“Okay,” I say, because I need to say something. “So, is this like a romantic thing, or . . . ?”
His head whips toward me. “What?”
I hold up the card. “You and Elizabeth?”
“Very funny.” He plucks it out of my hand, smiling.
“So, that’s a yes?”
It’s the strangest thing. I am not like this. I mean, I am around my family, but not around boys. I’ve never really joked around with a boy like this before. Not where I was the one making the jokes. I think I like it.
“We should look busy,” Reid says suddenly, glancing over his shoulder. I follow his gaze, catching Deborah’s eye.
She smiles and waves, and I feel my cheeks go warm.
Crap. Yeah. Job. Work.
“We can rearrange stuff in the baby section again,” Reid says.
“It’s kind of like . . .” He lowers his voice, glancing briefly at Deborah again. “There’s not always a lot to do here? I guess it depends on the day.”
I fall into step beside him, walking toward the baby section—which is essentially Pinterest come to life. The ceiling is draped with softly patterned pastel bunting, and there are hanging hot air balloon decorations (not for sale) and impossibly soft stuffed animals (for sale) and everything is organic.
Reid turns to me suddenly. “You’re not going to quit though, right?”
“I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“About there not being a lot of work to do here?”
He bites his lip.
“I love not doing work,” I assure him. And it’s true. Not doing much work is my favorite thing. And my other favorite things include: being around a lot of mason jars, rearranging table displays, and teasing geeky boys about their fondness for historical queens.
“Otherwise, I was going to have to bribe you with Mini Eggs,” he adds.
“Absolutely. Too late, though. That’s a shame.”
I give him a glare, and his dimple flickers, and hey. Looks like House Lannister Reid knows about jokes, after all.
Here’s the funny part: all the way home, I replay this conversation with Reid in my head. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I arrive at my own doorstep.
Admittedly, this is the kind of thing a person might do while establishing her twenty-seventh crush. Hypothetically speaking.
But Reid isn’t a crush. I don’t know how to explain it, but a crush is a very particular thing for me. Like crush number eight: Sean of the Eyelashes. It was the second-to-last night of camp, the summer after eighth grade, and it was raining, so we were all watching Wet Hot American Summer in the Lodge. By coincidence (or fate. It felt like fate), Sean was sitting next to me. I found him massively cute: kind of short, with spiky dark hair and bright-blue eyes. And the eyelashes. At least 75 percent of Sean’s body weight was eyelashes. He was sitting in one of those folding nylon camp chairs, and at one point, he leaned toward me out of nowhere to say, “This movie rules.”
I agreed with this statement. And at the time, that felt cosmically significant.
I could barely catch my breath for the rest of the movie, and my heartbeat was probably making those giant zigzags. Literally all my mental energy was devoted to trying to come up with something clever and nonchalant to say to this boy—this perfect boy, whom I’d noticed around camp for weeks, who was now miraculously sitting beside me, and who had—even more miraculously—spoken to me first. But I was suddenly frozen and electrically self-conscious. My thighs felt enormous, and I was acutely aware of the waistband of my shorts digging into the fat on my stomach. It occurred to me that Sean—of course I already knew his name—wouldn’t be talking to me if he knew about the shorts and the fat and the waistband.
So, I just stared at the movie screen, not really watching it.
But when the movie was over, Sean nudged me and said, “That was really cool, right?” I smiled and nodded really fast.
I never talked to him again. I haven’t even thought about him in years. But as I climb the stairs to my bedroom, his face is vividly clear to me. And the mental image of him still makes my heart race.
Molly Peskin-Suso: crushing on the memory of eighth-grade boys. Am I the biggest creeper in the universe? (Check yes or hell yes.)
I sink onto my bed. So, there was Sean. And Julian Portillo, my friend Elena’s older brother. Crush number eleven: Julian of the Experimental Breakfasts. That’s the main thing I remember: the way he used to make these very complicated gourmet breakfasts for us in the mornings after our sleepovers. I guess I found that really charming for some reason. Even though I’m not a person who experiments with breakfast.
Anyway, Julian was a senior when Elena and I were freshmen, and their parents were from El Salvador, and they both had giant dimples in both cheeks. Julian had a really loud laugh, too. I kept a diary back then, and I took note of every single time he spoke to me, which was rare. Mostly because I lost the ability to speak when he was around, and I guess cute senior boys don’t like speaking to walls of awkward freshman silence. Anyway, Julian ended up at Georgetown, and Elena got a scholarship to private school, and neither of them is on Facebook, so I have no idea what they’re up to now. Not a clue.
But the point is, I can’t talk to guys I like. Not really. My body completely betrays me. And it’s a little different with every guy, so it’s kind of hard to generalize—but if I had to describe the feeling of a crush, I’d say this: you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you’re starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It’s this close to intolerable. But I like it.
More than like it. I crave it.
Because there’s nausea and fog, but there’s also this: an unshakable feeling that something wonderful is about to happen. That’s the part I can’t explain. No matter how unlikely, I always have a secret shred of hope. And as feelings go, that’s a pretty addictive one.
CASSIE BUSTS INTO MY ROOM at six in the morning, without knocking. “Yo, sleepyhead. Where’s your stringy-ding? Olivia needs bead therapy.”
I blink up at her. “Now?”
“She’s on her way over. Some kind of Evan douchery.”