The Upside of Unrequited Page 14

I kind of want to pin this whole house to my design board.

A painting in the hallway catches my eye—maybe my favorite one yet. “Your parents must really love tigers,” I say.

“Oh, that’s like a Korean thing,” Mina says.

“Oh geez, I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Okay, this is really cute,” Cassie interjects. She taps the edge of a canvas-wrapped photo of Mina hugging the life force out of some goat in a petting zoo.

“Oh God,” says Mina.

“I love it.” Cassie steps closer. And then their fingertips almost touch. Not quite.

Makes me wonder.

Mina clears her throat. “Um. So, the boys are on their way, but we can head down to the basement. I’ll leave the door open for them.”

“The boys?”

She gives me this painfully knowing smile. “Will and Max.”

“Oh.” I blush.

We follow Mina downstairs. The basement is enormous. I don’t think Takoma Park has basements like this. She walks us through it, and it’s a whole other floor of the house. There’s a bedroom with its own bathroom, a little mini-kitchen, and an actual sauna. But the main room of the basement is a TV room with a giant flat screen and the mushiest denim couches I’ve ever encountered. As soon as I sit down, I can actually feel my butt leaving an imprint. I never want to stand up.

“Can I get you guys something to drink?” Mina tucks back a strand of hair and adjusts her glasses, and she honestly seems kind of jittery. Maybe it’s weird for her, having us here.

We both say no, so Mina ends up perching on the armrest of the love seat, next to Cassie. And there’s this extra-drawn-out pause.

I take one of those deep cleansing yoga breaths Patty is so obsessed with: slow inhale through the nose, controlled exhale through the mouth. I think it’s supposed to help with childbirth, but it actually helps me now.

Goal: don’t be weird and awkward.

“So, how do you know Will and Max?” Cassie asks. “Are they exes, or . . . ?”

“Oh, God, no. Not like that. I’ve known them both forever.”

“That’s like us and Olivia,” I say.

“Oh yeah! She’s the tall girl with the blue hair, right? Cute, kind of curvy?”

“Yup,” Cassie says, but I can’t help but wince. Like, yes, Olivia is kind of curvy, and Mina didn’t say it like an insult. I know it’s not an insult. But I just hate when people talk about bodies. Because if Mina thinks Olivia’s body is noticeably curvy, I’d like to know what she thinks about mine.

No. Actually, I would not like to know.

“Oh!” Cassie says. “Olivia wanted me to tell you she’s really sorry she can’t make it. She’s working.”

“Aww. Where does she work?”

“One of those pottery-painting places. Super Olivia-ish,” Cassie says, and Mina nods.

Distantly, I hear the front door open, and someone yells, “Hello?”

“We’re in the basement!” Mina calls.

The door thuds shut, and there are footsteps on the stairs. I’m definitely nervous to see the guys again. Not because I have a crush on Will. It’s just that they’re both so inaccessibly cool. And when they step into the room, it’s immediately confirmed. There’s just something about them that looks completely right. Like they’re in the right bodies. Max is vaguely muscular, in an understated way, and his anime-boy bangs are actually kind of nice today. Maybe. And Will basically looks like he was born inside an American Apparel. He’s wearing an old Ben’s Chili Bowl T-shirt and jeans, and he still manages to look stupidly perfect. I think that’s what I want. To look stupidly perfect in a T-shirt.

Also, Will is holding a beer.

There’s a throw pillow beside me. I pick it up and hug it tightly.

“You guys all remember each other, right? Will Haley, Max McCone—and this is Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso.”

“What the what?” asks Will.

“It’s hyphenated,” Cassie says. She looks up at them. “You brought beer?”

“We stole it,” Will says. And I guess I must look scandalized, because he turns to me and winks. “Just from upstairs. Mina’s dad has a beer fridge in the garage.”

“I can’t believe your parents just let you take beer whenever you want it.”

“Uh, no. But my dad is really unobservant, so . . .”

“I want unobservant parents with a beer fridge.” Cassie sighs.

Mina grins. “It’s actually a kimchee fridge.”

“And all the normal food goes in the kitchen,” adds Max.

“Oh, really?” asks Mina. “Care to explain why kimchee isn’t normal food?”

“Max is like the verbal equivalent of a bull in a china shop,” Will explains, settling in beside me on the couch. I can’t resist sneaking a peek at him: his rumpled mess of red hair and sleepy blue eyes. He leans back and stretches, and his shirt rides all the way up, exposing his stomach—pale and flat, and dusted with light hair. I need to stop blushing. Especially because Max and Will are now exchanging what appears to be a very meaningful glance.

If it is a glance about me, I will die. We are amused by the sad chubby girl who is clearly enchanted by our hipster beauty.

Seriously, I will die.

I’m probably paranoid, but now I can’t stop thinking about this. I get locked into this cycle sometimes. I develop counterarguments in my head. Actually, gentlemen, I’m intrigued, not enchanted. And I’m anxious, not sad. And if you call yourself a hipster, guess what? You’re not a hipster.

Of course, it’s possible the meaningful glance was about beer.

Cassie sits up straight. “Will, I hear you’re an artist.”

“Uh, I do photography.”

“That counts.” Cassie smiles. “Molly’s really artistic, too.”

Oh God.

“Hey, that’s awesome. What do you do?” Will slides off the couch and settles onto the carpet, cross-legged, smiling up at me. I feel like a kindergarten teacher. If kindergartners drank beer.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“What kind of art?”

I shake my head quickly. “I’m not artistic. I just like crafts.”

“She makes jewelry,” Mina says.

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