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Authors: Kate Brian

Lucky T (7 page)

BOOK: Lucky T
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Dropping the remote, Carrie pulled her foot up onto the couch to get to work on her toenails. She dipped the nail polish wand into the bottle a few times and then bent forward past her knee, sticking her tongue out in concentration. Just before touching polish to nail, she glanced up at the television to find a group of men and women pulling clothes off the back of a flatbed truck and placing them into boxes.

"Workers sort donated clothes to be shipped to various aid organizations around the city," the announcer said. "This particular day's load will be sent off to a local women's shelter where single mothers are given the help they need to find work and--"

Suddenly Carrie dropped the nail polish and it spilled to the floor. It couldn't be . . . but it was! The woman in the center of the screen, smiling self-

consciously at the camera, was folding her lucky T!

"Oh my God!" Carrie cried, clutching the sides of the TV set in a death grip. "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

She stared at the T-shirt as it was loaded into a box and sealed with brown tape. She watched the box as it was tossed to another aid worker and then loaded into the back of a van. And then the scene was gone, replaced by a bunch of schoolchildren in plaid uniforms, running down the street. It was almost like it had never happened.

But it had. Carrie had seen her T-shirt. She knew exactly where it was.

"Calcutta," Carrie said breathlessly. "A women's shelter in Calcutta."

This was truly divine intervention. It had to be. When did she ever watch the Travel Network? And what were the chances of her catching this very bit of the two-hour program?

Suddenly Carrie began dancing around the room, even though the happy music she was hearing was only inside her own head. She couldn't control her elation. In a split second Carrie went from being a step away from calling a teen hotline to being joyous over finding her lucky T. Well, she hadn't technically found it yet, but she knew its general whereabouts, which was a lot more than she knew before.

Now all she had to do was get to Calcutta . . . and Carrie Fitzgerald, luckiest girl alive, would be back in business once again.

The next morning was a beautiful, sun-drenched Saturday. Carrie walked downstairs, clutching a piece of wrinkled paper in both hands. She read her speech over for the fiftieth time, her lips moving as she attempted to commit it to memory. It was imperative that she sound sincere or else she wasn't going to get as far as the San Francisco city limits.

Dressed in the stretchy pants and oversized-T-shirt combo she always wore to Pilates class, her mother was hovering over the stove, whipping up a couple of egg- white western omelets. As always, the kitchen was the brightest and cheeriest room in the house. Carrie's mom spent most of her time here and had decorated it with that in mind. While the rest of the house was jammed with secondhand furniture--riddled with broken drawers, wobbly legs, and random stains-- the kitchen was state-of-the-art. Silver countertops gleamed against cobalt blue tiling that rose from the floor halfway up the wall, where they gave way to light blue paint. Glass fish of all shapes and sizes swam along the top of the wall just below the ceiling, and every dish, bowl, and platter was another shade of blue or blue-green. Carrie's mother always felt most at peace near the ocean, so she had turned her work space into a tribute to the deep sea.

Carrie stepped into the room, hoping for the tranquility that her mother swore this kitchen brought her. Yeah, not so much. Her nerves were more frayed than the checkerboard throw rug in her bedroom. She took a deep breath and shoved the speech into the back pocket of her dark indigo DKNY jeans.

"Hey, Mom," she said brightly.

Her mother visibly jumped. "You're up early," she said, glancing over her shoulder. "And you're dressed. Are you on your way to snapping yourself out of this funk you've been in?"

"I'm trying to," Carrie said casually, slipping onto one of the stools at the counter. She leaned over and picked out an apple from the fruit bowl and began rolling it around on the marble countertop with both her hands. "I know I've been very moody lately."

"Moody is one way to describe it," her mother said, raising one eyebrow. Already Carrie could tell she was suspicious--and she knew why. Carrie rarely ever inferred that she was wrong and never had fully admitted to such. But she wasn't about to stop now. She was on a mission.

"So, Mom, I was thinking about things," she said, trying to sound casual. Her mother lifted the pan from the stove and slipped one of the omelets onto a plate in front of Carrie.

"And you wanted to talk with me about what's been bothering you?" she prompted.

