“How come you never tell me about boys anymore?”
“There’s literally nothing to tell.”
We hang up, and I scoot backward against my pillows, feeling off-kilter. So, Abby had sex with Nick. That means she’s had sex with two guys. I haven’t even kissed two guys. Actually, I haven’t even kissed one guy. I know it’s not a competition, but I can’t help but feel like I’m falling further and further behind.
Of the four of us—Cassie, Abby, Olivia, and me—I’m the last virgin standing. Which has been the case for a while now, and I don’t know why it suddenly bothers me. But it’s not about the sex, exactly.
It’s the other stuff. I can picture it: Abby and Nick hanging out after the concert, sleepy and content and surrounded by friends. Her feet in his lap. This text coming in. And the way all their friends must have teased them when they left so abruptly. I bet they looked sheepish. I bet they held hands the minute they stepped outside.
I think that’s what I’m jealous of. I’m jealous of the moment Nick slid his key into the lock. And I do not mean that as a euphemism. Just a key in the lock of an empty house. Just that sweet, anticipatory moment. I wonder what Abby was thinking and feeling at that exact second. I’d be wrecked with butterflies, if it were me.
Here’s the truth: I want this so badly. To the point where it’s almost physically painful sometimes.
I want Olivia’s soft-voiced conversations with Evan Schulmeister, where she takes five steps away from us before she even answers the phone. Just to be alone with him. And I want the palpable waves of electric crush energy that radiate off Cassie these days. I want to know what it feels like to have crushes that could conceivably maybe one day turn into boyfriends.
All this wanting.
I pull out my phone. My mind is spinning. I need to zone out on BuzzFeed or something. I know this doesn’t exactly make me unique, but I love the internet. I love it. I think the way I feel about the internet is the way some people feel about the ocean. It’s so huge and unknowable, but also totally predictable. You type a line of symbols and click enter, and everything you want to happen, happens.
Not like real life, where all the wanting in the world can’t make something exist. I don’t even think Cassie has the ability to make this come true for me. It’s just hard to believe in the concept of Molly-With-a-Boyfriend.
Especially a cute hipster boyfriend. Especially Will.
But I want it. The wanting is almost too big to hold.
THINGS FEEL MORE MANAGEABLE IN the morning. I don’t know if it’s the sunshine or the Zoloft or just the fact that I’m working today, but I feel completely energized. I’m even a little amped up.
As soon as I get to Bissel, Deborah starts me off setting a tableau of baskets and things around a raw cedar coffee table. Here’s a fact about me: I’m excellent at arranging vintage stuff into rustic, artful displays. Abby calls me a Pinterest Queen, which is a compliment. I think. I guess it’s my one skill set.
The storage room door nudges open, and Reid slips through, carrying a cardboard box. He sets it down on the counter and talks to Ari for a minute.
And then he looks up at me and smiles and walks over. “Hey, Molly.”
“Oh hey! I was wondering where you were.”
God, I don’t know why I do this. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m amazing at shutting up, but every so often, it’s like I lose my filter. And it comes without warning.
I was wondering where you were. Way to sound like a happy little stalker on your second day of work, Molly. But Reid just smiles again and picks up a basket. “What are you working on?”
“Oh, Deborah wanted me to update this display.”
He ruffles his own hair, which is a pretty cute thing for a boy to do. And then he stands there for a minute, like he doesn’t know what to say.
Poor, awkward Middle Earth Reid.
Though he’s wearing what appears to be a Game of Thrones T-shirt today. So, I guess he’s House Lannister Reid now.
The silence is a little painful. It’s funny, because you always think the hard part is meeting someone the first time. It’s not. It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation. And even if you haven’t, it’s strange and heavy-handed to introduce random conversational topics at this stage in the game. Hi, Reid. Let’s converse about topics. HOW MANY SIBLINGS DO YOU HAVE? WHAT BOOKS DO YOU LIKE?
I mean, I could probably answer the book one.
“So, what’s your favorite thing for sale here?” I blurt.
Excellent conversational topic, Molly.
“Oh, I’ll show you,” Reid says. He starts walking toward the stationery corner, peeking over his shoulder to see if I’m following. So I follow. He goes straight for the greeting cards, and pulls one off the display.
A greeting card. This store is essentially Anthropologie’s cooler, hotter big sister, and Reid’s most cherished item is a greeting card.
He hands it to me, and I hold it gently in both hands. And I have to admit: this is a pretty fancy greeting card. It’s on heavy card stock, intricately painted with a portrait of—I’m almost positive—Queen Elizabeth I. She’s wearing this outfit with epic puffed sleeves and a collar that basically looks like the sun, and she has the world’s greatest Don’t Fuck With Me expression on her face. Underneath the portrait, in old-fashioned script, is the quote “I observe and remain silent.” I read it aloud.
“That’s Elizabeth the First,” Reid says.
“Oh, I thought so.” I look up at him. “That’s a quote from her?”
He nods seriously. “As far as I know.”
“That’s a really ominous card to send someone.”
“What?” He laughs.
“It’s like, I’m watching your every move, and I choose not to say anything . . . yet. Look at her expression.” I hold up the card.
“Noooooo!” The faintest dimple appears in his cheek. “No. Don’t ruin Elizabeth for me. She is perfect.”
“Is she, Reid? Is she really?” I flash him the Molly Face. Everlasting skepticism.
“Yes. She is. She is perfect.”
Now he’s looking at me, and I have to admit: his eyes are a cool shade of hazel. I don’t know if his glasses kept me from noticing before. But now I’m noticing.