5 Page Challenge
17-year-old super tech geek Gilbert Garfinkle was going to fix the world, and it was going to be perfect. He had it all planned. But a funny thing happened on the way to the future . . . Her name is Amber, and she has a killer smile.
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CHAPTER ONE—THE LAST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE
I’m not dead. Yet.
It’s funny when Monty Python says it; not so funny when it’s true.
According to Amber, I’m not going to die, but I’m not sure I believe her. She’s a pretty convincing liar. I thought she liked me. I thought things were going just fine between the two of us. And then she bit me.
Now I’m stuck here paralyzed and in pain, and the only thing I can do is think. And the only thing I can think is Why me?
“This is . . . cozy,” she had said when she stepped into my room. It’s only cozy if you use cozy to mean tiny. “You certainly have a lot of stuff.” That’s an understatement.
“My Uncle Ian likes to buy me things to make up for the fact that my mother’s a bitch.”
Amber laughed. It was a nice laugh. I felt so relaxed, because she’s so beautiful. They say there’s no point in worrying about the things you can’t control, and I figured I didn’t have a chance in hell with her. Turns out I didn’t, but not in the way I had thought at the time.
“You do realize that makes you a son of a bitch, right?”
“Can’t deny that,” I said with a nervous laugh. She was quick. I’ll give her that. “Would you like to play a video game?”
“No, thanks.” She picked up a piece of one of my gaming systems that I’d taken apart, and she tilted her head like she was confused.
“I like to see what I can do to improve them,” I explained.
“Not taking them apart might be a good start.”
I considered telling her the modifications I’d made, but I figured that would only bore her.
Her eyes moved to the largest object on my tiny wall. It’s a little hard not to notice. “Wow, that is one big TV.”
“Did you want to watch something?”
I pointed through the open door in the direction of the kitchen. “Are you still hungry? Would you like a bite?” I asked. Looking back on it, I probably should have worded that differently.
She stepped into my room and shut the door behind her. “No windows?”
At the time I thought she meant it was convenient, because we had privacy. Now I know she might have meant something else. She took off the navy-blue jacket --the jacket I had lent her--and she hung it up on my ratty, old office chair. The bright red of her dress and the pink of her lipstick looked out of place in my mostly black, white and metallic- gray room.
I said, “I sometimes call this place ‘The Dungeon.’”
“Because of all the dragons?”
All the dragons? It’s not like I have only dragons. My tastes are eclectic. I have a ton of science-fiction, and video-game stuff, too, not to mention the posters of my hero, Albert Einstein. “No, I call it ‘The Dungeon’ because it’s a tiny room in a house as big as a castle, and it has no windows. Plus it’s in the basement. My mother doesn’t like me to leave the servants’ quarters. Okay, maybe it has something to do with one particular dragon . . .”
Amber laughed again. It felt nice to make her laugh. It’s usually a good sign when I can make someone laugh, a sign they aren’t going to try to hurt me. Usually.
“I don’t want to talk anymore about your mother.” She sat on my bed and patted my vintage Star Wars sheets. “Sit next to me.”
“I don’t know . . .” I rubbed the back of my neck and looked at the closed door to my room. I felt . . . kind of trapped. But I didn’t know why. I wish I had trusted my instincts.
“Don’t worry,” she said with a smile. “I won’t . . .”
Now I know why she didn’t finish that sentence.
But she was smiling at me, and she looked so beautiful and sweet, and I didn’t want to say no to her. So I sat beside her on my bed. She took off my glasses, leaned in, and started to kiss me. I thought, This is not happening. I’m Gilbert Garfinkle, for God’s sake. Pretty girls don’t sit on my bed and start kissing me. Then another part of my brain said, Shut up, Gilbert, you think too much. So I stopped thinking and kissed her back. Yeah, it’s always a mistake when you stop thinking. I should have realized that at the time.
