This is a work of fiction.
Before any of us could say a word, a different server rushed up to Adelle’s table.
“Good evening,” she said. “Are you ready to order?”
I thought Adelle was going to send her away, but she smiled frostily and said, “Sam, do you know what you’re having?”
He did, and Adelle ordered steaks and potatoes for all of them. Sam also got a second Coke, a large this time, and the rest of them ordered coffee.
Once the server had left, Adelle said, “I hope they’re quick so I’ll have time to do my makeup.”
“Would you like dessert?” I asked Freckles, Lydia, and Curly.
We all ordered raspberry cheesecake.
We didn’t get our desserts until Adelle, Roger, Simon, and Sammy had almost finished theirs, which was apple pie.
“Well,” Adelle said, putting down her fork, “I’d better go up and get ready. If you’re going to the party, you’d better start getting ready.”
Simon and Roger looked at each other, and then Roger said, “We’re going. Sam, do you wanna come with us?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Excuse me,” I said.
Adelle glanced at me.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know you well enough to let Sam ride with you, but I’m happy for him to meet you there.”
“It’s a waste of gasoline for you to drive him all the way there.”
“We’re going too,” Freckles said.
“I highly doubt that,” Adelle said. “Anyway, Sam’s old enough to make up his own mind.”
“Not in this,” I said. “We’ve never been to LA, and I don’t want us to get separated.”
“You won’t. He can call you.”
“He doesn’t have a phone.”
“What? A kid his age with no phone? What kind of dinosaur are you? Roger and Simon got phones as soon as they could use them.”
“You can borrow mine,” Curly said.
Sammy ignored his brother.
“I know. Mom wants me to have one, but Grandma keeps telling her I’m too young.”
Adelle said, “I think I might have a spare one. It’s a cheap one from Walmart, but it’ll do the job.”
“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary,” I said, getting up from the table. “Sammy, please come with us. We need to get ready.”
“Let’s go,” Simon said. “Sam, you can use our bathroom.”
With that, they all got up and left the restaurant, leaving me fuming impotently.
“Should we send the cops after them?” Curly asked.
“I don’t think the police would do anything.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Knowing her, we’d probably get into trouble.”
I thought he just might be right about that.
It didn’t take us long to get ready, and soon, we were getting into the rented van.
It felt strange that Sammy wasn’t with us, but I tried to act normally.
Traffic was light, and we made good time.
The house had an actual parking lot, which was already almost full. Our van looked quite shabby next to the other vehicles.
My phone beeped as I was pulling into a space.
Maybe Sammy was texting me from his new phone.
I finished parking, grabbed my phone, and unlocked it.
The message wasn’t from Sam, but from Stacey.
Stacey: Hi Mom. I just wanted to let you know I’m home safely and am unpacking. God, we bought so much stuff before we left and in Hawaii. I’m gonna sell most of it and maybe pay off some of that jerk’s debts. Not that I should have to pay them off for him, but I can’t have those sharks after us. I bet his ex knows he’s a gambler. God, I wish she’d told me. She’s probably laughing her head off. I’m stuck with a $50,000 debt, and you’re stuck with a whiny little brat that none of us can stand.
As I considered what I should say, I noticed our previous messages.
We hadn’t talked on the phone since Friday.
Stacey had texted me while we’d been with Louisa.
Sammy couldn’t have overheard us talking about them moving into an apartment.
That meant that he had read my messages!
While I’d been in the shower, sleeping, or otherwise occupied, Sammy had gone into my purse, unlocked my phone, and had read my messages. But how had he known the passcode?
Was Sammy, age twelve, a budding hacker?
“Grandma, are we going to the party?” Freckles said.
“Yes,” I said. I would text Stacey once I was sitting down somewhere, watching the kids. Well, if we were allowed in.
As we approached the house, we could hear loud music.
“She’s got a cool stereo, I bet,” Curly said. “Grandma, do you think there’s a DJ?”
“Cool. Do you think he’d let me help him?”
“I don’t think so. I’m not even sure if we’re allowed in.”
“I am,” Curly said. “I checked her website. It’s an open house party. You have to show ID to get into the bar, but everybody can dance and stuff.”
“How come you didn’t tell me earlier?”
“I didn’t want to talk while you were driving.”
He showed me his phone.
Lisa’s private rooms would be locked, but otherwise, guests could go where they liked.