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Justin wanted to talk about Tiffany and how great the plan went, but his landlord was painting the bathroom. He volunteered Zoe's house, because her mom was never around. When we arrived, though, her mom was passed out on the couch. Zoe stomped around, but her mother didn't stir.

"She was supposed to be at a job interview," she said.

Poor Zoe. I couldn't think of anything to say that would make it better. Justin just looked annoyed as the rest of the League followed Zoe to her room. But soon we were on to other matters, laughing and congratulating one another on Tiffany's humiliation last Saturday. I kept quiet, offering the occasional nod so I wouldn't draw attention to myself.

Zoe's news in the library swirled through my head, drowning out everyone's words. For the past four days, I'd done nothing but think about it. I stole peeks at Justin, but when he looked at me, I glanced away.

At a quarter to seven, Zoe suggested we get something to eat.

"How about Barney's Hamburgers?" Nora asked.

"Too close to school. Someone might see us," Justin said.

"I know a pizza place," Zoe said. "It's pretty far away, but we could borrow my mom's car."

I thought about Mrs. Carpenter, splayed out on the couch. She wasn't giving permission for anything.

"The good news is we can go and get back without her ever knowing," Nora said.

We were at the door when the phone rang. Zoe stopped. "It might be the interviewer. I've got to tell them she's sick or something." She waved us on. "The car's open. I'll be right out."

As I squeezed into the red Toyota, I wrinkled my nose. The car smelled like it had been doused in perfume.

Richie looked back at me from the front passenger seat. "Where's your purse?"

"Oh, no, I think I left it by the TV." I climbed out.

Zoe wasn't in the living room. I glanced at her mom, spread out on her back, hands resting on her stomach like Snow White awaiting her true love's kiss. The real picture couldn't be further from the truth.

A voice was speaking on the answering machine. "Mrs. Carpenter, as we explained yesterday, serious action will be taken if we don't receive your credit card payment within—"

As I reached for my purse, I heard the unmistakable sound of Zoe's boots clomping down the hall. I hitched my purse onto a shoulder and ran out the door. I glanced at the car to make sure no one was looking, then peeked around the window frame. Zoe shook out a worn white blanket and tucked it around her mother. She leaned down, kissing her on the forehead.

I managed to dive into the car without getting caught. A minute later, Zoe climbed in behind the wheel.

"Is your mom going to be okay?" Richie asked.

She started the ignition. "She's my mother, not the other way around."

"You deserve to live your life," Justin said.

In the backseat, Nora, pressed like a postage stamp to Justin's side, whispered in his ear. I leaned to the left, straining to hear.

"Can you believe my math teacher taught the entire day with two different shoes on her feet?" She described each sneaker in nauseating detail, punctuating the story with pats on Justin's wrist. He didn't seem to be listening; he just gazed past her, out the window, stroking his upper lip. Nora, lost in her own dramatics, dived into chapter two of her fascinating tale.

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