“Should we get Nadine and Patty in here, so you can tell them how I feel about crafts?”
Mina and Olivia exchange glances. I feel my cheeks burning.
“Cass, I’m sorry, okay?”
“Do you want us to give you a minute?” Mina asks quietly.
Cassie smiles tightly. “Oh, we’re done.”
I swallow. “I’m heading upstairs. Want me to take Xavier?”
“Oh, no worries! I’ve got him.” Olivia grins. “Xavor Xav.”
Olivia’s smile. All of a sudden, my chest swells with rage. And a part of me knows it’s unfair to put this on Olivia. Because I’m pissed at Cassie, too, for giving me shit right now. And Will, for making me think he liked me. And Reid, for I don’t even know what.
Making me fall this hard. Not falling for me back.
But all I can think about right now is Olivia. Her audacity, calling Xav by his family nickname. Holding him in her lap and painting with him. That’s supposed to be my thing. And the fact that she’s sitting here making centerpieces for my parents’ wedding. Not even asking if I was cool with it. Not even caring that I have an actual design vision for this wedding.
The really messed-up part is that I love painted animal figurines, and they’ll be perfect next to the mason jars. Still. I’d really like to throw a tiny painted elephant at Olivia’s stupid face. And I don’t care if she just had a breakup. I don’t care if that makes me a shitty person.
I text Reid as soon as I get upstairs. So, how was your walk with Olivia?
It was good!
Great. With a period. Even though I’m perfectly aware that a period in this context is essentially like saying FUCK YOU FOREVER.
Three dots. He’s hesitating. Is everything okay? he asks.
Okay, well, good.
My throat feels thick. I stare at my screen.
Three dots. Then no dots. Then three dots again, like he’s deciding whether or not to say something else.
Then another text: How was your afternoon?
Awesome. And clearly, I’m an asshole or an idiot or both, because I add, I hung out with Will.
Yeah, Olivia mentioned that.
My heart twists. Guess they’ve been texting.
Looks like things are going well with you and Olivia, I type. I stare at it for a second before pressing send.
For a moment, time stops.
Then, suddenly, he’s calling me.
“Hi.” I sit on the very edge of my bed, feeling jittery. I don’t even take my shoes off.
“Should we talk?” he asks. His voice is so quiet.
I swallow. “Okay.” My chest tightens. I don’t know why this feels so much like fear.
“Are you mad that I walked Olivia to your house?”
“No,” I say quickly. “Why would I be mad?”
“I don’t know.”
We’re both quiet.
“It just seems like you are,” he says finally.
“Well, I’m not.” I squeeze my eyes shut. “So, did you guys make out, or something?” I try to sound breezy.
“Um. No. She went to your house. I went home and played World of Warcraft.”
“But you like her.”
“Do you like Will?” he shoots back.
“So, you do like her.” My whole body freezes.
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t deny it.”
He pauses. “Neither did you.”
We’re both silent. And there’s this thickening lump in my throat. I feel nauseated. I actually think I might throw up.
“This is really unfair,” he says.
I need to just breathe. “What’s unfair?”
“You’re hanging out with Will, but you’re angry at me for hanging out with Olivia? I don’t get that.” There’s this catch in his voice.
“I’m not angry.”
“Okay, then why are we having this conversation?”
And before I can stop it, I’m crying. It’s the quiet kind. I don’t even bother to wipe the tears from my cheeks. I just let them slide down. I’m a fucking mess.
I take another deep breath. “Like, I don’t get where this came from. You just met her this week.”
He pauses. “Are you crying?” His voice cracks.
He does this quiet little sniff, and my heart beats wildly.
“I’m not dating her. Nothing’s happening.” I hear him swallow. “And I don’t understand why you care.”
“Okay.” He’s quiet.
“I mean, I care.”
“I’m going to go.”
He hangs up. And it’s like some kind of dam bursts inside of me. I flop backward on my bed, and I just start sobbing. I sob until I can barely catch my breath.
I WAKE UP TO A bunch of missed texts. From Olivia, of all people. And they’re so perfectly normal and friendly and sincere. I almost feel guilty.
Okay, quick question
So Cass thinks we should do a few animals in gold, but I wanted to check with you first before I bought gold paint.
Whatever you want to do, I write.
God. This is so gross and awful. Things have never been complicated with Olivia. But maybe I owe that to the neutralizing, retainer-clad presence of one Evan Schulmeister.
I fucking hate Evan Schulmeister.
Cool! I’ll probably get some, just so we can try it out. Yay! Olivia writes.
I’m dreading work so much, I almost can’t get out of bed. I have another shift with Reid. I don’t know what I’m going to say when I see him. Maybe there’s a protocol for this. It’s the kind of thing other girls always seem to know. What do you say to a guy after you awkwardly, tearfully call him out for liking another girl?
I shouldn’t care who he likes.
The bell on the door jingles when I open it, and Ari waves at me from behind the register. It’s early, but there are already a few moms browsing with their babies in ring slings. At first I don’t see Reid, and I’m so relieved I could weep.
But then the door to the storage area nudges open, wide enough to fit a giant coffee table made out of reclaimed local stump wood. With Reid pushing it.