Jacklyn came over unexpectedly one night while Jemima was at home painting her toenails. She had chosen a sherbet orange colour that she wasn’t actually sure she liked very much, but she was trying to get in the summer mood. It was April, it was slightly less dreary than it had been for months, and she was going to make the most of it. Jacklyn knocked twice before just coming inside, which led Jemima to think that she should consider locking her door. It wasn’t that she didn’t want Jacklyn to come over, of course, it was mostly just that anyone could clearly walk into her apartment and that wasn’t ideal.
“What’s up?” Jemima asked brightly. Jacklyn gave her a stern look and sat down on the couch beside her, turning so that she was facing Jemima head-on.
“I wasn’t sure if I should tell you this, but I figured I might as well and let you make your own decisions,” Jacklyn said abruptly. “You’re an adult.”
“I am,” Jemima agreed, nodding. She was stunned.
“I met Sylvie a week ago,” Jacklyn began to explain. “You know, the gorgeous blonde woman Noel made out with at a bar he invited you to.”
“Well, she’s friends with my roommate Jocelyn,” Jacklyn continued.
“Your nemesis?” Jemima checked.
“No, Gord’s my nemesis,” Jacklyn waved a hand dismissively. “Because he’s a dick. Jocelyn’s fine.”
She didn’t look like she really believed that, but also like she was trying really hard to believe it.
“Anyway, Sylvie told me that Noel keeps asking her out,” Jacklyn said, redirecting the conversation. Jemima wondered if she was going to like where it ended up. She suspected not. It seemed like it was taking a turn for the worse.
“But Sylvie keeps turning him down,” Jacklyn added and Jemima saw a little sliver of hope crack through the bleakness. “Because he’s hung up on someone that he works with. I think we can all safely assume he doesn’t mean me, because let’s be real, I am not his type. And I don’t think it could be literally anybody else because, let’s be realer, everybody else is funny-looking. I suppose it could be Dave.”
“Dave is really good-looking,” Jemima agreed.
“Dave is gorgeous,” Jacklyn replied. Neither of them said anything for a while after that. Jemima tried to piece together what this new information meant, if it in fact meant anything at all.
“You really think he could like me then?” She asked Jacklyn, trying not to sound as hopeful as she felt.
“I think he’d be stupid not to,” Jacklyn answered, but she didn’t sound particularly happy about it.
Jemima went out with Miles’ friend Bear for a second time three days later. They had a lovely dinner together and then went for a stroll together through a nearby park. It was actually kind of a sketchy park and, especially since it was nighttime, it wasn’t something Jemima ever would’ve done on her own. But with Bear around, she felt perfectly safe. The man was gigantic. Someone would have to be fairly stupid to try to jump him. Or incredibly ambitious.
Jemima had a perfectly lovely time. Bear was genuinely the nicest person she’d ever met. Part of her thought she should continue to date him, if only because he was so kind. He would literally never kiss another woman after he’d invited her out. Jemima was certain of this. And yet, she still wasn’t convinced nice was enough to cut it. It wasn’t very exciting. There was no allure. Did she really want to spend the rest of her life being nice with someone? Didn’t she want her life to be interesting?
Bear walked her back to her building and they stopped at the front door like they had after their first date. Jemima took one long look in Bear’s eyes and made up her mind.
“I don’t think I can continue to date you,” she told him honestly, surprising herself with her ability to confront her feelings. “But I would love to still be your friend.”
She had said it before to other people, but she’d never meant it like she did right then. Bear smiled at her mildly. Everything about him was mild.
“I would love to have you as a friend,” he replied and she felt like he really meant it.
At work the following week, Jemima cornered Noel by the men’s room where it had all begun. He grinned at her and winked when he saw her. She smiled back nervously. The fear of rejection was a lot. She had wanted this for such a long time, over a year. She didn’t know what she would do if he said no. At least she would finally know one way or the other, she supposed. Twelve months of ambiguity was enough for a lifetime.
“Hey, Noel,” she began, palms sweating. “I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me sometime.”
“Sure,” he replied instantly and happily. That was a good sign, but she still couldn’t be certain he fully understood what she’d meant. She wasn’t leaving any room for interpretation this time.
“On a date,” she added. “Would you like to go out with me on a date?”
Noel grinned at her again.
“Absolutely,” he answered. Jemima felt herself returning his smile. He reached forward and pulled her toward him until they were kissing in front of the men’s room. It was everything Jemima had imagined it would be. They had kissed before, but nothing like this. This was it. This was the real deal and Jemima couldn’t be happier. Finally, after a whole year, she and Noel were together and nothing could get in her way now. No drag queens, no random friends, no beautiful blonde strangers, and no cat underwear. This was it.
And then their co-worker Dave Sydney, the handsome one, exited the men’s room and walked directly into them. Noel bit Jemima’s bottom lip by accident and the pair of them tumbled into the water fountain on the opposite side of the hallway. Dave reached out to steady them, but he was closest to Noel, which meant that Jemima ended up in a pile on the floor with her underwear exposed, Mennonite skirt bunched around her waist. She was once again wearing her cat underwear. It felt very ironic. Jemima considered throwing them out.
“Sorry,” Dave apologized, looking confused, likely either wondering why Noel and Jemima had been kissing in front of the men’s room in the first place or why Jemima owned cat-patterned underwear. Jemima blushed profusely and shimmied her skirt back down over her legs. Noel winked at her.
“No worries, man,” he said robustly, clapping Dave on the shoulder before reaching down to help Jemima to her feet. Dave left them there, looking even more confused than before, as Noel and Jemima stared dreamily into each other’s eyes next to the water fountain.