The Upside of Unrequited Page 50


What’s your idea? I write.

Wouldn’t you like to know, see you soon! he replies.

Will’s wearing a bow tie. I know that’s absurd. Even more absurd is the fact that he’s really cute in a bow tie.

“You have excellent timing,” he says, enveloping me in a hug. “I was home and bored as fuck, and Mina never replies to her texts anymore . . .”

So, Mina’s not available. And that’s why he’s hanging out with me. I don’t know how I should feel about that.

“She’s probably with Cass.”

Will smiles and shrugs.

We step into the Metro station—and for the second time in my life, I’m on an escalator with Will Haley. A train pulls in as soon as we step onto the platform.

“See? You have the best timing,” he says.

It’s crowded. I guess it’s almost rush hour. I end up mashed between a giant double stroller and a woman reading her phone. Will’s fingers are about an inch above mine on the Metro pole. Which is probably something I should obsess over.

Very cute boy. An inch away from holding hands.

I definitely shouldn’t be thinking about white sneakers in this moment.

We get off at Silver Spring, and step outside, and I don’t know how I managed not to notice how warm it is today. I probably don’t need my cardigan. But I wear it, like armor. Will walks down Georgia Avenue, smiling at me sideways, and then he stops in front of a store.

“Joe’s Record Paradise,” I say out loud.

“Yup. Paradise,” he says. He pushes the door open, and a bell jingles as we walk through. “This,” he says. He looks back over his shoulder, eyes meeting mine. “Take a look.”

There’s vinyl everywhere—organized on racks and shelves down long, narrow aisles. And in the back, the walls are, surprisingly, bubble-gum pink. They’re covered with framed band posters and album covers.

“Awesome.” I flip through a rack of albums without really noticing any of them. “You have a record player?”

“Of course I have a record player.” Will steps closer. We aren’t looking at each other, even a little bit. But there isn’t any space between us. I try to breathe normally. I have to admit, he has this ability to totally unsettle me. More important, he has the ability to make me forget Reid for almost five minutes straight. I timed it. Though, purposefully not thinking about someone might be the opposite of forgetting him.

“Wow,” I say quickly, pulling an album off the front of a rack. There’s a couple on the cover, and they’re completely naked. Pubic hair and everything.

“That’s John and Yoko,” says Will. He reaches out to take it, and then he turns it over to show me. The back of the album is a picture of their butts. “Pretty edgy, right?”

He hands it to me, and I flip it back over. The album is called Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins.

Honestly, I don’t think they look like virgins.

Also: I guess this means John Lennon is officially the first guy I’ve ever seen naked. I try not to stare at his penis. I wonder if all penises look like that.

“You’re blushing!” He beams.

“I’m not blushing!”

“Oh, you so are.”

My mind is spinning. I think I might throw up. Because I can’t help it. I’m thinking about sex. Sex with Will Haley. Sex in general. The thing is, I can’t make my brain turn the idea into something sexy.

Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s sex. It’s inherently sexy.

But not to me. Because in hazily lit movies, when the girl pulls her shirt up over her head, she stops being me. The hazily lit girl is never me. She has a flat golden stomach and cute little boobs, and you can see the boy falling for her. You can read it on his face.

Under my shirt, there’s no flat stomach, and there are no cute little boobs, and there’s no hazy lighting. It’s just a lot of me. Way too much of me.

But the best thing about Will is that you can have a complete internal breakdown in front of him, and he doesn’t even notice. He’s chatty and goofy on the Metro. He offers to walk me home. And he doesn’t even live in Takoma Park. Not even close. He’ll have to walk all the way back to the Metro and take it back to Bethesda.

I can’t figure out what that means. Abby would definitely say he likes me, but maybe he’s just being nice. Maybe he just likes walking.

I tell him not to worry about it.

“Seriously, Molly Golly. I want to,” he says. “It’s getting dark.”

So I let him. We walk up Carroll Avenue, past the park, and my thoughts are a jumble. Will is walking me home. He basically insisted. And maybe that’s a really good thing. Maybe this is how it happens. Maybe we’ll kiss. This could be exactly how I stop caring about Reid. Maybe I should just. I don’t know.

Stop being careful.

I stop in my tracks, and Will stops a moment later. “You okay?” he asks.

I nod, dazedly. Deep breath. We’re right next to a gazebo. That’s probably a sign.

“Hey. So.” I squeeze my eyes shut. Open them again. And he’s looking at me with his eyebrows knit.

“Molly?” he asks. He takes a step closer. “What’s up?”

“Do you want to go in there?”

“In where? The gazebo?”

I nod.

He shrugs. “Sure.”

God, my heart. I can hear it.

He follows me inside, and when I turn to face him, he’s biting his lip. Doesn’t say a word. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. But I step closer. I don’t know how this works. I don’t know if I’m supposed to tilt my head up, or press my lips out, or do something with my hands. Where do my hands go?


Don’t overthink this.

Don’t be careful. Don’t be careful. Don’t be

I take another step closer.

“So, I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” he says. Kind of loudly. Way too loudly. He steps back.

And oh.

There it is. Like a kick in the gut.

The first thing I feel is panic. Not disappointment. Not even humiliation. Just nausea and heartbeat and a total inability to catch my breath.

I don’t even want to run away. I want to evaporate.

“You okay?” he asks quietly.


“I’m good.” Sound happy. Sound normal. “Great.”

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