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PART ONE: Tabitha

She moves into the Crown Heights place on July 1, a hectic sticky day of electrolytes and pizza and cursing the broken elevator. Miranda and Raj stay until nearly 9 PM, the three of them putting Tabitha's bedframe back together, then sitting on the floor surrounded by boxes as the sun sinks behind the neighboring building and disappears.

When they're gone, the place feels empty. Tabitha takes a selfie, angling it to capture as many moving boxes as possible, and sends it to the group chat with Elodie and Moe.

!!!!
what do you think? i think it's really me

Elodie responds within minutes, "Elodie laughed at..." and a series of box emojis popping up while Tabitha's still sitting there, scrolling Instagram. All moved in?!

yup :)

How's living alone so far?

idk – i've only been doing it for 20 minutes, Tabitha types, then deletes. She hesitates, then sends a shrug emoji and a Saturday-Night-Fever-dancing-guy emoji instead.

You'll have to give us a tour sometime.

ofc
it's literally 1 room tho
#nyc living

One room we've never SEEN! replies Elodie, and Tabitha clicks "love," grinning.

It's true, the place is tiny – her bed end-to-end with the couch, two pieces of furniture taking up the entire longest wall – and she still needed her parents' help to afford it. But her lease was up in August, and André wanted to move in with his boyfriend, and her mom said, "Don't punish yourself, Tabby, when you don't have to," when she told her she was looking for roommates again. So Miranda found a friend of a friend who was subletting his studio while he lived with his fiancée, and here Tabitha is, in her own little space for the first time since before college. She doesn't deserve it, at twenty-three with two years of art school wasted and her chosen-at-random psych degree coming along so slowly she'll be thirty by the time she gets a diploma, but if there's one thing Tabitha feels like she knows by now, it's that "deserving" doesn't have much to do with anything.

don't make me go to work tomorrow, she texts Elodie separately after she's taken out the trash, made her bed, discovered the drain on her tub is broken and spent fifteen minutes crafting a message to her landlord about it.

Sorry babe, you gotta. Marketing won't do itself!

Bleh. Tabitha sends back a selection of unhappy emojis. how was your day?

It was good! A pause, in which Elodie's typing bubble disappears, then reappears. Played the new song with Rae and Micah for the first time tonight. Think I'm going to tweak the bridge, but otherwise it was really good. Another typing pause. Shawn called about sponsoring another kid. She says hi.

[heart emoji]
still can't get over you being in a band with your ex and her new girlfriend. you're such a grown-up

I'm surprised too, LOL, but it's going really well. We almost have a whole album now.

crazy!!!!
don't forget us when you're famous

I won't ;)
Actually, I have something else to tell you...

????

As of two minutes ago, I have officially applied to social work school.

omg!!!! r u serious

Yes!! I was going to send this to the group:

A photo appears of Elodie's "Your application has been submitted" browser page – and then a selfie of her making an exaggerated yeeeahhhhh! face. The sight fills Tabitha with warmth and peace. Elodie's doing so well.

They text a while longer, until Elodie, in Portland, has to go make a (late) dinner, and Tabitha realizes it's almost midnight. She sends her parents a quick update – all moved in! everything went fine. love you both – before passing out.

Moe doesn't reply to the group chat until midafternoon the next day. Holy shit! How did I miss these??? pops up on Tabitha's phone while she's drafting a press release, and without meaning to she rolls her eyes. No one actually "misses" texts, she thinks, but never says, whenever Moe goes radio-silent for a couple of days. But maybe she's just being petty. Elodie doesn't seem to mind, but then, she and Moe talk more.

Tab – looks great! Love what you've done w the place ha ha
El – fuck yeah girl! Congratulations

Tabitha waits, but that's it, apparently. A heart reaction pops up from Elodie on the second message. Tabitha hesitates, finally clicks "HA HA" on the one above it – then goes back to work, almost wishing Moe hadn't responded at all.

*

It didn't happen all at once. It happened like the tide going out, so slow you don't notice until you do. One late text back, two calls unreturned...and then months at a time without really catching up, until Christmas or spring break rolled around, a glut of days in a row together – on the couch at Moe's mom's old place, usually, Ben and his then-girlfriend-now-fiancée Sarah dipping in and out, supplying snacks.

("Tell me the truth," Moe said, late one night after Elodie had fallen asleep. "Freshman year. Did you and Ben...?" It was Christmas 2023, the first semester Tabitha wasn't in school.

"No. Well – "

Moe groaned.

" – we kissed," Tabitha said, raising her whisper just enough to drown Moe out. "We hung out a couple of times, we talked about if we wanted to, you know, date finally – and then we didn't. I don't know, it just felt...weird. By then."

The house was so quiet, it felt like she could hear the snow coming down outside. Moe was so quiet, Tabitha thought she'd fallen asleep. She pushed herself up on her elbow to look and found Moe staring at the ceiling, her expression hard to read in the light from the window. It made Tabitha feel like she had to say more.

"Anyway, then...you know, a couple months later he met Sarah, and I met Connor. It all worked out. Well – for them, I mean."

"Right," said Moe, her face unchanged. "I just wondered, that's all.")

At first, whenever Moe bailed on a FaceTime, she'd always reschedule sooner or later. But then "sooner" became mostly "later," and Tabitha got tired of making excuses – it's the end of the semester / she's going through a lot with Noah Jacqui Ethan her dad / she's just really swamped with grad school applications – and by the time she flew home to attend Elodie and Moe's graduations, it'd been months since she and Moe had really talked.

And then Moe went to Prague for her Fulbright, and Tabitha was working that horrible job in Midtown, and that entire year was like, if they hadn't had the group text, they wouldn't have talked at all.

Anyway, maybe it's just like Moe to come and go, but Tabitha never sees it coming, and this is no exception. She's out grabbing lunch on a normal day at the end of August, and it comes up on her phone: a text from Moe. A photo.

It's a slightly dusty shelf somewhere, several old Polly Pockets standing open, their contents arranged in little scenes.

Miss you.

*

She walks all the way back to her office before responding, rewriting the whole time in her head: every variation on awww and wow, talk about #tbt and where are you? and i miss you too.

In the end she sends: omg! no mini mall escape?? and where are you?

Moe writes back quickly, to Tabitha's surprise: Guess they're not as cool as we were!!
And: Vintage toy store
And: Our polly pockets are vintage now doesn't that make you wanna die

yes [sobbing emoji], Tabitha writes back, then tucks her phone away for the daily staff meeting. When the meeting's over, she's surprised to find another two messages from Moe waiting:

How have you been
Let's catch up soon. I mean it

Tabitha hesitates, then responds: when?

*

They schedule a FaceTime for that Saturday morning. When Moe texts at 10:58 AM, Tabitha is sure she's bailing. But it's just, Need 5 min, I just woke up

Oh, right, Tabitha remembers – she's three hours behind again.

