Speaking of money, I check my wallet. The twenty-eight dollars is still there. That should be enough to buy us something other than Doritos.
Janette comes out of the bedroom wearing a green jacket just as I find the keys. Green is a good color on her—makes her look less angsty teen.
“Ready?” I ask.
She rolls her eyes.
“Okay then, mommy dearest. Going to get some grub!” I call out before I close the door—mostly to see if she’ll try to stop me. I let Janette lead the way into the garage, anticipating what kind of car we drive. It isn’t going to be a Land Rover, that’s for sure.
“Oh, boy,” I say. “Does this thing work?” She ignores me, popping her earbuds in as I eye the car. It’s a really old Oldsmobile. Older than me. It smells of cigarette smoke and old people. Janette climbs into the passenger side wordlessly and stares out the window. “Okay then, Chatty Cathy,” I say. “Let’s see how many blocks we can go before this thing breaks down.”
I have a plan. The receipt I found is dated last Friday and is from The Electric Crush Diner in the French Quarter. Except this piece of crap car doesn’t have GPS. I’ll have to find it on my own.
Janette is quiet as we pull out of the driveway. She traces patterns on the window with her fingertip, fogging and re-fogging the glass with her breath. I watch her out of the corner of my eye; poor kid. Her mom’s an alcoholic and her dad is in prison—kind of sad. She also hates me. That pretty much leaves her alone in the world. I realize with surprise that Charlie is in the same situation. Except maybe she has Silas—or did have Silas before she cheated on him with Brian. Ugh. I shake my shoulders to get rid of all my feels. I hate these people. They’re so annoying. Except I kind of like Silas.
The Electric Crush Diner is on North Rampart Street. I find a parking spot on a crowded corner and have to parallel park between a truck and a MINI Cooper. Charlie is an excellent parallel parker, I think proudly. Janette climbs out after me and stands on the sidewalk, looking lost. The diner is across the street. I try to peer in through the windows, but they’re mostly blacked out. The Electric Crush flashes in pink neon over the front door.
“Come on,” I say. I hold out my hand to her and she draws back. “Janette! Let’s go!” I march up to her in what can only be an aggressive Charlie move, and grab her hand. She tries to pull away from me, but I hold on tight, dragging her across the street. “Let. Me. Go!”
As soon as we reach the other side, I spin around to face her. “What’s your problem? Stop acting like a…,” fourteen-year-old, I finish in my head.
“What?” she says. “And why do you even care what I act like?” Her bottom lip is puffing out like she’s about to cry. I suddenly feel very sorry for being so rough with her. She’s just a little kid with tiny boobs and a hormone-addled brain.
“You’re my sister,” I say gently. “It’s time we stick together, don’t you think?” For a minute, I think she’s going to say something—maybe something soft and nice and sisterly—but then she stomps toward the diner ahead of me and flings open the door. Damn. She’s a tough cookie. I follow her in—a little sheepishly—and stop dead in my tracks.
It’s not what I thought it was going to be. It’s not really a diner—more like a club with booths lining the walls. In the middle of the room is what looks like a dance floor. Janette is standing near the bar, looking around in bewilderment.
“You come here often?” she asks me.
I look from the black leather booths to the black marble floors. Everything is black aside from the bright pink signs on the walls. It’s morbid and bubblegum.
“Help you?” A man steps out from a door at the far end of the bar, carrying an armful of boxes. He’s young—maybe early twenties. I like him on sight because he’s wearing a black vest over a pink t-shirt. Charlie must like pink.
“We’re hungry,” I blurt.
He half smiles and nods over to a booth. “Kitchen doesn’t usually open for another hour, but I’ll see what he can whip up for you if you’d like to sit.”
I nod and beeline over to the booth, pulling Janette along with me.
“I was here,” I tell her. “Last weekend.”
“Oh,” is all she says before studying her fingernails.
A few minutes later, the pink t-shirt guy comes out of the back, whistling. He walks over and places two hands on the table.
“Charlie, right?” he asks. I nod dumbly. How does he…? How many times have I…?
“The kitchen was making me a roast chicken. What do you say I share it with you guys? We won’t get busy for a couple more hours, anyway.”
I nod again.
“Good.” He hits the table with his palm and Janette jumps. He points to her. “Coke? Sprite? Shirley Temple?”
She rolls her eyes. “Diet Coke,” she says.
“And you, Charlie?”
I don’t like the way he says my name. It’s too…familiar. “Coke,” I say quickly. When he leaves, Janette leans forward, her eyebrows drawn together. “You always get diet,” she says accusatorily.
“Yeah? Well I’m not quite feeling like myself.”
She makes a little noise in the back of her throat. “No kidding,” she says. I ignore her and try to get a good look around. What were Silas and I doing here? Is it a place we came often? I lick my lips.
“Janette,” I say. “Have I ever told you about this place?”
She looks surprised. “You mean all the times we have heart-to-hearts when we put the lights out at night?”
“Okay, okay, I get it. I’m a really crappy sister. Geez. Get over it already. I’m extending the olive branch here.”
Janette scrunches up her nose. “What’s that mean?”
I sigh. “I’m trying to make it up to you. Start fresh.”
Just then the pink t-shirt dude brings us our drinks. He brought Janette a Shirley Temple even though she asked for a diet coke. Her face registers disappointment.
“She wanted a diet coke,” I say.
“She’ll like that,” he says. “When I was a kid…”
“Just get her a diet coke.”
He holds up his hands in surrender. “Sure thing, princess.”
Janette glances at me from under her eyelashes. “Thanks,” she says.