“If you talk yourself out of liking Reid because of your goddamn ego, I will punch you.”
My ego. I don’t have an ego. If I had such a giant ego, why would I have such a hard time believing Reid actually likes me?
Except, if I’m totally honest, I do believe it. Reid likes me. And I like that he likes me. But I’m not used to this game. It’s this totally new way of seeing myself. Like I’m some hazily lit dream girl from a movie. I’ve never been that girl before.
I really like being that girl. So, maybe I am some kind of egomaniac.
There’s just something terrifying about admitting you like someone. In a way, it’s actually easier when there’s no chance of anything happening. But there’s this threshold where things suddenly become possible. And then your cards are on the table. And there you are, wanting, right out in the open.
It’s so many things. It’s everyone knowing you’re attracted to a guy who wears electric-white sneakers. It’s that little twinge of shame you feel when someone thinks he’s not cute. Even though he is cute. He’s actually really fucking adorable. I actually really fucking like him, and none of the other stuff should matter.
I WANT MY NORMALCY BACK.
I feel so undone. It’s like stringing beads and realizing you forgot to knot your thread. I don’t feel like me. I’m not a girl who curses out one boy, pretends to be dating another, and can’t stop thinking about a third.
And I’ve never fought with Cassie so often in my life.
There’s been this carefulness between us all day. She ended up crashing with Mina in Max’s guest room, and Mina’s friend Samar drove me to the Metro. But we haven’t talked about any of it since—not Reid, not my giant ego, and especially not the other thing. The ditching-me-for-Mina thing.
“Hey.” Cassie appears in my doorway as I’m putting away my ribbon garland. “Mina’s here, and Olivia’s working, so we’re going to go keep her company and paint pottery.”
“Thought you might want to come.”
“Okay.” I wind my ribbon garland into careful loops—over my thumb and under my elbow, and back around again. “I don’t want to bust in on your date.”
She laughs flatly. “It’s not a date. Jesus. Olivia is literally going to be there the entire time.”
I don’t reply.
“Okay, I get that you’re feeling really, really sorry for yourself, but I kind of think you might want to come. Have you talked to Olivia recently?”
“No . . .”
“So you don’t know what’s going on with Evan?”
I look up. “What’s going on with Evan?”
“Well, I was hoping you knew. Abby doesn’t know either, but something’s up. She just got back from Philly.” She shrugs. “Anyway, we’re leaving now, so if you’re coming, let’s go.”
“Okay, look. Don’t come. That’s fine. But I don’t want to hear this shit about me ditching you for Mina.”
“I’ll come,” I say quickly.
It’s like Cassie and I are partners in the world’s most complicated dance. Everything feels really fragile. If I take a wrong step, it could throw us off completely.
Cassie slides into the front seat of Mina’s Lexus, and I take my spot in the back. We spend the whole ride to Silver Spring pointedly not speaking to each other. Which brings out this pressured kind of chattiness in Mina. I remember her saying she talks too much when she’s nervous.
“Have you guys ever done this before? It’s like they have plates and mugs and everything already made and fired up and ready to be painted. It’s really fun. I mean, I suck at painting, but still. Molly, I think you’d like it.”
“Yeah. I mean, Olivia works there, so . . .”
“Oh. Right,” Mina says. “Duh.” She slows to a stop at a stop sign.
“But it’s been awhile,” I add.
She tucks a lock of dark-purple hair behind her ear. “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m going to do like a penguin design? Like penguins in love? I want to try to make something for your moms as a wedding gift. But only if it turns out okay.”
“You know they’ll love it no matter what,” Cassie says. “They’re obsessed with you.”
“Yeah, I think they’re grateful you didn’t dump me after that night with Grandma.”
Mina giggles, and Cassie turns toward her and smiles. It’s pretty awkward watching this from the backseat. They’re not even being mushy or gross, but there’s this feeling like they’re the adults, and I’m a little kid. I should be in a car seat, holding a sippy cup.
We end up parking on the street a block or two away from the pottery place. I walk half a step behind Mina and Cassie. I’m not talking much. I guess I feel a little self-conscious. So then, of course, the act of talking starts to feel like this huge, impossible thing. I get like this sometimes. I get locked into a cycle of not speaking. It’s like every time I think of something awesome to say, I rehearse it in my head so many times, I forget whether I’ve said it out loud yet. And I think it goes without saying that awesome one-liners are decidedly less awesome when you repeat them by accident. Better not to risk it.
“So I honestly have no idea what we’re about to walk into,” Cassie says, walking backward for a moment like she’s our tour guide.
“You mean with Evan?”
“Yeah. I don’t know any details. At all. Abby just said something was up.” She shrugs. And then she pushes through the entrance.
The pottery place is quiet for a Saturday, and right away, I see Olivia. She’s actually sitting at one of the tables painting a plate. There are two little girls working on ceramic piggy banks with their mom, but other than that, we have the place to ourselves.
“Oh hey,” Olivia says, without getting up. We walk over to her. And she looks normal. I mean, she’s wearing an awesome purple shirt with a gnome on it, and she doesn’t look like she’s been crying.
“What are you working on?” Mina asks, peering at Olivia’s work in progress.
“Oh, it’s dumb. It’s just something to put up as a display.”