And then Moe's there, tousle-haired and familiar, and Tabitha is nervous without knowing why. "Oh my god, it's so bright in your room," she says, laughing, and Moe grins.

"LA, baby. It's like a fucking oven in here in the afternoon, but sunshine is good for your health or whatever, so."

"Leaving your PNW roots behind already, wow."

"You should talk. Every time I see you it's like, hello New York magazine girl."

There's an odd pause. Tabitha can't remember when she last saw Moe in person – it's been over a year. She knows Moe and Elodie saw each other, over the summer for a week or two after Moe got back from Prague but before she started school, but Tabitha had a work thing and couldn't go home to hang out.

"Fair enough," she says, trying to keep it light. "I guess that just leaves El."

"Sunrise, sunset. Once the new girl, now the only real Portlander among us. Can you believe they're going to make an album, by the way?"

"No. I thought that band thing was like...guaranteed disaster."

"Seriously. I know I couldn't work with any of my exes. Well, maybe Noah. If I wanted to be an on-the-ground do-gooder."

"How is Noah?"

"Good! Did you see he's in Cuba?"

"Yeah! I messaged him on Insta asking what he was doing there and he never replied."

"Oh, ha – " Moe launches into an explanation of Noah's latest nonprofit gig, which makes Tabitha a little wistful – she still clearly talks to him regularly – but from there the conversation turns to updates on their parents, and how's grad school so far, and then they're giving each other tours of their apartments – Tabitha catches a glimpse of Moe's roommate Ryan, slouching around –

and she doesn't even realize how much time has passed until it's almost 2 PM and she's starving. "I guess I have to go make lunch," she says, kind of wishing she didn't.

"Okay," says Moe, grinning.

"But – um – we should do this again sometime. I mean, soon."

"Next weekend?" Moe says, and maybe Tabitha looks surprised, because Moe gets a look – guilty, or sheepish, maybe. "I'm really trying to be better."

"Sure, next weekend," Tabitha agrees. They hang up, and Tabitha means to go straight into the kitchen and make lunch, but she doesn't. She just sits, the phone still in her hand, smiling.

*

Maybe it's because Moe's still getting settled at UCLA, or maybe it really is a change for the better, but they do talk the next weekend, and the weekend after that, and on Tabitha's birthday, which is a Wednesday, and they text through the weeks – and all of a sudden it's early October and Tabitha's checking her phone all the time, once even getting called out on it during a meeting.

"Whatever," she says, telling Moe about it later, laughing.

They're making dinner together – eggplant curry for Tabitha, salmon for Moe from a recipe she found on the internet. Moe holds the camera over the pan so Tabitha can look. "Does that look done?"

"I don't know. Maybe five more minutes? It should look – you know, done."

"Super helpful."

Moe drags a chair over to the stove and, perching on it, leans over her elbows onto the counter to wait. It gives Tabitha the feeling of being extra seen, the way Moe's face pushes in towards the camera. She looks away, stirring the curry.

"You should visit," Moe says, out of nowhere.

"What?"

"Visit me. Here. In LA."

Oh. Tabitha's stomach gives an odd lurch, happy or nervous or somewhere in between. "Okay," she says, shrugging.

"I'm serious. You're bored, I'm cool – " Tabitha rolls her eyes – "there's Columbus Day coming up... Or you could come over Thanksgiving. My mom and Jason are going to be in Montana, so."

"You're serious."

"I just said. Your listening skills could use some work; no wonder you got busted."

*

She has the vacation days, and her current project wraps up right before Columbus Indigenous Peoples' Day anyway, and her dad's always telling her to use his miles, so why not. Why not why not why not, like a loop in her head after she gets off the phone with Moe.

She buys the ticket two days later.

Wait, I'm so jealous! Elodie texts, after Tabitha emails her and Moe the itinerary info.

you should come too :) Tabitha replies, smiling at the thought. just drive down!

LOL it's 14 hours!
Anyway, I'm filling in at SA that weekend.

fine we'll just have to have fun without you

Boooooooooooooooooo [ghost emoji]
Then: I'm glad you guys are talking again.
Then: Not that you weren't talking! But you know.
Sorry, is that weird to say?

There's that feeling again, in the pit of Tabitha's stomach. She doesn't know what it is exactly – not excitement, not quite anxiety.

not weird! idk
i'm glad too [shrug emoji][double pink heart emoji]

*

It's not until she lands at LAX that it re-occurs to Tabitha how long it's been since she and Moe were physically in the same place. She's been seeing Moe's face on her phone at least twice a week – it doesn't feel weird until she's walking down the super-long airport hallway towards the exit, anticipation building in her chest like she's meeting a stranger or arriving in a foreign country.

It's just Moe, she reminds herself, which doesn't seem to help.

It's Moe, standing a little ways off from the crowd, leaning against a pillar, on her phone. Tabitha wants to take a picture of her, an urge for preservation so sharp and sudden she doesn't know what to do with it – and then Moe looks up, breaking the moment.

"Hey!" she says, and they hug, a little awkward. "Come on, uh – I got a plan."

*

They arrive at the Santa Monica Pier just as the sun is setting. It's chilly – way colder than Tabitha expected – the wind whipping Moe's hair around her face. Moe buys two Japa dogs, which turn out to be amazing, and they sit on a bench, watching the Ferris wheel lights change.

"Thanks for dinner," Tabitha jokes, after they've talked about the flight and the weekend's plans and lapsed briefly into silence.

"Thanks for coming to visit." Moe turns her head, just a little, and looks at Tabitha in the Moe-est way, sideways from under her lashes but it feels more direct than if she were staring at her. Suddenly it feels like a hand is squeezing Tabitha's heart.

She looks away, out over the water where the sun is disappearing. "This is really beautiful."

"I thought you'd like it. Kind of...picturesque." Moe shifts slightly in her seat. "I mean, it's totally touristy, but – you're a tourist, I'm practically still a tourist, so..."

"I love it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

*

Ryan is doing a night shift at his lab, coming in and out at odd hours and banging around in the kitchen making chili – so Tabitha sleeps in Moe's room with her. Moe has an early class to TA the next morning. They have breakfast together and then Moe splits, leaving Tabitha wandering around the apartment for at least twenty minutes after she's gone, just soaking it in. A bunch of containers of Ben's novelty snacks, neatly arranged in the kitchen cupboard. A stack of towels behind Moe's bedroom door, the top four newer and plusher than the rest. A framed photo of Vicky and Jason and Moe and Ben and Sarah – Tabitha wonders when it was taken – with an old photo strip of Tabitha and Moe and Elodie tucked along one edge.

"I have some PS5 games, if you wanna play while I'm gone," Moe said, over breakfast. Then: "Never mind. Just remembered who I'm talking to. Maybe you can bum around Westwood?"

