Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 57

Page 57


Twenty-five minutes later, her car broke down.

She was driving in the slow lane, as she had been for basically the entire trip, but then suddenly the Heart of Gold wouldn’t even keep up with the pace of the slow lane, and its muted whump-whump-whumps turned into a full-on whirring noise, and it started to smell bad, and … something was clearly wrong.

Arden coasted into the breakdown lane, stopped, and turned off the engine. She and Lindsey looked at each other. The traffic whizzed by them.

“What happened?” Lindsey asked.

“I don’t know.” Arden examined the lights and dials on her dashboard. The “check engine” light was lit up, but that was always lit up, so she didn’t put too much stock in it. She also noticed that the dial for the car’s temperature had gone up really, really high. Into the red zone. “Maybe the engine overheated,” she guessed.

“So what should we do?” Lindsey asked.

“I don’t know, Lindsey,” Arden snapped. “I am not a car expert. I have never driven farther than the Glockenspiel before. I don’t have access to any vehicular insider information here, okay? What do you think we should do?”

Lindsey was silent for a moment, slouched in her seat like a kicked puppy. At last she said, “We could hitchhike.”

“Great plan. Let’s abandon my car here and get a ride from a total stranger for the next hundred and twenty miles. What a safe and wise course of action! And you thought Peter might be a murderer or a kidnapper?” Arden said. “Lindsey, you have no sense of self-preservation.”

The two girls glared at each other across giant cups, left over from a Dairy Queen stop much earlier in the state of Pennsylvania.

“It’s not my fault your car broke down,” Lindsey said finally.

This was true. Arden was frustrated, and she knew she was taking it out on Lindsey. It was Arden’s fault she’d bought a shitty car, Arden’s fault she never bothered to figure out why that “check engine” light was always lit, Arden’s fault she hadn’t learned the first thing about car mechanics, Arden’s fault they were on this highway on this wild goose chase in the first place.

But even though Lindsey wasn’t to blame for this situation, that didn’t stop Arden from wishing that Lindsey would at least try to help fix it.

“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is,” said Arden. “We can’t sit on the side of the highway for the rest of our lives.”

When there was a break in the traffic, she got out and popped open the hood of her car. This, at least, was something her dad had taught her how to do. She peered at the machinery inside, then dumped her water bottle onto what she thought was the engine, followed by the remnants of their Dairy Queen Blizzards for good measure. If the engine was overheated, then it stood to reason that it needed to be cooled down.

When Arden climbed back into the car, Lindsey had her phone out. Not making eye contact with Arden, Lindsey said, “I looked it up online, and apparently the closest train station is in Lancaster. It’s not too far from here. We could take a taxi there.”

“And then what?” Arden asked.

“Well, then there should be a train back to Cumberland at some point.”

“What point is that, exactly?” Arden asked. “It’s nearly seven o’clock. I doubt that any more trains are running from here to Cumberland tonight. And even if there are, what makes you think there would be seats left on them? And how much would those last-minute seats cost? And who exactly would be paying for those train tickets, not to mention this supposed taxi ride to get us there?”

Lindsey was silent, her hair hanging in front of her face like a curtain separating her from Arden.

“And what,” Arden added, hearing her voice crack, “would happen to the Heart of Gold?”

Arden thought again of that baby bird, slick with oil, trying to climb its way to fresh air, to freedom. It was fictional, of course. It was entirely made up. But did that even matter? Couldn’t it inspire her anyway?

One last time, Arden turned her key in the ignition. And the car came back to life.

Neither of the girls said a word, in case commenting on what was happening would jinx it. Arden just eased her way back into traffic, and they continued on toward New York.

Meeting Peter

The bookstore where Peter worked was called The Last Page. It was situated on a commercial street in Brooklyn, busier than almost every street in Cumberland, but calmer than most of the New York streets Arden had driven down to get there. She’d gotten honked at more times than she could count, and twice she had almost run over jaywalking pedestrians, one of whom was carrying a baby. Both times they yelled at her, which seemed unfair, since they were the ones walking against the traffic light, in the dark, wearing all black. Also, it was past nine o’clock, and she was no baby aficionado, but she thought that child should probably be in bed.

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