Jemima went out for dinner with Erin and Ruby, her high school friends living in the city. They invited Lauren and Amanda as well, but Lauren had to stay home because her son had the flu and Amanda was, in her own words, “staying at home with bae”. Now that she was engaged, Jemima suspected they wouldn’t be luring her out of the house for love nor money until it came time for the bachelorette and the wedding. Amanda was the biggest homebody Jemima had ever known, compounded by the fact that she was the kind of woman who never wanted to be far away from her significant other. Amanda had invited them over to her house for a couples night in, but since Jemima and Erin didn’t want to be one of those couples, they passed.
That having been said, Ruby did bring her boyfriend to dinner. His name was Jamal Baxter and he was a pro basketball player. He played for the Roehampton Panthers and was something of a city-wide celebrity. Because of that, Ruby requested they have dinner somewhere he wouldn’t draw too much attention. That turned out to be a Shakespearean-themed pub that Jemima had never even heard of before let alone been to. Ruby had suggested Jemima and Erin bring friends to make it more of a party. She had later added that it would be nice for Jamal to have someone to talk to while they were discussing “girly things”, clearly having meant for them to bring a date of sorts. She probably should’ve mentioned that sooner because Erin showed up with her roommate Margot and Jemima brought Priscilla. She very much doubted either would be of any help to Jamal, unless Priscilla had a vast knowledge of basketball she kept very well hidden.
“Wow, is this place a hole,” Priscilla commented as they sat down in the large booth the surly, yet listless hostess had brought them to. Jamal was looking around as if he expected to see someone he knew, but Jemima was willing to bet all the money she had that he wouldn’t. There was what appeared to be a rowdy retirement party happening three tables away from them and there was a stage by the bar that was set up with a couple guitars and a drum kit.
“What is blood pudding?” Jamal asked as they were perusing their menus.
“Disgusting,” was Erin’s helpful response.
“Fish and chips it is then,” Jamal nodded.
All things considered, they enjoyed a lovely evening. Jamal got along fine, even without another man to discuss various sports with. The food was surprisingly good and, even though the retirement party was excessively loud, they were able to overlook it after several drinks. Jemima had always had a hard time bringing her high school friends and the friends she’d made in adulthood together. There was such a large disconnect between both parts of her life. Her adult friends had never known Country Jemima, who frequented antique shops with her mother on weekends and baked pies on the regular. And her high school friends had never known City Jemima, who smoked occasionally and was world savvy. She said as much to Priscilla as they went to the bathroom together just after they’d finished eating. Priscilla snorted at her.
“You are not world savvy,” she informed her. Jemima chose to ignore it.
When they made it back to the booth from the bathroom, it was to discover that the band was setting up for the evening. The lead singer and guitar player, some idiot named Trent with a goatee, introduced them as Skankhole.
“Good fucking Lord,” Priscilla rolled her eyes. Jemima had to admit that it was not very promising.
“Oh my God, we know the drummer!” Margot announced excitedly to the table, smacking Erin on the arm to catch her attention. Jemima and Priscilla looked over as well, expecting to find another deadbeat dude with questionable facial hair and possibly a pukka shell necklace. Instead, they found Oscar. Granted, it was a very embarrassed-looking Oscar, sitting behind his drum kit and looking for all intents and purposes like he’d lost the will to live.
“Oh my God, this is amazing!” Priscilla exclaimed, banging on the tabletop. Anybody who didn’t know her very well would probably assume she was excited about seeing a friend of a friend play live music in a proud, supportive kind of way. Jemima, however, did know Priscilla and she was well aware that Priscilla was merely excited about the prospect of ridicule. She was a remarkably cruel woman. Jemima had never understood how Tallulah and Priscilla had turned out the way they did because their parents were incredibly kind, pleasant people.
