The Upside of Unrequited Page 12

Right. So here’s a confession: I’ve never entirely understood the appeal of Evan Schulmeister. This is not just me being jealous that Olivia has a boyfriend. I think Evan’s an acquired taste, but without the part where I actually acquire the taste.

“Should I get dressed?”

Cassie laughs. “For Olivia?”

Pajamas it is.

Twenty minutes later, we’re cross-legged on the front porch, surrounded by magazines and scraps and scissors. I’m bleary-eyed, but it’s cool and breezy and actually kind of nice. I think the whole neighborhood is still sleeping.

“So what did that dumbfuck do this time?” asks Cassie.

“He’s not a dumbfuck.” Olivia fidgets with a bead, tugging it up and along the string. This is a thing she and I have been working on for years: our bead strings. Mine is over ten feet long now—maybe thousands of beads. And every single bead is homemade, cut from magazine pages. All you do is cut triangles out of paper and roll them tightly around a coffee straw, starting with the wide point. Seal it with glue and maybe a layer of clear nail polish. Then you slide them onto your string and repeat. Mine’s kind of an ombré rainbow pattern, starting with red, but I’ve worked my way up through the indigo section. Almost ready for violet. When it’s done, I’m going to line it along the top edge of my bedroom wall so it drapes down like lace.

“So, okay. This isn’t even a big deal,” Olivia says. “It’s just something he said that’s kind of been bugging me.”

“Not a big deal?” Cassie asks.

Olivia shrugs, smoothing glue over the end of a bead.

Cassie grins. “You texted me at five thirty in the morning.”

“Ugh. I’m sorry. I’m being ridiculous.”

“Livvy, you’re not being ridiculous.” Cassie scoots closer and hooks her arm around her. “I just don’t like seeing you sad.”

“I’m not sad. I’m just . . .” Olivia looks down at the finished bead nestled in the palm of her hand.

“That’s really pretty,” I say.

“Thanks. Yeah. Anyway, it was just Evan being weird. He was asking me a bunch of questions about waxing . . .”


“Like Brazilian bikini waxing.”

“Um. Okay.” Cassie raises her eyebrows.

“Yeah. It was out of nowhere, and he kept saying he was just curious about it, and I was finally like, ‘Are you trying to tell me something?’” She pauses to slide her bead onto her string. “And he says, ‘No, of course not, why do you think that?’”

Cassie sighs. “Jesus Christ.”

“I don’t know.” Olivia smiles tightly. “I really think he was just curious.”

“Pretty sure he’s trying to police your vagina.”

“I mean, he didn’t ask me to, like, get waxed.”

Cassie laughs. “Uh, I’d say he hinted pretty strongly. Fuck that, though. That is so not his call.”

It occurs to me, suddenly, that I’ve been staring at the same magazine page for the last five minutes. And it’s not even the right color scheme. I feel slightly on edge.

I just honestly hate this kind of conversation. It’s not that bikini waxing is a foreign concept to me, but . . . I mean, I guess it kind of is. Like, it’s one of those girl habits that’s so far beyond me, it makes me feel like a different species. Do boys require hairless vaginas? Is this a known thing?

Of course, the magazine I’m holding makes me think so. Not that there’s a big hairless vagina in my face. But it’s one of those models with perfect shadowy cleavage. How do they get their cleavage to do that? I’m pretty sure I could drive a boat through my boobs, they’re so far apart. I guess it’s just this feeling that my body is secretly all wrong. Which means any guy who assumes I’m normal is going to flip his shit if we get to the point of nakedness. Whoa. Nope. Not what I signed up for.

It makes me never want to be naked. And it’s not like I could be a Never Nude. I don’t even like jean shorts.

“. . . am I right?” Cassie asks.

I look up and realize they’re both looking at me.

“Yes,” I say. Which is probably a safe answer. Cassie usually is right.

“Ugh. I don’t know.” Olivia shakes her head. “Like I don’t even mind the idea of it or whatever. I just don’t want it to be a thing. I hate confrontation.”

“Uh, clearly.”

Olivia smiles shyly. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you just confirmed that you would literally rather get the hair ripped off of your vagina than deal with confrontation.”

“Oh,” she says. “I guess so.”

“That is—nope. Just. Give me your phone.” Cassie makes a grab for it.


“Are you texting him?” I ask.

“I’m just letting him know”—she starts typing—“that Olivia would be happy to get waxed if he’s willing to wax his tiny, microscopic little peen at the same time. . . .”

“WHAT?” Olivia makes a violent grab for the phone. “Don’t you dare hit send.”

Cassie leans back on her elbows, laughing. “There’s that fighting spirit.”

“Fuck you,” Olivia says, grinning down at her phone.

Immediately, my phone buzzes in my pocket.

Text from Olivia: luv my hairy vag!! Vag FTW!!! go wax ur butthole pls schulmeister.

I snicker, tilting my phone toward Olivia. “Oops! I think this text was meant for Evan. Should I forward it to him?”

“I hate you both,” Olivia says, halfway between a laugh and a scowl.

We burn out on beads after an hour or so—and by that, I mean Cassie burns out and starts dumping the magazines back into their reusable grocery bags. But I really think the bead therapy helped. By the time Olivia leaves, she’s her unruffled self, even if the situation still has Cassie amped up.

“What was that about?” Nadine asks when we walk into the living room. She’s nursing Xav on the couch.

Cassie sinks down beside her. “You don’t want to know.”

“Is Olivia okay? I was just talking to her mama. Sounds like she’s looking at art programs.”

“That’s definitely not what we were talking about,” says Cassie.

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