So Tabitha does, browsing Paper Source and popping into a CVS, picking up postcards for Elodie, her mom, Miranda. When Moe gets back, they go out for lunch and groceries, then put things away very quietly, so as not to disturb Ryan. Moe makes mimosas ("I mean, you're on vacation."), and they tiptoe into her bedroom to drink them. It makes Tabitha feel about fourteen, evokes the memory of sneaking champagne from her parents' brunches. Except she and Moe had stopped being friends, by then.

After a while, she persuades Moe to teach her to play Baldur's Gate, which isn't actually that fun, but it's kind of fun with Moe lying next to her, that intent look on her face so familiar, though she was never into video games when they were kids. "Jacqui and I used to play this all the time," she explains, when Tabitha asks. "This was all hers – she gave it to me when she got the PS6."

Tabitha only met Jacqui once, though she and Moe dated for almost two years, on and off. Moe was still having a lot of Noah relapses at the time, and Tabitha had been kind of Team Noah by default. Elodie had been more diplomatic, though she admitted privately to not really liking Jacqui. Tabitha used to wonder sometimes if that was part of why Moe had stopped talking to her as much – about her love life, anyway. Not that it matters anymore.

"Wow, you are really bad," Moe says, and she scoots over, putting her hands over Tabitha's on the controller. Her palms are very warm.

"Ow," Tabitha says, when Moe's thumb presses down too hard, and Moe lets go, laughing.

"Sorry."

Tabitha pushes the controller aside, letting the game play on. Her little person gets walloped immediately, in her peripheral vision. Moe reaches for the controller without looking, hits pause.

"Sorry, but I don't think I'm going to ask you to join my party permanently."

"No?"

"Definitely not."

There are things about Moe that Tabitha forgot. How she was fun, always basically, without trying. How sometimes, just for a second, it was impossible to know what she was thinking. How she could laugh at you, or look at you like she was laughing at you, and it just felt like – love.

It's that exact look Moe has now, easy and jokey and a little obnoxious, and Tabitha shouldn't be surprised to find herself grinning back. They're close enough to kiss, their hands almost touching, their knees almost touching. Tabitha feels dizzy.

"You okay?" Moe asks, frowning, and the moment is broken.

"Yeah," Tabitha says quickly, half sitting up. "I think I need water."

"Sure," says Moe, so normal that Tabitha doesn't know if she just imagined... "Stay, I'll get you some."

Tabitha listens to the sound of Moe in the kitchen and tries very, very hard to breathe.

*

"I want to see your lab. Is that allowed?"

"No, it's national-security classified."

"What?"

"Kidding. Yeah, sure, you can see the lab. It's not really... I mean, I have to go check on something anyway. You can just come with me."

So they drive slowly through UCLA campus on Sunday, Tabitha's last full day in LA, and Moe keeps looking over, laughing at the way Tabitha lusts after the wide paths and green lawns. It's fun to see a real campus; Parsons was in the city, after all. Moe parks in a big lot outside the engineering building, and leads Tabitha through a labyrinth of quiet halls into a still, shiny room full of futuristic-looking equipment. "I can smell the science," Tabitha says, making Moe roll her eyes.

There's an ease to the way Moe moves around the place, a sureness to her hand as she checks on her work that makes Tabitha feel wistful. Like Elodie and her outreach stuff and her music – this is Moe's space, where she belongs.

"What?" says Moe, narrowing her eyes suspiciously, and Tabitha jumps, caught.

"Nothing. I'm just... I'm really proud of you, Moe."

Moe rolls her eyes. "This isn't anything important. It's grunt work."

"Still. You're gonna get your PhD and be a hotshot scientist and I just think...that's really cool."

Moe shrugs but looks pleased all the same. Tabitha expects her to complain about Tabitha being cheesy, but eventually she just says, "Thanks," shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket. "Come on, let's go to In-N-Out."

*

On the last morning, Tabitha wakes up early – like every morning she's been in LA, her body not quite adjusted to Pacific time. Moe is still asleep, her even breathing a little wheezy, not quite a snore, but something. Tabitha's gotten used to the sound, in just a couple of days. She stares at the ceiling and thinks of her own apartment and work and life and wishes she didn't have to go back.

At the airport, they hug for a long time. "Text me when you land," Moe says, like it's 2010.

"I'll text you from the plane," Tabitha corrects.

Moe presses her chin, then her whole face, into Tabitha's neck. "Thanks for coming."

"Thanks for asking me."

On the way to her gate, she browses souvenirs, sweatshirts and pen knives and lame "I left my heart in Los Angeles" magnets. She texts Moe pictures but doesn't buy anything, of course.

Next week a package arrives: a UCLA T-shirt, and a dumb little keychain of the pier. Tabitha rolls it between her fingers, something tight in her chest.

*

She thinks about flying out again for Thanksgiving, but it feels like too much – and she already told her parents she wasn't coming home – and anyway, she promised to catsit for Miranda and Raj. "Come to New York," she suggests on the phone, trying to sound casual.

"I wish," Moe says. "I can't."

"You have too much work?"

"Kind of. But also, you know. Money."

"I could – "

"No." They're not on FaceTime, but Tabitha doesn't need to see Moe's face to know the look. "I mean – thanks," she says, more smoothly, "but that's okay. I'll see you at Christmas."

Tabitha looks up tickets anyway, both ways, leaves the tab open and doesn't close it until two days before Thanksgiving.

*

Moe doesn't come home for Christmas. It ends up being just Tabitha and Elodie, hanging out at Elodie's new apartment, most of the time. Her roommates are gone for the holidays. Twice they have dinner at Elodie's dad's. Spencer is thirteen now, obsessed with videogames despite Doug and Jenna's best efforts. He disappears up into his room as soon as the dishes are done. "You know, I used to come home and like, get so sick of playing board games with him, and now I'm like... 'Hey Spence, do you wanna...get a game of Labyrinth going?' And he's like – " Elodie affects a deep voice – "'Nah.' Bums me out!"

"Now you know how we feel," Doug teases, tousling Elodie on his way to take out the trash. Elodie makes a face at Tabitha, just for show.

"Here," Tabitha says, tugging out her phone for a picture. She puts it in the group chat.

Moe replies quickly: uggghhhhhh. I miss you guys!

Tabitha starts to type, for like the hundredth time that week, you could have come. Then she erases it, also for the hundredth time, and writes, we miss you!! instead.

("I'm really sorry," she said. "Tab? I'm really sorry." It was two weeks before Christmas.

"Okay."

"I just – I have to work. Dr. Choi wants someone to keep an eye on this – thing, and it's just a good opportunity to... Are you so mad?"

"No," Tabitha lied.

"Yes," corrected Moe, immediately.

"I – I'm just, I'm sorry. I thought you were coming home, so I..." But she didn't know what she wanted to say. I'm disappointed? I'm...

"I get it," Moe said, kind of quiet, and suddenly Tabitha felt like she was listening ten times harder than usual, gripping the phone like a lifeline. "I – fuck, I gotta go. I'll talk to you later, okay? I'm sorry.")

