My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 35)
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 f**k?
“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.”
“It isn’t okay,” she says quietly. “I want to be better about those things. Talking, I mean. I think . . .” She pauses, glancing at me and then rolling her eyes at herself. “I think—I mean I know—that I want to . . .”
“Spit it out.” I laugh a little, trying to be gentle about her fumbling.
“I want to try to be with you. Like . . . that.”
“Like that?” I tease.
She reaches over and tries to tweak my nipple. “Romantically, okay?”
I weasel out of her reach. “What’s more romantic than a nipple twist?”
“Right?” She breaks out into an enormous smile. Flowers push up through the dirt to see that smile. Relief is like light hitting my retina, illuminating everything. “So, is that a yes?”
She leans forward, I lean a little, too, and her mouth meets mine for a single, sweet kiss.
And the moment turns a little shadowed.
That’s it, I realize. She hasn’t said a word about who else she’s been. She hasn’t admitted to being Catherine.
Am I okay just letting that go? Regardless, if we’re going to be together for the long run, she’s going to have to learn how to talk to me. She’s going to have to not lie to me. As it stands, Millie and I have no history going anyplace deeper than where we are right now.
“I want to try this, too, I think. But I want to be honest with you.” I meet her eyes, looking for some fault line there. She’s calm, but there’s anxiety beneath her expression. “There was someone else,” I say, and notice the way her cheeks pink just slightly. “Cat, remember?”
“Right, I know.” She shrugs. “It’s okay. I was writing someone, too.”
No, Millie. Don’t.
I watch her carefully, and she blinks away.
“She was . . .” I trail off. How do I describe Millie’s vulnerable side to her tough one? “She was really great, and I thought maybe we had something. She talked to me about things. It felt like we were really becoming friends. And,” I say, wiping a hand down my face, “I’ll admit—I maybe wanted more.” I pause, waiting. “She’s moving and it’s sort of a bummer that I’m not going to meet her.”
There. Take it, Mills. Take the opportunity. Own this. Tell me.
She searches my eyes, back and forth, back and forth, and then smiles with effort. “That is a bummer.”
My heart drops. I give her another few beats.
“Do you think your feelings for her will affect . . . ?” she starts, and then motions between us. Cat would have just said it outright: Will your feelings for her get in the way of starting something with me?
So why can’t Millie do it?
“I’m not sure,” I tell her, honestly. “I liked our dynamic of straightforward honesty. I want that in a partner. I’ll be frank, Mills, I am intensely attracted to you—to the point of distraction—and I love spending time with you, but I need to know you can talk to me about things. Things that really matter to you.”
“I can,” she says immediately.
Like this, I think.
“I need to know you’ll be honest.”
She nods. “I can be. I will. I know I’m not the best at being open, but it matters to me that I get better.” She lifts my hand, kisses it. “I want to be better for you.”
Then, as if a flip is switched, she stands quickly, using my hand to tug me up. “Hungry?”
And I see now that she’s going to let Catherine go. She’s going to send her alter ego away and pretend that it never happened—hilarious, given we’re having this conversation about her ability to be open and honest.
I shove my shaking hands deep into my pockets. “Do you mind if I take a rain check on dinner?”
“You want to go?” she asks, realization settling into a small V on her forehead.
“I want to think about all of this before we move forward. You’re my best friend, you know. Seems like we should make absolutely sure we’re ready to do this.”
Millie tries to hide a deeper reaction, but I get a small glimpse of it when her face falls for only a breath.
“Sure,” she says. “Of course. I’m just springing this on you out of the blue.” She runs a fingernail over the fabric along the back of the couch. “I get it.”
I lean forward, kissing her cheek, and then robotically make my way out of her house, down her steps, and to my car at the curb.