Jemima and Noel were dating for real and this time Jemima knew it was actually happening. It was lovely. They ate lunch together, sometimes alone and other times with her friends. They went on dates that she actually knew were dates. There weren’t any random strangers tagging along and she had yet to trip over her own underwear. Things were going well.
“I really think that everything’s going to be okay now,” she told Bernie and Iggy one night while the three of them were out for frozen yogurt.
“That’s good,” Bernie replied. “I mean, I don’t actually think it will be, but it’s nice that you feel that way.”
Jemima looked at her in shock.
“What do you mean?” She demanded.
“I mean that Noel is the single most confusing man in the whole world and he is likely still going to be as confusing even though you’re technically together now,” Bernie explained. Jemima was miffed that Bernie was determined to rain on her parade. Jemima turned to Iggy, who held her hands and her tiny, purple, plastic yogurt spoon up in defence.
“You’ll see,” Jemima told Bernie menacingly. “We’ll be a power couple.”
Bernie didn’t look like she particularly believed her, but she kept it to herself.
Despite Jemima’s fervent proclamation in a frozen yogurt place that she and Noel would be a power couple, they had a bit of a rocky beginning. This was primarily down to the fact that Jemima had begun to see Sylvie, more affectionately known as Scandinavian Barbie, everywhere. For a woman that Jemima spent a good twenty-seven years not seeing, she was certainly suddenly very present and ubiquitous. She nearly ran into her inside a bookstore downtown. Sylvie was holding a coffee table book of different Vogue covers at the time and she’d very narrowly missed smacking Jemima in the face with it when they each turned the corner of their respective aisles and just barely avoided collision.
“Oh hey!” Sylvie greeted her brightly, clearly remembering Jemima from Noel’s show. Jemima felt weird about seeing her, faintly guilty, as if she had stolen Sylvie’s boyfriend out from underneath her. But Noel and Sylvie had never been together. Jemima knew he’d asked her out, but Sylvie had never actually gone out with him. As far as Jemima was aware, she wasn’t even interested in Noel.
“How are you?” Sylvie asked, seeming genuinely interested in the answer. She was very nice. Jemima felt bad all over again.
“I’m good, how are you?” Jemima returned, mostly to be polite.
“I’m good! Just picking up this book for my roommate’s birthday,” Sylvie answered. She spoke to Jemima like they were real friends and not the two veritable strangers that they were. Jemima had braided her hair in the bathroom of a bar once. That was not as such a long-lasting friendship.
“Oh nice,” Jemima replied because she didn’t actually know how to respond.
“Yeah! Well, I’ll let you get back to it,” Sylvie said. Then she smiled brightly in Jemima’s direction and walked up to the cash register. Syvlie’s smile was blinding and beautiful. Jemima found herself slightly mesmerized.
The next time Jemima saw Sylvie, she was at a café with Bernie. Jemima made them hide in the bathroom for fifteen minutes until she was sure Sylvie had left with her coffee.
“Why do I have to hide? She doesn’t know who I am,” Bernie protested.
“Because if I hide in the bathroom on my own, I’ll look like a weirdo,” Jemima returned.
“I think you’re really overestimating my presence here,” Bernie told her. “The only thing that’s happening now is that we both look weird.”
Jemima ignored her.
The third time Jemima saw Sylvie, she and Priscilla were waiting for Tallulah outside of the record store. The three of them were going to go see a movie. Tallulah was just finishing up the last of her shift with Finch, who was terrifying, so Jemima and Priscilla had decided to wait outside.
“He’s very good-looking,” Priscilla said, glancing over her shoulder through the front window of the record store at where Finch was scowling behind the cash register.
“Uh huh,” Jemima agreed, nodding. “But also he’s scary.”
“So scary,” Priscilla replied. That was when Jemima caught sight of Sylvie leaving a shoe store across the street. Jemima immediately turned her head so that Sylvie wouldn’t recognize her and ended up quite close to Priscilla’s face.
“Uh, hello,” Priscilla said, eyes wide.
“Hi, sorry,” Jemima replied hastily. “It’s just that I saw Sylvie across the road and I don’t want her to see me.”
Priscilla frowned at her.
“Sylvie,” Jemima repeated. “Scandinavian Barbie. That girl Noel made out with in the bar that one time.”
“Oh right,” Priscilla nodded. She looked across the street, presumably to see if she could see Sylvie as well. “She really is insanely beautiful. Like, holy shit. I’m having trouble looking away.”
Jemima scowled at her.
“You know, this isn’t a super reassuring conversation for me,” she admitted.
“No, no, you’re looking at it the wrong way,” Priscilla returned, putting a hand on Jemima’s shoulder. “Noel chose you. He made out with that spectacularly beautiful woman and decided that you were the best.”
“Aw, that’s really sweet,” Jemima said, amazed that Priscilla could come up with something so kind and encouraging.
“Yeah, don’t tell anyone I said that because I feel icky about it,” Priscilla replied. “In my black heart, what I am really thinking is ‘Fuck Noel and his objectification of female beauty! Fuck the patriarchy! We are not objects to be obtained! This is why we march!’ But in the interest of friendship, I am saying that you are the most beautiful, apparently determined by someone who wears snakeskin pants and a coat made from the carcasses of crows.”
Jemima stared at her for a long time.
“That was less nice,” she said flatly eventually.
“Maybe,” Priscilla shrugged. “Though it might depend on who you ask.”
And the fourth time Jemima saw Sylvie, they were at the same yoga class. Jemima had gone with Tallualh, Priscilla, and Iggy with the expectation that she would be able to stand in the back and stretch as far and as long as she wanted to. She was fairly new to yoga and she found it extremely difficult. She wanted to hide her shame from the rest of the yoga class until she felt she could do the poses to an acceptable level. Regrettably, Sylvie, who was situated in the very front row, saw Jemima when she entered the yoga studio and waved her over. Jemima went reluctantly, her friends trailing along behind her.
“Hey!” Sylvie greeted her. “So fun that we’re here together!”
Jemima wasn’t convinced.
“You guys can put your mats up here with me,” Sylvie offered, gesturing to the open space next to her. It was a difficult offer to refuse without coming across incredibly rude. So, with one apologetic look in her friends’ direction, Jemima unrolled her yoga mat and set it down beside Sylvie. Iggy, Priscilla, and Tallulah followed suit until they had taken up most of the front row. Jemima was dreading the beginning of the class. Sylvie chatted away, blissfully unaware that Jemima was experiencing any kind of anxiety.
“Wow, she is so nice,” Jemima overheard Priscilla whisper to Tallulah and Iggy. “Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s so kind.”
“Seriously, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” was Iggy’s hushed and unhelpful response.
Jemima sweated profusely throughout the class, which she was as, as expected, not good at. Sylvie was quite good and so were Priscilla, Tallulah, and Iggy. Jemima felt like the ugly duckling nestled in between all of them. The only positive was that Sylvie was just as sweaty as Jemima, if not more.
“That was fun!” Sylvie said to all four of them at the end of the class. “If you guys come back next week, we should go get smoothies or something afterward.”
Jemima was startled by the invitation and also pleased to see that her other friends were as well.
“Uh, yeah, that would be nice,” Priscilla stepped in and answered for all of them, which was just as well because Jemima was having a hard time finding words.
“Awesome!” Sylvie replied brightly. She rolled up her mat, waved good-bye, and then left the studio.
“So nice,” Priscilla said as they watched her walk away and Jemima couldn’t find it in herself to disagree.