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You're so Vain 
Chapters 1-3

Chapter One



       “I’m not going to get the job, am I?” I ask the balding man sitting in front of me, who very distinctly wants me out of his office. He’s been fidgeting in his chair and eyeing the paper bag sitting on the corner of his desk since I first sat down across from him. I’ve been staring at the birthmark or mole on his bald pate, barely hidden by his combover, and wondering if it’s cancerous.

       Maybe I’ve made an overly straight-forward remark, but then again, I’m tired. It’s a couple of weeks into the new year, and this is approximately the thirtieth job I’m not going to get after quitting my old firm on Thanksgiving Day. My former boss, Fred Myles, warned me I wouldn’t get a legal job within thirty miles of Asheville if I quit.

I didn’t have much of a choice. He’d agreed to defend two people I knew to be guilty. That’s not the kind of thing that would normally stand in my way—everyone deserves good defense—but the two people in question are the parents of one of my best friends, Lucas Burke. And he’s the one who turned them in.

       We’re something like family, Burke, and our friends Leonard, Drew, and Danny. Especially Danny. And screwing Burke over would have meant screwing all of them over.

       So I walked off, telling myself Myles was all bark. He’s more fossil than man, and his balls have probably shrunken into his diaphragm by now. But what do you know?

       Turns out the old geezer was right about something.

       Every good practice in the county has denied me, and so have most of the bad ones. I actually interviewed for a couple of ambulance chasers last week, men who have a billboard with a crying man on it that says, Someone hit you with your car? We’ll turn you into a star.

       It felt like the bottom of the barrel, the job I wanted so little I’d get it by default. But Fred Myles was a godparent to one of the guy’s sons, so the interview lasted all of five minutes. I got the sense he’d asked me in just to get an adrenaline rush from crushing my hopes.

       The man sitting across from me, whose name I couldn’t pull out of my pudding of a brain if I tried, frowns at me and says, “Well, no. You came in here reeking of whiskey, and you don’t even seem to know what this firm does.”


       “But the reason I’m not getting it is Myles, isn’t it?” I press. “You know Fred Myles?”

       He frowns at me, his features pinching together. “I’ve never heard of the man.”

       Huh. Well at least I lost this one honestly. That’s almost a relief.

       I salute him and get up, a little unsteady on my feet, because, yeah, I may have indulged too much last night, or very early this morning.

       “Take it easy,” I say. “Enjoy the muffin.”

       “It’s a scone,” he tells my back.

       Fantastic. I am officially less interesting than a dry, shriveled puck of a baked good.

       I leave the office and wander around the streets for a while, feeling the uncomfortable press of having no destination and nowhere to be. Burke and Leonard run a home restoration business, and they’ve offered to give me work until I find a new job, but I didn’t go to law school so I could run around with a hammer. Even so, as the month has crept on, doubt has entered my mind, sticky and cloying and not at all like me.

       What if I don’t find a job here?

       What if I have to move?

       What if I can’t find a job anywhere?

       I loathe self-doubt almost as much as I loathe Fred Myles for taking my life away from me.

       Because my job was my life, make no mistake. I gave everything I was to that asshole’s firm, spending nights and weekends there. My mother framed the photo of me getting made partner, and I hung it up on my wall. It’s still there, right next to a wooden sign reading Bless this mess. Because when your mother has swung from one bout of depression to another for more than twenty years, you hang up any damn thing she gives you.

       I walk until I feel warm despite the January chill, then finally duck into a bakery.

“Coffee and a scone,” I tell the woman behind the counter, because I hate myself a little right now, and for some reason it seems appropriate to indulge in a baked good I will not enjoy. She’s a pretty brunette with blue-green eyes, the kind of woman I’d normally try to charm, but I barely notice or care.

       “What kind of scone?” she asks. “We have thirty varieties.”

       “Surprise me.”

       “Bad day?” She tips her head, studying me.

       “Bad year.”

       Her lips form a tentative smile. “We’re only two weeks into January.”

       “When you know, you know.”

       She lifts her eyebrows as she picks out a scone, and I go through the mechanical act of paying for the breakfast I don’t want before sitting down at a table by the window and taking out my phone.

       I’m sipping coffee as I lift it to my face to unlock it.

       The first thing I see is a text from my buddy Danny: How’d it go? Should I take out the whiskey in a sad way or a celebratory way?

       I snort, then nearly drop the coffee when I see something else in my alerts.

