Jade got roped into going to Tori’s house for a sleepover. Cat had grabbed her sleeve, tugged and begged, “Please Jade? My birthday’s next week and it’d be like a present!”
“If I go I’m not getting you anything else,” Jade says. Not that it’s difficult getting Cat presents. Last year she wrote happy birthday on a pink piece of paper and gave it to her. She hung it up in her locker for a month.
“Yay!” Cat grinned as Jade yanked her sleeve away.
So now Cat is giggling, wide-eyed, hands clutching her face as Tori tells a story about one of Trina’s ballet recitals. Jade is only paying attention because it’s about Trina making a fool of herself, and even though that’s Trina’s default setting, it never gets old.
“So she was off for the entire performance, and then when it was her solo--”
“They gave her a solo?” Jade raises her eyebrows. “Were the teachers blind?”
“She was eight, they gave everyone a solo,” Tori says, “Anyway, she fell on her butt and sneezed at the same time and got snot all over her leotard.” Tori looks guilty when she finishes.
But then Trina comes stomping down the stairs. “Tori!” Trina yells, green goo smeared over her face. “Did you use the last of your peach lotion?”
Tori’s eyes shift. “Yeah,” she drags the word out, adding an extra syllable. “It was my lotion.”
“And you didn’t buy more? I need to moisturize my legs!”
Tori frowns and looks confused, like she didn’t know Trina was using her lotion and is going to ask her about it, but then decides against it. She simply says, “It wasn’t yours to use, Trina.”
“You are so selfish, Tori!” Trina marches loudly up the stairs and they hear a door slamming.
“I like lotion,” Cat says, picking up a cupcake they made earlier and licking the frosting off.
Apparently that’s what they do when they have their sleepovers, make cupcakes and talk shit about Trina. Cat tells really intricate stories about her brother that Tori actually listens to, nodding along and asking questions as though they make sense or are interesting. Jade couldn’t care less about the time Cat’s brother got arrested for painting his body orange with self-tanner and went swimming in other people’s pools nude. They play Wii, sing, make up dance moves to cheesy pop songs, and then make those weird nugget videos they post on The Slap sometimes.
It’s worse than Jade thought it would be. But at least they sneak alcohol. Sometimes, Tori had clarified, like it made her a terrible person instead of a slightly more interesting one.
Jade takes a sip of her rum and coke--too much coke, too little rum, if you ask her--and says, “I hope Trina’s face turns green.”
Cat giggles loudly, kicking Jade with her feet. “She’d look like a monster.”
“She is a monster.”
“Do you guys want to do something?” Tori asks, running her hand through her hair and tugging out a few knots. “We could do the Funny Nugget Show with Jade.”
Cat agrees quickly, saying, “Oh! That would be so much fun.”
They both stare at Jade expectantly before she says, “You actually expect me to dignify that ridiculous suggestion with a response?”
Cat frowns and Tori shakes her like she should have known better. Silence fills the room and Jade suspects Tori’s trying to decide what to do next. Jade just wants more rum, but Tori is worried she’ll get in trouble. Jade can’t believe she let Tori mix her a drink in the first place, even though it seemed like a good idea at the time since she didn’t want to get up.
“I gotta pee,” Cat says before racing off to the bathroom.
Jade looks around the room, sees her bags piled next to Cat’s next to the other couch. “I get this couch.”
“Okay,” Tori says. “So, um, Andre asked you out?”
Jade rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. “Of course he’d tell you, you’re practically Siamese twins.”
Tori blinks, confused, and then shifts so she’s sitting pretzel style. “Why did you say no?”
“Because I don’t like him like that.” Jade thinks the answer is pretty fucking obvious. “Why do you care? Don’t you think I’m the worst girlfriend ever.”
“No, it’s just that, Beck and stuff, you know.”
Jade quirks an eyebrow. “And stuff?”
“Yes.” Tori’s words are sharper than usual and color rises on her cheeks. She crosses her arms over her chest defensively. Jade stares at her, smirking, and Tori looks around the room quickly, refusing to meet her gaze.
“I also didn’t say yes because I know you like him.” It’s not entirely true, but whatever.
“I, what, I, why would you...” Tori trails off, flustered. “I don’t.”
Jade rolls her eyes. “Convincing.”
As they sit there in silence, Jade stretches her legs out and finishes the last of her coke with a hint of rum before throwing the cup onto the table Tori dragged in front of the couches earlier--so they’d have a place to put the cupcakes for “easy eating,” as Tori had coined it. Jade wants to reach into her bag and grab a pair of scissors so she can cut up the cliché red cup, but she is too lazy to do it right now. She glances at Tori, who’s just sitting there staring at her hands and biting her lip.
“He likes you, too. He’s just scared.”
Tori looks up, skeptical. “How do you know?”
“I just do.” Jade rolls her eyes and scoots down on the couch. “You’re both so dumb.”
Cat comes back from the bathroom singing a song that sounds like it could be from Sesame Street. She plops down on the couch, clapping her hands together excitedly. “I know what we should do!”
“What?” Tori asks, looking relieved that Cat is back so they can stop talking about Andre.
“We can play Bo Bo Skee Rotten Totten!”
Jade groans and sinks further into the couch, pushing Cat away with her feet.
Sikowitz is trying to show Tori how she’s supposed to act when she accuses Cat’s Mary of being a witch, because she just keeps jerking around like she’s Will Smith in that one episode of Fresh Prince, and this scene is not actually supposed to make people think of that.
