The Upside of Unrequited Page 7

I lean against the side of the building so I can play on my phone. Social media is the actual worst today. It’s one of those days where both Facebook and Instagram have been taken over by selfies, and they’re not even the kind that own their selfie-ness. It’s more the kind where the person is looking off in the distance, trying to seem candid. I need an anti-favorite button. Not that I’d actually use it, but still.

I’m sort of wondering where Cassie and Mina are. Cassie’s not usually late, but it’s already ten minutes past the time we’re supposed to meet. I don’t know whether to be grumpy or concerned. But at 3:45, I finally see them: walking together, giggling about something and carrying bags from H&M. They’re not even rushing.

Anti-favorite. Dislike.

“Hey,” Cassie says. She smiles when she sees me. “You remember Mina.”

“From the bathroom. With the labia,” Mina says.

I can’t help but giggle.

Here’s a frustrating thing about me: if everyone else is happy, I usually can’t stay pissed off. My moods are conformists. It sucks, because sometimes you really want to be angry.

“Oh my God, I love your necklace,” Mina adds.

I blush. “Oh. I made it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, it’s easy. See, it’s an old zipper.” I lean forward to show her. “You just cut off the end and unzip it, and curve it into a heart. And then you sew the bottom together.”

“Molly makes shit like that all the time,” Cassie explains, but she says it sort of proudly.

They set their bags on top of a table next to each other. I guess they spent the afternoon together shopping. Which is a horrifying group activity, if you ask me—though maybe it’s different for people with single-digit sizes. They probably modeled for each other. Maybe they got matching outfits.

I pick up an empty yogurt cup. This is one of those places where you serve everything yourself. You can pick whatever yogurt flavors you want, and once you do that, there are fifty million toppings to choose from. There are people who can’t handle this kind of freedom. But I can, and I rule at it. You just have to know your own tastes.

I pay and sit down, and Mina settles in beside me. She peers into my cup. “What’d you get?”

“Chocolate with cookie dough.”

Like I said.

I rule at this.

Mina tilts her cup toward me, and of course she’s one of those fundamentally confused people who mixes gummies with chocolate.

“So, Cassie said you go to Georgetown Day?” I feel tongue-tied.

“Yup. I’ll be a senior.”

“Us too. And you do photography?”

“You know everything!” she says.

Which makes me blush. I don’t know. I feel like a creeper. I always seem to know more about people than they know about me.

I feel an awkward silence blooming. I have to head it off at the pass. “Our friend Olivia does photography,” I say quickly.

“Oh, cool!” Mina says. “I mean, I’m really new at it. Will—you met him—the redhead. He’s actually super talented, but he’s teaching me the basics. He has this software where you can tweak the lighting and color on the images after you upload them. And he’s going to teach me how to do sun flares.” Mina pauses. “I’m talking too much, aren’t I?”

“No, you’re—”

“I talk a lot when I’m nervous.”

“You’re nervous?” I ask.

She shrugs, smiling. “I don’t know. This feels so formal, right? Like, isn’t this weird? To put actual effort into becoming friends?”

“I guess so,” I say.

“My friends and I were never like, ‘Hey, let’s be friends.’ It’s more like, ‘Yeah, okay. You’re there and you’re cool.’”

“That’s literally what I said to Cassie in the womb,” I say.

She laughs, scratching an invisible spot on her arm. Which makes the sleeve of her shirt ride up, revealing the edge of a tattoo. I can’t quite make out what it’s a picture of. But seriously. This girl has a tattoo. And she’s in high school. I feel slightly inadequate.

Cassie slides in across from me.

“You take forever,” Mina says.

“Yes, but. Decisions.”

That’s Cassie. Every time we come here, she takes her flavor profile deadly seriously, but she always gets the exact same thing. Vanilla yogurt. And some type of gummy. MEMO TO CASSIE: all gummies taste the same. They honestly do.

“Okay, I have to finish telling you about my theory,” Cassie says. She shovels a spoonful of yogurt into her mouth. “So, Molly, you missed this, but we were talking about ancestors.”

“Um, what?” I ask.

“Like, ancestors. Like, all your relatives who died before you were born.”

“Why were you talking about this?”

Cassie pauses, her spoon midair. “Oh. I don’t remember.”

“Well, first we were talking about sperm donation,” Mina says, “and whether or not your sperm donor’s relatives count as your relatives.”

“Right,” Cassie says. “But, okay, here’s my theory. You’ve got your ancestors, and they’re just hanging out in heaven or hell—FYI, this is not like a rabbi-endorsed, official tenet of Judaism.”

“I gathered that.” I smile a little.

“Right. So, here’s what I think. They’re sitting around, drinking ambrosia and everything.”

“This is definitely not rabbi-endorsed.”

She ignores me. “And then one of their descendants has a baby. And it’s you! And as soon as you’re born, for your whole life, your ancestors get to watch everything. And they’re rooting for you and discussing among themselves, but they’re not allowed to intervene. They just watch. It’s like a reality show.”

“A really, really boring reality show,” I say.

“Yeah, but it’s not boring to them, you know? Because you’re their descendant.” Cassie clasps her hands together. “So they’re invested.”

Mina purses her lips around her spoon and nods.

“And then when you eventually get old and die,” Cassie continues, “you show up in heaven, where you’re basically a fucking celebrity. And your ancestors are like, yeah, I was shipping you with that other girl, but it’s cool. And sorry you got old and died, though. And you’re like, yeah, that sucked, but you know.” Cassie shrugs. “And so then you actually become one of the ancestors, and the next time a baby is born, you get to watch everything. And the cycle continues.”

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