The Upside of Unrequited Page 2

I do wonder, sometimes, what people think when they see me.

It’s strange how you can sometimes still feel self-conscious around people you’ve known your whole life. Literally. We’ve known Olivia since our moms were in La Leche League together. And for seventeen years, it’s been the four of us: Cassie, Olivia, me, and my cousin Abby. Except Abby moved to Georgia last summer. And ever since, Cassie’s been dragging Olivia and me to the stuff she used to do with Abby—open mic nights and concerts and wandering down H Street.

A year ago, Olivia and I would have been tucked up on her living room couch, watching Steven Universe with Titania, her schnauzer-beagle mix. Instead, I’m surrounded by people who are infinitely cooler than me. Everyone on U Street is doing one of three things right now: laughing, smoking, or making out.

I turn toward the Metro pole, and right away, I see the dream girl.

“Cass, it’s her!” I pull on Cassie’s tank top. “In the red. Look.”

The girl leans forward, digging through her purse. There are these two hipster white guys hovering near her, both absorbed in their phones: a redhead wearing skinny jeans, and a dark-haired one with dramatic bangs.

“But you never explained why she’s Cassie’s dream girl,” Olivia says. The girl looks up from her purse, and Olivia turns away quickly.

But she sees me. The dream girl waves, and I wave back.

“Oh. She’s cute,” Cassie whispers.

“I told you.” I grin.

“She’s walking over here.”

And she is. The dream girl is walking toward us, smiling. So now, Cassie’s smiling. She’s staring at the ground, but I can tell from her cheeks.

“Hi again,” says the girl.

I smile. “Hi.”

“My savior.”

This girl must seriously hate drip-drying.

“I don’t think I even introduced myself,” she says. “I’m Mina.”

“I’m Molly.”

“Your shirt,” Cassie says, “is the most perfect thing I have ever seen in my entire life. I’m just.” She shakes her head.

Mina laughs. “Thank you.”

“I’m Cassie, by the way. And I’ve never met anyone who’s heard of Georgie James.”

Okay, that’s bullshit. I’m standing right here.

“You know what’s funny,” Mina starts to say—but then the dramatic bangs boy pokes her arm.

“Eenie Meenie, let’s go.” He looks up, catching my eye over Cassie’s shoulder. “Hi. Nice to meet you guys, but we have to catch this train.”

“Oh shit,” says Mina. “Okay. Well—”

“So do we,” Cassie says quickly. And somehow it happens: our groups merge. Cassie and Mina fall into step beside each other, and Olivia’s right behind them, in her own world, texting. I step onto the escalator and lean into the handrail, trying not to look like a sheep that lost its herd. Molly Peskin-Suso: disoriented introvert, alone in the wild.

Until I look up and realize: I’m not actually alone. The hipster boys are a step below me on the escalator. I accidentally lock eyes with the redhead, who asks, “Why do you look familiar?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I’m Will.”

“I’m Molly.”

“Like the drug,” says Bangs.

Like the drug. Like I’m a person you would associate with drugs.

The train pulls into the station almost as soon as we step off the escalator, and we have to sprint to catch it. I slide into a seat, leaving room for Cassie, but she plops down next to Mina.

Olivia settles into the seat beside me instead. And then moments later, Mina’s hipster boys drift toward us. Bangs is reading something on his phone, but the red-haired guy grips the pole and smiles down at us.

I look up at him. “Will, right?”

Okay. So he’s cute. He’s a tiny bit really extremely cute.

“Good memory!” he says. And then Olivia introduces herself, and there’s this weird, hanging pause. I wish I were the kind of person who knows how to fill a silence.

I’m not. Olivia’s definitely not.

“Oh, and this is Max,” Will says after a moment.

Bangs glances up from his phone with a tiny smile. “What’s up?”

And ugh—he’s cute, too. Except no: I’d actually describe him as hot. He’s one of those guys who’s so hot, he’s not even cute. But he should rein in the bangs.

“So, who does Molly look like?” Will asks, staring me down. “Sorry, but it’s driving me crazy.”

Max appraises me, pressing his lips together. “No idea.”

“She seriously looks like someone.”

Actually, I get this a lot. I think I must have one of those stupidly generic faces. Weirdly, three entirely unrelated people have told me I look like this particular teen actress from the seventies, though I’m sort of a fat version of her. And strangers are always telling me I look like their cousin or someone from their summer camp. It freaks me out just a little bit. Like, there’s this part of me that wonders whether I actually am related to all these cousins and camp friends.

Here’s the part where I should probably mention that Cassie and I are sperm donor babies. So that’s a thing in my life: that tiny niggling idea that everyone I meet might actually be my half sibling.

“I’m just going to gawk at you until I figure it out,” Will says.

Across the aisle, Cassie snorts—and I suddenly realize she and Mina are watching us. They look extremely entertained.

Heat rises in my cheeks. “Um, okay,” I say, blinking.

The train slows to a stop, and Olivia stands. “Well, here’s Chinatown.”

“That’s us, too,” Will says. I guess that’s not surprising—half the world gets off here to transfer. The doors spring open, and Cassie and Mina trail behind us as we step onto the platform. Cassie’s typing something into her phone.

“Where are you guys headed?” Will asks, still staring a little too hard at my face.

“Takoma Park. Red Line.”

“Oh, okay. Opposite direction. We’re Bethesda,” he says. “So, I guess this is good-bye.”

I never really know the protocol for this kind of situation. It’s like when you’re in line at a store, and a grandma starts telling you all about her grandchildren or her arthritis, and you smile and nod along. But then it’s your turn to check out, so you’re just like okay, well, good-bye forever.

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