Jade’s sitting down, arms crossed over her chest, trying not to roll her eyes in annoyance. She thinks Sikowitz is probably not the best person to be teaching Tori how to do this so she doesn’t look like she’s going insane.
“How long do you think this is going to take?” Beck asks, walking over from where he was talking to Robbie and Andre.
“Rest of rehearsal because Tori sucks.”
Beck sits in the chair next to her and mimics her body language. “I don’t think she’s that bad. She makes a pretty good Abigail.”
Jade can’t keep it in any longer, so she rolls her eyes. “Are you watching this?”
Beck laughs quietly and Jade can tell when he turns his head away from the stage to look at her. “To be fair, this is just as much Sikowitz’s fault as it is hers.”
They watch Tori awkwardly throwing her head around onstage as Sikowitz alternatively tells her "more intense" and "not that intense you look like a chicken who just had its head cut off." Everyone else is either talking quietly amongst themselves or looking at Tori with raised eyebrows and tight smiles of laughter on their faces. Jade sees Cat trying to do it herself, but she looks more like she’s dancing.
Jade glances at the clock. They have fifteen minutes left. “Can I leave?”
Sikowitz turns to look at her abruptly. “No. Stop being so difficult.”
Jade sighs dramatically and throws her head back. She doesn’t think it was a dumb question, especially when he’s going to spend the next five minutes working with Tori and then he’ll call it a day. She weighs the odds of saying she has to go to the bathroom and then just going home without Sikowitz noticing. Probably good.
“So you didn’t want to go out with Andre?” Beck asks.
Jade freezes. She’s tired of talking about this in general, once with Tori was more than enough, but she really doesn’t want to talk about it with Beck. “No.”
“No you didn’t want to or no you did want to?”
“No, I didn’t want to, that’s why I said no,” Jade snaps, somehow resisting the urge to add duh.
“I told him it was okay,” Becks says.
Jade figured, but it hurts hearing the words coming from him, calm and matter-of-fact. She nods her head once, bites her lip and looks at her fingernails before picking at the black polish. There’s something about knowing Beck told Andre he could ask her out that makes their break up feel more final than it did before. It’s been months, but this is confirmation she didn’t want: Beck’s over her.
She looks back up at him and his eyes are still on her. He runs a hand through his hair and exhales. “I’m glad you said no.”
Jade can’t hide her surprise, but she manages to say, “Because of the bro code?”
Beck smiles and shakes his head. “No. Just because.”
“That’s not a reason,” Jade says. She has to remind herself that this doesn’t mean anything, because she knows she’d rip Cat’s heart out with her own hands if she started dating Beck, even if Jade had a new boyfriend or they’d been broken up for years. She doesn’t believe in any sort of girl code because that’s stupid and she’s not Vega, but she believes in not being an asshole about the guy Jade was with for over three years.
She rolls her eyes. “You’re annoying.”
Jade can tell Beck’s trying not to smile as he says, “I know.”
Sikowitz finally claps his hands together, “Take five!”
“There’s only ten minute left,” Robbie points out from his spot near the side of the stage. Thankfully he put Rex down somewhere before rehearsal started.
“Oh, right, well. Tomorrow we will start by taking five!”
The play goes well.
Everyone knows their lines and their cues, and the audience is receptive. Jade feels herself getting into the role, the complexity of the character and the emotion of the situation embedded into her like a second skin. Tori doesn’t make a fool out of herself, but Jade still would have counted it as a rousing success if she had. Her mother doesn’t show up because her younger brother gets sick, but Jade knows there would have been another excuse otherwise, a big project at work or a headache. Her dad never even bothers to pretend he is going to attend one of her shows. He’s a workaholic and he still doesn’t understand art, even if he thought her play was decent.
Cat hugs Jade after the curtain falls, practically tackling her to the floor. “You were so sad.”
“Thanks?” Jade pats her back briefly before pushing Cat off her. “You were good, too.”
“Do you want to go get ice cream?” Cat tucks a piece of hair behind her ear and slowly shifts her weight from heel to toe, the excitement of performing still echoing in her body movements, in the smile spread across her face.
“No,” Jade says.
“I would try to cut your brother’s finger off.” Cat’s not the brightest crayon in the box, even if her hair can be blinding, but her brother is even dimmer. And there’s only so much ditz Jade can take at a time.
“Not with my family,” Cat says, shaking her head back and forth for a few seconds while Jade looks at her, waiting for her to finish. “Oh, with everyone, our friends.”
Jade thinks about protesting the idea that most of them are her friends, but the warmth of the lights is still making her feel a little tingly. “Sure.”
“Yay!” Cat hugs her again and Jade smiles despite herself.
Jade drives Cat because she doesn't want to be smushed in the middle of Beck and Robbie and she tells Jade she wants to ride with her best friend. anyway Jade thinks it’s stupid but she relents as long as Cat promises not to play with the radio.
When they get to the ice cream place Tori suggested, they all slide into a booth, the guys on one side and the girls on the other. “How do I know this place is actually good?” Jade asks, looking at the menu.
“Because I’ve been here a lot,” Tori says.
“Exactly.” Jade looks up to shoot her a glare before turning her attention back to the list of ice cream flavors.
“I don’t think I want ice cream,” Beck says.
“Then get something else,” Andre replies, flipping his menu over.
There are a lot of choices, but Jade’s not as indecisive as everyone else at the table. “Do I have to wait for you all to be ready before I order?”
