The Girltalk Remix by
Jenny watched her boss disappear around the corner, and as soon as the Dragon Lady was out of sight she grabbed her purse and ran the other way. Maybe today she'd be able to have coffee with her ex-boyfriend.
But when she got up to the eighth floor, there was already a cup on Lance's desk. She pushed it and the pile of folders and papers aside, and perched up on his desk, carefully arranging her skirt to show just the appropriate amount of leg. Just in case someone happened by.
"Hey, hon," Lance said, barely looking up from his computer.
"I thought maybe we could have coffee together today," she pouted at him.
"Sorry, too late. Chris dragged me down to the usual place." He held up his coffee and toasted her with a smug grin.
"You look happy," she said.
"Yeah, I um. I'm seeing someone. Seriously, and it's really good."
"Gorgeous. Tall, dark, sweet, romantic. Italian," Lance sighed wistfully, then looked around to make sure no one was in hearing distance. "And hung like a horse," he whispered.
Jenny laughed. "Does he have a brother?"
"I'm not sure. But I'll find out next week, I guess. He wants me to come to dinner at his parents'."
"Isn't that fast?"
"Um. Well, we kind of hooked up a few months ago. Right after everything with Chris." Lance bit his lip, a sure sign he was embarrassed about not telling her sooner. "Actually he's JC's roommate. And I'm pretty much moved in at this point."
"You moved without telling me? What?" How did these things happen without her knowing? "And JC, you mean Chris's JC? So that's how you get all the good gossip about Chris?"
"What, who's gossiping about me?" Chris piped up from behind her.
"Everyone, baby, you're the talk of the town," Jenny said as she smoothed her skirt down and slid off of Lance's desk. "Let's have dinner sometime when we can talk about this without an audience, okay Lance?"
"Call me on the way home, we'll figure it out," he replied.
They ended up at the little pizza place a few nights later, splitting a family feast. Lance no longer offered to serve her each dish before serving his own, but otherwise there wasn't much difference from when they were dating.
"So tell me about this guy," she said.
"I met him the night you dumped me, how's that for weird?" Lance said. "We met up with Justin, the one who always hangs around at the coffee shop but doesn’t work there, and then he invited us back to JC's because he knew. Well, I guess JC was sort of into me," here he wrinkled his nose cutely, "and Chris was so into him, and so Justin must have though we'd make the party more interesting."
"Wait, JC was into you? So all that time before we broke up, when you and Chris would tease each other, it was because of that?" Suddenly a whole lot of in-jokes between them made a lot more sense.
"Yeah, JC would hit on me, I'd try to ignore it, Chris would tell him I was straight and then hit on JC himself. We had a whole vaudeville routine going."
"So when you and Chris dated, what was that? I never did figure out what happened there." Mostly because it was right after their breakup, Jenny and Lance's that is, and she had still been too raw to be involved in Lance's life.
"Ok, well. Chris is hot, and gay, and my best friend and all, so when you so kindly forced me out of my closet…"
"I did not force you out of your closet. Notice how everyone at work still seems to think you're straight." Only because they worked with some of the most oblivious morons Jenny had ever met.
"Ok, you forced me to notice I was in a closet, whatever. The important point is I took my first step out and tripped right over Chris."
"Only because he was lurking around."
"Not directly, I told you about the vaudeville act. JC was stalking my closet door, and Chris was stalking JC. Chris managed to land JC, they hooked up at that same party the night you dumped me, only I didn't find that out for a really long time after. I think it was a drunk party thing on JC's side, but Chris was really into him. And that's when I stepped out and tripped over Chris, who was trying to figure out why JC would sleep with him when he still seemed to hate him."
"So naturally you tried dating each other. The old, 'we're best friends and we're the appropriate genders, let's try to make this work' thing?"
"Yeah. Sort of like you and me. Except where you so kindly let me know it wasn't happening, Chris fucked around with JC while he was supposed to be with me."
"Oh. I knew there was a reason that Chris bugged the shit out of me."
Lance laughed. "Chris bugs the shit out of you because he enjoys your reactions. He cheated on me, but that was months ago and we've worked it out. He told me right away, and we'd only been dating a few weeks so we just. Stopped."
"And then this guy came along?"
