Chapter Twelve: “Also your boobs are too big and it looks like you’re melting”

Jemima had made progress with Noel Woolf, her devastatingly handsome co-worker. At least she claimed she had. Nobody else quite agreed with her, but she was choosing to overlook that. Jacklyn claimed that one conversation outside the men’s room did not a love connection make, but Jemima could tell that he had begun to look at her differently. Of course, there was a very real chance that he was looking at her differently because he thought she was stalking him outside the men’s washroom, but she was choosing to overlook that as well.

Jemima and Noel had had a very brief conversation about boots, specifically his. They were gold Chelsea boots, which was a bold choice for business casual. Noel pulled it off, though. Jemima was of the strict opinion that he could pull off anything. He was Noel Woolf, gloriously handsome and witty copy editor of mystery novels. Jemima committed their conversation to memory, like a twelve-year-old with their first crush, and went home to diary about him. Or at least she would’ve if she had a diary. Keeping a journal had been one of her New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year. She had thought that documenting her life had seemed like a good idea, but it was kind of sad in reality. She kept up with it for about two weeks and all it made her realize was that she barely did anything except journal, which wasn’t very interesting when there was nothing to write about.

The next morning, she and Noel had yet another conversation, this time about her shoes, in the elevator. She had worn her most outlandish shoes in the hopes that he would notice them and talk to her about them. It felt a little pathetic, but she was embracing it. It had worked after all. The shoes were the bright green wingtip oxfords she’d bought on her vacation to London, England. They gave her massive blisters on her heels every time she wore them. She kept expecting the day to come when they would be sufficiently broken in, but it never came.

The day after that, they had an even longer conversation in the copyediting bullpen. He walked all the way over to her desk to ask to borrow a pen. She gave him her second favourite blue one and he chewed on the cap, but still gave it back. Like a soppy idiot, she took the pen lid off and tucked it away in a drawer where no one else would ever be able to touch it. Of course, she’d probably forget it was there and not realize again until she either moved desks or quit, at which point it would get chucked with the rest of the random shit in her desk drawers.

“He came all the way over to my desk to ask for a pen,” Jemima boasted to Jacklyn at lunch. Jacklyn was eating an Asian sesame salad and judging her.

“Oh, all the way back three whole desks?” Jacklyn returned, rolling her eyes. “Such a distance. What a feat. You’re so blessed. It must be true love.”

“Your bitterness is noted as jealousy,” Jemima sniffed.

On Thursday, Noel invited Jemima to go to a show with him the following evening. Jemima was ecstatic. He’d asked her out and it was everything she’d ever wanted it to be. It was a little vague. The more she thought about it, the less certain she was that it actually was a date, but she wasn’t going to let it derail her good mood. He told her to meet him at a Thai restaurant at eight. Jemima had never been there before, but she loved Thai food. They were clearly meant to be. It was going to be the beginning of something beautiful. She was tempted to put it in her mostly empty journal.

She had Priscilla and Bernie come over to help her pick out an outfit for the date on Friday evening. Sybil came as well because she was over at their apartment, getting ready to watch The Wedding Planner. Tallulah was working, which was just as well because she would’ve ridiculed Jemima to no end.

“One day, I’m going to come over to your place and we’re not going to watch a Jennifer Lopez movie and it’s going to be magnificent,” Sybil was saying as the three of them walked toward Jemima’s bedroom. “That day’s got to be soon, right? She’s only made so many terrible movies.”

“Hey! She is a treasure!” Bernie protested. “A treasure with glorious abs!”

“What the hell are you wearing?” Priscilla demanded of Jemima, stopping short in her bedroom doorway so that Bernie walked into her back, too focussed on defending Jennifer Lopez’ acting career to notice that Priscilla had stopped moving.

“What?” Jemima asked, looking down at herself. “It’s just a turtleneck.”

She had thought she looked quite nice. She was aiming to look as put together as Jacklyn did all the time, but with an eccentric twist, which was why she had laid out her green wingtips.

“You can’t wear a turtleneck,” Priscilla retorted.

“She’s right,” Bernie interjected. “That’s like the least sexy sweater of them all, especially for a date.”

“Also your boobs are too big and it looks like you’re melting,” Sybil added.

“Why are you melting?!” Priscilla cried melodramatically. Jemima glared at each of them individually.

“Well, what am I supposed to wear instead?” She asked, turning back to where she had laid out half her closet on her bed.

“Literally anything else,” Priscilla answered.

“Except for that dress with the birds that you wear all the time,” Bernie cut in.

“What’s wrong with that dress?” Jemima asked, rounding on Bernie.

“Nothing,” Bernie said innocently. “If you’re going on maternity leave in a month.”

In the end, they decided on a black velvet dress that wasn’t even from Jemima’s closet. Priscilla leant it to her with strict instructions to not spill anything on it, including anything burrito related, lest Priscilla be forced to cause her extraneous bodily harm. She also borrowed the boots Sybil had worn over to Priscilla and Bernie’s apartment. They were patent leather chelsea boots with a four-inch heel. Jemima had no idea how Sybil wore them on a regular basis because they made her feel like a monster and she was significantly shorter than Sybil.