I’d never kissed a girl before, not a romantic kiss, but I’ve been studying it. My mother’s maid, Olivia, leaves her women’s magazines in the kitchen, and they’re full of tips about what girls do and don’t like. Women in general apparently don’t like wet, sloppy kisses with probing tongues. Most prefer dry but firm kisses with slightly parted lips. Most guys don’t realize they could learn a lot from women’s magazines. I know I have. I take kissing seriously. I take everything I care about seriously, even things I once thought I could only dream about.
Amber pulled her soft lips away for a moment, tilted her head, scrunched up her eyes and smiled at me again. “You’re a good kisser.”
“You don’t have to sound so surprised.”
She pulled me by the shirt collar closer, and kissed me harder. I started to wonder how long it normally takes a couple to move past kissing on the lips to something else, and it was making me nervous again. Amber continued to kiss me. Then she moved from my lips to my cheek. Such sweet, little, soft kisses, like feather strokes. Kiss, kiss, kiss, on my cheek. She slowly inched her way down from my cheek to my neck. Kiss, kiss, kiss . . . It felt really good, and I was starting to relax, until . . .
She licked my neck.
I guess that was the first sign something weird was going on, and my brain started screaming, Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! My brain sometimes screams quotes from old movies or TV shows like that.
She paused a second and looked up at me.
I said, “Amber, what are you . . . ?”
Then I saw these two sharp things suddenly extend out of her mouth, and I tried to pull back, but she held my shoulders firmly in her hands and sank those things into my neck. I felt an unbearable, burning, stabbing pain that spread from my neck through my entire body, and I was suddenly paralyzed. I’ve never wanted to scream more in my life. My mouth was open, gasping for air, but I couldn’t control it, couldn’t make a sound. I tried to lift my hands to push her away, but my hands wouldn’t budge from the sheets. I could hear her breathing in my ear, and I heard and felt her gulping my blood. It burned, and even though I was breathing rapidly, I felt like I was suffocating. It probably only took a couple of minutes, but it felt like hours, and it felt like I was dying.
At first I silently told God that I didn’t want to die, and then I silently begged him to make it quick. Neither prayer was answered.
When Amber was through, she retracted her teeth. She was panting, her chest heaving until she stopped and let out a deep breath. She moaned softly, pushed me onto my back, wiped blood--my blood--from her lips with the back of her hand, and ran her tongue over her teeth to lick them clean. She leaned over me, examined my neck, and once again smiled. “Already starting to heal.”
I wanted to pull away, but I still couldn’t move. She held my chin in her hand and looked into my eyes. The only thing I could do was tremble in pain and fear, gasp for air, and look at her looking at me.
“Now listen carefully,” she said. “You’re not going to die. I only drank two pints. Three tops. You taste very good, by the way, it was tempting not to stop.” Now there’s a comforting thought.
“I know you’re in a lot of pain right now.” No kidding? Really? I had no idea until you mentioned it. “But it will pass. You’re going to be stuck like this until sunrise, and when morning comes you’re going to fall asleep. If I know what I’m doing . . .” What did she mean, ‘if’?! “. . . you should be mostly fine tomorrow night. I’m going to wait for you at Bucky Bee’s. Don’t forget.”
She started to leave, but then she turned and picked the jacket of my suit up from my office chair. “I hope you don’t mind my borrowing this again. It’s kind of chilly out.” She slipped it on. It still looked a hell of a lot better on her than it did on me. “I had an amazing time tonight.” That makes one of us. She leaned over and kissed my cheek one more time. I couldn’t even flinch. “I know you probably don’t believe this now, but you’ll see: your life is about to get a whole lot better.” Then she switched off the lights, left, and closed the door behind her.
And I’ve been lying here in total darkness, paralyzed and in unbelievable pain ever since. Pain, pain, pain. There’s nothing but pain. I can’t close my eyes. I mean, I can, but I’m afraid if I do, I won’t open them again. Ever. The place on my neck where she bit me is throbbing. The roof of my mouth and my gums are throbbing with pain, too. What’s that about? My breathing is shallow, and I’m worried I might stop breathing altogether. I don’t know if I’m going to make it through the night.
