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Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - page 17 / 18

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“She’s probably just colicky,” I said. “But what does that mean, exactly?” She swallowed, hard, then looked back down at her daughter’s face. “It just doesn’t make sense, and I’m doing all I can….

She trailed off, her voice getting tight, and I thought of my dad downstairs, eating his onion rings and reading the paper. Why wasn’t he up here? I didn’t know jack about babies either. Just as I thought this, though, Heidi looked up at me again.

“Oh, God, Auden, I’m so sorry.” She shook her head. “I’m sure this is the last thing you want to hear about. You’re young, you should be out having fun!” She sniffled, reaching up to rub her eyes with one hand. “You know, there’s a place called the Tip, just down the road from here. All the girls at my shop hang out there at night. You should go check it out. It has to be better than this, right?”

Agreed, I thought, but it seemed rude to actually say that. “Maybe I will,” I said. She nodded, like we’d made a deal, then looked back at Thisbe. “Thanks for the food,” she said. “I really…I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” I told her. But she was still looking at the baby, her face weary, so I took this as a dismissal and left, shutting the door behind me.

Downstairs, my dad was finishing his dinner, perusing the sports section. When I slid into a chair opposite him, he looked up at me and smiled. “So how’s she doing? Baby asleep?”

“Not really,” I told him, unwrapping my burger. “She’s still screaming.” “Yikes.” He pushed his chair back, standing up. “I better go check in.” Finally, I thought as he disappeared up the stairs. I picked up my burger, taking a bite: it was cold, but still good. I’d only eaten about half of it when he reappeared, walking to the fridge and grabbing a beer. I sat there, chewing as he popped the top, took a sip, and looked out at the water.

“Everything okay up there?” “Oh, sure,” he said easily, moving the bottle to his other hand. “She’s just colicky, like Hollis was. Not much you can do except wait it out.”

The thing was, I loved my dad. He might have been a little moody, and definitely more than a little selfish, but he’d always been good to me, and I admired him. Right at that moment, though, I could see why someone might not like him that much. “Does Heidi…is her mom coming to help out, or anything?”

“Her mom died a couple of years ago,” he said, taking another sip off his beer. “She has a brother, but he’s older, lives in Cincinnati with kids of his own.”

“What about a nanny, or something?” Now he looked at me. “She doesn’t want help,” he said. “It’s like I told you, she wants to do this on her own.”

I had a flash of Heidi craning her neck, looking down at my dad’s office, the grateful look on her face when I brought her dinner. “Maybe,” I said, “you should, you know, insist, though. She seems pretty tired.”

He just looked at me for a moment, a flat expression on his face. “Auden,” he said finally, “this isn’t something you need to worry about, all right? Heidi and I will work it out.”

In other words, back off. And he was right. This was his house, I was a guest here. It was presumptuous to show up and just assume I knew better, based on only a few hours. “Right,” I said, balling up my napkin. “Of course.”

“All right,” he said, his voice relaxed again. “So…I’m going to head upstairs, get back to it. I’d like to finish this chapter tonight. You’ll be okay on your own?”

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