“What are they doing?” asks Grayson, gesturing to Ellie and Jules, who are staring deeply into each other’s eyes.
“They’re reading each other’s minds,” says Andy, as he takes a bite of his sandwich.
“Wait, what?” said Grayson. “I’m sorry: what?”
“They do this fairly often,” Bobby says. “I’m surprised you haven’t noticed it before.”
“The eyes are the windows to the soul,” agrees Laurie, as she looks up from the strand of hair she is inspecting for split-ends. “I’ve never tried it, though. I don’t want Ellie in my head.” She visibly shudders.
“You don’t seriously expect me to believe they’re reading each other’s minds,” says Grayson.
“Fine, don’t believe it,” says Bobby. “But it happens.”
Grayson doesn’t believe it. Because it’s not happening, so there’s nothing to believe.
Still, after Grayson witnesses the same thing the next week, he feels he should speak up.
“Jules,” he says, tentatively. “You know that thing you were doing with Ellie, last week, when you two were looking at each other?”
Jules furrows her brow. “Was that the does-my-butt-look-big-in-this look, or the cute-earrings-are-they-the-ones-your-aunt-gave-you look? Or the where’s-the-small-blue-bowl-you-use-for-nuts look, or the don’t-look-now-but-there’s-Stan’s-old-babysitter-Ellie-I-said-don’t-look look?,” she asks. “Ellie and I exchange a lot of looks, Grayson! You’re going to have to be a little more specific.”
“The one where it looked like you were trying to read each other’s minds?” Grayson says, quickly adding: “But that would be impossible, right?”
He’s relieved when Jules laughs. “That would be ridiculous, Grayson.”
He laughs too. “I know, right!”
Jules continues. “I mean, can you imagine how long that would take? We’d never get anything done.”
Grayson stops laughing. “Wait, what – “
But Jules is still talking. “That’s why we speed-read.”
“We speed-read each other’s minds,” says Ellie proudly.
“I don’t understand,” says Grayson. “You’re going to have to explain it to me again.”
“C’mon, Grayson,” says Jules. “It’s not rocket science.” She pauses. “Or is it? I’ve never been that clear on what rocket science actually is.”
“It’s science. With rockets,” says Grayson.
“That seems a bit too specific, though, doesn’t it?” says Jules. “Why limit yourself? What’s wrong with just being a scientist. I mean, I’m a real-estate agent... I sell houses, not just bathrooms.”
“You can make a lot of money out of bathrooms,” says Bobby knowingly. “Supply and demand.”
“Do you know, in Europe, they charge you to use the bathroom?” Andy says indignantly.
“You’ve never been to Europe,” Ellie says.
“People talk,” he says, cryptically.
“Maybe I should start charging people to use my bathroom,” Jules says.
“No,” everyone choruses, except Ellie, who says “yes!”
They turn to look at her.
“What?” she asks. “Jules wouldn’t make me pay, would you, Jules?”
“Of course not!” says Jules loyally.
“What about me?” Andy asks. “Would I have to pay?”
“You wouldn’t have to pay... much,” Jules hedges, earning an approving smile from Ellie.
Grayson shakes his head back and forth rapidly several times, as if to dislodge something in his ear. “Can we get back to the whole mind speed-reading thing, please?”
Jules takes a sip of wine. “What’s there to get back to?”
“You both realise you can’t actually read each other’s minds, right?”
Jules nods. “Of course not. That would take too long. We think a lot.”
“That’s why we speed-read,” Ellie chimes in, speaking in a tone usually reserved for addressing the very, very young or the very, very old.
Jules nods vigorously. “Like a movie trailer. All the highlights, none of the lengthy exposition.”
“Sounds like Cliff Notes,” says Laurie. “In high school, he was always my favourite author.”
Ellie looks at her for a moment, and, seeing that she’s serious, opens her mouth.
Jules holds out a hand. “You’re better than that, Ellie Torres.”
“No,” says Ellie, “I’m really not.”
Jules shakes her head. “That one’s too easy, even for you.”
Ellie shuts her eyes for a moment, and then opens them and stares directly at Jules. Jules tilts her head to the side, and then nods. “Better,” she says.
“You should go to one of Cliff’s author signings some time, Laurie,” Ellie blurts out.
“Ellie!” Jules says. “I thought we’d agreed on the second version.”
Ellie pouts. “You agreed. I still liked the first one.”
Jules narrows her eyes.
Ellie holds her hand up to her heart. “Ouch,” she says.
Jules looks remorseful but determined. “It had to be said,” she says.
Grayson’s sitting on the couch the next day when Ellie flops down beside him.
“Quit being so jealous,” she says, without waiting for him to say anything.
“I’m not jealous,” he replies automatically. “Wait. Jealous of what?”
“Me and Jules,” she replies.
He laughs a laugh that sounds unnaturally high-pitched. “What should I be jealous of? The fact that my girlfriend has an intensely co-dependent relationship with her best friend which has apparently devolved into the shared delusion of literally being able to read the other person’s thoughts?”
“Pretty much,” Ellie says unrepentantly.
“She thinks about you a lot, you know,” says Ellie, apropos of nothing.
Grayson sighs. “For the last time,” he says, “you can’t actually – wait. Does she?”
Ellie leans back. “Oh, yeah.”
“Did you read about the time that...?”
Ellie nods and gives him a thumbs-up. “Kudos for that, by the way.
Grayson shifts uncomfortably. “Oh.”
Ellie slaps him on the shoulder – hard.
“Ow,” he says.
“You’re not allowed to freak out,” she says.
“I wasn’t freaking out,” he protests.
She flicks the side of his head. “It’s all in here, my friend.”
“Stay out of my head!” he demands.
She pouts. “But it’s so fun in there!”
Jules and Ellie are staring at each other through their windows the next night.
I think we’re going to have to tone down on the whole mind-reading thing, Jules thinks. It seems to freak Grayson out, for some reason. She steps back and Ellie can see Grayson in the background. He’s wearing a hat made out of aluminium foil.
Ellie rolls her eyes. Grayson gets freaked out by spiders.
Okay, in his defence, it was a really big spider!
Ellie narrows her eyes. All I’m saying is, sometimes he really needs to man up.
Jules narrows her eyes right back and casts a speaking look to the next window, where Andy is wearing pink lycra and working out to an aerobics video.
Ellie follows her gaze. Touché, she concedes.
I really love him, Jules thinks to Ellie. Grayson, not Andy. I think this one’s for real, Ellie.
Ellie’s gaze softens almost imperceptibly. Well, duh. I can read your mind, you know. She makes a shooing gesture with her hands. Run along, now. Insecure people always need to know they’re loved.
Jules nods, and then pauses. You I know I love you too, right?
Ellie tilts her head. I’m sorry, didn’t we just go over this: mind-reader, remember?
Jules smiles knowingly at her. It’s still nice to hear, though. Isn’t it?
I’m not insecure, Ellie lies stubbornly.
Jules looks at her fondly, then – duck, she shrieks.
Ellie doesn’t question it, just drops down out of sight beneath the window sill.
“What are you doing?” Grayson asks, coming up behind Jules and leaning in to kiss her neck.
“Nothing,” Jules answers, closing the curtains.
Goodnight, she thinks.