They only FaceTime once while Tabitha's home. She's not sure if it's because Moe really is busy, or she feels guilty, or what. It's the morning of the 27th, Tabitha lying on the couch at her mom's latest apartment, Moe curled in her sunny bedroom, duvet pulled up to her chin.

"I really miss you," Tabitha says, without meaning to. "I mean – " I wish you were here.

"I really miss you, too," says Moe, and she sounds like she means it, and she looks like she means it. But...

*

"I don't know why it bothers me so much that she didn't come," Tabitha finally confesses to Elodie, two days later. They're at Elodie's place, popping popcorn (badly) in preparation for a Katharine Hepburn marathon. Elodie's in the middle of googling what they're doing wrong. It takes her a second to pause and look at Tabitha. When she does, something about her face makes Tabitha feel like Elodie knows something she doesn't, like maybe Moe had another reason – which is crazy, but it's how Tabitha's been feeling ever since Moe told her, if she's honest with herself.

"Well," Elodie says slowly, "it's a bummer. I was disappointed too."

"Yeah?" says Tabitha, too quickly.

"Sure. I mean, it would have been nice to be all together."

"Right." Tabitha nods, and moves closer to peer at the corn, which has barely popped at all. "We haven't all been together in forever." That's probably all it is.

*

It's a week before Valentine's Day, and they're on the phone as usual. Moe suggested they watch Divergent, for nostalgia reasons, but then halfway through they both remembered how bad it was, so then they were just talking over it about whatever – how Tabitha wants to get a different job, the latest drama with Moe's lab nemesis, Simon... and then Moe, out of nowhere:

"So are you just like...not dating right now?"

It's stupid, but something about the way Moe asks that, or maybe just the fact that it's Moe asking, makes Tabitha feel defensive. "So?"

"Nothing," Moe says quickly. "I was just wondering. No judgment, I swear."

Tabitha hesitates, tries to remember the last date she went on. It might have been September? "It's not like... I don't know, I guess I'm just taking a break from guys right now."

"...Cool," says Moe, and changes the subject.

But it hangs over Tabitha for the rest of the call, the ease of the evening punctured, until a little after 10:30, when she cuts Moe off mid-story with a lie, saying she has to get up early.

"Oh," says Moe, sounding startled. "Okay. Um...sleep well."

Lately, maybe because they're on the phone so much, she's been saying that sometimes, as well as good night. It curls into Tabitha's ear and lingers there, warm, long after she's gone.

Tabitha goes into the bathroom and brushes her teeth, feeling inexplicably like she might cry. She usually likes to imagine what Moe's doing after they hang up – making dinner, watching TV, grading lab reports – but tonight it feels like pressing on a bruise. She crawls into bed and lies perfectly still, as if, if she's quiet, the truth might be tricked into going away.

*

"I'm going on tour!" Elodie reveals over FaceTime, her face pinched with excitement, two weeks after Tabitha's epiphany. "And...I think you should come with me."

"What?!" says Tabitha, her carefully rehearsed I-need-advice-it's-about-Moe falling out of her brain. "Where? When? And what?"

"Okay. So, Micah's brother has all these connections in London, and like, it's nothing crazy, we'll be touring Europe's absolute smallest venues, and we won't make, like, any money probably, but it's still really cool, and you know I start school in May, so this is probably my best chance to do this, and my dad said he'd help with money, and...I think you should come with us as our photographer!"

"Again, what?!"

"I know you've got stuff in New York, obviously, but you're always talking about wanting to get a different job, and... I know you aren't really doing photography anymore, but I still think you're really good, and – it could be fun! You can hang out, apply for jobs at the same time... Too crazy?"

"I don't know," says Tabitha, stunned. "It's... Well, how long would it be?"

"About two months? Our first show is in mid-March. I think it'll be, like, some opening for Micah's brother's friends, and a couple shows just us or with other bands... Probably a little bit of sightseeing, come home in May right before my classes start?"

"Wow."

"You don't have to – I mean. You can think about it."

"Okay." Tabitha's eyes drift to her camera, languishing on the shelf above her desk. "I'll think about it."

*

Here's the thing: in the timeline of Tabitha's childhood, it's like there's the Tabitha-Moe period, the Tabitha-Brady-Kayla period, and the Tabitha-Elodie-Moe period. And for years, when she let herself think about Moe, she mostly remembered being seven or eight, playing with dollhouses and Polly Pockets and trading sheets of stickers. But since around Thanksgiving, she's started to remember what it was like to be like...eleven. She'd go on vacation with her family somewhere and just text Moe the entire time, all day, nonstop until one of her parents plucked her phone out of her hand and forced her to "enjoy the ambience, please, just for a minute." She would wake up in the morning and check to see if Moe had texted. She would fall asleep at night with her phone in her hand.

I think I'm in love with you, she imagines herself saying, late at night. She turns the words over in her head, opens her mouth to try whispering them – and can't. Even alone in the darkness of her room, she doesn't know how to say it. Maybe it's not even true, anyway. Maybe it's just...

"Hey, are you okay?" Moe says, interrupting Tabitha's mental spin cycle. She doesn't know how Moe can tell she's not listening, when they're not even on FaceTime. "You've been kind of..."

"Sorry – I just got distracted for a second. I got a work email," she invents. "I'm fine."

"Okay." There's a pause. "I've been meaning to ask you, um... We have spring break coming up. I thought maybe I could come and see you."

Tabitha freezes. It's easy to picture; she's been picturing it for months – Moe lying in bed beside her, talking late into the night. Moe slouched over an arm of the couch, working on her computer. Moe with her on the train, in the park, at all her favorite places around the city. A familiar surge of longing wells up, seems to close her throat.

"Tab?" Moe sounds puzzled.

"I..."

"Hey, no pressure. I just thought..." Moe trails off, then starts again, light. "They say everyone should see the Big Apple, but if it's not a good time – "

She doesn't plan to lie. It's just – here's Moe offering to come to New York, a big deal, and after all these months, Tabitha suddenly doesn't know if that's what she wants anymore. So she says:

"Actually, I'm going to be in London."

"What?"

"You know, I... Elodie's tour. She asked if I wanted to go with them, as their photographer."

"Oh. I didn't – "

"I know. I just... I was going to tell you. Tonight."

A long silence. Long enough to make Tabitha regret it; long enough to make her want to say just kidding, never mind, please come –

Then Moe says, "Wow, Tab. That's great," and just like that, it's too late to change her mind.

 

PART TWO: Moe

"She said no?" Noah's voice comes through clearly, though the screen is frozen. Moe can picture him easily, lounging in his bungalow or whatever (just kidding, it's an apartment), his sweet face quizzical. "Are you sure?"

"How could I not be sure?"

The image gutters, snaps back to life. Noah's in his kitchen now too, where the signal is better. "I just mean... She said she didn't want you to come?"

"No... I mean, not exactly. She's going to Europe with Elodie. It's just – it was so weird. She didn't even tell me she was thinking about going."

