My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 36)

“Reid!” she calls out.

I turn. My stomach has dissolved away. “Yeah.”

She stares at me for a few lingering seconds. “You sure you’re okay?”

She knows.

She knows I know.

I hold her gaze.

“I’m not sure,” I tell her honestly, before climbing into my car.

After all of that, the strongest sense I have is mortification that I’ve been played. That Millie has been sleeping with me, and writing me as another woman this entire time, and probably never planned to say anything. That she thinks I wouldn’t eventually figure it out. What is she getting out of being Catherine? And if she wants to be with me—really be with me—why does she think we can start with a lie?

I lean back, turn on my car, and take a long, slow inhale, trying not to get back out and confront her. Trying not to jump to conclusions. Pulling away from the curb, I keep my hands steady on the steering wheel and try not to think about anything except the road in front of me. I certainly try not to think that I may have just lost my best friend.

Reid Campbell

Arranged marriage is looking pretty tempting.

Christopher Hill

Man, it’s just a dinner.

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

Who’s getting married?

El Cabrón

Reid is being rhetorical dumbass

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

Wait. Who is that? Alex?

El Cabrón

Yeah.

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

What the f**k with your name?

El Cabrón

I took out a chick from the UC tech department and it didn’t go well.

Christopher Hill

So all your outgoing information is from ‘the a*****e’?

El Cabrón

Pretty much.

Reid Campbell

Emails?

El Cabrón

Everything. Emails, IMs, my name in the grading portal, on the department website.

Christopher Hill

Holy s**t that is hilarious

El Cabrón

My admin doesn’t think so. But he can go f*****g fix it, I’m not going down there.

Christopher Hill

I want to meet this woman.

Reid Campbell

Ditto

El Cabrón

Trust me, you don’t.

Reid Campbell

At least she wanted to meet in person

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

Uh oh. Are things not going well with Catherine?

Reid Campbell

Dating in my early twenties was amazing. Dating in my early thirties is a drag.

El Cabrón

You know, the thing you all are failing to remember is that WE DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO BRING A PLUS ONE TO THIS EVENT

Reid Campbell

I know.

Reid Campbell

I realize we all got wrapped up in the date thing, but I think it was time we all got out there anyway.

El Cabrón

Um, hello, I’ve BEEN out there

Christopher Hill

And it’s clearly going well for you, El Cabrón

Reid Campbell

Yeah, plenty of action to be found in the darkroom

Christopher Hill

What?

El Cabrón

Ed’s running his mouth, apparently.

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

Oh, my bad, was it a secret?

El Cabrón

lol

Reid Campbell

Can I sit down with you guys later today? Under the cloak of confidentiality?

El Cabrón

I mean, if there’s a cloak, sure

Christopher Hill

You want to meet up at lunch?

Reid Campbell

I’d rather do it over drinks. Tonight at the Red Piano, 8 pm?

Stephen (Ed) D’Onofrio

I just realized Mills isn’t on this thread. Is this a guys-only thing?

Reid Campbell

Oh yes.

The bar has the same calming darkness as the microscope room, but it has the added benefit of booze. I’m two beers in before Chris shows up, followed closely by Alex and, ten minutes later, a harried Ed, who must not realize he’s still got a pair of lab goggles atop his head.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says, and startles when Alex carefully plucks the goggles from his mess of curls.

“Everything okay?” I know he was helping Gabriel with an experiment today that they’d been planning for a few weeks. One look at Ed and I’m guessing I don’t want to know how it went just yet. “Never mind. I’ll ask you later.”

He rakes a hand through his hair before reaching for the beer menu. “Probably a good idea.”

“Okay, so,” I start, staring at the remaining foam in my half-full pint glass. “I feel like a bit of a dick doing this—talking about this here—but I need some advice and I think I need all of your input because I suspect you’ll each tell me something different.”

Alex shifts in his chair, glancing at Ed.

