Chapter 20. Sniffing Around Kealakekua

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Dad was in the kitchen, preparing another loaf of bread for the oven. He liked to put on a little mellow Françoise Hardy whilst getting his hands dirty before his day of rest. He got second place in the Southwest challah contest at the farmer's market, after Greg's mom.

"Are you sure I can use your car?" I asked for what had to be the third time that afternoon.

"Please, I'd prefer it if you did," Dad insisted, "I'm worried your tiny car wouldn't even make it to the coast."

This week's lie was something down the lines of me and a few friends driving down to the coast to stay at Tavi's beach house.

Over a week had gone by since the now infamous night I came home, out of breath and with a strange story of a man following me. Because of said incident, Mom and Dad found it ok that I had barely left my room since. They were now full of glee over the fact that I was going out with friends.

In reality, all that time spent in my room - while, fair enough did serve as a safe haven from whatever was after me, was time spent scheming.

The ideal plan up for execution was harmless enough in theory: find out what Johan's deal was with Peachbode. Preferably, finding this out would not require me to interrogate every single Peachbode resident.

Then, on Wednesday night, after days upon days of chugging Cup Noodles and contemplating whether to make an obsession board, the right idea came to me.

The smell of warm bread got me jealous of Isaac, who was staying home for Shabbat. Then again, like me, Isaac had not been doing much but stay home for a while. But that wasn't something my parents discussed in front of me anymore.

"What do I do if someone calls the car phone?" I then asked.

"It's fine, your Uncle Mal is the only one who ever does," Dad said, rolling his eyes at the thought of his brother, "and if he does, tell him I told him to shut up."

"Has he done anything stupid?"

Dad sighed, indicating it was a matter of what stupid decision had his little brother made this time?

"Tell him to call me tomorrow. He always comes around when I yell at him."

Over the sound of the record player, Dad and I failed to hear the doorbell ringing. Soon, Mom waltzed into the kitchen, introducing our house guest: one Sam Caruso, with his hands in his pockets and hair slicked back, looking like he was fresh out of baseball practice.

"Marcia," she said, laying a hand on Sam's back, "why didn't you tell me your new friend was so handsome?"

Sam grinned, but I had to wait until later to answer him with a fitting grimace.

"It's because he doesn't deserve it," I answered.

"Oh be nice," Mom ordered, turning her eyes back to Sam, "Sam, are you hungry? Would you like something to eat? Some tea? Some challah? You can stay for dinner."

"Judi, come on," Dad interrupted, like in any given situation, he was several levels more balanced than Mom, "this is why she never brings friends home."

Sam approached my father carefully to shake his hand, making a proper introduction revealing him as a wholesome, charming boy. Then he shed that image.

"Actually, it's because Marcia only has two friends," Sam commented, both my parents convinced themselves it was a joke, "well, plus me."

As my parents shared a laugh over my roasting, Sam and I exchanged eye-contact. The tension between us lately should have been an indicator that I wasn't in the mood for this.

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