Noah looks sympathetic. Moe hates that look. She jumps off the counter, pacing her way back into the living room, where she props him up against a box of tissues. "Did you tell her..." He pauses. Moe can feel him choosing his words. "Did you tell her the truth about Christmas?"

"No, of course not. Not after that."

"Moe..."

"I was going to, but now – it's just going to make her feel bad. What's the point? So I skipped Christmas so I could... Whatever, we'll do it another time."

"You could go to London."

"Don't be stupid."

"What's stupid? You're on break anyway."

"I'm not chasing Tabitha to London. End of discussion."

*

Moe doesn't say anything to Elodie about offering to come to New York, and as far as she can tell, Tabitha hasn't mentioned it either. She FaceTimes Elodie the next Saturday – the first time they've gotten to catch up properly since Elodie told them about the tour – and Elodie seems really happy, and Moe is really happy for her – so she doesn't want to be like, hey, you kind of fucked up my plan that I've had since like Thanksgiving.

Anyway, it's only two months. She'll get more time off at the beginning of the summer. She can always go visit Tabitha then, or whatever.

*

It's three days before Tabitha leaves for London, and they haven't really talked in like a week, Tabitha busy getting her apartment ready and stuff. Moe feels like Tabitha's avoiding her, but that's fine, she’s kind of avoiding Tabitha, too.

She doesn't know how to put this feeling into words – is she upset that Tabitha's going, or is it about the fact that Tabitha decided to go without telling her, or is it...

"I don't know! If I knew, I wouldn't need you."

Keiko, her therapist, looks at her evenly. "You and Tabitha have been friends for years. That's a really strong friendship, Moe. I don't think you need to be worried..."

"I'm not worried," Moe lies reflexively.

She's only been working with Keiko since August. Her old therapist in Eugene, Sean, would never have let her get away with that. Keiko takes a different tack, ignoring her interruption. "Can you tell me a little more about Tabitha? How did you meet?"

"I don't know." Keiko looks nonplussed, so Moe elaborates. "I mean, I guess we were just kids, right? We were in the same class. Second grade. I don't... I mean, I remember her, but I don't remember how we met. We just – she liked drawing. She always had the good pens. We'd do each other's names in bubble letters and give them to each other. She made good X's, kind of curly. I used to practice how she did the A's and I's in her name too. Like, she'd always do the dot first on an I or a J."

There's a stain in the carpet, right by Moe's foot. She touches it with the toe of her sneaker, imagines the swoop of a J below it. Keiko says gently, "And you've been friends ever since?"

"Yeah. Well, no, I mean. We stopped for a couple of years. End of middle school, beginning of high school? 'The lost years,'" Moe jokes, but Keiko doesn't laugh. Uncomfortable, Moe hurries on. "And we stopped talking as much for a while, like, in college. My fault."

"What happened?"

"Nothing happened. I just... I was a bad friend. I was really wrapped up in school stuff... She wasn't happy at her school, and I – got flaky, I guess. I didn't mean to, but...you know, it was weird. I was always the screwup, and she was the one who fit in, and I – I didn't know how to be her friend and also..."

"Grow?" Keiko supplies, when Moe doesn't continue.

"Maybe. Also – " She's never admitted this to anyone, not even Elodie. "I think after a while I just felt like – we're going to grow apart anyway; everyone does. I wanted... I think I wanted to be the first to leave."

*

Hey, she texts Tabitha, sitting in her car at the meter outside Keiko's office.
I don't know if I've been acting weird, or if I just feel weird, but I want you to know I'm really glad you're going to London. I'm going to miss you like crazy though, so you have to promise to send a lot of pictures.
I mean like, a LOT of pictures.

She puts the phone down on her passenger seat and drives back to the lab, and by the time she gets there a response is waiting: i promise, followed by a string of heart emojis.

I love you, she writes back.

A typing bubble appears, then disappears, then reappears. i love you too.

*

Tabitha is as good as her word. She sends pictures every day for four weeks: of each venue, of Elodie and the band, of her and Elodie out sightseeing. Post-Prague, Moe's been to most of the places, but she still feels a pang at some of the pics – the two of them grinning at clubs and cafés, visiting landmarks all over Europe. It reminds her of being a kid, when Tabitha would go to, like, Paris with her parents – a sharp flashback to that left-behind jealousy, now laced with something else, too.

They talk less and less, which – it's not like Moe expected anything different, what with time zones. By the time she gets home from school or the lab most days, it's the middle of the night in Europe. Sometimes, if she stays up late, Tabitha will wake up and text back. On those nights Moe wants to just hit call, wants to see the latest place they're crashing, wants to say anything and hear Tabitha laugh. But she doesn't.

wish you were here, Tabitha texts occasionally.

Me too, Moe replies, like clockwork.

*

School is going well. About a month after Tabitha leaves, Dr. Choi calls Moe into his office and offers her the research apprenticeship she's been jockeying for with Simon. Her friends take her to lunch to celebrate. Moe takes a picture of the bougie food and sends it to Tabitha: I'm at a restaurant you would love.

When the meal is over, she checks her phone and sees Tabitha's hearted the photo. On a whim, hyped up and feeling reckless, she tries calling. No answer, which makes sense. It's like 10:30 at night over there.

Twenty minutes later, Tabitha calls back. Moe ducks into the hallway to take it, her heart pounding. "Hey," Tabitha says in her ear, sounding like she's half-shouting to be heard. Moe hastily taps her volume down. "What's up? Everything okay?"

Immediately Moe wishes she hadn't called. Hearing Tabitha's voice makes her feel a thousand times further away. The noise of the club coming through the phone is jarring, out of place, disorienting in the quiet Boelter hallway. And her news feels boring suddenly. Irrelevant. Small.

Moe hates feeling small.

"Moe? Can you hear me?" Tabitha sounds confused, worried. "Hey, shhhh, I can't – Moe?"

"Hi," Moe manages, swallowing down the press of frustration. "I wanted – "

"What?"

"Never mind," Moe says, pitching her voice louder. "I'll call you later."

"Okay," Tabitha says, or at least that's what it sounds like. A tide of cheering fills Moe's ear. The band going on, or a band going on, anyway.

Moe hangs up and goes back inside.

I wanted to tell you, she tries to write, back at her seat in the lab. She hesitates, then moves to the group text: Guess what? Delete. Cool thing just happened – Delete.

When she goes back to her Tabitha thread, Tabitha's typing. She types for what seems like forever, before finally sorry, it's so loud here arrives.

Moe stares at it. No worries! she types quickly, as if that speed will help her outrun her feelings.

