For a second I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then I realized water was up past my midthigh, waves kissing the hem of my shorts. “Can you feel your legs?” I asked.
He grimaced. “What legs?”
“This is worse than being in the back seat of Clover.” We dropped hands, and I skimmed my fingers across the water’s icy surface. Rowan’s turn. “What about you? What’s the hardest thing you’ve survived?”
“This year.” No hesitation. And no eye contact. Which for most people meant door closed.
But me being me, I had to at least try the knob. “This year, because of your breakup?”
He exhaled, then wiggled his shoulder like he was trying to shake off his mood. “Is this too depressing? I know you’re going through your own heartache; I don’t want to burden you with mine.”
“You aren’t burdening me,” I said, telling the truth. I liked that he felt like he could talk to me. We were a support team of two. “And what was your girlfriend’s name, anyway? Or . . . sorry, girlfriend? Boyfriend?” I shouldn’t assume.
“It was actually a goldfish,” he said seriously. “We dated for a whole year, but every few hours she forgot who I was and we had to start over.”
“Oh,” I said, adopting his serious tone. “That sounds challenging. Did the goldfish have a name?”
He hesitated for a second and his smile faded. “It’s my parents,” he finally said. “They’re getting divorced.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say. His answer was not what I was expecting, but it shouldn’t have surprised me so much. Heartache came in all sorts of flavors. “I’m really sorry,” I said.
“Me too.” He gave me a rueful smile. “If they could get past their issues, I think they’d actually be pretty great together, but . . .” He trailed off, shivering violently. I suddenly became acutely aware of the cold. He gave me a lopsided smile, his eyes not quite meeting mine. “I think I’m about to succumb to hypothermia.”
“That means we have to stand here for one more second,” I said. Are you surviving this moment of discomfort? Have there been other moments of pain or discomfort that you thought you couldn’t survive and yet you did?
“Now!” I said, turning back to shore. We ran. My legs were so frozen, I could barely feel them churning the water to white, but Rowan’s warm hand found its way back to mine, and suddenly I felt that same lightening sensation I had back at the Burren.
It was possible that Guidebook Lady was onto something.
Bradley was not exaggerating about the nightlife at the Rainbow’s End. Music blared from a miniature speaker, and every light blazed. More people than I’d seen on the entire peninsula were crowded onto the porch and steps. Someone had built a fire in a garbage can, and flames licked the edges of the metal.
“The Rainbow’s End’s infamous nightlife,” Rowan said, skidding to a stop. The way back had taken us twice as long since we had to pedal uphill, and my shaky legs meant sore muscles tomorrow. “Any sign of Ian?”
“No, but there’s our host.” Bradley sat holding court in an anemic-looking lawn chair. He’d paired a too-small button-up shirt with a tee featuring Jesus on a surfboard. Bradley caught sight of me and waved, gesturing dramatically to the seat next to him.
The seat of honor. Part of me wanted to coast on the calm feeling I’d carried back from Inch Beach by going straight to bed, but Bradley kept waving his hands excitedly at me.
“I’ll take the bikes back,” Rowan said, grabbing my bike handlebars. “Better get over there. We don’t want to keep the king waiting.”
As I made my way over to Bradley, Ian suddenly appeared at my side, latching on to my arm. He wore double hoodies, and his hair looked more tangled than usual. “Where have you been?” he asked urgently.
I shook him off. “Inch Beach. Didn’t Rowan tell you?”
“I didn’t think it would be all day.”
“All day? We were only gone for a few hours.” Suddenly, I realized that Ian was rocking back and forth from his heels to the balls of his feet, which was Ian speak for I have something to spill.
My heart fell. Not another text. Please not another text from back home. “Ian, what is it? What’s going on?”
He set his mouth in a grim line. “Mom called.”
“And?” Huge rush of relief. That was manageable. Mom was manageable. “What did she say?”
“She wanted to talk to Howard.”
Yikes. I hadn’t even thought about that. “Oh, right. We should probably come up with a plan of what to say next time she calls.”
He rocked onto his heels again, spitting the rest out. “I got nervous and I had Bradley pretend to be Howard.”
“What?” I yelped so loudly that a cluster of long-haired girls looked up from the fire. “You asked Bradley to pretend he was Howard? Please tell me you’re joking.”
He grabbed for his hair, twisting the same snarled piece. “It actually wasn’t too bad. His American accent was sort of . . . questionable, but I think she bought it.”
“No,” I whispered. This was a disaster. Less than a day in, and Ian was already jeopardizing us. We were never going to pull this off. “Ian, what were you thinking? You should have waited to talk to me.”
He threw his arms up defensively. “She kept calling and calling. You know how she is about the persistence thing—I think Catarina warped her brain. I had to improvise. And besides, you said you were stopping at a site, not leaving for the whole night.”
The accusation in his voice was too familiar—You know what Cubby’s been doing, right? “This isn’t my fault, Ian,” I snapped. “It was your decision to stay in Ireland, not mine.” I shoved past him, heading for the porch steps.
“Addie!” Bradley called. “Did you hear I talked to your mom?”
“Sorry, Bradley, now’s not a good time.” I stomped into the building and made a beeline for the bunk room, collapsing onto my bed. I was exhausted. And starving.
But instead of leaving the room to forage for food, I dug my phone out of my pocket and searched for Indie Ian. I wanted to see for myself what this trip—and the possible end of our sports careers—had been about. Two articles came up automatically: “Is the Garage Band Dead?” and “I Went to the Mall. Here’s What Happened.”
“Here it goes,” I said aloud.
Two sentences in and I fell headfirst into the world of garage bands. The article blew me away. Ian’s voice rang through loud and strong, but with an extra gloss, like it had been coated with furniture polish and set out in the sun to shine. It was well written and intellectual but approachable, too, packed full of personality and enough enthusiasm to make me actually care.
I quickly pulled up the second article, “I Went to the Mall. Here’s What Happened.” This one was about him wandering around the mall near our house reviewing the music played in individual stores. When had he done that? The only time I’d ever seen him at the mall was when our mom dragged us at the beginning of the school year.
I dropped my phone to the bed, my chest heavy. There was a whole part to Ian that I’d never known existed. One that he hadn’t told me about. That he’d chosen not to tell me about.
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