My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Page 10

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio


Reid Campbell

So do we all agree?

Millie Morris

Sigh. I guess so

Reid Campbell

Yessss. Everyone registers and we’ll meet at Millie’s tonight to fill it all out. Go team

Alex Ramirez


Christopher Hill


Millie Morris

limp high five

Reid shows up around six, Thai food under one arm, a laptop under the other. The wine is noticeably absent. Thank God.

“Where is everyone else?” I take the bag from him and carry it into the kitchen.

“Ed had some samples fail and needed to redo them. Alex might be over later, but I’ll be honest, his interest in joining another dating site is flaccid at best.”

“That’s because Tinder clearly already works for him,” I agree.

“Right. And Chris had a student emergency, which is sort of great because it means I could get that hot chicken he hates.”

He follows me into the kitchen, pulling out plates and silverware while I open up the containers. He moves around my kitchen with the same comfort he had at Chris’s, handing me a glass just as I’ve raised my arm to reach for it, and we’re stepping around each other like we do it every day. The silence is easy. We fill our plates with drunken noodles, chicken, and curried vegetables. I fill each of us a glass of water from the tap, avoiding the cans of sparkling in the fridge entirely—too soon—and we carry it all into the dining room.

With food and laptops ready to go, we both create new IRL accounts, and after we confirm our email addresses, a pretty thorough questionnaire awaits. Most of the questions are easy enough: Name, age, job, the age range and location of match I’m seeking, a brief rundown of my appearance, and whether I have or want to have kids.

But the others are a little more in depth, and by the time I’ve gotten to favorite things, and the About Me and what I’m looking for out of life, I’m beginning to zone out. I’ve always been better at pulling details out of other people than I am at examining my own.

Next to me, Reid doesn’t seem to be having any problems, and his fingers fly over the keyboard, the keys making an audible click each time one is depressed.

“It occurs to me,” Reid says, finishing off the last of his noodles, “that this is an excellent way to get to know each other.”

I look at him over the top of my glass. “You’ve known me for over two years.”

“Yes, but you know how you can talk to someone almost every day and still not know some of the most mundane things about them?” He glances down at his screen. “Like number four: your favorite place. What is your favorite place? If I had to guess, I’d say Cajé, but only because you’re there for coffee at least twice a day.”

I hum. “I do like my coffee.”

“I know you take it black, even though your sugary cocktail preference would give me at least three cavities. You’ll read anything you can get your hands on but have a dog-eared collection of Agatha Christie in your end table, and a bunch of Sherlock fanfiction saved on your phone. You know almost every detail about my hometown and family, but I know next to nothing about where you grew up or whether you used to fight with your sister, when you had your first kiss.” He tilts his head and watches me in a way that tiptoes the line that separates adoring and scrutinizing. “You’re a mystery, Millie Morris.”

“I grew up in Seattle—which you already knew. My dad and sister, Elly, still live there. Elly is married, she just had twins, and she used to call me Green Gables because my hair was more red back then.”

“And your mom died when you were twelve.”

I keep my eyes on the screen in front of me, trying to suppress the mild feeling of dread I get whenever this subject comes up. It isn’t Reid’s fault. It’s just . . . I’m fine. And whenever someone wants to talk about it, they seem disappointed that I’m not more emotional about it. “Uterine cancer.”

Reid reaches across the table and gives my hand a squeeze. “That must have been so hard. I’m trying to imagine little Millie back then.” I can feel him waiting for me to elaborate; he’s not pushy—he does it in the gentle, unobtrusive way he always has.

At Reid’s place, there are framed photos of his parents and his sister, Rayme, and even pictures of himself at various ages. Of course, his parents also have pictures of Reid and Rayme from infancy to present day all over their house. Seeing Reid at every age makes it easier to feel like I really know him—I know what he looked like as a chubby toddler, as a toothless second-grader, as a goobery preteen, and as a seventeen-year-old who still only felt his awkwardness and none of his beauty.

So I understand his desire to see deeper into who I am by knowing my past—I do—it’s just that it isn’t ever a pleasant experience for me to revisit being a kid. The urge to change the subject feels like a balloon filling, pressing against the underside of my breastbone. Standing, I move to the sink, turning on the tap and waiting for the water to run cold so I can refill my glass.

“My dad was really great after Mom died, though. We were lucky.” I spill some water on the counter because I feel so awkward and spastic about what I’m saying. It isn’t false, per se—Dad wasn’t abusive or mean or absent—he just wasn’t Mom. And that was never his fault, even if it is his greatest failure.

“And favorite place,” I say, feeling the tension ease in my chest at the subject pivot. “Hmm. There has to be somewhere better than Cajé, though they do have great coffee.”

“But, like, places to visit?”

“I love the Artist Paintpots in Yellowstone,” I tell him, continuing to uncoil.

“Are they like hot springs?”

“Sort of, but with mud.” I sit back down in front of my laptop. “You walk on little boardwalks that are suspended a few inches above the ground, where you can see these gurgling little pools of mud and water. The color depends on how much sulfur is in the ground, and I think it changes depending on the time of year and the weather, but it’s amazing. It feels almost prehistoric in a way. We used to go every summer when I was little.”

On the outside Reid is totally cool—nodding and following along while I speak—but I know him well enough to understand that he’s cataloging this scrap of information and slotting it into the gap in his Millie Bank where most of my pre–Santa Barbara history remains blank to him.

“What about yours?” I ask. “Your parents’ vineyard?”

Reid leans back in his chair and scratches his chin—the questionnaire forgotten for now. And I love this about him—how his love for connecting with people makes him the easiest person to hang out with. I wish I were more like him in this way. “Maybe,” he muses. “Or the drive to San Gregorio? It’s hilly, and full of redwoods. Totally gorgeous—and even better if you can do it on a bike.”

“Who did you do that with?”

“Friends in grad school, mostly. Chris and I did it once, and Dad met us on the beach with sandwiches and contraband beer.”

“Is that when Chris and your father fell in love?” Chris and James Campbell have a famous bromance that makes Ed and Alex sick with jealousy.

Reid laughs. “Probably.” But then he blinks, and grins at me like he sees through my deflection. “Next question,” he says, lifting his chin to me. “First kiss.”

“Hmm.” I stand, gathering our plates and carrying them back to the kitchen. I feel Reid’s attention on my back the entire way, and want to rub a hand down my neck or call him on his intense stare, but that might lead to him asking why it makes me uncomfortable, and what would I say? It makes me uncomfortable to talk about myself because I’ve always been either tragic or boring? Or maybe, It makes me uncomfortable to talk about myself with you watching me, because I still remember the way you looked down at me in my bed and I shouldn’t be thinking about you like that anymore?

“I was fourteen,” I tell him. “I had this weird worry about our noses hitting, so I just opened my mouth and spun my tongue around a few times. His name was Tim Chen and he looked a little confused when we pulled away but didn’t complain.” I grin over my shoulder. “I assure you I’m a much better kisser now.”

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