Jemima had zero willpower. This, presumably, was why she had dated Steve several times over even when she knew it wasn’t a good idea. It was the same reason that she was still pursuing Noel, even after she had made a vow to herself to drop it and move on. She had gone out with Bear. He was so kind. She was interested in him. And yet, Noel invited her out with some of his friends and she dropped everything to go. She brought Bobby and Mo with her because she didn’t want to go on her own, especially if it turned out to be the regular kind of confusing for Noel. Of course, she did run the risk of bringing friends to a date if that’s what it turned out being. On the other, she was more comfortable with it being these friends rather than some of her other friends because she had already made it quite clear to all of them that she was giving up on Noel forever. She had made it so clear that Iggy had set her up with someone else. She couldn’t face the criticism. She could already see Bernie shaking her head in her mind.
The three of them got ready to go out at Bobby and Mo’s place, partially because it was closer to the bar Noel had invited them to, but also so that none of Jemima’s friends would pop over to hers unexpectedly and find out what she had planned for the evening. She even intended to sleep on Bobby and Mo’s couch in the living with their cats.
“Fair warning, Louis will try to sleep on your face,” Bobby told Jemima as the three of them were getting ready in Mo’s bedroom. It was quite spacious and she had two mirrors. One was a full-length bolted to her closet door and the other was hung above her chest of drawers. Mo was using that one to straighten her hair. Jemima was using the other to pick out something to wear. And Bobby was lying on the bed with Madge, still in the sweatshirt she wore as pyjamas so that she wouldn’t get Madge’s white fur all over her going out clothes, which would undoubtedly be black.
“Is he always affectionate with strangers?” Jemima asked, adjusting her skirt.
“Uh…I’m not sure it’s affection,” Mo replied.
“He will definitely be trying to suffocate you,” Bobby added, which wasn’t at all reassuring.
After a few drinks, they were all ready to go out. Jemima had finally decided on her tightest jeans and a maroon velvet tank top that had a low back. It meant that she had to wear a very specific bra and it wasn’t comfortable at all, but she looked great. Mo was wearing an evergreen slip dress with a truly magnificent pair of platform combat boots and some black patterned tights. Her hair was half-up in two tiny pigtail buns. Bobby had eventually changed out of her pyjama shirt and into a black cropped t-shirt and a midi-length red tartan pencil skirt with some black combat boots of her own. Jemima was seriously considering buying a pair of combat boots. They walked into the bar looking glam as hell and ready to go. Jemima had been planning on playing it cool, being aloof. She wasn’t going to make a fool of herself over Noel. She wouldn’t be rushing to his side or hanging on his every word. She needed him to know that she was perfectly fine without him.
Of course, that meant that he was the first person they saw after leaving the bathroom, just as Jemima was fixing her top and asking Bobby if she could see too much of her boobs. Noel gave her and her chest a very sly look. Jemima only had a second to blush before he kissed her full on the mouth for a surprisingly long time in greeting.
“Hi, beautiful,” he said and she was too stunned to think of anything to say in response. He chatted with Bobby and Mo for a bit before telling them he was heading to the bar. As soon as he’d turned his back to leave, both Mo and Bobby had turned to Jemima with twin looks of shock on their faces.
“I didn’t know you and Sexy Liza Minelli were a thing,” Bobby said immediately.
“I didn’t either,” was Jemima’s very honest response.
Jemima stayed close to Noel all night. He paid her an unusual amount of attention. Mo kept winking at her, which was actually adorable because Mo was mostly unable to wink and was in fact blinking, but in a cheeky way. Jemima danced with Noel, he puts his hands on her back and arms whenever possible, though largely unnecessarily. He bought her drinks, he laughed at her jokes, he told her she was the most beautiful woman in the bar. That was untrue because Jemima had nearly run into a gorgeous woman on her way out of the bathroom. She looked like Scandinavian Barbie, a little like she had just stepped off a Victoria Secret runway somewhere. She was definitely the most beautiful woman in the bar, but Jemima appreciated the sentiment nonetheless. She certainly wasn’t about to correct him.
“He is so into you,” Mo said to her merrily at one point as they stood next to the edge of the dance floor with drinks, taking a break from dancing.
“He is, isn’t he?” Jemima returned just as excitedly. She had basically already forgotten about Bear. He was so lovely and so extremely tall, but Jemima couldn’t resist Noel’s wild call. This was all she had wanted for a whole year now. It had taken them a long time to get to this point, but it was finally working out and she no longer cared. She could barely even remember why she had decided to let him go in the first place. If one of her other friends had been there, they surely would’ve graciously and helpfully pointed out that it was because he’d tried to make-out with Sybil in a grungy, underground bar after a musical festival. But alas, none of her friends who knew that were around and Jemima had rather pointedly avoided sharing that particular tidbit of information with either Mo or Bobby.
