“Why didn’t you write to him?”

“Because of what we talked about. I like him, Carla. A lot. Too much.”

The look on her face says is that all? “Do you really want to lose the only friend you’ve ever had over a little bit of heartache?”

I’ve read many, many books involving heartache. Not one has ever described it as little. Soul-shattering and world-destroying, yes. Little, no.

She leans back against the couch. “You don’t know this yet, but this will pass. It’s just the newness and hormones.”

Maybe she’s right. I want her to be right so I can talk to him again.

She leans forward again now and winks at me. “That, and he’s cute.”

“He is pretty cute, right?” I giggle.

“Honey, I didn’t think they made them like that anymore!”

I’m laughing, too, and imagining a factory with little Ollys coming off an assembly line. How would they ever keep them still enough to package and mail?

“Go!” She slaps my knee. “You have enough things to be afraid of. Love can’t kill you.”

No Yes Maybe

Monday, 8:09 P.M.

Madeline: Hi.

Olly: hey

Madeline: How are you? How was your weekend?

Olly: fine. good

Olly: yours?

Madeline: Good, but busy. I mostly did calculus homework.

Olly: ahh, calculus. the mathematics of change

Madeline: Wow. You really weren’t kidding about liking math?

Olly: no

Madeline: I’m sorry about my e-mail.

Olly: which part?

Madeline: All of it. Are you upset with me? No, yes, maybe?

Olly: no yes maybe

Madeline: I don’t think you’re supposed to use all the answers.

Olly: why’d you send it?

Madeline: I got scared.

Olly: of what?

Madeline: You.

Madeline: You didn’t write to me either.

Olly: you didn’t want me to

Madeline: …

Olly: does the ellipsis mean we’re having an awkward silence or that you’re thinking?

Madeline: Both.

Madeline: Why do you like math so much?

Olly: why do you like books so much?

Madeline: Those are not the same thing!

Olly: why not?

Madeline: You can find the meaning of life in a book.

Olly: life has meaning?

Madeline: You’re not serious.

Olly: it’s possible

Olly: what book can you find the meaning of life in?

Madeline: Ok, maybe not just a single book, but if you read enough you’ll get there.

Olly: is that your plan?

Madeline: Well, I’ve got the time.

Madeline: …

Olly: thinking?

Madeline: Yes. I have a solution to our problem.

Olly: listening

Madeline: Let’s agree to just be friends, ok?

Olly: ok

Olly: but no more checking out my muscles

Madeline: Friends, Olly!

Olly: and my eyes

Madeline: No more talking about my freckles.

Madeline: And my hair.

Olly: and your lips

Madeline: And your dimple.

Olly: you like my dimple?

Madeline: Friends!

Olly: ok


Carla makes us wait a week before we can see each other again. She wants to be absolutely sure that being in the same room with Olly didn’t activate any of my triggers. Even though I agree with her that we should wait just to be safe, the week seems interminable. I’m sort of convinced that time has literally, and not just metaphorically, slowed down, but that’s the kind of thing that would make headlines.

Mirror, Mirror

After an epoch, the week finally ends. I’m giddy and trying not to be. This is more difficult than you’d imagine. Trying not to smile only makes you smile more.

Carla watches me struggle to choose what to wear. It’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. Really, I’ve never given any thought to it. My closet consists entirely of white T-shirts and blue jeans. The jeans are arranged by type—straight, skinny, boot cut, wide leg, the ridiculously named “boyfriend.” My shoes—all Keds, all white—are piled in a heap in the back corner. I almost never wear shoes around the house and now I’m not sure that I can find a pair that will fit. Rummaging through the pile, I find a left and right one of the same size. They fit, but just barely. I stand in front of the mirror. Is your shirt supposed to match your shoes or is that your purse? Is white the best color for my chestnut complexion? I make a mental note to do some shopping later. I’ll buy a T-shirt in every color until I find the one that suits me best.

For the fifth time I ask Carla if my mom has already left.

“You know your mother,” she says. “Has she ever been late a day in her life?”

My mother believes in punctuality the way other people believe in God. Time is precious, she says, and it’s rude to waste someone else’s. I’m not even allowed to be late for Friday Night Dinners.

I look at myself in the mirror, change the V-necked white T-shirt for a scoop-neck white T-shirt for no reason at all. Or not for no reason. But to have something to do while waiting for Olly.

I wish again that I could talk to my mom about this. I want to ask her why I get breathless when I think of him. I want to share my giddiness with her. I want to tell her all the funny things Olly says. I want to tell her how I can’t make myself stop thinking about him even though I try. I want to ask her if this is the way she felt about Dad at the beginning.


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