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Authors: Kate Brian

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BOOK: Lucky T
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"What's all this?" she asked.

"I need my T-shirt back," Carrie said, every muscle in her body coiled.

"Sorry to barge in, Ceil," her mother added.

Celia looked from Carrie to her mother and back again. "I'm sorry. What T-shirt?" She turned and walked back into the house, leaving the door agape.

Carrie followed, trying hard not to let her panic and impatience get the best of her. She had known Celia her entire life and the snail's pace at which the woman did everything other than talk sometimes drove her up a wall. But even if she did have some freakish tendencies, like her Wicca cooking group, her multicultural anti-Thanksgiving feast, and her ability to fluently speak Tolkien's Elven language, Celia was to her mother as Piper was to Carrie. She was kind and had always been there for them, so it would have been incredibly uncouth to tear her head off.

They followed Celia into her sunroom, where her daughter, Doreen, sat on the divan repeating foreign language words back to the CD player.

Doreen's nose was buried in a travel guide for India. She was wearing a Beauty and the Beast on Broadway sweatshirt and black jeans. Her waist-length black hair hung in two heavy braids down her back. Carrie always thought that with a trendy haircut and some non-fleece wardrobe items, Doreen might actually be pretty, but no matter how hard Carrie had tried to convince her over the years, Doreen had zero interest in changing. In fact, the only thing that had changed was Doreen's attitude, which went from sweet to smart-ass as soon as Carrie and Piper became best buddies.

At one time, many, many moons ago, Carrie, Piper, and Doreen had all been close friends, although Doreen was a year behind them in school. Carrie and Piper used to like putting on musicals in Doreen's basement, watching Nickelodeon, and reading princess books. But when Carrie and Piper had hit fifth grade, suddenly they didn't care about those things anymore. Carrie was acting in actual plays, participating in sports, and going to parties. Piper never left Carrie's side. Even though it wasn't intentional, Doreen was left behind, and the wedge between them got bigger once she began attending a private alternative Pass/Fail day school, which Carrie thought made Doreen feel entitled to act all superior. Now when Carrie was in Doreen's presence, all she got was lip, which Carrie had to ignore if both their parents were in the room. Otherwise Carrie went toe-to-toe with Doreen every chance she got.

uMangsho! Meat!" Doreen repeated the monotone voice on the CD.

"Look who's here!" Celia announced, as if there wasn't a thick panic in the air that demanded immediate attention.

Doreen barely glanced up from her book. "Hey, boka," she said flatly.

"Hey," Carrie replied. She was pretty sure that Doreen just insulted her there, but she couldn't prove it.

"We're studying up on our Bengali for our trip to India this summer," Celia said excitedly, her green eyes sparkling. "You know, most people in India speak Hindu, but it Calcutta, where we're going, Bengali is the most widely spoken language."

"Real y? That's interesting," Carrie said quickly. Normally she might actually have asked follow-up questions about trivia like this, but at the moment she couldn't have cared less. "Celia, I--"

"We'll be leaving two weeks after the school year ends and we'll be staying at a hostel with these friends of mine from the Peace Corps," Celia continued. "Oh, they can't wait to have us. You should see the amount of work that needs to be done over there, Melena," she added, addressing Carrie's mother. "It's just so tragic--"

"Um, Celia?" Carrie attempted to interrupt.

"Bhat! Rice!" Doreen announced, and then tugged at the sleeve of her oversized sweatshirt.

"Their people have no place to sleep, almost nothing to eat," Celia continued. "We'll be helping build housing for a number of underprivileged families.

You wouldn't believe ..."

Carrie shot her mom a "help me" look. Her mother returned a "what can I do?" expression. No one ever got a word in edgewise once Celia got off on one of her ramblings.

"It will be hard work, but we're ready for it, aren't we, Doreen?"

"Svikara!" Doreen shouted before pulling one of her braids over her shoulder so she could stick the end of it in her mouth.

"That means 'affirmative,'" Celia said, temporarily distracted from her story. "Doreen, please don't chew on your hair." Doreen dropped her braid and Carrie grabbed her opportunity.

"Celia, where's the stuff my mom gave you for Help India?" she blurted, the words coming out in a rush. "My favorite T-shirt was in there."

