It’s really bothering me, what Ernie said about Eva’s liking me. I mean, it’s not as if I hadn’t noticed—but if it’s obvious to him that a Bug Eyes has a crush on me, then it must be obvious to a lot of other people, too. And I don’t know if I want that. To a lot of older kids it’s the most important thing in the world to be going with someone as soon as you start high school, but I don’t want to do that just to do it. I don’t need to fit in that badly. Not yet.
I’m going to confront her. I’ve been sitting here at my computer for an hour, waiting, doing homework, waiting. Finally I see motion in her webcam frame, her bedroom door opening, closing. She’s just gotten home. She smiles at me as she unloads her duffel bag.
Here I go.
“Hi, Eva,” I say.
“Hi, Jan,” she replies, and starts to say something else—
—I cut her off before my brain can impose any shyness on me. “Do you like me?”
She blinks. “What?”
“Do you, you know, like me?”
“Ew, no!” she exclaims, too quickly. Her face reddens; she seems to catch herself. “I mean…no, I don’t like you. What gave you that silly idea?”
“But I thought…” I trail off, puzzled. I wonder if I came off as too cocky, as if I’d expected her to like me. I wonder if maybe she never liked me at all, if maybe all this has been in Ernie’s head. Has it? “I, er, that’s okay, because I don’t like you either.”
We blink at each other. I can’t see my own face, of course, but I’m sure I’m blushing just as badly as she is.
After a moment, she says, “Um…okay.”
I’m flustered. I really don’t like like her, but I still like her, if you know what I mean. It’s on the tip of my tongue to clarify this, but the dreaded shyness has overcome me, and so I bury myself in my homework. A moment later, when my dad comes walking through the living room, I use him as an excuse to leave my nook, follow him into the kitchen. He’s talking about something, but I’m not listening to a word he’s saying. I’m wishing Ernie wasn’t so blunt so that I could talk to him in a meaningful way about Eva; I’m sneaking glances at my computer screen every few minutes and wondering when Theo is going to get home so I can perhaps ask him his opinion. It makes sense: he eyes her as much as she eyes me. Maybe there’s something to that. If he’d get home.
I poke my head into the living room. I can see his SMN messenger window is still dark. Ernie says his mom drags him to the gym after school. Why does he go, anyway? He’s not on any sports teams, and he always dresses in clothes that are two sizes too large for him. No point in working out like that if you’re going to cover up. He likes to hide, though.
But I’m not in the mood for hide-and-seek right now.
Theo! Where are you?