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Authors: Kate Brian

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BOOK: Lucky T
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She was thinking about him seconds ago and he called her practically at the same time. That had to be a good sign. It was as if the planets in the universe were aligning again.

Carrie hit the talk button and smiled. "Hey, Dad!"

"Hey, Carrie Ann. How's everything?" he asked.

"Fine," Carrie lied. It wouldn't do any good to upset him with the weird and unsettling truth. "How're you?"

"Okay, but I have some bad news," he said.

Carrie sat down on the edge of her bed. Of course you do, she thought. Is there any other kind now?

"I know that we had plans for a father-daughter weekend, but a bunch of pilots have come down with this bizarre bird flu and the rest of us need to pick up the slack," he said. "So unfortunately I have to go to Tokyo instead."

"Tokyo?" Carrie was stunned. She hadn't seen her father in almost a year. And he had promised he would come to San Francisco for some quality bonding time. There might have even been a "no matter what" attached.

"I'm really sorry, kiddo," he said.

Carrie bit her lip. "But Dad, I--"

"I know, I know," her father said, cutting her off. "It's been a while, honey, and I miss you like crazy. I'll come out and visit as soon as I possibly can. I've just been having some really bad luck lately."

Carrie slid from the bed to the floor and closed her eyes. She knew all too wel where her dad was coming from, but she couldn't bring herself to confide in him about losing the lucky T. She also couldn't bring herself to tell him how badly she needed him to be a more constant fixture in her life.

Sporadic phone call s, letters, and e-mails just weren't enough. Carrie wanted a close relationship with her dad more than anything, and this distance seemed too difficult to overcome. If she let her emotions gush, she thought that she might feel a lot better and her dad might come around. But what if he didn't? She couldn't take that kind of rejection right now. So Carrie just sucked it up and said, "I understand."

This keeping-her-feelings-locked-up thing wasn't suiting her at all . Carrie's eyes began to tear up right after she'd spoken.

"I hate disappointing you like this," her father said. "I swear right after this Tokyo trip, I'll be on the next flight to California."

The tears were falling at geyser strength now. She felt so awful for not believing him.

"Ugh, they're calling my flight. I have to go," he said. "I'll call you as soon as I can. And remember, I adore you."

"I know, Dad. Fly safe," Carrie said, her voice cracking.

"Always," he said. "Good-bye."

Carrie hung up the phone and let out a heavy sigh. There was nothing good about "good-byes" at all .

On the final day of school Carrie began the dreaded task of cleaning out her locker. There were huge trash cans strewn about the hal way and her fellow classmates were taking great joy in dumping everything they had accumulated over the past year into the garbage. It was supposed to be this cleansing ritual/"summer's here" celebration, but Carrie wasn't looking forward to it. Going through her stuff meant having to remember how good she had it until recently, and there was nothing cleansing about that experience in the least.

Carrie's stomach churned as she rifled through three- ring binders and five-subject Mead notebooks. She came across some funny sketches that Piper had drawn of their English teacher, Mr. Purtel , in some R-rated poses. She found a crumpled-up piece of construction paper that had Hey, what's up? written on it. Yep, Jason and his astounding verbal skil s just couldn't be matched. On the top shelf there was a pair of shorts she had borrowed from Piper when she forgot her gym clothes and a mix CD of cheesy disco songs, which Piper had made the day she figured out how to work her burner. And on the way bottom of her locker was a photo of her, Jason, and Piper at last year's Fourth of July Waterfront Festival on Pier 39. Jason was in the middle with his eyes closed. Piper was sticking her tongue out and pulling the tip of her nose up. And Carrie looked as if she hadn't laughed so hard in her life.

God, this is depressing, she thought. Maybe I should down this whole bottle of expired Advil I just found and be done with it.

But before she could OD on old ibuprofen, a familiar voice came out of nowhere.

"Hi, Carrie."

It was Piper.

Carrie turned around and looked into her best friend's eyes. She saw Piper was hurting, but with each step of her approach, thoughts about that awful day came rushing back into Carrie's head. It was too much to bear, so Carrie closed the door of her locker and began to walk away.

