“I have my lunch right here.” She opens her palm to reveal an assortment of capsules that make my prenatals look like baby candy. “But I need water. Do you have clear water from a snowy mountain spring?”

Wow.

Somebody call Will Smith—aliens really have landed.

“Uh . . . we don’t get much snow around here, this time of year.

We have Greenville’s finest tap water, though.”

She shakes her head. And she still hasn’t blinked. Not one freaking time.

“I only drink snowy mountain spring water.”

Billy raises his hand. “I’m jonesin’ for some onion rings.”

I smile and put in his order. “Sure.”

Evay sniffs the air, like a squirrel before a storm. Then she looks a little petrified. “Is that grease? Do you cook with actual grease?”

I take a step back. She might be one of those wacked-out, PETA-loving, vegan people who are offended by animal byproducts—and the prospect of being doused with red paint isn’t too appealing at the moment.

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“Ah . . . yes?”

She covers her nose with bony fingers. “I can’t breathe this air! I’ll break out!” She turns to the door.

And waits.

Guess females aren’t the only thing she doesn’t make contact with.

Billy opens it for her and she scurries out. I look at him, flabbergasted. “Okay, what the hell was that?”

“That was a Californian. They’re all like that. I think it’s from too much sun . . . and weed. They make Dee Dee look f**king mundane. Plus Evay’s a model, so she’s an extra-large kind of weird.

She won’t smell grease, but she smokes like a chimney.”

That’s why I’m happy I live in New York.

Where the normal people are.

Well . . . lived, anyway.

I walk behind the counter to get a take-out box for Billy’s rings.

he rests his elbows on the counter, leaning over. “So where’s Dr.

Manhattan?”

he means Drew. You know—after the arrogant, inhuman, blue physicist in the Watchmen comics?

“he’s not here.”

Billy looks surprised. Pleasantly so. “No kidding? I didn’t think he let you out of his sight, let alone out of the state. What’s up with that?”

I shrug. “Long story.”

“Sounds promising. hey—let’s hang out later. Catch up. I have to get Evay back to the hotel for her nap, then I’ll swing back and pick you up.”

My eyes squint. “her nap?”

he lifts his chin defensively. “Yeah. Lots of people sleep twelve hours during the day.”

I hand him his onion rings. “I know. They’re called vampires, Billy.”

he laughs.

And then my mother walks out of the kitchen. “Billy! Amelia said you were visiting.”

She hugs him and he kisses her cheek. “hey, Carol.”

She looks disapprovingly at his beard. “Oh honey, you have such a handsome face. Don’t cover it up with all . . . this.”

My mother is such a mom, isn’t she?

Billy defends his facial hair. “Why’s everyone hating on the beard? I like the beard.” Then he holds out a hundred-dollar bill.

“For the onion rings.”

She shakes her head and pushes his hand back. “Your money’s no good here—you know that.”

A crash of breaking glass comes from behind the kitchen door.

And George Reinhart’s voice: “Carol!”

My mother clicks her tongue. “Oh, dear. George is trying to work the dishwasher again.”

She runs off to the kitchen. Billy and I share a laugh. Then he hands me the hundred-dollar bill. “Slip this into the register when your mom’s not looking, okay?”

It’s tough when you get to the point in your life—like we have—when you’re able to help the parentals financially, but they’re too stubborn to accept.

“Sure thing.”

he taps the counter. “Okay, four o’clock, I’ll pick you up. Be ready. And don’t wear any power suit or shit like that—this is a strictly jeans and sneaks kind of mission.”

That’s what I’d planned on. But still I have to ask, “Why? What are we gonna to do?” he shakes his head at me. “You’ve been gone too long, Katiegirl. What else would we do? We’re goin’ womping.”

Right. Silly me. Of course we are.

Billy leans over the counter and kisses my cheek quickly.

“Later.”

Then he grabs his take-out and walks out the door.

have you ever gone for a ride in your car, after your last final exam or the beginning of a long weekend from work? And the road’s wide open, your sunglasses are on, and your favorite song is blaring out of the speakers?

Good. Then you know just what this feels like.

Womping.

how to explain it? I’m sure there’re various names for it, depending on where you live, but here, that’s what we call it. It’s like mountain climbing . . . only . . . with a car. Or a truck. Or any other automobile with four-wheel drive.

The goal is to scale a hill, the steepest you can find, and get as vertical as you can, as fast as you can, without flipping car. It’s fun—in a stupid, dangerous, adrenaline-junkie kind of way.

Don’t worry about my delicate condition. Billy’s truck is an off-road vehicle with safety harnesses instead of seatbelts. So even if we flip? I’m not going anywhere.

We’re riding out to the hills right now, full speed ahead. Ohio isn’t exactly known for its hilly terrain, but there are a few spots where these abound. Lucky for us, Greenville is near them.

The windows are open, the sun is bright, and it’s a comfortable seventy degrees. I yell above the sound of the stereo, “So . . . another new car?”

Billy smiles and rubs his hand lovingly across the dash. “Yep.

And this baby’s unpolluted by my cousin’s evil handiwork.”

I roll my eyes. I definitely need to check out Billy’s financial portfolio. The wind whips my hair around my face. I push it back and yell again, “Don’t be that guy.”

“What guy?’ “The guy that has a different car for every day of the month.

Spend your money on more practical things.”

he shrugs. “I told Amelia I’d buy her a house. As long as she doesn’t tell Delores where it is.”

Billy and Delores love to rag on each other.

The song on the radio changes, and Billy turns it up to maximum volume. he looks at me. And he’s smiling.