“We also know the drummer,” Jemima explained to the table as everybody else was watching Priscilla in mild confusion. “He’s friends with…us…”
Jemima trailed off, trying to figure out how they knew Oscar. Were they friends? She was pretty sure he was friends with Priscilla at this point and they had all gone to that K-pop concert together. They’d endured the multi-hour struggle to leave the parking lot together; that had to count for something. Of course, her answer had come off across so unsure that the rest of the table stared at her like they didn’t quite believe what she had said. Erin raised a skeptical eyebrow at her.
“Are you?” She returned.
“Yeah,” Jemima nodded. “Probably. Definitely. We’re friends with Oscar, right?”
She addressed the last part to Priscilla, who merely shrugged, too preoccupied with watching the band to fully pay attention. Jemima shrugged as well, which likely didn’t do anything to reaffirm her declaration. Erin looked like she wanted to question it more, but Skankhole began their set, effectively saving Jemima from having to explain in any more detail how exactly she and Oscar were friends. It was just as well because she didn’t think it would be a very successful endeavour.
Skankhole, as it turned out, was just as terrible as it had seemed they would be at first glance. Oscar was undoubtedly the best part, but he didn’t add a whole lot in terms of stage presence. He mostly just looked like he wanted to slip off the edge of the stage into oblivion, not that Jemima blamed him because his band was shit. It was complete shit. The other two members, Trent the lead singer and whoever the hell the bass player were, performed like they were proud of themselves. It was misplaced pride. The very first song they played was a cover of Hoobastank’s “The Reason”.
“This is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Priscilla declared partway through the chorus. It was a very disparate comment compared to how the rest of the table was feeling. Jemima could tell because Jamal was watching in open horror and Erin looked like she was contemplating stabbing someone with her table knife.
“Are you kidding?” Margot asked, turning to Jemima. “She’s kidding, right? I have so much secondhand embarrassment right now.”
“She’s not kidding,” Jemima answered.
“I’m not kidding,” Priscilla confirmed, grinning brightly. She was on the edge of her seat, enthralled. Jemima felt a little sorry for Oscar.
After Skankhole’s first set ended, Priscilla dragged Jemima over to the stage to see Oscar. Erin and Margot came as well, leaving Ruby and Jamal to watch their bags and coats. Jamal was still starring at the now empty stage in blatant horror. Jemima wasn’t sure he’d ever recover.
“Oh, fuck me,” Oscar said as soon as he saw them. Priscilla laughed wildly.
“Your band is shit,” she declared happily. “It’s total garbage. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so bad before.”
“You should work for a suicide hotline,” Oscar told her flatly. “Your positivity and emotional support are endless.”
“In fairness to her, your band is awful,” Erin chimed in. “Like, this might even be worse than trying to hit on people using Sophie’s Choice.”
“What?” Priscilla’s head snapped around to look back and forth between Erin and Oscar in delight.
“I wasn’t trying to—you know what? Forget it,” Oscar sighed deeply. “This isn’t my band. This is Trent’s band. I’m only filling in because his cousin left to join the navy.”
“That was a wise choice,” Margot said sagely.
“I want to talk about you hitting on people with Sophie’s Choice,” Priscilla declared, causing Oscar to grumble under his breath.
“I never did that,” he protested. Jemima had lost track of what exactly was happening.
“Do you want to come sit with us for a bit?” She asked, cutting in before Priscilla could get even more excited. “We have beer.”
Oscar shot her a grateful look and began following her back to their table. He stopped short when he caught sight of Jamal.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” he said, presumably to himself.
“Hey, man,” Jamal greeted him. “Great set.”
It was very obviously a lie. There wasn’t a single one of them that believed Jamal was being even marginally sincere. Oscar grimaced, Priscilla laughed, and Margot most likely experienced some more secondhand embarrassment. They all accepted it, however. Oscar slid into the booth in the empty spot next to Jamal and stayed there until Trent came to drag him back to the stage for their second set. He went very reluctantly, literally dragging his feet. Priscilla laughed the entire time and Jemima felt just a wee bit bad for him. Now that she had determined they were friends, she felt she should possibly intervene before Priscilla mocked him endlessly for the rest of eternity. Possibly.