It could have been Jodie, the college girl from the bookstore. Josh often talked about how smart Jodie was, how she was so cultured because she’d studied abroad in India and was now Buddhist. Ha! I was the one who was half-Korean; I was the one who’d taught Josh how to eat with chopsticks. He’d had kimchi for the first time at my house.
I was about to ask him who when the librarian came over to shush us, and then we went back to doing work and Josh didn’t bring it up again and I didn’t ask. Honestly, I didn’t want to know. It wasn’t me, and that was all I cared about.
I didn’t think for one second that the girl he liked was Margot. Not that I didn’t see her as a girl who could be liked. She’d been asked out before, by a certain type of guy. Smart guys who would partner up with her in chemistry and run against her for student government. In retrospect, it wasn’t so surprising that Josh would like Margot, since he’s that kind of guy too.
If someone were to ask me what Josh looks like, I would say he’s just ordinary. He looks like the kind of guy you’d expect would be good at computers, the kind of guy who calls comic books graphic novels. Brown hair. Not a special brown, just regular brown. Green eyes that go muddy in the center. He’s on the skinny side, but he’s strong. I know because I sprained my ankle once by the old baseball field and he piggybacked me all the way home. He has freckles, which make him look younger than his age. And a dimple on his left check. I’ve always liked that dimple. He has such a serious face otherwise.
What was surprising, what was shocking, was that Margot would like him back. Not because of who Josh was, but because of who Margot was. I’d never heard her talk about liking a boy before, not even once. I was the flighty one, the flibbertigibbet, as my white grandma would say. Not Margot. Margot was above all that. She existed on some higher plane where those things—boys, makeup, clothes—didn’t really matter.
The way it happened was sudden. Margot came home from school late that day in October; her cheeks were pink from the cold mountainy air and she had her hair in a braid and a scarf around her neck. She’d been working on a project at school, it was dinnertime, and I’d cooked chicken parmesan with thin spaghetti in watery tomato sauce.
She came into the kitchen and announced, “I have something to tell you.” Her eyes were very bright; I remember she was unspooling the scarf from around her neck.
Kitty was doing her homework at the kitchen table, Daddy was on his way home, and I was stirring the watery sauce. “What?” Kitty and I asked.
“Josh likes me.” Margot gave a pleased kind of shrug; her shoulders nearly went up to her ears.
I went very still. Then I dropped my wooden spoon into the sauce. “Josh Josh? Our Josh?” I couldn’t even look at her. I was afraid that she would see.
“Yes. He waited for me after school today so he could tell me. He said—” Margot grinned ruefully. “He said I’m his dream girl. Can you believe that?”
“Wow,” I said, and I tried to communicate happiness in that word, but I don’t know if it came out that way. All I was feeling was despair. And envy. Envy so thick and so black I felt like I was choking on it. So I tried again, this time with a smile. “Wow, Margot.”
“Wow,” Kitty echoed. “So are you boyfriend and girlfriend now?”
I held my breath, waiting for her to answer.
Margot took a pinch of parmesan between her fingers and dropped it in her mouth. “Yeah, I think so.” And then she smiled, and her eyes went all soft and liquid. I understood then that she liked him too. So much.
That night I wrote my letter to Josh.
Dear Josh . . .
I cried a lot. Just like that, it was over. It was over before I even had a chance. The important thing wasn’t that Josh had chosen Margot. It was that Margot had chosen him.
So that was that. I cried my eyes out; I wrote my letter; I put the whole thing to rest. I haven’t thought of him that way since. He and Margot are meant to be. They’re MFEO. Made for each other.
I’m still awake when Margot comes back to bed, but I quickly shut my eyes and pretend to be asleep. Kitty’s cuddled up next to me.
I hear a snuffly sound and I peek out of one eye to look at Margot. Her back is to us; her shoulders are shaking. She’s crying.
Margot never cries.
Now that I’ve seen Margot cry over him, I believe it more than ever—they’re not over.
THE NEXT DAY, WE DRIVE margot to the airport. Outside, we load up her suitcases on a luggage carrier—Kitty tries to get on top and dance, but our father pulls her down right away. Margot insists on going in by herself, just like she said she would.
“Margot, at least let me get your bags checked,” Daddy says, trying to maneuver the luggage carrier around her. “I want to see you go through security.”
“I’ll be fine,” she repeats. “I’ve flown by myself before. I know how to check a bag.” She stretches up on her toes and puts her arms around our dad’s shoulders. “I’ll call as soon as I get there, I promise.”
“Call every day,” I whisper. The lump in my throat is getting bigger, and a few tears leak out of my eyes. I’d hoped I wouldn’t cry, because I knew Margot wouldn’t, and it’s lonely to cry alone, but I can’t help it.
“Don’t you dare forget us,” Kitty warns.
That makes Margot smile. “I could never.” She hugs us each one more time. She saves me for last, the way I knew she would. “Take good care of Daddy and Kitty. You’re in charge now.” I don’t want to let go, so I hold on tighter; I’m still waiting and hoping for some sign, some indication that she will miss us as much as we’ll miss her. And then she laughs and I release her.
“Bye, Gogo,” I say, wiping my eyes with a corner of my shirt.
We all watch as she pushes the luggage carrier over to the check-in counter. I’m crying hard, wiping my tears with the back of my arm. Daddy puts one arm around me and one around Kitty. “We’ll wait until she’s in line for security,” he says.
When she’s done checking in, she turns back and looks at us through the glass doors. She lifts one hand and waves, and then she heads for the security line. We watch her go, thinking she might turn around one more time, but she doesn’t. She already seems so far away from us. Straight-A Margot, ever capable. When it’s my time to leave, I doubt I’ll be as strong as Margot. But, honestly, who is?