       It’s an email from Monty Freeman of Freeman & Daniels.

       I’m certain it’s another rejection—I interviewed with his firm back in December. So many interviews ago that I’d barely remember what he looks like, much less what his firm specializes in, if I hadn’t run into him a few weeks ago on Christmas Eve.

       It wasn’t a promising encounter.

       I’d been walking with Danny’s little sister, Ruthie, and her daughter, Izzy, because we’d met on the sidewalk and were all headed to the same Christmas party.

       Ruthie and I do not get along. When she was a little kid—a toddler, for fuck’s sake—she used to pretend she was a dog so she’d have an excuse to bite me. The years haven’t improved things between us. She’s the kind of woman who excels in driving people crazy without even trying, and she seems to have a special interest in driving me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s my best friend’s sister, and I feel protective of her. I’ve needed to roll out that protectiveness every now and then, because she’s a beautiful woman, the kind of women whom men gravitate toward—including the asshole she was married to for less than six months. Still, the bottom line is that life’s better for both of us if there’s distance between us.

       Of course, Freeman loved her. He fell all over himself asking her dozens of questions about her latest vanity project—a bookmobile she set up in her old camper van. She’d even flashed him photos of it, because of course she did.

       One of Ruthie’s favorite topics is how vain and self-involved I am, but I’ll be damned if she doesn’t like turning the conversation to herself whenever possible.

       And sure, it didn’t do much for my ego to get ignored by a prospective employer in favor of a van nicknamed “Vanny.”

       But maybe that encounter didn’t go as badly as I thought, because now there’s this email…

       “Don’t get your hopes up,” I whisper to myself.

       I feel someone staring, and look up to see a woman wearing a furry onesie watching me like I’m crazy.

       A low moment, to be sure.

       I click into the email, everything in me concentrated on the phone screen.

       I feel beyond pathetic that I’m this desperate for a job at a general practice firm I hadn’t heard of a few months ago, but I need this. I need it bad. I’m sick of feeling like everything I’ve tried and done is a failure.


Mr. Royce,


       Excuse me for my late reply. I’ve been away for an extended holiday vacation with my family. I must tell you what an absolute pleasure it was to meet your wife and daughter on Christmas Eve. You have a beautiful family, and I might add that family is very important to us here at Freeman & Daniels. Some lawyers care more about the job than they do about their lives outside of it, but we know what’s truly important. One of the benefits we offer is excellent insurance for our employees and their families.

       I would be honored if you’d come in for another interview at your earliest convenience.


Yours truly,

Monty Freeman


       Well, shit.

       I should definitely disabuse him of his belief that Ruthie and I are married and Izzy is mine. He seems enamored with his own misunderstanding, but I can’t let it lie, can I?

       It’s the kind of thing he’d find out quickly enough if I actually took the job. I won’t have a family to put on his “excellent insurance” or to bring to company picnics or square dances or whatever it is they like to do. Besides, he may be the sort who likes to do a full background check on his employees, in which case he’d discover the truth pretty quickly.

       The truth is that I never intend to get married.

       I’ve seen some truly ugly divorce cases—people who pledged to love and honor their spouse, and just a few short months or years later want nothing less than the complete destruction of that same person.

Then there’s my dad. He died when I was a teenager, and my mother’s never gotten over it. Never even attempted to. Love ruined her life—and it might have ruined his too, only in a different way. It made him think small.

       All four of my best friends seem bound and determined to race each other to the altar, but that hasn’t changed my mind. Marriage is a bad bet. A losing proposition. A sure way for a person to take leave of their senses and hitch themselves to an anchor that’ll hold them back. I’m not being sexist here, all of that can be just as true for a woman as a man.

       I wouldn’t say I’m vain, the way Ruthie thinks, but I am ambitious. I feel driven to succeed. To do.

       And yet…

       I’m reaching the bottom of the Asheville barrel. It’s not a huge city, and there are only so many law firms. I’ve already started sending out feelers to Charlotte, and I have a couple of interviews there next week, but the thing is…

I don’t really want to leave.

       This is my life, my home, and I don’t want to let Myles drive me out.

       Which is why I find myself crafting a delicate response to Freeman that neither confirms nor denies that I have a wife and child.


Chapter Two



       A week later, I’m sitting in Freeman’s office, staring into his smiling face. That smile’s been fixed on his face for so long it’s got to hurt. I feel sweat dripping down my back from the effort of smiling back.

