My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 40)

Hi. We both know the generals: Born in Bellingham, always a quirky kid. Mother died too young, sister needed too much, dad was a quiet mess. The sad specifics aren’t a secret—they’re just sad. It’s the quiet specifics that are hard to explain, the years and years where it feels like nothing of interest happened to me.

I realize I’m a late bloomer, socially. If I went home, I’d run into people who would be perfectly pleasant to me, but would never say, “Oh, Millie and I were super close in high school.” I was easygoing, upbeat, nice to everyone. Maybe I got sick of being nice. Maybe that’s why I’m so mean to Ed.

That’s my only joke, I promise.

Did I become fascinated with murder because, in comparison, female psychopaths make me look well-adjusted? Maybe. I don’t know if it’s because of my mother dying, or just the way my life would have unfolded regardless, but I think I managed to roam through life until my late twenties not really knowing how to take care of people. I want to do better.

That’s it. That’s all there is, and I’m not sure what to do with it. I sit back and stare at my screen. Millie’s new profile feels like a beginning, a warning maybe, that what comes next might be messy, but at least it’ll be intentional.

There’s a brightness in me, something blooming warm and tight. I worry that it’s hope.

Putting my phone facedown, I turn back to my computer and find where I’ve left off in my article.

From: Millie M.

Sent: 1:39 am, May 1

You haven’t written me back, but you did let me write you, so I’m going to limit myself to one a day. If I’m bugging you, at least you can be comforted knowing that the Block button is really simple. Trust me, I used it a few times in the early days with Mr. Dick Profile Pic and Mr. Show Me Your Rack.

Anyway, here’s something I don’t think you knew: I lost my virginity to a guy named Phil. PHIL! I know, right! It’s the least sexy name I can imagine. Sometimes when I’m alone and feeling glum, I think of the name and say it in sort of a breathless sexy voice, and I can’t stop laughing. Maybe it’s slightly sexier than Ernest or Norman. But only slightly. Philip? Now that’s sexy. But Philllll.

Bottom line, I was fifteen, he was seventeen, and we had no idea what we were doing. I remember it being messy and being more embarrassed about that than anything. I ruined my sheets, and Dad found me trying to shove them in the washer, and I’m sure he was furious but per usual, he didn’t say anything and so I didn’t either.

It’s always sort of been that way, but I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 3:14 pm, May 2

I’m afraid of the following things: vans with no windows, confined spaces, moths on my front porch, crows, dust bunnies, and giant boats like cruise ships.

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 9:23 am, May 3

I never said “I love you” to Dustin. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever said it to anyone except you, and my mom. Looking back, I realize I probably should have said it to Elly every day. For someone who grew up the way she did—with two people mourning a ghost, and who never figured out how to say the right words—she’s pretty amazing. You should meet her sometime.

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 11:59 am, May 4

We had a faculty meeting today and I so badly wanted to tell every man in there to shut the hell up for fifteen minutes and let the TWO WOMEN OUT OF THE SIXTEEN FACULTY speak.

I wish that I’d had lunch with you afterwards, but I’m sure you’re relieved you didn’t have to listen to me rail about the patriarchy for an hour over a shitty Cobb salad. (It’s Friday, and Friday always feel like Reid days—Mondays/Wednesdays too—but we always seemed to make Friday nights happen. It’s probably why I’m a little blue.) Anyway, late in the meeting, Dustin said something too asinine for me to let slide, and I just blew up at him in front of everyone. He approached me afterward and suggested that I was bringing our past into the faculty meetings.

I actually laughed. I mean, I laughed for like ten solid minutes in his office, and once I got myself together I reminded him that he and I broke up over two years ago, that I’m in love with you (though it’s most likely unreciprocated), and that my frustration was primarily about his inability to hire women and people of color. Of course, being Dustin, he focused on the thing I’d said about you.

So, apologies in advance if it’s awkward the next time you see him on campus.

