Home > Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating(9)

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating(9)
Author: Christina Lauren

“You named your fish Daniel Craig.”

She seems delighted that I’m actually listening. “Yes!”

She pauses again, reaching up to brush away a wayward strand. Is it weird that I like that her hair seems to be as resistant to being tamed as she does?

I dig around in my brain for something not related to my current train of thought. Apparently I fail, because what comes out is “Summer vacation looks good on you.”

She relaxes a little, looking down at her cutoffs. “You’d be amazed what a few days without an alarm clock can do.”

The words alarm clock are enough to make the shrill blast of mine echo in my thoughts. “Must be nice. I’d sleep until ten every day if left to my own devices.”

“Yeah, but according to Google you’ve got a booming physical therapy practice, and”—she motions in the general vicinity of my chest—“you get to look at that in the mirror every morning. It’s worth getting up.”

I don’t know what feels more incongruous: the mental image of Hazel using a computer, or the idea that she used it to look me up. “You Googled me?”

She huffs out a little breath. “Don’t get an ego. I Googled you sometime between Googling beef Wellington and chicken coops.”

At my questioning look, she adds, “The chicken thing should be pretty self-explanatory. Spoiler alert: you can’t raise chickens in a nine-hundred-square-foot apartment.” She gives a dramatic thumbs-down. “And I was going to make something elaborate for lunch today but then remembered I’m lazy and a terrible cook. We’re having sandwiches. Surprise!”

Being near Hazel is like being in a room with a mini cyclone. “That’s cool. I love sandwiches.”

“Peanut butter and jelly.” She makes a cartoonish lip-smacking sound.

I burst out laughing, and have a strange urge to ruffle her hair like she’s a puppy.

She turns back to the kitchen and pulls out a baking sheet with supplies: a stack of small bowls, a few innocuous baking ingredients—including cornstarch—and some bottles of nontoxic paint.

Peering over her shoulder, I tell her, “I’ve never made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like this before.”

Hazel looks at me, and this close up I can see that her skin is nearly perfect. Dating Tabby makes me notice things like this—hair, and lipstick, and clothes—because she’s always pointing them out. Now that she’s made me aware of it, I hardly ever see women without makeup on, and it makes me want to stare a little bit at the smooth, clean curve of Hazel’s jaw.

“This isn’t for the sandwiches,” she says. “We’re making clay.”

“You—” I stop, unsure what to say. Now that I know what we’re going to be doing, I realize I had no idea what to expect, and it seems pretty obvious that, of course, we’d be doing some random art project. “We’re having a playdate?”

She nods, laughing. “But with beer.” Handing me the tray, she lifts her chin to indicate that I should take it to the living room. “Seriously, though, it looks fun and I wanted to try it out before attempting it in front of twenty-eight third graders.”

Hazel brings us sandwiches and we mix up a couple of bowls of clay, adding paint to make a variety of batches in a rainbow of colors. She gets a smear of purple on her cheek and, when I point it out, reaches over to put her entire paint-wet green palm on my face.

“I told you you’d have fun,” she says.

“You actually never said that.” When she looks up, feigning insult, I add, “But you’re right. I haven’t made clay in at least two … decades.”

My phone chimes with Tabby’s text tone, and I apologize under my breath, pulling it out carefully with my clay-covered hands.

I stare at the screen, looking up at the name again to confirm it’s from Tabby, and not a wrong number.

But it’s Sunday.

Was Tabby planning to come up today? Was she going to make up for flaking on Friday … and skip work tomorrow?

Confusion slowly cools into dread, and it drains all the blood from my heart into the pit of my gut. Not only am I fairly sure she wasn’t planning on coming to Portland tonight, she’s also never said anything nearly that filthy to me before.

I wipe away most of the clay and with shaking hands, I type:

The three dots appear to indicate she’s typing … and then disappear. They appear again, and then disappear. I stare at my screen, aware of Hazel’s eyes on me occasionally as she works a blob of bright blue clay.

“Everything okay?” she asks quietly.

“Yeah, just … got a weird text from Tabby.”

“What kind of weird?”

I look up at her. I like to keep my cards pretty close to my chest, but from the expression on Hazel’s face, I can tell I look like I’ve been punched. “I think she just sent me a text that was meant for … someone else.”

Her brown eyes pop wide open and she uses a blue-green finger to pull a strand of hair from where it’s stuck to the purple paint on her cheek. “Like, another guy?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know. I don’t want to go out on a mental ledge right now, but … sort of.”

“I’m gonna guess it wasn’t, like, a ‘Can I borrow a cup of sugar?’ type of text.”


She goes quiet, then makes a little choking noise in the back of her throat. When I look up at her, it’s almost like she’s in pain.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

Hazel nods. “I’m swallowing down my terrible words.”

I don’t even have to ask. “What, that she was destined to screw up because her name is Tabitha?”

She points an accusing finger at me. “I didn’t say it. You said it!”

Despite the hysterical thrum of my pulse in my ears, I smile. “You can’t hide a single thought you have.”

There’s still no reply, and my thoughts grow darker with every passing second. Was her text meant for someone else? Is there any other explanation for her silence now? The thought makes me want to vomit all over Hazel’s chaotic living room floor.

Hazel drops the clay into a bowl and uses a wet wipe to clean her hands. I half wonder how I look right now: bewildered, with a giant green handprint on my face.

“How long have you been together?” Hazel asks.

A tiny montage of our relationship plays in front of me: meeting Tabby at a Mariners game in Seattle, realizing we were both from Portland, having dinner and taking her home with me. Making love that first night and having a feeling about her, like she could be it for me. Introducing her to my family and then, unfortunately, helping her pack up her apartment, and all the promises that her move to L.A. wouldn’t change us. “Two years.”

She winces. “That is the worst amount of time when you’re our age. Two of your hot years, gone. Invested.” I’m barely listening but she doesn’t even notice. Apparently when the Hazel train gets going, it doesn’t stop until it’s gone completely off the tracks. “And if you’ve been living together or engaged? Forget about it. By then your lives are all crisscrossed and overlapping and like, what are you supposed to do? Do you get married? I mean, generally speaking, but obviously not in your situation. You know … if she’s cheating on you.” She covers her mouth with her hands and mumbles from behind them, “Sorry. It’s a curse.”

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