Melly had begun calling Jacklyn to complain about Iggy’s reluctance to date Miles. She did that every once in a while, usually when Iggy had recently done something to annoy Melly. Jacklyn had been listening to Melly complain about Iggy since the science project the two of them had done together in grade ten. According to Melly, Iggy hadn’t taken it seriously enough. Jacklyn was absolutely positive that was the case, which was why she had never willingly partnered on a project with Iggy during the entire time they were at school together. In any case, it wasn’t anything Jacklyn wanted to talk about, especially on what turned out to be a daily basis. She just wasn’t that interested in Iggy’s life in general, especially her romantic, or lack thereof, entanglement with Miles.
“I just don’t get why she won’t give him a chance,” Melly said for approximately the millionth time. Jacklyn was at work, still trying to copyedit a teen romance about drama club nerds and she had lost patience. She wasn’t a very patient person at the best of times.
“It might be because of all the pudding he used to put in her hair,” Jacklyn replied dryly.
“I think he did that because he liked her,” Melly said and Jacklyn rolled her eyes.
“If he had liked her, he shouldn’t have put pudding in her hair,” she countered. “I think he did it because he was fifteen and stupid and she once told their entire grade nine French class that he had a crush on Ms. Hallbury.”
“The librarian with the lazy eye and the mustache?” Melly asked in return.
“Yes,” Jacklyn answered. “According to Iggy, Miles thought she had nice legs.”
“I don’t think I ever saw her in anything but a floor-length peasant skirt,” Melly replied.
“Which really casts a shadow of doubt on the whole thing,” Jacklyn agreed. “And yet, that’s what started the Great Pudding Debacle. I really have to go now. I have a meeting.”
Jacklyn hadn’t gone to a meeting in over three months. She’d lied about attending several over the past week, though. If she was to be believed, she attended roughly four meetings a day. It wasn’t just phone calls from Melly that she had to dodge. She also had to evade lengthy text conversations and Facebook messages and the occasional video call. Those were the worst because she’d also be expected to spend time staring at the baby. There was only so much time Jacklyn could afford to spend looking at someone else’s kid. Madison really wasn’t all that interesting and Jacklyn had things to do, like do laundry and steal her cat back from the guy who lived across the hall.
The guy who lived across the hall was named was Gord and he stole her adopted cat Snib on a near daily basis. The cat wasn’t even Jacklyn’s. He technically belonged to her roommate Stephanie, who had adopted him during a charity drive for the animal shelter. Snib was a little disaster. He was missing an ear and part of his tail. He had twenty-two toes in total; one missing from his back left paw, one extra on his front left paw, and two extra on his front right paw. He sounded like a herd of galloping ponies whenever he ran everywhere. He was so loud that the person who lived in the apartment beneath theirs had called the landlord numerous times to complain about the stomping tenants in the apartment above. It had been very difficult to explain it was all coming from an eleven year old cat.
Jacklyn went over to see Jemima at her desk later in the afternoon, wanting to complain about Melly’s complaining. She saw the irony, but she was choosing to push it aside. Jemima looked up at her like she was emerging from thousands of feet of ocean water. Jemima had a remarkable ability to focus on a single task for an excessive period of time. That made her very good at her job. It also made it look like she had been abandoned at sea for forty years and had forgotten that that earth was inhabited by other humans every time she was interrupted.
“Melly is complaining to me that Iggy doesn’t want to date Miles,” Jacklyn announced, letting out a frustrated sigh.
“Melly needs to get a hobby,” Jemima returned. Jacklyn couldn’t agree more.
When Jacklyn got home from work later that day, Snib was sprawled in the middle of the hallway between her apartment and Gord’s. Gord was sitting in the doorway of his own apartment, reading a book and petting Snib absentmindedly. Jacklyn glared at him on principle. He of course didn’t notice, too preoccupied with his book. He was wearing a Ramones t-shirt that looked like it was legitimately from the 70s. Everything about Gord looked as if it had been taken directly from 1974 and transplanted into the present day. He had a mustache and a weirdly extensive selection of corduroys.
“What are you doing?” Jacklyn demanded after a moment. Gord jumped about a foot in the air, startled by the sound of her voice, and Jacklyn took an immense amount of pleasure in that.
“Jesus Christ, warn a guy,” he returned. “I think I just lost ten years off my life. Fucking hell, you could join a SWAT team with those stealth tactics.”
“I literally just walked over here normally,” Jacklyn replied, rolling her eyes.
“I think I would’ve noticed that,” he protested.
“Clearly not,” Jacklyn said flatly. “Again, what are you doing?”
“Keeping the cat company,” Gord explained, as if it was perfectly logical. “And since you refuse to let him into my apartment, I thought I’d do it out here.”
It was an argument the two of them had had many times.
“So you stole Snib, but only took him into the hallway?” She raised an eyebrow at him.
“I’m sorry, Snib?” Gord returned. “You named your cat Snib?”
“No, my roommate named our cat Snib,” Jacklyn explained haughtily, lifting her head slightly. “But it’s a fine name.”