       “Just a delight,” Freeman is saying. “I don’t mind telling you that we were thinking of going in a different direction. The first time we met, I was concerned you might not be the right fit for us. But then I saw you and your wife together, and I thought to myself, ‘You got him all wrong, Freeman. There’s no way a woman like that would marry a man who was all work and no play.’ You see, we value balance above all here. It’s one of our core principles.” He points to the wall to his right, where there’s a collection of framed images.

       My eyes rest on a cartoon of a beagle with a tie and the words “Monty Freeman, the legal beagle” scrawled below it. It’s not the kind of thing I’d choose to frame, particularly since it hammers home his resemblance to a long-faced dog, but I’ll write a sonnet about it if it gets this guy to hire me. Still, I’m guessing that’s not what he’s talking about, so I keep up the perusal until I find the Venn Diagram next to it. Family, law, and community, and in the middle, all of them intersect in Freeman & Donnelly.

       Apparently, this middling law firm is the only thing holding our society together. Who knew.

       I cough and then nod seriously, as if it’s the most insightful doodle I’ve ever seen. “Yes, I can see that. Family’s important to me, too. You know, they’re the ones I do it for. No point in working so hard for nothing.”

       What the fuck am I saying?
      Up until now, I’ve avoided outright lying to the man, but I’m edging in closer and closer to it. Flirting with it. The thing is…

       It’s pretty obvious I wouldn’t be here if not for Ruthie. I’m not getting this job unless this guy and his friends think I’m married to her.

       Maybe I can convince her to play along. I can pay her a few hundred bucks to show up at a dinner party and talk about what a stand-up husband and stepfather I am. Danny wouldn’t like it, but I doubt she’d be any more inclined to tell her brother than I’d be. One dinner. Maybe two. Then I can start making excuses for her. Maybe the best move is to play it off like she’s the workaholic—too obsessed with Vanny to hang out with the other spouses or go to any events.         Oh, she wishes she could be here, but you know how it goes. Those books won’t read themselves.

       If they ask why she and Izzy aren’t on my insurance, I can tell them she has better insurance.

       Except, no, that obviously wouldn’t work. Why would the diner she waitresses at offer better insurance than this family-friendly law firm? And, clearly, running a bookmobile isn’t the kind of gig that comes with a health plan.

       The question’s an interesting one, actually, because I find myself wondering if Ruthie has health insurance at all…

       “Yes, quite,” Freeman says.

       I’ve completely lost the thread of what we were talking about, but I nod sagely. “Indeed.”

       Freeman leans back in his chair, still smiling at me like he’s forgotten there are any other facial expressions. Does he smile like this in court?

       I can’t imagine that would go over well. Then again, from what I’ve gleaned, the majority of their cases don’t go to court.

       This is not a job I want. Six months ago, I would have laughed off the idea of working with the smile-happy legal beagle. It’s obvious the people at this firm spend all their time pushing paper. They probably have office parties with supermarket sheet cakes and white elephant Christmas parties.

       I’ve defended a lot of guilty assholes, but at least it always came with a bit of a thrill. I was playing a high-stakes game, and I knew it.

       This place isn’t like that.

       This place is a joke.

       But if I get a job here, then I might be able to get a different job after Myles & Lee loses the case that compelled me to quit. People will realize I was intelligent for having left a sinking ship—the first rat smart enough to run.

       I’m glad you’ve realized you’re a rat, I hear Ruthie telling me. Apparently my willingness to lie about being married to her has put her in my head.


       In addition to the irrelevant point Ruthie’s voice made, I can’t deny there’s a chance that Myles & Lee might not lose the case.

       Myles is a mummy, but his conscience is smaller than Jiminy Cricket’s dick, and that’s basically a superpower when it comes to crafting a cutting defense for someone who is very obviously guilty.

       Even so, it’ll probably be easier for me to get another job once Myles’s ire cools down—or he gives up the ghost and retires. Then I can move on or, hell, maybe I can conquer this firm and make it my pet project.

       Freeman is still studying me, his perusal making me a little uncomfortable. Finally, he says, “Why don’t you wear your wedding ring?”

       Well, shit. That’s the kind of direct question it’s hard to duck or banter your way out of.

       I grin back at him, my mind working the problem. Then I open my mouth, hoping like hell the right words fall out. “Lost it down the sink a month ago. Truth is, I’m not much of a plumber. I tried to get it out and sprayed the whole bathroom full of water. Ruthie wasn’t too pleased with me. Started keeping her rings off in protest.”

