Famous in a Small Town(2)

“I don’t love that many people.”

“You love at least a hundred and fifty people.”

“Do not.” A pause. “I top out at like a hundred and ten, max.”

She gave me an exasperated look, but there was fondness underneath it.

“How many people do you love?” I said.

“Two point five.”

“How can you love half a person? And if you say it’s Aiden Morales and it’s the bottom half, I’m gonna punch you.”

“Love and lust are different, I hope you know that.” She looked up at the sky. “One thing. Right now. The thing you want most in the world.”

“Some fries would be great.”

Brit rolled her eyes. “You’re no fun.”

“I told you. The people-I-love thing.”

“Yeah and I hate that you said that.”


“Because this is a good question, not an excuse for you to be noble.”

“I’m not noble.”

“That’s why you’re noble, you don’t even know that you’re noble.”

“Okay, if my answer’s so shitty, then what do you want?” I said, even though I already knew what Brit wanted most in the world, right that second, and every other second too.

She didn’t say it, though, just shook her head minutely. “Fries do sound good.”

“You get them. I got the cones.”

“I don’t want to go back in there.” Brit sat up. “I can’t bear to watch Flora charming the shit out of everybody.”

I glanced over my shoulder, where through the front window I could see Flora Feliciano standing behind the counter. Her shiny, dark brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail under her visor, her uniform shirt immaculate. She was taking a guy’s order, and I watched as her eyes crinkled with a smile. The guy was definitely flirting with her, I could see it from here by the way he was leaning toward her, but I knew she couldn’t tell—she rarely could. She was sweet to everyone and somehow believed that everyone was sweet back, that no one ever had ulterior motives.

She couldn’t have been more different from Brit, but they were both my best friends.

I pulled a few crumpled ones out of my pocket and held them out to Brit. “She can’t help it,” I said. “That’s just how she is.”

“I know.” She took the money and slid off the table. “That’s why she’s the point five.”

She headed inside as a beat-up car pulled into the parking lot, snagging an empty spot facing the road. I recognized it—it was Heather Conlin’s car. She lived just down the street from me, and I babysat her kids all the time—Cadence, who was six, and Harper, who was almost a year old.

But Heather didn’t get out. Her husband, Kyle, emerged from the driver’s side instead, and from the passenger’s seat came a guy I had never seen before. In Acadia, that was saying something.

He looked about our age, maybe a little older—it was hard to tell. I watched as Kyle fumbled around in the back and then pulled Harper out of her car seat. Harper had what my grandma would describe as “two cents’ worth of hair,” which tonight was scraped together into the tiniest and cutest of pigtails, jutting off the top of her head like twin exclamation points.

Kyle hitched her up on his hip and was pulling a diaper bag out of the car when a phone began to ring.

“Ah, sorry.” He tossed the bag back down and handed Harper to the guy. “Gimme one sec,” he said, and then he stepped away to grab the call.

The guy stood a bit stiffly with Harper for a moment, until she pointed a chubby finger at the sky and he tilted his head back to see what had caught her eye.

“What are we looking at?”

Harper crowed something indistinguishable, and the guy nodded like it made sense.

“I see.”

She babbled something else and pointed again.

“Mm. I agree.”

And then she looked my way.

I did the fish face, her favorite—cheeks sucked in, flapping my hands by my head like fins. If it were just me and her in her room, I’d dance around in a circle and go “glub glub glub” to really complete the scene, but as it was, I just wiggled silently in my spot. Her face split into a smile, and she made a happy sound.

The guy grinned down at Harper, and then he followed her gaze to me.

I froze mid-flap.

Kyle sidled up beside them then, putting his phone away.

“Hey, Sophie!” he called, slinging the diaper bag over his shoulder and reaching for Harper. “Nice face!”

I lowered my hands and schooled my expression into something other than fish face as they approached. The guy’s grin had faded into something neutral.

“Don’t think you two have met yet,” Kyle said, gesturing to the guy. “This is my brother, August. August, that’s Sophie, she watches Cady and Harper.”

“Nice to meet you,” August said.

“That’s what I’ve heard,” I replied.

One corner of his mouth ticked up.

Kyle adjusted the strap on the diaper bag. “Still on for Tuesday night? Heather’s gotta take Cady to a dance thing, so it’ll just be you and this one.” He smacked a kiss to Harper’s cheek.

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