“You, me, tonight, burritos,” Amy says into the phone before even saying hello.
I groan and tug at the waistband of my jeans, which are spotted with flour. “What are you doing to me, Amy? Burritos? I’ve got to fit into a wedding dress.”
“Are you kidding me, Kirby?” Amy huffs. “You don’t need to lose weight.”
“We can’t all be stick figure drawings like you, Amy.”
“Watch it. I’m very sensitive about my stick figure.”
She actually is, for some reason. She feels like her breasts are small to nonexistent, which is sort of true. But I’d still take that over my chubbiness. I’m like the “before” version of Amy in some weight loss commercial.
“Fine,” Amy finally grumbles. “You, me, tonight… um, salad.”
“I can’t,” I say. “I’m supposed to have dinner with John.”
“Again?” Amy makes an angry noise on the other line. “What’s going on with that? You’re always freaking hanging out with him! Is there something going on I don’t know about?”
“No,” I say quickly. Hopefully not too quickly. There isn’t, anyway. “Why don’t you come with us?”
She’s quiet for a minute, then surprises the hell out of me by saying, “Okay.”
I nearly drop my cell phone in surprise. Which would suck because I’ve already got a crack in the screen and I don’t need another one. I can’t afford another phone on my bakery salary. Maybe I really should start stripping. “Okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” she says. “I sort of want to meet this guy that you’re spending all your time with.”
That’s so unfair—I’m not spending all my time with John. I mean, before tonight, the last time we hung out was… well, I guess we hung out last night too. But why shouldn’t we hang out? John is really fun.
“I thought you didn’t want me to set you up with him,” I remind her.
“I don’t,” Amy snorts. “Did I say I want to get set up with him? I just want to meet him. God.”
I don’t mention to Amy how turned on I was by touching John the other day. There’s definitely nothing to be gained by that.
I wait until John and I are sitting in the bar in Hoboken, and have ordered drinks to mention that Amy is joining us. His almond eyes fly open and he grabs the wheels of his chair like he’s going to take off.
“You’re setting me up!” he says in this accusatory voice. “I can’t believe this. You promised you wouldn’t.”
“This isn’t a set-up.”
“The hell it’s not, you liar.”
“It’s not,” I insist. “She just wanted to meet you. Like, in a totally non-set-upy kind of way.”
John keeps shaking his head, like he’s still thinking of taking off. “Does she know I’m in a wheelchair?”
“Yes, she does. But it doesn’t matter because it’s not a set-up.”
He makes a big production out of how pissed off he is, but you know what, I think there’s part of him that’s a little excited. He attempts to smooth out his hair, and I can tell he’s trying to sit up straighter in his chair. The dark color of his sweatshirt complements his hair and eyes, and he actually looks incredibly cute right now. I wonder if maybe Amy and John will hit it off and something really might happen.
And that would be great. Really great. I mean, yes, I admit that I’m having some feelings for John. But those feelings don’t mean anything. I’m marrying another guy, after all. I’d be super happy for John if he fell in love with Amy.
I think I would be, anyway.
Amy appears a couple of minutes later, looking somewhat like a drowned cat. Apparently there was a flash thunderstorm during her walk from the path train to the bar, and she was caught without an umbrella. Her only saving grace is that she wasn’t wearing any make-up, so it didn’t get ruined.
“I feel like I’ve just been in a swimming pool,” Amy announces as she plops down into the seat beside me.
“Amy, this is John,” I say. “John, this is Amy.”
Amy glances down at John’s hands and is smart enough not to offer hers. “Hey,” she says.
“Hey,” he says back.
This is going as well as it possibly could.
“So,” Amy says as she strips off her wet jacket and shakes out her hair. “Kirby says you’ve got the same shitty taste in movies that she has.”
I expect John to go on the offensive the way he did with me when we first met, but instead he just sort of grins, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“Wonderful,” Amy says. “Now I never have to see another terrible movie with her.”
Hey, he didn’t get all pissy with her. No fair!
“I swear to God,” Amy goes on, “I could live the rest of my life without ever seeing another John Waters movie.”
I watch John’s face carefully and I don’t see even a spark of anger. “I think I’ve got that covered. No problem.”
Amy seems disappointed that she didn’t get more of a rise out of him. Why is John being so pleasant tonight? Does that mean…
Does that mean he likes her?
I believe Kirby this isn’t a set-up. Because if it is? Worst set-up of all time.
Amy’s awful. Really, truly awful. It upsets me that she’s so awful because if this is Kirby’s best friend, what does it say about me that I’m also her good friend? I don’t want to be in the same category as this woman.
I don’t find Amy attractive, although I wouldn’t say she’s objectively unattractive. She’s all around average. If she had a shining personality, I’m sure her looks would grow on me. But she doesn’t have a shining personality. Her personality is… what’s the opposite of shining?
