It may have worked short-term, but it definitely wouldn’t work long-term. Secret keeping simply wasn’t a part of Walt’s chemical makeup. I’d just activated a ticking time bomb.
We waited as long as my adrenaline would allow—about seven minutes—while Rowan texted Ian and then traded me his hoodie for the navy sweater so I could cinch it around my face. Under the circumstances, it was the best disguise we could muster. We crept carefully out of the cave and then ran full speed, me praying fervently that no one from the group was watching the grounds too closely.
Back at the car, Ian was a solid mess of nerves, so bouncy that he could barely get the window down. We both ducked low, Rowan attempting to tear out of the parking lot. “They weren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow,” Ian said. “I checked the itinerary.”
“Sounds like they aren’t following the itinerary.”
“I can’t believe you saw Walt,” he moaned. “Of all people, Walt.” My thoughts exactly.
“Maybe it will be okay.” I was trying to emulate the yoga instructor who sometimes came to our pregame practices to help us with visualization. Her voice was smooth and melodic and always worked to calm my nerves. “Rowan came up with a great story about you staying in Ireland to work on a college admissions essay. Plus, he promised to not tell Mom.”
“Addie, he’s Walter.”
I abandoned the yoga teacher voice. “I know he’s Walter. What do you want me to do about it?”
“Guys, remember the sibling treaty? No fighting?” Rowan hunched over the steering wheel, looking anxiously at the road. We were stopped at a crosswalk, a flood of people blocking our exit.
“I just can’t believe this happened.” Ian’s leg bouncing slowed, and he slumped dejectedly against the side of the car. Suddenly, my phone chimed and he whipped back around. “It’s Mom, isn’t it? Walt lasted a whole ten minutes.”
“It’s not Mom,” I said, my relief quickly replaced with confusion. It was from one of my soccer teammates, Olive, and was in her signature all caps.
DID IAN REALLY GET KICKED OFF THE TEAM????
EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT AND FREAKING OUT!!!!
I looked up, meeting Ian’s nervous gaze. “Who is it?” he asked, his voice drum-tight.
“It’s . . . Lina,” I said, making a split-second decision to lie. Olive prided herself on always knowing what was going on, but this text couldn’t be true. And bringing up some stupid rumor would probably just make Ian angrier. “She’s just confirming her flight.”
The crosswalk finally cleared and Rowan surged forward. “Tomorrow evening, right? And they’re going to take the train to the festival?”
I nodded, my head too cloudy to form words. What had kicked off this rumor? And of course people were freaking out. Ian was the star player—the MVP. If he got kicked off, there’d be riots in the street.
I rubbed my thumb over the screen, and an uncomfortable thought popped into my head. One of my parents’ favorite phrases: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Something had started this rumor. What was it?
Once we cleared Blarney, the road became extra twisty, relegating Ian to his balled-up position against the car door. I’d been studying him carefully since Olive’s text. Part of me wanted to shove my phone under his nose and ask him what it was all about, but the other part was afraid of opening another door—who knew what kind of ugliness was on the other side?
Rowan’s voice pierced the silence. “Addie, do you know what this light on the dashboard means? It just turned on.”
I set the guidebook down and scrambled forward to get a look. The temperature gauge was all the way up to the red H, and a small orange indicator light glowed next to it. I almost wished I didn’t know what it meant.
“It’s bad news, isn’t it?” Ian said, watching my face.
“The car is overheating.” I rose to look at the hood. At least there was no steam. Yet.
“Is that a big deal?” Rowan asked, tapping his thumb nervously on the steering wheel.
“Only if you want to keep your engine.” His complete lack of car knowledge was almost endearing. “Almost” because it kept getting us into trouble. “Pull over, but don’t kill the ignition.”
Ian spun his carsick face away from the window, his voice wobbly. “Addie, we don’t have time to pull over. My interview appointment is in an hour.”
“Then we definitely don’t have time to break down on the side of the road. We need to stop. Now.”
“Just do it.” Ian sighed, admitting defeat. I was the final word in car maintenance, and he knew it. Even our car-ogling dad had started asking me for advice on his old BMW.
Rowan pulled up alongside a line of trees. I crouched down near the hood, coming face-to-face with a small, steady trickle of liquid. I stuck my hand under, and a drop of green goo landed in my palm. “Great,” I muttered, wiping my hand on my shorts. The guys squatted down on either side of me.
Ian clenched his fists nervously. “What is it? What’s that green stuff?”
“It’s antifreeze. Max probably overfilled the radiator, which causes too much pressure, and then you end up with leaks and your engine can’t cool itself.”
“I’m going to kill him.” Rowan punched his fist into his hand. “And then I’m going to get my money back and kill him again.”
“So now what? We tie up the radiator with a hanger? Plug it with bubble gum?” Ian asked, tugging anxiously at the ends of his hair. “Because missing the interview is not an option. Miriam is a huge deal in the music world. The fact that she agreed to see me was a complete—”
“Ian, I get it,” I interrupted, trying to think up a quick solution. I’d once seen a car show host crack an egg into a steaming radiator, allowing the heat to cook the egg and plug up the hole. But we didn’t have any eggs, and it would probably gum up the engine anyway. “How far are we from Cobh?”
Rowan shielded his eyes to look up the road. “Maybe twenty kilometers?”
I jumped to my feet. It was never a good idea to drive on an overheating engine, but if we sat around waiting for a tow truck, we would definitely miss Ian’s appointment. Was it worth the risk?
I looked down at Ian’s still-clenched fists. It was either Clover or Ian. One of them was going to blow. I mentally flipped through the Auto Repair for Dummies book I kept on my nightstand. It was the only book that simultaneously stuck to my brain and made me feel calm. Something was clearly wrong with me.
“Ian, go turn on the heat. We’re going to idle for a few minutes. Rowan, I need you to pop the hood and find me some water. I’ll refill the radiator and we’ll watch the gauge the whole time. And, Ian, find us a mechanic shop in Cobh. We need to drive directly there.”
His smile filled up the entire road. “Done.”
Cobh, pronounced COVE. Or as I like to call it, the town of LISTEN TO YOUR UNCLE. NO, REALLY, LISTEN TO HIM.
Yes, there is a story, honey bun. But first, context.
Cobh is a good-bye kind of place. See that dock down by the water? It was the stepping-off point for 2.5 million Irish emigrants. It was also the site of one rather famous good-bye: the Titanic. You’ve heard of it? The Unsinkable Ship made its final stop in Cobh, adding and subtracting a few passengers before slipping off into the icy Atlantic and infamy. I’m going to tell you about one of the lucky passengers.
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