       There it is…the actual lie. I should feel guilty for letting it slip—for doubling down when I should be backing off—but I don’t. Maybe my conscience isn’t much bigger than Myles’s at this point.

       Freeman chuckles, “Oh, I know how that goes. Reminds me of when I was first married. Except my wife’s the one who lost her engagement ring. I searched the whole house for it, top to bottom, spent hours looking, and it turned out she’d left it at work.”

       I give a little answering chuckle—the chuckle of a man who knows, even though I haven’t got the first clue. That sweat continues its descent down my back, and my expensive white shirt probably has pit stains.

Freeman gives his desk a little slap. “Well, Shane, I’m pleased as punch you’re interested in joining this firm. Donnelly’s on vacation, but I’ve got his blessing to invite you on board. What do you say?”
      There’s a moment when I can do the rational thing and back down. He’s offering me this job on false grounds. If he knew the truth, I wouldn’t be here right now.

       But that doesn’t stop me.

       “I’d be honored to join the team.”

       What do you know? It’s another lie.


Chapter Three



       “Come on, come on, come on,” I say, trying to turn the engine over again. It gives a dying growl. “Dammit, you piece of shit, asshole, dick-licking—”

       My neighbor walks by on the sidewalk, lifting a hand in greeting. Her face is not friendly, which isn’t surprising for three reasons. Reason Number One: She probably thinks I’m an unfit mother because she saw me carrying a bag full of empty fast food containers to the trash can last week. Reason Number Two: She’s a sour old woman who survives only on nicotine and finding fault in everyone around her, and Izzy and I just so happen to live next door to her. Reason Number Three: She could hear everything I just said. Vanny’s driver’s side window stopped closing all the way last week, and now I have to wear mittens every time I bring him anywhere.

       “Hello, Mrs. Longhorn,” I say in a syrupy sweet voice. “Lovely to see you.”

       Her answer is a snort so loud it causes a couple of crows to fly off.

       “You had another Amazon package waiting outside your door this morning,” she adds, pausing. It’s phrased like an accusation.

       “Yes,” I say, my fingers flexing around the keys. Maybe my desire to run her over will make them magically working this time.

       “Awful lot of packages you’re ordering for a single mother with a child to take care of.”

       “They’re gifts from my wishlist,” I say. “I guess I have a secret admirer or something.”

       Her hand lifts to the collar of her coat as if she’s warding off evil. “You have men buying you things? Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”

       “No, she didn’t, actually.”

       I could tell her they’re not from a man, but I don’t know if that’s strictly true. No one will admit to being my benefactor. My best guess is that my friends have all banded up to make sure I have the things I need. A new backpack for Izzy. Larger clothes for her. An industrial-sized jug of soap. A new thermometer. Simple things that I can’t really afford. I shouldn’t accept the gifts, and I definitely shouldn’t keep adding to the list. But the need I feel for those little gifts, those signs that someone is looking out for me, are food for a starved soul. So I keep adding things to the list, and I keep accepting them with a grateful heart.

       Damn her for making me feel bad about it.

       “Well, she should have,” Mrs. Longhorn harrumphs, then passes by, pulling out a packet of cigarettes as she goes.

I’m tempted to say her mother should have taught her not to smoke but feel no need to prolong an unpleasant conversation. Instead, I give her back the finger once she’s passed me, then try the keys again. Nothing.

       So I do what I always do when I have car trouble. I take off my gloves so I can call my best friend, Tank.

       Tank runs an auto repair shop, and if not for him, Vanny would have been relegated to a scrap heap years ago.

       Then again, it seems like my old camper van is still headed that way. Every week something new goes wrong. Maybe cars are like people and there’s only so long they can last, regardless of how well you care for them.

       Tank picks up on the second ring. “Are you okay?”
      No. “Why is that the first question everyone always asks me?”
      “You’re supposed to be working at the diner right now.”
      “Thank you, Captain Obvious,” I say, being a bit prickly, because even I know it’s not professional to call in sick at your money-making job so you can devote time to your non-money-making hobby.

       Especially if you have a child to support on your own.

       Especially if you just learned that you need to get expensive ear tube surgery for your child—surgery you will probably be paying for in installments for the rest of your natural life.

       Breathe in, breathe out.

       If only ear surgery were something I could add to my Amazon wishlist.

       My brother would help me cover the cost, but I hate asking him for help.

       “Something’s wrong with Vanny,” Tank says with the confidence of someone who knows me well.

