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Authors: Kate Klise

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BOOK: In the Bag
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The sound in the station—announcements, bells, trains arriving—was deafening.

“It’s just that . . . I don’t have any money left for water or food,” I said. “And it’s a long ride back to Madrid.”

“Oh,” she said, digging in her back pockets. She pulled out several bills. “Here. Take these.”

“Thanks!” I said. “I’ll pay you back. Sometime.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Oh! I forgot to give you your shirt back.”

The door was closing.

“Keep it!” I said.

But I don’t think she heard me.

CHAPTER 42

Coco

I
t wasn’t until the train pulled away that I realized I should’ve offered to split the train fare with Webb. Between that and keeping his shirt, he must’ve thought I was a selfish bitch.

Shit.

The problem was, once I realized he’d seen my hideous undies (which I should’ve thrown away
before
we left Chicago) and foam-padded pink bra (which I never should’ve bought in the
first
place, but once I did, I should’ve tossed it when I realized how stupid it was, or at least when the foam started buckling), I was sunk. And then when he insisted on taking another look at them? In the bathroom, no less? I couldn’t get my mojo back.

Mom and her stupid pack-your-worst-underwear approach to life.
Brilliant, Mom.

On the other hand, maybe he was just being honest. Maybe he really
was
just getting rid of the condoms. Maybe he was nervous about his dad finding them, so he wanted to ditch them before he left.

But if so, why did he think it was so damn funny? Was having tantric sex with me such a hilarious impossibility? Was it really such a big freakin’
joke
?

Even if he hadn’t seen my underwear and bras, he still wouldn’t have wanted to have sex with me. Why had I seemed like such a brownnose and a prude? Why did I say
ick
when he mentioned condoms? And why did I laugh at his singing? Why did I make fun of his namesake, Jimmy Webb? I’d obviously hurt his feelings.

I rode the Metro back to the apartment and crawled onto the futon with my camera. I clicked through all the pictures I’d taken at the Internet café. He was adorable in every shot with his wide-open smile and rumpled hair. I, meanwhile, looked like a girl who wears granny panties and padded bras—which I
don’t
. Not anymore, anyway.

I crawled under the covers and hoped to die.

Then I remembered the condoms I’d stashed in Solange’s medicine cabinet. I got up and hid them in the bottom of my bag. I’d stick them in someone’s locker at school when I got home.

CHAPTER 43

Andrew

W
hen I finally climbed into bed, the digital alarm clock between Webb’s bed and mine read 6:52. I needed sleep, but all I could think about was when I should call Daisy.

I knew from spending just those few hours with her that she was the kind of woman who would find the story of my note—
our
note, really—funny if I told it in the right way. Which I could. And I would.

Surely she didn’t think I was a first-class ass, or she wouldn’t have spent hours with me when we were both exhausted.

I needed to tell her about it for my sake, as much as hers. Secrets have no place between two people who are trying to build a relationship. And that’s what I wanted to do. If this wasn’t kismet, what was?

I looked at the clock again: 6:55. This was what Einstein meant when he said time was relative.

I couldn’t call her before eight o’clock in the evening. But at that hour, she and her daughter might be out to dinner. So I had to call either earlier or later.

I decided I’d call in the afternoon to make sure she got back safely. Or was that too cloying? Women hated being patronized, and who could blame them?

On the other hand, she’d be tired when she arrived in Paris. She might want to nap in the afternoon. So I should call before the nap. Or after the nap?

I looked at the clock again. 6:57.

I got up, pulled on some clothes, and went downstairs in search of coffee.

CHAPTER 44

Daisy

T
here I was, racing by cab to catch a flight back to Paris after having been up all night with a handsome, kind, intelligent man. It felt like something on the Lifetime channel.

I pulled out a compact and checked my face, expecting to see a wrinkled old hag.

Instead, I found a woman who looked like a prettier, younger version of myself. I couldn’t help grinning at the image in the mirror.

As the cab pulled into the departing flights area, I applied lipstick and pulled my hair up into a topknot—my cleaning lady hairstyle, as Coco called it.

“Merci, er, gracias,” I said to the driver, handing him forty euros.

“De nada, guapa,” he said as he carried my bag to the curb. Then he winked at me.

“Uh, right,” I said.

I made my way through the security checkpoint and found my gate. The boarding process had already begun, so I knew I wouldn’t have time to get coffee. I gazed with envy at a man holding a steaming cup of black coffee. He looked American or British. He saw me staring at his coffee.

“That’s what I need,” I said, smiling.

“Here,” he replied. “Take it. I haven’t touched it yet.”

“Oh, God, no,” I said, laughing. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. I’ll get some on the plane.”

He smiled and, unless I was crazy, he subtly checked me out.

What was going on? First the cabdriver and now this? Was I giving off the I’ve-been-up-all-night-with-a-man vibe? Maybe so. But I hadn’t slept with him, for heaven’s sake. I couldn’t have a sex afterglow. So why all the attention?

Minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants began distributing lukewarm coffee and rubbery croissants. Had I not been famished and caffeine deprived, I would’ve passed on both. But instead, I ate and drank with pleasure until we hit a bumpy spot and I spilled coffee on my slacks.

“Shit,” I murmured.

A man across the aisle smiled at me and handed me his napkin.

