“Whoa.” Rowan stepped between us, palms up in stop signs. “We need to establish something right away. I’m completely for this new plan, but I’m not spending the next few days trapped in the middle of whatever’s going on between you. If we do this, there has to be a truce. No fighting.”
To my surprise, Ian calmed almost immediately, his mouth turned down apologetically. “You’re right. Addie, I won’t talk about Cubby if you won’t.”
Really? It was that easy? “Okay,” I said warily.
“Okay?” Rowan’s eyes darted back and forth between us. “So . . . everyone’s good?”
“Good” was a little generous, but I managed a nod and so did Ian. It may have been a forced truce, but it was a truce. It would have to be enough.
We were fifteen minutes into the new plan, the road spooled out in front of us, everyone still slightly shell-shocked, when one aspect of my life suddenly became startlingly clear: I needed a restroom. Immediately.
I elbowed my way into the front of the car. “Rowan, could you please stop next chance you get? I really need a bathroom.”
Ian whirled around, his face tense. “But our next stop isn’t until Dingle.”
“How far is that?” I asked, looking down at his map. Dingle was a finger-shaped peninsula that reached out into the Pacific Ocean, a good hundred miles away. Definitely beyond the capacity of my bladder.
“Are you joking?” I ventured.
He set his mouth firmly. He wasn’t joking. “We have this trip all mapped out. The tailpipe and tractors have already put us way behind.”
“Ian, that’s crazy. The last time I had access to a bathroom, I thought I was going to Italy. Either you let me have a bathroom break or I pee on the back seat.”
He threw a hand up dismissively. “Great. Pee back there. It will be like the coffee can incident on the way to Disneyland.”
“Ian!” I growled. The coffee can incident may be a part of Bennett road trip lore, but that didn’t mean I had any interest in hearing about it all the time. Why couldn’t my brothers ever let anything go?
“What’s the coffee can incident?” Rowan asked, his eyes hinting at a smile.
“What do you think?” I snapped.
“You get the basic elements, right?” Ian said. “Road trip. Coffee can. Girl who—”
“Ian!” I threw my arms around the seat to cover his mouth. “Tell Rowan that story and I swear that I will never speak to you again.”
Ian’s laugh rumbled through my hands, and he pulled them off, but the mood already felt softer. At least the coffee can story was good for something.
“I actually need to put a call in to my mom, so a stop would work great for me. How about we stop in Limerick?” Rowan pointed to a sign. LIMERICK: 20 KM.
“Perfect,” I said gratefully. I could handle twenty kilometers.
Turned out that twenty kilometers of grass-sprouting Irish road was very different from twenty kilometers of, say, any possible other road, and by the time Rowan pulled off the road into a gas station, I had to pee so badly, I was practically immobilized.
“Outoutoutout!” I yelled.
Ian turned, his hand on the headrest. “You have five minutes. And this is the absolute last stop before Dingle.”
“Just move!” I pleaded.
Ian jumped gracefully out of the car and beelined for the convenience store. I did my best to follow, but halfway out I lost one of my shoes, and when I tried to reach for it, I lost my balance and belly flopped onto the ground, which was not ideal for the bladder situation.
I rolled to my side. Rowan’s sweater was studded with gravel, and my elbow screamed in pain.
“Addie, are you okay?” Rowan sprinted around the car to help me up. “Where’s your shoe?”
“No time,” I managed. My bare foot throbbed as I sprinted for the store, but my bladder was now giving me the twenty-second countdown. This was no time for protective footwear.
Inside, I wasted a good five seconds stumbling through the aisles of unfamiliar junk food before realizing there was no restroom inside. Finally, I hurried up to the register. An older woman with braids wrapped around her head had her hip to the counter. “I told her, marry him or don’t. But don’t come crying to me—”
“Hi, love,” the clerk said, latching his gaze onto me eagerly. Save me, his eyes pleaded. “What can I do for you?”
“Wheresthebathroom?” I didn’t have time to space out the words; the situation was too desperate.
He understood the urgency, barking out directions in admirable alacrity. “Toilet’s outside, around back. Just that way.”
I sprinted past Ian filling up a basket with neon-colored caffeine bombs. My stomach was literally sloshing. Finally, I made it to the back, but when I yanked on the handle of the women’s restroom, it didn’t budge. “Hello?” I called, banging my fists on the door.
“Occupied,” replied a cheery Irish voice.
“Could you hurry up, please?” I jiggled the knob desperately. I was going to pee my pants. I was absolutely going to pee my pants.
Suddenly, the men’s room door shifted, and I hurled myself at it just as a bearded man stepped out. “Oh. Men’s room, love,” he said nervously.
“I’m American,” I said, like that explained things. I’m American, so I don’t have to follow gender conventions. He seemed to accept it as a valid explanation—either that or he thought I was crazy—and he darted out of my way. I quickly locked the door and turned around. Even in the awful lighting, the floor was disgusting. Damp and covered in wet toilet paper slime. I instinctively clamped my hand over my nose and mouth.
“Addie, you can do this,” I instructed myself motivationally.
I had to. My only other option was to wait it out in the back of a clown car until Dingle.
By the time I’d hopped my way through the bathroom and then back out again, Rowan was at the car, his phone pressed to his ear. I quickly darted back into the store and picked up the largest box of Sugar Puffs I could find and carried it to the counter. The clerk’s situation hadn’t changed much.
“—so I told her, if she wants to live in a trash heap, that’s fine. She just can’t expect us to—”
“Can I point you to the milk?” The clerk lunged to take my cereal, almost losing his Santa Claus–looking spectacles in the process. How long had he been trapped there?
I shook my head. “Thanks, but I’m on a road trip. We wouldn’t have anyplace to store it.”
Interest sparked in his eyes. “I took a road trip or two myself back when I was your age. Where are you headed?” The braided-haired woman made a little huffing noise, shifting her bags from one hand to the other so I’d be sure to know what an inconvenience I was being.
“Right now we’re going to Dingle, but after that we’re going to a music festival.”
“Electric Picnic?” he asked.
“You’ve heard of it?” Rowan and Ian had said Electric Picnic was a big deal, but I had no way of knowing if they meant big deal in their alternative music world or big deal in the real world. Real world it was.
“Absolutely. I’ll pray for your parents.” He winked. “I’ve never been myself, but my daughter went last year. I get the feeling I heard only a very censored version of what she did there. But, of course, you know the stories.”
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