Alas, I’m never home. I’m never here, and—Elly’s voice reminds me—I’m certainly never in Seattle.
I set down my things, order dinner, pour a giant glass of wine, and power up my laptop. I told her I’d firm up dates for a visit, and I’m going to do it before anything else drags my attention away.
How convenient, then, that there’s an email from my new editor with a suggestion for deadlines, and some questions about my outline. I text Elly with a very loose window of dates for me to come visit, but I know one week—whether in June, July, or August, her choice—won’t appease her.
The red bubble in the IRL tab drags my attention away from my email inbox, and with a little grunt of irritation, I open it up, knowing exactly what it is.
A letter from myself, how exciting.
But my competitive fire reignites, and I hammer out my reply as fast as I should probably be writing the book I have due in four months.
From: Catherine M.
Sent: 7:39 pm, March 28
I can’t believe you went for The Chrises this early in our email relationship. It is both genius and brave. I was lucky enough to see Chris Evans at Comic-Con a few years ago, and you won’t believe this, but he’s actually better looking in person. I approve of your bearded Captain America man love.
Also approve of skipping Episodes I-III, aka The Emo Awakening of Anakin Skywalker. The others are non-negotiable, though. I’m a little freaked out about our compatibility, however: Both Pepsi and Coke taste like sugar gone to die. Who hurt you, Reid? If I’m going to have that many calories, there’d better at least be alcohol involved.
And funniest movie . . . let’s see. I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one. A few of my favorites (and in no particular order): Tommy Boy, Anchorman, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Superbad, 9 to 5, Blues Brothers . . . I could do this all day. Revenge of the Nerds gets a special mention because my parents took us to an 80’s night at a drive-in once, and expected us to sleep in the back seat during the show. Ok, Mom. I saw my first movie boobs in that drive-in.
And I’ll stop now so I don’t get too chatty. You’re up: favorite movie and favorite quote? I’ll go with one from Girls Trip. “Girl, you can’t get no infection in your booty hole. It’s a booty hole.”
Did I just break some sort of online dating code by bringing up butts in the first message? I’m gambling that it’s both genius and brave.
I mean, for fuck’s sake. If he doesn’t get that it’s me from the butt reference/anal sex joke, there’s no hope for this boy. Plus, I made him see that movie with me three times—in the theater! Come on, Reid!
The doorbell rings and I stand from my laptop, pressing SEND before heading to the door, wallet in hand and salivary glands standing up and anticipating pizza.
It’s not pizza.
It’s Reid, on my porch, and he brushes past me before I have a chance to stop him.
“Do you have any food?” he says, already halfway to the kitchen. “I’m starving.”
“Then you should have more than a salad for lunch.”
“I like salads!”
Oh, he’s hangry.
He steps into the kitchen and holy fuck my laptop is still on the counter with the dating site up.
“Reid!” I call out, and thank God, he turns: he’s standing directly in front of Cat’s profile and her “artsy” black-and-white photo on the screen.
In my socks, I skate gracelessly across the room and nearly fall onto my ass at the transition from wood floor to kitchen tile. “Pizza is on its way!” I lunge past him and slam the computer shut.
Reid turns to me slowly, wearing a puzzled grin. “What . . . was that?”
His eyes light up with scandal and he reaches for the laptop. “Let me see.”
I slap his hand. “No! It’s sick porn.”
Oh my God, Millie.
Of course, now he’s really interested.
“For work.” I wave what is supposed to be a nonchalant hand. “You know.”
Reid doesn’t look very convinced. “I hope the FBI never has reason to check your search history.” God, me too. “Your job is super weird, Mills.”
“Hey, I’m not the one dissecting cow eyeballs, okay?”
To my immense relief, he seems to move on and takes a seat on the stool right in front of my laptop. “So, hey,” he says more quietly. “Are we okay?”
A new kind of unease trickles through me. “Yep, all good. Listen, I was about to head to bed.”
“Didn’t you just say you had pizza coming?”
“Right.” Shit. “I mean, I’m going to bed right after pizza. And the porn.” I offer an encouraging nudge toward the door. “So maybe we can talk tomorrow?”
“But if there’s pizza, I want some.” He gives me a winning grin. “I’m hungry, remember?”
“Then take some to go?”
The muscle in his jaw ticks, and there’s the tiniest tilt of his head. “Are you sure everything’s okay? You were annoyed with us today.”
“I—what?” I’m having a moment where I register how natural Reid is in situations like this—situations where friends are having a conversation about emotions and conflict—and how, by contrast, in those same situations I turn all jerky and monosyllabic.
“Okay, I was a little annoyed,” I hedge.
He rests his chin in his hand, listening attentively. This is a huge admission for me—that I’m feeling something negative—and his blue eyes crinkle with an encouraging smile.
“But I got over it,” I say, pointing to the counter like my emotions were dropped there with my keys when I got home. “I mean, obviously. I sent you the messages for your women. I wouldn’t do that if I was pissed.”
That . . . might be a lie.
Reid sits up a little, and with him sitting on a stool and me standing, he’s just slightly shorter than I am. It’s a distracting angle for many reasons. He could pull his knees apart and bring me between his legs. He could lean forward and kiss my throat. I could straddle his lap.
Shut up, sex brain.
“Well, I’m glad you got over it,” he says, “but if you hadn’t, it would’ve been fair. I was being a dick, and you called me out. Thank you.”
I’m listening to his words, but I’m thinking of his lemongrass soap and the way it smelled on his neck and chest and stomach.
I clear my throat. “Well, you know I’m always happy to help your moral development.”
“By the way, I sent the messages you gave me,” he says.
“Oh?” Stepping away, I take in a huge lungful of Reid-free air and move to the fridge to grab him a beer. I’m torn between wanting to extract more information and needing to change the subject entirely. No good can come from us chitchatting about my not-totally-fake profile.
“Yeah. I haven’t heard back from them yet.”
I pause, and then glance over my shoulder at him. “Huh.”
After accepting the bottle with a quiet “Thanks,” Reid pulls out his phone and swipes to the home screen. “Yeah, I—oh.” He looks up, beaming. “I got one.”
The doorbell rings, and I make a beeline for it, throwing money at the pizza guy and carrying the box of heaven into the kitchen. I need a change in topic. I want to talk about whether he also notices how into all of this Ed seems to be, or listen to Reid babble about scienceness, or gossip about Dustin also being on a dating site and whether we agree he wants to have a significant other specifically to help his chances of becoming dean.
Basically, I need Reid out of my space. Not because I want him out of my space, exactly, but because I’m feeling the same way I felt the night of his tenure party—like it might not be such a terrible idea to invite Reid into my bed, and I’m thinking these things while he’s reading a message from another woman.
Who is actually me . . .
Hello, twenty-first-century predicaments.
But maybe when he reads Cat’s last message, he’ll figure it out and we’ll laugh and I can stop thinking about this entirely. That would fix all of this.