"Uh . . . maybe."

Carrie didn't expect her mom to throw her a curve like that. Now she was all off-kilter. She tried to envision the written words in her mind. The page was burning a hole in her pocket.

Her mother eyed her expectantly as she served up another omelet for herself. She slid the other stool around to her side of the counter so she could face Carrie while she ate. "Maybe, huh? Well, I was really hoping you'd let me into that cabeza of yours. The easiest way to start this off is for you to tell me what's on your mind right now."

"I ... uh ... I think I'm getting a newfound appreciation for Indian culture," Carrie said, wondering if the speech was as moronic on paper as it sounded coming out of her mouth.

"Indian culture," her mother repeated. "Right."

"Well, India, India. Not American Indian," Carrie clarified. "You know, Gandhi and all that. So I was thinking maybe I could go to India with Celia and Doreen. I mean you keep telling me to get out of the house. ..."

Her mother eyed her dubiously. "You want to go to India."

"Yeah," Carrie said, her stomach turning.

"With Celia and Doreen."

"Sure do." That was the part Carrie was least sure about, actually. Weeks on end with Dor-mean? Carrie would need to brush up on the art of verbal self-defense because that girl didn't know when to back off.

"And this has nothing to do with a certain T-shirt that was given away a month ago?" her mother asked.

"What?" Carrie's face turned bright red. "No! Why would you say that?"

"Carrie, I know you said that this shirt means a lot to you, but you cannot go halfway around the world to track it down," her mother said, chopping up her omelet, then scooping up the pieces with a slice of multigrain toast. "There are a bil ion people in India. Even if you went there, the chances that you'd find it are practically nil."

"But Mom, I--"

"I'm sorry, honey. It's out of the question."

"Wait, Mom," Carrie said determinedly. "You can't just say no like that. You don't understand. It's not just any T-shirt. It's . . . It's ..."

Her mother stopped eating and waited, watching Carrie as she struggled to find something to say. Sure, she could tell her that the shirt was lucky, and she'd probably get the same response that she got from Piper, which was somewhere in between, "Aw, that's cute," and, "Are you freaking nuts?" But then her mom would wonder why she thought it had magical powers, and she'd have to invoke the evil palindrome: D-A-D.

"It's what, Carrie?" her-mom asked. "What's so important that I should let my one and only daughter fly off on her own to a foreign country?"

"It's . . ." Carrie stared into her mother's eyes. She'd always been there for her. She was the only person Carrie could trust more than Piper. Maybe she could get away with telling her the truth. Maybe it wouldn't open up this Pandora's box in her mom's still -vulnerable heart. Anyway, wasn't it her mom's job to put whatever she felt aside so that she could help Carrie feel better? Wasn't that what mothers were supposed to do, listen to their kids, even when it might be difficult to hear what they had to say?

"Carrie, what's going on?" her mother prompted.

Carrie closed her eyes, crossed her fingers on both hands, and said it. "Dad gave me the shirt and told me it would bring me good luck. And he was right, Mom. It did. That's why I have to get it back."

When she opened her eyes again, cautiously, her mother was gaping at her. "What?"

"You don't have to believe me, Mom. You just have to trust me," Carrie said, moving forward on her seat. "You know that there is no way I would ask you to ship me off to India with Celia and Doreen unless it was really, really important."

Her mom shifted her weight on the stool as if she were uncomfortable. Then she ran both her hands through her hair. Carrie knew she was in trouble.

The hands-through-the-hair technique was the major form of stress release for many of the women in her family.

"Carrie, I don't know what to say," her mother said, slumping forward so her elbows rested on the counter. "I can't believe your father would put a notion like this in your head. It's so typical of him."

The battle had begun.

"Mom, it's not a notion, and Dad didn't put anything in my head. I believe that it's real and that's all that matters, right?" Carrie replied, trying not to sound too bold but wanting to remain firm in her convictions.

"Of course it matters, honey. But here's the thing. Parents have to be responsible and make choices that are in the best interest of their children." Her mom took in a deep breath. "So I'm going to have to say no, Carrie. I don't like having to say it at all , but I feel like this is a bad idea."

