Last night, he writes, actually happened. Right?

I THINK so?

I hope so.

Me too.

This is weird, he writes. But good weird.

So good weird. I smile while typing. And I never thought I’d make out with a guy wearing a map of Middle Earth on his shirt.

Three dots.

Oh, Molly. Okay. We better talk.

I sit up in my bed, feeling suddenly nervous. He’s typing something else.

So, you’re not WRONG, per se, but you should probably know that Tolkien actually hyphenates “Middle-earth.” Smiley emoji with a single nervous tear.

This is what Reid wants to talk about the morning after we kiss. I grin while I type: Hey, you’re kind of adorable.

Hey. So are you.

There’s a soft knock on my door.

One sex! Someone’s here.

OMG, YOU PERVY IPHONE. Sec. Not sex.

TOO LATE! he writes. Three dots. Does this count as sexting?

I think so?

Another knock, and the door cracks open, revealing Patty. “Sweetie, are you up?”

Oh God.

“I’m up.”

“Oh, great.” She steps into my room, shutting the door behind her. My mind races. She knew about the alcohol. Now she knows about Reid. I can tell from her face. How do moms always know?

I try to play it cool. I scoot up the bed, leaving room on the end. “You can sit.”

She does, scooting backward against the wall, and I realize she’s holding an envelope. “So, this was in the mail for you.”

She hands it to me, and now I can’t stop blushing. It’s the size of a birthday card, and all it says on the front is Molly. No address.

So, it’s hand-delivered.

So maybe that’s why Reid walked Olivia to my house.

And now I’m desperate to open it. Which means Patty needs to leave. I give her the okay, Mom, we’re good, thanks for stopping by now stare.

Which never works.

“So, sweetie, we really need to talk about what happened on Monday.”

Oh.

My heart sinks.

She leans back on her hand. “I’m really glad you and your sister have made some new friends. I know it’s been hard with Abby gone.”

I nod.

“And they all seem like really cool people.”

“I’m sorry about Will and the alcohol,” I blurt. “I know that was dumb of us. You can ground me. Seriously.”

“Sweetie, you’re not dumb. Please don’t say that.”

“Sorry.”

“And you’re not grounded. We obviously don’t condone you and your sister drinking.” She pauses, lips quirking upward. “But from what I understand, you didn’t actually drink anything.”

“Cassie told you that?” My mouth falls open.

“Did she misremember?”

“No, it’s just . . .” It’s just the fact that I was an utter asshole to Cassie, and she still covered for me. “Is Cassie grounded?”

“She got off with a warning. Anyway.” Patty tucks her knees up and wraps her arms around them. “I wanted to check in with you about something.”

“Okay.”

“I know we’ve talked a little about birth control . . .”

My face grows warm. “Oh, I don’t want to talk about this.”

“I know.” She smiles. “But this is important. Especially since it seems like things . . . might be happening.”

Oh God.

“Things,” I repeat.

“Well, I know your friend Reid stopped by last night.”

I mean, they ALWAYS know.

“We’re not having sex,” I say quickly.

“I know, sweetie. But you might.” She scoots closer to me. “We should think about starting you on the pill. Sometimes I forget you’re seventeen, you know?”

I squeeze my eyes shut. This conversation. I cannot. Hypothetical sex talk: sure. Patty probing into my sex life in particular? Holy. Fuck. No.

She laughs. “Stop looking so traumatized.”

“I’m not having sex,” I say again.

“Good. Look, I’m in no hurry for you to have sex. Believe me. I’m just saying, we should acknowledge that it’s a possibility.”

“So . . . you think I should be on the pill.”

“I think it’s worth considering,” Patty says. “You know, I went on it in high school. Senior year and all through college, right up until I met your mom.”

It’s hard to imagine that time before my moms got together. I guess they could have dated other people. Patty might have even dated guys. I’ve honestly never asked.

There’s something about exes. I’ve never had an ex-anything. The whole idea of it seems intolerable. Falling out of love. Becoming strangers. The thought of that happening with Reid makes me want to cry. And I’m not even in love with Reid yet. I don’t think.

I don’t know.

It’s funny—if you take away the kissing, you basically have Nadine and Aunt Karen. Their ruined intimacy. Their faded closeness.

Ex-sisters. Which sounds exactly like existers. And I guess it fits, because that’s exactly how things fall apart. That’s all it takes. Just the fact that you’re two different people. Just the fact that you exist outside each other. I get this ache in my chest when I think about it. I try to shake the feeling away.

Patty’s smiling. “So, are you going to tell me about him?”

I cover my face. “Nope.”

“Are you official? Is he your boyfriend? Check yes or no.”

“Mom.”

“Okay. But are you happy?”

I nod, smiling through the cracks between my fingers.

She squeezes my shoulders. “Kind of funny watching you and your sister go through this at the exact same time. You guys are cute.”

“Hmph.”

“Does Cassie know?”

“About Reid?”

Even saying his name makes me self-conscious. I slide my hands off my face, but my heart sort of skips.

“I don’t think so.” I bite my lip. “I don’t know. Were we really loud last night, or something?”

Patty’s eyebrows shoot up.

“No. Oh God. I did not mean it like that.” I grin into my elbow. “I meant, like, on the stairs. His footsteps. Not anything else. I’m going to stop talking.”

She pats me on the shoulder. “That’s probably a good idea.”

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