"You keep messing me up. Stop jumping ahead. Ok, me and Chris started spending time around that whole little gay social group, Justin and JC were old friends from forever or something, and Joey and JC had been roommates for years. Nick started at the coffeeshop like a month before we started hanging out with them, right when you dumped me."
"Would you stop using that as your reference point? I'm starting to feel like some kind of major disaster in your life."
Lance reached across the table for her hand, and she let him raise it to his lips for a kiss. "My dear lady, you were never a disaster. You brought about a profound change in my life and for that I am forever grateful."
He laughed. "OK, I admit it. You know I'd never been dumped like that before. My other girl-breakups were sort of gradual drifting apart things. And you made me think about stuff I'd been avoiding forever. Maybe I can call it something else, not the Day Jenny Dumped Me, but maybe the Day I Turned Gay."
"I like that better. You could call it Gay Day."
He grinned. "So on day zero, Gay Day, you have the following scenario: JC has some kind of thing for me, the kind where he constantly hit on me but ignored me as a person at the same time. Chris had a thing for JC, at that point it was a hopeless crush on the bitchy-hot-barista thing. JC and Joey were roommates, and they have an anti-thing for each other. It's weird, because JC is pretty hot, if you ignore the personality…"
"Perfect for Chris, then."
"Shut up. JC is hot, Joey is, well, he's perfect. Beyond hot. But they have this thing where they both act like the other is disgustingly disfigured or something. Totally weird. But it does simplify the whole mess a little."
"Really? You mean it could be more complicated?"
"Do you even want me to keep talking?"
"Could I stop you if I tried?"
"You wouldn't." Lance wiggled his fingers at her as if to control her mind ."You cannot resist the gossip," he said in his deepest voice.
She laughed. "Then get to it, before my lasagna gets cold."
"Ok. Justin and JC have been friends forever, Nick has worked at the coffee shop for a couple weeks before Justin moved back into town. Justin saw Nick and bam, he was a goner. Only there's some weird thing, JC and Justin, and even Nick a little bit, they all act like relationships are death. Like sex is good, but affection or commitment are a sign of weakness or something. I do not understand gay men, I swear."
"Honey, you just described seventy-five percent of all men, gay or straight."
"Whatever," Lance said with a sigh. "Men suck, but at least sometimes it's a good thing."
Jenny had to swallow quickly to avoid laughing her soda out her nose.
"Anyway," Lance drawled. ""The night of The Day I Turned Gay, JC tried to hit on me, I was dodging him because I still thought I was straight, and that I had a girlfriend. And when you called I left so you could dump me." He stopped there, eyebrow up, waiting for her to complain.
She just inclined her head, indicating that she would not deign to mention the phrasing this time.
"There was drunkenness, of which Chris took shameless advantage. Nick and Justin started that night too, it was mutual lust or something. Joey I guess had a boyfriend still, or had just gotten dumped. Not sure where that fits in the timeline."
He took a few bites of ravioli, and then continued. "Ok, you forced me to acknowledge my softer side. I go running to Chris, who's all messed up because he spent the night with his crush and then got pretty much thrown out, the whole walk of shame thing. Only I don't know that, and somehow it seems like a good idea for him to be my first boyfriend. So like two, three days I think, after you and I broke up, I was over at his place and pretty much pounced on him."
"You pounced? Honey, in three years you never once pounced me."
"And now we know why, don't we?" Lance said smugly. "We made out, and some other stuff, mostly just me getting used to it. The whole man-not-woman thing. And he asked if we were dating, and you know, it just seemed like it would be rude to say no. After what we'd just done."
He paused a bit, apparently lost in a happy memory. Jenny let him pause, because she was lost in picturing it. She might not like Chris, but he wasn't bad to look at when his mouth was shut. And she knew what Lance looked like naked.
"Is he hairy?"
"Chris. He has hairy arms, is he like that all over?"
Jenny shuddered. "Ick. Hairy guys are such a turn-off."
"No, it's cool. It's like, just, yeah." Lance stammered and blushed a little. "Joey's Italian, and kind of. Yeah."
That was Jenny's turn to raise an eyebrow. "I see. You have a type, do you?"
