“All of you—” my mom started, but then she blanched. “Oh, no.”
“What? What is it?” Archie craned his face forward, his shoulders shooting up to his ears. “Roundabout,” he said in the exact tone a NASA scientist would announce, fiery Earth-destroying meteorite.
I anchored myself onto both my brothers’ arms. Walter clutched his seat belt to his chest, and Archie reverted into coach mode, barking out instructions. “Driver stays on the inside of the roundabout. Yield when you enter, not when you’re inside. Stay focused, and whatever you do, don’t hit the brakes. You can do this.”
We hit the roundabout as though it were a shark-infested whirlpool, all of us holding our breath except for my mom, who let out a stream of loud profanities, and Ian, who carried on with his regularly programmed fidgeting. When we’d finally cleared it, there was a collective exhale from the back seat, followed by one last expletive from the driver’s seat.
“Great job, Mom. If we can handle every roundabout like that, we’ll be golden,” Archie said, unhooking my claws from his upper arm.
Walt leaned forward, shaking himself free of me also. “Mom, please stop swearing. You’re awful at it.”
“You can’t be awful at swearing,” she said shakily.
“You have single-handedly disproven that theory,” Walt argued. “There’s a science to it; some words go together. You can’t just throw them all out at once.”
“I’m going to throw you all out at once,” Mom said.
“See, that’s good, Mom,” he said. “Maybe stick to the clever quips. At least those make sense.”
“It’s about context. And respect for the form,” Ian added, his voice back to calm. I dug my fingers into my muddy skirt. Now I was confused. Was Ian angry-calm or calm-calm?
Archie glared at all of us. “She can use whatever combination of words she wants. Whatever gets us back to the hotel safely. Remember what you practice in your business meditations, Mom. Go to your powerful place.”
“Great,” Ian groaned. “You’ve invoked the Catarina.”
“There’s no reason to bring her into this,” I added.
Mom scowled at us dangerously. Thirteen months ago my mom had traded in her yoga pants and oversize T-shirts for a real estate wardrobe and a bunch of Be the Business, Feel the Business audio recordings from a local real estate guru named Catarina Hayford. And we couldn’t even make fun of her for it, because in one year she had outsold 90 percent of her more seasoned fellow agents, even landing a spot on her agency’s billboards. This meant that I could be almost anywhere in Seattle and look up to see her smiling imperiously down on me. And with her new busy schedule, some days it was the only time I saw her at all.
“Remind me why I paid to bring all of you to Ireland,” Mom snapped, her voice rising.
Walt piped up. “You didn’t pay for it—Aunt Mel did. And besides, if it weren’t for Addie and Ian’s performance back there, that would have been an unbelievably boring wedding, even with that crazy scenery.” He nudged me. “My favorite part was the moment when little sis here decided to shove Ian off the cliff. There was this deliberateness to it. Like that scene in The Princess Bride when Buttercup shoves Wesley and he’s rolling down the hill yelling, ‘As yooooou wiiiiiish!’ ”
“Two things,” Ian said, his long hair brushing his shoulder as he looked back. His gaze skipped right over me. “One, great reference, seeing as the Cliffs of Moher is where they filmed the Cliffs of Insanity scenes. And two, did you even see what happened?”
Walter drew his breath in sharply. “Why didn’t anyone tell me that before we went? You’re right. We were totally at the Cliffs of Insanity. We could have done a reenactment—”
“Stop talking.” I laced my voice with as much menace as I could muster. When Walter got started, he was a human diesel train. Loud and really hard to stop.
“Or what? You’ll throw me off a cliff?”
“It was more of a chambered punch,” Archie said. “Or maybe a right hook. The technique was actually really good. I was impressed, Addie.”
Ian whipped back, and this time his bruised eye stared me down. “She didn’t knock me off the cliff. I slipped.”
“Yeah, right.” Walter laughed. “Way to save your ego there, buddy.”
I dug my elbows into Walter and Archie’s legs, but they both grabbed hold of my arms, locking me into place until I struggled free. “We went down the complete opposite side of the hill. No one was actually in danger.”
Walter shook his head. “Lucky break. Auntie Mel would have never forgiven us if you’d ruined her dream wedding by committing murder.” He whispered murder the way the narrator always did in his favorite true crime TV show.
“But could you imagine the ratings on the wedding episode if that happened?” Archie quipped. “HGTV would love you forever. They’d probably give you your own reality show. It would be like international wedding crasher–meets–hired hit man. Or hit woman.”
“All of you, stop.” My mom risked taking her hand off the steering wheel to massage her right temple. “You know what? I’m pulling over.”
“Mom, what are you doing?” I yelled as we bumped off the side of the road, a parade of cars honking behind us. If I had to stay sandwiched in this car for even a minute longer than was completely necessary, I was going to lose it. “There’s a whole line of cars behind us. And the shoulder’s almost nonexistent.”
“Yes, Addie, I know that.” She shakily threw the car into park, wrenching us all forward. “This can’t wait.”
“The fight at the cliffs was one hundred percent Ian’s fault.” The words screeched—unplanned—out of my mouth, and all three of my brothers turned to stare at me in horror. I had just broken Bennett sibling code rule #1: Never throw one another under the bus. Except this Cubby thing was on a whole new level. Maybe old rules didn’t apply.
Ian’s face tightened in anger. “You’re the one who—”
“ENOUGH!” My mom’s voice reverberated around the car like a gong. “I don’t care who started it. I don’t care if Addie drenched you with honey and then threw you into a bear den. You’re teenagers, practically adults. And I have had it with your arguments. You fell off a hill. In the middle of a wedding.”
Bear den? Honey? Mom had a great imagination. Walter started to laugh, but Mom wrenched her neck toward him, and he fell silent. Next she zeroed in on Ian.
“There is one year standing between you and college, and if you think I’m going to put up with how you’ve been acting, you’re wrong. And, Addie, you’re sixteen years old and you have all the self-control of a ten-year-old.”
“Hey!” I started, but Archie shot his elbow into my ribs, and I doubled over. It was a saving gesture. If I had any chance of surviving this, it was going to involve the subtle art of keeping quiet. And Mom was right. As my outburst had just so aptly demonstrated, I did struggle with impulsivity. It got me into trouble a lot.
“You two are so close,” Mom said. “The closest of any of you. There were years when I thought that neither of you knew that anyone else existed. What is going on this summer?”
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