The swear word was followed immediately by a soft thud. Jules emerged from the bathroom, curling iron in hand, and shifted her attention away from her hair and towards the far wall, where her best friend sat with her forehead resting on the wooden surface of her desk. "Something wrong, Jess?" she asked, her voice tinged with amusement.
From her seat in front of her computer, Jess only groaned in reply. Jules simply laughed at her friend's melodramatic frustration and returned to the bathroom mirror to finish curling her hair. When she finally emerged from it several minutes later, her hair in perfect golden ringlets, she found Jess in the exact same position that she had left her in. She felt a slight twinge of pity at the sight of her stressed-out friend, sitting on her desk chair surrounded by a half dozen or so open books. "Come on, Jess. Save that for tomorrow and come with us."
"You know that I would if I could—" she began, but a knock on their bathroom door interrupted her.
A head popped out behind the door. "You guys ready to go?
It was Rachel, one of their flatmates. Rachel shared a room with Samantha, the fourth and final inhabitant of their flat. A bathroom connected the bedroom Jess shared with Jules to Rach and Sam's room. Beyond their bedroom door there was a small living room with an even smaller kitchen. Although their flat was adjacent to campus and was a part of a complex that was university-owned, it was still technically considered off-campus. This was a fact that neither Jess nor Jules felt was necessary to mention to their parents.
"Ooh, you look hot," Rachel said, smiling widely at Jules, who was ready for a night out clad in low-rise jeans and a sparkly light blue tube top. Her smile, however, faded when she spotted Jess at her desk wearing grey sweatpants and her old Harriers jersey. "The hell? Jessie, why aren't you dressed yet? We're leaving in, like, five minutes."
"I can't go tonight, Rach," Jess began apologetically, "I'm sorry. Next time for sure, though." She gave her friend a small smile before returning her gaze to the computer screen in front of her.
"Dude!" Rachel cried, incredulous. "Please tell me you are no ditching us to do homework. On a Friday night!"
"She is," chimed in Jules as she shrugged on her leather jacket.
"You promised you'd come out with us," said Rachel, with a pitiful pout.
"I know, and I'm sorry, but I have to finish this ten-page paper this weekend and after that I have to catch up on my history reading. I have a huge test on Wednesday." Jess honestly felt bad, but it was necessary to break her promise. She needed as much time to get her work done as possible.
"Damn, that is a lot," Rachel agreed. "Well, at least we have Thanksgiving break to look forward to." She gave Jess a once over and seemed to grudgingly concede. "Ok, you're off the hook this time, but just for tonight."
Jules, however, was not ready to let the subject drop so easily. "Ask her when the paper's due" she stage-whispered to Rachel, loud enough so Jess could also hear. Jess, in turn, shot Jules a dirty look, one that did not go unnoticed by the third girl.
"When's it due?" Rachel asked, taking the hint, but still a bit confused.
"Monday," Jess replied thought gritted teeth.
"Ask her which Monday," Jules continued. This earned her another filthy look from Jess.
Rachel's curiosity was sufficiently piqued. "What's going on, guys?" she asked, eyes darting back and forth between Jules and Jess. Jules only winked at her. Rachel decided to play along. "Ok, so which Monday?"
"The day that comes after Sunday," Jess replied though gritted teeth. She did not take her eyes off her computer screen.
"Come on, Jess," Jules goaded. Jess, however, said nothing. Finally, Jules turned to Rachel and answered the question. "It's due the Monday after Thanksgiving break."
"What?!" exploded Rachel. "Then why, pray tell, are you working on it now? You've got about a week and a half to get this paper done. You can afford to go out this one night."
And like a girl on a mission Rachel crossed the room to Jess' wardrobe and began to dig through it. "I'm picking out you're outfit and you're getting dressed."
"Rachel, I seriously can't," said Jess. She was clearly exasperated, and it made both her friends stop short. She paused for a moment before finally speaking. "A friend of mine is coming to visit for Thanksgiving break, so I have to finish all my work before then."
"Ah, ok," said Rachel, finally getting it. "So you want to finish your paper before your friend arrives?"
"Exactly," replied Jess. She continued at top speed: "And if it's done beforehand I won't be worried or distracted by it while he's here. It would be a total disaster if he had to spend all day sitting here while I had to write this paper, or worse, if he had to sit all day alone in his hotel room because I couldn't be a proper host." When she was done, she was breathing hard trying to catch her breath.
"So it's a he, is it?" Rachel asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Ask her who?" Jules prompted with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
Jess turned toward her best friend and narrowed her eyes. She was so dead. There weren't many things about her private life that she talked about except her family, school, and football. She preferred to keep certain aspects of her life to herself, especially since she did not know herself sometimes what was going on with her love life, or lack thereof. She didn't talk about it if she could help it. But as Rachel stared at her, she knew she couldn't avoid it.
"Joe," Jess answered before Rachel could even pose the question. "My friend Joe is coming to visit."
"Joe," Rachel repeated to herself. "That name sounds familiar, so I know you've spoken about him before…" Her eyes suddenly widened in realization. "Is this Joe Joe? I mean, the Joe? This dude?" She flopped onto Jess' bed and reached for one of the many frames on her nightstand, grabbing a small one that held a picture of Joe taken the previous summer. "Your boyfriend, right?"