“It’s a shit name,” Gord corrected.
“Whatever, your name is Gord,” she countered.
“Yes, but I didn’t choose my name, did I?” He retorted. “My mother chose my name so it’s her fault if you don’t like it. Also, I don’t give a shit if you don’t like my name. You’ve named your cat Snib. That’s not even a real thing.”
“Snib is a cute name,” Jacklyn argued, except that she didn’t really think it was a cute name. She thought it was a crap name. Like Gord had said, it wasn’t even a name. It was just a sound that Stephanie had chosen and applied to their cat before Jacklyn had a proper chance to step in and stop her. And now she was stuck with a cat named Snib, who was ridiculed by the neighbours.
“I don’t think you really believe that,” Gord told her. She didn’t, but she also didn’t want him to know that. Then he’d win and she really didn’t want him to win. Instead, she glared at him one last time and then picked up Snib and carried him into her apartment, even as he tried to claw his way back out into the hallway over her shoulder. He broke the skin. She’d have scratches on her shoulder for a week, but it was worth it not to let Gord win just once. He laughed at her the entire time it was happening though, so she wasn’t sure it was exactly the victory she had imagined.
Later that night, Jacklyn ignored a phone call from Melly, which would’ve undoubtedly been about Iggy and Miles’ romantic future together. By that point, Jacklyn kind of wanted to set the two of them up as well just to be done with it. Unfortunately, Iggy was extremely unlikely to bend that easily. She was very stubborn when she set her mind to something. There was very little chance that she’d ever forgive Miles for what he’d done, even if the professed thousands of pudding incidents had in fact only been three and one was definitely an accident. Besides, Iggy had retaliated by pantsing Miles in front of their grade eleven music class. Clearly they’d had far too many classes together for it to have been nothing short of disastrous.
The following morning, Jacklyn finally finished editing the teen drama she’d been working on and she was delighted. She got to move on to another teen drama, though this one was about a group of unlikely superheroes. It was marginally more interesting, about a thousand per cent better written, and had nothing to do with overwrought, angst-ridden Shakespeare productions so she was happy about it. She was having a very good morning. The phones had been relatively quiet, she hadn’t heard from Melly once, and Denise Lebowitz who normally sat to the right of her was out sick so Jacklyn didn’t have to listen to her mouth-breathing all day long.
And then she got the email. It was an invitation from Melly for Madison’s half-birthday party. In the invite, Melly claimed that it would be fun and quirky. Jacklyn was inclined to heavily disagree. In reality, it would be boring and drawn-out and just another event wherein she would have to spend a ridiculous amount of time just looking at a baby. Madison wouldn’t have any idea what was going on and she’d probably sleep through half of it anyway. Jacklyn could see the party for what it truly was: an excuse to get Iggy and Miles in the same room together again in the hopes that forced proximity would make them fall madly in love with one another.
Roughly a minute after Jacklyn had received the email invitation, Jemima was beside her desk.
“I don’t want to go to her half-birthday party,” she told Jacklyn immediately. “I don’t even know what to get babies for their real birthdays, let alone their stupid half-birthdays. What do babies even like? Chewing on things and napping. How do you turn that into a present?”
“It’s just an excuse for Melly to push Iggy and Miles together,” Jacklyn explained darkly.
“So I don’t have to get the kid a present then?” Jemima returned hopefully. Jacklyn thought about it for a long moment.
“No, you probably still have to get her a present,” she eventually answered, much to Jemima’s chagrin.
The birthday party was on the following Saturday afternoon at David and Melly’s house. For such short notice, Melly had managed to string together quite a party. Of course, she had stopped calling Jacklyn on a daily basis so she had a multitude of free time in which to plan the damn thing. As predicted, Madison was asleep when Jacklyn and Jemima arrived, not that that in any way prevented them from having to go upstairs to the nursery to stare at her for a while.
“This kid’s going to develop a complex, what with all the strangers staring at her while she sleeps,” Jemima commented as they stood beside the crib.
“What kind of complex would that be?” Jacklyn asked, raising an eyebrow dubiously.
“A creepy one,” was Jemima’s response.
David served chilli for lunch. Jacklyn was tired of eating chilli. It was alright as far as chilli went, but there were really only so many beans she could eat in such a short time frame before it became too much for her gastrointestinal tract to handle. Melly walked around offering to get people more punch whilst periodically shoving Iggy and Miles in the direction of one another. She wasn’t even pretending to be subtle about it either. They both knew exactly what was happening, as did nearly everybody else. It did nothing to make them any happier about it, though.
“Will you just please date him so that we can stop coming to their house to look at their baby?” Jemima whined to Iggy at one point. “Just one date. I don’t want to continuously buy this kid onesies.”
“I’m not going to date him just because Melly wants me to,” Iggy protested.
“Then date him because I want you to,” Jemima retorted. “He’s not that bad. He’s got a little something.”
“What something?” Iggy asked, looking extremely skeptical.
“He looks like Scott Baio,” Jemima answered. Jacklyn figured it was that comment that pretty much drove the final nail into the coffin.