Dog shit. Her personality is a big steaming pile of dog shit.
At first, I try to be pleasant to her. I figure that she’s Kirby’s friend so I should try to be nice, despite the fact that she’s clearly trying to get in a few digs right off the bat. I can tell she doesn’t like me. But I’m okay with that—it’s not like everyone in the world needs to like me.
It’s when the waitress takes our order that I do a one-eighty.
“I’d like the California club sandwich,” Amy tells the waitress after Kirby and I have both ordered cheeseburgers. Medium rare.
The waitress nods. “Okay.”
Amy squints at her. “Aren’t you going to write this down?”
“No, I can remember.”
“I’d like you to write it down please,” Amy says primly.
The waitress fumbles in her pocket and finally retrieves a book of checks to scribble down our order.
“So the California club comes with turkey?” Amy asks her.
“It sure does.”
“Could I have it with chicken instead?”
“Um. No, it’s only with turkey.”
“But I’d prefer it with chicken.”
The waitress is clearly forcing herself to stay pleasant. I know the feeling, girlie. “You could order a chicken sandwich.”
“Yes, but I want the avocado.”
“Um.” The waitress scratches her chin. “You could get the chicken sandwich with a side of guacamole.”
“But I want avocado slices! Not guacamole.”
They go back and forth about five more times and the waitress has to go back to the kitchen to check to see if maybe the turkey can be substituted for chicken. When she announces that it can, Amy shoots us a triumphant look.
“You know,” I say to her. “That waitress is definitely going to spit in your sandwich.”
Amy frowns at me. “Why? Because I was right?”
“You were right that you were able to bully the waitress into making you the sandwich you wanted.”
She shrugs. “Whatever. That’s what’s so great about tips. You can get them to do anything.”
“Actually,” I say, “tipping is an antiquated tradition that hurts both the server and the customer.”
Amy opens her mouth, looking like she wants to give me an earful, but Kirby quickly interrupts, “Don’t mind him. He thinks all bookstores should be closed and paper books should be abolished.”
I raise my eyebrows at Amy. I really want her to take the bait and start arguing with me, but she doesn’t. And that’s what pisses me off the most. She dislikes me so much that she doesn’t even want to give me hell.
When Amy’s food arrives, she immediately looks completely outraged. She stares down at her perfectly acceptable plate of food, shaking her head. “No, no,” she tells the waitress. “These fries are no good.”
The waitress looks befuddled. “They’re not?”
“Look at them!” Amy holds up her perfectly normal looking French fry. “They’re clearly overly fried. I can’t eat a French fry that’s this fried. I just want them normal fried. These are too fried.”
I almost burst out laughing. Is she serious with this shit?
“Oh.” The waitress looks like she isn’t sure what to do. “Well, this is the way we make them.”
Amy sighs dramatically. “Can you substitute something else then? Like vegetables? God, I don’t want to have a heart attack.”
The waitress takes away her overly fried French fries. I feel like this woman deserves not only a hefty tip, but a medal.
“How can French fries be too fried?” I say to Amy.
“The fried coating was too thick.” She says it like I’m an idiot for asking. I probably am, actually.
“Now she’s probably going to piss in your food,” I tell Amy, who doesn’t look appreciative.
When Kirby tells us she needs to use the bathroom, I almost beg her to stay and not leave me with this crazy woman. As soon as she disappears, Amy and I are left alone to glare at each other. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be going out on a date any time soon.
Kirby, please hurry up and pee.
“Just so you know,” Amy says to me in an irritated voice, “the googly eyes are really sickening.”
I narrow my eyes at her. “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” she says, “you’re practically slobbering over Kirby. It’s, like, painfully obvious.”
I clear my throat. “That… that’s not…”
“Save it.” Amy shrugs. “I’m just trying to give you a heads up how ridiculously obvious it is that you’re in love with her. I figured it out before I even met you, but now that I’ve seen you two together…”
How the fuck does she know this? Am I really that obvious? Christ, I guess I am. Does that mean that Kirby…?
“Kirby doesn’t know,” Amy answers my question before I can ask it. “She’s oblivious. And in love with another guy, in case you’re living on another planet.”
“Yeah, I know,” I mutter.
Amy raises her dark eyebrows at me. “You don’t genuinely think you have any shot with her, do you?”
I look down at my lap. During the course of the conversation, I’d started slouching in my chair and I can see my gut jutting out, outlined against the fabric of my sweatshirt. Nothing like Ted’s belly. Lots of guys have guts though and they get girls. Those guys don’t have bags of urine strapped to their legs though. “No,” I mumble.
“Even if Ted weren’t in the picture, it would be a lost cause,” she adds.
I look back up at her sharply. “Yeah, I get it. Thanks.”