*

She wakes up the next morning to several texts from after she went to sleep:

hey [heart emoji] [sun emoji] are you up?
i'm really sorry about last night
maybe we could facetime you this weekend?? let me know ur schedule
[heart emoji]
[kissy face emoji]

Something about all the emojis makes Moe feel sick, though it wouldn't have five weeks or even days ago. Don't bother, she finds herself typing before she's even really thought about it. She pushes the phone aside, takes a breath, and deletes. Yes please, she writes back instead. Any time on Saturday works

*

It's funny (not) how you can want someone so badly, and spend so much time waiting for them to be there, and then kind of hate them when they actually show up. Also funny (like a heart attack or an earthquake is funny, probably) how you can be just dying for someone to care about you, and then immediately do everything in your power to drive them away.

Sometimes people deserve that shit (her dad, Jacqui circa 2022), and sometimes they don't (Noah, Jacqui circa 2024).

Tabitha suggests 10 AM Moe's time on Saturday, then bails at the last minute – i'm really sorry, they just changed the schedule – which sucks, but is not her fault, not really.

At least, that's what Moe tries to tell herself.

Tabitha finally calls near midnight on Sunday, which is "early" Monday morning for them – concert lifestyle and all that. She's in a sunny bright apartment in Rome that Moe's never seen before; the last few days she's been scrolling quickly through the pictures, or not even looking at them. Elodie is there too, their happy faces pressing into the frame, and Moe keeps up a cheery tone pretty well for the first fifteen minutes. She hears about the band, the tour, how Rae and Micah are competing to find the best cheap wine in Europe... She tells them her news, finally. It feels anticlimactic after all these days – she wishes she'd just texted it – but they both act very impressed.

"Moe, Moe, Moe, Moe," Elodie chants, doing a little side-to-side dance.

Tabitha looks into the phone, her face glowing. She is so beautiful it hurts – this has always been true, as long as Moe can remember, since they were little, little kids. "Moe, seriously, that's incredible," she says, and suddenly she feels close enough to touch.

Love is horrible. It's trash. It's awful to feel like nothing is real unless you can tell one person about it. It's stupid to miss someone when you still technically talk every day. And it's pointless, when you know they'll never feel the same way.

"Hey, I have to go," Elodie says. She leans in towards the phone, Tabitha tilting it to better include her. "Love you, Moe. Congrats on the apprenticeship."

Moe swallows. "Thanks, boo. Go do your rock star things."

Elodie makes a fond face at her, and goes. Tabitha stays. An odd silence stretches between them, like the distance manifesting itself all of a sudden. Moe's never missed anyone like this, besides maybe her dad. Probably the last time she came close...it was also Tabitha. Suddenly she doesn't want to be there anymore, wants to just hang up and leave.

"I should probably – " Moe says, just as Tabitha says something, too.

"What?"

"I said – what did you say?"

"I – " Tabitha shrugs, looking faintly sheepish. "I said it's good to see you."

"Oh."

"We miss you. I mean. I miss you."

Moe knows her line: I miss you too. But something keeps her from saying it. "I'm very missable," she says instead, trying to joke. "But hey, it looks like you guys are having a great time."

"I'm sorry about Saturday."

"It's cool."

"You're mad."

"I'm not."

"Okay," says Tabitha, with obvious skepticism.

"I'm not mad. I'm just..." Moe feels hot all over. "I'm over it."

"Over what?"

You. Us. This. "Nothing. I..." Tabitha's face is wary, unsure. Moe is sick of pretending. "Whatever this is," she says, the words tearing themselves free.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Tabitha says. Her eyes go down and her chin goes up, classic Tabitha Foster blowing someone off.

"Fine. Great. That's fucking perfect then."

"Moe – "

"Have a good rest of your trip."

 

PART THREE: Tabitha

"Wait – " she says, but Moe probably doesn't even hear her. She's gone.

*

Elodie finds her an hour later, sitting on the floor at the foot of her bed. If it were Moe, she'd say, what are you, being sad in a movie? or something like that. But it's Elodie, so she just comes and sits down beside her. "Everything okay?"

"Great," Tabitha says, with dull sarcasm. She's just been replaying and replaying it: I'm over it. Whatever this is. The hard edge in Moe's voice when she hung up.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

"Okay," says Elodie. She offers a hand, and Tabitha takes it, and they just sit, for a while.

*

Tabitha expects Moe will wake up having calmed down, that one or both of them will apologize, that maybe they'll even talk about it. I don't know what you're talking about. She shouldn't have said it, not like that. She'll apologize for that, at the very least, when Moe is ready to talk.

But she and Elodie go out for the afternoon, morning in California comes and goes, and – nothing. Tabitha sends a couple of pictures before she goes to sleep, a peace offering, which Moe ignores. The next day, same. The next day, same.

So on the fourth day she stops herself, sends nothing, feeling simultaneously guilty and defiant. That night the band plays a club in Trastevere. Micah goes to bed after, but Elodie, Rae, and Tabitha stay up in the kitchen of the AirBnB, polishing off a bottle of grappa. Tabitha doesn't even really like grappa, but when in Rome, literally.

Rae is talking about her first girlfriend. "I mean, you guys know I love Micah, they're the one. But I really think there's more than one perfect person out there for everyone, don't you? And then it's just about timing. Being in the right place or the right situation..."

"I totally agree," says Elodie. "I mean – like, you and I were so wrong for each other" – Rae laughs, good-natured – "but some of my other exes were right, I think, or they could've been."

"Who?" says Tabitha, swiveling to stare at Elodie. Elodie slides down in her seat, self-conscious, a smile playing around her mouth. Rae starts to giggle.

"No one," says Elodie.

Tabitha looks at Rae. She totally knows. "I'm gonna guess."

"Okay," says Elodie, still smiling.

"What about you, Tabitha?" Rae intervenes. She leans over, pouring the last drops of the bottle into Tabitha's cup. "Any ones who got away?"

"No," says Tabitha, truthfully. "I don't think I've ever been with someone who was...right."

"I can confirm that," says Elodie, and then, "Sorry," when Tabitha shoots her a look. "I didn't mean... You've dated some decent guys."

"Thanks."

"I just meant, you've never seemed super happy with any of them. Not like you were unhappy, just – "

"It's okay," Tabitha says. "Not offended." She reaches over to give Elodie a hug, wondering if she's right. She always thought she was happy, at the time. But sometimes she wonders if she still hasn't shaken the habit of pretending; maybe she's done it so much she doesn't know how to be happy for real.

Well. Except with Elodie and Moe.

*

A week and a half after the fight, if you can even call it that, with Moe, Tabitha does one last stupid thing: she tries to kiss Elodie.

They go out dancing in Milan. Tabitha's ready to forget; she flirts with whoever and dances until it hurts and winds up almost crying in the bathroom, so – college, basically.

"I'm not even that drunk," she says to Elodie, unsure if it's true. They leave Rae and Micah and go back to Micah's brother's friend's cousin's place – seriously, it's something like that, but Tabitha doesn't remember – and Elodie crawls in bed with her, like old times.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." She really is sobering up now, and wishes she weren't. That hollow feeling she's been trying to get rid of is back with a vengeance.

