“To Catherine?” she asks.
“To Daisy,” I say, then amend, “Well, both, I guess. Maybe I could copy and paste what I write to Daisy into Catherine’s box, for now.”
Millie stares at me for a long, flat second, and then stands. “Sure, Reid. Send along their messages and I’ll help you.”
We all go very still.
“Are you sure?” I point to her narrow eyes and stiff posture, something we’ve never seen on her, other than the time we were playing cornhole at Chris’s and Millie—the reigning, undisputed champion of cornhole—was briefly losing to Alex. “You look like you’re going to kill me via decapitation.”
She laughs but it’s a weird ha-ha-ha laugh. A movie villain laugh. “I’m not going to kill you.” Millie slides her messenger bag across her chest, hooking a thumb beneath the strap.
“I don’t feel reassured,” I admit.
“I just think you’re being shallow.”
The unfamiliar disappointment in her voice is cutting, and beyond that . . . another type of unease starts to worm its way through me. Is there something going on here? With Millie . . . and the prospect of me dating?
“Why do you care who I reply to?” I ask as carefully as I can. I’m a little out of my depth here because Is she angry? And what does it mean that I’m not really sure what angry Millie looks like?
“It’s just a female solidarity thing,” she says. “Why are we always expected to share the picture of us with our boobs out on the beach, but dudes can share the candid one with their slobbery dog?”
“I want to remind you,” Ed says, “that this same group has had strong opinions about what photos I share, too.”
“You’re tripping because I didn’t want you to look like a McDonald’s ad?” Chris asks him.
“I wasn’t going to wear the fucking Grimace costume!” Ed yells, and about fourteen people around us turn to look.
When I turn back to answer Millie, to tell her she’s right, that I need to give Catherine more of a chance, she’s gone.
I’m in a dramatic huff by the time I get back to my office. Seriously. Copy and paste? What the fuck, Reid?
Dropping into my chair, I reach for the bag of peanut butter M&M’s I keep in my bottom drawer. No, it’s not the greatest coping mechanism, but since I already finished the bottle of scotch I used to keep there, M&M’s will have to do.
Shallow isn’t a word I’d have used to describe Reid before today. Manipulative? Maybe. I mean, aren’t we all a little? Even a tiny bit self-absorbed? Sure, I’m guilty of that one, too. But shallow? No. Which is why this feels like such a big thing, because more than angry about how quickly Reid prioritized his response to Daisy over Catherine, I feel disappointed.
It’s not an emotion I’m used to where Reid is concerned. He’s the one I called when I got a flat tire halfway to Monterey, the friend who will bring us each a smoothie the morning after a night of particularly heavy drinking, the person who refuses to speak badly about anyone, especially behind their back. He’s unerringly thoughtful.
Disappointment in Reid feels a lot like indigestion.
Pulling up the app again, I don’t even check my Millie profile, but stay logged into Catherine’s. She has two new requests, one of which looks like a reasonably normal guy, and one I instantly delete.
Eric is a twenty-six-year-old makeup artist, and according to the app we’re an 84 percent match. I’m not going to lie, the idea of dating someone who can do my makeup better than I can is pretty damn appealing, and so I click ALLOW to let him view the rest of my information.
Moving on, I open the profile page and click her—my—photo. It’s a picture my sister took on my last trip home, and I picked it not only because you couldn’t clearly make out my face, but because no one here has seen it before. I’d been watching the rain as it puddled outside the window, and I look thoughtful, almost serene. It’s no Daisy on a beach with her smile and her boobs, but it isn’t a bad photo. Certainly not one that warrants a copied and pasted reply.
The messages Reid received from Daisy and Catherine were both brief, and the differences in our matches were pretty big—98 percent versus 82 percent! I’m starting to think Reid is a fake scientist who doesn’t care about numbers. Any preference he has for Daisy at this point is purely visual. What a dick!
Is it crazy that I’m suddenly determined to make Catherine the winner here? To teach them a lesson? Not just for my own vindication, but for like . . . all of womankind?
If I asked the guys, I’m sure they’d tell me my—Catherine’s—first step should be to choose a new photo. Unfortunately, I can’t show my face, and a close-up down the front of my shirt wouldn’t be all that impressive, either, so I’ll just have to make Catherine more interesting. This would be easier if I could be creative and tell a lot of stories, taking snippets I’ve heard from other people or gleaned from books, spinning them into details I could share with Reid. But since I’m being semishady as it is, I can’t lie. Catherine’s stories have to be my stories, which means I can’t show him the easy, superficial stuff I’ve let him see before. I’ll have to actually work for this and dig deep.
But first, Reid will need to reply.
He’s already forwarded me the messages from Daisy and Catherine. It only takes a few minutes to write something he can paste into each of their boxes—I am now literally writing letters to myself but why the fuck not?—and so I ping him in a separate window.
I have your replies. Do you want them here or email?
You are a goddess. And here is good
For Daisy An 82% match? Not too bad! You’ve read my profile, so you know I grew up in California. If I’m not mistaken, your profile photo was taken at Ledbetter Beach? I’m an Associate Professor at UCSB, just down the road from there. I’ve gone to a couple parties at the park, just off the beach, and even attempted a few surfing lessons there. It didn’t go well. Let me just say that my pride, and my favorite board shorts, are still floating around there somewhere. I also see from your profile photo that you have giant knockers, which must mean that your fertility, and quality of life, are higher than those around you.
I may leave that last sentence out . . .
As you wish.
Mills, this is so great of you. THANK YOU.
For Catherine I assume a 98% match basically only leaves our preferences for Coke vs Pepsi (Coke FTW), our favorite of The Chrises (I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that bearded Chris Evans is a 10/10), and whether Star Wars episodes I, II, and III can be skipped entirely (the correct answer is always yes). To see if we are in fact the same person: favorite funny movie?
Dots appear in the chat window as Reid types, before disappearing again.
Sorry, I’m here. Daisy’s seems a bit . . . idk, stiffer than Catherine’s?
Oh right, right. I know how you can fix that.
WRITE THEM YOURSELF
I’m sorry, Mills. Thank you. Who knew I was so charming?
Seriously, these are great. Do you want my login and you can just send?
Am I going to be the one having sex with one of these women for you, too?
If you’re into that, sure.
I do not want your login. I also think you should write your own letters. This is weird, even for us.
Milllliiiiieeeeeeeee. You’re better at this than I am. This is clearly your thing.
You’ll get the hang of tit. Gotta run, class
[Millie Morris has left the chat]
It’s almost nine by the time I finish up at the office and pull into my driveway. Just like every night, the neighbor’s cat is waiting on my porch. I reach down and scratch behind her ears, wondering for the hundredth time if I should get a pet. I love living alone but can imagine it would be nice to have someone or something waiting when I walk in the door, too.