The Upside of Unrequited Page 13

“Evan’s being a shitbag again,” I say, and Cassie beams down at me like a proud parent. Must be the word shitbag. Cassie loves compound curse words.

“Schulmeister?” Nadine says. “What did that little fuckwipe do now?”

Come to think of it, Nadine loves compound curse words, too.

Cassie tells her the whole thing, and you can tell Nadine loves every moment of this. I don’t think there’s a single thing on earth that brings more joy to Nadine than throwing shade at Evan Schulmeister. She’s never liked him, ever since he asked if Cassie was actually queer, or if she was trying to emulate our moms. He actually used the word emulate. I don’t even want to remember that particular stretch of awkward silence.

Actually, I do. It was kind of amazing.

But my mind keeps drifting back to the way I felt this morning on the porch. There’s so much I don’t know about. And everyone else seems like they were born knowing. Things like waxing. And birth control. I know the mechanics, obviously, but how does it play out in real life? Who brings the condom? Can anyone buy condoms? Can you use the self-checkout U-Scan so there’s no eye contact involved? Except—oh God—what if the machine announces it?

CONDOMS! Twelve ninety-nine! Please place your GIANT BOX OF CONDOMS IN THE BAG. Oh, but your VALUE PACK OF CONDOMS is too big for our sensors. Please wait, and someone will assist you shortly.

“Why are you so red, Momo?” Nadine asks.

Whoa. Molly. Hey. Get your shit together.

I guess I shouldn’t worry about this until I’ve actually, you know, kissed a guy.

 

 

ON WEDNESDAY, I SOMEHOW END up in the backseat of Mina’s ancient but immaculate Lexus.

“I can’t believe this is your car,” Cassie says. “I mean, it’s so cool that you even have a car.”

“It was my grandma’s,” says Mina.

“Our grandma’s not supposed to drive anymore,” Cassie says. “Because she hit someone.”

Mina gasps. “Are you serious?”

“Dead serious. I was with her. I mean, she was going really slowly, and the guy was totally okay. But she cursed him out and called him a bitch.”

Mina laughs. “I have to meet this woman.”

“She’s visiting next week,” I say. “You should come over.”

“Okay, no,” Cassie says. “Mina does not need to meet Grandma. That is a solid nope.” She grins, and I look at her, curled up in the passenger seat, her whole body turned toward Mina. She’s like a flower tilting toward the sun.

“So, Molly, can I ask you something?” Mina says, after a moment, eyes flicking up to meet mine in the rearview mirror.

“Sure.”

“Cass says you’ve had crushes on twenty-five guys.”

“Twenty-six,” Cassie corrects immediately.

“But you haven’t dated any of them?” Mina asks.

“No,” I say. I feel the usual prickle of self-consciousness.

But when Mina glances at me again, her expression is sweetly curious. “Is there a story behind that?”

“There’s no story. It just never . . .” I lean back against the seat, squeezing my eyes shut.

I have this sudden memory of middle school. There was this table of boys in the cafeteria who would yell boi-oi-oing when hot girls walked by. Except when I walked by, they made a womp womp womp sound, like a boner going limp.

I remember feeling frozen. Cassie was screaming at them, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I thought I was dying.

My first panic attack.

I mean, here’s the thing I don’t get. How do people come to expect that their crushes will be reciprocated? Like, how does that get to be your default assumption?

“Well, she doesn’t put herself out there,” Cassie says. “Like, at all. So, Molly’s never actually been rejected, either.”

“And I’m okay with that,” I say. Cassie snorts.

I stare out the window. Bethesda looks so different from Takoma Park. Everything’s a little quieter and fancier, and there are definitely fewer mixed-media art installations in people’s front yards. But it’s nice here. Some of the houses are really, really big.

“Well, what kind of guys do you like?” Mina says, slowing for a stop sign. “Other than Will.”

Jesus Christ. Hipster Will. I never actually said I liked him. I don’t even know if I do. I’ve met him once.

“Oh, she likes all kinds of guys. Molly’s a crush machine,” Cassie says. “Let’s see. Noah Bates. Jacob Schneider. Jorge Gutierrez. That guy Brent from Hebrew school. The eyelash kid from camp. Josh Barker. Julian Portillo. The short guy from pre-calc. The student teacher. Vihaan Gupta. And Olivia’s little cousin.”

“Okay, I did not know he was thirteen.”

Cassie grins. “Oh, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. That’s a major one.”

“Aww, really?” Mina says, beaming at me in the mirror. “Me too!”

“Yeah, well. Just so you know, he’s Molly’s currently reigning crush number twenty-six, so this may end in a fight.”

I stretch forward to smack Cassie, maybe harder than I need to.

“Or a duel,” she adds, under her breath, and Mina bursts out laughing.

I close my eyes again. Mina and Cassie are murmuring softly now. About something unrelated to my wasteland of a love life. So, that’s good. I let my mind wander—but it keeps snagging on a single point.

Molly’s never actually been rejected.

I just hadn’t really thought about it like that before. But it’s true. I’ve never been rejected. Not directly. I’ve never given anyone the opportunity.

I’ve never rejected anyone either.

And maybe that’s even weirder than the fact that I haven’t kissed anyone. At the very least, I’m pretty sure these things are all related. Somehow.

Cassie nudges me suddenly. “Hey, we’re here.”

I let my eyes slide open.

Mina’s house is brick and medium-sized, with a super-gorgeous front yard. You can tell they planned in advance where the bushes would go. Mina parks in the driveway, and Cassie and I follow her down this little path to the front door. Her parents are at work. She slides a key into the lock.

Immediate first impression: everything in Mina’s house looks like it’s there on purpose. The walls are white, with framed family pictures placed almost symmetrically. The windows are huge and clean, so everything feels really sunny. Also, everywhere I look, there’s art: paintings and sculptures and even the light fixtures. Lots of animals, especially tigers—some realistic, but mostly stylized, and it’s the perfect mix of cute and badass.

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