And then there’s the other thing I’m trying really hard not to think about . . . the possibility that dying might not be the worst thing that happens to me. I don’t want to fall asleep and never wake up, but I really don’t want to become a . . .
No, as Mister Spock would say, that’s “highly illogical.” I am nothing if not logical. The truth is I don’t really know what’s going to happen. Oh, God, I really, really don’t know, but either way I am so screwed.
Okay, Gilbert, you’re a scientist, sort of, so try thinking like a scientist. When confronted with an unexpected result, a scientist would start his experiment over again to figure out what went wrong. I just need to go back in my mind to the last time the universe made sense on all levels and then slowly work my way forward to my current situation. Like anything that needs fixing, I first need to take it apart and figure it out. I just . . .
Ow, ow, ow! Go away, pain! Focus, Gilbert. When did the universe stop making sense?
Yesterday right before lunch. Here I am, in twelfth grade, the final scene in a really bad but necessary prequel to a really great movie series. I almost made it too. In a few months I should have been leaving the hell that is high school behind for MIT where my real education—and my real life—was going to begin. My future was going to be great, and I know that, because I was going to invent it myself. That was always the plan. But yesterday right before lunch Delilah Jones left her little coven of teenage bitches and backed me into the lockers in the corner of the hall, and that was the beginning of the end.
“Is it true your father is a bazillionaire, Barftinkle?” she asked.
Her friends giggled in the background. They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I think it’s insulting puns based on a person’s name. How much intelligence does it take to turn Garfinkle into Barftinkle? Sarcasm, however, is a fine art. I should know: I’m the Leonardo da Vinci of sarcasm.
“That’s Garfinkle,” I said, “and my father is dead. The only things I inherited were his eyes.” That’s my standard joke answer whenever anyone mentions how rich he was.
The truth is I also inherited my father’s mind . . . and now looking back on it, apparently his unfortunate luck with beautiful but dangerous women, and by that I mean Amber. They say a guy usually ends up with a girl who’s like his mother. My mother is a gorgeous, blood-sucking leech, metaphorically speaking; Amber is a gorgeous, blood-sucking . . . something, literally speaking. I’m smart. You think I would have seen that coming.
Delilah towered over me. I know I’m short, but that girl is a freaking Amazon. “Listen up, Garfinkle, ‘cause this is the way it’s going down.” She likes to talk and act like she’s some tough girl from the worst part of Washington Heights, even though I know she lives in an apartment building four blocks away from me in Chelsea. “Tomorrow is Saturday night, and you are going to take me out. You’re going to pick me up in a big, fancy car. You’re going to take me to a big, fancy restaurant. You’re going to buy me a big, fancy dinner. And when it’s over, you are going to thank me, because I . . . “ She licked her lips. I think she was trying to be seductive, but it was just plain scary. “ . . . I am going to make a man out of you. Do you understand me?”
Understand her? Hell, no, I didn’t understand her. I mean, I know how Delilah works. High school might just be a prequel to me, but this is the last showing for her. Next year she’ll be serving up fries at the Golden Arches and wondering how she went from queen bee to queen used-to-be. Everything is about power with her. There are the boys she hooks up with to work her way up the high-school social ladder, horizontally: the jocks, the popular good-looking guys, and the gang leaders. Then there are girls, who fall into two categories: the ones she can manipulate to her advantage, and the ones she can bully or manipulate other girls into bullying. Geeks like me, on the other hand, have no place in her world. We don’t offer anything she wants. In fact, we’re her social Kryptonite. Merely being in our proximity reduces her power.