“He won’t start,” I say, feeling my heart speed up in my chest. “I’m supposed to run a bookmobile event at Buchanan Brewery’s southside location in half an hour, and he won’t start.”

       Getting the gig at Buchanan had felt like a big deal. Buchanan Brewery is one of the biggest breweries in town, and sure, I don’t expect that many people on a Monday afternoon, but then again, this town runs on tourists. Local kids might be in school, but rich people pull their kids out of school all the time so they can go on vacation. They probably have nannies or au pairs who come with them and teach their children French while they sip on craft beers and talk about the shitty economy.

       I wish I were a rich person.

       Instead, I’m a hustler always trying to make something happen. It really feels like I have something this time…

       Whenever I open up the back of Vanny, I feel a magical tingle that I’ve only previously experienced when I’m falling in love with a terrible man. I built bookshelves into her sides and stacked them full of thousands of storybooks. Little fairy lights are woven in, and on the exterior of the van there’s a beautiful mural that Tank’s friend painted for me, designed based on one of Izzy’s drawings. There are poofs and stuffed animals and drawing pages, and it’s basically the best place on earth for little people to hang out while their parents watch them from a short distance away and drink.

       I’ve also formed a partnership with Dog Is Love, a local animal shelter, and they’re bringing a puppy today for the kids to read to. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that? And, yes, the only reason Buchanan Brewery took my call is because the owner of the shelter is married to the events director, but you’ve got to take your breaks when you get them.

       Izzy begged me to let her stay home from Kindergarten so she could come, because the one thing she wants more than a functional household is a dog. I couldn’t let her skip school, but I did promise to take pictures.

       But I’m only going to be able to do that—or get paid for the event—if I actually show up. If I don’t, then that sad, unadopted puppy’s fate will be on my head.

       Shit, shit, shit.

       “I’m already on my way,” Tank tells me, and I feel a softening of my jaw and shoulders, because Tank never says things he doesn’t mean. Not to me. He’s always been good to me, which is probably why I’ve never wanted to be anything but his friend.

       I only seem to fall in love with men who use me and then throw me away, like a piece of gum that’s lost its flavor.

       I breathe in deep, then release the breath.

       “Thank you. I owe you, like, a dozen beers.”

       “I’ll settle for your first-born child,” he says, and I can tell he’s grinning.

       “Nope, I promised Izzy I wouldn’t give her away for a penny less than a billion dollars.”

       He laughs. “I’ll be there in ten.”

       I stick the phone in my coat pocket. Needing to feel like I’m doing something productive, I try the keys again. Vanny makes a rude noise. I’d look under the hood, but even though Tank has taught me some basics, I’m no expert—I can check the level and color of my oil but not replace it.

       My phone buzzes with a text, and I remove it from my coat pocket aagain. I flinch a little when I see it’s a text from Dusty at Must Love Dogs. It’s a photo of a little, big-headed, short-legged mutt with the cutest overbite that ever made a dentist cringe, along with the message, Flower is ready for her bookmobile debut!

       Guilt digs in its nails. Because of me, Flower’s going to miss out on going home with a family of rich tourists who don’t have the sense to say no. “This can’t be happening,” I mutter to myself.

       Just then, because apparently the mounting feeling of—too much, too much, mayday, mayday!—needs a boost, my phone buzzes with another text, this one from Vain, the nickname I set for my brother’s best friend, Shane Royce.

       Shane’s the kind of guy who can’t walk past a reflective surface without looking in, and can’t take part in a conversation without bending it toward his own purposes. Other than the way he looks, which is, admittedly, quite pleasant, the only thing I like about him is that he loves my brother Danny, but even that he seems to do half-heartedly, like he’d rather not. Like he’s bound to Danny by history but wishes he were instead best friends with someone important.

       I’m not particularly interested in anything he has to say, but I am curious about why he felt compelled to say anything at all. 

       I click through, and my brow furrows.

       Hey, Ruthie. Can we meet? I have something important to discuss with you.     

       My heart starts racing. I can’t think of any good reason why he’d ask to meet. Despite our inescapable presence in each other’s lives, he has as much disdain for me as I do for him. Does Danny have terminal cancer, and he doesn’t know how to tell me? Maybe it says dark things about me that that’s where my mind goes, but I do have an addiction to Lifetime movies. Mostly because I can watch them on my laptop for the price of watching glitchy ads.

       I strip off my gloves again so I can answer him.

