Everything, Everything(17)

by Nicola Yoon

Madeline: Both.

Madeline: Why do you like math so much?

Olly: why do you like books so much?

Madeline: Those are not the same thing!

Olly: why not?

Madeline: You can find the meaning of life in a book.

Olly: life has meaning?

Madeline: You’re not serious.

Olly: it’s possible

Olly: what book can you find the meaning of life in?

Madeline: Ok, maybe not just a single book, but if you read enough you’ll get there.

Olly: is that your plan?

Madeline: Well, I’ve got the time.

Madeline: …

Olly: thinking?

Madeline: Yes. I have a solution to our problem.

Olly: listening

Madeline: Let’s agree to just be friends, ok?

Olly: ok

Olly: but no more checking out my muscles

Madeline: Friends, Olly!

Olly: and my eyes

Madeline: No more talking about my freckles.

Madeline: And my hair.

Olly: and your lips

Madeline: And your dimple.

Olly: you like my dimple?

Madeline: Friends!

Olly: ok

Time

Carla makes us wait a week before we can see each other again. She wants to be absolutely sure that being in the same room with Olly didn’t activate any of my triggers. Even though I agree with her that we should wait just to be safe, the week seems interminable. I’m sort of convinced that time has literally, and not just metaphorically, slowed down, but that’s the kind of thing that would make headlines.

Mirror, Mirror

After an epoch, the week finally ends. I’m giddy and trying not to be. This is more difficult than you’d imagine. Trying not to smile only makes you smile more.

Carla watches me struggle to choose what to wear. It’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. Really, I’ve never given any thought to it. My closet consists entirely of white T-shirts and blue jeans. The jeans are arranged by type—straight, skinny, boot cut, wide leg, the ridiculously named “boyfriend.” My shoes—all Keds, all white—are piled in a heap in the back corner. I almost never wear shoes around the house and now I’m not sure that I can find a pair that will fit. Rummaging through the pile, I find a left and right one of the same size. They fit, but just barely. I stand in front of the mirror. Is your shirt supposed to match your shoes or is that your purse? Is white the best color for my chestnut complexion? I make a mental note to do some shopping later. I’ll buy a T-shirt in every color until I find the one that suits me best.

For the fifth time I ask Carla if my mom has already left.

“You know your mother,” she says. “Has she ever been late a day in her life?”

My mother believes in punctuality the way other people believe in God. Time is precious, she says, and it’s rude to waste someone else’s. I’m not even allowed to be late for Friday Night Dinners.

I look at myself in the mirror, change the V-necked white T-shirt for a scoop-neck white T-shirt for no reason at all. Or not for no reason. But to have something to do while waiting for Olly.

I wish again that I could talk to my mom about this. I want to ask her why I get breathless when I think of him. I want to share my giddiness with her. I want to tell her all the funny things Olly says. I want to tell her how I can’t make myself stop thinking about him even though I try. I want to ask her if this is the way she felt about Dad at the beginning.

I tell myself it’s OK. I didn’t get sick after the last time I saw him, and he knows the rules—no touching, full decontamination treatment, no visit if he even suspects he could get sick in the next few days.

I tell myself there’s no harm in lying to my mom. I tell myself I won’t get sick. I tell myself there’s no harm in friendship.

That Carla is right, and love can’t kill me.

Forecast

Olly’s on the wall again when I enter the room. This time he’s climbed all the way to the top.

“Don’t your fingertips ever get tired?” I ask.

“I’ve got them on a strict workout regimen,” he says, grinning at me. My stomach does a little flip thing that I’m really going to have to get used to, since it seems to be a side effect of seeing him.

I was in this room to do my homework yesterday. I know it’s exactly the same as I left it, but it looks and feels different. The room is so much more alive with Olly in it. If all the fake plants and trees swayed to life right now, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I walk to the couch and settle into the corner farthest away from him.

Down from the wall, he sits down cross-legged and leans his back against it.