Ian frantically rolled down his window and stuck his head out, gasping like a beached flounder. I was soaked. Water pooled in the seat of my shorts, and my hair hung in stringy clumps.
“Did that really just happen?” Rowan fell back against his seat.
“Addie, how do we fix it?” Ian asked.
Mechanic Addie to the rescue. I reached up to wiggle the roof, and beads of water tumbled in. “Do we care about pretty?” I asked.
Rowan tapped his hand on the dashboard. “Does it look like we care about pretty?”
“Valid,” I said. “We need tape. Really strong, thick tape.”
Rowan nodded vigorously. “Tape. Got it. I’ll just pop in the shop and ask.” He grabbed a beanie from the cup holder and pulled it on as he sprinted for the gas station.
“We almost just drowned in a Volkswagen,” Ian said, drumming his fingers on the dashboard. “Can you imagine the obituary? Killer car traps trio—”
“Ian.” I reached over to still his restless fingers. I had a theory that Ian had spent a previous life as a hummingbird. Or an athletic coffee bean. “What’s up with Rowan’s mom?”
He glanced back, his eyebrows bent. “What are you talking about?”
“Back at the gas station I overheard him yelling at her. He said something about making a decision before the end of the summer.”
“Really?” Ian tucked a strand of hair into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “I don’t know very much about his family. I didn’t even know his parents were divorced until he brought it up back at the Burren.”
“Are you serious?” This was so my brother. All of my brothers. I wanted to know everything about my friends—right down to the name of their first pet and what toppings they liked on their pizza. Lina claimed to remember our first sleepover as more of a police interrogation. My brothers, on the other hand, seemed to need only a few similarities to form a bond. You like football and tacos? Me too.
Ian followed a bead of rain down the windshield with his finger. “Rowan and I don’t talk a lot about stuff like that.”
I rolled my eyes. “Because you’re too busy talking about Titletrack?”
“No.” He blew his breath out loudly. “I mean, of course we talk about music, but most of the time we talk about deeper stuff, like about things we care about and what’s bugging us. Stuff like that.”
I couldn’t help but grin. “So you’re saying that you and Rowan talk about your feelings?” Once Archie had asked me what Lina and I could possibly have to talk about on our multi-hour phone conversations and I’d finally told him, “How we’re feeling.” Now every time she called, they made fun of me. How’s Lina? How are her feelings?
“Yeah, I guess so,” Ian admitted. He flashed me a look that I recognized immediately. Eyes open and vulnerable—it was what I saw before he revealed something about himself. “Have you ever wished you could have someone see you without all the other layers? Like, not how good you are at sports or school or being popular, or whatever, they just see you?”
I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and yell, Are you kidding me? Of course I’d felt that way. That was the defining feeling of my life.
Ian had felt that way? This was news to me. “Like I could just be Addie instead of being Archie’s/Walter’s/Ian’s little sister?”
“Exactly,” Ian said.
Suddenly, I realized something—Ian was talking to me like he used to, like Cubby wasn’t hanging out in the bruise under his eye. I chose my next words carefully, not wanting to break the spell. “But the label thing is just part of being human, right? We like to categorize people, so everyone gets labels slapped on them whether they’re right or not.” I’d never thought about it that way before, but it was true. We even labeled ourselves: Bad at math. Flirt. Clueless.
“They’re never right,” Ian said, a hint of venom in his voice. “Labels aren’t big enough for people. And once you try to categorize someone, you stop looking for who they actually are. That’s why I like talking to Rowan so much. We’re friends but completely out of context. I never thought someone I met online could be such a close friend, but I really needed a friend, and he was there.”
I waited for him to crack a smile on the I needed a friend part, but he just dropped his gaze to his lap, his knee bobbing. If Ian felt friendless, then the rest of us were doomed. We could barely go anywhere without someone yelling his name and wanting to talk about the football season—kids, adult, everyone.
“I didn’t know you were feeling that way,” I said carefully. “You could have told me.”
His hair whipped back and forth. “You were busy—with Lina and soccer and . . .” Cubby. He didn’t have to say it. We both averted our gazes. “So Rowan told me about the guidebook.”
“And?” I said, careful to keep my voice neutral.
“And I care about him and I care about you, so if you guys think it will help you, then fine, I’m up for it.” He twisted around, his eyes fastening earnestly on mine. “But you know that following some guidebook around isn’t actually dealing with what happened, right? It isn’t going to make it go away.”
My anger flared up, hot and bubbly. “And telling Mom is? Getting our parents involved will just make things get bigger.”
“It’s already getting bigger,” Ian said, mounting his big-brother soapbox. “Addie, at some point you’re going to have to deal with it. Don’t you want it to be on your own terms? Admit it. You’re in over your head.”
I wasn’t just in over my head; I was gasping at the bottom of the pool. But there was no way I was going to admit that. “I told you back at the Cliffs of Moher, I am done talking about this,” I snapped.
“Well, I’m not. Not until you do the right thing,” he insisted.
The right thing. The right thing had been to listen to Ian and trust my gut, and ditch Cubby the second things had started to feel off. But I hadn’t done that, had I? It was too late now. “Ian, stop!” I shouted.
“Fine,” he breathed, falling back against his seat moodily. Why did he have to ruin the moment? For a second there, things had felt almost normal between us.
I didn’t have to see the sign to know we were in Dingle, because Guidebook Lady’s description was spot-on. It was Alice in Wonderland meets Ireland—a mash-up of charm and color spiked with whimsy. Stores with names like Mad Hatters and the Little Cheese Shop lined the road in every color on the neon spectrum: tangerine, cotton-candy pink, turquoise, and lime. Rowan snaked carefully through the flooded cobblestoned streets, talking a blue streak the entire time.
“Dingle is a huge draw for Irish teenagers. Every summer they come here for Irish camp. You learn Irish language, dances, that kind of thing. The peninsula was pretty cut off from the rest of the world for a while, so a lot of people here still speak Gaelic.”
The talking had started as soon as Rowan came out of the gas station with the tape and picked up on the tension between Ian and me. He was obviously someone who tried to bury conflict underneath a lot of words—even if we’d wanted to get a word in edgewise, we couldn’t have.
“That’s cool,” Ian finally said, hedging his way into a rare silence. Our argument had sapped the energy out of both of us. Ian was crunched up into a little ball, buried in his phone, and I was slumped against my window, my anger dissolving into sadness.
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