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“Do you think I’m too dependent on my brother?”

“What’s ‘too dependent’ mean?” Anzu asked, looking over her shoulder.

She’d stopped by to hang out after a fight with her girlfriend and since it was Tessa’s night off, they decided to order Chinese and watch movies. While waiting for the delivery, Anzu was pouring them glasses of wine from the bottle she’d picked up on her way over.

“I don’t know. That’s the thing. I think my shrink is on some kind of a mission to prove I’m too attached to him, or something.” Tessa took the glass of red Anzu handed her.

“Well forget her. Who’s she to say what’s too attached? You lost your parents and he’s the only person you have.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Tessa said.

She didn’t point out that that wasn’t exactly true anymore. She had Shayla. And she had—and had always had—a large group of friends. She and Trey even had extended family, though they hadn’t made much effort to get to know them over the years. Only now, with Shayla’s parents and family were they both becoming a little more interested, and curious about their relatives beyond the two of them.

“But …” Anzu sat cross-legged on the floor near Tessa’s feet. “Well, anyway, forget it.”

“No. What? What were you about to say?”

“Okay, but I want you to take this with a grain of salt,” Anzu began carefully. “Because I’m an only child so there’s a good chance I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, okay?”

Tessa nodded. “Go ahead.”

“You do preface a whole lot with, ‘my brother would just die …’ or ‘Trey would kill me if…’ It’s almost like a reflex with you, no matter what, to think about what he would think, or what he would do,” Anzu said slowly. “I’ve stopped trying to figure out whether you do the things you do because you want him to react, or you do them in spite of how he would react. Sometimes I wonder if you know why you do them.”

Tessa said nothing for so long that Anzu put down her glass of wine and turned, getting on her knees and placing both hands on Tessa’s thighs.

“Look,” she said. “I told you I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I just …”

“No, it was an honest answer,” Tessa said, putting her hands over Anzu’s. “You …”

Just then the apartment door opened and Ty was standing there. Wearing sweats and a white-t-shirt, he looked like he’d recently worked out and was in need of a shower, his complexion flushed, his hair tousled. He paused, taking in their position—Tessa sitting on the edge of the futon, Anzu on her knees in front of her. He said nothing.

“Hey!” Anzu stood. “Want in on this? We ordered some food and I’ve got some vino here that’s supposed to be pretty good.”

Still, Ty didn’t speak. Tessa’s eyes met his inquisitively and it took her a moment before she realized what things may have looked like when he walked in, what he probably thought.

“No,” Ty said finally, his eyes still fixed on Tessa. “I’m good. Just stopped by to shower and maybe see whether Tess was up for …” he shrugged. “Anything.”

“Oh. Well we don’t have any plans except to hang out,” Anzu said. She had poured him a glass of wine and was extending it toward him. “C’mon. Go get showered and join us.”

“Nah. I’ll probably just head home. Looks like you were in the middle of something, so …” He backed out of the apartment.

“We weren’t in the middle of …” Tessa began.

But Ty shut the door, and was gone.

“Wait,” Anzu said after a moment, turning to face Tessa with wide eyes. “Did he just let himself in? Does he have his own key?”

“Yeah,” Tessa said, staring at the now-shut door. “It just seemed to make sense. He’s always here, so I gave him one.”

“Holy shit,” Anzu emptied the glass of wine she intended for Ty. “Are you guys screwing yet or not? I thought you said you hadn’t done it!”

“We haven’t,” Tessa said.

She was way out of her depth. Ty obviously thought he’d walked in on her and Anzu about to get something going. Though he had to have been upset, he hadn’t shown any sign of it. Or maybe he just wasn’t upset. Maybe he was one of those creeps who thought sex between women didn’t even amount to sex and didn’t count. Or maybe he wasn’t upset because he was perfectly fine having her sleep with other people.

Other people? What the hell was she thinking? She’d never been with just one person exclusively. Never. And for her to be thinking that way now was just crazy! She wasn’t with Ty, and he wasn’t with her. Right? They were just exploring.

Wait, but then did that mean he might still be with other people? They’d never talked about Zara for instance. Not directly. Tessa had assumed he’d gotten rid of that skank, but she didn’t ask and he didn’t say.

“Hey.” Anzu was looking at her strangely. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Where’s that damn Chinese food? I’m starving.” Tessa got up from the futon and grabbed the menu and then her cell phone.

“Wait one second,” Anzu said, snatching it out of her hand. “Was he jealous because I’m here? Is that what ..?”

“Who cares what he was?” Tessa snapped, grabbing the menu back.

Anzu laughed. Clapping a hand over her mouth, she sank onto the futon. “Are you guys, like, serious and shit? Like in-a-relationship serious?”

“Shut the hell up. No one’s serious and no one’s in a relationship.”

Anzu ignored her. “Now that I think about it, he did have boyfriend-face when he came in. Yup, he definitely had boyfriend-face.”

“You’re getting on my nerves,” Tessa said.

“Okay, fine, but I would go after him if I were you.”

Tessa looked at her. “You would?”

Anzu shrugged. “Why let him think something that’s not true? You and I haven’t been together like that in eons. And come to think of it, you haven’t hooked up with anyone else either that I’m aware of. He likes you, you like him. Stop the insanity.”

Tessa spluttered.

“I mean it,” Anzu said. “These kinds of misunderstandings are only cute in Jennifer Aniston movies. In real life it’s just tedious and unnecessary.”

“Me running after him through the streets of San Francisco would be exactly like a Jennifer Aniston movie.”

Anzu thought for a moment. “Okay, good point. So let’s eat the Chinese food if it ever gets here, and drink the wine, and then you go after him.”




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Woman-Centered Fiction Writer, commenting on books, culture and the human condition.

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