       Me: Just tell me now. What’s wrong?

       Shane: I’d rather discuss this in person.

       Me: Stop being difficult and tell me. This is about Danny, isn’t it? Is he okay? What happened? Or is it Mira?

       Shane: It’s not about Danny or his girlfriend. I’ll tell you when I see you. Can I swing by your apartment after Izzy goes to bed?

       I make a face, because I can think of other things I’d rather do with my night. Like doing laundry. I’m down to ten shirts, with everything I own spilling out of the hamper in my closet—as if the clothes mountain I regularly keep in there has turned into a volcano.

       I’ll bet Mrs. Longhorn would have something to say about that too—about the kind of woman who can’t manage to do her own laundry but thinks she can run a small business while raising a child.

       Shane: Please? I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important.

       Shane: And, I repeat, Danny and his girlfriend are both fine. This doesn’t have anything to do with them.

       It’s probably the only time I’ve ever seen or heard the word “please” from him. That and nosiness can be the only explanation for my answer: Fine. I’ll text you when she’s asleep. Bring me a pastry and something to drink.

       Me: Alcoholic, in case that wasn’t clear.

       Shane: Seriously?
      Me: I know you enjoy pointless arguments, but I’m not in the mood for one right now. Consider it the price of doing business.

       A few dots appear, but I decide I’m done with him and pocket the phone again so I can put my gloves back on.

       I try to stay peppy and excited, but there’s a sinking sensation in my chest that Shane’s messages have hooked an anchor too. It feels like everything is falling apart.


       This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to make a mobile business happen. There’ve been other ideas. Other iterations of Vanny that took months for me to plan and only weeks to fall apart.

       A pet clothes boutique. A mobile store selling only unicorn toys…I mean who wouldn’t want that?

       Everyone, apparently.

       Maybe it’s time to give up and accept that I’ll be waiting tables and selling shit on eBay until I’m seventy.

Shouldn’t it be enough for me to be Izzy’s mother? There are other moms at her kindergarten who send their kids in with charcuterie lunch boards accompanied by homemade pickles and bread. Moms who volunteer every time a message goes out over ParentSquare and walk their kids to school without looking like they’re on the verge of having a stress-induced heart attack at twenty-eight. Maybe I could be that kind of a mother if I tried hard enough. Maybe being that kind of mom would be enough to satisfy me.

       I sigh, and then my mouth drops open as I glance in the rearview mirror and see Tank driving in with his tow truck. It doesn’t speak much toward his faith in reviving Vanny, but I guess he’s as aware of the time crunch as I am.

       He parks, then gets out, and I do the same.

       “Why’s your window open, Ruthie?” he asks with a frown.

       It’s a good question. It was supposed to be warmer today—high forties, they were saying—but it’s probably in the thirties. “I wanted some fresh air?”

       He frowns. “Why didn’t you tell me it stopped rolling all the way up?”

       Because it’s one thing to ask for help when your van won’t start, and it’s another to constantly ask for small favors. 

       Tank’s just my friend—not my boyfriend or partner—and I can’t go treating him differently.

       “There were more pressing matters,” I say. “Like the fact that he won’t turn on.” I try not to pout as I add, “How unprofessional am I going to look if I get towed in?”

       A corner of his mouth lifts. “Less unprofessional than if you didn’t show. I don’t have time to figure out what the problem is if you’ve got to be there in twenty minutes.”

       I submit with a stoic nod, and he spends the next ten minutes getting Vanny hooked up. The last ten minutes before I’m supposed to show are spent on backroads, since no one wants this beast on the highway.

       Finally, we pull into the back of the Buchanan lot, which is more empty than it is full.

       I glance at my phone. There are half a dozen alerts, including messages about a school Parent Team meeting I won’t be attending, a text from my estranged mother, and a SPAM notice that my Facebook Page for Vanny is scheduled for deletion.

       The first time I got one of those, I called Danny in a blind panic, and he explained that it was a phishing scam. Of course, he ended the conversation with a five minute lecture on Facebook being a massive security risk, as if I have any information worth stealing. “What are they going to steal?” I finally asked. “My debt? They can have it. Maybe I’ll start using 1-2-3 for all of my passwords.”

       That shut him up.

       Now, I breath out a sigh, because at least the numbers on the top of the phone tell me what I’d like to see. We made it, with just a minute to spare.

       Maybe luck hasn’t forsaken me yet—a thought that immediately has me reaching for the fake wood of the dash to give it a knock.

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