“I don’t understand why you aren’t with Jefferson right now,” Madison said, sitting across from Bryce at the coffee shop in the mall. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“We broke up,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“Because it’s Valentine’s Day. We always break up for V. Day,” he explained.

Madison shook her head. “Explain.”

“Being in a relationship on V. Day is so basic,” he said. “The social clout comes from whining on Insta that you’re all alone.”

“Was this your idea?” Madison asked. “Is Jefferson on board with all this?”

Bryce sipped his coffee and nodded. “This is a totally mutual decision. Jefferson and I are totally on the same page. We’ll get back together once the dust settles. What’s going on with you?”

Madison slumped in her seat. “I had a huge fight with my mom.”

“What about?”

“I need to drive to Indianapolis—”

“How far is that?” Bryce interrupted.

“Not too bad. About eight hours round trip.”

“What’s in Indianapolis?”

“If you stopped interrupting me, I was about to tell you.” Madison narrowed her eyes and continued. “You know how you found the NASA logo next to the Star Wars logo in the notebook? Well, Cindy and I found that there is a connection between NASA and the SDI defense program. But we can’t figure out exactly what it is, so I’m going to visit the guy who ran NASA at that time.”

“No! He ran all of NASA?” Bryce asked.

“Yup. He’s super old and in a nursing home. I need to drive there to interview him, because he’s too deaf to do a phone interview.”

“You should bring him cookies,” Bryce suggested. “Old people love when you bring them stuff.”

Madison smiled. “Good idea.”

“So why did you have a fight with your mom?” Bryce asked.

“Oh. Right. So I told her I was going, and she said no. She doesn’t trust me leaving the state by myself. She says it’s about my junky old car, but I know that it’s really just her being overprotective. I’m practically an adult. It’s ridiculous.”

“I could go with you, maybe,” Bryce said.

“That’s sweet, but I already floated that and got nowhere. So I told her I’d ask biodad.”

“Way to bury the lead!” Bryce shouted. “You told her about biodad?”

“You love saying that to me,” Madison said.

“Well, yeah. It’s funny because you’re a reporter.” Bryce made a face and wobbled his head.

Madison laughed. “Anyway, yeah, I told her about Lucas. She got super pissed and forbade me seeing him. As far as she’s concerned, I’m not allowed to drive to Indy and I’m not allowed to have any interaction whatsoever with Lucas.”

“So you’ll be driving to Indy with Lucas?” Bryce asked.

“Naturally,” Madison said, raising her eyebrows and sipping her coffee.

“You can’t sleep in my room when your mom throws you out,” he said.

“She isn’t going to throw me out. My mom forbids shit all the time. She never follows through. Especially in a case like this where I’m obviously right.”

“Have you asked Lucas yet?”

“Yup. He’s on board. He said he’ll take a sick day, since he’ll probably miss the beginning of his shift. He mostly works nights at the warehouse.”

“That’s awfully nice of him,” Bryce said. “I thought you and he were having a big fight, too, though.”

“Things didn’t go great the last time I saw him,” Madison replied. “But I’m gonna give him another chance.”

“Because now you need him,” Bryce said. “That’s kind of shitty. You know that right?”

Madison smiled. “I think I earned it. Or he earned it. Or whatever. It’s been earned.”

“If you say so. When are you going?”

“Over break. I can’t go on a weekend because of work, so I have to wait until we get out of school next week. He and I will leave super early, since I think old people tend to get loopy late in the day.”

“I’ve heard that, too,” Bryce agreed.

“Yeah, so we’ll head out early, I’ll interview the guy, and we’ll be home by dinner. That’s the plan anyway.”

“Seems like a good plan. What are you going to do about your mom, though?”

“Tell her after it’s over, of course,” Madison said.

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