Finally Read online

  I glance out the door. Dad is only a few of his enormous strides away.

  “Thanks again,” the boy says as he hurries past me, hugging the bag like it’s the dog itself.

  I quickly step forward to take his place. “How much is that bunny?”

  “That guy?” the manager asks, glancing over at the cage. “He’s on special. Twenty bucks. Comes with the cage.”

  My eyes open wide. Twenty bucks for the bunny AND the cage? That’s perfect!

  A hand clamps down on my shoulder. “We have to go, Rory.”

  “Can you hold him for a few days?” I ask as Dad begins steering me out of the store.

  “Don’t worry,” the guy promises, “he’ll be here.”

  “How can you be sure?”

  “Trust me.”

  He must not be a bunny lover, which I just do not understand at all. Who wouldn’t love bunnies? “Bye, Kyle!” I call out. “See you soon!”

  As soon as he can tear me away from the pet shop window, Dad hands me my new phone and begins the sprint out of the mall. Not taking any chances this time, I grasp it firmly in my hand. By the time we get in the car, my knuckles have turned white from the pressure. I’ve just fastened my seat belt when the phone rings, startling me so much that it drops into my lap.

  “Who could be calling you already?” Dad asks, backing out of the narrow parking spot.

  “I have no idea.” I fumble with the phone and press the green button with the little picture of a phone receiver on it. “Hello?”

  “Yes, hello,” a male voice on the other end says. He sounds rushed. “I’ll need three large pizzas, one plain with thin crust, one extra cheese, and one with meatballs and onions.”

  When I’m too surprised to answer, his voice rises. “Did you get all that?”

  “Um,” I stammer, meeting Dad’s questioning glance. “You have the wrong number.”

  “This isn’t Johnny’s Pizzeria?” the guy asks, sounding very annoyed now. He must really want his pizza.

  “Nope, sorry.”

  He mutters something R-rated and hangs up.

  “I’m sure that was just a fluke,” Dad assures me. “A random wrong number.”

  I’m sure he’s right. Kind of funny, really. I dial Annabelle’s number. She picks up on the first ring.

  “It’s me!” I squeal into the phone. “I finally got it!”

  “Hurray!” she yells with just the right amount of enthusiasm. “Am I your first call?”

  “Yes! But someone already called me. To order a pizza! Can you believe it? My first call was a wrong number!”

  “You should have told him his order would be ready in twenty minutes!”

  I laugh even though I never could have done that.

  “I’ve gotta run,” she says. “I just saved your number on my phone. I’m still coming over to watch the movie tonight, right?”

  “Yup. Hey, I found a bunny I want!”

  “Cool! Later!”

  I watch the screen as the call disconnects. My phone doesn’t have photo capabilities, and the screen is a dull gray color. But at that moment I don’t care at all. It works! And it’s mine! I’m still looking at the phone when it rings again.

  “Wow, you’re popular,” Dad comments.

  “I’m sure it’s just Annabelle.” I press the button. “Hello?”

  A high-pitched female voice asks, “I have a coupon for a free liter of Coke with a medium pizza, but it expired last week. Will you still honor it?”

  I laugh. “Very funny! But my mother doesn’t sound anything like that.”

  The voice on the other end doesn’t laugh. “Excuse me?” she says after a pause.

  “Annabelle, I know it’s you.”

  Pause. “Is this Johnny’s Pizzeria?” She doesn’t sound so much like Annabelle now.

  I look down at the screen. The number that shows up isn’t Annabelle’s! I hurriedly bring it back to my ear. “I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

  “Is this …” She rattles off the number so quickly I have to ask her to repeat it. She does, and I double-check it against the number the saleslady wrote down for me.

  “That’s the right number,” I say, heart sinking. “But this isn’t Johnny’s.”

  She hangs up without saying another word. I look at Dad. A tear is glinting in the corner of his right eye from trying to hold in his laughter.

  “Dad, aren’t you the person who says you should never take joy in another’s misfortune?”

  “I’m sorry,” he says, not sounding very sorry. “Call the store; the number’s on the receipt. Tell them you need to change your number.”

  “No can do,” Robby says when I explain the situation. “The system will only let us change a customer’s number once every two months, and we already changed yours today.”

  “But what should I do if they keep calling?”

  “Well, you could always learn how to make pizza!”

  For a second I actually consider that. I mean, I am able to use the oven now.

  “Sorry, kid, that wasn’t very helpful. Just come back in two months, and we’ll fix it. Good luck,” he says, and hangs up.

  Dad shakes his head. “Poor Johnny. He’s missing out on a lot of orders.”

  “Yeah, poor Johnny,” I repeat, slumping down in my seat. A minute later my phone makes an unfamiliar beep. I hold it up to look at the screen. It’s my first text!


  AT THE DINER!!!!!!



  C U 2NITE!

  Sari is my most dramatic friend. She’s always almost fainting over one thing or another. But for Jake Harrison I’d have fainted, too. Johnny and his pizza fly right out of my head. I text back, OMG!! WOW!, which takes me longer than expected because I keep messing up how many times I need to push each button to get the right letter. This must seriously be the last phone on earth without a real keyboard. But it doesn’t matter because I’m officially In The Loop! I spend the rest of the short trip back into town fantasizing both about Jake Harrison and about how popular I’ll be now that people can text me.

  My warm glow of satisfaction and anticipation lasts until we pull into the restaurant parking lot and my phone rings. Dad turns off the car and we both stare at it suspiciously. “One of your friends?” he asks.

  This time I pay attention to the phone number that pops up on my caller ID. I don’t recognize it.

  “Do you want me to answer it?” he asks.

  I hand him the phone and get out of the car.

  “Hello?” he says as we start walking to the restaurant. “Sorry, we’re sold out of ham and pineapple pizza. Out of pizza altogether, in fact. What? Yes, I’m serious. We only sell donut holes now. No, not like the Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts. We sell the actual holes. The space inside the donut. Right. Okay, well, good luck to you, too.” He hands me back the phone. “I don’t think they’ll be calling again.”

  “Probably not,” I say wearily. “Why did I want a cell phone again?”

  “So your mom and I could reach you whenever we wanted.”

  “Oh, right, that must have been it.”

  Dad holds the restaurant door open for me and things get strange very fast. As usual for a Saturday night, Applebee’s is packed with families and teenagers and everyone else. It just opened a few months ago, and it’s the only chain restaurant allowed in Willow Falls. My theory is the town council let them in because the name reminds the old-timers of the days when apples were the main crop in town. As soon as I step through the door, my eyes light upon a half-naked Sawyer running between the tables, followed closely by our red-faced Mom, frantically waving a pair of training pants in the air. Diners are grabbing their drinks so they don’t get knocked into their laps.

  “Rory!” Sawyer yells gleefully when he sees me. He runs over and hugs my knees. I look up in time to see half the gymnastics team — currently the most popular girls in my grade — al