The Upside of Unrequited Page 18

I can’t help but grin. Maybe she’s about to tell me everything. Maybe things are normal after all.

Maybe they’re better than normal.

It’s beautiful outside. The summer heat hasn’t set in yet—it’s just sunny with a few cotton ball clouds. It’s early, but lots of people are awake. I see our across-the-street neighbor out pinning up a giant rainbow flag, and farther down the street, someone’s playing “Uptown Funk.” It feels like a holiday.

“Okay, how excited are you?” Cassie asks, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Because I’m, like, really fucking excited.”

“I know!”

“Like, I didn’t think I’d care this much, because it’s not like they were less of a couple two days ago. But I’m just happy, you know?”

I giggle and nod.

“It’s just been a really amazing week,” she says, sighing.

Which feels like a door nudging open.

“Yeah, about that,” I say. I feel my lips curving upward.

“Hmm.” She’s grinning.

“I’m just saying. I’d love to know more about some of the other amazing things that happened this week.”

She laughs. “Yeah . . .”

But she doesn’t say more.

I give her an elbow nudge and finally say it. “Are you seriously not going to tell me what happened with Mina?”

“With Mina?” she asks calmly.

Totally, perfectly, utterly calmly.

And now I’m confused. Maybe I misinterpreted. Maybe Cassie and Mina didn’t hook up at all. Maybe I’m an asshole for assuming they did. As if girls who like girls can’t be friends without falling for each other.

It’s just that it seemed like they were falling for each other.

“If you were in love, you’d tell me, right?”

“In love?” She laughs again. “Uh, maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves?”

I stare her down. She wrinkles her nose and grins at me, and I can’t help but grin back.

“I just like to live vicariously through you,” I say.

“But it’s the beginning of a new era,” she says. “Now we live vicariously through Nadine and Patty.”

“That is weird and sad.”

“But they’re getting married.” Cassie sighs again. “This is the awesomest thing that’s ever happened to us.”

When I get to work, there’s this charge in the air, even though the store isn’t open to customers yet. Deborah and Ari are completely amped up.

“Molly!” Deborah calls over the music, which is maybe three times as loud as usual. “Get over here! You heard the news, right?” She’s leaning next to the register, arms draped over the counter, beaming.

I get this hot chocolate feeling in my stomach—cozy and content. I love this day and I love this job. And Reid should be here any minute, too.

“Exciting stuff, right?” Ari says when I get to the register.

“Yeah!” I smile up at them. “My moms got engaged.”

“Oh, sweetie, that’s wonderful! I didn’t even know—geez. You should take the day off and celebrate.” Deborah squeezes my hand.

“No, it’s fine. I like being here!”

“You are such a gem, kiddo. Are you sure?”

“Definitely,” I say, nodding quickly.

Deborah smiles. “Well, that would actually be great. Reid has an eye doctor appointment, so we can definitely use you.”

I feel strangely deflated. But Deborah and Ari put me in charge of a rainbow display at the front of the store, which is literally the most satisfying task I could ever be assigned. I get to pull stuff from other displays and place them in an entirely new context: a vintage red-painted teakettle, an orange ceramic owl, a yellow tablecloth, green mason jars, a blue repurposed picture frame, and (of course) an eggplant onesie from the baby section.

“Seriously, Molly. You have such an eye for this. Are your moms recruiting you for wedding décor?”

I laugh. “Yup.”

“Smart women,” she says. “Let me know if there’s anything from the store they can use. Or you can come over if you want and I can help you make stuff. As long as you’re not allergic to cats.”

“I love cats!”

Deborah laughs. “Well, we have five of them.”

Which means Reid has five cats. Somehow, I’m not surprised to hear this.

Okay, so maybe this is random, but I once developed a crush on a guy for cat-related reasons. Crush number twenty: Vihaan of the Cutest Contraband. He was a trans guy from the Spectrum Club I went to with Cassie, and he always wore this hoodie with a kangaroo pouch in front. I never really thought about why. But then one day there was a kitten in the pouch. Vihaan literally carried a kitten in the pouch of his hoodie for an entire school day, and his teachers never noticed.

But when he saw me staring, he lifted the kitty out of his pouch and placed her in my arms. And our hands touched. And he looked at me with these twinkly brown eyes, like we were both in on a joke.

He had really, really, unforgettably gorgeous eyes.

ANYWAY. Have I mentioned I love cats?

I spend the rest of the morning stacking and arranging ceramic dishes and scented candles and thinking about weddings. There really is a dreaminess about today. Even our customers seem unusually coupled up. They’re all holding hands. It’s like a Valencia-filtered Noah’s ark.

And it’s nice.

Except . . . sometimes I feel like I’m the last alone person. Like maybe there aren’t seven and a half billion people in the world. Maybe there are seven and a half billion and one.

I’m the one.

Though I have a theory. Kind of a fucked-up theory. But it’s been poking around my brain since the day Mina and Cassie hooked up. Or didn’t hook up.

This is going to sound weird, but I think I need to be rejected.

I think I need it like I need a flu shot. Or like those therapists who make you hold snakes until you’re not afraid of snakes anymore.

I don’t even know if that makes sense.

But I spend a lot of time thinking about love and kissing and boyfriends and all the other stuff feminists aren’t supposed to care about. And I am a feminist. But I don’t know. I’m seventeen, and I just want to know what it feels like to kiss someone.

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