THE entire thing was Julia’s fault.
Of course, considering pretty much every mess I’d ever gotten into since she came along—seven and a half minutes after I was born—was her fault, that wasn’t exactly a surprise. If it hadn’t been for Julia, I probably would have grown up an angel of light and mercy.
Hm. I thought about the fact that I’d spent a big chunk of last night making out with Ethan on the floor of his crappy studio apartment and winced. Okay, maybe not quite an angel. Ex-boyfriend. He was my ex-boyfriend. I had to start remembering that. Maybe if I wrote it on my hand. Or got a tattoo. Whatever. At this point in my life I should know better than to risk life and limb and having my driver’s license revoked to rush across town whenever Julia called in tears, even if it was a great excuse not to think about a big-huge-massive lapse in judgment.
“—please, Nate. You have to do this for me. I can’t go up there again. I just can’t.”
“You are honestly telling me,” I said slowly, enunciating my words to the point that it probably looked like I was chewing on my own face, “that you called me, crying, claiming it was an issue of life or death that I get here in the next ten minutes, because you need me to deliver some coffee?”
Her eyes got big and sincere, and her lip trembled. She nodded gravely. “If you make me get in that elevator and go up there again, I’m going to throw myself off the roof.”
“If I—” I sputtered. “Julia, it’s your job. I’m not your boss. I don’t care if you take the coffee or not. If you don’t want to do deliveries, then quit. Or ask What’s-His-Name to do it.”
“Quit? Are you crazy? I love my job! I’m not going to quit!”
I threw my hands up in the air. “Then box up the damn coffee, walk to the lobby, and deliver it to whoever the fuck it is that’s so important they rate door-to-door Starbucks!”
The tears dried up like magic, and Julia’s hands landed on her hips. “Nathan William Webster, you owe me.”
“For what?” I asked, incredulous. Not that I was exactly keeping track, but at last count she owed me almost $100 bucks.
“At Mom’s Labor Day barbecue thing, I rescued you from Grandpa. If I hadn’t been there to drag you away, you would have been stuck talking to him forever.”
“I like Grandpa! I wanted to talk to Grandpa! You drug me over and made me spend two hours playing Win, Lose, or Draw with the Mississippi cousins! They kept guessing words like ‘sodomite’ and ‘abomination’! And they didn’t even let me start drawing before they guessed, Julia.”
There was a beat of silence while we both considered that.
“Fine,” she finally huffed. “We’ll call that one a draw. What about last week when I steam cleaned the entire apartment?”
“It only needed to be steam cleaned because your friend threw up on the living room floor.”
“Well, I didn’t have to have them do your room.”
“It was a coupon, Julia. It was going to be the same price whether you had him do my room or not.”
Another long silence and I started to turn away, victorious, when she said the one word that never failed to freeze me in my tracks.
Well. Fuck. It always came down to prom.
“Nothing to say, Nathan?” she taunted.
Okay, I maybe, possibly, ended up in the hotel room getting lucky with her date while she sat in the lobby and played Phase 10 with the night attendant at our senior prom. But honestly, it was almost four years ago. How long did I have to pay for one stupid mistake?
“Really? Again, Julia? How much mileage do you think you can—”
“He was captain of the football team, Nathan, and I had a crush on him for years.”
I blew out a breath. “Fine. What do I have to do?”