"Ahem. You're side tracking me again. So me and Chris are dating, and we go to a club. Only I had to stay late at work, and Chris went straight there a couple hours before me. I got there, and Chris was totally plastered. He was all messed up, some fruity drink all over him, his clothes were a wreck. He saw me and just fell apart, I couldn't understand a word. I didn't see anyone around, no one we knew that could tell me what had happened, but I thought he'd gotten into a fight or something. I took him back to his apartment and put him to bed. And you know, I put myself right to bed with him because we were dating and stuff. Even though I'd never spent the night, not since I turned gay," Lance said. He drained his soda, and waved down the waitress for a refill.
"He was a mess in the morning too, but when he was finally only halfway dead he told me what had happened. JC had bumped into him, and dumped a drink on him. He suggested making it up to Chris, Chris said he was in a relationship. Or at least he told me that he told JC he was in a relationship. So JC dragged him to the men's room to try to get the worst of the drink off him. And somehow they ended up in the toilet with JC blowing him."
Lance looked over Jenny's head, and Jenny turned to catch the waitress standing there with Lance's refill. She had the grace to blush a little when she set the glass down.
"We had a pretty big fight over that. But we agreed to keep trying."
"A week later there was another party at JC and Joey's, and I let Chris talk me into going. I was still kind of pissed, and I started talking to Joey, who I knew only as the other guy who lived there or something. But he was cute, and he paid attention to me, and then I saw Chris outside talking alone with JC and I just knew it. I knew it wouldn’t work with us because I'd only been into him because he was safe, and funny, and familiar."
"And hairy," Jenny pointed out helpfully, with a smirk.
Lance simply ignored her. "So I got pretty wasted, and talked to Joey for a couple of hours. I didn't see much of Chris at all, and Joey and I. Well everything was clicking you know, like we just had the same sense of humor or something. And I just, I knew the end was near with Chris, and I knew that if we broke up I would never be coming back here on JC's account, and I might never see Joey again. So I gave him my number."
"Did you tell him you were seeing someone?"
"No, because pretty much I wasn't. I knew I would be breaking up with Chris as soon as we were both sober. Besides, I didn't hit on him, or you know, have sex with him right then. Just talked and exchanged numbers."
"I took a cab home kind of early, because I was pissed at Chris and too drunk to deal with it then. So this part I know because Joey told me later. The party wound down, Justin and Nick were crashed on the couch and he could hear JC in his bedroom being all loud with somebody. Then JC came to Joey's room and woke him up to borrow some…" Lance looked around, Jenny assumed to check for the waitress, and hissed "supplies."
"Next morning, Joey walks in on JC and Chris. He had no idea about me and Chris as an item, just that I was a friend of Chris's. So he asked Chris if I was ok, like if I was a good person and such. Chris told me about this part too, and he had no idea what was happening, why Joey was asking him. Plus he and JC were like naked in the shower and Joey was just standing there asking questions." Lance smiled fondly, "Joey's like that sometimes. He's so comfortable with nudity, it's like invisible to him when he's not interested in someone."
"I seem to remember you being really uncomfortable with the concept."
"Well yeah, with girls it's weird," Lance said with a cute little face of disgust. "So Chris and I had one last fight and then Joey called me, and we kind of started dating. And Chris was back to not my best friend, but a friend mostly, and I was happily enjoying my new man. Chris was not enjoying his new man, and then he was, and then he wasn't again. I swear, JC is the bitchiest man I've even met. He wasn't hooking up with anyone except Chris, I know because I was around all the time, but he never wanted to admit they were together. He's still doing it now; he has Chris totally whipped."
Lance sighed, looking down. "And that's when the shit hit the fan. Joey went for a checkup, and found out he had Chlamydia. JC decided that since 'everyone'" here Lance used finger quotes, "knows only straight people get that, and I was the most recent addition to this whole little sex chain who had any past contact with women, that it was me that had given it to Joey. And not only that, that Chris must have gotten it from me, and passed it to JC. Except Joey and I had been totally safe, because I'm so fucking paranoid. And I had gotten my checkup a week before Joey, we were getting tested to see if we could stop being quite so paranoid. And I was clean, which is why I never said anything to you about this mess."
He shrugged a little. "That and you'd only just started speaking to me again, and I needed a friend, and well. I should have told you, really, but then we found out it was Joey's ex, the one before me, and if I had told you it just would have freaked you out for nothing."
"I'm not so sure it would have freaked me out. It's not like you and I had sex very often, and like you said, you are fucking paranoid. I seem to remember showering before and after, and you pulling out latex safety thingies I'd never known existed before I met you."
