18. falling and fraternizing

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My friends know something happened, but I'm tight-lipped about what

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My friends know something happened, but I'm tight-lipped about what. Blaire pouts, but goes to get my clothes without being asked. Catey tries to badger me into talking, casting angry, slit-eyed glances at Ian when he comes inside. Val is talking to a guy, animatedly gesturing and smiling, but Blaire yells at her to hurry up, we're leaving.

The moon girls make their getaway.

We'd normally tease Val and coax her into calling the guy before she can talk herself out of it, but the drive home morphs from silent to sullen.

I'm dropped off and vaguely threatened that We're having a group chat tonight, damn it, and you better spill the tea. The "or else" is implied. Blaire shows her love with colorful imagery; it's just one of the reasons I love her.

Mom and Dad look up from the Hindi movie they're watching as I kick off my shoes in the foyer. "You're back early," says Mom, not pressing pause. "Did you have a good time?"

I grunt.

"Is everything okay?"

She means did a boy try something, did a girl say something mean, were people doing drugs. Things she can console me about, get righteously angry for. Ian liking me is on the opposite end of the spectrum, the kind of filmi love drama Mom would eat up.

I want to sequester this new knowledge away. Sharpen it like a sword and plunge it into a rock somewhere where no one will ever, ever pull it out. Weigh it down and throw it to the bottom of the ocean. Anything but deal with it.

I feel all squicky inside. Ian and me is as unpalatable as the Wincest fanfic I once stumbled across on Tumblr. We're good as Sherlock and Moriarty; no need to complicate a rivalry that's in perfect working order with something infinitely more complicated.

"Yeah, Mom. I wanted an early night. I have all those books from the library to finish reading before they're due."

Upstairs, I haul a stack of books to my bed, but don't crack any of them open. I can tell by the spines they're all contemporary romance. I don't want to read a kissing book right now—or possibly ever again. I stuff my face into my pillow and scream, but stop just in time because it's not anywhere as silent as it was supposed to be, and Simran's right next door.

So I take my phone and fire off a message to Ian, venting my frustration in the best way I know how. YOU ARE A HUGE JERK. I don't elaborate further. He knows how.

Did you really not know?

How am I supposed to know something like that? It's not like you've ever been remotely nice to me.

Consider this me telling you? <Winking emoji>

Don't wink at me. I'm being serious. UR NOT CUTE. <Bared teeth emoji>

I mean...I'm a little cute.

I refuse to reply to that. I'm already a little paranoid about how quickly he's been replying, like he's hanging around waiting for me, and I don't like the image of Ian as an eager puppy. It's almost a little too endearing. Almost.

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