She’s only just gotten the flour out and already she has a streak of white on her cheek. “Yeah. I don’t really know why it hit me so hard. It’s good to see him. He seems like he’s in a good place.” Hazel nods a few times, as if she’s convincing herself.
“I thought you told me you were only together for six months. He said two and a half years.”
“He strung me along for two of those years. We weren’t really together; he was just nailing me on the side.” She meets my eyes and crosses hers goofily. “Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot.”
“Guys are idiots when they’re that age. I’m sure he said all the right things to make you think he was coming back every time. He’s several years older now. He seemed pretty remorseful.”
She makes a weird little grimace and then looks away. I wonder if she’s thinking the same thing I am: Why the hell am I defending him?
Hazel moves to the fridge for eggs. Her phone vibrates on the counter.
“Who is it?” she asks over her shoulder.
I look down and my stomach drops.
When I don’t answer, she leans over to catch my eyes. “Josh. What’s wrong?”
“Oh. Nothing.” I show her the screen. “But Tyler texted you.”
“Seriously?” She shuts the fridge door. “Already? What’d he say?” Is that anticipation in her voice?
I don’t want to read it. Literally the last thing in the world I want to read is this text.
But that might be a lie, because I also really, really want to read this text.
“You honestly want me to read this aloud?”
“Yeah, come on, we have no secrets.”
With a heavy sigh, I unlock her phone with the thumbprint she had me program months ago, and read the text.
“ ‘Hey, Hazel. I’ve had more time to process the shock of last night.’ ” I pause, looking up at her. “You sure?”
She cracks an egg into the bowl and nods.
“ ‘You looked beautiful. I’ve never used the word radiant, but it kept looping through my head every time you smiled at me.’ ” I rub my finger below my lower lip. He’s right; she did. She looks even more radiant now—I like to think I did that. “ ‘You’re different, but still the same untamed wild thing I loved. It nearly hurt to see you because I know I fucked up.’ ”
“I really think you should read this yourself,” I say.
She looks at me, pleading.
I lift my coffee, washing down the fire that bubbles up from my stomach. “ ‘I said it last night, and I’ll say it again today: I walked away from something good, and I would do anything to undo it. Will you give me one more chance?’ ”
I put her phone down and run a hand down my face. “That’s it.”
It’s a few seconds before she speaks, and in that time I watch her whip the eggs into a frothy peak.
“That wasn’t bad, was it?” she asks.
I want to punch the wall. “What are you gonna say?”
She drops the whisk and drags the back of her hand—and another smear of flour—across her forehead. “Josh. He’s my ex—the Ex—and he’s back, trying to fix things. You’re here. You’re shirtless. We had sex again last night, and was it good? Yes, hell yes. But am I right for you? Are we anything? Or are we just friends who bang? What would you say, if you were me? Tell me what to do.”
I let out a long, controlled breath.
If she felt what I felt, it wouldn’t be a question. If Hazel is at all torn about the question of Josh versus Tyler, then it’s pretty clear she needs to figure it out before she and I can move forward—if she even wants to. The kitchen clock ticks while we maintain eye contact, and I calculate the odds of this going to complete shit.
She’s my best friend, I’m hers.
We’ve had sex twice.
I might be in love with her.
She may, or may not, be in love with me.
Either way, she’s not settled yet.
“Josh.” Her voice is so thin, it’s like blown glass.
I rap my knuckles on her countertop. “If this is where your head is, then I think it’s worth giving Tyler another chance.”
I realize it’s melodramatic, but when Josh leaves that morning, I stare at the closed door for a full fifteen minutes.
I used to wonder what it felt like to stand in the middle of a cyclone, a tornado, at the epicenter of an earthquake. Once or twice, when Tyler had bruised my feelings without any awareness of it, I would think, These emotions are tiny. Imagine standing right there when the entire Earth rumbles. I wonder whether what’s happening inside me is simply a smaller version of a tropical storm: everything is being blown around and upended.
Being near Josh feels like landing after a yearlong flight—arms flapping, energy depleted. The feelings I have for him have become so enormous, they’re nearly debilitating. They terrify me, and make it clear that whatever I felt for Tyler six years ago was like a drop in a bucket; last night with Josh was a tidal wave.
But I honestly don’t know if I want a tidal wave. Mom says she wishes she had one; I’m not so sure we’re tidal wave kind of women.
Tyler wants another chance, and Josh thinks I should give it to him. That seems to be what everyone else would do—what normal people would do. My gut isn’t totally on board, but without any experience in this degree of emotional combustion, my internal barometer feels unbalanced. I just don’t know what the right answer is.
So I straighten my shoulders, kiss Winnie for good luck, pray to Daniel Craig for wisdom, and reply to Tyler’s text.
Tyler shows up at my doorstep holding a piece of paper and two bottles of red wine. It would be easier for all involved if we went out to dinner, but if he really wants to redeem himself, he can eat my cooking and endure the car wreck that takes place while I do it. If that doesn’t test a person’s constitution, nothing will.
As soon as he steps into my apartment, he seems to crowd everything out of the space, looking around, nodding as if it’s what he expected before turning to me with a smile and the offered gifts.
I stare at the bottles of wine he’s put in my hands, admittedly confused. “Is this all for me?”
“We can share it.”
Pausing, I’m not sure if my question qualifies as Horrible Things That Slip Out of Hazel’s Mouth, but I go for it. “So, you’re not in recovery?”
With an easy laugh, he nods. “I don’t drink in bars anymore. I just drink at home. It’s cool.”
“Nice place, wow.” Tyler nods, impressed, and I have to follow his attention around the space to figure out what he’s seeing. Although I cleaned, my apartment just isn’t that much to look at, not really.
But he is being nice. There’s something to be said for that, after all.
A tiny voice reminds me that Josh didn’t bother to blow smoke up my butt and tell me what a lovely place I had. He never lies, or fakes enthusiasm. He just accepts me.
Why am I comparing Tyler to Josh Im right now?
Probably the same reason I’ve been thinking about Josh Im for the past week.
Winnie comes up, gives Tyler a cursory sniff, and proceeds to look at me like I’m a trollop and a traitor. Unimpressed, she returns to where she was curled up by the window. Vodka squawks once and then tucks his head under a wing. The fish doesn’t even spare him a glance. The only thing I get from my animal family is a resounding meh, and although Tyler looks awesome in black jeans, his Chucks, and a tight black T-shirt, I can’t help but think my animals are comparing him to Josh Im, too.
With a deep breath, I push all that aside. I’ve decided I’ll give him another chance, and comparing him to the blueprint for Perfect isn’t any way to do that.
So, here we are.
I’ve attempted lasagna for our dinner, but when Tyler follows me into the kitchen to open the wine, I see the room through his eyes: it looks like a massacre happened in here.
“Wow. What’re we having?”