Rattlesnake had a gig on Friday and Jemima was, quite reluctantly, attending. Sybil had invited them all and, not having been able to come up with a suitable excuse on the spot, Jemima had agreed to go in panic.
“I know you’re not into him anymore, but you can appreciate the show,” Sybil had said to her. “The man puts on a wild show.”
On the night of the show, Jemima dressed as demurely as possible. She wore a black turtleneck and black jeans. She even wore black boots. She pulled her long, blonde hair back in a tight French braid. She was going to blend into the crowd as much as possible. She didn’t want any uncomfortable run-ins with Noel. He was so confusing. She had no idea where she stood with him and she was absolutely done with it, for real this time. She had resolved to move on with her life for good and she was sticking to it.
“Why are you dressed like you’re about to move props for a high school production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’?” Tallulah asked her when she entered their apartment. It was the meeting place before the group of them headed to the bar where Rattlesnake was playing. Sybil had invited a lot of people, who had in turn invited more people.
“This is normal,” Jemima defended herself, sweeping a hand down the length of her torso. “I normally dress like this.”
Regrettably, that was the exact moment Chris chose to walk past them. He raised an eyebrow at Jemima.
“Why are you dressed like a member of the French resistance?” He asked.
“I’m not,” Jemima countered somewhat petulantly.
“All you’re missing is a beret,” Chris returned. Jemima didn’t say anything in response, but she did glare at him to literally no consequence. Chris continued on his merry way, completely at ease with her hostility.
On the subway on the way to the venue, Jemima girded herself for a long, awkward evening of watching Noel parade around his raw animal magnetism. She was going to be calm, cool, and collected, like a particularly savvy cucumber. She wasn’t going to let him get to her. And, most importantly, she wasn’t going to think about that gorgeous blonde woman he’d kissed just hours after kissing her. Of course, because life was unfair and Jemima had terrible luck, that beautiful blonde woman was directly ahead of her in line at the bathroom when they reached the bar. Jemima seriously considered turning around and walking out, but the blonde had no idea who she was and so she had no reason to feel awkward or embarrassed. She still did though, obviously. Jemima went to the bathroom and prayed that the blonde would be gone when she exited the stall.
But then Jemima walked directly into her when she was leaving her stall.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” the blonde told her, laughing brightly. She held out a hand to steady Jemima, who was staring at her in horror. She was vaguely aware that she must’ve looked so strange, but she didn’t have enough capacity to do anything about it.
“It’s alright,” Jemima managed to respond after a pause that was definitely far too long.
“I love your hair,” the blonde told her genuinely, smiling kindly. She was so nice. Jemima hated that she was nice. More than that, she hated that she hated she was nice. It wasn’t the blonde’s fault that Noel had kissed her in a bar. If Jemima had been a heterosexual man or a homosexual woman, she too would consider kissing the blonde in a bar. She was gorgeous. Jemima didn’t want to be one of those women who blamed other women. It was Noel’s fault. He was a jerk. Jemima forced herself to smile back in kind, finding she it was at least somewhat sincere around the edges.
“Did you do that yourself?” The blonde asked.
“Oh, uh, yeah,” Jemima answered, slightly taken aback by the question.
“This is such a weird thing to ask, but would you mind doing that to my hair?” The blonde asked. “It’s so damn hot out there. I should’ve put my hair up before I left, but sometimes ponytails make my hairline look super weird.”
Jemima stared at her hairline. She tried to imagine it looking super weird. She tried to imagine anyone’s hairline looking super weird. It was an odd thing to fixate on. It occurred to her that maybe it was literally the only imperfect thing about this blonde woman, which was irritating. It was, however, slightly reassuring to know that, even though she was basically perfect, she had still found something to obsess and hate over on her own body. Jemima was relieved to find that even supposedly perfect women had the same issues that she did.
“Oh, sure,” Jemima agreed, partially because she felt she had no other choice after being put on the spot, but also in an effort to be a nice person.
“Thank you so much,” the blonde returned. She and Jemima walked over to a corner of the bathroom and stood in front of a steadily dripping sink that wasn’t being used by anyone. The blonde stood in front of the mirror and Jemima took her place behind her, beginning to French braid her long, beautiful blonde hair. The blonde smiled at her in the mirror.