“Yes,” Beck says instantly.
“Yes,” Jade mocks, knitting her eyebrows together and wrinkling her noise in disgust.
“Do you ever order before the entire table is ready?” Robbie asks, pushing his glasses up higher on his noise.
Jade snorts, “Yes.”
“It’s rude,” Beck says.
Jade glances up at him briefly. He isn’t looking at her, not with judging eyes or a clenched jaw, not at all. He’s still scanning the menu for something to order, a smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. Jade feels something shift back into place.
“I want a bubblegum ice cream cone,” Cat squeals, setting her menu down on the table. “But do I lick it or chew it?”
“It’s ice cream,” Andre says. His eyebrows scrunched together as he looks at Cat.
“It’s bubblegum,” Cat responds, frowning.
Jade sighs and refrains from banging her head against the table repeatedly. “You lick it, Cat.”
Cat giggles. “Cat’s lick things and I’m Cat. What are you getting Jade?”
“Coffee ice cream?” Cat asks. Jade nods and Cat bites her lip, eyes serious as she thinks. “And you lick that even though it’s coffee? You don’t drink it?”
“Yes.” Tori grins at Cat and puts down her own menu, apparently having decided what’s she’s getting, too.
The waitress comes by and asks if they’re ready to order, and when Beck tells her not quite, she smiles, fluttering her eyelashes. Jade takes it as a sign of progress that she doesn’t immediately decide that the waitress doesn’t deserve a tip. But after she walks away Jade still says, “Well isn’t she friendly.”
“I’d like to be her friend,” Rex replies.
Jade can tell Tori’s looking between her and Beck by the way her hair keeps moving in Jade’s periphery vision. Jade turns to glare at Tori, and Tori says, “She seemed nice.”
“And pushy.” Jade rolls her eyes when Tori glances at Beck, worrying her lip between her teeth.
“How are the mozzarella sticks here?” Beck asks Tori, finally looking up from his menu.
“Was that a statement or a question?” Jade asks.
Tori blinks, looks around the table again and then says, “A statement. My dad orders them all the time.”
“Does everyone know what they want?” Jade crosses her arms impatiently. She knows if this take too much longer Cat will change her mind and then take forever to actually pick something else to order.
“I don’t,” Robbie says, running his finger over the menu as though he’s using it to keep his place while he reads through all the options.
“Be ready.” Jade orders.
“Robbie you always end up ordering the same thing anyway,” Beck says.
“You do,” Cat agrees, and Jade can feel her tapping her foot on the tile by the way her leg moves next to Jade’s. Jade places her hand on Cat’s thigh so she’ll stop.
Robbie protests, “I do not! What are--”
“Vanilla ice cream,” Rex interrupts, “boring, just like you.”
“Fine,” Robbie sighs, “I’m ready.”
Beck waves the waitress over since she’s just standing by the register and pretending she isn’t staring at him. She leans into the side of the booth as she takes orders, running her hand down Beck’s arm before she walks away.
Beck says, “She is kind of pushy.”
Jade presses her lips into a straight line. “Told you, Tori.”
“What’s going on with you and Beck?” Tori asks, leaning up against the lockers, arm crossed over her chest.
“I don’t like that accusatory tone.” Jade says, slamming her locker shut and walking away.
Tori scurries after her. “The other day you two were acting weird.”
Jade rolls her eyes. “Oh, right. I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
Tori sighs and grabs Jade’s wrist, roughly pulling her into the janitor’s closet before shutting the door and leaning against it, crossing her arms like she’s a bouncer. “You’re acting...” Tori trails off as she thinks. “Friendly?”
Jade places her hand on her hip and scoffs. “Friendly? You forced me in here because Beck and I have been acting like we’re friends?”
Tori looks embarrassed. “Yes.”
“Maybe because we’re friends?” Jade doesn’t know if that’s entirely true, but they’re getting there and things have been more natural between them lately. Jade finally feels comfortable going up to him and complaining about how a teacher gave her a B just because they don’t like her attitude, even though Jade doesn’t think she has an attitude, and if she did, it still shouldn’t affect her grade (Beck agrees--about the grade part, he’d raised his eyebrows skeptically when Jade said she didn’t have an attitude).
“You two are friends?” Tori asks like she doesn’t quite believe it, finally taking a step away from the door and dropping her arms.
“I guess.” Jade shrugs. “But we’re not friends,” Jade gestures between her and Tori, “so I don’t know why I’m talking to you about this.”
Tori frowns and moves back against the door. “Since we’re not friends, you’re not lying to me?”
“No.” Tori raises her eyebrows. “No. Are you going to get out of the way?”
Tori thinks and then leans more of her weight into the door. “You know how you said Andre likes me.”
Jade groans. “I’m not your friend.”
“Yeah, I know,” Tori says, annoyance creeping into her voice. “But you’re sure?”
“Yes, now move.” Jade doesn’t care enough about Tori or Andre’s loves lives to actually do anything to help them stop being idiots. Besides, Jade enjoys Tori being single and sad.
“Why would he ask you out and not me?” Tori’s face falls and her shoulders slump.
Jade swears she’s going to throw Tori out of the way and leave if she starts to cry. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” If she wasn’t terrified about the possibility of Tori bawling, she’d add something about how Andre has good taste and Tori’s clearly the anomaly. “He probably knew I’d say no.”
Tori sniffles and Jade rolls her eyes. “Really?”