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 4:34 pm, May 5

I watched Rudy today and f**k that movie! I’m not even that invested in college football but was still crying like a baby at the end. Then I ate that pint of Cherry Garcia I found in my freezer that you left here probably a decade ago, and felt gross. Why do you like that stuff? Chunky Monkey 4 lyfe.

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 11:11 am, May 6

It’s 11:11, Reid. Make a wish.

I miss you.

Mills.

From: Millie M.

Sent: 10:41 am, May 7

I swear to god, Reid, I’m trying to make these interesting but today was probably the most uneventful day on record. I worked all day, went to Cajé about seventeen times because I kept nodding off at my desk, and then left early and got measured for all new bras. Turns out I’m a 34C, and I don’t know why that makes me so proud but my whole life I thought I was a B cup and I’m not! I wanted to gloat to someone, but Elly and I don’t really have that relationship and turns out, I don’t have that relationship with anyone else who has b***s! So, working on that. But for now, I’m gloating to you, Reid. My b***s are bigger than yours! And they’re in a nice, new, silky red bra.

Love,

Millie

From: Millie M.

Sent: 7:57 pm, May 8

I barely slept last night. I’ve been working on the book, and it’s going really well, but I miss you, and you know how things always feel worse at night? Last night was one of those where I just lay in bed, thinking over every shitty thing I’ve done, and feeling terrible. I’m so sorry about Catherine, and not telling you. I wish I’d been strong enough to do the right thing from the very beginning, but I wasn’t. I feel like such a cliché even saying this, but the reason I lied wasn’t at all about you or anything you did. The secrecy was about me, and how terrifying and exhilarating it was to be so open with you in a way that felt safe. Unfortunately, that safety came from the fact that you weren’t aware it was me, and that’s shitty. You’re honestly too good for me, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t want you anyway.

I’ve seen so many movies where one person in a couple says, “I was fine before you came along!” and is that supposed to mean that they were fine before and will be fine again, but don’t want to be fine alone?

I’m not sure. Because I don’t think I was “fine” before I met you. I was lame. I was limited. I want to be better for you.

Oh, my God, I’m becoming Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.

(Can we agree by the way that Helen Hunt was way too hot for him? My god. Ew!)

Love,

Mills

From: Millie M.

Sent: 9:14 pm, May 9

I ran into Alex today while getting lunch, and I swear we both had the guiltiest looks on our faces after we hugged, like I’m not supposed to get the guy friends in this divorce—and we both know it. So, I wanted to tell you that I saw Alex, but I promise not to make plans with any of them without your permission.

It was so good to see him, though. I miss you, of course, but I miss them, too. I’ve never had friends like this, and I swear I am this close to getting a cat because I am so f*****g lonely.

I want you to know that Ed and Alex really wanted no part of the secret Catherine situation. Ed was a basket case, and Alex seemed mostly perplexed by the whole thing. If you’re mad at anyone, of course, be mad at me. Those guys are good, and you deserve good.

I’m sorry I ever let you believe otherwise.

Love,

Mills

Usually she writes at night. I’ve come to expect it, and I wonder what will happen if, one day, I check the IRL app when I head to bed, or when I first wake up in the morning, and there isn’t a note there.

I look forward to them, even if I’m not sure how I want to reply yet. I find that by around four in the afternoon, my stomach feels like it’s risen to my chest, my hands are restless, and I feel the same way I used to feel before starting a race: excited, but also a little queasy.

Millie’s honesty is refreshing, but it’s also disorienting. It makes me feel famished—I want more—and it’s also frustrating to continue to read it, knowing that it’s so much harder for her to do it in person.

But she is trying. Maybe it’s a start.

I read last night’s message again, and then get to work early to help Shaylene practice a presentation she’s giving to the department at eleven. Since she’s finishing up her first year of graduate studies, she has to present the work she’s done so far. It’s a big milestone for the first-year students, and Shaylene—who is much like my father, which is to say not a natural orator—has been dreading this for weeks.

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