"Carrie, don't do this," Piper called out after her. "Please, you've been avoiding me for weeks."

Carrie was heading for the front door of the school, knowing that as soon as she hit the sidewalk, she was going to make a run for it. But she could also hear Piper closing in on her. Piper might not be speedy or athletic, but she was persistent as hel . There was no way she was letting Carrie get out of shouting range.

"You know I'm going to follow you all the way home and hold a candlelight vigil outside your door until you break down and talk to me," Piper said, reaching out to put a hand on Carrie's shoulder.

"Leave me alone, Piper," Carrie grunted, shrugging away from her. "I have nothing to say to you."

"I can't believe you're still mad. What did I do that was so awful?" Piper said, blocking Carrie's path.

This comment only made things worse. Of course she was still mad! Piper had let Carrie down when she needed her the most, and she didn't even know what she did wrong. What was up with this girl? Didn't she read Cosmo? Women have got to stick together!

"I can't believe how clueless you are," Carrie said sharply. "I'm angry at you because you ditched me for Jason!"

"No, I didn't," Piper replied tersely.

"Fine, whatever," Carrie said while rolling her eyes. "I'm leaving now."

"You're being so unreasonable. This isn't like you at all ," Piper murmured.

"Yeah? Well, I was a wreck that night when Jason broke up with me. I thought you were going to come to my rescue and tell that idiot to get lost, but instead you were, like, his messenger or something," Carrie barked. "That wasn't what I expected you to do either, so if I'm not being myself, you should just deal."

"I wasn't trying to hurt you. This is all a big misunderstanding."

"No, I understand perfectly. You just can't admit that you screwed up."

Piper looked down at her feet. "Carrie, I don't know what you want me to do."

Then all the hurt Carrie was feeling inside came out in three short, harsh words: "Just go away."

"If that's what you want," Piper said sadly, her lower lip trembling.

Deep down, Carrie knew what she really wanted. To go back in time, save her lucky T, and undo this entire mess. But that was just a pointless wish, and before Carrie could take back what she'd said, Piper was down the hal , out the front doors of the school, and gone from her life. Possibly for good.

Chapter Four

"Like sands through the hourglass . . . so are the days of our lives. ..."

Carrie shoved an entire Fudge-Covered Oreo into her mouth and chomped down as she bent over her left thumbnail with her nail polish wand. The familiar hourglass spun around against a blue backdrop. Carrie had never been big on soap operas. She'd always been a little too active to sit on her butt for an hour at a time and watch television. But in the last week, that had changed. Sometimes she could sit through an entire twenty minutes of one of these things without even flipping the channel. Sometimes twenty-five.

A commercial came on--some lady dancing across the screen like a whacked-out maniac with her mop-- and Carrie moved on to her other hand. This was her third nail polish color this week. Another Carrie Fitzgerald first. Nails had never been much of a priority.

"Well, this is depressing," her mother said, leaning against the doorway.

Carrie looked up, so brain dead it took her a second to process what was wrong with this picture. Then it hit her. It was Friday. She was supposed to be alone, just as she was most hours of her life these days.

"What're you doing home?" she asked finally, glancing at the clock.

"I thought I'd have lunch with my daughter today," her mother said, walking over and picking up the package of Fudge-Covered Oreos, the cereal bowl from that morning, and the empty Snapple bottle at Carrie's feet. "But I see you've already covered the four food groups-- sugar, chocolate, caffeine, and more sugar."

Carrie blew out a sigh and rolled her eyes. Sometimes her mom could be such a mom.

"So, I'm wondering, are you planning on seeing the outdoors at all this summer?" her mother asked. She walked over to the bay window and with her free hand yanked the heavy curtains aside, thereby permanently blinding her one and only child. Dust bounced across the bright beams of light.

"God, Mom! Could you at least warn me?" Carrie asked, squinting.

Sunglasses, she thought. I have to start bringing my sunglasses with me to the TV room.

"When did you become so cranky?" her mother asked. "I don't even know who I'm living with anymore."

"I'm Carrie. Nice to meet you," Carrie said flatly, her eyes on her nails.