"He's not my boyfriend," Jess quickly replied, a small frown between her brows. "I honestly don't know what we are," she sighed.
"What does that mean?"
Before Jess could get a chance to answer, a voice called from the open bathroom door. "Time to go, my lovelies!" A second later Sam appeared in the doorway.
"Well," Jess said, relieved by the distraction, "looks like it's time for you guys to go. Don't want to be late." She swiveled her chair around and returned her attention to her computer screen hoping that the conversation was over. It wasn't.
"Sam, get in here," called Rachel, "Jess was just about to tell us a story about her boy. We'll leave right after she's done."
Sam looked confused for all of a second before she shrugged and took a seat next to Rachel on Jess' bed.
"I'd like to hear this too," said Jules, joining the other girls on the bed. All three looked up at Jess expectantly.
Jess sighed seeing that she was outnumbered. She swung her chair back around to face her friends. "There's really not much to tell."
"Well, tell us anyway," Rachel encouraged. "Start with why you don't know what you guys are."
"He's just never asked me to be his girlfriend is all," began Jess. "And in the emails he's sent me, he's never referred to me as such. Neither in his phone calls. I mean, before we left he said there might be something between us and we…we kissed." She smiled dreamily at the memory but recovered quickly when she saw the goofy grins on the faces of her flatmates. "Anyway," she continued, clearing her throat, "that was almost three months ago. I can't expect things to remain the same after all this time, can I?"
"Are you saying that you feel differently towards him?" asked Jules, sounding a bit concerned. "That you don't want to be with him?"
Jess frowned. "No, that's not it at all. Even after three months, I don't think I could like him any more than I already do. But, see, I know how I feel. What I'm not sure about is how he feels. A lot can happen in two months." Jess paused for a second, reflecting on the thing that had been bothering her for the past few weeks. In one breath, she voiced it all: "What if his feelings for me have changed? What if he met someone else? What if he doesn't want to wait for me anymore? What if he's only visiting to tell that to me to my face?" With each question her frown became more pronounced. It really did hurt her to think about those things.
"Jess, love, you're being ridiculous," Jules scolded.
"Wait," interrupted Sam, "Are we talking about the dude who calls you, like, every other day? Long distance? From England?"
"Doesn't sound like he's not interested, Jess," said Sam. "I mean, my parents live an hour away, and they never call me. And this guy calls you from across the freakin' Atlantic! If you ask me, he's got it bad." She smiled at Jess reassuringly.
"Totally," Rachel agreed. "He's even coming to visit you. How much more proof do you need?"
"He's coming on a scouting trip to New York and he just decided to visit me because he was in the country. He didn't plan this trip for me."
"Maybe not," agreed Sam, "but New York isn't exactly a hop, skip, and a jump from here. It's a 6-hour flight from here to New York. It would've probably taken less time to just hop on a plane back to London. Yet he's coming all the way out here, going out of his way, just to see you. That, my dear, is devotion."
"Yea, Jess," said Jules chiming in, "you're just a little insecure about it because you haven't seen him since the summer and you're wondering about the status of your relationship. Or maybe," she continued, with a hint of accusation in her voice, "there's a tiny part of you that actually wants it to be over."
Jess scoffed. "That's absurd. Why would I want that?"
"Oh, I don't know," Jules replied with mock ignorance. "Maybe because you know that what you two have could be something real and that frightens you. You're scared because if it's real, then it means you have a potential for a future. And if there's a potential for a future then you actually have to go through with telling your Mum and Dad about him."
Jess stared at Jules for several seconds. "Shit," she muttered under her breath, realizing that what Jules had said made more sense than even she knew.
It was true. Whenever she thought about telling her parents about Joe, it scared the crap out of her. She was becoming more and more anxious as the Christmas holidays approached and now, with a little less than a month until she saw her parents again, she still wasn't sure what she was going to do. A couple of times she had found herself thinking that if Joe didn't feel the same way about her anymore, she could save herself a lot of grief from her parents. But then she'd realize that that would mean giving up on Joe, and she wasn't prepared to do that.
"Damn Jules," Sam complimented, "that was good."
"Thank you, thank you. Psychology is my major, after all."
"Don't you all have somewhere to be," Jules asked, annoyed. She was growing tired of this dissection of her love life.
"She's right guys," said Rachel. "We should get going." The three girls stood up, ready to file out of the room.
Rachel and Sam walked out, but Jules stopped at the door and looked back at her friend. "You're not cross with me, Jess?" she asked tentatively.
Jess looked up from the book she had just opened and sighed. "No, I'm not cross. It was actually quite helpful to talk about this stuff. You guys made me feel better about things. So, thanks." And she smiled.
"No problem, darling. Have fun with your paper."
"Oh, I will," Jess said with mock enthusiasm and turned back towards her neglected paper. A few seconds passed by before she heard Jules' voice again, colored with a silent laughter.
"You know what else it might be?"
"Maybe you're nervous because you're finally going to get some alone time with Joe without the threat of your parents catching you. Maybe you're afraid you won't be able to control yourself." Her voice had been getting increasingly breathier as she spoke, before she burst into giggles.
"Get out!" yelled Jess as she tried hard not to laugh, launching the book she was holding towards her friend, who narrowly escaped it.
I think I fixed all the mixed up names. Let me know if I didn't. Why the hell did both girls' names have to start with a "J"?!