Jacklyn felt she was really achieving her goal to grow as a person. She had become particularly good about talking herself down from fits of jealousy every time Amare and Jocelyn so much as spoke to one another. She realized this was basic everyday stuff for most people, but it was a major improvement for her so she was counting it as a win. She was also making an effort to be nicer to Jocelyn in general. Jocelyn was perfectly nice to Jacklyn all the time, presumably because she didn’t have any of the same bizarre hangups, so Jacklyn figured it was only fair. That was why, when Jocelyn invited Jacklyn to her friend’s party, Jacklyn accepted the invitation, graciously if she said so herself. Jocelyn was delighted. It was something like the eighth time Jocelyn had invited Jacklyn out with her and the first time Jacklyn had actually agreed to go. Jocelyn’s excitement made her feel sort of like she’d just kicked a puppy. She was even gladder she’d agreed to go.
The party Jocelyn had invited her to was at her friends’ shared apartment. Apparently they had a lot of parties because it was so convenient. Jacklyn was slightly apprehensive about attending a party where she only knew one person. She wasn’t great with new people, a fact she was sure Jacklyn could attest to. She and Jocelyn made their way over together on the subway. In an effort to match Jocelyn as much as possible, Jacklyn had tried her hardest to look as good as possible. She and Jocelyn took a photo together on the subway and Jacklyn posted it to Instagram when they returned aboveground again. Iggy commented on it with about fifteen fire emojis so Jacklyn assumed she’d accomplished her goal.
Jocelyn’s friends lived in a high-rise quite close to Chinatown. It was close enough to downtown to have that skyscraper aesthetic and hundreds of massive windows, but it was also far enough to look just a little bit dodgy. Jocelyn led the way inside and over to the bank of elevators with purpose. She and Jacklyn rode up to the twelfth floor with an older woman and a couple of teenagers, all of them staring straight ahead at the changing numbers above the doors. She and Jocelyn got out and then walked halfway down the hall to where the party was quite clearly happening. Music and laughter could be heard all the way to the elevators. Jocelyn walked directly inside and Jacklyn followed behind her, apprehensive.
Once inside, the first thing they came across was a big brown cat with thick stripes of darker browns running throughout his coat. He had enormous green eyes. He was lying on the tile just in front of the door, surrounded by shoes. He was purring so loudly that Jacklyn could hear him clearly even over the music thumping throughout the apartment. Jocelyn kicked off her shoes and bent down to pet him.
“This is Josh Brolin,” she said, pointing to the cat.
“Josh Brolin?” Jacklyn repeated, looking down at the cat.
“My friend Astrid really likes Josh Brolin,” Jocelyn nodded. In that moment, Jacklyn couldn’t think of a single movie Josh Brolin had ever been in.
The second person they ran into was Noel. That was when Jacklyn began to realize something had gone amiss. Noel was wearing burgundy velvet pants and what could only be described as a silk, short-sleeved blouse. It had giant tropical fish printed across it. He was wearing several necklaces, even more rings, and his hair had been artfully tousled to make it look like he hadn’t tried at all, even though he clearly had. Noel grinned when he saw her, unaware that he had any reason to be wary of her. Unfortunately, Jacklyn had been told by several of her friends that Noel had quite recently jerked Jemima around, again, and she was less than pleased with his entire existence. Of course, Jacklyn was also attempting to be kind and calm. Plus, she didn’t know anyone but Jocelyn, and now Noel, at this party and causing a righteously angry scene didn’t seem like the vest best way to make new friends.
“You’re friends with Sylvie too?” Noel asked her. Jacklyn frowned.
“Who?” She returned. But then she saw her.