Of course, it made sense that she had decided to move on to the rich guys after having used up all her other options in the sleep-her-way-to-the-top department. But there are plenty of rich schmucks at our school who flaunt their wealth with expensive haircuts, expensive clothes, and expensive cars, guys who brag about summering in Belize. I’m not one of them. The last time I had a haircut was at least half a year ago, and it only cost me about ten bucks. I wear cargoes, hoodies, and t-shirts with binary code on them to school, not designer clothes. In a logical, sane universe, no girl would want to go out with me, least of all Delilah Jones.
I started to tell her, “I don’t—”
“I said . . .” She narrowed her eyes and growled. “‘. . . do you understand me?’” From high school star athletes to lowly tech geek, I thought, my, how the slutty have fallen.
And that’s when Dylan turned to Delilah and said, “He’ll be there.”
I’m sure he never means to, but Dylan has an uncanny knack for getting me into trouble. What are best friends for, right?
Of course, the irony here is that Dylan had very little to do with the jam I’m in now. I have over a dozen scars to remind me of all the totally awesome times I had when Dylan taught me everything from rollerblading to snowboarding. If anyone was going to get me killed, it should have been him. At least that way it would have been my choice.
Delilah pulled a piece of paper out of her purse, wrote something on it, and handed it to me. “My address. Be there tomorrow night at seven, and dress appropriately.”
She went back to her friends, and they high-fived her. I don’t know what was going on between them. The only thing I did know was that I was screwed.
“Well, alright,” Dylan said with a grin. “Looks like someone is going to get some action on Saturday night!” He picked up his hand to high-five me, but I ignored it.
“Are you out of your mind?” I replied. “That’s Delilah Jones.” Dylan raised his eyebrows behind that swoop of hair that covers a third of his face. “Don’t you remember fourth grade?” He shrugged. I sighed. “She used to knock everyone down in the schoolyard during recess? One time she sat on you and made you eat a bug?”
Dylan laughed. “No, little dude, that was Karen Jones.”
“Karen changed her name to Delilah during our freshman year.”
“Oh.” He paused. Then his eyes opened wide, and his voice deepened. “Oh! Dude, that’s not good.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Still, you can’t back out now. If you do, she’ll tell everyone in the school you’re gay.”
“It’s high school,” I reminded him, even though that fact couldn’t have been more painfully obvious. “The Neanderthals here call every guy they don’t understand gay, and as Neanderthals they’re too stupid to understand anyone.”
Dylan should know this. He gets picked on more than anyone because of his shaggy, dirty blond hair and how sweet he is to girls. He gives them flowers and poems, and they treat him like he’s some sort of lanky puppy they have to jump up to pet. Bullies view him as the competition, which of course means he needs to be punished, and punished often. Lucky for him, he’s got me, though I try to make sure he doesn’t know that I’ve been looking out for him. Lucky for me, I don’t have his problem. My hair is kind of long, but it’s dark and curly, and together with my glasses and bad complexion, it makes me look more like a young mad scientist than an adorable puppy. It’s an image I’ve chosen to cultivate.
“They don’t call you gay,” Dylan said, “not since you kicked Coleman’s ass with your karate moves in ninth grade.” He did a weak imitation of a karate kick and screamed, “Ha-yah!” It almost knocked his glasses off. A girl passing by giggled. He pushed his glasses back onto his nose and grinned at her. She grinned back. I don’t know why, but girls seem to find everything he does adorable, at least until he tries to take it to the next level. Then they tell him he’s cute, but they don’t really see him that way. And yet he perseveres.
“It wasn’t karate. It was aikido, which means that technically that schmuck kicked his own ass. I just helped him do it.” The memory of what had happened that day made me smile. Coleman had tried to punch me in the face. I twisted to the side and pulled his wrist forward, using his own momentum to propel him over my shoulder and into a wall. It was a basic aikido move, but after Coleman hit the floor, he looked up at me stunned, like I had just teleported him from a world where he was king of our high school to one where he couldn’t even intimidate a short geek like me. For weeks people talked about my Jedi moves and called me Neo. Good times.
“It’s different when the girls are saying it, though.”