Chris is the only one looking directly at me. “Sure.”

“Chris knows this,” I say, “but about a month or two ago, Millie and I slept together.”

There is no reaction to this. No gasps, no outburst. Just even expressions and expectant silence. So apparently Chris wasn’t the only one who assumed we’d done this a long time ago.

“It happened again at my parents’ place,” I continue, “and again a couple nights ago.”

Alex nods slowly. “Okay?”

“But during all this, I’ve also been talking to Daisy online—which by the way, didn’t work out in person—and Catherine.” I take a quick sip, and focus my attention on the table. “After leaving Millie’s the other night, I was a little messed up about what we were doing, and I messaged Cat and sort of laid out what was going on.”

Ed coughs into his fist.

“I told her that I have feelings for this friend of mine—Millie—but that I also wanted to meet Cat as well. Long story short, Cat wrote back and told me she was moving to Massachusetts.”

“Dude, seriously?” Chris asks. “That’s . . . that’s weird.”

I don’t miss the way Alex bends and cups his forehead. Watching him, I say carefully, “If what you’re thinking is that Millie is Catherine, you’d be right.”

All three of their heads shoot up and they stare at me.

“Wait, what?” Chris says, pulling back.

“I figured it out at her place last night,” I tell them. “She was telling me she wanted us to try to be together, and when I bent to hug her I realized she’s got the same scar on her shoulder as Cat did in the profile picture. And Cat always made that same typo, the ‘tit’ typo, that Millie makes.” I look up at them, making sure they’re not looking at me like I’m insane. “A few other things, too—her dad being sick and her mom dying when she was younger. Her little sister she’s not so close to. I figured it out and gave her the chance to tell me about Cat . . . and she didn’t. I’m, like, ninety-nine percent sure she’s Catherine, and I gave her so many openings to tell me, and she didn’t. She just continued the lie.”

No one says anything. They just absorb all this in shock.

“And on the one hand, I get it,” I say. “Something happened between us in person and she doesn’t want this other persona in the way. But on the other hand, why the f**k did she do it in the first place, and why would she keep it from me?”

“Man,” Chris says quietly. “If this is true, this is f****d up.”

It takes me a few seconds, but then it registers that Ed—who has something to say about everything—is dead silent. His expression is tight, like he’s waiting any second to be yelled at . . . the way he looks when I catch him staring at grad students’ a***s.

“What’s with you?” I ask.

He doesn’t look up from the napkin he’s methodically shredding. “Nothing.”

“Bullshit.” I’m reminded of that morning on the patio at my parents’ place, when he was acting like a lunatic. “Seriously, Ed.”

“I just . . .” He glances over to Alex. “I told her she should tell you.”

This honestly doesn’t penetrate at first. I know what he’s said, but at the same time, the meaning doesn’t fully hit me until he glances at Alex again, and Alex lifts his beer to his lips, shaking his head.

“Dude, you were the one who helped her write that last message,” Alex says under his breath.

“I’d told her a million times to tell him!” Ed protests to Alex.

“Wait.” I put my glass down, hold up a hand. “Wait. Wait. What is happening?” I am so flustered I don’t have any more words. I just stare at Ed, and then Alex, and then back at Ed again.

Ed drops his hands to the table. “This kind of s**t never works out!”

A hush falls across the table, and Chris lets out a low whistle.

“You knew?” I ask, hearing the angry lean to my words. “Since when?” I stop, shaking my head. “Wait, you knew that morning at my parents’ place, didn’t you?”

Ed seems to shrink into himself. “I heard you guys.”

“You heard them having sex?” Chris asks, laughing. “That is unfortunate.”

Alex signals to the waitress that he wants another beer. “I’m still laughing that they had sex at his parents’ place when we were all there.”

I turn to Alex. “When did you find out?”

“I only found out like two days ago.”

Use the arrow keys or the WASD keys to navigate to previous chap/next chap.