17: “You look deranged”

Bernie was hosting a movie night for her friends. It was, of course, a Jennifer Lopez movie marathon, comprising of her entire acting career and presented in chronological order. She was making them watch Gigli. Tallulah was unimpressed.

Bernie invited Priscilla, Tallulah, Jemima, Iggy, and Sybil, who in turn brought Suze, Chris, and Chris’ cousin. Iggy also forced Miles to come as well because she said he still needed to bond with her friends.

“I have to spend so much time with Joey,” she told Miles firmly. “You better be best fucking friends with all of my friends.”

“‘If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends’,” Jemima sang softly to that.

“I think it might be too late for that,” Priscilla pointed out.

Sybil turned up to Bernie and Lawrence’s condo with Suze and an explanation that Chris would be coming along soon with his cousin. It was an announcement met with unexcited silence.

“His friendless cousin that you tried to set one of us up with?” Iggy asked after a long moment, one eyebrow raised.

“Yes,” Sybil nodded. “Oh, by the way, Chris’ cousin is Harry Everett from Five Party.”

Tallulah felt her own mouth drop open as she watched Priscilla and Jemima’s do the same. Bernie and Lawrence were getting drinks and snacks for everybody in the kitchen so they missed it, but Miles didn’t look nearly as excited. It was possible he didn’t care as much about boy band members as the rest of them did.

“Oh my God, I’m so excited,” Tallulah breathed after a moment, the first to break the silence. “I have boots that I bought specifically because I would wear them if I ever went on a date with him.”

“I find that very surprising from you, the Princess of Darkness,” Sybil returned skeptically.

“Isn’t this guy, like, twenty years old?” Miles cut in, frowning.

“He’s twenty-three,” Iggy returned immediately. Miles’ eyes widened in surprise as he turned to look at her.

“How do you know that?” He asked, but she didn’t answer. It was probably for the best.

“I can’t believe Chris is related to Harry Everett and that we’re going to meet him tonight,” Jemima said to Sybil. “What do I say to him? How should I act?”

“Just act normally,” Sybil answered, looking at her like she was insane.

“Okay, like this?” Jemima said, schooling her face into what Tallulah assumed was meant to be a winning smile.

“Jesus, no,” Sybil told her immediately. “That’s not normal. You look deranged.”

It wasn’t far off the mark.

When Harry and Chris finally arrived, they were well into The Wedding Planner and Lawrence was groaning audibly whenever J. Lo and Matthew McConaughey interacted, which was often. Though, in fairness to Lawrence, many of the rest of them weren’t fairing much better either. Sybil looked like she wanted to smother herself with one of the throw pillows and Miles actually looked faintly ill. Bernie got up to answer the door extremely reluctantly. She’d paused the movie, but she hated being interrupted mid-Jennifer Lopez experience. She seemed to have forgotten who it was that was going to be at the door so her attitude changed the moment she had actually wrenched the door open. Tallulah was watching the exchange out of the corner of her eye in an attempt to play it cool. Jemima had adopted a weird cross between her normal, natural smile, which was beautiful, and the deranged smile she had plastered on her face earlier.

“Hello!” Harry greeted Bernie in a cheery British accent at the front door. “I’m Chris’ cousin Harry.”

He was smiling widely in an open tweed peacoat, under which he was wearing extremely tight black jeans with holes in the knees and a big, grey knit sweater. He was wearing boots much like the boots Tallulah had bought purely because she would wear them on a date with him if the opportunity ever arose.

“Stop introducing yourself to people!” Chris told him, beginning to take off his own coat. “Literally everybody knows who you are!”

It was a good point.

“I don’t want to be presumptuous,” Harry returned, stepping inside the apartment in the minimal space Bernie had left for him between the open door and herself. She seemed to be somewhat starstruck. It made Tallulah wonder about what would happen if she ever met J.Lo. She’d probably dissolve on the spot in a fit of embarrassed excitement.

Harry took off his coat and his boots and then wandered into the living room to introduce himself to everybody else there, much to Chris’ chagrin. Then he took a seat on the floor in one of the only remaining open spaces, which just happened to be next to Tallulah, who may or may not have orchestrated that on purpose. He smelled nice, like pine and also vanilla. His curly hair was long, reaching his shoulders, and he kept pushing it out of his eyes with his hands. Bernie restarted the movie and Harry took to it with enthused focus.

“I love this movie,” he proclaimed a little while later.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Chris returned immediately.

“Hey!” Bernie protested indignantly. “Jennifer Lopez is a treasure!”

“A treasure trove of shitty movies,” Sybil muttered under her breath quietly. Not quietly enough for Bernie not to hear unfortunately, however. Bernie kicked her in the back of the head with her foot from the couch. Sybil was sitting on the floor between Chris and Tallulah. The force pushed Sybil into Tallulah, which in turn pushed Tallulah into Harry. He grinned at her as she righted herself.

“I went to one of your concerts once,” she admitted. She and Priscilla had taken their niece Hilary, who had literally no interest in being there. They had really only brought her as an excuse as to why they, two fully grown adult women, were at a boy band concert with thousands of hyperventilating preteens in hand-painted crop tops.

“Did you really?” He returned pleasantly. Tallulah nodded.

“I was in the very back row of the arena so it’s possible you didn’t notice me,” she told him.

“Maybe if I’d have opera glasses,” he suggested.

Thirty seconds into Gigli, Tallulah lost the will to live. It only took Chris twenty and Sybil fourteen. Priscilla timed it.


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