The Upside of Unrequited Page 4

I keep remembering little moments from tonight. It’s like my brain won’t stop spinning. Will squinting at my face, trying to place it. Olivia’s blue-streaked hair, extra bright beneath the fluorescent lights of the Metro. And the tiny, secret smile on Cassie’s face every time her phone buzzed.

Certain nights have this kind of electricity. Certain nights carry you to a different place from where you started. I think tonight was one of the special ones—but I can’t pinpoint why.

Which is strange.

I drift off to sleep, finally—and it feels like only seconds have passed when my phone buzzes with a text.

Are you up? Smiley face. It’s Cassie.

There’s this horrible taste in my mouth, and my eyes feel sore and crusty. I guess it’s fitting. I managed to get drunk last night on absolutely no alcohol. Now I have a nonalcoholic hangover.

I stare at the screen.

My phone buzzes again. MOLLY, WAKE UP!!! IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF WORK!!!!

I write back: I’m coming!

I add a sleepy-face emoji.

She sends back this horrible wide-awake emoji with giant eyes.

I send a frowny face back. My head feels heavy on my pillow, and I think I weigh a million pounds. But I force myself out of bed and pull on this ruffled dress from ModCloth, with leggings. And I take my pill. I’ve been on Zoloft for four years. I used to get panic attacks in the middle school cafeteria.

Long story.

Anyway, when I step into the hallway, the air smells like butter and bacon. We are definitely the kind of Jews who eat bacon.

“Is that the young professional?” asks Patty.

Patty is one of my moms. She pops out from the kitchen, wearing an oversized batik tunic. “Here, bring these to the table.” She hands me a plate stacked high with pancakes.

“Okay . . .”

“You look kind of out of it, sweetie. You all right?”

“Yeah, I’m . . .” I look at the pancakes. “What are these supposed to be?”

“Hearts?” she says. There’s flour on her chin.


“I guess they kind of look like penises.”


“And scrotums,” she adds.

“Mom, that’s so appetizing.”

Honestly, it’s not the first time Patty has thrown down the word scrotum in reference to a meal. She’s a midwife, so I may be a little too used to her talking about this stuff. Once she spent an entire drive to the mall explaining to Cassie and me that the so-called “doggie lipstick” was really the dog’s penis coming out of the shaft. She seemed to know a lot of the anatomical details.

I don’t think either Cassie or I will ask about the lipstick again.

“You should let your brother try one,” she says.

I nod. “Xav loves scrotums.”

Patty raises her eyebrows.

She takes the plate back, and I peek into the dining room. Of course everyone’s already awake. Nadine is a teacher, so even in the summer her body is used to waking up “butt-early,” as she calls it. Sometimes she calls it the ass-crack of dawn. And Xavier wakes up butt-early because he’s a butt-early kind of baby.

“Don’t drop that,” Nadine says, giving him the evil eye. Xavier gives me a giant grin from his high chair and says, “Momo,” which means “Molly.”

So, here’s us in a nutshell: Patty used a sperm donor to conceive Cassie and me. Nadine used the same donor two years ago for Xavier. Strangers have a really hard time wrapping their minds around that. There’s this subset of people who like to inform me that Xavier’s my half brother, not my real brother. They’re the same people who tell me Abby’s not really my cousin. Nadine’s not really my mother. I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t question any of this if Nadine, Abby, and Xavier were white.

Needless to say, I hate these people.

Xavier flings a chunk of banana to the floor and starts whimpering.

“Dude, no,” Nadine tells him. “Banana’s gone. You’re SOL.”

“Do you even know what that means?” Cassie asks from across the table.

“I know so much more than you think I do.” Nadine grins. Then Xavier lets out another goat wail, and she leans over to kiss his head. “Hey. Xavor Xav, be cool.”

Xavor Xav, like Flavor Flav. Nadine is just like this.

Patty walks in with a plate of bacon, pressed between paper towels. “Hope you’re ready,” she says to Cassie.

Cassie’s love of bacon is well documented and notorious.

But she leans back, smiling. “I’m actually not hungry.”

“Who are you, and what have you done with Cassie?” Nadine asks, eyes narrowing.

Cassie laughs and shrugs, and I notice she hasn’t touched her food. Not a bite. And it’s a little surprising. Normally, Cassie’s one of those skinny girls who eats like she’s about to go into hibernation.

“I’m serious, Kitty Cat. What’s going on?”

“Nothing. I’m not . . .” She trails off, hands disappearing under the table. She glances downward, quickly.

She’s reading a text.

From Mina. I’m sure of it. Probably scheming about how to get Will to date me. My whole face heats up just thinking about it.

“So, Molly, how are you feeling?” Nadine asks. “Are you nervous? Are you freaking out?”

“About what?”

“About your big day. About entering the world of the working.”

I wrinkle my brow. “You realize this isn’t like a brain surgery residency, right? I’m working in a store.”

“Momomomo!” Xav interjects. “Cacacacaca!”

Cassie gives him the side-eye. “Hey. Stop calling me that.”

“Never stop calling her that,” says Nadine.

Cassie makes a face, and then she slides her foot against mine under the table, lengthwise—toe to heel. Our feet have always been the same size, almost to the millimeter. I guess we grow at the exact same rate.

“Hey, when are you leaving?” Cassie leans forward on her fists, smiling.

“In a few minutes . . . ,” I start to say, but she gives this very meaningful stare. I try again. “Right now?”

“Great! I’ll walk you to work,” she says, standing abruptly, slipping her phone in her back pocket. “Let’s go.”

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