“I’ve given up on trying to be shorter than people,” Sybil explained as Jemima pulled on the left boot. “I don’t give a shit how much my height threatens someone. They can just deal with it because those boots are glam as fuck.”

“She’s not wrong,” Bernie added to Jemima. “You look fabulous.”

“Thank you!” Jemima returned, flashing her a grin.

“You should wear other people’s clothes more often,” Bernie continued, which significantly altered the sentiment. “You look way better than usual.”

“You’re the worst,” Jemima told her darkly.

The moment Jemima showed up at the Thai restaurant Noel had specified, she realized things had gone horribly awry. For one thing, there were several other people on what was supposed to have been a date. In retrospect, she should’ve just gone with her initial gut feeling that it was not in fact a date. Unless it was a date, in which case Noel should definitely not have brought other people with him. But perhaps even more startling and worrisome than the extra people was the venue itself, which was cloaked in low lighting and scattered with glitter. There was glitter everywhere. Diana Ross’ angelic voice was emanating from the central sound system and there was a short runway in the middle of the restaurant.

“Hey!” Noel greeted her, kissing her on each cheek before introducing her to his friends. Noel was wearing snakeskin pants and a fairly sheer black top that was unbuttoned to nearly his bellybutton as per usual. He was also wearing his infamous gold chelsea boots along with more jewelry than Jemima had ever seen on one person at one time. He had more rings than fingers. He was also wearing a coat that appeared to be made of black feathers. It was a very specific look as well as an outrageously bold one. None of his friends had come anywhere close to matching him, though one woman was wearing a black dress that had a slit up to almost the top of her thigh.

The group of them grabbed a table close to the stage and ordered drinks. Jemima hadn’t had dinner because she’d been under the impression that she and Noel would be getting dinner together. As it turned out, that was just yet another thing that should’ve been clarified beforehand. Forgoing dinner seemed like it was going to turn out to be a very bad thing if the way Noel ordered shots on an alarmingly frequent basis was anything to go by. They’d only been there four twenty minutes before she’d had at least five shots of tequila. She was going to die trying to keep up.

Despite the horrible misunderstanding, Jemima was having a fairly good time. Noel’s friends were nice and fun. Plus, they kept buying her drinks, insisting on paying, and she was rocking a pretty nice buzz without having had to pay for a single thing. It wasn’t the ideal evening she’d been counting on, but it was still nice. She was definitely hungry, but she was content just to hang out with Noel and his friends and then maybe pick up something to eat on her way home. It wouldn’t be a burrito, though. That seemed like it might lead to her imminent death at the hands of a very irate Priscilla.

And then the show started. Apparently the restaurant held regular drag shows every Friday night. Noel and his friends had been going regularly since it began because it was so much fun and, presumably, they didn’t mind having glitter embedded into their skin for weeks on end. Jemima had quite recently taken a lot of exception to glitter, ever since her ex-boyfriend Steve had cheated on her with a very small, very young woman named Amber, who cloaked herself in glitter and spandex.

By the end of the show, Jemima was quite drunk. She stumbled out of the Thai restaurant with Noel and his friends to get something to eat and then hop in a cab and head back to her apartment. When she woke up in the morning, she was still wearing Sybil’s boots and her tights, but she’d managed to get on her pyjama shirt, and there was rice in her bed. She also had the worst headache of her entire life. It felt like a large man was learning to tap dance on top of her brain. Her mouth tasted like what she assumed garbage tasted like, with just a hint of cilantro, and her hair looked like some small woodland creature had nested in it. And then died.

After managing to sufficiently compose herself and put pyjama bottoms on overtop of her tights, Jemima stumbled across the hall to Priscilla, Tallulah, and Bernie’s apartment to return Priscilla’s dress and Sybil’s boots. Sybil had slept over on the couch and was eating breakfast with Priscilla and Bernie when Jemima walked inside.

“Holy,” Bernie breathed upon first sight of Jemima, which seemed about right.

“Last night was rough,” Jemima announced.

“That seems like it might just be the biggest understatement of all time,” Priscilla returned.

“It wasn’t a date,” Jemima began to explain. “He just invited me to hang out with his friends. We went to a drag show at a Thai restaurant.”

“You went to a drag show at a Thai restaurant?” Bernie repeated immediately before pausing for a second. “So much of that question was weird.”

“I thought the place you went to was a family restaurant,” Priscilla interjected. “Wasn’t there too much lighting?”

“Noel went to a drag show?” Sybil asked, having seen many a photo of Noel as a result of Jemima’s extensive cyberstalking. “Lord, just think of the confusion.”

“It was pretty fun actually,” Jemima said. “But then I drank everything and now I think I might be dying. Also, I ate a burrito in bed last night because I wanted to be a burrito while I ate my burrito and now there’s rice in my sheets.”

“You ate a burrito in my dress when I explicitly told you not to?” Priscilla returned through gritted teeth, looking fairly murderous.

“Yeah, I couldn’t remember what you’d said, except that it had something to do with burritos,” Jemima said. “I now see how unlikely it would’ve been for you to expressly tell me to eat a burrito in your dress.”

There was a moment of silence as Bernie, Priscilla, and Sybil stared at her.

“You’re a fucking disaster,” Sybil said eventually. Jemima didn’t even bother disagreeing.

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