It took a while for the food to be ready, but I soon realized my dad was right. It was worth the wait. I was digging into the onion rings before I even got out the door to the boardwalk, which by then was crowded with families eating ice-cream cones, couples on dates, and tons of little kids running along the sand. In the distance, there was a gorgeous sunset, all oranges and pinks, and I kept my eyes on it as I walked, not even looking over at the bike shop until I was almost past it. The guy was still there, although now he was talking to a tall girl with red hair who was wearing a massive pair of sunglasses.
“Hey,” he called out to me, “if you’re looking for something to do tonight, there’s a bonfire at the Tip. I’ll save you a seat.”
I glanced over at him. The redhead was now giving me the stink eye, an annoyed look on her face, so I didn’t say anything.
“Ah, she’s a heartbreaker!” he said, then laughed. I kept walking, now feeling the redhead’s gaze boring in somewhere between my shoulder blades. “Just keep it in mind. I’ll wait for you.”
Back at the house, I found three plates and some silverware, then set the table and put out the food. I was shaking ketchup packets out into a pile when my dad came downstairs.
“I thought I smelled onion rings,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “This looks great.”
“Is Heidi coming down?” I asked, sliding his burger onto a plate. “Not sure,” he replied, helping himself to an onion ring. Mouth full, he added, “The baby’s having a hard night. She probably wants to get her to sleep first.”
I glanced up the stairs, wondering if it was possible that Thisbe was still crying, as I’d been gone at least an hour. “Maybe I’ll, um, just ask her if she wants me to bring it up to her.”
“Sure, great,” he said, pulling out a chair and sitting down. I stood there for a second, watching as he ate another ring, tugging a nearby newspaper over with his free hand. I’d wanted to have dinner with my dad, sure, but I felt kind of bad about it happening this way.
Thisbe was still crying: I could hear her as soon as I got to the top of the stairs, Heidi’s dinner on a plate in one hand. When I got to the pink room, the door was ajar, and inside I could see her sitting in a rocking chair, her eyes closed, moving back and forth, back and forth. I was understandably hesitant to bother her, but she must have smelled the food, because a beat later, she opened her eyes.
“I thought you might be hungry,” I called out. “Do you—should I bring this toyou?”
She blinked at me, then looked down at Thisbe, who was still howling. “You can just put it down,” she said, nodding at a nearby white bureau. “I’ll get to it in a second.”
I walked over, moving aside a stuffed giraffe and a book called Your Baby: The Basics, which was opened to a page with the heading “Fussiness: What Causes It, and What You Can Do.” Either she hadn’t had time to read it, or that book didn’t know jack, I thought as I slid the plate over.
“Thanks,” Heidi said. She was still rocking, the motion almost hypnotic, although clearly not to Thisbe, who continued to cry at full volume. “I just…I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. She’s fed, she’s changed, I’m holding her, and it’s like…she hates me, or something.”