Celia stared at her, stunned, as if she had forgotten Carrie and her mother were there for a reason. She blinked and looked around her and for a split second Carrie had hope. If Celia was looking around, that meant the shirt was still here somewhere. Maybe in this very room. She was so close she could practically feel the soft cotton beneath her fingertips.

"Oh, Carrie, I'm sorry," Celia said, finally focusing on Carrie's face again. "The Airway Express people picked those boxes up a couple of hours ago."

Carrie suddenly felt nauseated for the second time that day. She sat down on the closest footrest and put her head between her legs. Vivid flashes of triumphant moments with the T flashed through her mind--winning the eighth-grade poetry contest, scoring a first-floor locker right near both the exit and the bathroom, getting the last size six of that to-die-for dress for the freshman dance. Was this what it was like to have your life flash before your eyes?

"I'm sorry, Carrie," her mother said, rubbing her back.

"Oh, wait. I've got the receipt right here," Celia said suddenly. "We can call them. Maybe we can still get it back."

Carrie's head jerked up so fast she gave herself whiplash. The pink slip of paper looked like gold to her. Celia rushed out and came back a moment later with a cordless phone. She dialed the number and held the phone to her ear, smiling encouragingly at Carrie.

"Hel o? Yes, I'm calling to inquire about packages I sent out this afternoon. I'd like to stop them if I can," Celia said into the phone, glancing hopefully at Carrie, who crossed her fingers on both hands.

"Yes, the receipt number is 2789457," Celia said.

Time froze. Carrie couldn't breathe. Her mother's hand stopped moving on her back. "Jawl! Water!" Doreen could be heard shouting in the background.

"Yes, I see. Well, thank you for checking," Celia said. She looked down and hit the off button on the phone. "I'm sorry, dear. The plane has already left for India."

"No!" That was it. Carrie crumbled right there in front of everyone. The tears finally let fly and she pressed the cuffs of her sweater sleeves into her eyes, bending at the waist. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. "Nonononono!"

She saw the whole gut-wrenching scene in her mind's eye. It was really gone. Gone forever. It was too horrifying to contemplate.

"It's just a T-shirt, Carrie," Doreen said. "God, could you be any more dramatic?"

Carrie had never wanted to strangle anyone so much in her life. She got up and ran out of the room, through the house, and back out the front door. A light drizzle was just starting to fall as she raced across the road and dove into her mother's environmentally conscious car. This couldn't be. She could not imagine what her life would be without her lucky T. Her good luck was over. Gone. Kaput. What would her future look like now?

Carrie began to miss her father with a longing, twisting ache. She imagined the last time they were together, which was almost a year ago. He was on a layover in San Francisco, en route on a long international flight. She begged her mom to take her to the airport so that she could see him. Carrie's mom waited outside in the car, not willing to escort her daughter inside and risk running into him. Carrie and her dad spent fifteen minutes eating at a Pizza Hut Express, talking about boys and sports. Right before he had to board the plane, her father picked her up in this enormously tight hug and told her that he loved her. Then she watched him walk away.

And now it was as if he was-gone all over again.

The driver's side door opened and Carrie's mother got in. "Oh, sweetie," she said. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea that shirt meant so much to you."

"It's okay. It's . . . it's not your fault," Carrie said flatly, realizing now that she should have confided in her mother about the lucky T a long time ago, because if she had, there was no way her mom would have given it away, even if the charity pile had been completely wrapped in it.

"Do you want to go get something to eat?" her mother asked. "I'll even take you to McDonald's."

Carrie shook her head. She appreciated the gesture, but the last thing she wanted to do just then was eat.

"Thanks anyway, Mom," she said. "I just wanna go home."

As soon as Carrie went up to her bedroom, she picked up the phone and called Piper. Thankfully, she picked up on the first ring.

"Hey, Carrie, what's--"

"Piper, the worst thing in the world just happened," Carrie sobbed.

"Oh my God, you sound frantic. Are your parents okay?" Piper asked with concern.

"Yes, they're fine," Carrie said, trying to get a hold of herself. "It's just that . . . my . . . my lucky T . . . is . . . GONE!"

There was silence on the line for a minute.

"Piper, you still there?"

"Did you just say your lucky T-shirt is gone? Because I swear it sounded like someone had just bludgeoned your entire family to death."

