On the other hand, I feel like I’ve just been dumped twice.
I’m halfway into my third read of Cat’s message when Millie’s photo—one she took and entered into my contacts, and is of her with a huge cheesy grin while wearing my Cal baseball hat and Chris’s sunglasses—pops up on the screen.
I want to laugh. Cat just blew me off. I haven’t talked to Millie since last night, so of course now she’s calling.
“Hey, Reidy.” On the other end of the line, she sounds either sad or nervous. In any case, she’s subdued enough to make me wonder whether she realizes that her postsex routine wasn’t great.
In her beat of silence, I pull the slide off the microscope tray and file it back in the slide box. “What’s up?”
“Would you come over?” she asks. “For dinner? Or I can come to you?” Another unsure pause, and then, “To talk.”
“Talk?” I ask. Millie doesn’t ever ask to talk.
“About us,” she says, clearing her throat. “The other night. I mean, the first night, the night at your parents’, last night. All of it.”
Wow. I feel thunderstruck. “Sure. I’ll be there in twenty.”
She lets out a shaky laugh. “Take your time. I have to get a little drunk first.”
I pause, quietly annoyed, and in the silence she goes still, too, and then she groans.
“I’m kidding,” she says. “God, I am so terrible at this. Reid, just come over, okay?”
Spring is creeping into Santa Barbara with warm fingers; the heat from the day lingers after sundown, and even inside my car, the scent of the blooming vines outside Millie’s town house makes my head feel full and claustrophobic.
At the curb, I pull out my phone and look at Catherine’s profile. Honestly, I’m bummed that she’s moving. I wanted that level of connection with someone. I thought maybe Millie and I could go back to being just friends. Maybe Catherine was it for me somehow. But even in the past hour, her profile has gone inactive—I can’t click through to her pages anymore. There’s only the photo she’s always had: that turned-away jawline, the bare shoulder, the tiny scar. Over time, I actually liked that she didn’t give everything of herself up front but seemed to share much more than I’d expected in her messages.
“Well,” I say into the quiet car, “I guess that’s it.”
With my thumb pressed to the IRL icon on the screen, I wait until the app goes wobbly, and then delete it.
Looking up, I see Millie is waiting for me on the porch, her hands clasped together tightly. Everything about this scene feels strange: she’s out here waiting for me, she wants to talk, she looks anxious, she breaks into a huge grin when she sees me.
“You’re being weird,” I say when I hit the first step up to her porch.
“I know. I know.” She wipes her hands on her jeans, and my attention is drawn to her bare arms, her long, smooth neck. “Just go with it. I’m super nervous right now.”
And as soon as she walks toward me, it’s like I’m deflating in relief. I’m bummed about Cat. I’m worried about me and Millie. I’m disappointed that Daisy was such a bust. And the reality that I’m about to get a hug right now makes me want to melt in front of Millie’s door.
She steps into my arms, wrapping hers around my neck, pulling me close. I have the sense of homecoming, some weird trip of déjà vu in my blood that makes me squeeze her tighter. It’s the kind of hug that comes after a fight, or a long time apart. There’s relief there, a giant exhale into the soft skin of her neck, her shoulder, where I press my lips once, and again, against her faint scar.
My heart shoves against my breastbone in warning, and then lurches: a heavy, meaningful pulse. I mentally file back to one of Cat’s messages:
managed to make tit halfway through the attraction without peeing my pants or otherwise embarrassing myself
The same stupid tit typo that Millie always makes.
The same scar.
I step back, pressing the heels of my hands to my eyes. No way can this be right.
I try to be objective, to take the data in front of me at face value.
Millie’s mom died when she was young.
That friend of hers, Avery, mentioned that Millie’s dad was sick.
And now, Millie’s scar. Millie’s typo. The Monopoly joke. Girls Trip. And Cat is moving just when I tell her I want to meet.
The last line echoes in my memory: Sometimes, the thing we want is right in front of us, and we’re the last ones to see it.
What the fuck?
“Reid?” Millie’s hand comes over my forearm, gently squeezing.
I stare at her, into her mossy green eyes, and try to puzzle this out. I want to turn her jaw just so, ask her, Look down a bit, to the side, just like that. I need to see if you’re her.
Am I crazy? Is this connection absurd? But I know it’s not. I know in an instant that Catherine is Millie. I know it in the way that Dad knows when it’s going to rain, and the way that Mom knows exactly when her bread is baked without setting a timer.
And I know it because it’s been there in front of me this whole time.
The information is almost too new for me to know what to do with it. I’m standing with her on her porch—with Millie, with Catherine—realizing that she’s not only my best friend and the woman I’ve been having sex with, she’s also the woman I’ve been spilling my heart to online.
Amid the chaos of my reaction—embarrassment, relief, hope, thrill, confusion—I can’t find my grounding.
Is this why she asked me to come here?
I blink tightly to clear my thoughts, and then look down at her.
She’s worried; the little line on her forehead has deepened, her lips arc downward. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say, taking a deep breath and then letting it out slowly. I’ve been falling for two women, and they’re both her. “Just got dizzy for a second.”
“Come inside,” she says, “get some water.”
Through this fresh lens, everything in here feels new. The couch is where she probably wrote to me as Cat. The kitchen where we first kissed—I was kissing Cat, too. Down the hall, there’s her bedroom, and about half as far is the wall against which we had sex only last night. I left her, and immediately wrote another woman—also her—and told her everything.
Oh my God, I want to remember verbatim what I said in that last message. How much did I tell Cat about my feelings? I said Millie made me feel terrible! And Millie responded as Catherine by telling me she was leaving.
My stomach drops.
“Reid, you look sort of . . . green.”
“No, I’m good.” I take the water she offers, and down half of it before coming up for air. “What did you want to talk about?”
She laughs shakily and motions that we should go sit on the couch. Slapping her hands on her thighs, she says, “Right. That. Okay, so last night, after we”—she waves her hand vaguely in the direction of the hallway—“over there . . . and you left . . . I thought maybe I did something wrong.”
“You mean like shutting me down when I tried to talk about what the sex means to us and then suggesting I could make myself at home while you went back to work?” The words surprise even me a little bit.
Millie laughs uncomfortably again and runs shaking fingers through her hair. “Yes. That. I guess . . . I guess I was freaking out a little. I mean, I did have to run in for a few minutes, and I thought maybe it’d be nice to have you here when I got home, but I realize the way I said it just sounded really . . . wrong.”
I lean back against the couch, closing my eyes. There are two ways this is going: Millie realizes I’m falling for her and is ending all aspects of our romantic relationship, including as Catherine. Or, Millie realizes I’m falling for her and wants to get Cat out in the open so we can be together for real. It worries me that I don’t have the faintest idea which route she’s taking.
It all makes me feel really tired. “It’s okay, Mills.”