I did my best to settle into the crowd. My entire body felt bruised and sticky from colliding with so many Titletrack fans. Everyone was sweating. The temperature inside the crowd was at least ten degrees higher than on the outskirts.
Laser lights spilled over the stage, bathing us in bright red, and then four silhouettes appeared onstage as if by magic. “That’s them!” Ian shouted, grabbing my arm as tightly as a tourniquet. “Rowan! Addie! That’s them!”
“Ian, ease up!” I yelled, but my voice got sucked up into the vortex of screaming.
The first chords started up, and I recognized the song immediately. “Classic.” The one that had been made into a music video at the Burren. At first Ian looked too stunned to react, and then instead of smiling, a large tear zigzagged down his red-lit cheek. “What’s wrong?” I shouted.
He squeezed my arm again, his fingernails forming half-moons in my skin. “We’re here,” he said simply.
The rest of the band joined in with the song, filling my ears and anchoring me to Ian and this moment. And suddenly I was thinking about a different aspect of my future. In one year, my big brother would leave for college, and we’d be separated for the first time. What would life be like without Ian by my side?
I tried to picture it, but the only thing that sprang to mind was the road we’d followed to Electric Picnic, Ian singing along to Titletrack, Ireland green and mysterious outside our windows.
The only thing I really knew was what I had to do next.
Before I could lose my moment of certainty, I reached across Ian, tugging gently at my mom’s sleeve. “Mom, after the concert is over, I need to tell you something. Something important.” She swiveled her gaze from the stage just as Ian reached down to squeeze my hand.
The road narrowed and then got wider, then disappeared into the distance, too far for me to see what was ahead. And I just let it.
Love & Luck
You’ve come a long way, pet. Pettest of pets. You can’t imagine the pride that’s swelling up in my considerable bosom right at this moment to know that you have not only explored the Emerald Isle, but your broken heart is now MENDED. You are completely better, over-the-moon, one-door-closes-ten-more-open, beauty-in-the-pain better.
Let’s cut the crap, pet. Because now that we’re reaching the end of our time together, I feel it’s time for me to come clean. I don’t want that heart of yours to mend. And I never did.
What? Was she actually evil this whole time? No, pet. Heavens, no. Stick with me for a moment.
Do you know what I love most about humans, pet? It’s our utter, dogged stupidity. When it comes to love, we never learn. Ever. Even when we know the risks. Even when it makes much more sense to relocate to individualized climate-controlled caves where our hearts have at least a fighting chance at remaining intact. We know the risks of opening our hearts up, and yet we keep doing it anyway.
We keep falling in love and having babies and buying shoes that look incredible but feel like death. We keep adopting puppies and making friends and buying white sofas that we know we’re going to drop a slice of pizza facedown on. We just keep doing it.
Is it ignorance? Amnesia? Or is it something else? Something braver?
You opened this book because your heart was broken and you wanted it fixed. But that was never the cosmic plan. Hell, it was never my plan. Hearts break open until they stay open. It’s what they were made to do. The pain? It’s part of the deal. A small exchange for the wild, joyful mess you’ll be handed in return.
I hate good-byes, so instead, allow me to hand you one last thought, a small Irish charm to clip to your charm bracelet. Did you know that each leaf on a clover stands for something? They do, pet. Faith, hope, and love. And should you happen to find one with four leaves? Well, that’s the one that stands for luck. So, my love, I wish you all of those things. Faith, hope, love, and luck. But mostly, I wish you love. It’s its own form of luck.
—Excerpt from Ireland for the Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle, third edition
IAN PULLED SMOOTHLY INTO A parking spot, turning off the ignition but leaving the music on. It was Titletrack, of course. Ever since we’d gotten home we’d been playing it nonstop, the songs overlapping in the hallway between our bedrooms, sometimes competing, sometimes meshing together. It had made a hard week a lot more bearable.
There had been a lot of upset. I’d wanted everything out in the open, so as soon as everyone was reunited, I called for a family meeting, where I laid it all out. My brothers had to be forcibly held back from storming Cubby’s house, and my dad was silent and teary for a terrible ten minutes, but they’d all stood by me. And one glimmer of benefit: my news had paved the way for Ian’s. His quitting football was just a firework next to my atomic bomb.
I flipped down the visor to check out the dark rings under my eyes. Jet lag combined with nerves had made for a lot of sleepless nights. Last night I’d ended up calling Rowan and staying on the phone until two a.m. watching a terrible movie he’d found on YouTube about a Celtic warrior princess named Maeve, who slashed everyone who got in her way. I think he was trying to pump me up.
Ian lowered the volume. “So, Christmas, huh?”
My cheeks warmed. I swear he could read my thoughts sometimes. “What about it?”
“A certain Irishman told me there are only sixty-eight days until his Christmas break starts. We’re good friends and all, but that countdown has nothing to do with me. It’s about you.”
“Stop. Now.” Just like I’d thought, once the situation had been ironed out, my mom and Rowan had bonded almost instantaneously. And now he was coming to visit. Every time I thought about seeing him again, a small, careful butterfly fluttered its wings in the center of my chest.
We looked out the windshield, neither of us in a hurry to leave the car. Was it just me, or had the student body magically tripled? For a second my vision tilted. How many of them know about my photo?
Probably a lot of them.
“Maeve, you ready?” Ian finally asked, the sound of his drumming fingers breaking through my thoughts.
“Yes,” I said, sounding surer than I felt. Act in control.
“Don’t worry, Addie. I’m here for you,” he said, like he hadn’t heard me. “I’m going to walk you to all your classes. I already checked your schedule. My homeroom is in B hall and yours is in C, so meet me at the front office. And if anyone says anything to you, you tell them—”
“Ian, I’ve got this,” I said more forcefully. “We just survived a road trip across Ireland in a broken-down car. I think I can handle walking into high school.”
“Okay.” Ian went back to drumming, his eyes serious. “I know you’ve got this, but if there’s ever a moment when you don’t, you’ve got me. And it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. You’re Maeve.”
“I’m Maeve,” I repeated, allowing the nervousness in his voice to extinguish mine. Was it possible that he was more worried for me than I was worried for me? I leaned on that feeling.
Outside, we pulled on our backpacks. Mine was extra heavy, because along with my textbooks, it had rocks in it. Four of them to be exact. It had been a last-minute call, but I liked the way their weight pressed into my shoulders, grounding my feet into my sneakers, my sneakers into the ground. Plus, TSA had had a complete fit about my traveling with them. I might as well put them to use.
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