The Upside of Unrequited Page 5

“I texted with Mina for four hours last night,” she says as soon as we step outside. It tumbles out of her mouth like she’s been bursting to tell me.

“Wow.”

“I know.”

I feel Cassie looking at me, and I can tell she wants me to say something. Or ask something. Maybe it’s twin telepathy—I can just feel her excitement. It’s like it has a pulse.

Somehow, I don’t think this is about finding me a boyfriend.

“What did you talk about?” I ask.

“Just, you know . . .” She laughs. “I honestly don’t even know what we talked about. Music. Photography—she does photography. We just talked about everything, really.”

“For four hours.”

“Yup.” She smiles.

“That’s awesome.” I pause. “Did you find out if she likes girls?”

“Molly. I don’t know.”

There’s this edge to her tone, and it throws me. “Okay,” I say softly.

And for a minute, we’re both so quiet I can actually hear tweeting birds.

I should mention that Takoma Park is beautiful. You kind of don’t notice it most of the time, but then it hits you all at once. Like, when it’s eight fifteen on a summer morning, and the sun is soft and filtered through tree branches. And the houses are brightly painted, with porch swings and wind chimes and front steps lined with flowers.

I think I just want to stare at the flowers. I want to walk up Tulip Avenue, and be hungry and sleepy, and I want Cassie not to be annoyed at me. I guess asking her about Mina was a mistake. Though if she’s going to be prickly about her own love life, it’s pretty messed up that she’s got her hands all over mine.

Except a minute later, she says, “So, we’re meeting Mina at FroZenYo this afternoon to talk strategy.”

“Strategy?”

“For seducing the ginger. Operation Boyfriend. Operation Molly Makeouts.”

Oh my God. Seriously.

I shake my head. “Okay, well, I have to—”

“Molly, I know you have work. But you get off at three, and we’re meeting her at three thirty. Okay?”

“I don’t want to intrude. I don’t want to vag-block you.”

“Molly.” Cassie laughs. “You can’t vag-block someone in a frozen yogurt shop. A frozen yogurt shop vag-blocks itself.”

“That is true.”

“And seriously.” She looks at me. “I need you there.”

She looks so sincere. “Okay,” I say finally.

“Hell yeah.” Cassie high-fives me. “Oh man. It’s on.”

 

 

SO, THIS IS PROBABLY MY own fault for being a smartass, but I’m actually a little nervous about starting work. Even though this isn’t a brain surgery residency. I’m very glad this isn’t a brain surgery residency. I don’t think anyone wants me operating on their brain right now, or ever. Especially because my hands are shaking—just a little—on the door handle.

The store looks the same as it always does—which is to say, it looks like Zooey Deschanel exploded into five thousand tablecloths and painted plates and letterpress notecards. It’s called Bissel. Not like the vacuum. Like the Yiddish word, meaning “a little bit.” As in, good luck only spending a bissel of money when you walk into Bissel. Good luck not spending your entire paycheck on a bissel of handcrafted artisan jewelry.

I can’t believe I’m walking into Bissel as an employee.

I’m an employee.

Deborah and Ari Wertheim, the owners, are behind the counter, and I feel this wave of shyness. “Hi,” I say, and my voice comes out comically high. Squeaky Molly. Super professional.

Deborah looks up from the register. “Molly—hi! Oh great, you’re here.” She presses both palms against the counter, beaming. “We are so, so glad you’re joining us.”

She’s intensely nice. They both are. That’s the main thing I remember about the Wertheims from my interview. They’re nice in the way therapists are—like, you get the impression they’d be up for hearing your thoughts about life and humanity. They’re married, and they’re a perfect matched set: tall and big-boned, with thick-framed glasses. Ari’s bald, and Deborah has this kind of wild black hair she wears knotted into a messy bun. Or sometimes two meatball Sailor Moon buns, even though she’s probably in her forties. I really love that. Also, they both have these brightly colored, amazingly intricate tattoos all up and down their arms. Literally, they are the two coolest adult humans on the planet, or at least in Maryland.

“Hmm, so I guess we probably went over most of this stuff at the interview. You remember how to use the register?”

I nod, even though I definitely don’t remember how to use the register.

“Cool. Though the register is being an asshole today, so I’ll probably stick you in the back room with Reid. And he can kind of show you around. You’ve met Reid?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, I’ll introduce you.” Deborah gives me a little shoulder squeeze. “One sec.”

She walks toward the back of the store, through the baby section, and I try to act casual. There’s music playing—something soft and indie. Cassie would know the band. And right beside me, there’s a display of ceramic mugs shaped like whales. Of course Bissel sells ceramic mugs shaped like whales. Of course those exist. I literally don’t understand how anyone could walk into this store and not fall in love.

Deborah comes back a minute later with a guy I’ve actually seen here before. He’s tall and kind of big, in that way people describe as husky. His shirt has a map of Middle Earth on it. And his sneakers are so electric white, they’re either brand-new, or he puts them in the laundry.

“Molly, this is Reid. Reid, Molly.”

“Hi,” he says, smiling shyly.

“Hi.” I smile back.

Deborah turns to me. “Molly, you’re going to be a senior, right?”

I nod.

“Perfect! You guys are the same age. I bet you have a lot in common.”

Classic adult logic. Reid and I are vaguely the same age, so of course we’re basically soul mates. It’s like horoscopes. Somehow I’m supposed to believe that I’m similar in some meaningful way to every single person born on my birthday. Or every single Sagittarius. I mean, I barely have anything in common with Cassie, and we were born six minutes apart.

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