Carrie felt her skin getting hot and prickly from the intense anxiety and she was almost knocking on the door of The T Zone. But she'd try one more rational argument before blowing up.

Deep breath.

"It's not like I'd be going by myself. I'll be with your best friend, who's a responsible mom in her own right. And besides, I'd get to travel and see the world."

Her mother pushed back from the countertop and wiped her hands on the napkin in her lap. "Just like your dad wants you to, I suppose."

"I'd like to think you both want me to be happy, and this would make me happy," Carrie said while taking her mother's hand in her own.

Her mom was getting misty-eyed. "Sweetie, I want you to be happy. But I also want you to be safe. I just don't feel good about this trip--I'm sorry."

A wel of anger rose up in Carrie too quickly for her to stop it. She let go of her mom's hand, got off the stool, and stood her ground.

"What you don't feel good about is the fact that this shirt means something to me and it means something to Dad. That's the only reason you won't let me go. You're just being spiteful and bitter," she said crossly. Al she could think about was her T-shirt and her luck and how being without it made her feel very lost. "You're being so unfair. I wish that Dad was here instead of you!"

Ouch. Carrie felt the sting the second after the words were out.

"Yes, wel , I wish he was here for you too," her mom said after a pause. "But I'm what you're stuck with. And the answer is still no."

Before she could say another unkind word, Carrie bolted up the stairs to her room, shut the door, and turned up her stereo loud enough so her mother couldn't hear her wailing like a little girl, which was exactly how she knew she was behaving. And that only made her cry harder.

Carrie spent the next two days hiding out in her room. She was too upset and embarrassed by the way she had acted to apologize to her mom. In fact, when she had escaped the confines of her bedroom to raid the refrigerator, Carrie ran right into her mom and wasn't able to do anything but mumble something that sounded like "whoopsexcusemesorry" and dash back upstairs. Needless to say, it was a small step toward forgiveness.

The more Carrie thought about it, though, the more she was glad that she had gotten a lot of stuff off her chest that had been weighing on her for a long time. But it certainly wasn't right to attack her mom for being ... a mom! Did she really think she could fool her mom with some silly speech about the wonders of India? Like her mom would just say, "Hey, whatever. Fly to Timbuktu for all I care." Carrie couldn't even begin to come up with a way to make things right, and where could she turn for help?

The only thing that seemed to make her feel better was exercise-fueled endorphin rushes. Carrie did what seemed like a mil ion push-ups over the course of forty- eight hours. After each session she was sweaty and warm and her heart was pounding. But those symptoms weren't solely from her workouts. Every second she wished her mother would walk in and tell her that things were going to be okay and she adored her, despite her sudden bout of insanity.

Then, whaddya know. Carrie got her wish.

"Hey."

Carrie looked up while in the middle of a push-up and saw her mom leaning on the door frame. She was holding the cordless phone from the kitchen and smirking a bit. Carrie sat down on her yoga mat and crossed her legs. Her mom joined her on the floor.

"Mom." Carrie gulped so hard that it felt as if she was trying to dry swal ow a huge multivitamin. "I am so sorry for what I said the other day. I was really out of line and ... I don't blame you if you don't let me out of this house for the rest of the summer."

Her mother's smirk turned into a grin. "I know you're sorry, hon. And I know how hard the divorce has been on you. Your dad and I don't make things easier, either. There's still a lot of tension between us, and sometimes you get caught in the middle."

And with that, Carrie lunged at her mom and gave her the biggest bear hug of all time.

"Mom, I love you so much," Carrie whimpered.

"I love you too," her mom said, holding Carrie tightly in her arms. "And to prove it, I just spoke to your dad, and he loves you so much that he's getting you a free plane ticket to India."

Carrie froze. What did she just say?

Her mom pulled away from their embrace and looked at the deer-in-headlights expression on Carrie's face.

"I thought about what you said, how I might be preventing you from going out of spite. There may be some truth to it. But when you said that this would make you happy again, that's when I knew. If I let you go now, I might get my cheerful daughter back," her mom said while caressing Carrie's cheek.

"Mom," Carrie said with a sniffle. She was in tears yet again. "I want my old self back too."

BOOK: Lucky T
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