“My sister,” he repeats slowly, “known to you as Emily Goldrich, known to our parents as Im Yujin.”
All of a sudden, it clicks. I’ve only ever known Em’s married name. It never occurred to me that the beloved big brother—or oppa—I’m always hearing about is the very same Josh I barfed on all those years ago. Wow. Apparently this is the grown-up version of the metal-mouthed tween brother I’ve seen in the row of photos in Emily’s living room. Well done, puberty.
Turning, I yell over my shoulder, “Emily, your Korean name is Yujin?”
She nods. “He’s Jimin.”
I look at him like I’m seeing a new person in front of me. The two syllables of his name are like a sensual exhale, something I might say immediately preorgasm when words fail me. “That might be the hottest name I’ve ever heard.”
He blanches, like he’s afraid I’m about to offer to have sex with him again, and I burst out laughing.
I realize I should be mortified that Past Hazel was so dramatically inappropriate, but it’s not like I’m that much better now, and regret isn’t really my speed anyway. For the count of three quick breaths, Josh and I grin at each other in intense shared amusement. Our eyes are cartoon-spiral wild.
But then his smile straightens as he seems to remember that I am ridiculous.
“I promise to not proposition you at your sister’s party,” I tell him, pseudo–sotto voce.
Josh mumbles an awkward “Thanks.”
Dave asks, “Hazel propositioned you?”
Josh nods, holding eye contact with me for a couple more seconds before looking over to his brother-in-law—my new boss. “She did.”
“I did,” I agree. “In college. Just before vomiting on his shoes. It was one of my more undatable moments.”
“She’s had a few.” Josh blinks down when his phone buzzes, pulling it out of his pocket. He reads a text with absolutely no reaction and then puts the phone away.
There must be some male pheromone thing happening, because Dave has extracted something from this moment that I have not. “Bad news?” he asks, brows drawn, voice all low, like Josh is a sheet of fragile glass.
Josh shrugs, expression even. A muscle ticks in his jaw and I resist reaching out and pressing it like I’m playing Simon. “Tabitha isn’t going to make it up for the weekend.”
I feel my own jaw creak open. “There are real people named Tabitha?”
Both men turn to look at me like they don’t know what I mean.
But come on.
“I just—” I continue, haltingly. “Tabitha seems like what you’d name someone if you expect them to be really, really … evil. Like, living in a lair and hoarding spotted puppies.”
Dave clears his throat and lifts his glass to his mouth, drinking deeply. Josh stares at me. “Tabby is my girlfriend.”
Swallowing back a strangled laugh, Dave puts a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Hazel. Shut up.”
“HR file?” I look up at his familiar face, all bearded and calm. It’s dark out now, and he’s backlit by a few strings of outdoor lights.
“The party doesn’t count,” he assures me, “but you’re a maniac. Ease Josh in a little.”
“I think the fact that I’m a maniac is partly why I’m your favorite.”
Dave nearly breaks, but he manages to turn and walk away before I can tell. I am now alone with Josh Im. He studies me like he’s looking at something infectious through a microscope.
“I always thought I caught you in … a phase.” His left eyebrow makes a fancy arch. “Apparently you’re just like this.”
“I feel like I have a lot to apologize for,” I admit, “but I can’t be sure I won’t be constantly exasperating you, so maybe I’ll just wait until we’re elderly.”
Half of his mouth turns up. “I can say without question I’ve honestly never known anyone else like you.”
“So completely undatable?”
“Something like that.”
Hazel Bradford. Wow.
Pretty much everyone we went to college with has a Hazel Bradford story. Of course, my old roommate Mike has many—mostly of the wild sexual variety—but others have ones more similar to mine: Hazel Bradford doing a mud run half marathon and coming to her night lab before showering because she didn’t want to be late. Hazel Bradford getting more than a thousand signatures of support to enter a local hot dog eating contest/fund-raiser before remembering, onstage and while televised, that she was trying to be a vegetarian. Hazel Bradford holding a yard sale of her ex-boyfriend’s clothes while he was still asleep at the party where she found him naked with someone else (incidentally, another guy from his terrible garage band). And—my personal favorite—Hazel Bradford giving an oral presentation on the anatomy and function of the penis in Human Anatomy.
I could never quite tell whether she was oblivious or just didn’t care what people thought, but no matter how chaotic she was, she always managed to give off an innocent, unintentionally wild vibe. And here she is in the flesh—all five foot four of her, a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, huge brown eyes, with her hair in an enormous brown bun—and I don’t think anything has changed.
“Can I call you Jimin?” she asks.
Confusion flickers across her face. “You should be proud of your heritage, Josh.”
“I am,” I say, fighting a smile. “But you just said it ‘Jee-Min.’ ”
I’m given a blank stare.
“It’s not the same,” I explain, and say it again: “Jimin.”
She takes on a dramatic, seductive expression. “Jeee-minnnn?”
Giving up, Hazel straightens and sips her margarita, looking around. “Do you live in Portland?”
“I do.” Just behind her, in the distance, I see my sister walk up to Dave, pull him down to her level, ask him something, and then they both look at me. I’m positive she’s just asked where Tabby is.
I knew, when Tabitha took the job in L.A.—her dream job to write for a fashion magazine—that there would be weekends when one or the other of us would be stuck and unable to fly south (me) or north (her), but it sucks that on three out of four of her weekends to come up here, she’s flaked last minute.
Or maybe not flaked so much as had a last-minute work emergency.
But what kind of emergencies do they have at a style magazine?
Honestly, I have no clue. Whatever.
Hazel is still talking.
I turn my attention back down to her just as she seems to wrap up whatever it was she was asking. She stares at me expectantly, grinning in her wide-open way.
“What’s that?” I ask.
She clears her throat, speaking slowly, “I asked whether you were okay.”
I nod, tilting my bottled water to my lips and trying to wipe away the irritation she must see slashed across my mouth. “I’m good. Just mellow. Long week.” I do a mental tally: I averaged eleven hours and thirty-five clients a day this week alone so I could be free all weekend. Knee replacements, hip replacements, bursitis, sprains, torn ligaments, and one dislocated pelvis that made my hands feel weak before I even attempted to work on it.
“It’s just that you’re sort of monosyllabic,” Hazel says, and I look down at her. “You’re drinking water when there are Dave’s margaritas to be had.”
“I’m not very good at …” I trail off, gesturing with my bottle to the growing melee around us.
“No, just …”
“Putting words together into sentences, and then sentences together into conversation?”
Pursing my lips at her, I say primly, “Socializing in large crowds.”
This earns me a laugh, and I watch as her shoulders lift toward her ears and she snickers like a cartoon character. Her bun wobbles back and forth on the top of her head. A guilty pulse flashes through me when I realize that despite being goofy, she’s sexy as hell, too.
I can feel the reaction work its way from my heart to my groin, and cover with “You are so weird.”