Feck? I looked up. “What’s wrong?”
Rowan pointed out the windshield. “That’s what’s wrong.”
I spiked forward anxiously, and what I saw tied my stomach into a neat bow. About a quarter mile up was a tractor. But not just any tractor—this one was massive, spilling out over both lanes of the road like a giant, lumbering lobster. It definitely wasn’t in a hurry. Rowan eased up on the gas and coasted up to it.
“We have to get around it,” I said. Were tractors allowed to just take over the road?
Addie, don’t panic. Don’t panic. We were already late. How was this happening?
“How?” Rowan raked his hand through his hair. “It’s too big to even pull over to let us pass. It takes up the whole road.”
“There’s no way it can stay on the road for long,” Ian said calmly, but his knee burst into full bounce. “Rowan, they can’t stay on the road for long, right?”
“Well . . . ,” Rowan said. He grimaced. “Maybe I should turn around. There’s got to be another route to the freeway.”
The suggestion made me nervous. Another route sounded messy. And risky. A rumble behind us made us all whip around.
“Feck!” This time it was Ian who yelled it. The tractor’s twin was coming up the road behind us. Just as big, just as slow.
“What is this, a tractor parade?” I demanded. Tractor number two was pumpkin orange, and the driver returned our scowls with a cheery wave.
“Great. Tractor buddies,” Rowan said.
“I’m going to talk to them.” Ian rolled his window down, and before Rowan and I realized what he meant, he’d scrambled out of the still-moving car, stumbling when he hit the ground. “Ian! Get back in here,” I yelled. But he ran full speed to the first tractor, mud flipping up behind him.
“Wow. Bennetts don’t mess around, do they?” Rowan said.
“Especially not that one,” I said.
The driver caught sight of Ian and slowed. He jumped up onto the step, moving his arms animatedly as he talked to the driver.
I was about to climb out after him when Ian jumped off the steps and ran back to us. “He can’t get off the road for another ten minutes, but he said there’s a shortcut to the freeway. He’s going to point when we get close.”
“Yes.” Rowan sighed with relief.
“Ten minutes?” I said, looking nervously at the clock. It was already 9:39. The procession started up again, sending a splatter of mud onto our windshield.
The second we hit the freeway, Rowan slammed on the accelerator. “Rowan, drive!” I yelled.
“I’m going as fast as I can,” Rowan said shakily. “Addie, I think we can still make it. You aren’t checking a bag, right? And maybe there will be a delay.”
I wanted to believe him, but the adrenaline coursing through my body wouldn’t let me. Flights were never delayed when you wanted them to be. It was only when you had an important connection in an airport that was the size of an island nation that you got delayed. And according to my phone’s GPS, we were still a solid twenty miles from the airport. Time was gaining on us. 10:16.
Clover hit a pothole, and the pile of Rowan’s belongings slid into my side. I fought it back, my heart a jackhammer. I felt like one of the bottle rockets my brothers and I used to set off on the Fourth of July. Another few seconds and I was going to shoot out of the car’s flimsy soft top.
“It’s okay, Addie. We’re going to make it,” Ian said, his fingers wrapped tightly around the grab handle. He’d said it four times now. 10:18. It hadn’t really been a full two minutes, had it?
“This can’t be happening.” The words burst out of my mouth, as frantic as I felt.
This time, no one even attempted to comfort me. We were all in the same state of panicked despair. It had taken us a solid ten minutes to even get to the detour road, and what the tractor driver had failed to mention to Ian was that our “shortcut” was actually a narrow, bumpy dirt road that slowed us to a pace just above tractor speed.
“Airport!” Rowan yelled.
I exhaled in relief. A large green sign read AIRPORT/AERFORT, the Gaelic word accompanied by a picture of a jet. We weren’t there, but we were close. So long as I made it to the aiport an hour before my 11:30 flight, I should be fine. Rowan hit the gas like a NASCAR driver, unfortunately timing it with a sudden pothole. We hit the road hard, and suddenly a loud screeching noise erupted from under the car.
“No!” I screamed.
“What? What was that?” Ian’s fidgeting was so bad, he could have been dancing a tango.
I turned to look out the back window, but I couldn’t see anything. It sounded like the tailpipe was dipping up and down off the road, screeching every time it hit asphalt. The two-hundred-dollar headphones were not going to hold for long.
“Please hold, please hold, please hold,” I prayed aloud.
BAM. A clanging noise filled the car, and I shot to the rear window to see sparks flying out the back. The car behind us slammed on its horn and swerved into the next lane.
“No!” I yelled again.
“What? Addie, what?” Rowan said. “Did it fall?”
I crumpled into my seat, tears filming over my eyes. “We have to pull over.”
Rowan and Ian both visibly deflated, and Rowan pulled to the side. I jumped out. The shoulder was narrow, and cars passed by much too close for comfort as I ran to the back and crouched down. The tailpipe was barely connected, Rowan’s headphones dangling helplessly. How was this happening?
“10:21.” Ian’s hands fell to his sides, his voice shaky. The misery in his voice said it all. 10:21. There was no way we’d make it on time.
I’d missed my flight. I fell back onto my butt in the mud. A large, shuddery sob worked its way to my throat and stuck.
Ian crouched down next to me and rhythmically patted my back. “Addie, it’s okay. We’ll get you another flight. I’ll pay for it myself if I have to.”
“I feel so bad,” Rowan said, crouching down on my other side. “I should have accounted for tractors. I can help pay too.”
“I can’t believe this,” I said weakly, tears flooding me. A plane passed overhead, its engines a dull painful roar. Insult to injury. And I knew the real reason I was upset. All this time I’d been counting down to the exact moment that I could unburden myself by talking to Lina, and now that was delayed. My secret pressed hard on the walls of my chest, burning hot. I couldn’t wait one more second.
I jumped to my feet, leaving the guys behind as I fumbled for my phone. What was I going to say? Hi, Lina. Do you have a second? Because not only did I just miss my flight, but I have something important to tell you. Telling Lina about Cubby from the side of a freeway in Ireland was not what I’d had in mind, but it was going to have to do.
Where would I even start?
If I absolutely had to pinpoint the day things started with Cubby, I guess I’d start with the night he jumped into my car.
I was waiting for Ian after football practice, like I usually did. Rain spattered merrily onto the windshield, and I hugged my knees tightly up against the steering wheel. I refused to turn on the heat on principle alone. It was July. Why couldn’t Seattle act like it?
“Ian, come on,” I muttered, looking at the school doors. My friend and soccer teammate, Olive, had invited me to her house for one of her famous B-movie showings. She had a way of making the worst movies spectacularly entertaining, and Ian was absolutely going to make me late. Suddenly, a TIGERS sweatshirt appeared in the passenger window, and the door yanked open.
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