Eventually, Mo and Jemima returned to the dance floor, but Noel was nowhere to be found. Jemima shrugged it off. She was going to dance her heart out and have a lovely time with her friend. He would no doubt come back to them soon enough; she was the most beautiful woman in the bar after all. In the middle of some remixed Flo Rida song, Bobby wandered over to them. She was holding two drinks in the air above her head so that they wouldn’t be knocked by someone, bearing a remarkably grim expression for the circumstances at hand.
“How’s it going?” Mo called to Bobby as she approached.
“Not so good, Motorious B.I.G.,” Bobby returned flatly. She handed one of her drinks to Jemima, who took it with a frown.
“What is it?” She asked, looking down into the glass.
“I’m not actually sure. I just asked the bartender to make me something with as much alcohol as possible,” Bobby explained. She took a sip of her own drink. Jemima laughed at her still bleak expression.
“I don’t get one?” Mo pouted.
“No, Three 6 Mofia, you do not,” Bobby answered bluntly. Jemima laughed again, this time at the put out expression on Mo’s face.
“Why not?” Mo demanded, putting her hands on her hips. The three of them had stopped dancing by this point, standing still in the middle of the crowded dance floor, occasionally being jostled about by drunken strangers. The girl behind Jemima kept whipping her hair about. It was getting stuck to Jemima’s back in an uncomfortable way. She wanted to keep dancing so that it would stop happening, but Bobby looked so serious.
“Because Mo Money, Mo Problems, you’re not upset,” Bobby explained.
“I’m not upset either,” Jemima pointed out, laughing again.
“Right, but you’re about to be,” Bobby replied, eliciting frowns from both Mo and Jemima. “Because Sexy Liza Minelli found Scandinavian Barbie.”
Bobby withdrew her phone from her purse and showed it to Jemima and Mo. She showed them a photo she’d clearly just taken of Noel and Scandinavian Barbie, kissing somewhere else on the dance floor. It didn’t even look gross, like most post-midnight bar make-out sessions all did. No, Noel and Scandinavian Barbie had miraculously found a way to drunkenly make-out and look like a Ray Ban magazine ad. It felt like someone had punched Jemima directly in the diaphragm. Mo made a small, wordless sound beside her and Bobby put her phone back in her purse, looking even grimmer than before.
“It’s okay,” Jemima told them with clearly forced cheeriness. “We weren’t even a thing.”
She waved her free hand about dismissively, as if to physically demonstrate how fine she was with Noel finding the actual most beautiful woman in the bar and making out with her instead. Mo made another small, sad sound that was clearly meant as sympathy, but felt a little too close to pity for Jemima’s liking. Bobby, on the other hand, frowned.
“No it isn’t,” Bobby told Jemima firmly. “This is not fine.”
“No, I’m okay,” Jemima said with the same fake airiness. She didn’t think she was fooling either of them; she wasn’t even fooling herself. The girl behind her whipped her hair again. Someone bumping into Jemima’s elbow, laughing brightly.
“It’s fine if you’re okay,” Bobby told her, speaking just as firmly as before, still openly frowning. “That’s good. But it’s still not okay that he did this.”
Jemima’s smile dropped as she stared at Bobby. She could see Mo nodding in her periphery, but she didn’t look her way.
“I don’t care if you guys are or aren’t together,” Bobby continued. “He kissed you full on the mouth and swanned around like he was interested in you and then made out with some other woman, like, two hours later. That’s so unbelievably shitty to you and her. He knows both of you are here together. It would be shitty even if you’d left, but this is extra shitty.”
Jemima didn’t say anything for a minute. Mo continued to nod along. Eventually, Jemima nodded as well.
“Would it be alright if we left?” She asked in a small voice. She was kind of surprised either of them heard her, but they both nodded. Bobby was clearly irate on Jemima’s behalf and Jemima found it extremely comforting. Jemima and Bobby chugged their drinks and then the three of them left the bar and began walking back to Bobby and Mo’s place. Nobody said very much, except a few muttered curses from Bobby and some strong words of encouragement from Mo, who seemed to want to make up for lost time. She’d clearly been startled. She told Jemima she was a star about twenty times before they all went to bed.
In the morning, Jemima woke up with a sharp pain in her head, a heavy ache in her heart, and a mouthful of cat hair, Louis leaping to the TV stand when she began to awaken. He hissed at her from his perch and it felt like a very fitting end to a truly terrible night out.