“How is it different? It’s not like they’re lining up to date me now.”
“Yeah, but if they think you’re gay, they might want you to be their gay friend. You know, they’ll want to talk to you about hairstyles, fashion, how all men are jerks . . .”
“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of that.
“On the bright side, Gilbert Garfinkle sounds like a great name for a hairdresser.”
I shuddered. “Don’t even joke about that.”
I used one of the many lock picks I always keep on me to open my locker. The locker came with a combination lock in the door, but I didn’t like it, so I tricked it out in September. It still looks like all the other lockers, but I put a keyhole where no one would see it. If it were up to me, school lockers would work with magnetic keys, thumbprint scanners, or voice recognition. The world in general would probably make a lot more sense if I were in charge. I’d fix so many things. I was going to fix so many things. I was going to fix the world . . .
I put my books from my last class away and took out my bagged lunch, a corned beef on rye sandwich I’d made that morning.
“Cheer up,” he said. “At least you’re going to get laid.”
“Riiiight. Because there’s no place in New York City where a guy could get an STD for less money and with fewer complications.”
“You don’t know Delilah has an STD.”
“Apparently you haven’t read the writing on the stall.”
Dylan didn’t laugh, but I did get a smirk out of him. “Have you seen the one really high above the mirror?”
“If it’s really high, how would I have seen it?”
“It says, ‘The only difference between Delilah Jones and a city bus is you have to pay to ride the bus.’”
He laughed, but I didn’t find it that funny. “In case you haven’t noticed, she made it clear that, ride or no ride, I am going to pay big time.”
“Okay, forget about that. At least this might put an end to those rumors about you.”
“Rumors?” I’ve been trying to fly under the radar lately, so I was surprised to hear that anyone was talking about me. “What rumors?”
“They’ve voted you ‘Most Likely to Lose His Virginity to a Robot.’”
I paused to think it over. “Okay, yeah, I can see that.” Girls are scary; robots I understand. I can take a robot apart and figure out how it works. But I can’t do that with a girl, and I will never figure one out.
“Just go out with her,” Dylan said. “What harm could it do?”
What harm could it do? The famous last words of Darwin Award winners everywhere.
I tried to think of a way out of it, and then I realized . . . Delilah had made some very specific demands. A big, fancy car? Where was I going to get a big, fancy car? All I had to do was ask my mother. She’d say no, and that would be the end of it.
Or at least that’s the way it would have ended if the world had gone back to making sense, instead of becoming even more illogical.
CHAPTER TWO—CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
On Saturday afternoon I stood in the kitchen doorway and waited. The kitchen doorway is the closest I’m allowed to get to the main part of the house. I’m also not allowed to shout in the house, so that ruled out calling my mother’s name. I guess I could have called her cell phone, but she doesn’t know I have her number. I figured it was better that way in case I had to call her in an emergency, although I’d only call her as a last resort after first trying Uncle Ian and Olivia.
Olivia was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through a fashion magazine and drinking a can of diet soda. She had her MP3 player with her, but she wasn’t listening to it.
I said, “Olivia, do you think--?”
She waved me off with the back of her hand, not even turning around to look at me. “I have the evening off.”
I nodded and went back to waiting in the doorway. After about an hour I sat on the floor and leaned my back against the doorjamb. If I had to wait until seven o’clock for an excuse not to go out with Delilah, I would. About half an hour later I heard my mother coming down the stairs. She slinked in her usual model-on-the-catwalk way. I noticed the swelling from the collagen injections she got in her lips had gone down, and they were starting to look normal. Well, as normal as anything about an almost-forty-year-old woman with a plastic-surgery addiction could possibly look.
“Candy . . .” That’s what she makes me call her, because she hates being reminded that she’s my mother. “. . . I need to know—”
“Not now, Gilbert.” She put the back of her hand on her forehead, struck a dramatic pose, and sighed. I rolled my eyes. It’s all show with her. “Olivia, I need you to fetch—”
“I have the evening off.” Olivia didn’t even bother to look up from her magazine.
