Emma looked around at the supermarket carpark, and the orange sky, and greenish lights, and at all the passing shoppers, hurrying home, ignoring her and Izzy as they walked past.
“I’m sorry too,” she said after a moment. “I’m really sorry.”
“I am. I shouldn’t have encouraged you.”
“You didn’t,” Izzy said. “And it doesn’t matter if you did. I shouldn’t have kissed you. Not without making sure.”
“Oh,” Emma said, then, slightly puzzled, “Making sure of what?”
Izzy smiled. “I don’t know. Just making sure.”
“You didn’t need to,” Emma said, uncertainly. “It’s fine to assume…”
“And anyway, I let you think that maybe I was…” Emma stopped. “Didn’t I?”
Izzy shook her head.
“I think I did a little,” Emma said. “I don’t know, but I think I might have…” She stopped again. For some reason discussing this, and finding the exact words, was turning out to be surprisingly complicated.
“You might have what?” Izzy said.
Emma just looked at her, helplessly.
“You might have led me on?” Izzy said, grinning.
She was halfway teasing, Emma thought. Halfway teasing, but not. She wondered for a moment whether it was true. “Well didn’t I?” she said in the end.
“I don’t know.”
“I think I did.” Emma was starting to feel worried. To feel like she might have done something badly wrong.
“It’s fine,” Izzy said. “It doesn’t matter. So don’t get too upset, okay?”
“I’m not upset.”
“Not upset, but…”
“I’m fine,” Emma said.
“You’re acting a bit strangely.”
“So you said. I’m just surprised. You tried to kiss me. You did kiss me.”
“Yes, and I said sorry.”
Emma took a breath, and tried to think. “Is this going to be a problem?” she said.
“How do you mean. Between us?”
Emma nodded slowly. “Is it? Does it spoil being friends? Make everything too complicated?”
“I think it might,” Emma said, worried. “It almost has to, doesn’t it?”
“No,” Izzy said. “Not at all.” She grinned. “Not between people as horribly honest as us.”
Emma started to smile. “Just because we’re so honest?” she said.
Izzy nodded. She was still smiling.
“Only because of that?” Emma said.
“Why not? If we’re being so honest, then surely nothing’s a problem, not really.”
Emma wasn’t sure. “Maybe,” she said, considering that idea.
“I’d like to think so.”
“I suppose I would too.”
“So there you go,” Izzy said. “There’s no problem, not really.”
Emma looked at Izzy for a moment, thinking, trying to decide how serious Izzy actually was. Fairly serious, Emma thought. Izzy looked like she meant what she was saying.
“Yeah,” Emma said. “I guess not, then.”
“You mean that?”
“Good,” Izzy said. “I’m actually glad.”
“Yeah,” Emma said, after a moment. “Me too.”
They kept looking at each other. Izzy was smiling, and Emma was thinking. Emma had suddenly been struck by an awful thought. What if Izzy had only wanted to be around Emma because of this, because of the kiss and sex and because she was interested in Emma. What if Izzy wasn’t her friend at all, not really, and only wanted sex. What if Izzy had only been pretending to like Emma, and didn’t really like her much at all.
Emma thought about that, wondering how she would be able to tell, and wondering whether she cared.
She did care, she thought. She did want to know.
If it was true, she ought to be offended, she thought. She really ought to be offended. She almost already was. So much so that she had to calm herself down, and remind herself that she had no idea whether it was true.
“Hey,” Emma said. “Um…” Then she stopped. She didn’t know how to ask what she wanted to know.
“Go on,” Izzy said.
“I just wondered…” Emma said, and then stopped again.
“I don’t know if I should ask.”
“Ask,” Izzy said. “Please?”
“Because we’re so honest?” Emma said.
Izzy grinned. “Yep.”
“Because you’ll be honest back?”
“Actually I will.”
“Because being completely honest in awkward situations always helps so much, and makes them so much easier?”
“I don’t know,” Izzy said, smiling. “Who knows. Maybe it will?”
Emma thought about that. “Yeah,” she said. “I suppose so. Maybe.”
“So ask,” Izzy said.
Emma looked at her, wondering if she should.
“Ask,” Izzy said again. “Please?”
“All right,” Emma said. “But you have to be completely honest.”
Izzy nodded. “I will.”
“Okay,” Emma said.
Izzy was quiet, waiting, seeming expectant. Emma knew she should ask, but didn’t quite know what to say. Her mouth felt dry, so she swallowed, and then still didn’t know.
She made herself speak anyway.
“So,” she said. “I wondered. Do you only want to be around me because…”
Her voice trailed off. She stopped again. She was nervous, and ready to be disappointed, and didn’t know how to ask, either, not exactly. Not how to put into words what she was worrying about, because it was about her own self-worth as much as it was Izzy’s intentions.
“Ah,” Izzy said, after a moment. “I can’t be honest if I don’t know what you’re asking.”
“You know what I’m asking.”
“I don’t know that I do.”
“Oh, come on,” Emma said, exasperated. “Right here, right now, talking like this after what just happened. You know.”
Izzy smiled. “I think I know,” she said.
“You know. You know exactly. Do you only like me because…” And then Emma stopped again, uncertainly, nervously, and still couldn’t make herself say it.
Izzy seemed to take pity on Emma. “I know what you’re asking,” she said.
“I think so.”
“Are you sure, or…?”
“I know. And no, I don’t only want to be around you because of that.”