“Even if Beck wouldn’t care, Andre would feel bad, so, really.”
Tori wipes at her eyes, and Jade grinds her teeth together.
“Thanks, Jade,” Tori says, standing up straighter and pulling on her shirt. Her lips start to turn up at the corners and she asks, “Do you want to give me a hug?”
“I’m. Not. Your. Friend,” Jade repeats slowly, because Tori clearly has the memory of a fish. Then she pushes Tori aside, opening the door to the janitor’s closet and slamming it shut behind her. Jade thinks that has to counts as her nice deed for the month, maybe longer.
Cat lies on Jade’s bed, head thrown over the end of it, hair reaching for the floor. Jade’s filing her nails, getting ready to paint them. The room’s quiet except for Cat humming or singing notes at random intervals. She moves her head back and forth to some beat that Jade assumes plays solely in her head. She doesn’t care as long as Cat’s not singing songs from a kid’s show out loud.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Cat asks.
“Yes.” She hears Cat moving on the bed, rustling the sheets, but keeps shaping her nails until the room seems to still. She looks up and sees Cat sitting quietly, worrying her lip between her bottom teeth. “What?”
“I don’t want to be stupid.”
Jade sighs and throws her emery board onto the chair behind her, stretching her legs out in front of her and flexing her toes. “You’re not stupid, Cat.”
“Then why’d you say I was!” Cat knits her eyebrows together and anger flashes over her face.
“Because you asked a stupid question.” Jade thinks Cat has probably spent too much time having heart-to-hearts with Tori at their sleepovers. This wouldn’t be an issue otherwise.
Cat makes a high-pitched noise and buries her face in her hands.
“Cat, you’re going to be famous one day. Or you’ll be the female version of Sikowitz. Either way, you’ll be okay.”
Cat looks up slowly, her breathing slightly unsteady and her face pink from being pressed into her palms. “If I’m a teacher I can’t be stupid, right?”
Jade shrugs. She likes Sikowitz well enough when he’s not hitting her in the head with fruit. “Sure, but if keep talking about this I am going to throw you out of my house.”
Cat smiles a little and says, “I promise.”
A comfortable silence settles over the room and Jade grabs her nail file again, shaping her nails into smooth ovals. When she’s finished she sticks her hands out in front of her and looks at them before grabbing her nail polish and unscrewing the top.
“Ew, that smells,” Cat says, now lying on her stomach on Jade’s bed, feet in the air.
“Remember that time you said that my hair dye could sink into my scalp and give me brain damage?”
“No.” Cat’s been at her house for almost three hours and Jade’s starting to get annoyed at the sound of her voice, all high-pitched and squeaky now that the soda she had is starting to kick in.
“Do you think your black nail polish soaks into your nails and makes you mean?”
“I’m mean?” Jade asks, raising her voice as she looks up and narrows her eyes.
Cat gulps and sits up on her elbows. “No, just, do you think it makes you the way you are?”
“Which is mean?” Jade knew Cat was spending too much time with Vega; she had worked so hard to train her, too.
“No!” Cat’s eyes grow wide with exasperation and she plops her head back down on the bed, kicking the mattress with her feet a few times. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you think I’m mean to you?” Jade asks, screwing the cap back on the nail polish so it doesn’t fall over and stain the carpet. Her father would kill her and her mother would scream about Jade not respecting her, as though the carpet is a direct reflection on her mother as a person. It’s not. Jade likes the carpet more.
Cat looks up at her, presses her lips into a straight line and squints. She studies Jade for a moment and her forehead wrinkles as she thinks. “Sometimes.”
Jade scoffs. “Everyone’s mean sometimes.”
Cat seems to consider this, tilting her head to the side. “Even me?”
Jade unscrews the top of her nail polish again because she doesn’t think there’s any real danger of Cat knocking it over while storming out of her room in tears anymore. She finishes her left hand and looks at it, deciding on a second coat, when Cat says, “Jade.”
“I’m sorry if I was ever mean to you.”
Jade looks up. “Thanks.” She waits a beat before saying, “Me too.”
Beck has a date.
He posts about it on The Slap, but he doesn’t give any information that Jade would deem relevant. It just reads: date tonight with a hopeful emoticon.
Jade doesn’t know how she feels.
But she does want to know who it’s with, not so she can threaten them into not going or not going out with him a second time or anything. She’s just curious. She thinks that’s a pretty natural reaction to have about your ex-boyfriend, even though when she texts everyone about it no one responds.
That’s more annoying than the fact that Beck has a date he didn’t tell her about.
Jade figures she probably doesn’t fall under the category of a “normal” friend, so she’s not angry with him for not casually dropping it into a conversation about how her father is unreasonable for making her babysit her brother on a Sunday night or about how Robbie keeps asking Beck personal hygiene questions, but if he’s going out on a date tonight, Jade thinks Andre or Tori or Cat should be probably be able to answer her text message. Jade texted Tori; she’s committed to the cause.
But she’s not going to sit in her room all night while people who claim to be her friends ignore her, so she drives over to Tori’s house, knocking furiously on the door.
“Jade,” Tori says, stretching her name out and clipping the end when she opens the door.
“Tori,” Jade responds, pushing her way into Tori’s house.
“Come in,” Tori says. Jade doesn’t have to turn around to know Tori has a baffled, slightly scared look on her face.
“Hey Jade.” Andre waves at her, sitting at the kitchen table, a mug in front of him.