That's why she does it, a moment of insanity, of desperation to make that feeling go away. Or maybe it's because Elodie seems to have the hang of happiness, she thinks after six weeks of watching her at it, and Tabitha could stand to have some of that rub off on her.

Elodie pulls back so quickly that their lips barely touch, so quickly that Tabitha is a little offended. "Whoa," Elodie says, on a nervous laugh. "What was that?"

It takes Tabitha a second to process. "Sorry – I don't know why I – "

"It's okay." Elodie puts her hand on Tabitha's shoulder, steadies her in every sense of the word. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about...anything?"

Tabitha looks at Elodie, at her open, understanding face, and wants to burst into tears. "I don't know what I want."

"Okay. That's okay, too."

*

Danny officially went to prison on the second day of eighth grade, the same week Tabitha got her first real boyfriend. It had been a weird summer already after he got arrested again, Moe alternately moody and distant, wanting to talk about it and not wanting to talk about it, ditching Tabitha to hang out with Ben's friends at the park. ("What do you do there?" Tabitha would ask, curious and jealous, and Moe would tell her about trying beer/weed/cigarettes for the first time. "Wow," Tabitha would say, and Moe, shrugging impressively, would admit it was gross. Tabitha wanted to come, see it for herself, but Moe said no. "I don't know, you probably shouldn't.") Meanwhile her mom kept pressuring her to "make some new friends," taking her to the club, introducing her to people. ("Is it, like, totally boring there?" Moe would ask, lying on the floor, their legs kicked up side by side against Tabitha's bed. Tabitha shrugged. "No, it's okay.")

She and Moe have never talked about how that all went down, in the end. At thirteen, she felt totally in the right – it wasn't her fault Moe's family was falling apart, and it wasn't her fault she had a boyfriend and Moe didn't, and Moe could've kept hanging out with Tabitha, but she didn't want to. I hate those jerks, she'd say all the time, which Tabitha didn't think was fair. Nick and his friends were nice; it was Moe who was being weird. You're just jealous, Tabitha remembers saying in the heat of their biggest fight, the worst thing she could've said. You've turned into such a bitch, Moe retorted, without missing a beat.

They did apologize to each other. They made up, but they were never the same. By Christmas, they were barely talking. Tabitha went to Aspen with her parents, and when she came back, they were no longer friends.

*

"Do you think I'm in love with Moe?"

They're back in London, down to the last two shows. Elodie's chilling at the kitchen table, texting, and looks up in surprise. She hesitates. "Um. Do you think you're in love with Moe?"

Tabitha rolls her eyes, comes and sits down next to Elodie, who scoots over wordlessly to share her bench. She puts her phone face down on the table, gives Tabitha her full attention. But Tabitha doesn't know what she wants to say, exactly, still.

"You know," Elodie says carefully, "you don't have to have it all figured out."

Tabitha laughs a little, wry. "My mom's been saying the same thing."

"Whoa. You were talking to your mom about...?"

"No," Tabitha says quickly. "It was about the photojournalism thing. She's reaching out to some friends; going to see if she can get me an informational interview."

"That's cool."

"Yeah." Tabitha stares at her hands. Her nail polish is chipped again; she'll have to fix it later. "It's just, I don't really know if I'm... There was that girl right after I left school – "

"Oh right – "

" – but that was a disaster."

"I remember." Elodie starts to laugh, unable to help herself, it seems.

"Shut up," says Tabitha, but she's laughing, too.

"Well," says Elodie playfully. "You and Moe are already a disaster, so...maybe there's nowhere to go but up?" Tabitha gives her a look. Elodie gives her a look back. "Seriously – you don't have to be gay – or bi, or whatever – and you and Moe... I don't know! Maybe you want to be together, maybe you don't. But you have to talk to each other at least, sooner or later." She eyes Tabitha, for the first time seeming worried. "Right?"

 

PART FOUR: Moe

The text comes in in the late afternoon, Moe's phone buzzing in her pocket while she's in the middle of setting up a trial. She thinks it'll be an email, or one of her friends from college, and isn't remotely prepared to see Tabitha's name on the screen.

are you ever going to talk to me again?

It's the first thing Tabitha's sent with actual words since before that shitty call. She sent some pictures, like, the day after, but Moe was still too mad then. For days, she was too angry, and ashamed of herself, and –

hurt? supplies the voice inside her that sounds like Noah, whenever she lets her guard down.

Anyway, she thinks, dropping into her desk chair and staring at the text, she didn't really mean to fuck off and go MIA for three weeks. It was just, she wanted to be honest, and then she didn't, and then she kept making excuses to herself like, "maybe some space would be good."

I'm sorry, she texts back after about ten minutes, wavering over whether to add a heart emoji and ultimately deleting it.

i'm flying back to new york this weekend.
can we talk?

*

FaceTime rings at 8 AM on Sunday, on the dot. It gives Moe déjà vu to, like, November. She's been up for an hour already, her heart feeling the whole time like it was racing, which is probably a sign she's dying.

"I shouldn't have freaked out on you," she says, as soon as Tabitha appears on screen, before she can get sidetracked or lose her nerve. "I'm really sorry."

"I'm sorry too." Tabitha looks relieved, and nervous. It's nice to see her back in the familiar New York apartment; Moe's eyes automatically track over her prints hanging in the background.

Moe's not as brave as she wants to be; she wants to just cut through all the bullshit and say, did you mean it? or do you really not know I'm in love with you? But now that Tabitha's here, smiling gamely, her face the most familiar thing in the world, what she really wants is for it to be easy, not awkward, like it was before. "How was your flight? How was the rest of the tour?"

"It was okay! Um. It was good." She pauses. "Tell me about your stuff. Please. Have you started the apprenticeship? Is Simon eating his heart out?"

"Started last week, and yes, I check my coffee for poison every morning."

*

Midmorning, Moe watches as Tabitha migrates to her kitchen area, starts making herself a sandwich. "I had no idea Rome was full of cats, by the way."

"Oh god, didn't I tell you guys about that when I went?! It's an infestation."

*

Near noon, the conversation finally slows, Tabitha seeming to falter in talking about Florence.

"What?"

"Nothing," Tabitha says, and then, "Well, it was right after Rome, so – it kind of sucked."

"I'm sorry," Moe says again, and she really is. "I felt – "

"It's okay," Tabitha interrupts. "I get it. I think."

"I really want us to stay friends," Moe says, everything coming out in a rush. "Like – forever. You're like – the most important to me. I never want to fuck that up again."

"I know," Tabitha says quietly. "Me too."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Tabitha hesitates, an odd undecided look on her face. Then: "Well – I'm back now. If you still want to come to New York sometime...I'd really like that."

Moe almost says yes. She wants to say yes. But after days and days of not talking, though it's a relief to be okay again... "I don't know," she says, feeling vulnerable just saying the words. "I mean – sometime, for sure. But now's...probably not a good time."

