“He still asks about you, you know,” Amy said, toying with the after-meal coffee. Dinner had been in one of those upscale, fancy cafés, where everything was overpriced but the atmosphere was worth it. The topic of her half-brother Jay had come up, a boy I had known, distantly, while I was in university. A year or two older than I was, but we had graduated at the same time, though with different majors.
I scoffed at that. Amy had insinuated, in more than a few occasions, that Jay was interested in me. I took it as one of her exaggerations, very much like her over-dramatic renditions of her fights with her boyfriend and her passionate discussions of the last movie we saw. While I remembered Jay from university, I had actually first met him years back, while I was still in school, when I had went over to Amy’s house to stay for a weekend. I had barely registered his existence then; he was a quiet, gawky figure always lurking in the doorways and I was self-conscious and thirteen.
“No, seriously,” Amy insisted, “he was asking just a few weeks ago if I was still meeting you regularly.”
I sipped at my tea, enjoying the hint of mint infused in it. It was better than the meal. “We were in the same campus for four years. Surely he would’ve tried something then?”
Amy dismissed that, flapping her hand around. She almost caught the fancy lantern hung up in our booth. “He’s shy, you know that.”
“Is he? He was in the student council; that’s the only reason I even remember him, honestly.” I casted around my mind, trying to scrounge up details about Jay. “Very eloquent during the elections in our second year; didn’t seem shy at all. I didn’t even realise he was your brother until he told me much later.”
Amy slapped the table, snickering. “You didn’t know who he was? Oh my god, he must’ve been heartbroken.”
I shrugged and took another sip of my tea. “It had been seven years. People grow up, you know. I was surprised he recognised me.”
“Like I told you before, he’s been quite taken by you since the first time you guys met.”
I gave her a suspicious look. “Some days, Amy, I swear you’re saying that only because you want to reel me into your crazy family.”
She grinned, obviously unrepentant. “Why not? Gramma’s already taken fancy of you.” Gramma was a little bit scary, and everything that happened in Amy’s family seemed to depend on her approval, and I knew if she and my own grandmother were to meet there would be explosions. Probably even literal ones. Amy’s expression sobered. “I don’t understand why it’s so hard for you to accept that people might actually, really like you.”
I shut down her attempt to psychoanalyse me and returned to Jay with a vengeance. “I don’t understand why he’d like me then. I was thirteen, and probably the most awkward, mousy, lank-haired thirteen-year-old ever!”
Amy let it go. “He knows I have great taste in friends,” she said airily. “But, come on, he knew about everything you were up to in uni. I’d wonder in passing how you were doing, and he’d fill me in with details.”
I felt my eyebrows rise at that, trying to take refuge in my hairline. “I’d like to think that I would’ve noticed if I had a stalker. You’re making this up, seriously.”
“I’m not. I wouldn’t lie to you, ever!” she said dramatically, clutching her hands over her heart. I rolled my eyes at her. “Surely you saw him on campus every now and then? I’d hate to think that he’s really a stalker.”
“Well, yeah, sure. It wasn’t that big a campus.” Nothing came out of the teapot as I poured from it, and I flagged a waiter who had been hovering nearby. “He came by the club room sometimes, too.”
Amy pointed an accusing spoon at me. “You were even in the same club?” The waiter eyed her warily before adding more hot water into my teapot, then discreetly edged away.
I shook my head, amused. Amy’s expansive gestures were a cause of chagrin to me when we were younger, but by now I’d learned to just enjoy other people’s reactions to her. “No, it was our department’s club; it wasn’t like he could join. Probably doing his student council rounds or something.”
“Maybe he was checking on your club room because he knew you’d be there, did you ever consider that? Weren’t you the vice president or something?”
Okay, maybe Jay did talk about me. I’m sure I’d never told Amy that detail. Mostly because it was embarrassing — anti-social me suddenly holding positions of power, small as they were. I avoided her gaze and kept my eye on the teapot, watching as the depleted tea leaves steeped in the hot water. “Well, yeah. He was friends with the president.”
Amy gave a gusty sigh. “No, he was friends with the other guy who was in love with you.”
I looked up from the pattern the tea leaves were forming, mystified. “There was a guy who was in love with me?”
“Evan, wasn’t that his name? I remember Jay bemoaning he’d never have a chance with you if this Evan person continued to be around.”
I froze, caught completely off-guard. Of all the people in the world, I didn’t expect his name come through Amy’s lips; Amy, who had went to university a few states away and had no reason to know him at all.
“What does Evan have to do with anything?” I asked, lacing my hands below the table, not quite trusting myself to handle any of the chinaware.
“Jay was sure you guys were a couple, or at least had something going on.” She stared at me, eyes narrowed. “Was there?”
What was I supposed to say? I thought I was in love with him for a very long time, but everything is dandy now?
“No, nothing. We were childhood friends — his family moved away when he was nine or ten, I can’t remember — and we just got along very well when we met again.” I was stumbling over my words, talking too fast, explaining things when I didn’t have to. “We were just friends.”
Amy gave an unladylike snort at that. “So Jay’s angst all these years was completely unfounded?”
“Totally,” I said.
She reached out for the teapot, pouring me another cup, and one for herself for good measure. The tea was too weak, but I was too distracted to reprimand her. “You’re lying, aren’t you.”
“Yeah,” I said softly. Amy always knew me better than anyone.
She was quiet for a moment, and I cupped my tea in both hands, and it was very hot in my suddenly chilled fingers. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked gently, and I shook my head sharply, angry with myself. If I couldn’t talk to Amy about this, then who else was there?
[This is set in the same universe as let’s meet when the rain stops, kinda. There’s no overarching plot, just interconnected scenes.]