Jade takes a deep breath so she doesn’t come off like a crazy jealous girlfriend because she isn’t, crazy or jealous or Beck’s girlfriend. “Beck has a date tonight.” The words sound harsher than she wanted them to be.
“Why don’t you sit down? Do you want cocoa?” Tori asks, squeezing Jade’s arm as she walks into the kitchen.
“No, I don’t want cocoa!” Jade shakes her head and crosses her arms. Tori grabs a mug out of a cabinet anyway. “Did you guys know about this?”
“The cocoa?” Andre asks, clearly pretending he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Jade glares at him until he relents. “Yeah.”
“Tori?” Jade doesn’t know if it’ll make her feel better or worse if Tori knew, but she doesn’t think she’ll be able to decide unless she knows.
Tori frowns. Jade feels her heart plummet to her stomach before the words even leave Tori’s mouth. Jade definitely feels worse.
“He told me.”
“Did he tell you not to tell me?” Jade asks.
Andre and Tori look at each other, distress etched on their faces.
Jade doesn’t wait for them to answer before she’s storming out of Tori’s house and slamming the door shut as hard as she can.
Jade speeds to Beck’s house and sits on the steps in front of his RV. She doesn’t have a plan; she doesn’t know what will happen if he brings his date back here, she doesn’t know what she’ll do if he comes back alone, all she knows is that her throat feels dry and scratchy and her fingers are cold from the night air and it all seems make her more upset.
She pulls out her phone to check the time. It’s 9:30 but it feels later. The sky is dark and Jade can’t see any stars. She can hear cars from the street every couple of minutes and holds her breath each time, wondering if this time it’s Beck. Jade’s breathing evens out and she starts to feel really stupid for being here, for sitting and waiting for her ex-boyfriend to get back from the first date he felt comfortable enough to share with the internet since they broke up--Jade wonders if maybe he’s gone on other dates before this one, wonders if this is even his first date with whoever, wonders if she’s a perky, skinny blonde who says “please” without being asked.
Her breathing evens out and she’s still wazzed, but she feels her shoulders slump, her heart slow. She stands up to leave, to drive home and pretend this never happened. Beck doesn’t have to know that she snapped and waited outside his RV for twenty minutes because he told everybody but her about his date.
But then an engine sounds closer than the other ones and she hears the soft thump of a door being closed. And it’s too late. He had to have seen her car parked on the street. And even if she were to walk around his house and make a big loop to get back to it, he’d know.
Beck sighs and rolls her eyes when he sees her. “Jade.”
She thinks about apologizing: I’m sorry. I was just leaving.. Instead she says, “Beck.”
It feels like a standoff as he stares at her and she stares back. Finally, he says, “I’m impressed you didn’t just kick open the door.”
“Will you stop with the sarcasm.”
“I’m not being sarcastic,” Jade huffs. “Let’s go inside I’m freezing.”
“I didn’t invite--” He stops, takes a deep breath. “Okay fine.”
Jade lets him use his key before she follows him inside the RV. It makes her feel anxious, seeing how it looks almost exactly like it did the last time she was here, yet she feels like it’s new, like it’s somewhere she’s never been before. Jade doesn’t feel like she fits, doesn’t feel comfortable plopping down on his bed and kicking her shoes off.
“What are you doing here?” Beck asks.
“Stop acting like a child.”
“If you’re just going to insult me, please leave.”
Jade rolls her eyes and steps farther into the RV, dropping her bag on the floor. “I can’t believe you told everyone but me.”
“Can you blame me?” he asks, “Look what you’re doing right now.”
“You told them not to tell me.”
“Because I knew this would happen.”
“No,” Jade yells. She can feel herself getting angrier, her hands starting to punctuate her words. “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d told me.”
“Oh really?” He raises his eyebrows.
She drops her voice to imitate him. “Yes really.”
“What would have happened?” Beck asks. Jade can see his shoulders tensing, his posture getting straighter.
“I don’t know. Maybe I would have asked who she was or how you knew her and then changed the conversation to something less uncomfortable. But you said we were friends and friends don’t tell other friends not to tell me anything about the first friend’s date!”
Beck looks confused as he processes her sentence, frowning. “Maybe we’re not friends.”
Jade used to feel comfortable fighting with Beck. It would happen, she would yell at him and he would sigh, roll his eyes and cross his arms. She’d feel herself getting more frantic because he wasn’t taking her seriously.
This is different. This isn’t comfortable because it’s not safe. Jade doesn’t know if they’ll be okay after this. She feels like she’s standing outside Tori’s door, alone, counting.
Everything is falling apart again.
“If we’re not friends then why did you pretend we were?”
“I thought we could be.”
“Except you decided you couldn’t trust me with basic information about your life.” Jade scowls, crossing her arms defensively. Now that the hurt has settled she can feel her anger building again. “I can’t believe you.”
“You’re the one yelling at me in my RV.” Beck’s voice begins to rise.
“I’m not the only one yelling!”
“You started it!”
Jade rolls her eyes. “That’s your argument? Very mature.”
He kisses her.
Jade stops, words getting caught in her throat. She’s still angry because she was winning that fight. She was right. But he’s kissing her, hands on her face, moving to her neck and to her hip. She grasps at his back, the fabric of his shirt bunching under her hand, nails scrambling to find purchase. It’s too much and not enough and she’s just so angry she can’t even think.
This is a bad idea loses itself somewhere on her tongue as he bites her lip and her mouth opens. We shouldn’t gets trapped behind her teeth as her fingers wrap themselves in his hair and tug. Fuck you gets swept away in a groan.