“Candy,” I said again. “I need to know if I can have one of the cars tonight.”
“No.” And I thought, Great, I’m off the hook. For one brief moment, it seemed sanity had returned to the world. I stood up, but before I could walk back to my room the logic of the universe unraveled once again. “Gilbert, I need you to pick something up from the pharmacy for me.”
I sighed and looked to Olivia. She put her headphones on and tuned me out.
I turned around to face my mother and crossed my arms. “Don’t you have a driver for that?”
“I fired him.”
“He was an idiot.”
“They’re always idiots, and they’re always going to be idiots if you keep picking them based on how they look in the uniform instead of their experience.”
She sighed. “Gilbert, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”
“Why can’t you pick it up yourself?” I grumbled.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Candy Garfinkle does not run errands.” But Candy Garfinkle does speak of herself in the third person, because Candy Garfinkle thinks that makes her sound classy and important, instead of the mean, self-absorbed gold digger she really is.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll walk.”
“No, it’s on the other side of town. You can take Olivia’s car.”
“No, you can’t.” Apparently Olivia could hear us even with her headphones on, when it was to her advantage. “It has the evening off too.”
“Fine.” My mother sighed dramatically again. “Just take one of the cars.”
Well, that sucks. “But you said—”
She didn’t let me finish. “I changed my mind.”
“I have a date,” I grumbled.
She cackled. “That’ll be the day. You can go on your ‘date’ after you pick up my medication.” She walked down the steps into the living room and reclined in one of the white, Italian leather couches, her hand still on her forehead.
My heart sank. Of all the times for my mother to say yes to me . . . “I’ll need money for—”
“Take it from my purse.”
She pointed at the glass and gold shelves by the main entrance. This meant I was now permitted to enter the living room, but only to do what she asked. There were several handbags on the shelves, each a different color with different embellishments, each costing more than Olivia makes in a month. “Which one?”
“Whichever one I used last.”
“Which one is—?”
“I don’t know! You’re so smart, you figure it out.”
I patted each of the handbags. The black one with the sequins felt like it had something in it. I pulled out a snakeskin purse, opened it and checked its contents. “You have hundreds and fifties in this one.”
“Take a fifty.”
“But isn’t your medication--?”
“Gilbert,” she growled. “Take a fifty, take one of the cars, and bring me back my medication.”
“But I need money for my date.”
“You can keep the change.” How generous of her, I thought. That should be enough for gum. Hope the fancy restaurant Delilah wants me to take her to serves Tic Tacs.
I took the fifty and reluctantly returned to my room to get ready for my date. Looked in the bathroom mirror to check my zits, and figured there’s really nothing I can do about those. I shaved and showered. Then I slid open the left side of my closet, the side with all the clothes Uncle Ian has bought me. I pulled out a navy-blue suit, a blue shirt, and a navy-blue tie with gold diamonds on it: all with designer labels on them. Sigh.
I love my Uncle Ian, and I am grateful for everything he’s ever given me, even though he has no reason to. We’re not related. He’s just my mother’s lawyer, but he’s still always been very generous with me, especially on my birthday and at Christmas. It’s great when he gives me tools and high-tech stuff. Those things fit me. But I wish he’d stop with the designer clothes, the shoes, and the gold watches. How many fancy-schmancy gold watches does one guy need? Still, I always smile and thank him, because I’m just glad to have him in my life. After all, he’s the closest thing I have to a living dad.
