11: “Forty is like a thousand in sports years”

Tallulah had brought Reid to the Halloween party because they were friends now and she liked spending time with him. Reid, in turn, had brought his roommate Scott. The two of them had come dressed as two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each holding a stuffed turtle to compensate for the missing two. Tallulah, meanwhile, was dressed as young Richard Simmons. Across, the apartment, Priscilla was dressed as a young Jane Fonda. Jack, in a very short sexy nurse’s dress, had brought Anthony Wade with him to the party. Tallulah, along with Reid, Scott, and their stuffed turtles, were stunned to learn that Jack knew Anthony Wade.

“How did they meet?” Reid asked Bobby, who had the intel. She was standing with Jemima, being weirdly cagey. Reid hadn’t picked up on that, but Tallulah had.

“At a burrito place I guess,” Bobby shrugged.

“What’s he even supposed to be?” Tallulah asked, looking over at Anthony Wade, who was wearing a basketball jersey and carrying a basketball. It felt like a copout. She had wrestled her long, black hair into a blonde afro wig. She’d found sequinned teal dolphin shorts at a second-hand store. They smelled like moth balls and something unidentifiable that Tallulah didn’t want to think too hard about.

“He’s Kobe Bryant,” Bobby answered with an unimpressed look. She had taken great pains to make it look like her own hair had been dredged from a dirty well and she, much like Tallulah, expected the same level of commitment from everyone else.

“Is he really?” Jemima asked earnestly from nearby, adjusting her pebble necklace and having clearly missed the first half of the conversation.

“Oh my God, Jemima,” Bobby said unbelievably as Tallulah snorted into her beer. Reid and Scott were now caught up in their own conversation. She could hear them making plans to get Jack to introduce them to Anthony Wade. He was the big ticket item of the night apparently, which was saying a lot because both Harry and Conor were present.

“Well, I don’t know sports things,” Jemima huffed, defending herself.

“Kobe Bryant is, like, forty years old,” Bobby replied. “This kid is, like, twenty and he plays for the Roehampton Panthers. That’s why he’s in Roehampton in the first place.”

“What team does Kobe Bryant play for?” Jemima asked.

“He’s retired,” Tallulah answered.

“At forty?” Jemima returned incredulously. Bobby looked back at her with the same amount of incredulity.

“Forty is like a thousand in sports years,” Bobby explained, losing patience slightly. “Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir probably aren’t coming back to the next winter Olympics because they’ll be thirty-four by then and that’s so old in ice dancing years, they might as well be dead.”

“I’m just amazed he could afford to retire so early,” Jemima shrugged. Tallulah honestly couldn’t tell if she was doing it on purpose. Maybe her hormones were still messing with her.

“He’s Kobe Bryant!” Bobby nearly shouted in response. That drew the attention of people nearby. Jack and Anthony looked over from where they were standing at the edge of the kitchen. Anthony offered the group of them a friendly wave and a lopsided smile. Tallulah dumbly waved back. Beside her, Reid muttered startled profanities under his breath. Jack just smiled weakly and turned back around so that he was facing Gord once more. Tallulah hadn’t spoken to him once since they’d been at the party together.

“Jack’s being weird again,” she announced to the others.

“What do you mean again?” Reid asked her sharply at the same time Bobby said, “He’s always weird.”

Tallulah shrugged and looked over at Reid.

“I mean he’s being weird,” she replied. “Again.”

The way Reid was staring at her was unnerving. Scott must’ve noticed because he elbowed him in the ribs and shook his head slightly when Reid looked over at him. Tallulah turned back to face Anthony and Jack. She wanted Jack to introduce her to his new friend. Everybody else had already met him and Tallulah wasn’t too proud to admit she wanted to meet him too.

While she was watching them, angling to catch Jack’s attention and trying to decide if she should just walk over there, Anthony reached out and put his arm around Jack’s shoulders. Then Jack sat down on one of the broken barstools at the kitchen island and Anthony moved his arm from Jack’s shoulder to his thigh where his very short sexy nurse’s dress had ridden up and exposed more of his fishnets. Tallulah glanced over to Bobby, as if she would be able to provide some clarity or insight, but Bobby refused to make eye contact with her. So Tallulah looked back at Reid and Scott because Jemima had wandered off to check on her baby and they were the only two left. Scott’s eyes were wide, but he was covering well. And Reid’s facial expression was inscrutable. Tallulah looked back over at Anthony and Jack to find that Anthony had bent over Jack, who was looking up at him, and their faces were inches apart. Gord said something that Jack found funny. He turned to look over at his brother, at which point Anthony kissed him on the cheek, exaggeratedly loud. Tallulah could hear it from feet away.

“Huh,” Tallulah said. “Maybe that’s why he’s being weird.”

Bobby looked over at her, seemingly relieved for reasons Tallulah couldn’t understand. She didn’t care if Jack dated a man; it had nothing to do with her. She was surprised, though. That she would admit to.

“Honestly, I’m impressed,” Bobby told Tallulah, coming back to her normal self. Tallulah nodded and looked back over at Jack and Anthony, who still had his hand high up on Jack’s thigh.

“He’s very confident,” she noted.

“Well, he’s a literal pro baller,” Scott cut in. “He’s a millionaire and he’s only twenty-one. Apparently he successfully picked someone up at a burrito place. You’d be confident too.”

Tallulah nodded.

“His costume’s still shit,” she remarked a moment later. Everyone laughed except for Reid, who was still wearing the same indecipherable expression on his face.

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