“I’m just trying to help you out,” Amy says.
I glare at her. My earlier dislike of Amy has blossomed into full-on hatred. I really hate her. The reason I’m single might be painfully obvious, but it’s equally obvious why Amy isn’t getting any.
When Kirby comes out of the bathroom, I don’t waste any time saying to her, “I think I’m going to head out now.”
“Oh.” Kirby’s face falls. An hour ago, this would have done a number on me. I would have gone back and forth wondering if that meant she secretly had feelings for me. I was such a dumbass. Of course she doesn’t have feelings for me. What the hell was wrong with me? “You sure?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I’m kind of tired.”
I look over at Amy to see if she’ll object. She doesn’t. Big shock there.
“Maybe I’ll go too,” she says thoughtfully. “After all, you were the one who drove me here. And isn’t it raining?”
“The rain’s stopped,” Amy says. “Come on, Kirby—stay. We’ll take the path train home. Or grab an Uber.”
Kirby blanches. “Uber? Is that safe?”
It’s the same thing I’m thinking. I hate the idea of Kirby sitting in some strange car driven by some strange man. I’m also worried that the second I leave, Amy is going to blab to Kirby that I’m in love with her. Neither idea is appealing.
“It will be fine,” Amy says so emphatically that it’s hard to disagree. I’m still not thrilled, but what can I do? I can’t drag Kirby out kicking and screaming—that would be an unhealthy sign of a guy who’s hopelessly and pathetically in love with her. And I’d rather get poked in the eyeballs than spend another minute with fucking Amy.
John is so disappointing tonight.
When Amy suggests taking the path train home while it’s pouring rain, I start sending him psychic messages to take me with him. Of course, I’d have to put up a little resistance for Amy’s sake, but I’d eventually go. And John would drive me home in his nice, warm, dry, safe Toyota. (I hesitate to use the adjective “safe” when describing being in John’s car, but I’ve ribbed him enough about his driving that he’s actually gotten very slightly less reckless. Like, one or two percent less.)
Instead, John decides he’s going to take off. On his own. Leaving poor little me behind.
“Will you text me when you get home?” he asks me. He has this little adorable crease between his eyebrows. “So I know you got back safely?”
“She’ll be fine, John,” Amy sighs.
John shoots her a dirty look. I’d been hoping the two of them might hit it off, but they weirdly seem to sort of despise each other. I have no idea why.
“I’ll text you,” I promise him. After all, I text him pretty much every night. And he does look awfully worried.
I watch John make his way to the exit, the muscles between his shoulder blades working with each push against his wheels. A man holds the door for him and he nods his thanks, looks back at me one last time, then he’s gone.
“Oh my fucking God,” Amy snaps at me. “Kirby, seriously. This is out of control.”
I turn back to look at Amy. She’s got a big frown plastered on her face. Bigger than normal, since she’s always sort of frowning. “What’s out of control?”
Amy lowers her voice several notches. “You and John. You’ve been practically eye fucking each other all night.”
My heart speeds up in my chest. I feel like a kid who got caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Which, actually, Minnie has caught me doing multiple times at the bakery as an adult. (What can I say? I like cookies.)
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say.
Amy raises her eyebrows. “That’s not what John said when you were in the bathroom.”
If I had any beer in my mouth, I would have spit it out rather dramatically right now. “You talked to John about this? Are you out of your mind?”
“Relax,” she snorts. “I didn’t point out that you were acting just as hopelessly smitten as he was. I just told him he needed to get over his crush because Kirby is taken.” She takes a sip of her drink. “You are taken, aren’t you?”
“Yes!” I say quickly. But the last few sentences Amy said to me remain in my head. “So… you’re saying that he admitted that… he likes me? Like that?”
“Duh. Of course he does.” She rolls her eyes. “The two of you couldn’t be more obvious if you were holding up a giant sign. And when Ted comes here, it’s going to be obvious to him too.”
I look down at my hands. Amy’s right. I need to snap out of it—fast.
“I don’t get it, Kirby, honestly,” she sighs. “I mean, he’s good looking and all. I’ll give you that. But what a jerk. And… look, do I need to say the obvious here? He’s in a wheelchair. He’s got a severe disability. There. I said it.”
“I guess…” I mumble. “The thing is, I’m not that bothered by that. I hardly even notice it anymore.”
Amy just shakes her head. “What are you saying, Kirby? That you want him instead of Ted?”
“No, of course not!”
“Then you should just be straight to the guy,” she says. “Make it clear to him that nothing is going to happen between the two of you. Otherwise, it’s just mean.”
I know that Amy’s right. Nothing will ever really happen between me and John. The feelings I have for him are probably just cold feet about the wedding.
Except why do I find it so hard to push away the feeling I get that I’ve never liked a guy, and never will like a guy, as much as I like John.