The Unexpected Everything(10)

By: Morgan Matson

“I honestly don’t care about looks.” Toby said, her voice wistful. “I’ll look across a room, the crowds will part, there he’ll be . . . and I’ll know.” Bri, Palmer, and I exchanged looks, but nobody said anything. We each had something that was off-limits for teasing, and love was Toby’s.

She’d had the misfortune of growing up with a babysitter who regularly brought DVDs of romantic comedies with her whenever she sat for Toby. Toby had eaten them up, and so, from a much-too-young age, she was watching Julia Roberts bargain with Richard Gere and lose her heart in the process. She was watching Meg Ryan scrunch up her nose before bursting into tears and Bridget Jones run through the snowy London streets looking for Mark Darcy. When Toby wasn’t around, the three of us talked about it all the time—how this had warped her perception of romance forever. She now expected what she’d grown up seeing—that was what she thought love would be like. She expected guys to lift boom boxes outside her house and talk in declarations about what they loved best about her and she was always—though she denied it—trying to turn Bri into her plucky sidekick.

I had tried to tell her, over and over, that romance in real life was nothing like the movies and that you shouldn’t want it to be. That, really, all you needed was a guy who was a blast to hang out with, a great kisser, someone to have fun with. None of the rest of us expected movie-love. Palmer and Tom were practically married, and Bri tended to date seniors for three or four months at a time. But Toby wanted her happily ever after, her last-minute chase to the airport, her declaration of love. Which was why, I was pretty sure, she’d never had a real boyfriend. She approached every guy wondering if he was the end of her romantic comedy, which invariably freaked them out.

“Just . . . maybe don’t put so much pressure on it,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “Maybe just have fun?”

“Easy for you to say, Andie,” Toby scoffed. “You always have a boyfriend.”

“Not at the moment,” Palmer pointed out.

“But most of the time,” Bri jumped in, backing up Toby as usual. “Like, what, sixty percent of the time?”

“More like seventy-five,” Toby countered.

“Poor Zach,” said Palmer with an exaggerated sigh. “I liked him.”

“We should really stop learning their names,” Bri said, deadpan, and Toby grinned.

“Totally,” she said. “It’ll make things easier. I’ll just give the next one a nickname.”

“Funny.” I tried to look at her sternly, but gave up after a minute and started to laugh. The thing was, they weren’t wrong. They would tease me like this after most of my breakups, calling me a serial heartbreaker. But it wasn’t intentional—it was just the way it always unfolded. First I’d get a crush on someone. This could, in truth, last much longer than the actual dating-the-guy part of things. I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else, I’d talk about him constantly, I’d spend way too long getting ready, just in case I saw him. Then we’d start going out—and usually, the first week or so was great. Lots of making out, lots of butterflies in my stomach, lots of giddiness and hand-holding and endless conversations, either in person or on the phone late at night. But, inevitably, after the third week rolled around, he would start wanting more, and I would start getting antsy. Whether it was physical or emotional, it was always more than I felt comfortable with. I could never understand when guys wanted to talk to you about your feelings. That was what my friends were for. Why was it impossible to keep things easy? Light, fun, not too serious, and nothing more than kissing.

At any rate, three weeks seemed to be about as long as this had ever been able to last. Whenever my friends brought it up, I pointed to my relationship with Travis Friedman, which had lasted five weeks and change, but I was always told this didn’t count, because two of those weeks were over winter break. But this was the way I liked things. I ended it (or he did), I had a few weeks’ getting over it and listening to lots of girl-power music and eating ice cream, and then, before too long, I’d start to crush on someone new and would begin the whole cycle over again. It worked for me. And honestly, I’d never understood the point of getting too serious with anyone you met in high school. It was high school. Best to keep it light and date seriously in college or med school, with people who were actually going to end up mattering.

“Wait a sec. Why are you even scoping out prospects?” Palmer asked, turned her head to look back at Toby. “What about Wyatt?”

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