Finally Read online

  “That’s all well and good,” she says, “but generations of kids survived just fine without cell phones. Why wouldn’t you?”

  For this one, I have an answer all prepared. “Yes, but those generations didn’t have to worry about gangs and drugs and all the violence inspired by video games and television shows.”

  Dad laughs. “Gangs? In Willow Falls?”

  I redden. “Okay, maybe not gangs. But the other stuff.”

  In a shaky voice my mother asks, “Are there drugs at your school? Because if that’s the case, maybe we need to move or —”

  “No, Mom,” I say hurriedly. “Don’t worry. Forget the gangs and drugs. I didn’t mean it.” She sags back onto the couch.

  I have to scramble to get back on track. In my most calm and professional voice, I say, “But studies have proven that having a cell phone is an excellent idea. What if I’m stranded somewhere or the school bus breaks down or —”

  Dad holds up his hand. “Okay, honey, you’ve made your point. As long as you agree to use part of your allowance to insure the phone against its inevitable loss, then you can have that third one on the list. I’ll take you this afternoon.”

  My heart soars. I’m not even insulted at Dad’s implying I will lose the phone. I’ll just have to prove I can hold on to it.

  “Just a minute,” Mom says, and just as quickly, my heart sinks. “What about the GPS tracking feature of that one we offered you last night? If you’re going to be more independent, I want to know where you are.”

  I sigh. I knew she wouldn’t give up on the two-button phone so easily. “This phone has a GPS on it,” I tell her, trying to keep my voice light. “All of them do now. So if I go missing, the police will be able to find me. Plus, the whole idea is that with a phone, you’ll be able to call me anytime you want, so you’ll always know where I am.”

  Dad turns to Mom. “Come on, Robin, you’re scaring yourself. Rory can handle her own cell phone without us having to track her every move. We’ve got to trust her to make the right choices now that she’s twelve.”

  He winks at me. I smile back gratefully.

  “Fine,” Mom says, standing up. “You can get the third one on your chart. Well done on the chart, by the way.”

  “Thanks,” I reply, pleased.

  “But the first time I call and you don’t answer, you’re giving back the phone.”

  I’m about to point out how unreasonable that is, when Dad says, “Robin, that’s a bit unreasonable.” I love my dad. Mom opens her mouth to argue, but Sawyer chooses this moment to run in and announce that his copy of Is Your Mama a Llama? has “fallen” into the toilet. Gotta hand it to that kid. He has a great sense of timing. I might even let him look at my new phone.

  From, like, a hundred feet away.

  Before Dad and I leave, I flip the chart over so the FINALLY side is on full display for whoever might happen to stroll by and read it. After all, Mom did say I’m good at charts, and this is the best one yet.

  Chapter Four

  “Why are you driving so fast?” I shout. My hands grip the sides of the seat for dear life as we careen down the street. “Dad, you’re right on top of that car!” I let go of the seat and my hands fly up over my face. I never thought I’d die on my birthday. Just when I’m finally going to get everything I ever wanted, I’ll never get the chance. It doesn’t seem fair.

  Dad laughs. “I’m nowhere near him. Things just look different from the front seat.”

  When a few more seconds pass without a crash, I allow myself to peek through my fingers. He’s right. Things do look different up here. Without the back of Mom’s or Dad’s seat to obstruct my view, I can see everything. I feel like I’m sitting right on the hood of the car. I lean forward and tentatively touch the dashboard, and then the front window. Probably thick enough to stop me from flying through it if he stops short. Maybe I’ll survive long enough to get my phone, after all. Still, I double (then triple) check that my seat belt is securely fastened.

  After we learn that the store down on Main Street doesn’t sell our model, I try to convince Dad to go for one of the other two on my chart, both of which are in stock.

  “Have you met your mother?” he asks, heading toward the door. “We can’t come home with anything other than the one we agreed on.”

  I sigh. “You’re right. Let’s keep looking.”

  At the next store, a young clerk wearing a tie covered with Snoopy in various poses greets us eagerly at the door. I want to ask him where he got the tie so I can get it for Dad for Christmas, but there’s a time and a place for everything and right now time is of the essence. We have to meet Mom and Sawyer across town for my birthday dinner in a little over an hour. If I don’t find the phone before then, I’ll have to wait till next weekend. And that’s WAY too long to wait.

  The clerk backs away in make-believe horror when my dad tells him the name and model of the phone we’re looking for. “You don’t want that one,” he booms. “There are much cooler phones out there, for sure.”

  I can feel my cheeks beginning to burn.

  “I’m sure there are,” Dad says firmly, “but we need this one.”

  The guy lets out a long whistle and shakes his head. “No can do, I’m afraid. We haven’t got any. Well, just the open-box one, but you wouldn’t want that one.”

  “What does ‘open-box’ mean?” I ask.

  The clerk glances around as though looking for where the sound of my voice came from. He seems surprised when he sees me in front of him. I’m used to this.

  He recovers and explains, “An open-box item is used for display. We can sell it if it’s the last one in stock.”

  I jump up. “I’ll take it!”

  “You sure?” he asks. “Those things get pretty banged up. Kids playing with them all day.” He shudders. “I sure wouldn’t want it.”

  “Let’s just take a look at it,” Dad says wearily.

  “You’re the boss, man,” he says, returning a minute later with the phone. It looks just like the one in the brochure. Not the prettiest of phones, and texting will be a royal pain since there’s no qwerty keyboard, but once I have it, no one will leave me out of important conversations anymore, and that’s the most important thing.

  “We’ll take it!” I repeat.

  “I think you should try it first, honey,” Dad says. “Call me on my phone; see how it works.”

  He whips out his own cell phone, which he claims to use only for business. But I’ve seen him checking football scores when he’s not home to watch the games.

  I start dialing Dad’s number. When I hit the three button, the three doesn’t appear on the little screen. I press harder. Nothing. I hold it up to the guy. “Um, the three doesn’t seem to work.”

  “Guess you could always find friends without a three in their number,” the guy jokes, holding out his hand.

  For a second my grip tightens on the phone. Maybe I could convince everyone I know with a three to change their number to one without one. Dad nudges my arm and I have to concede that it’s not the best plan. “Fine.” I drop the phone into the guy’s palm. “Thanks anyway.”

  “Sorry,” he says. “Hey, if you were gonna take that one, maybe you’d be interested in this.” He heads off to the desk and grabs something from a bottom drawer. When he returns, what does he hold up? The phone with the two buttons!

  “What do you think?” the guy asks, grinning. “This way you’d never have to worry about the three breaking. Get it? Because there aren’t any numbers!”

  Before Dad can decide that maybe this phone isn’t such a bad idea after all, I grab his arm. “Let’s go, Dad.”

  “Guess we should have called around first,” he says as we step out onto the sidewalk. Then he chuckles. “Ah, the irony of having to call to find a phone.”

  I’m pretty sure he’s trying to make a joke. He gets a smile in response because I’m trying very hard to remain calm and be a team player. It’s getting harder by the minute.