65: “We don’t call him Hot Neighbour for nothing!”

Jacklyn was beginning to doubt that her relationship with Joey was good. It didn’t help that her friends kept asking about it, as if they were expecting her to tell them that they’d broken up and that she’d come to her senses and realized how crazy it had been. Melly in particular was obviously worried about it. But then Priscilla brought it up with significantly more directness and it was difficult for Jacklyn to evade the line of questioning.

“How long are you seriously going to date Joey?” She asked over dinner one night. Jacklyn had invited her, Iggy, Helen, and Sybil out. Sybil had seemed incredibly surprised, but Jacklyn wasn’t letting that get in the way of their newfound friendship. She and Sybil were going to be best friends in no time, regardless of how Sybil felt about that.

“I don’t know,” Jacklyn shrugged, hoping that would be the end of it.

“Like, you can’t introduce him to your parents ever,” Priscilla continued, despite Jacklyn’s wishes.

“Well, your parents don’t like Oscar,” Jacklyn countered.

“Yeah because one time he drunkenly vomited on Iggy’s parents’ begonias when he was sixteen,” Priscilla returned, rolling her eyes. “They’ll get over that. Joey sells crack!”

“I don’t even think he’s very good at it,” Iggy added. “He shares a shitty apartment with Miles’ friend Robin.”

“He sells crack?” Jacklyn asked, stunned.

“Oh, so you didn’t know about that?” Sybil replied, looking relieved. “That’s good. I was worried you knew that, but were continuing to date him anyway.”

“He also gets punched in the face a lot,” Iggy added, clearly still thinking about Joey’s drug dealing success. “I really don’t think he’s good at it.”

“Yeah, Jacklyn, at least date a good drug dealer,” Helen said, rolling her eyes.

When Jacklyn got home from dinner that night, she found her roommate Jocelyn standing in their doorway, talking to Amare, who was standing in the hallway in a pair of scrubs. He managed to look really good. She laughed at something he said as Jacklyn approached, reaching out to touch his arm. Jacklyn felt jealousy flare in her chest. She resolved not to do or say anything crazy, though. She had been the one to end things with Amare and she was turning over a new leaf. It had begun with her burgeoning friendship with Sybil, but it would continue with the friendship she had planned to extend to Jocelyn. She really was very nice. Jacklyn could be a better person. And she would start by smiling at both Jocelyn and Amare and then leaving them to their flirting.

“Hey!” Jocelyn greeted her as she approached their apartment door.

“Hey,” Jacklyn replied, throwing a smile in Amare’s direction. She wondered how long Jocelyn had had the door open. Snib was for sure with Gord in his apartment. Gord liked to bribe him with cat treats that he’d bought long before Finch had had a cat of his own. Jacklyn tried not to be annoyed by that as well and slipped inside the apartment. Jocelyn came in a few minutes after her.

“He is so hot,” she said to Jacklyn, hooking her thumb over her shoulder in the general direction of the hallway beyond their front door.

“We don’t call him Hot Nrighbour for nothing!” Jacklyn returned with strained cheeriness. Jocelyn laughed and went to her room, leaving Jacklyn feeling drained, but also like she’d managed to accomplish a lot.

The following day, she felt significantly less great about herself. She ran into Amare on her way home from work. He stepped into the elevator just as the doors were about to close. They stood in uncomfortable silence for the first minute or so. Jacklyn wondered if he had known she was already in the elevator. If he hadn’t, she wondered if he would’ve rushed inside to spend this awkward time together. It seemed unlikely. If she’d been in his place, she probably would’ve taken the stairs.

“How’s Joey?” Amare asked, breaking the terrible silence. Although, the conversation he had chosen to start was absolutely worse.

“Well, apparently he’s a drug dealer,” Jacklyn answered, choosing to be honest in the interest of personal growth and maturity. “So I’m not sure that’s going to last much longer.”

“Going to actually tell him it’s over?” Amare asked, which was surprisingly petty, though not unwarranted. She had treated him very poorly. And why? Because he’d cried at her friend’s wedding. Although, in her defense, he had cried what she felt was an unreasonable amount at her friend’s wedding. They were, after all, people he’d never even met before.

“I think so, yeah,” she answered sheepishly after a moment.

“Let me know how that goes,” he said. And then the elevator stopped and the doors slid open. He left her standing there, confused and startled, as he walked down the hall to Gord’s apartment.

A couple days later, she broke things off with Joey. She felt a bit strange about it, like she couldn’t quite pinpoint why she was doing it. She knew there were a lot of reasons, such as the fact that he was a drug dealer, but also that she didn’t think they were very compatible and she didn’t like being so jealous of Finch no less. There were a few other reasons floating around in the back of her mind as well though, like her bizarre conversation with Amare in the elevator and the fact that she knew Jocelyn was into Amare. She couldn’t tell if she was honestly breaking up with Joey for her own good or if she was doing it because she thought Amare and Jocelyn might get together to form the world’s most attractive couple and that made her feel weird inside.

She invited Joey over for dinner. She cooked him pasta and waited until he was finished eating to do it.

“Hey, Joey?” She said, recapturing his attention from the label on the wine bottle he had picked up to read. “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

“Alright,” Joey agreed amicably. It wasn’t the satisfying end Jacklyn had been imagining, although she wasn’t quite sure what she’d been hoping he’d do. She certainly hadn’t wanted him to cry, but perhaps she’d been expecting a little bit more drama from the man who had shown up to dinner with a bloody nose. There was a red spot on his white tank top. It had definitely happened while he was selling drugs. And yet, he was totally and easily fine with the end of their relationship. Amare for sure would’ve cried.

She walked Joey out and then stood at her door to watch him walk to the elevator at the end of the hall. He didn’t even look back. While she was standing there, Amare let himself out of Gord’s apartment across the hall. He looked at her and then to where she was looking and drew his own conclusion.

“I guess this means you’re free and single,” he said to her once Joey had stepped into the elevator and the doors had closed. Joey had never once looked at her the whole time. Maybe he was trying to hide his tears, though that seemed unlikely.

“Yup,” she nodded awkwardly. Amare nodded as well. Neither of them said anything for a long time. Jacklyn wondered when she would be able to go back inside. Would it be weird if she just slipped inside while they were standing opposite each other, the whole expanse of the hallway between them, basking in an extremely uncomfortable silence.

“Hey, Jacklyn?” He broke the silence eventually, just as she was about to shuffle backward through her door.

“Yeah?” She looked up at him, feeling like she’d been caught in the middle of the act.

“Let’s go out,” he said.

“Uh, sure,” she agreed, mostly because she was quite startled. He left her then, slipping back inside Gord’s apartment, which made her wonder if he had just been waiting behind the door for her to leave so that he would have the opportunity to ask her out. She stood outside a moment longer, trying to work out what had just happened, and then went back inside. She cleaned up the table and then went to her room with Snib to reflect on what had happened and how she felt about it. After several hours of contemplation, she still had no idea.

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