Love and Other Words

Page 30

I smile in spite of my anger. “Okay.”

“I’m sure Sean is a great guy, but it’s another version of you and Julian; everything’s on the surface. You never feel what you felt for Elliot, but it’s convenient: you don’t want to feel that again anyway.”

I nod tightly. Sabrina can’t really be blamed for saying aloud the things I’ve started to wonder, too.

“But, shit, Mace,” she says gently, “doesn’t it seem sort of selfish? You give only as much as you’re willing. Luckily this time, Sean is happy with the scraps.”

I sit back in my chair. “My goodness,” I say. “Tell me what you really think.”

She chews on her lower lip, studying me. “Are you saying I’m wrong?”

I scrub my hands over my face, feeling more tired than I’ve been all week. “It’s not that simple, and you know it.”

Sabrina closes her eyes, breathing slowly in and then out. Looking at me again, she says gently, “I know, honey. The thing is… you’re pretending like you can just walk away from Elliot. Can you? And if not, what are you doing staying engaged to another man?”

“I know, I know,” I say, feeling a simmering in my stomach.

Her expression softens. “Don’t you just want to see where it could go with Elliot? The worst thing that could happen is it doesn’t work and he’s not in your life anymore.” She leans back in, saying more quietly, “You know you can survive that. At least, minimally.”

I spin my fork on the table.

“What’s keeping you with Sean?”

I know she wants a serious answer, but I’m just done with the intensity of this conversation. “His place is so convenient.”

She lets out a barking laugh that actually startles Viv in her sleep. “They’re fluffing your pillows in hell, Macy Lea Sorensen.”

“I don’t think one gets pillows in hell,” I say, smiling back at her. “And I’m kidding. I’m just having a hard time trusting these new doubts, because a few weeks ago I was perfectly happy with Sean. What if this is a blip?”

She lets out a skeptical “Mm-hmm.”

I blink up to her. “Come on.”

“You come on. You know I’m right. Sean is easy, I get it. He’s a cactus and Elliot is an orchid. I get that, too. Just…”

“Just what?”

“Just don’t be a testicle about this,” she says. Sabrina hates using pussy to mean weak, especially after birthing her ten-pound baby the old-fashioned way. “When you think about kissing Elliot, what does it make you feel?”

My entire body explodes in heat, and I know it shows immediately on my face. I know what it’s like to kiss Elliot. I know how he sounds when he comes. I know how his hands become wild and roaming when he’s hard. I know how he learned to touch, and kiss and give pleasure, because he learned with me.

I know how good it was, even for the short time I had it.

“I don’t even need you to answer.” She leans back when our waitress comes by to take our orders.

When she’s left again, my phone vibrates in my bag and I pull it out, laughing. It’s a message from Elliot, whom I haven’t spoken to since the picnic.

I turn my phone around, showing it to Sabrina, and she laughs, shaking her head. “Intervention complete.”


saturday, january 14

eleven years ago


lliot sprawled on the floor, pulling a new, furry pillow off the futon and tucking it beneath his head. It was nearly two p.m., and Dad and I had barely made it up here due to some terrifying dry rattling under the hood of the Volvo. While Dad and Mr. Nick had worked on Dad’s car, Elliot and I had devoured some cold leftover chicken on the front steps. Back in the warmth of the house, I was more likely to take a nap than read an entire chapter.

Elliot’s voice seemed deeper than it had even the weekend before: “Favorite word?”

I closed my eyes, thinking. “Excruciating.”

“Wow.” Elliot paused, and when I looked over at him, he was staring at me curiously. “That’s a zinger. Update?”

I kicked off my shoes and one of them barely missed the side of his head. We’d spent the past hour together, but something about being back in the closet, with the blue walls, and stars, and the warm bulk of Elliot’s body nearby, seemed to loosen everything inside me. Things had been hard in ninth and tenth grade, but eleventh? Definitely the worst.

“Girls suck. Girls gossip, and are petty, and suck,” I said.

Elliot marked his place in his book and closed it, placing it at his side. “Elaborate.”

“My friend Nikki?” I said. “She likes this guy Ravesh. But Ravesh asked me to spring formal and I said no because he’s just a friend, but Nikki is mad at me anyway, as if I could help that Ravesh asked me and not her. So she told our friend —”


I took a deep breath. “She told our friend Elyse that I told Ravesh’s friend Astrid that I wanted to go with Ravesh just so he would ask me, and then I turned him down. Elyse believed her and now neither Nikki nor Elyse are speaking to me.”

“Neither Nikki nor Elyse is speaking to you,” he corrected, and then, at my glare, apologized under his breath before adding, “Clearly Elyse and Nikki is bitches.”

I laughed, and then laughed harder. Everything felt so easy in the closet. Why couldn’t it always feel this way?

He scratched his jaw, watching me. “You should take me to your spring formal.”

“You would go? You hate that stuff.”

Elliot nodded and licked his lips distractingly. “I would go.”

“Everyone wants to meet you.” I found myself unable to look away from his mouth, imagining being tasted.

“Well, that is perfectly lopsided. I have no desire to meet everyone.” He grinned at me. “But I do want to see you in something other than pajamas, jeans, or shorts.”

“You would really go to spring formal with me?”

He tilted his head, brows drawn. “Is it so hard to accept that I want to be the only person you’d consider taking to a stupid formal?”


“Because you’re my best friend, Macy, and despite your ridiculous reticence —”

“Good alliteration.”

“— you are the girl I want. I want to be together.”

My stomach flipped in thrill and anxiety. “You kiss other girls.”


“Uh, ever.”

“Obviously I wouldn’t if I could kiss you.”

I sighed, chewed my lip, fidgeted. “Why can’t everyone be like you?”

“I can be enough of your world that it feels like everyone is.”

I smiled up at him, softly, pressing down the familiar bubble of need. It was getting harder and harder to ignore that I really, truly loved Elliot.

“What’s your favorite word?” I asked him.

He sucked on his lower lip for a moment, thinking. “Vex,” he said quietly.


wednesday, november 8


fter that one text during lunch with Sabrina, things with Elliot snowball and we’re doing something we didn’t do even in high school: talking nearly every day. Maybe only for a few minutes. Sometimes it’s just over text. But I feel his presence almost constantly, and no matter how much I want to talk myself out of it, I know the gentle hum of relief in my thoughts is because of him.

Perhaps relatedly, things with Sean are… weird, at best. We’ve had zero arguments. We’ve had zero conversations about what we’re doing. When I happen to catch them awake, Phoebe seems happy to see me, Sean seems happy to see me. I’m sure if I planned a big wedding tomorrow, Sean would still happily show up. I’m sure if I put off planning it indefinitely, Sean would never ask about it.

I’m also sure I could leave and he would be fine with that, too.

It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever been a part of, and yet, it could be so fucking easy. It requires nothing of me, requires no involvement from my heart, and I know without a doubt that he doesn’t need me. We could have a relationship that gives us both sex, financial security, a roof over our heads, and stimulating conversation at the dinner table, but otherwise live entirely separate lives.

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