"Oh, yeah. That's real funny," her mother said, flicking off the television. Carrie slumped her head back against the couch cushions. She was sending every signal she had in her arsenal. Couldn't her mother tell she just wanted to mope her life away? "Why don't you go to the pool?" her mom asked. "It's gorgeous outside."

"Because Jason's lifeguarding, Mom," Carrie said.

"Okay, so call Piper," her mother suggested.

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not talking to Piper," Carrie said, trying to be patient. "Besides, she's at theater camp right now."

"Didn't you sign up for that too?" Carrie's mother asked.

Carrie's hands flopped to her sides, but she made sure to keep her wet nails free of the faux suede couch. "Yeah, but I didn't go because Piper is there, Mom!"

"Listen, I understand that this breakup with Jason hurts," her mother said, grabbing a few magazines and adding them to the load in her arms. "But your friendship with Piper, that's not something you want to give up on. Why don't you tell me what's happening with you guys? Maybe I can help."

Carrie swal owed hard. The thought about rehashing everything with her mom wasn't appealing, considering that she might spiral downward again. At least now Carrie was mad enough that she could hold it together without bursting into tears every hour on the hour. Talking about it would just take her two steps back in the recovery process. She was in the anger stage, and she liked it there.

"Mom, I just don't feel like talking. Maybe later."

Carrie's mom laid a gentle hand on her daughter's shoulder. "The least I can do is feed you some real food." Then her mom went into the kitchen and began going through the clutter of stainless steel pots in the cupboards over the sink.

Preferring to let her mind turn into mush rather than go into the other room and confide in her mom, Carrie grabbed the remote and turned the TV on again. Marlena was throwing some kind of fit in front of her kids. Carrie groaned. She hated Marlena. Why didn't they just kil the woman off already? They didn't seem to mind axing everyone else on these shows. One week of watching and she had already witnessed three murders--one guy died driving off a cliff after he found out his wife was cheating on him with his father, one lady bit the dust after being struck by lightning while being held hostage in a lighthouse by her cross-dressing ex- lover, and some doctor was shot by an angry husband who blamed him for messing up his mistress's brain transplant surgery.

Carrie pulled her eyes from the set and looked outside. The sky was a perfect, pristine blue. It was probably about eighty-five degrees out there.

Carrie could just imagine the scene at the pool. Little kids jumping off the diving board, trying to make bigger splashes than their friends. Bigger kids were probably hurling themselves off the high dive in order to show off for the middle school girls. Abby Simpson and her posse were most likely in their bikinis, slathering on the suntan lotion, trying to get Jason and the other lifeguards to look their way.

Then suddenly all the negative thoughts started pouring into her brain. If she went to the pool, everyone would be talking about her breakup with Jason.

They'd be watching them and whispering. Besides, if she had to watch Jason flirt with someone else, she just might go psycho in front of the entire pool-

going community.

Carrie buried her head in the throw pillows that were on the couch. She held her hands outward because she wasn't sure if her enamel was fully dry yet. As she breathed in the calming scent of Febreze, her mind began to wander into Piper territory. Carrie reflected on what her mom said about how important their friendship was and that she shouldn't just let it go. Perhaps she shouldn't have been so hard on Piper. After all , people make mistakes. But before Carrie could really think about forgiving her, she remembered how awful she felt the night Jason broke up with her and how Piper had acted. It was something she just couldn't get past. Piper was supposed to be the one person in her life who never abandoned her.

And maybe if Carrie's lucky T hadn't been deported to another country, things between her and Piper would be just as they were.

A couple of hours later Carrie was still in front of the TV, fast flipping through the news channels. She paused when she saw the word India scrol across the top of the screen. Carrie took a quick glance at the station ID in the lower-left-hand corner: the Travel Network.

"And now back to 'Calcutta: City in Crisis,'" the voice-over guy said.

Heart in her throat, Carrie hit the info button on her digital remote control. It was a two-hour-long special on Calcutta, India. Carrie stared at the images of the crowded streets, bustling marketplaces, and temples gleaming in the sun. Somewhere in this place was her most prized possession--the T-shirt that had been responsible for every big moment in her life.

BOOK: Lucky T
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