My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Page 30

She stops, staring out at the rolling hills, and I give it one last chance. “Tell me about this guy you’re talking to.”

Blinking over to me, she gives me an easy grin. “Maybe there’s more than one.”

Ouch. “Okay, then, tell me about the one you’re calling ‘my guy.’ ”

Millie takes a deep breath, pulling her shoulders up to her ears. “He’s pretty great. You know how you just get a good vibe from someone in writing?”

I nod. I know exactly what she means. Cat’s black-and-white profile photo swims through my thoughts.

“He’s funny and . . . open about things,” she says carefully, and that part stabs a bolt of pain through me because, honestly, I’d be more open with her in person if she ever took the bait and engaged in that kind of conversation with me. It’s depressing to realize that the last time we talked about anything very deep was at the beach, nearly two years ago, after she left Dustin, and told me in simple, bare terms how hard he was to live with. But after a few minutes, she went quiet and then started talking about how much she loves watching the waves crash on the surf.

“Are you going to meet him?” I ask.

“It’s weird because I feel like I know him already,” she says, still not looking at me. “What if I do? What if we know each other from somewhere? Would that be awkward? I think so. So, part of me is like, ‘Yeah! Let’s set up a date!’ and part of me is like, ‘Um, that’s the worst idea ever.’ ”

“But you haven’t really met him,” I say. “I mean, wouldn’t you know if you had? What’s his name?”

She waves a hand. “Just . . . Guy.”

“His name is Guy?” I stare at her, my smile slowly breaking wide. “You’re going to go from dating a Dustin to dating a Guy?”

“Maybe it’s not his real name,” she says, flustered. “Who knows. Maybe it’s Dougal or Alfred, and Guy is just a nickname.”

“You’re so weird,” I say, pinching her cheek.

She looks up at me, glowing in obvious relief. “You are.”

Mom has made her famous lemon-ricotta pancakes by the time we get back, and Millie and I fall into our chairs at the table with a sort of desperate, haven’t-eaten-in-ten-years vigor. Breakfast is a loud, mimosa-filled affair, with a sticky syrup bottle winding its way up and down the table, a giant bowl of fat berries with cream passed from hand to hand, and a huge platter of bacon slowly emptying until we are all groaning, hands clutched over our too-full stomachs.

Alex eyes the couch in the other room like he’s desperate for it to sprout legs and walk in here to pick him up, but before he can muster the energy to go there, Dad stands, shuffles to the couch, and falls onto it. Rayme works up the nerve to lean against Chris’s shoulder, and I watch it happen in slow motion—from the decision she seems to make as she leans to her left and the gradual tilting until she makes contact with him. Chris may finally be aware of her: his eyes go very wide, and he goes very, very still.

Ed, to my surprise, stands and begins clearing everyone’s plates before starting the dishes in the kitchen. Mom watches him go with something like fondness in her eyes. Apparently no one ended up naked in the vineyards last night, and Ed has figured out how to please my parents: simply by keeping his pants on.

I feel the soft pressure of a foot over mine, and look across the table at Millie, whose eyes are closed and whose head is tilted back, relaxing after what was, without hyperbole, the best breakfast ever cooked. It seems like an accident at first, but then she nestles her feet more firmly against mine, like she’s trying to get warm. Opening one eye, she peeks at me, stifling a grin, and then feigns sleep again.

An ache—desire—is tempered with a flush of irritation. I don’t want to be the safe friend she can touch and flirt with if she’s only going to erect a new boundary every time something intimate happens. No matter what she or I have said before, we’re in a weird limbo, and we need to get the fuck out of here as soon as possible, or risk ruining what is without question one of the best friendships of my life.

Breaking Mom’s house rule, I pull my phone from my pocket, and open the IRL app at the table. I’m a little disappointed to see that Cat hasn’t written back . . . but at least Daisy has.

From: Daisy D.

Sent: 10:29 am, April 1

Hey Reid,

I hope you’re having an awesome time at home! My weekend ended up being pretty dull—a friend who was supposed to be in town flaked last minute, so I’ve basically been in my pajamas all weekend, bingeing old seasons of Big Brother.

I’m not sure what you’re up to this week, but do you think you’d be willing to meet in person? For dinner? See! I remembered you don’t do first dates over coffee or drinks. I sort of like that a lot about you.

Let me know if you’re up for it.

Talk soon,


I glance up at Millie, who is still resting with her eyes closed. It’s time to push past this uneasiness in my gut and just . . . get out of this weird friend-lover zone with Mills.

Gently pulling my feet out from under hers, I sit up a little straighter, opening our text box. She sits up, too, looking groggy as I type out a message to her.


When her phone vibrates in her back pocket, she leans to the side to pull it out. I watch her read my text, and grin as she replies.

Someone kept me up late.

I wipe a hand down my face. Enough with these mixed messages.

I just got a note from Daisy.

She wants to go out.

I watch Millie absorb this and nothing in her expression shifts—not a single muscle.

Are you going to?

Would it be weird?

For me, or for you?

For you.

Her eyes meet mine over the table, and she gives me a tiny frown before looking at her phone, typing.

I told you, Reid, I’m fine.

I’m beginning to hate the word fine.


If Millie is okay with this, then I’ll just have to work on being okay with it, too.

I pocket my phone and stand, following Ed into the kitchen to help him clean up. He frowns as he slides the plates into the sink to begin rinsing them, and his weird silent treatment is starting to annoy me.

“What’s with you?”

Startling, he looks over his shoulder at me. “Nothing. Just full.”

“Of beer and pancakes?”

Finally, he gives me a real smile. “And mimosas and bacon.”

We start to work in tandem as I bring in dishes and he rinses them and slides them into the dishwasher.

“Everything okay with you and Mills?” he asks.

“Yeah, we’re good. Just catching each other up on the dating stuff.”

Ed looks at me with interest. “Yeah?”

“Did you know the guy she’s talking to is named Guy?” I laugh. “Is that even a real name?”

His expression droops strangely. “Huh. No, I didn’t know that.”

“What about you?” I ask. “How’s sexy Selma?”

“She hasn’t responded yet.” He pushes his sleeves up and digs his hands into soapy water. “I asked her to meet, and she never replied. Usually she responds within a couple hours.”

A feeling like heavy clouds rolling in passes through me. I want this experiment to go well for Ed, and if he’s chatting with someone who is dishonest, or vanishes without explanation, I’m going to be pissed.

“Maybe she’s just swamped at work,” I offer.

“She’s a bartender.”

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

I look up, relieved to see Chris coming in, carrying the mostly empty platter of bacon. “I think I might die of pork overdose,” he says.

“What about you?” I ask him, then give him more context. “You’re being extremely tight-lipped about your dating adventures.”

He slides the platter onto the counter, then leans back. “I don’t know, man. I know it’s working for you, but it might not be my vibe.”

“You could just ask Rayme out,” Ed says without turning away from the sink.

A heavy curtain of silence falls, and Chris’s eyes meet mine. Instead of looking away, he holds my gaze as if he’s reading me. When I met Chris, he was married to Amalia; they divorced a couple of years later. I’ve seen him with a few women since then, but he’s never been particularly effusive when it comes to sharing details about his love life. So it takes me a few beats to register that he’s reading my reaction to see whether I’m horrified by what Ed has said. Strangely, I am not.

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