The Upside of Unrequited Page 30

Cassie’s rustling in the bunk bed above me. “Oh hey,” she says finally, her voice thick with sleep. “You up?”

“Kind of.”

She laughs. “Me too. Ughhh. Last night was . . . something.”

I’m scared to know what she means by that. Maybe something happened after Olivia and I left. Maybe Drunk Cassie evolved into Drunk-as-Fuck Cassie, or even the ultimate Shitfaced Cassie.

I don’t even want to imagine what Shitfaced Cassie might have said about me to Will. Shitfaced Cassie is not known for her carefulness.

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to think of something neutral. Anything. My Fourth of July outfit: a pale denim shirtdress over navy leggings with white stars. And I don’t care if anyone side-eyes me for wearing leggings in July, because I am not here for chub rub. Also, they’re very patriotic leggings.

But then Cassie shifts, and the bed creaks, and I’m nervous all over again. I feel like the two negative ends of a magnet. Like there are parts of me that can’t come together. If Cassie did say something to Will, I want to know. But also, I never want to know.

“Hey, so I invited Mina to the parade and fireworks and stuff,” Cassie says suddenly.

“Oh, okay.”

“Are you cool with that?”

I sit up slowly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because . . . I don’t know.” I hear her yawn. “I know that’s usually our thing.”

And it’s true: normally Cassie and I watch the parade together. And yes, under normal circumstances, the idea of Mina tagging along might bother me a little. But I’m so preoccupied by boy drama right now that it barely even registers.

It occurs to me that this may be exactly why Cassie wants me to have a boyfriend in the first place.

She hoists off the top bunk a moment later, sliding in beside me under my blanket. “Anyway, you and Will were so cute last night.”

“Um. Okay.” I hug my knees.

“For real. He was totally flirting with you. Mina gave him so much shit after you left.”

“What did she say to him?” I blurt.

Cassie just smiles, and I feel this wave of quiet panic.

“Cassie! What?”

“Oh my God. Stop worrying!”

“Why are you smiling?”

“Because you actually like this guy, and it’s so fucking cute. Crush number twenty-seven, right?”

“I don’t have a crush on Will.”

Cassie laughs. “Okay.”

“Wait. Did you tell him I did?”

“Molly. No. Stop freaking out.”

“Okay.”

And for a moment, she’s silent.

“But, like, okay. Real talk,” she says finally. “This boyfriend thing. Do you actually want this to happen?”

“I don’t know. I guess so.”

She rolls her eyes. “That’s a yes. And that’s great, okay? You’re allowed to want this.”

I bite my lip.

“But at some point, you have to put yourself on the line. You know?”

Okay. I know she’s right. I mean, my brain knows it. But I can’t seem to get the rest of me on board. It’s like trying to hold my breath. There’s this protective thing inside of me that opens my mouth, unpinches my nose.

“I know,” I say.

“Like, say Will knew you were interested. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d reject you? So what? You move on to crush number twenty-eight.”

Move on. So what.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out and squeeze it.

Unless he happens to like you back.

I don’t want to third-wheel it with Cassie and Mina, so I end up going to a parade-watching party near the Dance Exchange with my moms. And Xav. And Grandma. Wild times. It’s hosted by these people Nadine knows from baby group, so the party is full of babies.

I am seventeen years old, and this is my social life.

Xav immediately starts climbing on some other baby’s stroller, and my moms and Grandma drink lemonade on the front steps. All the adults are super relaxed. There are boobs out all over the place, and half-naked toddlers with foam pool noodles, and cloth diapers everywhere. I recognize a few of the adults, who seem to know I’m one of Xavier’s sisters, but don’t know which one. I don’t think they actually care which one I am. They mainly seem interested in where I’m applying to college.

I mean, maybe I should start carrying flyers with my list of schools, ranked by preference. Or maybe—maybe—these random adults should reflect on why they give a shit in the first place.

“Hey,” Nadine says, catching my eye. “You okay?”

“What?”

“You seem, like . . . kind of surly.”

“I’m feeling kind of surly.”

“Okay, well, now you’re smiling,” she says. “Way to ruin it.”

But she’s right: I am surly and moody and not quite myself. This must be a hangover thing. Or a Cassie-making-my-brain-hurt thing. Either way, I am clearly unfit for human company right now. But then I glance across the street, just in time to see Reid step onto the sidewalk.

Reid Wertheim. Here, of all places. And he looks as surprised to see me as I am to see him. I cross the street to greet him. “What are you doing here?”

“I live here.” He points to a little blue bungalow.

“No way.” I grin.

He grins back, and for a minute, we’re both quiet. But my heart beats really quickly, and it’s actually kind of nice.

“So, what are you doing here?” he asks.

“I’m, uh.” I glance across the street at the party house, and of course, Patty, Nadine, and Grandma are all watching me. BREAKING NEWS: MOLLY IS SPEAKING TO AN ACTUAL BOY. TUNE IN NOW AS THE STORY UNFOLDS. I mean, at least my moms have the dignity to glance away when I catch them. Grandma gives me a thumbs-up.

I turn to Reid quickly. “Want to take a walk?”

“Oh. Sure!” He does this flush-cheeked kind of smile. “But I have to be back at the store in about forty-five minutes. I was just grabbing lunch.”

“Wait, I don’t want you to miss your lunch.”

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