Carrie let out a little bit of a laugh as she flopped facedown on her bed. "Be serious, okay? I'm really upset about this."

"I know, I know," Piper said. "Why don't you retrace your steps and try to remember where you left it?"

"No, it's not lost. It's gone. As in accidentally given to Celia's clothing drive and then shipped off to India," Carrie said in a wobbly voice.

"Whoa, that's not good," Piper replied.

"No, it's worse than 'not good.' It's abysmally tragic!"

"Carrie, you know I love you, but I think you're freaking out way too much about this."

"Of course I'm freaking out! Did we not talk about this today? Did I not tell you what the shirt means to me?" Carrie was becoming extremely agitated by Piper's nonchalant attitude.

"Yes, you're right. I'm sorry," Piper said. "I just wish there was some way I could get you to see that everything will be okay."

"Me too," Carrie said, sniffling.

"Want me to come over?"

"No, Jason's going to pick me up soon," Carrie said while burying her head in a pillow.

"Well, when I was sad, my grandfather always used to say this," Piper said. "A penny saved is just another damn thing for the cat to knock off the dresser."

Carrie rolled over on her back and looked up at the ceiling , feeling hopeless. "How is that helpful in any way?"

"I have no idea," Piper said. "My grandfather was crazy. It's the only thing he ever said to me that made even the slightest amount of sense."

Leave it to Piper to make Carrie laugh at a time like this.

Chapter Three

When Carrie saw Jason standing on her doorstep that evening, she understood firsthand the meaning of the phrase "a sight for sore eyes." Hers were definitely sore from crying away half the afternoon, and just looking at him in his American Eagle rugby shirt and rugged FCUK denim jacket, his light brown hair perfectly tousled and his blue eyes all soulful, made her feel instantly, if not totally, better.

"I'm so glad to see you," she said, stepping out and closing the door behind her. It was pouring now, which meant that Carrie had to cuddle close to him under the awning in order to stay dry. Not that she minded. Being next to Jason's warm athlete's body always made her feel tingly all over.

Jason squirmed a bit. "Actually, I was thinking maybe I'd come in for a while."

"Would you mind if we went somewhere else? I've had such a bad day and I'd really like to shake it off," Carrie said. She didn't even bother waiting for a response. Instead Carrie pulled the hood on her rain jacket up over her face and ran down the stairs. The rain pounded against the vinyl around her ears and she ducked quickly into his Jeep, which was double-parked in front of the gate.

Jason climbed in a second later, shook his head, and groaned. "I hate rain."

"You hate it? My hair's been a frizz ball ever since it started," Carrie grumbled. If she had her T-shirt, it might not be sunny and dry, but she'd definitely look perfect right about now. "I must look awful, huh?"

She waited for him to tell her that she was crazy and that she looked amazing, but he didn't even glance in her direction. Unbelievable. Wasn't that standard boyfriend protocol? She started to feel a rumbling in her stomach-- a tell tale sign that she was getting real anxious. Carrie tried to push her concern aside and forced a smile.

"So, where're we going?" she asked, hoping he'd planned a fun evening for them. Thankfully, it was their anniversary. She needed a major distraction.

She needed romantic candlelight. She needed some big-time lovin'.

"Carrie, I'm sorry you've had a bad day . . . but I was hoping we could talk," Jason said, running his hand along the steering wheel, down, up, down, up.

He was obviously nervous. Carrie could see a little bit of sweat gleaming on his forehead.

"Okay ..." Carrie said apprehensively. "Talk about what?"

"About . . . us," Jason said, hazarding a weak glance in her direction.

Okay, bad sign. Jason wasn't a talker to begin with and tonight Carrie was planning on cracking him open and seeing what was inside. But from the look on his face, which was pretty panic-stricken, she had a strong feeling that whatever was happening in his mind was not good at all . Her emotions already raw, she felt her breath start to quicken and began wringing her hands.

"What about us?" she asked.

"I just ... I don't know if it's . . . working out," Jason mumbled while staring out at the droplets popping against the windshield.

Oh my God, this is not happening, Carrie thought.

"What's not working out?" she asked, accessing her emergency calm reserve as quickly as possible. "I don't understand."

BOOK: Lucky T
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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