Sylvie was standing in the living room with a couple other beautiful twenty-something women. Jacklyn recognized her instantly and she’d only been shown one photo. But she’d recognize her anywhere. Jemima herself had shown Jacklyn the photo of the two of them Sylvie had insisted they take in the bathroom of the bar where Rattlesnake had had their most recent show. Jemima had explained that Sylvie was the woman Noel had kissed after he’d kissed Jemima. Sylvie was incredibly photogenic, but she was extremely attractive in real life as well. Part of Jacklyn had been hoping the photo was just an illusion. Another part of her felt bad for even thinking that. An even larger part of her had begun to wish she’d stayed home.
“Oh yeah, that’s my friend Sylvie,” Jocelyn stepped in, for which Jacklyn was incredibly grateful because she didn’t think she’d be able to carry on the rest of the conversation by herself. “She lives here with my other three friends, Cam, Astrid, and Nadia.”
Jacklyn nodded to show she understood. She was trying to avoid making direct eye contact with Noel. She was feeling particularly furious on Jemima’s behalf.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you,” Jocelyn said, throwing a casual smile in Noel’s direction before pulling Jacklyn into the living room to meet her friends. Jacklyn was grateful for that as well, though, relieved as she was to be leaving Noel behind, she wasn’t exactly relishing an evening of niceties with Sylvie. Jacklyn was having trouble coming up with things for them to talk about that didn’t include Noel, how angry Jacklyn was at Noel, or how wronged Jemima had been by Noel. He and Sylvie were clearly something to one another or he wouldn’t be at her party. Jacklyn just didn’t know what exactly they were and, what’s more, she didn’t want to find out. Anyway she looked at it, the result would not be good. Jacklyn didn’t want to be the person that told Jemima Noel had had a girlfriend all along or that he’s simply found someone he liked better.
“Hey, guys,” Jocelyn greeted her friends. “This is my roommate Jacklyn. These are my friends, Sylvie, Cam, Astrid, and Nadia.”
Jocelyn pointed to each of them individually.
“The evasive roommate,” Cam said knowingly, taking a sip of her wine.
“Jacklyn knows Liza Minelli’s doppleganger,” Jocelyn said in a stage whisper. Nadia leaned in, like they were sharing secrets. Meanwhile, Jacklyn had been hoping it would take longer for that particular bit of information to surface.
“Really?” Nadia asked her, matching Jocelyn’s conspiratorial tone.
“Uh, yeah,” Jacklyn nodded. “I work with him.”
“Sylvie drunkenly made out with him at a bar a couple weeks ago,” Astrid announced bluntly. They all laughed, because it was funny to them and not sad and cruel. Sylvie blushed furiously.
“Astrid invited him tonight to embarrass me,” she explained sheepishly. “He keeps asking me out.”
At this point, Jacklyn had made a pact to herself to never leave her apartment again. It would significantly decrease the chances of her being put in this position again.
“Anyway, I keep turning him down,” Sylvie continued, managing not to come off as grievously arrogant as she could’ve by some minor miracle.
“Oh,” Jacklyn nodded, feigning polite interest and praying the conversation would change to something else soon.
“Yeah,” Sylvie nodded, smiling earnestly at Jacklyn. “He’s in a band and we went to his show last weekend. It was actually really good, but we all hung out with him and the rest of his band afterward. He kept talking about this woman the whole time. Like, he’s really into her, but I think he’s just super confused. Oh! Actually you might know her! He said it was someone he worked with.”
Jacklyn really hoped her facial expression wouldn’t betray how shocked she really felt. There was no way Noel hadn’t been talking about Jemima. Jacklyn would never utter the words out loud, entirely because she didn’t want to come off as massively conceited, but she and Jemima were unquestionably the most attractive women on their entire team. Actually, she would go so far as to say that she and Jemima were the most attractive people on their team, except for Noel himself and their other co-worker Dave Sydney. She supposed it was entirely possible that Noel had actually been talking about Dave. That would explain the confusion.
“Oh yeah, probably,” Jacklyn agreed vaguely, filing away everything she had learned and trying to decide if it would be better or worse to keep it from Jemima.