"Safety first," Lance said. "But by this time JC had bad-mouthed me to his entire circle of friends, and pretty much dumped Chris over it, even though Joey was the only one exposed. Things were awkward for weeks, really. Because Chris and I were still careful and not really comfortable with each other, and yet here we were coming to the same apartment to see our men. And his man was treating me like Typhoid Mary. And whenever anyone had sex, the others had to listen, and it was just. Awkward."
"So? How did it get un-awkward?"
"It didn't. It got worse. Chris needed a roommate, and Justin moved in. Justin and Nick are kind of like Chris and JC, except without the whole evil bitch thing that JC has going on. They fuck, and they hang out, but they totally freak out and do stupid shit if anything seems like they're a couple."
"What sort of stupid shit?"
"Picking petty fights in public, or hooking up with someone else while the other half is watching, just to piss him off. Chris doesn’t do that, but he's the only mature one of the four. At least Nick and Justin can use age as an excuse, I don't know what JC's damage is."
"I'm still stuck on the thought of Chris ever being the most mature in any group."
"You'd be surprised. Anyway, JC is pretty clueless about shit, so here I was, gradually moving in. Leaving some clothes, a toothbrush. Buying the crappy low-fat cream cheese that JC loves just so he'll shut about the time I ate some in desperation. And so, yeah, I'm moving in. Mostly moved in, it'll be official as of the New Year."
"You’re that serious about him?"
Lance smiled, and he just… glowed. "Yeah. That serious."
"Wow. So Yes, you are happy."
"My life is so good right now." Lance grinned down at his pizza. "Everything is so perfect and domestic with Joey. If only we could get JC out of the house, he's been stupider than usual."
"Stupider than the Chlamydia thing?"
"Yeah. He hooked up with some model who tried to get him all into coke and shit, but then he dumped the guy and went back to Chris. It was bad, Chris was so freaked about thinking he was losing JC — as if he ever had him really — and then JC showed up at like 2 am all coked up and they had a scene or something, I don't know."
The waitress came back to clear away some plates, and they were quiet while she fussed around. When she was gone, Jenny asked, "So when do I get to meet your Joey? Is there a Christmas or New Years party coming up?"
"Christmas, ugh. It's going to be a mess. God, Nick told us this yesterday while he was helping to carry my stuff in. His best friend from school is visiting, and he invited the guy to Chris and Justin's Christmas thing that is not a party, and he wants us all to come and pretend to be straight. So Joey and I have planned a private party instead, since JC will be out of the apartment."
"Wait, Justin and Chris? Are they together?"
"No, really no. They're roommates, remember? Justin's like twelve or something, and a total slut. No, Justin and Nick are being not together. A month ago or something, Nick tried to date some guy seriously, just to prove something to Justin about how it was possible, I think. But since Nick couldn’t stop sleeping with Justin that didn't last long. And now he and Justin are back on with the constant sex and lack of relationship."
The waitress brought out their tiramisu, and they showed proper reverence by eating it without further conversation. When they were both done, Jenny said, "I hate to eat and run, but it is getting late, and we have to work tomorrow."
Lance looked at his watch, "Oh, damn. I wanted to do some Christmas shopping, but everything is closed by now. Oh well."
"We'll have to do this again. Next time you can tell me more about Nick and Justin."
Lance laughed, shaking his head. "Can't tell you much more than I have. I only know as much as I do about Chris and JC because I'm living with one and the other is my ex who keeps venting his woes on me. But with Nick and Justin, it's not that easy. Well, one works with my roommate and the other is my ex's roommate. So maybe I could tell you some stories, I guess. Like Justin's adventures as a phone sex operator in Chris's kitchen."
"Oh you will tell me that story. Next time, because if I catch the bus in ten minutes I can be home in thirty."
He kissed her cheek, and held her coat, and walked her to the bus stop. Jenny caught herself thinking nonsensically, 'why don't any of the guys I date treat me like this?' Nonsensically because they had dated, and he had treated her like that for three years, and she'd gone crazy with the formality of it. Hopefully his hairy Italian man appreciated the old-fashioned chivalry.
She was about to ask him when her bus came around the corner. So instead she wished him a merry Christmas and made him promise to have coffee with her on Monday. Maybe she could get to see the infamous Nick and JC, if she could get him to take her to that coffee shop.