“You’re on the pill?”
This feels so weird. This isn’t exactly how I imagined this conversation going. Then again, when did I actually imagine having this conversation with Josh? “Yeah. The pill.”
“So, I guess I also need to ask whether you’ve been tested recently?”
“I don’t mean—” he starts, and I can practically hear him wincing.
“Yeah,” I cut in, “no, it makes sense. I haven’t been with anyone else in over a year. But I’ve been tested since then.” Defensiveness crawls hotly up my neck. “What about you? I mean, after the whole Tabby and Darby thing …”
“Sorry,” he says immediately. “Of course. I should have said that first. I’m good.”
A hush falls over the line and I feel oddly melancholy. I’m not sure why. Josh and I are going to be fine. We’re bulletproof. Last night was fun, and look—he’s calling me at 7:17 the morning after. He didn’t avoid me for days following our drunken hookup. Everything is fine.
“Haze,” he says quietly, “I’m sorry I left.”
“No, I totally get it. I’m sure it was weird to wake up naked and on top of me in the hall.”
“I didn’t actually fall asleep. I carried you to bed.”
And now I have the image of me, a bag of drunken bones, snoring asleep immediately after sex and needing to be hauled naked and sweaty and sticky into bed. Awesome. “Well, I’m sure that was a great reminder of my undatability.”
He doesn’t say anything to this.
In fact, his silence feels brutal.
For once I’m able to stop myself from saying the words I shouldn’t, words that appear at the front of my mind as if projected across a screen: Am I delusional or did it feel a little like making love? Even I can tell that would tip us into the weird(er) zone, and who am I to know what making love feels like anyway? The longest relationship I’ve had was six stupid months.
Finally, he speaks. “My ass is pretty sore.”
An unexpected cackle tears out of me. “I think I remember grabbing it a lot. Your ass is pretty great. You probably have claw marks in your cheeks.”
“Your boobs are pretty great, too.”
“Emily told you that ages ago. See, you should listen to your sister.”
He pauses, and I suspect we’re both thinking of how Emily would react to this information. It could go either way, and adds more turbulence to my uneasy stomach.
“It’s probably a good thing I don’t remember every detail,” he says quietly.
This is undoubtedly the better opinion to have, but I’m actually wishing it all eventually comes back to me. It will likely never happen again, and I want to be able to remember it forever.
“Yeah, probably,” I say.
My head is a mess.
I slide my phone onto my nightstand and collapse back on the bed. Hazel sounds fine today. Which is good.
I should be glad that she’s the same Hazel she was when she woke up yesterday.
But I’m not the same Josh.
I haven’t seen Josh in three days, but we’ve been texting on and off like before, about nothing in particular. Today, I told him how Winnie barked and it sounded like she said “Gimme!” He replied that his chicken salad sandwich had too much mayo. I told him I found a perfect new bikini to wear on our Diarrhea Cruise next spring. He told me not to mention diarrhea after he just ate too much mayo.
All in all, I’d say things are as close to normal as they’re going to get.
The question is whether we’re still doing the whole double-dating thing after we did the whole drunk-sex thing. For obvious reasons, it’s different now, but I tell myself it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Neither of us is really in it for a love connection, but doing the dating game together has been super fun and a good distraction from work, and bills, and having to be a grown-up all the time. I don’t always trust my judgment when it comes to dudes, but Josh would never intentionally set me up with trash (dates six and seven shall be struck from the record). I also like being around him, and when the dates are lame, we have each other.
Apparently I’m not the only one who needs a status check. When we meet at Emily and Dave’s for dinner, the first thing they ask is how the dating game is going. Josh’s immediate reaction is to look at me to answer because, ha! That’s a great question!
“Well,” I say, taking a deep breath and floundering a little. I try to stall for time by slipping off my shoes and placing them with laser-like precision next to Josh’s by the door, but in my head, the image of him moving purposefully over me seems to block out any hope of coherent thought. I intend to tell them only that most of the dates have been flops and see what they suggest about moving on, but in true Hazel form, my mouth decides to take over and what comes out is “Josh and I ended up having sex with each other after we bolted from date seven.”
Silence fills the small entryway like fog and I turn to Josh to save me. His eyes are wide, like he’s watching a plane go down and is silently praying it will pull back up at the last minute. We both know it won’t.
“So, that happened!” I do a spastic little dance. “It was really fun.”
I squeeze my eyes closed because Oh, God, why did I say that?
Josh clears his throat.
“We agreed it’s just a one-time thing. We agreed,” I repeat, holding up my hand in a gesture that’s meant to invoke understanding, or something.
Josh doesn’t come to my rescue, so I’m left free to make this more awkward for everyone. Which I do. “But I mean, for two people where one has been inside of the other, we’re good, right? We’re fine. I think we’re ready to dive back into making plans for the next date?”
I nod, looking for consensus around me. Emily stares at us, wide-eyed. “You guys … what?”
Sometime during my breathless ramble Dave has bent at the waist, unable to contain his laughter.
Emily turns to stare at her brother, some sort of silent sibling communication happening. As always, Josh is mildly expressionless, and with a tiny swallow he seems to refocus, and nods at me with a slow-growing smile. “Yeah, we’re good. Nothing’s changed, thank God.”
Emily says something to Josh in Korean and he replies to her, quietly. This is not the moment to be thinking of how hot he sounds.
I meet Dave’s eyes, because neither of us has a clue what they’ve just said but we can’t pretend to think it isn’t about the sex his brother-in-law had with his wife’s best friend.
Dave claps his hands, and the moment snaps loose. Josh puts his hand to my lower back, silently telling me to lead the way into the dining room, where Dave has put his latest culinary masterpiece out on the table.
Josh takes the seat to my left, and Emily and Dave sit across from us. I watch as Dave pours wine into his wife’s glass, and my eyes widen as he fills it nearly to the brim. Josh and I stare on as she lifts it and takes down half before breathing again.
I glance at Josh, who glances at me at the same time. We share a This is going well! look, and his transitions into a Well, what did you expect? look. I can’t argue.
Dave hands me the bread. Josh takes some chicken onto his plate.
The silence is homicidal.
Emily finishes her wine and Dave pours her more. For such a small thing, Emily can really pack it away.
“Winnie has worms,” I tell the table, and spread some butter on my bread. “Took her to the vet earlier. I was so worried I was going to have to treat it with some ointment in her butt, but—nope—just a pill.”
I take a sip of wine and grin at them. Josh puts his fork down and cups his forehead. But in a few beats they all break into laughter, and Emily looks over at me with my favorite kind of fondness.
“She doesn’t really have worms. I was just kidding.”
I am nothing if not a decent icebreaker.
After this, conversation eventually flows. Dave vents about the rain gutters he has to clean again this weekend. Emily tells us about a kid in her class who didn’t make it to the bathroom in time and pooped his pants, and how that poor kid is going to be known as Pooper Peter until he’s eighty. I talk about the project we’re working on where students choose various careers to write a small report about, and how one of my boys informed the class that his dad (a plastic surgeon) touched boobs for a living. Josh tells us about his new patient, a seventy-year-old woman seeing him pre–hip replacement who has propositioned him no fewer than ten times in the past week.