“I’m so mad at you,” he mumbles into her neck.
“Me too,” she says, pressing herself closer.
Sunday was the longest day of her life. Her little brother thought that just because she was supposed to be babysitting him that she actually had to spend time with him. So Jade locked herself in the bathroom, turning off all the lights, and waited for him to whine about it. The problem with this was that it gave her a lot of time to think while she cut up all the toilet paper, and she didn’t want to think about how she fucked Beck the night before.
But when she gets to school on Monday, she wishes it was Sunday again. She knows it’s going to be awkward whether he says anything or not. She hates that.
Jade walks up to him first because she feels like it proves how cool about this is going to be. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He looks at her for a long time without saying anything. She can tell he’s weighing his options. “What’s up?”
This is it. It’s her call whether to bring it up or not. She appreciates that and decides, since they’re not dating and they might not even be friends, that it almost counts as an apology. “My parents are pissed that I cut up all the toilet paper in our house last night.”
Beck looks like he wants to laugh, but he doesn’t. “Why’d you do that?”
“Because I was babysitting.”
“They’re making me go to the store to buy more after school. I was supposed to pay for it myself as a lesson or something, but I just took a twenty out of my mom’s purse before she went to work this morning.”
“Jade.” He raises his eyebrows.
“What? It’s like my allowance. And she won’t notice.” Jade waves her hand dismissively. Her parents don’t throw a hundred dollars into her account every month so she can pay for toilet paper. It’s the only thing she likes about them.
“But it’s not you allowance.”
“Whatever.” She takes a sip of her coffee. Jade wants to ask how his date was, but just thinking about it makes her feel itchy because it brings up shit she’s decided she doesn’t want to talk about. “Are you ready for the emotion walk?”
“Yeah. I had Sikowitz help me a little with it last week.”
“Did he try to scare you again?” Jade asks. She hears Cat giggling as she and Robbie walk towards them.
“Yeah. It didn’t work. But I think some of his advice helped. Either way he’ll feel bad if he gives me a bad grade.”
“True. And he likes you anyway.” Everyone knows Sikowitz is the most biased teacher at Hollywood Arts.
“Hey guys,” Cat says, smiling. “Check out my toes.” She grabs onto Jade and Robbie’s arms for balance, lifting up one of her feet and wiggling her toes. “They’re a rainbow!”
“Awesome,” Jade says, looking at her own fingernails so everyone knows how disinterested she is in Cat’s feet.
“Thanks,” Cat says, oblivious.
“How was your date?” Robbie asks Beck.
“Robbie! You weren’t supposed to say anything.” Cat hits Robbie across the chest and he lets out a high pitched squeak of pain.
Jade presses her lips into a thin line and takes a step towards Cat. She wants the floor to open up and swallow her even though that’s the most cliché thought she could possibly have.
Beck says, “It was fine.”
“Did you get any?” Rex asks.
Jade feels her face flush and resists the urge to rip the puppet out of Robbie’s hands, grab a pair of scissors out of her bag and kill that damn thing already. She shoots Robbie a glare and he gulps. “Rex said it, not me.”
“That’s so inappropriate,” Cat says, her mouth turned down when she looks at Jade.
Jade fights every instinct in her body and refuses to look at Beck. She doesn’t want to see his reaction to the question even though she knows he won’t actually answer it. Beck might not be afraid of anything, and Jade might scare a lot of people, but she’s terrified of his face right now. So she grabs Cat by the wrist and says, “Let’s go.”
“On an adventure?” Cat asks.
Tori’s standing on the stage at the front of the class, hands clasped together in front of her, swaying back in forth, a serene smile on her face. Jade thinks she’s glowing. She calls out, “pregnant.”
“No.” Tori immediately breaks, shock and disgust replacing the wistful look previously occupying her face. “That’s not even an emotion.”
“You looked pregnant,” Jade says, leaning back in her chair.
“Is Tori pregnant?” Cat asks, twirling a piece of hair around her finger, looking between Jade and Tori, excitement in her eyes. “I love babies.”
“I’m not pregnant!” Tori sighs. “Sikowitz?”
“Oh, right. Tori’s emotion isn’t pregnant.” He takes a long slurp of his coconut then looks pointedly at Tori. “Well, keep going until they guess it.”
Tori sighs before contorting her face into the same gooey expression as before. This time she rests her palm against her cheek and leans into it, tilting her head to the left as she gazes off into the distance.
“Daydreaming,” Robbie says.
“That’s not an emotion either. Do you even know what an emotion is?” Tori asks, face scrunching together in frustration.
“Have you been to your page on The Slap?” Beck asks. “Singy isn’t a mood either, but that didn’t stop you.”
“Singy’s not even a word,” Jade adds.
“Will you just guess!” Tori throws her arms up into the air, bending her legs as she bobs up and down once, annoyance starting to turn her cheeks pink.
“Again,” Sikowitz says from the back of his room, waving his coconut around.
This time when Tori tries to show her emotion without saying a word, she looks at Andre, her eyes widening briefly like she’s trying to tell him to come on and save her already. Jade wonders if Tori told him beforehand so she could cheat. This year Sikowitz accidentally left the sign-up sheet on the wall for two days, so anybody could see what emotion other people had chosen, but people tell each other every year anyway. Everybody does it, even Robbie and Cat, but when Jade turns her head to look at Andre, he looks baffled.
