After an epoch, the week finally ends. I’m giddy and trying not to be. This is more difficult than you’d imagine. Trying not to smile only makes you smile more.
Carla watches me struggle to choose what to wear. It’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. Really, I’ve never given any thought to it. My closet consists entirely of white T-shirts and blue jeans. The jeans are arranged by type—straight, skinny, boot cut, wide leg, the ridiculously named “boyfriend.” My shoes—all Keds, all white—are piled in a heap in the back corner. I almost never wear shoes around the house and now I’m not sure that I can find a pair that will fit. Rummaging through the pile, I find a left and right one of the same size. They fit, but just barely. I stand in front of the mirror. Is your shirt supposed to match your shoes or is that your purse? Is white the best color for my chestnut complexion? I make a mental note to do some shopping later. I’ll buy a T-shirt in every color until I find the one that suits me best.
For the fifth time I ask Carla if my mom has already left.
“You know your mother,” she says. “Has she ever been late a day in her life?”
My mother believes in punctuality the way other people believe in God. Time is precious, she says, and it’s rude to waste someone else’s. I’m not even allowed to be late for Friday Night Dinners.
I look at myself in the mirror, change the V-necked white T-shirt for a scoop-neck white T-shirt for no reason at all. Or not for no reason. But to have something to do while waiting for Olly.
I wish again that I could talk to my mom about this. I want to ask her why I get breathless when I think of him. I want to share my giddiness with her. I want to tell her all the funny things Olly says. I want to tell her how I can’t make myself stop thinking about him even though I try. I want to ask her if this is the way she felt about Dad at the beginning.
I tell myself it’s OK. I didn’t get sick after the last time I saw him, and he knows the rules—no touching, full decontamination treatment, no visit if he even suspects he could get sick in the next few days.
I tell myself there’s no harm in lying to my mom. I tell myself I won’t get sick. I tell myself there’s no harm in friendship.
That Carla is right, and love can’t kill me.
Olly’s on the wall again when I enter the room. This time he’s climbed all the way to the top.
“Don’t your fingertips ever get tired?” I ask.
“I’ve got them on a strict workout regimen,” he says, grinning at me. My stomach does a little flip thing that I’m really going to have to get used to, since it seems to be a side effect of seeing him.
I was in this room to do my homework yesterday. I know it’s exactly the same as I left it, but it looks and feels different. The room is so much more alive with Olly in it. If all the fake plants and trees swayed to life right now, I wouldn’t be surprised.
I walk to the couch and settle into the corner farthest away from him.
Down from the wall, he sits down cross-legged and leans his back against it.
I tuck my legs beneath me, adjust my mass of hair, hug my waist. What is it about being in the same room with him that makes me so conscious of my body and all its parts? He even makes me aware of my skin.
“You’re wearing shoes today,” he says, notices. He’s definitely a noticer, the kind of boy who would know if you’d rearranged a painting or added a new vase to a room.
I look down at my shoes. “I have nine pairs of these exact same shoes.”
“And you complain about my wardrobe choices?”
“You only wear black! It makes you look sepulchral.”
“I need a dictionary to talk to you.”
“Of or relating to a sepulcher.”
“Not that helpful a definition.”
“Basically you’re the angel of death.”
He grins at me. “The scythe gave me away, didn’t it? I thought I hid it so well.”
He changes positions. Now he’s lying flat on his back, knees bent, hands laced behind his head.
I shift my body again for no reason, pulling my legs into my chest and wrapping my arms around them. Our bodies are having their own conversation separate and apart from us. Is this the difference between friendship and something else? This awareness that I have of him?
The air filters cycle on, making a low hum beneath the sound of the fan.
“How does that work?” His eyes are scanning the ceiling.
“It’s industrial. The windows are sealed so air only comes in through the filters on the roof. Nothing over 0.3 microns gets in. Also, the circulation system completely changes all the air in the house every four hours.”