The Upside of Unrequited Page 9

When I tap into the text window, there are actually two messages. The first says: We need to talk ASAP. The second is a winky-face emoji.

In certain contexts, a winky face is a clear code for sex.

So, I guess this means Abby had sex with her boyfriend last night. I should mention this: Abby has a boyfriend in Georgia. Named Nick. And he’s pretty cute in pictures. Boyfriends don’t seem to be a particularly complicated thing for Abby. Honestly, nothing seems really complicated for Abby. But Abby is my cousin, and she’s amazing, and I’m happy for her, and I’m not jealous. Because that would be shitty.

I don’t want to be shitty.

I yawn and rub my eyes, and then I tap out a reply: Why, hello, winky face. What’s up?

Moments later, her reply: a blushing smiley emoji.

Definitely sex.

I call her.

“Congratulations,” I say as soon as she picks up.

She laughs. “Excuse me. How do you even know what I’m about to say?”

“Because you’re really obvious.” I roll onto my side, cupping the phone to my ear. “But I want you to tell me anyway.”

“Now I’m embarrassed!”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know!” She giggles softly. “Ugh. Okay, let me make sure my dad’s not creeping in the hallway.”

“Good idea,” I say. My uncle Albert is insane when it comes to dating. Once, he caught Abby holding hands with a guy, and she was grounded for a week.

“Okay,” she says, after a moment.

“All clear?”

“Yeah.” I hear her take a deep breath. “So . . .”

And the weird thing is, I get this tense, almost nauseated feeling. I can’t figure out why. I don’t have a crush on Abby’s boyfriend—I’ve never even met him. And it’s not like I’m in any kind of suspense here. I know what she’s about to tell me.

She’s about to tell me she had sex with Nick.

“I had sex with Nick,” she says, her voice hushed.

“I knew it!”

She laughs. “Oh my God. I feel weird talking about this.”

I can just picture her flopped back on her bed, hand covering her face. Abby doesn’t blush—kind of like Cassie—though Abby has dark-brown skin, so it’s hard to tell. But her mouth does this tiny upward quirk in the corner when she’s embarrassed or awkward or pleased with herself.

I can actually hear it. I can hear that little mouth quirk in her voice.

“How was it?” I ask.

“It was . . . you know. It was good.”

But I don’t know. I’m bad at this. I never know what to ask.

“Better than Darrell?”

She pauses. “Yeah,” she says finally. “Definitely.”

“Well, awesome!”

“You don’t think I’m a slut, right?”

“What? No!”

“We’ve only been together five months. It’s kind of slutty.”

“No it’s not,” I say. “Not at all.”

“I know. But ugh. So, there’s this girl I know here, and she’s the actual worst. Like, you need to hear her talk about her metabolism, which is apparently superfast, and apparently we all need to know this, and I don’t even know why I listen to her—but anyway. She made this comment the other day that couples in high school shouldn’t have sex until they’ve been dating for a year. And I can’t get it out of my head. You know?”

“Oh, Abby. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. Like, she didn’t actually use the word slut, but I felt like it was implied, and now I’m just like, great. I’m a slut.”

There’s this catch in her voice, and I don’t know what to say. I’m not really the expert on this.

Here’s what I would never, ever admit out loud: a part of me always thought it was some kind of a secret compliment when someone got called a slut. It meant you were having sex. Which meant people wanted to have sex with you. Being a slut just meant you were normal.

But I think maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I’m so wrong.

“Abby, you are not a slut,” I say firmly. “Who is this girl? She’s full of shit.”

“I know, I know. I’m being ridiculous.”

“Olivia’s had sex. Cassie’s had all kinds of sex. You’re fine. And it’s not anyone else’s business.”

“No, you’re right.”

“So, tell me how it happened,” I say. “Like, tell me the whole story leading up to it.”

“Okay.” I hear rustling, and I picture her sitting up straighter. “So we were actually at a concert. We saw the Weepies—tell Cassie that. But anyway, afterward, we were hanging out at Simon’s house, and we’re watching TV, and then Nick gets a text from his mom.”

“Uh, I’m not seeing how this story ends in sex.”

“Ha. She was letting him know she was called in to the hospital for work.”

“Ohhhh.”

I can hear Abby grinning. “Yup. So then we left . . .”

“So, you and Nick were home alone . . . ,” I say. “And?”

“And yeah!”

“Hey, well done.”

“Why, thank you.” She yawns happily. “So what about you?”

“Did I have sex last night?”

“No!” she says. “Unless, I mean—did you?”

If Abby were physically present right now, she’d be feeling the wrath of my side-eye. She would so be feeling it.

“Oh, totally,” I say. “You know me.”

“Molly! I want to know what’s going on with you. Hey, whatever happened with the sideburns guy?”

“From my SAT class?”

“Yes!”

Crush number twenty-five: Quinn of Test Prep. I never exchanged actual words with him, but I’m 80 percent sure that was his first name. Once, we shared a potentially significant moment of eye contact after finishing a math practice test.

“I have no idea. I hope he did well.”

“What do you mean?”

“On the SAT.”

“You are ridiculous.”

I shrug, and even though she can’t see me, it’s like she can sense it through the cellular radio waves.

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