“Who is Addie Vance?”
I roll my eyes at my dad because I know how much he hates it. “My roommate. Duh. We’ve only been living together for seven months.”
He rubs his temples for several seconds. I must have hit a nerve. The temple rub always proceeds the deep breath, which is his way of tempering an explosion. My father would be the first to admit that he has anger control issues, but he really does try to keep them in check.
“I thought your roommate was a weirdo, your word not mine, and that she reminded you of a crazy old cat lady in the body of an eighteen-year-old.”
“That was like two month ago, Dad. She’s my best friend.”
He raises a dark eyebrow. “Was she your best friend before she offered to pay for your Spring Break trip?”
“Do you really think I’m that shallow?” I glare at him.
He hesitates a few seconds too long.
“Seriously?” I huff.
He kisses my forehead. “I don’t think you’re shallow. I just think you’re a typical eighteen-year-old. I know you find it hard to believe, but I was eighteen once too.”
It is difficult for me to imagine my dad as a young man. He’s so stubborn and set in his ways. He’s the type of guy you’d image came out of the womb as a 40-year-old.
“You know how important Spring Break is. I really want to go.” I try not to whine. My dad hates it when I whine.
“I thought we agreed that you’d work at the office over Spring Break. Tilly already put together a list of tasks for you.”
Tilly has been the office manager for Seven Brothers Security Services for as long as I can remember. And my dad has been in love with her just as long.
Of course, he’d never admit it.
Guys like my father, men who risk their lives every day to protect the lives of others, aren’t supposed to have personal relationships. That’s what my dad proclaims anyway. And it seems to be the philosophy held by his brothers as well. Not one of the seven brothers, who make up the Seven Brothers Security Team, has had much luck at sustaining a long-term relationship.
“I promise I’ll make it up to Tilly this summer.”
“I don’t like the idea of two teenage girls going to Florida on your own.”
“Sanibel Island is safe, Dad. I did some research. The crime rate there is lower than it is here in Annadale. You don’t have any issues with me walking around this town on my own.”
“Arizona is a long way from Florida. If you’re in trouble I can’t just hop into my car and be there right away. I would take several days for me to get to you.”
“I’ve been living on my own on campus all year. You’re fine with that.”
He shakes his head. “Not fine with it. I tolerate it. You’re still my little girl. I just want you to be safe.”
“I’m an adult now. I can take care of myself. You and your brothers have taught me well. I’ve been doing self-defense training since I learned to walk.”
My dad eyes me skeptically. “I’m still not clear about the financial arrangements for this trip of a lifetime. Why exactly are Addie’s parents willing to pay for all of your expenses?”
“Addie isn’t the most popular girl on campus. She doesn’t have anyone else to go with. I’m her only friend.”
My dad reaches into his pocket and removes his wallet. He counts out a hundred dollars and hands me the cash. “I’m sure you’ll need a little pocket money for the trip.”
I place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Dad. This means a lot to me.”
He pulls me in for a hug. “Stay safe, kiddo.”
“My parents will be here any minute. Do you have everything you need?” Addie is a hairsbreadth away from a total meltdown. Not that much of her life isn’t spent in crisis mode. Today her craziness is in overdrive.
“I’m packed and ready to go,” I assure her.
“Sunscreen,” she exclaims. “I don’t have any sunscreen.”
“We can buy some there. You can’t take stuff like that on the plane anyway.”
She nods. “I’m sorry if I’m freaking out a little.”
“A little?” I laugh.
“Okay, I’m freaking out a lot. This will be my first major trip without my parents.”
I place my hands on her shoulders and look into her bright green eyes. “Everything will be fine.”
She takes in a deep breath then exhales. “Thank you. For everything.”
“I’m the one who should be thanking you. I’ve never been outside of Arizona before. And here I am going on a dream vacation to Sanibel Island.”
She grabs an oversized sunhat from the edge of her bed and plops it on her head. “Hat or no hat? What do you think?”
Addie is tall and thin. The floppy hat makes her look like the Scarecrow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It does cover her thick mop of curly auburn hair though. “It’s your call.”
“Are you bringing a hat?”
I shake my head. “They make me look younger than I already do. I realize I’m petite, but the last time I wore a baseball cap with my hair pulled back, someone mistook me for a twelve-year-old boy.”
“Okay, no hats.” She sends her sunhat sailing Frisbee-style across the room.
A loud pounding on the door startles both of us. Addie answers it.
I’ve only met her parents once before, the day they moved Addie into our dorm room. They struck me as two peas in a nerdy pod, who reproduced an even more awkward pea sprout.
Mrs. Vance removes two plastic document holders from her oversized handbag and hands one to me and one two Addie. “Here are your plane tickets. There will be a car waiting at the airport to take you to the island.”
Addie does an embarrassing dance that makes her look like she’s having a seizure. “Spring Break here we come!”
I just hope she doesn’t break out those mortifying dance moves in public.