Suze fell in love when she was seventeen years old. She fell in love with Greg, who was twenty-one and therefore exotic, and who was also her older sister’s boyfriend. Not that Amanda, frankly, deserved him. Amanda was self-absorbed and obnoxious and didn’t know what was good for her. Greg was kind and handsome and generous and an Eagle Scout, which meant of course that he was ready for survival in any eventuality. At seventeen, Suze had an endless sequence of eventualities planned out for Gary to survive in, and none of them included Amanda, or parents, or in fact very much clothing at all.
When Amanda moved on about eight months after starting to date Greg the Eagle Scout, Suze was devastated. She took to her bed in despair, knowing that there was no reason at all for her to ever see Greg again, and languished for the better part of two days before her mother forced her to get up and go to school. She decorated her notebooks with hearts, but she didn’t say anything to anyone — not even to Kim. She knew nobody would understand.
She didn’t see Greg again for four years — until Suze was twenty-one and three days and still binging herself on legal alcohol. He was in the Home Run Inn with four of his buddies and she puked right in front of him. All of her so-called friends had abandoned her when the party started to become a group effort to hold Suze vertical, so it was Greg the Eagle Scout who picked her up off the floor and walked her outside and held her hair back until she was done being sick and started to die of embarrassment.
He hadn’t changed. Not a bit. He was still kind and thoughtful and through the lenses of only the bartender knew how many mugs of draft seasonal ale, he was the most gorgeous person she’d ever seen. She was really sorry that she had thrown up on his shoes, but not as sorry as she was a moment later when he peered into her face with a little frown between his brows. “Don’t I know you?”
No, she thought. No, you don’t know me and you’re going to forget about ever seeing this, and then she had to puke again and that gave him time to think. When she was wiping her mouth for the hundredth time at least, he wasn’t frowning any more.
“You’re Suze,” he said, looking very pleased with himself. “Amanda’s baby sister.”
Oh god no, she thought. I’m nobody’s baby anything. Out loud, she said “Yep, that’s me.”
“I knew it,” Greg beamed. “I’ve been trying to place you all night, and I finally figured out. How’s Amanda doing?”
Suze briefly considered puking one more time, just to change the subject, but settled on mumbling “Degree in Cosmetology” because that was pretty much just as disgusting. Greg pursed his lips. If she didn’t know what her breath had to smell like, she would have kissed him. That thought brought back a flood of fantasies she’d thought she’d buried four years ago. None of them involved drinking too much and puking all over Greg the Eagle Scout.
The thought made her dizzy. “I’m going to pass out,” she announced, knowing it was an inevitable conclusion to their meeting, and did.
He must have caught her, because when she woke up in her own bed with a jackhammer army working on each temple and an entire forest of fuzz growing on her tongue, her face didn’t have a scratch on it. Her ego was lacerated beyond salvation, but there wasn’t much she could do about that, so she brushed her teeth and swallowed a handful of headache pills and headed toward the smell of frying bacon.
“I hope I’m not being too presumptive,” Greg said as she stepped into the kitchen and nearly passed out again from the shock of seeing him wearing just a pair of jeans and no shirt. “Your roommate offered me the couch.”
“I didn’t know if you were going to throw up again and maybe suffocate or something,” Kim chimed in from the breakfast nook. She cradled a mug of coffee in both hands. “You were pretty bad off. Coffee? I made extra.”
Suze poured herself her own mug and sat down at the breakfast nook and didn’t look at Greg with no shirt on. She thought about frying bacon and how hot it was and how much it would hurt if the grease got on her while she was taking off the jeans, and wondered when Kim was going to leave. She took a drink of the coffee. “Thanks,” she said, and put the mug down. “This coffee’s terrible.”
“I love you too.” Kim rolled her eyes. Suze barely even noticed. She picked up the mug, took another drink, and regretted it immediately. At least she was awake now, and Greg was still standing there, and she’d brushed her teeth but not her hair. Oh god he was smiling. What was she supposed to do?