“Good,” Emma said, relieved.
“Of course I don’t,” Izzy said. “That’s awful, by the way.”
“Yeah. Which is why I didn’t want to ask…”
“It’s still awful.”
They kept looking at each other, uncertainly. Neither appeared to have anything else to say. Emma kept waiting for Izzy to say something, but Izzy didn’t, and so Emma didn’t either. She just stood there silently, waiting, unsure what to do next.
There was a silence between them, despite the noise of traffic from all around. It seemed to Emma as though the silence was going on and on, and becoming almost uncomfortable. Around them the twilight grew deeper and the sky slowly darkened.
“Well this is awkward,” Izzy said, eventually. “Fun.”
Emma was puzzled. “It isn’t awkward.”
“Yeah it is.”
“No,” Emma said. “It’s something, but it isn’t awkward.”
Izzy looked a little doubtful.
“It isn’t,” Emma said.
“It might not be for you,” Izzy said. “It is for me.”
“Oh,” Emma said, pretending to be surprised. “Why?”
She was hoping to get past the awkwardness by just pretending it wasn’t there. She was hoping, but it didn’t work. Instead of helping her, and pretending the same thing, Izzy just stood there and looked sceptical.
“Yeah,” Emma said after a minute. “Fair enough. It is a little awkward.”
“Just a little?”
“Are we okay?” Izzy asked.
“We’re fine.” Emma said.
“Are you sure?”
Emma nodded slowly. “I am.”
“Good,” Izzy said. “I’m glad.”
Emma looked around. It was getting late. It was almost night now, and sky was dark. She wondered how long they had been standing there. She took our her phone, and checked the time. “Shit,” she said. “I’d better get home.”
“Yeah,” Izzy said. “Fair enough.”
“No, I really have to go. I told Mark I’d be home by now.”
“I’m sorry to just run off,” Emma said feeling guilty.
“You’re not just running off. Not really. You were already leaving when that happened.”
“Yep,” Emma said. “I knew that. I just hoped you did.”
Emma smiled. “So anyway, I’d better go,” she said.
“Yeah, you’d better.”
“But I don’t want this to make things weird.”
Izzy just looked at her.
“I don’t,” Emma said. “I really don’t.”
Izzy sighed. “I know. Me either.”
“So don’t let it,” Emma said.
“I won’t. But don’t you, too.”
“I mean it,” Emma said, uncertainly. She wasn’t completely sure whether Izzy actually meant what she was saying, or even whether Izzy was ever going to speak to her again.
“Okay,” Izzy said.
“And do you too?”
“Yeah, I mean it.”
“You promise you won’t let things get weird?” Emma said. “That we’ll try, at least?”
Izzy nodded. “I promise.”
“Me too,” Emma said. “I’ll try too.”
Emma hesitated, then held out her hand, with her little finger extended. “Pinky-swear?” she said.
Izzy blinked, then started to grin. “Really?” she said.
“Yep. Do it. If you meant it.”
“I meant it.”
Izzy looked at Emma for a moment, still smiling, and then held out her own hand, with her little finger extended, too. Emma hooked her finger into Izzy’s, and pulled on it.
“I swear,” Izzy said.
Izzy took her hand away.
“Yeah,” Emma said. “Okay. And now I’d really better go.”
Izzy nodded, and stepped back a little, making room so Emma could open her car door.
Emma did. She opened the door, and then stopped, and looked at Izzy.
“So bye,” Emma said.
“I can see.”
Emma nodded, and started to get into her car. Then she stopped, and leaned on the top of the door. “Hey,” she said. “Ah… about everything tonight…”
“I don’t want to forget it, I just want…” Emma stopped. She didn’t know what she wanted, exactly.
Izzy kept looking at her, waiting.
“Yeah,” Emma said, and got into her car after all. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t let things get weird?” Izzy said.
“Yeah, that,” Emma said, relieved.
“I said I won’t.”
“And I’m saying, please really try not to.”
Izzy nodded, and Emma decided that was enough. It was all she could really say. She got into the car, and pulled the door closed, and started the engine.
She started the engine, and looked sideways, out the window, and smiled. And Izzy smiled back. She smiled back, then kept standing there, watching, still smiling, as Emma drove away.
Emma went home, and parked the car in the garage, and walked inside. Mark was in the lounge, but he came through to the kitchen when he heard her come in.
“Hey,” she said, holding onto the side of the door and standing on the heels of her shoes to slide them off.
“Hi,” he said. “How was your day?”
“Good?” Mark said. “Bad? The usual?”
“Something,” Emma said. “Definitely one of those.”
Mark looked at her for a moment, and seemed surprised. “Is everything all right?” he said.
“Are you sure? You seem…?”
“I’m fine,” Emma said.
Emma shrugged again. “Not really.”
Emma opened her mouth, and almost said that Izzy had made a pass at her. She almost said it, but then she changed her mind and didn’t. Without quite knowing why.
“Not really,” she said. “Nothing happened. Nothing interesting. Just the same as always.”
Mark nodded and seemed to accept that. He kissed her quickly, and Emma kissed back, and then she went and started making dinner. She washed her hands, and put on a pot of water to boil, because no matter what she made she’d probably need hot water, and thought about what to cook.
She decided, and started cooking, and it only occurred to her later on that evening, while she was loading the dishwasher, that not mentioning being kissed was a little deceptive, a little dishonest, and probably somehow quite badly wrong.