The Upside of Unrequited Page 34

There’s this awful, throbbing silence. My chest tightens and my throat gets thick, except I’m not going to cry. Not right now.

But my eyes start to sting. I stare at the floor.

“I just have to say, I love these Apple phones,” Grandma announces suddenly. “You know who I love? Siri. Have you tried asking her about zero divided by zero? She’s a hoot!”

Yeah, I don’t even want to know how Grandma Betty knows that.

But I get what she’s doing, and it’s working. I think the air in the room just became 50 percent more breathable.

“You have an iPhone?” Cassie asks, eyes narrowed.

“Oh, I have an iPhone,” Grandma says, “and I have an iPod and an iMac and an AirMac . . .”

“An AirMac?” I ask, and she gives me this exaggerated wink.

“Betty, you’re so full of shit,” Nadine says—which makes me laugh, despite myself. Despite everything.

Grandma wags her finger. “I’m proud of my shit.”

“Unbelievable,” Cassie says. She rubs her temples, like she’s the longest-suffering, most profoundly wronged human on the planet. Then, she turns on her heel and charges back up the stairs.

 

 

OF COURSE, CASSIE SHOWS UP for dinner acting totally normal, like her standoff with Nadine never happened. Like she didn’t throw a tantrum about the prospect of wasting a Sunday with me. And I kind of want to give her the silent treatment, except she’s basically immune to it. She just retaliates with a Double-Silent-Stinkeye-Attack, and somehow, I’m the one who ends up apologizing. Clearly, I should just forget about it.

I wish I were better at forgetting about things.

We settle in around the table, and Cassie straps Xav into his high chair—but Grandma and my moms are so deep into their conversation that it’s like they don’t notice us.

“I don’t know,” Nadine says, with this tense little shrug. “She just said she can’t make it.” Then she pours herself a glass of wine and chugs it like it’s lemonade.

Um. Nadine. Wow.

“Well, maybe it’s a money thing . . . ,” Patty says.

“Or maybe she’s a homophobic asshole.”

“Who’s the homophobic asshole?” I ask.

They all startle, looking up at me.

“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry,” Patty says, glancing quickly at Nadine. “Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this at dinner.”

“Need me to beat someone up for you?” I ask.

Cassie makes a face. “It’s Aunt Karen, right?”

“Yep.” Nadine nods.

Cassie rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I’m not even surprised.”

“She’s not coming to the wedding?” I ask.

Patty purses her lips. “Yeah, she’s being . . . you know. She’s Karen.”

It’s funny—Nadine and my aunt Karen have been close since they were kids. Way closer than Nadine is with Abby’s dad, my uncle Albert. Karen’s never been married and has no human kids, though she has four rescue dogs. But even though Nadine and Karen talk every week, and even though she just lives in Annapolis, Cassie and I have only met her in person a handful of times. She always just happens to visit when Patty’s at work. And she kind of pretends like Patty doesn’t exist.

In other words: homophobic asshole.

“My goodness. That makes me so sad,” Grandma says. She picks up her fork and waves it around. “Love is love!”

Cassie snorts. “Thank you, Grandma.”

“I’m telling you: life is too short for this bullshit.”

“I’ll toast to that,” says Nadine, and she chugs her drink again.

But hours later, I’m still restless. So, I wait until everyone’s gone to bed, and then I slide out of the bottom bunk as quietly as I can.

“What are you doing?” Cassie asks.

“Going to pee.”

“No, you’re not,” she says.

I have no idea how she knows this. Sometimes Cassie knows exactly what I’m thinking, and I literally can’t think of any explanation other than twin telepathy.

“I’m eavesdropping,” I admit.

“Ooh—I’m coming with you.” She slides her legs down and lands on the floor beside me with a thud.

We creep down the hall to the bathroom, and I pull the door shut slowly. Years ago, Cassie and I figured out that the vent in the upstairs bathroom is a direct portal to our moms’ room. We used to bring snacks up and line the bathtub with pillows, so we could really settle in for some quality eavesdropping. And then it occurred to us that we were at grave risk of overhearing mom-sex.

So, we shut down that operation pretty quickly.

But tonight, Cassie puts the toilet lid down and sits on it like a chair, and I settle in with a pillow in the bathtub, and it’s exactly like it used to be. Right away, I hear them.

“—not calling her,” Nadine’s saying.

“She’s your sister.”

“She’s an asshole.”

“I’m just saying we should hear her side of this.”

“She doesn’t get a side.” Nadine’s voice cracks. “She’s missing our wedding.”

Patty sighs. “I know.”

Nadine says something else, but it’s too quiet to make out.

“Deenie, I know,” Patty says again. “I know.”

“It’s just messed up,” Nadine says.

“But Albert and Wanda and the kids are coming.”

“Yup, they’re coming.” Nadine sighs. “I just never thought Karen would be the one with issues, you know? And Al’s the chill one. What fucking universe are we living in?”

“Nadine sounds so upset,” I whisper.

“Well, yeah. I mean, even Grandma thinks it’s fucked up.” Cassie shrugs. “Like, that’s a pretty clear sign we’re wading into some problematic shit.”

“Yeah.” And I get that feeling, all of a sudden, where I could honestly start laughing or crying. It could go either way.

But I guess you have to hand it to Grandma. She has issues with weight, and she’s maybe kind of racist, but she’s never once had a problem with Patty being bisexual. When Patty came out, the first thing Grandma did was try to set her up with the cantor’s daughter. Who is actually straight, but Grandma gets thrown off when women have short hair.

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