Okay. So now I’m curious. What in the world did Mina say about Reid’s sneakers?
“This is your house, right?” he says.
“Yup! Are you ready to paint centerpieces?”
He looks slightly unnerved. “I think so,” he says, with a serious nod. Then he pushes his glasses up. “Yes.”
“All right. Let me give you some newspapers, and maybe you could cover up the porch? And then I’ll run in and get the supplies.”
“I can do that.”
“And I’ll also grab your cookie dough,” I add.
He beams. “Awesome.”
I set Reid up with our recycling bin, and by the time I return with the mason jars and paint, he’s got the whole porch covered with newspapers.
“This is great,” I tell him. “It’s the perfect workspace.” I set the first batch of jars down on top of it.
“And you’re painting these?” he asks, brow furrowed.
“Yup. And then I’ll fill them with flowers. It’ll be really cute and simple.”
“So, I don’t want to throw you off your game or anything,” he says, “but you realize they’re already painted, right?”
“Yes.” I make a face at him. “They get a second coat.”
He settles cross-legged onto the newspaper with his cookie dough, while I pick up my paintbrush. And somehow, it’s this perfect sigh of a moment. It’s cloudy and sort of breezy. I line up my brushes and begin squeezing different colors of paint into an egg container. And the funny thing is, I know Reid’s not looking at me. But I sense him looking at me. It doesn’t line up.
I should say something, though, before the silence takes on its own life force. Silence does that sometimes.
“So you’re really not going to tell me what Mina said?”
“What Mina said?”
“About your shoes.”
He laughs. “It was really nothing.”
“I want to know.”
He shrugs. “Okay. I don’t know. It was during prom, so she might have been a little drunk, but we both ended up outside at one point. And she came over and sat next to me—which was a little surprising, just because, you know, we’d never really—anyway, she put her arm around me and got a very serious look on her face and said, ‘Reid, I’m going to give you some really, really important advice. Okay?’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ And she said, ‘Those sneakers are a liability.’”
“A liability?” I ask.
He nods and takes a quick bite of cookie dough. “Yeah. Like with girls.” He blushes. “With dating. Like my shoes are a turnoff.”
“Oh God.” I cover my cheeks. “Mina.”
“Yeah, it was kind of weird,” Reid says.
But oh—there’s a tiny, secret part of me that knows: Mina’s right. Sort of. It’s hard to explain, but the sneakers are awful. They are so bright white. They’re so loudly, defiantly uncool.
Not that it matters. It totally doesn’t matter.
But come on: he wore the sneakers to prom?
“But you kept them,” I say, nudging his sneaker with the toe of my flat.
“Yeah.” He smiles. “I don’t know. I just don’t care that much?”
“About impressing girls?”
He blushes again. “No. It’s just . . . I am who I am, you know? I’m not ever going to be cool.” He shrugs. “But it doesn’t really bother me.”
“I think you’re cool.”
He laughs. “Thank you.”
“I’m just saying.” I turn a mason jar over in my hands and try not to smile.
Because I have to admit: there’s something really badass about truly, honestly not caring what people think about you. A lot of people say they don’t care. Or they act like they don’t care. But I think most people care a lot. I know I do.
Like, if someone had told me an article of my clothing was a liability? I’ll be honest. I’d probably burn it. But Reid wears those sneakers every single day.
And there’s something interesting about that. Unsettling, but in a good way, like when a stranger looks you right in the eye.
I feel suddenly nervous.
“I need to stick these in the oven,” I say, standing abruptly. “The paint needs to set.”
There’s this springing in my chest. My pogo stick of a heart.
When I step back outside, Reid suggests going on a walk. If I want to.
And yes, I want to.
So we do. We fall into pace together, our strides adjusting automatically. It’s getting grayer outside, with heavy-hanging clouds like wet diapers. That’s how Nadine describes it.
“So, are you doing any other projects for the wedding?” Reid asks as we come up on Laurel Avenue. He reaches out to press the walk button.
“I’m making a fabric garland for the ceremony space.”
“A fabric garland.” His dimple flickers. “Are we sure that’s a real thing?”
“Oh, we’re sure.”
“I need a visual,” he says.
I pull out my phone. And then I text him the link to “Let Me Google That for You.”
He stops walking to check my text. I don’t think he’s actually capable of texting and walking at the same time.
“Psshhhh—very funny.” He grins. And then he hugs me. It’s kind of a one-armed, sideways, squeezy hug. It’s over before I can process it, but now my insides are one big shaken Coke bottle.
“So, I—” he starts to say, but then the sky dims so suddenly, it’s like someone flipped a switch. The first few raindrops plunk down slowly.
Then the sky splits open.
“Um,” I say.
“Should we make a run for it?”
“I think we have to.” I look up at him—his hair clings slickly to his forehead, and rain slides down his nose and his cheeks and the lenses of his glasses. “Can you see?”
He laughs. “Can you?” And then, carefully, he reaches forward, pushing my wet bangs to the side. My breath catches in my throat.
“Okay, let’s run,” I say quickly.
He grabs my hand, and there’s this pulsing tightness below my stomach. We run all the way back to my front porch, our clothes soaked through, hands still intertwined. The rain is still coming down so forcefully, the drops seem to ricochet back up off the pavement. It smells wet. And it sounds like stepping into the shower.