fifty-seven

So she sat there, looking at Izzy, wondering.
“So is it your boyfriend?” Izzy said. “Or someone else?”
Emma stopped thinking about words. “What?”
“Is it your boyfriend who isn’t like that? The one who isn’t boring? Or was it someone else, from the past?”
Emma looked at Izzy, unsure how to answer. “Why would you ask me that?” she said.
Izzy seemed surprised. “Because we’re meant to ask each other anything. So I did. I was curious. Why not?”
“But why would you even think that. I mean, why assume he bores me…” “I didn’t say bore,” Izzy said, sounding confused. “I asked if he wasn’t like that.”
“Oh,” Emma said, realizing. “Yeah. Shit.”
“You might be jumping to conclusions or something,” Izzy said, smugly. Emma glared at her.
“What?” Izzy said, still smiling, still smug. “You were.”
“Maybe.”
“You were.”
“I know.”
“Good,” Izzy said. “So does he?”

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fifty-six

Emma might be reading too much into Izzy’s vagueness. But maybe not.

Emma couldn’t decide. She was thinking in circles, and making herself confused. Then she also began wondering whether Izzy would think she had been vague on purpose, and if so, why Izzy would think that was. It seemed that Izzy might wonder, Emma thought, because it just seemed obvious to. She might wonder about Emma’s vagueness in exactly the same way as Emma just had just been wondering about hers.

Emma wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, or what that might mean either.

She was thinking about vagueness too much because she was starting to suspect there was something going on between her and Izzy, some kind of flirting or hesitant interest, something more than just them both being bored at home all day and looking for friendship, and something more than wet shirts in rainstorms, too.

She thought so, but she wasn’t sure, and she didn’t know how to ask. She didn’t even know if she wanted to ask.

So she sat there, looking at Izzy, wondering.

fifty-five

Izzy nodded. She seemed to be thinking. “Has it ever not been like that for you?” she said.

Emma tried to remember. “I think so. Maybe once, with one person. How about for you?”

“Yeah, with one person it wasn’t. Maybe with two.”

Emma noticed that Izzy had said person, and wondered if that was significant, and also wondered whether she had been meant to notice it especially. Saying person rather than man seemed as though it might be important, she thought, and began to convince herself that it was. She had almost decided it was, and that Izzy was trying to tell her something, when she realized that she had said person as well. She had said person, for no particular reason, so maybe Izzy had done the same. Maybe person was just what Izzy had happened to say, and it meant nothing, and Emma was reading far too much into it.

fifty-four

“Sometimes when I’m having sex,” Izzy said. “I’m really, really bored.”

Emma didn’t answer. She sat there thinking.

“Ah,” Izzy said, “So, that was maybe a little too much?”

“No, not at all. I was just trying to remember. I think sometimes I am too.”

“You are?”

Emma nodded slowly.

“Is that bad?” Izzy said. “I’m never completely sure. It seems like it should be, but then again, maybe it’s just ridiculously high initial expectations not being met. Maybe everyone feels that way.”

“Well, I do.” Emma grinned. “Is two people enough to make it everyone?”

“I don’t know.”

Emma thought. “I suppose sometimes that’s just how it is, isn’t it? That you just have to lie there being bored, letting someone do their thing to you, so that later on, in a little while, you get a turn doing your thing to them.”

Izzy seemed to be thinking, too. “Yeah, I suppose it is.”

“Although it shouldn’t be. I mean, of course it shouldn’t be. But sometimes it just is.”

Izzy nodded.

fifty-three

Izzy sat there for a while, thinking, seeming a little helpless, the way Emma had felt trying think up something to confess. Eventually, though, Izzy said, “Okay, I have something.’

“Go on.”

“It’s a bit weird.”

“So say it.”

“Don’t laugh.”

Emma was surprised. “Of course I won’t laugh.”

“Just don’t, all right?”

Emma nodded slowly.

Izzy seemed unsure of herself. She seemed suddenly self-conscious. She wasn’t being herself at all, and Emma was a little taken aback.

“Tell me,” Emma said. “Please.”

fifty-two

Izzy glared at Emma. “Don’t try and say nice things just to get out of how you broke the deal.”

“I didn’t, I…” Emma stopped. “Yeah, I suppose I did.”

“You completely did.”

“Well, maybe if you just tell me something instead?” Emma said. “You just tell me, rather than me saying it?”

Izzy sighed. “So now you want me tell you something bad about myself?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Because…” Izzy stopped, and seemed to give up. “Yeah, okay. If you like. I don’t get how this is going to help, but I will if you want me to.”

“I do. Go on.”

“Anything at all?”

Emma nodded.

fifty-one

Izzy looked surprised. She looked almost upset. “But I just…”

“I know. I’m sorry. I think you’re just better at this than me.”

“You have to try.”

“I am. But I’m not thinking of anything.”

“Even after I…”

“Was so rude to me? Nope. I’m sorry.”

Izzy seemed a little upset.

“I’m sorry,” Emma said, concerned. “I really am. But I honestly can’t think of anything to say about you. I mean, I hardly know you, do I? So how could I, really?”

“I came up with something about you.”

“I know.  But you’re better at it, like I said.  You probably just understand people better.”

fifty

“You try too hard to be mysterious and sexy,” Izzy said. “But it actually kind of works.”

“Okay,” Emma said. She thought for a moment. “Yeah, okay. That’s fair enough.”

“You’re not offended?”

“I don’t think so.”

Izzy seemed worried. “Are you? You don’t seem sure.”

“No.”

“Honestly?”

“Nope. Not at all.”

“Good.”

“See. That wasn’t really that bad, was it?”

“I suppose not. So, your turn.”

Emma thought. “Yeah,” she said. “I still have no idea. I can’t think of anything.”

forty-nine

Izzy sighed again, then said, “Yeah all right, I suppose so.”

“Good. Go on.”

“Let me think a second,” Izzy said.

Emma nodded.

“I might say something you really don’t like,” Izzy said. “What about that?”

“I won’t mind. I completely won’t. I’m ready, and that’s kind of the point.”

Izzy thought. She looked at Emma, and seemed to be staring, perhaps because she was concentrating as she did. Emma felt a little shiver of something as Izzy stared staring, and made herself stop.

Stop noticing Izzy’s eyes.

“All right,” Izzy said, after a moment. “I’ve thought of something, but are you really sure I should just say it?”

“Please say it.”

“You’re sure?”

Emma nodded. “I’m ready.”

Izzy shrugged. “Okay.”

forty-eight

“I can’t just say something horrible,” Izzy said.

“Please?”

“No way. I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“You’ll be offended.”

“I promise I won’t.”

“Yeah, right. Up until you are.”

“Please? I don’t mind what you say. And I’m letting you go first on purpose, so this will work. So you can say anything awful you like, and I won’t be upset, because I’ll be trying so hard not to be. And because then, when it’s my turn, you can’t be offended by what I say.”

Izzy seemed to think about that. “You mean, I can’t, because I was just so completely rude to you?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“And I’d want that why?”

Emma shrugged. “I don’t know. To make this work?”