“I’m Sylvie,” she introduced herself.
“Jemima,” Jemima replied, focussing on Sylvie’s hair. Sylvie then proceeded to tell Jemima all about how she had come with her friends because she knew one of the guys from the band. Jemima felt like telling her she was all too aware that Sylvie knew someone from the band, but she refrained, partially because she was still trying to be nice, but largely because she hated conflict. When Jemima finished braiding her hair, tying it up in a neat little end with the hair elastic Sylvie procured from the bottom of her bag, Sylvie hugged her. Then she made them take a selfie. She posted it to Instagram alongside many other beautiful photos of Sylvie and some other extremely good-looking women, captioning it as “twins”. Jemima felt that falser words had never been typed. Sylvie asked for Jemima’s Instagram name so that she could tag her and follow her. Jemima reluctantly offered it, mostly because she couldn’t think of a viable reason not to. It wasn’t until she was leaving the bathroom and walking over to join her friends that it occurred to her that she could’ve just lied and said she didn’t have an Instagram account.
“Damn it,” she grumbled to herself. Tallulah shot her a confused look.
“You’re being weird tonight,” she told Jemima matter-of-factly, leaving no room for argument. Priscilla and Iggy looked over with similar expressions. Jemima sighed.
“I went out with Noel last week,” she informed them morosely.
“What, like a date?” Iggy asked. The question stung.
“No,” Jemima sighed again. “I don’t know. No. We just went to a bar. I brought Bobby and Mo from work.”
“Oh,” Priscilla replied. “Okay.”
None of them looked like they particularly cared about this. Iggy didn’t look overly pleased, probably because she had set Jemima up with one of Miles’ close friends, but, as it had only been one blind date, she probably hadn’t been expecting them to be betrothed two weeks later.
“He kissed me,” Jemima continued.
“Oh,” Priscilla said again, this time far more surprised. “Okay.”
“And then Bobby saw him kissing someone else, like, an hour later,” Jemima concluded. Her three friends stared at her for a long time. Jemima braced herself for the embarrassment. On stage, most of Rattlesnake had taken up their places. Only Noel was left to take the stage. He would no doubt he making a grand entrance, probably sheathed in fringe.
“Jesus, what a dick,” Iggy finally said, breaking the silence.
“Seriously, what the fuck?” Priscilla agreed.
“I mean, I know he looks damn fine in leather pants, but what good is that if he’s off sticking his tongue in other people’s mouths?” Tallulah demanded. Jemima felt warm at their responses.
“Hang on, is this why you’re wearing a turtleneck at a bar?” Priscilla cut in, holding up a hand. Jemima rolled her eyes and sighed yet again.
“Lots of people wear turtlenecks to a lot of different places, okay?” She returned before pointing a woman nearby. “Look, she’s also wearing a turtleneck.”
“First of all, she’s wearing a cropped turtleneck tank top, which I think is hideous, by the way,” Priscilla began to reply. “Secondly, you look like you’re bundling up in preparation for a cold front moving in from the East.”
“Or like you’re going on a ski trip to the Alps in the sixties,” Tallulah added.
“Or like you’re going to an art house theatre to watch a man sit in a cage for twelve hours in the name of artistic justice,” Iggy chimed in.
“Or like your modern dance troupe is gearing up for a dramatic performance to the atonal, ambient cover of ‘Fix You’,” Priscilla interjected. “Or something by Morrissey.”
Jemima glared at all of them, feeling significantly less charmed by their aggressive support by this point.
“You look like you’re about to enter a spoken word contest,” Iggy said.
“You look like a gay man in his late fifties who’s, like, over it sexually and now just wants to spend his nights with a cheese board,” Tallulah said. Priscilla snorted. On stage, Noel made his entrance. The crowd went wild. Jemima watched him strut to his mic in his magenta metallic cape. He tossed his hair out of his eyes. Iggy put her arm around Jemima’s shoulders and squeezed her to her body. Tallulah reached over to pat her head. Priscilla flipped Noel off and, even though there was no possible why he could’ve seen, it made Jemima feel much, much better.