinking about Italy, so all I brought were summer clothes. I didn’t realize that Ireland spends all its time in Arctic winter.”

“And you’re here on a good day. Give me a minute.” He ducked back into Clover, and I pulled my phone out of my back pocket. 9:03. I wanted to be at the airport by ten o’clock.

“Hey, Rowan, how long will it take us to get to the airport?” I asked.

“About forty-five minutes.”

“Then we’d better keep this trip short. I don’t want to cut our time close.”

He reemerged, his hair slightly mussed. “Addie, what is this?”

For a second I thought he was talking about the navy-blue sweater he had wrapped around one arm, but then I realized he was holding something in his other hand too. The guidebook.

“Rowan, that’s mine!” I staggered toward him, a tidal wave of embarrassment washing over me.

He studied the cover. “Yeah, I know it’s yours. Is this the guidebook you were talking about? Why does it say it’s about heartbreak?”

“I need you to give that back.” I jumped up, and he let me snatch it from him. I pressed it to my side. “Why were you looking through my stuff anyway?”

“I was just trying to find you a sweater, and your book was under the seat. I thought it was one of mine.” He took a step closer. “But now you’ve got me curious.”

His eyes were puppy-dog soft, and I felt myself cave. And besides, explaining the guidebook didn’t mean I had to spill everything about my heartbreak. “I found this in the library of the hotel. It takes you to important sites in Ireland and then assigns you tasks to do while you’re there. It’s supposed to help you get over having your heart broken.”

“Do you think it would actually work?” The urgency in Rowan’s voice made my eyes snap up. He stared hungrily at the guidebook.

“Uh . . . I’m not really sure,” I said. “The writer is a little eccentric, but it seems like she knows her stuff. Who knows? Maybe it does work.”

“So you’re using the guidebook to help you get over Cubby?” he persisted.

Now he wanted to talk about Cubby too? I straightened up to shut him down, but he must have seen it coming because he quickly backpedaled. “Sorry. That was too personal. It’s just that I’ve, uh”—he shoved his glasses up, fidgeting with the rims—“I’ve actually been through a bit of heartbreak myself.” He met my eyes, and this time his gaze pleaded with me. “So if you’ve discovered some kind of magic guide for getting through it, please don’t hold out on me.”

The vulnerability in his eyes made my heart well up, and before I could talk myself out of it, I thrust the guidebook into his hands, the words spilling out of me: “Maybe you should try it out. There’s a homework assignment for the Burren, and I could help you if you want.” I always did this. Any time someone was in pain, I wanted to fix it immediately. “If you want, I’ll leave the book in the car for you. Maybe you could stop by the sites on the way to your music festival.”

He turned it over in his hands, slowly raising his eyes to mine. “Wow. That’s really nice of you.” He bit his lower lip. “Also, I’m really sorry about my part in keeping Ian from Italy. If I had known . . .”

I waved him off. “I’ll survive. And I really do need some quality time with Lina, so maybe it will be better if Ian isn’t there anyway.”

He nodded, then lifted the book eagerly, hope crossing his face. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to give the homework thing a shot.”

“Of course not. I don’t mind at all,” I said eagerly, my insides glowing the way they always did when I helped someone.

“Then I’ll see you out there. And here, for you.” He tossed me the navy sweater, and I quickly pulled it on. It smelled lightly of cigarette smoke and fell all the way to my knees, but it felt fantastic—like getting a hug the second before you realized you needed one. Now for the Heartache Homework. I turned and looked at the gray, bleak landscape.

Wildflowers. Right.

Lucky for me and my homework assignment, up-close Burren was very different from in-the-car Burren. For one thing, it had a lot more dimension. Yes, flat gray stones covered 90 percent of the ground, but grass and moss exploded up in the cracks between them, bright wildflowers popping up every chance they got.

I walked as far from the tomb as I dared, then collected a handful of flowers. Once I was positive that Ian’s back was turned, I placed them one by one in a circle, naming them as I went. “Mom, Dad, Walter, Archie, Ian, Lina, and Guidebook Lady,” I said aloud. Too bad only one of them even knew about my heartache.


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