The Upside of Unrequited Page 51

“Do you want me to go?”

“No!” Oh my God. “No, no. You’re good!”

He shuffles his feet. “I’m really sorry.”

“Why are you sorry? Don’t be sorry. I’m just.” I shake my head quickly. “I mean, I wasn’t trying to . . .”

“Oh. Okay.” He nods. “Right.”

And then it seems like we’re silent for hours.

“So, what were you about to say?” I ask finally. Before I tried to kiss you. Before you rejected me. Totally, completely, unambiguously rejected me.

“What do you mean?”

“You said you wanted to talk to me about something.”

“Oh.” He scratches his hair. “Um. It’s not a big deal. We can talk about it another time.”

“No, tell me,” I say, maybe too forcefully. Let’s erase the last five minutes. Let’s just rewind.

He presses his lips together. “Okay. Um,” he says. “It’s about Mina.”

“Okay.”

“The thing is.” I watch him inhale. “I’ve known Mina since kindergarten. I fucking love that girl.”

“Oh.” I’m sort of stunned. “So you . . . and Mina . . .”

“No,” he says quickly. “No, we’ve never. Ever. You know.”

“But you like her,” I say. It comes out like a breath.

He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.” His cheeks flush. “It’s just—she really likes your sister. So Cassie’s got to be careful, okay? No heart breaking allowed.”

“Well, Mina’s not allowed to break Cassie’s heart either.”

“I’m serious,” he says, stepping backward. He sinks onto the gazebo bench. “I’m just saying. She’s very . . . tenderhearted.” He lowers his voice. “And here’s the thing. Mina’s never dated anyone before, never kissed anyone before. I don’t know if Cassie knows that. Just. Tell her to be nice.”

“What?” I gape at him.

“But you can’t tell anyone I told you that.”

I nod. “Okay.”

“Seriously, I will lock you in a room and make you listen to Maroon 5 for twenty-four hours.”

I actually laugh. “I don’t think I hate Maroon 5 like you do,” I say slowly, but my mind is still spinning. I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

So, Will likes Mina.

I mean, of course he does.

But the fact that Mina’s never kissed anyone before Cassie? Mina, who seems like she was built to fall in love. I’ve seen her talk about sex a million times without freaking out. But maybe, in her head, she was freaking out right alongside me.

Or not. Maybe she’s totally cool with it.

It’s just that this whole entire time, I thought I was the last virgin standing.

“I don’t think we have to worry. Remember them on the armchair?” I say.

“Yeah.” He blushes.

“Oh. Geez. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine.” He smiles slightly. “I just want her to be happy.”

“Yeah.”

He pauses, looking up at me. “Molly, I’m really sorry. I feel like an asshole. I totally get why you thought . . .”

“Oh my God. Don’t worry. It’s fine.”

“I just feel bad. I know I’m kind of . . . flirtatious, I guess, and it’s probably really easy to misinterpret that.”

I stare at my feet.

“I’m so sorry. I really like you, Molly Golly. I so want to be your friend.”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

My phone buzzes in my pocket. A text. But I try to ignore it.

“Can we hug it out? Would that be weird?”

I swallow. “It’s fine.”

He grins and stands and wraps his arms around me. And he hugs me so long, I’d almost think it means something. Except for the part where I know it doesn’t mean anything.

“You should head home,” I say. “Seriously. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

He hugs me again, quickly, before heading back toward the Metro. And for a minute, I just stand there, in the center of the gazebo.

I mean. That counts. No question. I’m officially rejected.

And it’s surprisingly . . . okay. Definitely awkward. But not earth-shattering.

I kind of wish I could tell Cassie.

I slide my phone out of my pocket, and I suddenly remember the buzz in my pocket. The missed text.

I wonder if it’s Reid.

But it turns out to be Abby, randomly sending me a left-pointing magnifying glass emoji. That’s something we do. We send each other the underutilized emojis. Just to help them find their purpose.

I respond immediately as I’m walking home: aerial tramway emoji.

Floppy disk emoji.

Leaf fluttering in the wind emoji.

I think I’m okay.

Except when I walk in the door, the first thing I hear is Cassie’s voice. And Mina’s voice. And Olivia’s voice. It turns out they’re all at the dining room table, which is covered in newspapers. Xavier’s still awake, and he’s on Olivia’s lap, holding a paintbrush.

Cassie turns her head away as soon as I walk in. Of course. She’s been avoiding me since yesterday.

“Oh hey,” Mina says. “I heard you were with Will! How was that?”

“It was fine. Great.”

God. Will probably told her everything. The gazebo, the kiss attempt, the shutdown.

“Well, I think it’s awesome.” She smiles. “So, you want to see something amazing?”

She picks something up from the table and holds it out to me.

“An elephant?” I ask.

Oh hey. The fucking elephant in the room.

Mina nods happily. “We’re painting animal figurines for the centerpieces. Olivia found a whole blog about it.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, so, we’re doing them all white, but then we’re decorating them with patterns,” Olivia says. “I was actually inspired by the plate you painted! And Xav is helping—aren’t you, bud?”

I just stare at her. There’s this pounding in my chest.

“I thought you hated crafts,” I say to Cassie.

“Oh, right,” Cassie says. “I forgot you’re the expert on me.”

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