“Midterms coming up?” I ask her.
Crosby puts her hand to her forehead and feigns falling backward.
“Want to tell me how the hell you graduated in half the time? I can’t keep up with the readings, and thank God I have West, who is a walking, breathing CliffsNote.”
“All of my work in the field was counted toward credit. I started taking community college classes after school in eleventh grade.”
“How’d you know so definitively what you wanted to do? I’m still trying to figure that out.”
“It made me feel good. Wanted, needed, important, all that good stuff. Are we still eating at Murphey’s, or did you have something else in mind?”
Crosby has her red hair piled on top of her head, wearing lace-up boots and a dress that has the style of one she probably made herself. She grabs two more cookies off the table and hands me one on our way out.
As we’re walking down the front steps, Asa comes jogging up the front walk. He’s been running, and his cheeks are ruddy with the cold. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to be in the same room with the both of them before I got a chance to tell Crosby. I give Asa a warning look because I don’t want him letting the cat out of the bag until I’ve had a chance to talk to my best friend. His earbuds are in, and he seems to be in his own world. He high-fives Crosby as he walks by her and leans in and gives me a kiss on the cheek.
“Someone’s in a good mood.” Crosby shrugs before she opens the door and plops down in the passenger’s seat of my car. “I’m ordering fries and a milk shake. I deserve it because school is fucking hard and I’m the oldest student in my classes.”
“Asa and I are together.” I say it right before taking a huge bite of my burger. That way, I have a few minutes to chew politely before I have to respond to Crosby’s questions.
“Like together together?” she asks. One of her eyebrows crooks in speculation.
I hold up a finger to signal I’m not done and need to swallow.
“We kissed for the first time at the gym.”
“Do you like him like that? I mean, he’s Asa. Overprotective and a bossy jerk. Perpetual buzzkill who sanctions what we wear and who we talk to.”
“Yeah, when we were eight, Crosby. Asa has changed a lot. He’s been through a lot. Give him some credit.”
“I’ll give him credit for being a huge hypocrite.” Crosby takes an aggressive sip of her shake, sucking hard through the straw. She undoes her top knot and pulls the long strands into a high ponytail that she secures with a scrunchie. “But I’m glad. Happy for you. If you like him, that is. You truly were a savior with how you helped him recover, and I’ll always be grateful to you for that. You brought Asa back to us.”
“Wait, BeBe, just because I’m dating your brother doesn’t mean I’m breaking up with you. Why are you making this feel like a goodbye?” I reach out and grab her wrist across the table. Crosby has always been my one and only best friend, and I won’t let anything change that.
“Pfft, don’t be dramatic. You’re still my best friend. It’s just weird. It will be a hard adjustment, me being the third wheel instead of him. And what if you two break up? Whose side am I supposed to take?”
“I think Asa is dealing with some of those same concerns about you and West, to be honest, BeBe. It puts us all in a precarious situation. We all have to be more forgiving, become a strong unit again—the four of us, just like when we were kids. No one should be pitted against one another. We’re four strong. But now, instead of two pairs of best friends, we’re two couples who stick together and love one another hard.”
Crosby’s eyes tear, and she grabs my hand back. It’s a huge transition for all of us, but I believe we can make it. I couldn’t be happier for BeBe and West, and I feel like the luckiest girl alive getting to live out my dreams alongside Asa.
“You must like getting bossed around. Someone who tells you what to do all the time and who makes you take off your lipstick.” Crosby smiles when she insults her brother, letting me know she’s teasing too. She takes another sip of her milk shake and bats her eyelashes at me. A part of me wants to tell her about the real first kiss, about the years of pining for a forbidden love I couldn’t have. But I bite my lip. Certain secrets are better left in the past.
“I don’t think it could hurt for you and Asa to talk about it. He’s probably got things he’d like to work through with you, stuff to get off his chest. If it’s all out in the open, nobody has to feel awkward.”