Jemima, clearly in an effort to maintain the friendship she’d thrust herself and Bear into, invited Bear to go mini-golfing with her an Noel. Part of Bear wanted to ask her why she kept doing things like this. He wouldn’t mind being friends, but he didn’t feel that meant he needed to tag along on her dates. Unlike last time, however, when he had had to sit at dinner with the two of them on his own, Bear successfully forced Oscar to come with him. He didn’t actually tell Oscar where they were going or who they were meeting up with. He merely told Oscar he would come to his apartment and they could head out for an adventure.
“This isn’t the grand adventure I was promised,” Oscar informed Bear bitterly as they stood in line to pay for their golf games and pick out their clubs. Jemima and Noel were ahead of them, holding hands and giggling like middle schoolers.
“You like mini-golf,” Bear replied mildly.
“I don’t like it this much,” Oscar muttered. “Why would you have brought me to this?”
“Because if you weren’t here, I would be third-wheeling their date,” Bear pointed out.
“So now we’re what, both third-wheeling their date?” Oscar retorted. “How is this better?”
“I admit that it’s not better for you,” Bear replied politely. “But it is much, much better for me.”
Oscar shot him a look that was both incredulous and indignant.
“Oh. I didn’t realize you could be so shady,” Oscar said, voice surprised, yet indignant. Bear just smiled at him.
Once the four of them had actually begun golfing, things didn’t actually improve. It was still as awkward as it had been while they’d been waiting in line. Bear wasn’t entirely sure why he’d thought things would be different, but they certainly weren’t. Jemima and Noel were an awkward couple to be around. He assumed part of it was down to the fact that their relationship was so fresh; they were both still so into one another. On top of that, they seemed to be quite tactile people. Noel was always touching her; his arm around her waist, holding her hand, brushing hair out of her face. Jemima blushed every time. The two of them spent a lot of time giggling to one another. And then there was Bear and Oscar, who hung back about ten feet and generally did not have a good time.
“Christ, it’s like we’re on a bizarro double date with these two weirdos,” Oscar commented darkly part way through the eighth hole.
“Noel’s in a band,” Bear replied, hoping to change the subject to something more positive. Oscar frowned at him, possibly because of the non-sequitur, but possibly also because he’d been frowning at Bear for most of the evening and now he’d merely fallen into the comfort of habit.
“I know Noel’s in a band,” he returned. “Also, look at him, of course he’s in a band.”
Noel was wearing snakeskin pants and platform boots. The girl handing out mini-golf clubs and balls at the front counter had openly stared at him.
“I just thought it would be a nice point of interest between the two of you,” Bear told Oscar. “Because you were also in a band for a while.”
Oscar’s frown deepened.
“Me filling in as the temporary drummer for Skankhole was not me joining a band,” Oscar said flatly. “That was a cry for help.”
At that moment, Jemima turned around to look back at the two of them with a smile.
“You guys having fun?” She called kindly.
“So much fun,” Bear returned with a matching smile.
“Oh yeah,” Oscar said darkly at a volume only Bear could hear. “I’m having the time of my damn life.”
At the end of mini-golf, the four of them parted ways, even though Noel and Jemima invited them out for drinks. Oscar looked like he would rather plunge his entire head in bucket full of eels than accept that offer so Bear politely declined for the two of them and started leading the way to the subway.
Four days later, Bear went to coffee with one of Iggy’s other friends. He had hopes that, if this one didn’t work out, he could at least not be her friend. Bear nearly hadn’t agreed to go, based solely on the mini-golf debacle, but then agreed based on the fact that he didn’t want to have to spend the rest of his life bringing Oscar to mini-golf double dates. Bear met Iggy’s friend at the coffee shop where Iggy worked so that Iggy would be able to introduce them to one another. Bear was pleased to find a lovely-looking woman with brown curly hair and a nice smile waiting for him at one of the tables. Iggy was standing with her, chatting. Bear approached, Iggy introduced her friend as Helen, and the two of them began their date.
At the end of the evening, as the staff at the coffee shop was beginning to clean up, Bear walked Helen out outside. They had had a genuinely lovely evening with no awkward silences or stilted conversations. Bear was cautiously optimistic. After all, both of his dates with Jemima had been the same and now she was inviting him to play mini-golf with her and her new boyfriend.
“Can I walk you home?” Bear asked Helen.
“Oh thanks, but I’m going to head home with Iggy so that we can talk about you,” Helen replied honestly, hooking a thumb back in the direction of the coffee shop behind them. Bear laughed mildly.
“Well alright then,” he nodded. “It was lovely to meet you. I had a very nice time.”
“Want my phone number?” Helen asked. Bear was impressed by her brazen directness.
“Yes,” he answered simply. He unlocked his phone so that she could add herself as a contact and then handed him his phone back. He slipped it inside his pocket.
“Well, have a safe walk home,” he told her before leaning forward to kiss her on the cheek. She turned her head at the last moment and kissed him full on the mouth for a surprisingly long time. When she pulled back, she was grinning and he went slightly cross-eyed from trying to look at her face so close to his own. He cleared his throat and stepped away. He looked back as he walked away and she waved at him, still grinning.