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“Oh my God, just call her already,” she said out loud to Carlos’s sliding glass window. The window didn’t respond.

She cold-called people all the time—it was literally part of her job—and yet she was frozen with her finger over the phone.

She sighed and hit call. Maybe Angela wouldn’t pick up? Most people didn’t pick up calls from numbers they didn’t know. Maybe she could just leave Angela a message. She obviously wouldn’t call back, and then—

“Hello? Hello, this is Angela, who’s this? Is it the hospital?”

Nik cleared her throat.

“Hi, Angela. Um, no, not the hospital. This is Nik. We met at Dodger Stadium?”

Oh Lord, she was doing that uptalk thing that she always instructed younger women against doing. Come on, Nikole. Get it together.

“Oh. Hi, Nik. Uh . . .”

Right, she should get on with it.

“Carlos asked me to call you. He’s at the hospital and his battery is almost dead, but he knew you’d want an update.”

“Oh.” That was a weird “Oh,” right? Maybe. It sounded more like an “ooooh.” But she’d only met Angela once—that might just be how she talked. “Thanks for calling. What’s going on with Jessie?”

“Carlos said they just brought Jessie in to get an emergency C-section, and that your mom and your aunt are both there at the hospital with him.”

Angela let out a deep breath.

“Oh no. I know she was trying so hard to avoid a C-section. She must be so scared.”

Nik nodded as she stared through the window. One of Carlos’s neighbors, an older man with big glasses and a cane whom she’d seen a few times before, walked by and waved at her. She waved back.

“She talked to Carlos when they first told her it was a possibility, and I think she was pretty worried. I know Carlos got to the hospital in time to see her before the surgery, and I’m sure that helped.”

Nik’s timer went off, and she pushed buttons on her phone madly to make it stop making noise.

“What was that?” Angela asked.

“Oh, I’m at Carlos’s house. We were making enchiladas for Jessie when he got the call, so I stayed here to let them finish in the oven. That was just my timer.”

Why was she babbling? She could have just said that was her phone timer and let it alone.

“Oh.” That “Oh” had definitely been more . . . smug? Hmmm. “Okay. Is there anything else he said to tell me?”

Nik wedged the phone between her shoulder and ear and put oven mitts on. She didn’t need to burn her hands, too.

“That’s everything I know. I hope you get there soon, and I hope all goes well with your cousin.”

Nik opened the oven and carefully took out the trays of enchiladas.

“Thanks, Nik. And thanks for calling.”

“Bye, Angie.”

Oh shit. She’d slipped and called his sister Angie. That’s what Carlos always called her, and so that’s how Nik thought of her, but she’d very clearly introduced herself as Angela when they’d met.

Well, now his sister probably hated her.

Or maybe his sister barely gave her a second thought, since her mind was kind of occupied with her cousin undergoing emergency surgery at that exact moment? Yes, that was more likely. Way to make everything about yourself, Nikole.

She slid the remaining two trays of enchiladas into the oven. Cooking and agonizing over whether people were mad at her. This was definitely not how she usually spent Saturday nights.

She picked up her bag from where she’d dropped it by the door and brought it over to Carlos’s couch. Thank goodness she’d brought her laptop with her; at least she could get some work done while she waited to hear what was going on with Jessie and her baby.

She set her laptop on the coffee table, opened it, and instead of getting work done, mindlessly scrolled through her various social media news feeds for way too long. No, this wasn’t helpful. She stood up and walked back into the kitchen. Maybe she needed a snack. Oh God, yes, a snack sounded like a great idea. And Carlos had tortilla chips, how perfect. Something she could stress-eat for hours as she got more and more tense, just what she needed.

Shit, the enchiladas. She’d put the second round in the oven right after getting off the phone with Angela, but she hadn’t set her timer. Carlos had said twenty minutes, but she had no idea how long they’d already been in there. Five minutes, ten? She could check them, but she didn’t have a clue what enchiladas would look like after five minutes versus after ten versus after fifteen, so that would be no help. She set her timer for fifteen minutes and crossed her fingers.

You guys, I’m freaking out—I’m at Carlos’s house and he left in a rush because his cousin is going to have an emergency c-section, and I stayed here to babysit the enchiladas we were making her, and I may have ruined them. That was a slight overstatement, but that’s how it felt to her, okay? Now I’m sitting here waiting to hear any news and stress eating chips.

That reminded her. She got up and went to the fridge and got the jar of salsa.

It must have been an emergency, who the fuck would leave you in charge of food in the oven?

Thanks, Courtney. Always there with a kind word.

No, but seriously, of course you’re freaking out, that’s stressful. Do you know what’s going on? Do they need cupcakes? I’m just packing up the shop—we were open late tonight, I have some left over.

Ooh, cupcakes were a great idea. Not for Carlos, for herself.

I desperately want all of your cupcakes, but I feel like they strike the wrong note when no one knows what’s going to happen. Like, “here’s some cupcakes to celebrate this stressful emergency!” you know? He texted me after he got to the hospital and said they were bringing her in for surgery, but that’s all I know.

She wanted to text him again, but she had no idea if his phone had power yet. And even if it did, he was probably busy with his family; he probably didn’t want to hear from her. She reached for another chip just as Dana texted.

Oh no, Nik! Poor Carlos and his poor cousin. Do you need anything?

Did she need anything? Yes, lots of things: Carlos to be on the couch next to her; his cousin—who she’d never met, but felt a kinship to because of their shared love for serial killer books—to be okay; his cousin’s baby to be okay; his sister to not hate her for calling her Angie; to know what to do right now; cupcakes. Dana couldn’t get her any of those things, though.

No, I’m okay. I have my laptop here, I’ll be fine. Just worried, that’s all.

Both of her friends texted back in quick succession.

Okay, keep us posted. We’re here if you need anything!

Let me know if you need bourbon, or change your mind about cupcakes, or if you need anything else.

She spent the next thirty minutes trying to find something to occupy her mind: she finished cleaning the kitchen; she tried and failed to edit the story she’d been working on that day; she took the enchiladas out of the oven; she thought about snooping in his medicine cabinet—it was really the perfect opportunity to do some snooping when he wasn’t around to catch her—but she didn’t have the heart to do it. Everywhere she went, she kept her phone in her pocket, but he never texted.

She felt so helpless. She kept remembering that look on his face when he’d answered the phone and heard his cousin crying, and how when he’d gotten off the phone, he hadn’t said a word but had held on to her so tightly. She wanted to do something, anything, to fix this, to make him feel better, but there was nothing she could do.

Finally, she texted him out of sheer anxiety.

Any news? How are you doing?

He texted back right away. He must have found a charger.

Starving. Wish I had some of those enchiladas we made. No news yet but it should be soon—c-sections don’t take all that long. I might start freaking out if we don’t hear something soon, actually.

“Might” start freaking out—she was pretty sure he was already freaked out and just trying to keep it together.

Keep me posted, okay? If you have time.

She opened a cabinet door in the kitchen to grab the aluminum foil to cover the enchilada pans, and next to it, she saw a stack of paper plates and plastic cutlery.


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