The Upside of Unrequited Page 16

And the whole room goes silent. At least that’s how it feels.

I mean, he has to know I’m the last person he should be consulting about this. I’m pretty much the latest-blooming icon of teen purity to ever exist outside a Judd Apatow movie. Literally, the only penetration in my life involves monofilament cord and paper beads.

To be honest, I am Queen Elizabeth. I’m the Virgin Queen. And I think I know how she’d handle this conversation.

She would observe. And remain silent.

Of course, Elizabeth probably didn’t have a roomful of hipster sex gods staring her down.

“I mean, I think people have this mentality that sex is only real if it involves a penis,” Cassie says finally.

“Oh my God.” Mina sighs. “Thank you. This is like my soapbox.” She and Cassie beam at each other.

“And on that note,” Will announces loudly, “I’m getting another beer.”

He springs up from the carpet, and Mina murmurs something to Cassie under her breath. Then, Cassie laughs and whispers something back to Mina. And for a minute, I’m just sitting there, across from Max—who glances up at me for a moment, before deciding his phone is more interesting than I am. So maybe Max is one of those guys who only wants to befriend girls he thinks are hot (see also: guys who wear fedoras) (see also: guys who say “NO FATTIEZ”).

Though maybe I’m being too sensitive. Cassie tells me this a lot.

Anyway, I feel a little better when Will slides back onto the couch beside me, lips pressed against the rim of his beer bottle like he’s kissing it. He takes a quick sip, tilts his head toward me. “So, have you ever thought about doing photography?”

“Oh. Um. Not really.”

“Molly, you totally should!” Cassie says. “You know, you guys should hang out and work on a project together or something.”

Oh my God.

I feel sick. I actually feel sick. My sister is the least subtle person on the planet. This is so much worse than the barf mitzvah story. I don’t care about the barf mitzvah story. But this.

He’s going to think I want to hook up with him. That I’m in love with him. That I’m obsessed with him.

And I’m sorry, but there’s a reason I’m so careful. Boys like Will don’t like girls like me. And if they find out we like them, they are always cruel. Always.

I need to breathe. In through the nose. Out through the mouth.

“So, you have to hear the new Florence and the Machine album,” Mina says. “I have it upstairs on my laptop. It’s so great.”

Max looks up, suddenly, turning to Will. “Dude, we gotta go. Come on.”

“Wait, what? I want to hear Florence.”

“I’m sure it’s on YouTube,” Max says. “And I’m your ride, so . . .”

“You’re a dickhole, McCone.”

Max shakes his keys—and then, to my utter surprise, he turns to me with one of those face-lighting smiles. “Need a ride to the Metro, Molly?”

So maybe I was wrong about the fedora and the no-fattiez.

“Um. Yeah. Thank you. That would be really great.” I look at Cassie. “Cass, you ready?”

There’s this pause.

“Um. I’m gonna stay and hear that album. Is that okay?”

I feel a tiny twinge, low in my chest. “Yeah! Yeah, totally.” I pause. “So. Do you want me to stay, or . . . ?”

“Oh, no, it’s fine,” Cassie says quickly. “You should go.”

Mina nods. “I can drop Cassie off after.”


I think this is how it happens.

“Okay, yeah!” I say again, trying to sound casual.

Suddenly, there’s this pressure building behind my eyes. But it’s probably just excitement or adrenaline, because I’m not a shitty person. If my sister wants to make out with this girl, I would like this makeout to proceed as planned. And if it means I have to ride to the Metro with two cute boys, so be it.

I should be excited about this, right? Not one. TWO. Two cute hipster boys.

Max leads the way upstairs, and already I know what this ride will be like. The boys will be jokey and knowing and familiar. And I will lose myself to shyness. I will be the ice cube.

Will isn’t drunk, exactly, but he’s sort of loose and happy. He curses Max out for making him leave, but you can tell he’s not actually mad at all. Whereas Max just looks amused all the way to his car.

“So, where do you have to be so fucking urgently?” Will asks, sliding into the passenger seat. I tuck into the backseat, shutting the door quietly behind me. A part of me wonders if they remember I’m here.

“Seat belt,” Max says. Will clicks his seat belt on. “If you’re not buckled, we’re not moving,” Max explains, twisting around to check my status.

I’m buckled. I show him. Kind of funny and endearing, actually. Max is the last person I’d expect to care about seat belts. I’m not sure I understand him. I definitely don’t understand these two as a unit. At first, I thought Will was essentially the alpha guy, since he talks more, but now I don’t know. Because Max has this intensity. It makes me kind of nervous.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Will says, poking Max’s arm.

“I don’t have to be anywhere. I’m just following orders.” He passes Will his phone.

“Oh shit,” Will says.

Max laughs. And I feel like I’m missing something.

“Are they . . . hooking up?” I ask slowly.

“Well. Mina asked us to clear out, so . . . ,” Max says. He starts the car and glances at me in the mirror. “Red Line okay?”

“That’s great. Thanks.” My head is kind of spinning.

So Mina planned this. I guess she texted Max when we were all in the room together. And now the boys and I have been exiled.

She and Cassie are probably making out right now. Literally right now.

And because I’m not a shitty person, I’m 100 percent thrilled.



AND NOW CASSIE’S BEING MYSTERIOUS, and it’s really fucking weird.

Normally, when she hooks up with someone, she’s bursting with the details. She’s a kiss-and-teller. Maybe that’s awful, but it’s just a part of the hookup process for her. She told me once that a kiss isn’t a kiss until she tells me about it. Me, specifically.

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