The jacket’s sleeves half covered my hands, and the pant legs bunched up on top of my feet. I guess Uncle Ian figured I’d grow into them. He figured wrong. I tried to get as many of my tools and smaller gadgets into the pockets of my pants as I could, but I still had to leave a lot behind. Why is that that the more expensive clothes are, the more useless they tend to be, and the more naked they make me feel? My suit jacket couldn’t take much more than my wallet and cell phone. I could have left the cell phone at home if I’d taken the watch that I’ve tricked out, but I was worried about what Delilah might think if Dylan called me, and considering the way my luck was going, I was sure he would. I’ve designed it to look like a cheap digital watch, but I installed a 3D-video-phone setup on Dylan’s computer that works with it, so I could imagine what would happen if I got a 3D video call. Or worse, I could have accidentally set off the watch’s holographic projector, which I only added to see if I could. There’s no way she wouldn’t notice a semi-transparent life-sized version of Dylan standing beside me. The slot machine in Delilah’s gold-digging head would scream “Jackpot!” as soon as she realized the thing on my wrist was actually a piece of technology like none she’d ever seen. She’d think she landed Bill Gates. The gold watches Uncle Ian has given me are expensive, but one of them was a safer bet.
That took care of everything but the shoes. Instead of leather oxfords, I put on a pair of black, high-top sneakers from the right side of my closet, my one tiny display of rebellion on this date from hell. Like all the shoes I’ve bought for myself, I’ve hidden a basic, plastic lock-pick in them and a few other tiny things. Maybe it’s paranoid, but I feel better having this stuff on me. They’re my version of a security blanket.
I glanced at my Lablet and hesitated to open it. If I did, I knew I’d probably get sucked into working on my latest project: an attempt to design cyber life forms that go way beyond any already existing forms of Artificial Intelligence. If I was late or had stood Delilah up, she’d make the rest of the year a living hell. Still, I gave into temptation just for a minute, but I didn’t get anywhere. That annoying, little, animated robot took up the entire screen and frowned at me. I probably could have talked to my Lablet anyway, but there was something about the look on his face that put me off. Yes, I know I failed you, stupid Robo-Me. You were supposed to be a cyber version of my consciousness, and I still have no idea where I went wrong. Or why you’re so miserable. You should just be glad I haven’t deleted you. I’ll probably never get the chance to now.
I closed the Lablet, went to the garage, and selected the Porsche. We’re probably the only house in Chelsea with a garage, let alone one with three cars. It was either that, the Rolls Royce, or this awful, white stretch limousine my mother bought because every time she rides in it, it makes her feel like she’s still prom queen. Delilah said she wanted a big, fancy car, but I’ve only been driving a few months, and I don’t think I could handle the limo. I know I can handle the Porsche.
I drove first to the pharmacy to pick up my mother’s prescription. It was just one thing, but it cost a little over forty-seven dollars. The change that I could keep was two dollars and some coins. I had ten dollars and a few more coins in my wallet, for a total of thirteen dollars and thirteen cents. Someone less logical than myself might have taken that as an omen, but it just made me laugh. I don’t believe in superstitions. At least I still had the credit card Uncle Ian made my mom give me for emergencies.
When I arrived, Delilah was sitting on the steps of her apartment building, and she was dressed even sluttier than she usually does in school, which I didn’t think was possible in New York without getting arrested. She looked pleased when she saw the Porsche stop in front of her. Then I stepped out, and she scowled. Maybe she was hoping I would chicken out. Maybe that was why she demanded to go out with me, maybe it was a part of some bet she had with her friends. But then she looked at the Porsche again, smiled again, and rubbed her hands together. “A sports car? Oh, Barf . . . I mean, Garfinkle, this is going to be a night you will never forget.” At least she was right about that, and not just because I have an eidetic memory.
I opened the passenger-side door for her, and she giggled. “You’re a real gentleman, Garfinkle.” I started the engine, and she immediately started giving me directions to where she wanted me to take her.
“I can’t afford—” I tried to say.
Sweet, giggling Delilah quickly turned into mean, bossy Karen I know and still fear from elementary school. “You are taking me to this restaurant. I don’t want to hear about what you can’t afford. Tonight, money is no object.”
She had me take her to an expensive French restaurant called La Ville des Lumières.
I told her, “I only have thirteen dollars on me.”
“You got a credit card?”
I probably should have lied.