Okay, this was getting ridiculous. Men never looked at me anymore. Well, with the possible exception of creepy men who stuck notes in my purse. Maybe I should stay up all night more often.

I glanced through the in-flight magazine distractedly, but I couldn’t muster the energy to focus. So I closed my eyes and thought about Andrew.

He was nice, wasn’t he? It wasn’t just my imagination. He was kind and smart and arty. And he was honest. And, my God, the story about his sister. How generous of him to adopt her baby.

I drifted off, dreamily, thinking of Andrew and his son.

When we landed, I went straight to the airport exit and found the waiting line of cabs.

“Montmartre,” I said, climbing in the first available taxi.

A half hour later I was walking in the door of Solange’s apartment. Poor Coco was cocooned in her futon, right where I’d left her. Nestled in a blanket, she looked like a tragic ballerina in
Swan Lake.

“Sweet baby girl,” I said, kissing her awake. “Are you feeling better?”

“No,” she said, sniffling. “A million times worse.”

I put my hand to her forehead. She felt cool to the touch. I kissed her again. Her cheeks tasted salty.

“Can I make you some toast?” I asked. “Or hot tea?”

“No.” She sighed, covering her eyes. “I need to take a shower.”

She crawled out from under her covers. She was wearing her favorite flannel pajamas.

“Your jammies,” I said. “Did your bag finally arrive?”

“Huh?” Coco said, looking down at herself. “Oh, yeah. Someone, uh, delivered it here yesterday.”

“That’s great, honey,” I said. “I bet it was the stress of not having your things that made you feel sick.”

Coco turned and gave me a glacial stare. “No, that’s
not
what it was. So can we just
drop
it?”

Oh, God. Here we go again.

“And it probably means I won’t even get the freakin’ five hundred
dollars,
” she said, schlepping toward the bathroom.

She was slamming the bathroom door behind her just as the phone rang.

“I’m sure we can still get you that money,” I yelled toward her. And then, without thinking clearly, I picked up the ringing phone.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hi, it’s me, Andrew. Is it okay for me to call and make sure you got back okay?”

CHAPTER 45

Webb

W
here have you
been
?” Dad boomed when I finally got back to the hotel. It was almost eight thirty that night.

“I had to, uh, go get my bag,” I said.

He looked at the black duffel I was carrying. “Oh. Is that yours?”

“Yeah,” I confirmed, sitting on the bed. “Finally, huh?”

I was hungry, thirsty, tired, and stiff from the long train ride. Plus, a low-grade depression was setting in—a result of my lackluster performance with Coco. Dad, on the other hand, seemed weirdly energetic. I hoped it wasn’t fueled by his anger at me.

“So?” Dad said. “What’d you think?”

“About . . . ?”

“The show. Last night.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “Right, right, right. It was . . . cool. It looked . . .
great
.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” Dad said, smiling. He sure seemed to be in a good mood. “I thought all that digital stuff would appeal to you.”

“Uh-huh,” I said. I felt like a complete jerk for missing Dad’s big night. “I’d like to see it again. Tomorrow maybe?”

“Let’s do that,” he said. “We should go to the Prado, too. I know we went there last time we were here, but it’s worth another visit.”

“Okay.”

“And I haven’t had my fill of tapas yet,” Dad continued. “Have you?”

“No, I’m starving.”

“Then let’s go get some dinner,” Dad said, mussing up my hair. “Good job getting your bag, Webb. I was afraid that thing was a goner.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Me, too.”

We walked to a narrow street called Cava Baja and ate appetizers off little plates. Dad was digging the squid and octopus. My favorite was tortilla Española, which isn’t a tortilla at all, but more like a cold potato omelet, which sounds worse than squid, but it’s really good. Dad ordered beers for both of us.

“I wish we had the same approach to drinking that Europeans have,” Dad said. “Kids here grow up drinking with their families. Not a lot. Just a little. So then when they go off to college, drinking doesn’t occupy such a huge role, like it does back home.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, trying to force the beer down. It tasted like dirty socks and reminded me of stinky cheese.

“The stories you hear of binge drinking on college campuses,” Dad continued, shaking his head. “And alcohol poisoning. Moderation might sound boring, Webb, but it can save your life.”

“Yeah,” I said, remembering with horror the sound of the cheese dropping into the toilet. No wonder Coco looked suicidal when I emerged from the bathroom. Or did she look homicidal? I could tell she wanted to kill somebody. Most likely me.

When we got back to the hotel, Dad put his arm around my shoulder. “Let me guess,” he said. “You want to duck into the business center one last time tonight.”

“That’s okay,” I said.

“No, no,” Dad said, all jokey and nice. “Go ahead. I’ve got to make a phone call, anyway. Somewhat personal. I’ll see you upstairs.”

I retreated to the business center and logged on. I had no new messages, so I started writing one.

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Strangers on a Train Platform—After-Action Report
Hey there, Blouse Girl. Just wanted to say thanks for letting me visit.
I hope I didn’t do irreparable harm to your psyche with my singing.
One complaint: You didn’t tell me how pretty you are. That was a nice surprise. Thanks for spotting me 20 euros for the trip home. I’ll pay you back with interest when we

I stopped. When we
what
? Saw each other again? She wouldn’t want to see me again. When we got back home? She might not want to give me her home address. I remembered the way she looked at me when she was trying to tear her bag out of my arms. When we . . .

BOOK: In the Bag
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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