Tori would follow the rules, and Jade would bet money that Tori’s the one who reminded Sikowitz about the sign-up sheet.
“Loved?” Andre asks a minute later.
“Loved?” Jade scoffs. “Of course. You’re you.”
“Okay, who’s next?” Sikowitz scans his sheet. “Ah, Jade. This should be interesting.”
“Is it murderous?” Rex asks.
“I can show you that one after class,” Jade says, stepping onto the stage, enjoying the look on Robbie’s face, eyes going wide as he clutches Rex closer to him.
Jade does her best to look sympathetic, relaxing her face and widening her eyes slightly. She practiced in the mirror to make sure it was coming across correctly and not like, shocked or dead or whatever the idiots in this class could come up with. She tries to make eye contact with everyone because Jade goggled it, and eye contact apparently makes someone feel like you sympathize with them.
It’s going fine, but then she gets to Tori and Andre. They’re being distracting assholes with their legs pressed together and their weirdly serene faces. Jade almost widens her eyes too much.
Thankfully, before Jade’s entire performance gets fucked up, Cat shouts, “You care.”
“Close enough,” Jade says, looking to Sikowitz for approval.
He looks back down at his sheet. “Sympathetic. Yes.”
“Yay me!” Cat claps her hands together.
The bell rings and Sikowitz shouts something about everyone finishing up tomorrow, but Jade’s too busy wondering what’s going on with Tori and Andre. She grabs her bag and throws it over her shoulder, catching up with them as they walk throw the halls.
“Tori and Andre,” Jade says, raising her eyebrows and slowing her pace as they get to Tori’s locker. “Tori and Andre.”
“What?” Andre looks at her hesitantly.
“You two were acting really weird earlier,” Robbie says.
“Tori is pregnant,” Cat says.
“I am not.” Tori glares at Jade.
Jade smirks. “Then what’s going on?”
Andre and Tori exchange a look that clearly says there is something going on here. Jade sighs dramatically when they haven’t confessed a minute later and starts to tap her foot. “I’m hungry, hurry up.”
“We’re kind of dating?” Tori looks at Andre when she says it, eyebrow quirked, a smile pulling at her mouth.
Jade thinks it’s gross.
“Kind of?” Andre asks.
“Or not kind of?” Tori says.
Andre confirms, “We’re dating.”
“You guys aren’t freaked out or anything?” Tori asks, reaching out and grabbing Andre’s hand, her expression similar to the one she was doing onstage earlier.
Cat squeals, jumping up and down and crushing both Tori and Andre in a hug. “I’m so happy for you!”
“Finally,” Beck says.
“I can’t believe it took this long.” Robbie adds. Rex winks.
“This long?” Tori asks, her eyebrows coming together. “What does that mean?”
“We all knew you guys liked each other,” Jade says. “You were just swimming in a sea of denial.”
“Really?” Andre raises an eyebrow.
“Yeah, dude.” Beck claps him on the back. “But it’s always best not to rush things.”
Jade feels something prickle the back of her neck, her heart picking up. She looks at Beck and she can tell there’s a smile playing on his mouth. He runs a hand through his hair and his eyes are open and warm. Jade smiles, hopes he knows what she wants to say without having to say it. Fine, we can be friends again and You’re still annoying.
“Tori and Andre are good together,” Cat says, making a picture out of her carrots.
Tori and Andre dating isn’t much different from Tori and Andre being friends. They just hold hands in the hall and look at each other in an even more sickening way, always encouraging each other to do this or that. Nobody really needed an adjustment period, and they’ve settled into each other easily. Jade can’t stand to be around them too long because it’s annoying how happy they are. Plus, she hates seeing Tori smile.
“I said good.” Cat looks at Jade seriously.
“I know.” Jade glares back. “And I said gross.”
Cat takes a bite out of her carrot and chews it thoughtfully. “I hope they never breakup.”
Jade rolls her eyes. She couldn’t care less if Tori and Andre breakup. It might actually be fun to watch them awkwardly try to avoid each other, being able to see their sad faces, maybe they’d even cry. As long as she doesn’t have to spend time comforting either of them, it could be really entertaining.
“And if they do I hope they get back together.” Cat looks at Jade and then says, “Do you think you and Beck will get back together?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think he likes you,” Cat says. She smiles at Jade and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Likes you likes you, not like how he likes me or Andre or Robbie or Tori or his parents or--”
“I get it,” Jade snaps.
She doesn’t need Cat to help her clarify where she and Beck stand, even though Jade isn’t even sure of that herself. They talk sometimes, in the hallway or at lunch before everyone else shows up. Sometimes it’s stilted and sometimes it’s natural; sometimes they bicker and sometimes they laugh. They’ve never really talked about what happened in his RV, and Jade thinks they’re beyond the point where they could talk about it. She still doesn’t know what she’d say if they did. She knows they’'re friends, even if Beck ever decides to say they’re not. She just doesn’t know where exactly they fall in the friends category--it’s a messy area and there are no clear distinctions. She really hates that.
“Do you like him like him?” Cat asks, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth.
Jade shrugs. “I guess. But it’s his turn to man up. I’m done.”
“If Beck doesn’t ask you out again do you want to go out with my brother?”
“No.” Jade feels like she might vomit at the suggestion. She’d rather spend an hour watching Tori and Andre sweet talk each other than spend it with Cat’s brother.
“I wouldn’t either,” Cat says.
Jade stares at her. “He’s your brother.”
