“I kind of need to get my cat out of the car,” I say as Mercedes brushes past me, her wild curls slapping me in the face as she starts up the stairs again. The energy in this house is just … wow. I'm used to slow, lazy days in my condo, the constant gentle hum of the air conditioner, the soft sighs of beautiful women. This right here is frantic and messy, like standing in the middle of a mosh pit at a really intense rock show. I'm already about halfway certain that I'm going to get elbowed in the face—metaphorically or otherwise.
“Make sure you leave the cat downstairs,” Mercedes calls out. “The chihuahuas are up here in the bathroom.”
“What freaking chihuahuas?” I ask as my brother returns to the front door to grab his wife's suitcase. “You never said anything about chihuahuas. This was a kid sitting thing, not a dog sitting thing. I don't do dogs. Especially not little ones.”
“You like cats, right? Chihuahuas are basically cats.”
My brother glares at me, his red hair and beard giving him that sort of 'lumberjack' look that companies always put on the labels of syrup and pancakes and whatever. I miss Las Vegas. There are no fucking lumberjacks in Las Vegas. Hell, there aren't even any trees.
“Chihuahuas are not cats, Rob. Chihuahuas are smelly, annoying, ugly, yipping rat creatures. And it kind of freaks me out that you're just saying chihuahuas in the plural. How many of them do you have?”
“We have three,” Kinzie states proudly, apparently over her temper tantrum in some sort of miraculous mood shift. I'm confused. Ten seconds ago she was shouting that she hated me, and now she's sniffling and smiling and staring at me with squinty eyes. “Can I see your cat?”
I don't know what to do with the baby, so I follow my brother outside and try to hand the car seat over. Thankfully, he takes it and starts strapping the kid in.
“Pay attention, so you know how to do this,” he barks, and I have to really clench my teeth to keep from screaming. When I said I hadn't slept in days, I meant it. Tack on a fourteen hour drive to the end of that? Not to mention the fact that I was so stressed-out I couldn't even get off before I left. Now I have blue balls, an aching back from the shitty seat in my car, and a pounding headache. I can't have my brother bossing me around right now. I dealt with that for years, and it's not gonna fly.
“I think I can figure out a fucking baby seat,” I snap and Kinzie gasps. Rob turns a look on me like I've never seen, nostrils flared and green eyes wide.
“Don't you dare use that language in front of my kids,” he snaps, waving his hand dismissively. “And don't just stand there. Do something productive.”
I flip him off behind his back and Kinzie gasps again. Holy mother of fucking shit. I'm not going to make it two days here, let alone two freaking weeks. Yeah, two weeks. Two weeks. Why, how, I got roped into this, I can't even remember. It's been a long drive.
Did you know that cats make shitty passengers on long road trips? Hubert yowled and screamed and attacked the bars on the cage. He even pissed on himself, despite the litter box I shoved into the kennel. Now I've got a hairless cat whose sweater is soaked in pee. Today really couldn't get any worse.
And then Mercedes wakes the twins up from their naps, just about at the same time I realize Kinzie has disappeared.
Ten seconds later, a herd of freaking chihuahuas comes yowling and skittering down the stairs.
I wonder what my face looks like in that moment.
If someone were to try and interpret it, I think it'd be: please fucking end me.
My crap day starts off much like my crap night ended.
First off, I have no phone. Don't ask how I got the waterlogged ruins of it out of the toilet; I don't want to talk about it. Second, I spent an hour looking for that damn dog and I never did find him. But that's okay because the shelter called at the crack of dawn this morning and said they'd picked him up last night. All I have to do is drive twenty minutes out of my way and pay a fine to pick him up.
“Okay,” I say as I pull over again and smooth out the directions I printed off the computer. I know, I know: nobody uses printed directions anymore. But my phone got fried with poop water last night, so GPS is kind of off the menu. “This shouldn't be too hard. I can figure this out.”
I glance up and wrinkle my face. I grew up in this town, but as soon as I graduated high school, I moved as far away as I could, settling in So Cal for school. Since I figured I'd never be back here, I sort of … obliterated any directional memories of this place.
I am so lost right now, I think as I look up and Bella starts to whine from the backseat.
“I'm gonna be late, Brooke,” she says, dropping the word 'auntie' altogether. “I hate being late.”