Some days, Ally woke up thinking she was still in the house with Matthew. It wasn’t all the time, like back when she had first moved in with Caz—just another bed, another Craigslist ad, all she cared about was that the apartment was close enough so that she and Matthew could still shuttle the dog back and forth; then the dog died—and she woke up hazy and warm, turned to Matthew, and found only a wall. Then came the crying, or what Caz called “the siren” because you never knew how long it was going to last.
Now, Ally never cried. But she did suffer from an occasional morning illusion that she was in the double bed down the street with the hanging plants and terra-cotta-hued waffle-cotton blanket and the faded rug designed to look like a checkerboard in use. Matthew had that perfect millennial-quirky-taste thing down pat—he never selected an item that didn’t perpetuate the narrative—and it was one of the many ways he made Ally feel like she was finally winning life.
Their mornings together had been ritualistic. He made the coffee (pour-over, of course) and brought it to bed. When she finally thawed, she would make four fried eggs and sourdough toast, smash an avocado or grill a tomato, bring it to the bed on a tray and then finish the majority of it while Matthew scrolled social media. (It took her years to notice that as he did, he got perpetually angrier, his fists tightening, three more cups of coffee as he paced, ranting about lives that weren’t his.) He had a hard streak of savage jealousy and unnecessary judgment. Maybe envy was the only thing that could really inspire a pristinely stylish home.
But, try as she might, their home was the only one Ally could picture. She had no other frame of reference. Which is why, despite its more distressing points, Ally could imagine no other form of cozy. She was working on it.
But this morning, when she awoke into a sense of sleepy romanticism, Matthew was not on her mind, even though it took a few breaths for her to remember what she was so glowy about. Then she noticed she was wedged close to the wall, the side of the bed she tended to avoid. When she turned toward the room she noticed it—Timmy’s tie, hanging over her desk chair. She giggled, then slapped a hand over her mouth, as if this private noise would belie her secret.
The night before, after Timmy had calmed her hives with a bag of ice and laughed at her Hugo-and-Dan triangle saga, they ate Indian with Caz and watched half of The Long Goodbye on cable (Caz had never seen it and quickly announced that it was “boring AF”). Then Caz fell asleep on the couch and Ally guided her to bed, kissing her on her eyelids and asking her how her night was, really, really.
“I have a secret,” Caz whispered. “I like Timmy.”
“Really?” Ally asked. “But you usually go for these Laguna Beach blondes with the frilly bikinis. Timmy looks like…”
“A dude?” Caz asked, pulling her T-shirt off to reveal an Adidas sports bra. (Caz’s boobs were shockingly big, and she claimed that taking off her sports bra made her feel like “an old, old mom.”) “God, Ally, you’re so basic,” she laughed. “It’s possible for two girls who dress like boys to fall in love, ya know. And anyway, Timmy isn’t a girl.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Ally smiled. “I love this. I love that you’re feeling good enough to have a crush.”
And she meant it. Ally meant it with every bone in her body. So how, then, had Timmy ended up sitting on the edge of her bed? She knew, technically, it was because she had offered to show them her first-edition Dr. Seuss book, the one she’d found at the street fair in London and that her ex had bought for her, even thought it cost almost 300 pounds. Now the paper was crisp and yellowing, but she still looked at it almost every night, running her fingers over the fuzzy people and ocean waves and tiny foods.
“Shit,” Timmy nodded, looking at the book. “This is magical.”
“It makes me feel simultaneously two and one hundred,” Ally said. “Like I’ve seen everything and know nothing. Or something.” They laughed.
“I think feeling like a kid is the most important thing that we can hope for,” Timmy said. “It’s why I dress like a sophisticated nine-year-old. I never want to stop.”
“I love that kids have instincts.” Ally was fully turned to Timmy now, her left knee tucked up under her butt, gesticulating wildly as she was wont to do when she was making a point that felt undeniable. “Like, when you’re a kid you know what you want. You say no when you need to. How have I grown into my almost mid-30s and I have less of a sense of my own desires than I did as a seven-year-old?”
“Do you feel like you say yes when you mean no?” Timmy asked, pulling their jacket off and rotating their narrow but strong shoulders.
“Um, yes,” said Ally.
“And do you end up places you don’t want to be?”
“No,” they said, staring at Ally like she was a fascinating plant or insect. “Okay, why don’t we try an exercise? Why don’t I ask you questions, yes or no, and you have to really, really focus on answering with your gut. No need to answer fast. Just truthfully.”
“Into it,” Ally smiled, settling back on the bed, head on her pillow.
“Did you have a good day?” Timmy started slow.
“Do you feel safer now?”
It went on like this for a good long while until the questions shifted. Do you like how I look at you? I do. Yes. Can you tell that I want you? Yeah? Yes. Will you let me kiss you? Um…yes. Can I kiss you harder? Y-yes. If I lay beside you, will you hold me? Yes. If I leave before dawn, can I stay right beside you? Yes.
Reader: Should Ally honor Caz and tell Timmy they can never kiss again? Or does she tell Caz what happened and say she liked it? Vote today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT) on the Vogue Instagram account to determine what happens in Chapter Eleven. Then come back on Monday morning to see what choice Ally makes. If you missed previous chapters, you can find them here.
Originally Appeared on Vogue