It’s kind of heroic. I kind of love that about her.
And now she catches my eye, maybe by accident, and I feel my lips tug upward. I can’t help it.
She smiles back. Just a little.
And I feel this twinge of relief.
Cassie’s already gone when I wake up on Sunday, but my moms talk me into going to the farmers’ market. So, I wander down there on my own. It’s one of those days when the crowds are sort of overwhelming. I claim the end of a bench and sit cross-legged, fidgeting with my friendship bracelets.
There are little kids everywhere, wandering among the booths of vegetables and freshly cut flowers. It’s the kind of thing that normally makes me feel really nostalgic.
Today, I’m mostly just tired.
So now I’m officially that person sitting on a bench in perfect weather, surrounded by neighbors, zoned out on my iPhone.
I text Abby. Did you hear about Schulmeister? Angry-face emoji.
And then I pull up my photo of Olivia’s plate and text it to Reid before I can talk myself out of it. So, my friend Olivia painted this. You love it, right?
Okay, there’s something terrifying about typing the word love in a text to a boy. Even in this utterly neutral, dragon-related context. I mean, now I can’t stop looking at it. It’s as if I typed it in bold, with a heart for the O.
Oh, I totally love it, he writes back immediately.
And then, a moment later: How’s the farmers’ market?
He texts again: Psst: look up!
And it’s him. He’s right here. “Hey! What are you doing here?”
“Getting vegetables?” he says, his voice rising like a question. He hoists up a reusable grocery bag to show me.
“Right.” I smile.
God, he just looks so Reid. He’s wearing brown shorts and a Game of Thrones shirt—but it’s a totally different Game of Thrones shirt, which means he clearly has a collection of them. And his sneakers. Are so, so white. There’s this feeling in my stomach like ribbon curling.
“Hey, guess what,” I say quickly.
Of course he actually tries to guess. “You found a tiny chocolate chicken inside a Mini Egg.”
I laugh. “Um, no.”
“That is a shame.” He sits beside me on the bench. “So, what is it?”
“What is what?”
“What am I guessing?”
“Oh! Now it feels anticlimactic. It’s just, I realized something the other night that made me think of you.”
“Have you ever noticed that dragon rhymes with flagon?”
“Um. Yes,” he says, smiling.
“I guess it seemed funnier on Friday,” I say. “Told you it was anticlimactic.”
“I think it’s climactic!”
Climactic. Okay, that word. Jesus Christ. It can’t be possible to blush this hard. I can’t keep acting like this around him.
“Hey, I have a question,” he says suddenly. He clears his throat. “Do you feel like working today?”
“Oh. Sure. Do you need me to cover your shift?” I tuck my hair behind my ear.
“No, I just want company.”
“Really. And,” he adds, “I’ll pay you in Mini Eggs.”
“You must think I’ll do anything for Mini Eggs.”
I grin at him. I don’t know how to explain the way I’m feeling. It’s equal parts terror and contentment. Which makes no sense. I know that.
“Let me text my moms so they know.”
“That’s very responsible of you.”
We walk down Carroll Avenue, and Reid tells me about a new shipment at Bissel. Except I’m having trouble paying attention. To be honest, I’m a little bit obsessed with my hand. And his hand. And the space between our hands. I don’t know if I should swing my arm or clasp my hands or let it hang. Every movement feels weirdly deliberate. It’s a little ridiculous. If you turned me into a pie graph, the obsessed-with-hands part would look like Pac-Man.
“So, we’re left with the greatest quantity of bubble wrap ever to exist in one room,” he concludes.
“What about the bubble wrap factory?”
“We have surpassed even the bubble wrap factory.”
I pantomime pinching a bubble between my fingers. Pop.
“Pop,” Reid says. I look at him, and he’s smiling.
We walk right past Cassie—I don’t even notice her until she calls out to me. She’s on a bench with Mina and Olivia, and they’re all holding cups of gelato with tiny plastic spoons. Cassie’s legs are tucked up cross-legged. “Hey! Where are you guys going?”
“I tricked Molly into helping me work,” Reid says.
“No, I tricked him into thinking he tricked me.”
Mina giggles, and Cassie rolls her eyes, but not in a mean way.
“Have you guys met each other?” I say. “Olivia, Reid.”
“Hey.” Reid smiles at Olivia, and she smiles back. I feel almost apprehensive. Maybe it’s the particular way he’s smiling, or the way her cheeks have gone pink.
“Wow. I love your shirt,” Olivia says.
Reid looks delighted. “Wait, are you into Game of Thrones?”
“Am I into Game of Thrones?” she asks incredulously. “Am I a human being with a beating heart?”
“Yes!” Reid pumps his fist.
And my twist of dread turns into a tidal wave of panic. Because I’ve already seen this exact kind of moment unfold. At the 9:30 Club. With Cassie and Mina, and Mina’s Georgie James shirt.
And for the first time in four years, Olivia is single.
No. No. No.
I’ve never been someone who gets the urge to hit people. I’m not actually imagining smacking Olivia across the face right now.
My sweet, faerie-loving, ocean-calm friend Olivia! Who just had her heart broken. By Evan Schulmeister. I think I must be going crazy.
Because this is Olivia.
I mean, I can’t be this shitty of a person.
“We should get down there,” I say quickly, and Reid nods.
“Okay, well, hey,” Cassie says. “We were thinking about having a sleepover tomorrow night. With us and Will and Max. Do you guys want in?”
I don’t even have to look at Cassie to know that she’s mortifyingly twinkle-eyed right now. I can hear it in her voice.