Today's Reading

"You still wear that shirt?" She points to my Wolf Man movie poster T- shirt. I put it on when I got home as a tribute to the least-cringy part of my embarrassing exchange with Jake.

I gesture to the faded front of it. "Um, obviously." I wonder if Lana remembers she was with me the day I bought it at the mall. Of course, that was before she evolved into the beauty guru who's too cool to be seen with me. Particularly at the mall, aka her tribe's mecca.

"Huh," she says while staring at my shirt. She definitely remembers being with me.

"Do you still have that 'Beauty and the Beast' shirt you bought?"

"God no. I mean, I didn't throw it away, but I have no idea where it is."

"Yeah, you never were all that sentimental."

"Oh, but Ricki, I am totally sentimental! And just wait until I tell you. This news that I'm about to share is seriously epic."

"I think you may be abusing the word epic." Lana blinks her spider-rimmed eyes at me and I shrug. "I'm just saying...."

"You'll understand when you hear," she says. "Epic-ness is guaranteed."

My mother walks down the stairs with her Chihuahua, Zelda, prancing neatly at her heels. The tiny white dog is perpetually attached to my mom like a pointy-eared parasite.

Mom gives a baby-voiced, "'Wookie who's here to see us, Z'!" to the Chihuahua, and holds up a gauzy-looking scrap of white fabric to my cousin. "This will look so cute with those lime jeans we found for you on Saturday."

"Thank you so much, Aunt June!" Lana says. "You're the best!"

As my mom passes, I reach down to pet Zelda's little apple head and as usual the Chihuahua growls at my hand. Anytime Z snaps at someone, my dad likes to put on a country drawl and say, "That there's a lookin dog." Mom and Lana are the only two who can touch her without risking a nasty bite.

It's obvious Zelda is pure evil in the form of a teacup Chihuahua, but I can't seem to stop trying to win her over. Clearly, my rejection issues run deep.

Mom smiles at the new top as Lana holds it up to her chest and Zelda paws at Lana's lower legs, begging to be held. I'm getting antsy to exit the Lana Lovefest happening in here in my living room.

The Birds is still on pause in my bedroom and someone is about to lose an eye in extremely gruesome fashion. Nobody makes me swoon quite like Alfred Hitchcock. I mean, aside from Jake, of course, but I'm trying not to think about the cringy way I ducked today when I should've let myself be swept away.

I move to escape back into my movie.

"No, wait, Ricki. You need to hear this too." Lana slaps the seat beside her and looks at my mom. Mom plops down on the couch and Zelda leaps onto her lap in one synchronized motion. I take a half step back, propping myself against the wall and crossing my arms.

Lana hooks her hair behind both her ears, which is something she would never do on camera since she has Nona's sticky-outie ears. We all do, but Lana's the only one who refers to them as the "family curse."

Looking back and forth between Mom and me in order to build dramatic tension, Lana finally says, "Aunt May has decided how she'd like to spend the money."

Our aunt lives in a yurt about an hour and a half north of us, where she raises wolf dogs and makes jewelry from the rocks and crystals she finds on her daily hikes. Apparently wolf dogs need a lot of exercise, so she covers a huge stretch of ground each day. She recently discovered a modest vein of gold and it turns out that gold is worth, well, more than gold nowadays. Aunt May has always lived free and simple and acts like having so much money is an unnecessary headache and a waste. My mother has been predicting her free-spirited sister will find a way to blow it eventually.

My mom's not a huge fan of the whole yurt-and-wolf-dog lifestyle. Under her breath, she refers to Aunt May as "selfish," although I don't see how my aunt's choice to live unencumbered by stress is hurting anyone.

Lana looks up at me. "Aunt May is buying something epic for us to share."

"Us? As in you and me?" I try to envision Lana and me sharing anything. A Venn diagram of our tastes would show very little overlap.

Lana nods. "She's decided she's going to get us...a car! How cool is that?"

I picture how nice it would be to not have to borrow my parents' minivan anymore, but I refuse to leap right back on the Lana train to Rejectionville.

"She thinks you and I are going to share a car," I say. "Like both of us together."

"Me and you. Fifty-fifty. Fair and square." Lana grins so big I can practically see the lies oozing between her teeth. Lana does notshare.

This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book DEVIL DARLING SPY by Matt Killeen.
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