“I know.” Cat blinks a few times before looking back down at her food. “Who else do you want to go out with?”
Jade groans. “This is so stupid.”
Cat looks up at her sadly, eyes wide and watery. Her lip is between her teeth again. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know, okay?” Jade doesn’t think she should be talking to Cat about relationships. Cat’s longest relationship lasted less than a week. And all of her boyfriends have been really annoying. She has terrible taste in men. She once told Jade, in secrecy, that she had thought about kissing Robbie, so, case in point.
“Would you ever date...” Cat trails off and her eyes fall to her food. She starts to push it around her plate, her face flushing.
Against her better judgment Jade asks, “Who?”
“Nevermind.” Cat looks up, wipes at her eyes and smiles. “Last night I had a dream that a giant squirrel was destroying Hollywood Arts and I was the only person who could save the school by becoming his friend.”
“What happened?” Jade sighs, voice thick with boredom.
“He stepped on me and I died.”
Beck invites Jade over to hang out.
Jade gets the text message and reads it a few times, trying to decide what it means before remembering that Beck probably didn’t over-think it before he sent it. He’s probably just bored or something. Jade waits five minutes before responding because she doesn’t want to set a precedent where she comes over whenever he bothers to ask. She’s not that lame.
She does fix her hair before she drives over. Jade is not going to think about why.
When she gets there she knocks on the RV door.
“Come in,” Beck calls, and Jade finds that the door isn’t locked.
“Hey,” she says, closing the door behind her softly. She decides that since he invited her over she can do whatever she wants, so she flops down on the side of the couch he’s not sitting on, kicking off her shoes. “What’s up?”
“My parents are coming home tomorrow.” He runs a hand through his hair and looks at her seriously.
“I didn’t know they were gone.” Jade hadn’t realized that she and Beck had stopped talking about the various adventures his parents went on, for work or for leisure. She doesn’t know anyone who travels as much as Beck’s parents. It makes her jealous that it’s something they can do whenever they feel like, and it used to make her angry when Beck would go with, leaving her by herself.
“Two weeks,” he says, kicking up his feet. “I miss them bossing me around.”
“Do you know how long they’ll be back this time?” Jade asks, picking at her fingernail polish so she doesn’t seem too interested.
“At least a month. Maybe longer.” Beck shrugs.
“Oh.” Jade doesn’t know what to say after that and she’s starting to get worried that this is going to be one of those awkward conversations where they don’t know what to say, because Beck is a terrible conversationalist sometimes. She definitely doesn’t think it’s her fault when the conversation runs dry.
“I broke up with you because of my parents.”
Jade’s head snaps up and she looks at him. “They finally convinced you I was too much of a gank to date?”
He smiles like it’s funny. “No.”
“They were fighting all the time. We couldn’t get through dinner for a week without one of them leaving.” He sighs, stands and up and paces back and forth. “My mom called her lawyer.”
“Are they getting a divorce?” Jade asks. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if he says yes. She doesn’t know how to comfort people, and she sure as hell doesn’t know how to make Beck feel better now.
He shakes his head. “No. They’re fine now.”
Jade’s shoulders relax, but then she snaps, “What does that have to do with us?”
“I don’t really know. I just know I was pissed at them and then I was wazzed off at you.” He runs a hand through his hair and looks at her seriously.
“That’s stupid,” Jade says. “Why didn’t you just tell me your parents were fighting?”
“Because your parents suck enough for the both of us.”
It makes Jade stop for a second as she processes the information. The only person she’s ever talked to about her parents in Beck, and it’s nice to know that he had listened and cared. She thinks, by the way he’s looking at her, that maybe he still does care. Her entire body feels warmer. “That’s stupid,” Jade repeats, rolling her eyes. “You always talked to me about that stuff before.”
“I know it’s stupid I’m just trying to explain it.” Beck clenches his jaw together and looks passed her. “Will you just listen?”
“I’m sorry I thought you were done making no sense.”
“Can I finish?”
“I don’t know can you finish?” she huffs, raising her eyebrows and shaking her head once for emphasis. There’s something familiar about the way the air is charged that Jade missed, as though she could get shocked at any moment.
“Seriously?” Beck raises his eyebrows.
Jade groans. “Whatever.”
“I thought it’d be nice, not dating you. And it was.”
“Greaaaaat.” Jade rolls her eyes and uncrosses her legs, getting ready to leave because she doesn’t want to sit here anymore and listen to him talk about things she doesn’t care about. She could be imagining the electricity running through her veins. And whatever, his parents aren’t getting a divorce. Whoopie.
He says, “And then it wasn’t.”
“Wasn’t what?” Jade shakes her head, confused. She’d stopped paying attention.
“It wasn’t nice not dating you.”
Jade feels her entire body still. There it is: she’s been shocked. Beck’s looking at her in a way that makes her feel all warm and tingly and hopeful and she says, “I swear if you’re not going where I think you’re going with this I am going to cut up your favorite shirt and break the RV’s door before I leave.”
Jade feels her heart beating radically against her ribcage, thump-thump, thump-thump. She feels stupid, but she also feels good. Really good.
He leans over and slants his mouth over hers, soft and slow.
“Say you love me.” Jade brings both her hands to his face, clenches her jaw to keep from grinning.
He’s quiet, looking at her carefully, hunched over awkwardly because she’s still sitting down.
She says, “Please.”
“I love you.”
She pulls him on top of her, and he kisses her again.
The world tilts.