"Okay," says Tabitha, looking a little crestfallen.

*

Moe has two weeks off in June, during which she had thought, back in March, she would visit Tabitha if she was back. Instead, she goes up to Portland to see her mom and Elodie.

Elodie pulls up to Moe's mom's new place, jumps out of the car with the engine practically still running, and gives her a huge hug. "Ngggggh," Moe says, squeezing her hard. "I missed you."

"I missed you, you goober."

"I'm sorry I've been such a shitty friend the past few...I don't know, weeks? Months?"

Elodie shrugs, somehow forgiving Moe and not denying it in the same gesture. "Are we making or ordering pizza? I'm starving."

They compromise: frozen cheese pizza from the freezer plus extra homemade toppings. Elodie stands at the stove, caramelizing onions for like half an hour while Moe watches. "You're such a grown-up," Moe jokes. "I still eat Cup Noodles like three times a week."

"We were terrible in Europe," Elodie says, grinning. "But now that I'm back I have time, sort of, and my roommate's a really good cook, so..."

"Selena?"

"Cody."

They sit down to wait for the pizza to bake, and Elodie tells Moe about social work school – she's started classes already, the second they got back from tour, from the sound of it. "Awesome. All online?"

"Yeah." Elodie smiles. "I wanted to stay close. You know I ended up hating that one year I was in Albuquerque. Maybe eventually I'll move away again, but..." She shrugs.

"Can't miss out on Spence and his teen 'tude."

"Pretty much."

"So what else is going on? Any sexy hookups in Europe? A Parisian mademoiselle? A Scottish lass?" Moe leans in, trying to waggle her eyebrows; Elodie, laughing, ducks away.

"Stop it, you. We didn't even go to Scotland."

Moe narrows her eyes. "There is someone! Who??"

"I..." Elodie blushes, unmistakably. "Do you remember Jillian?"

"From high school? Sure."

"I'm visiting her in Austin in a couple of weeks."

"What." The table wobbles under Moe's enthusiastic slap, almost upending their beers.

Elodie, grinning, waves one hand at Moe to calm her down, reaches out with the other to rescue her drink. "I don't really know if it's anything yet, but...we started talking again when she was home for Christmas."

"You sneak! Wait, does Tabitha know?!"

"No. Not about Austin, yet."

"Well, okay. I feel a little better." Moe gets up to check on the pizza, processing. "That's cool, though. You're going to just...go to Austin and see what happens?"

"Uh...pretty much!" Elodie looks shockingly cheerful.

"Big swing." Moe is stressed just imagining it. "Good for you, though. We always liked Jillian."

"I know." Elodie shrugs, smiling down at her beer. "What about you? Are you ever going to talk to me about you and Tabitha, or am I going to have to keep pretending I don't know?"

Busted. Moe leans against the counter and sucks a breath in through her teeth. "There's nothing to tell."

"Why aren't you in New York, like, right now? I thought that was basically the point of skipping Christmas."

"It was, but it wasn't like...a romantic thing. Well, I don't know – maybe I thought it was going to be. Maybe I just..." Hoped. "It was stupid. She doesn't feel the same way, or at least she doesn't want to admit it if she does."

Elodie leans back in her chair, scrutinizing Moe. "You'll never know unless you try. You don't have to fly to New York, but you should at least tell her. Give it a shot. You'll always regret it if you don't."

"You know, people are always saying that, but – I'm pretty sure I'd regret ruining our friendship more." Moe looks up, meeting Elodie's eyes, and gestures between them an invisible triangle. "This – I don't think I could handle it if I ruined this."

"Oh, come on."

"What?"

"You're just scared. Which is fine, but..." Elodie pushes her chair out and comes over to Moe by the oven. Moe expects her to peer in at the pizza, but instead she takes Moe by the shoulders and looks her in the eye like a stern headmistress. "I would never let you ruin this. And I don't think Tabitha would either."

*

Hey, does that offer to visit still stand?

*

She lands at JFK at 8:33 PM on Friday. After Tabitha, she texts Elodie (of course), her mom (who took it like a champ when Moe announced suddenly she was going to New York), and Ben (who lent her $200 so she could buy the ticket).

The train ride to Tabitha's place in Brooklyn takes almost an hour, which gives Moe plenty of time to psych herself up – or psych herself out, as it were. Tabitha offered on the phone to pick her up, but given her lack of car, it was a very metaphorical offer. And Moe kind of wanted this time to prep, though she now kind of regrets that.

On the train. Help, she texts Elodie, feeling pathetic.

You got this!!!!
[heart emoji]

*

Tabitha meets Moe in the lobby of her building looking like, well, Tabitha. Maybe she's somehow gotten even hotter since October – wouldn't put it past her – or maybe Moe's just forgotten what it's like to see her in person. Even for Tabitha, she looks especially good. Moe has the feeling she might have made an effort.

"Hi," she says, her smile almost shy. "Um. The elevator's..."

"Okay." Moe is very conscious of her plane hair and the fact that she must look even more regular-whatever-person next to Tabitha than usual. They don't hug.

They ride up to Tabitha's floor making small talk, Moe joking about the flight, Tabitha vaguely talking about her day temping at some law firm – then lapse into silence as the elevator doors open. Moe follows Tabitha down the hall and into the studio, which she's seen so many times on FaceTime, but never in person. Tabitha shoos Moe towards the couch, approximately two feet away, and shuts the door behind them.

"Wow, it's..."

"Tiny, I know." Tabitha is watching her, smiling faintly but looking extremely nervous. So nervous that Moe feels marginally calmer.

"It's, um. Cool to be here. Finally."

"Do you want a drink? I could make – "

"Yes. Please. Anything."

Tabitha grins.

*

Alcohol helps – a lot. Tabitha brings the whole margarita pitcher over and sets it on the floor next to the couch, and they sit facing each other, not quite close enough to touch. The pitcher is about a third gone when Tabitha finally says, "So why did you change your mind?"

"About coming? I just realized I was being..." Moe takes a breath. The train ride, the entire flight and three days before it in Portland to prepare, and she still doesn't know where to start. "Our fight," she says finally. "When I said I was over this, and you said you didn't know what I was talking about..."

Tabitha flinches; the look on her face is suddenly very fragile. "I'm sorry."

"Did you mean it?"

"No." Tabitha looks down at her hands. "Did you mean it?"

"No." Moe kind of laughs; the truth falls out of her easily, after all this time. "I always want to be over you, but I never am. It's kind of the worst."

Tabitha doesn't laugh. She looks up, her face full of hope. "I think – " She swallows. "I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you."

"Okay. That helps a little."

"Moe." Tabitha gives her a look, a reproachful eyeroll, if that's a thing. "Can you be serious?"

Moe is so happy she can feel it in her chest like a tangible thing, expanding at a definitely unsafe rate.

"Probably not," she says honestly, and kisses her.

*

Three hours later:

"So... Do you want to text Elodie first, or should I?"