The actual move took longer than they had anticipated, and Jasmine wasn’t fully moved in until a month later, in part because they had difficulty deciding where they should actually live.
“Can we not live in the same building as my mother, please?” Leo asked.
Jasmine nodded. “Yeah, I don’t want to stay in my place, let’s just get a new one.”
“Why would we find a new place?” Leo asked.
“So that it’s ours, not just yours,” Jasmine said.
He shook his head and said, “That’s ridiculous. When you move in, it would be your place too.”
“Or,” she said, “we could get a new place and it would be ours from the get go.”
“That’s not how that works.”
Jasmine shrugged. “Maybe not, but can’t we at least look? What if there’s a perfect apartment waiting for us and we just let it slip out from under our noses without even looking?”
Leo had sighed and eventually agreed. “Fine. We can look, but I still think you should just move in with me and call it a day.”
“Thanks, babe,” she said.
With that, they had searched for two weeks for a suitable apartment before Jasmine had eventually ceded the point and agreed to move her stuff into Leo’s place, which then started the long process of packing up her own place.
“I hate moving. It’s official,” she said.
Eliza threw a roll of bubble wrap at her head. “Suck it up, buttercup. You get this part over with and then we can throw you a housewarming party.”
“An excuse to get drunk.”
Jasmine laughed and said, “Fair enough.”
“I still can’t believe you’re actually moving in with him,” Eliza said. “Did you ever think you’d be living with Leo Mathers?”
She shook her head. “Not at all.”
“Well, I’m happy for you. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t have a brother or something,” Eliza said. “I could use a hunky boyfriend.”
“I mean, he does have cousins,” Jasmine said with an exaggerated wink.
“Maybe,” Eliza said, laughing. “Where is your boyfriend anyway? Why isn’t he helping you pack?”
“He’s working! The bakery. He works from nine to about four, and it’s so great. He usually gets home before I do, then he’ll make food and it’s delicious,” Jasmine said. “Do you want to stay for dinner tonight?”
Eliza nodded and said, “Yeah, definitely. You know, it’s always nice to get free food somewhere.”
“Do you still burn everything?”
“I’ve gotten better!”
Jasmine laughed. “I would hope so. Especially at the firehouse, I think it would probably ruin your reputation if you’re burning all the food.”
“They don’t let me cook,” she said. “It’s great.”
“Perks of being a terrible cook,” Jasmine teased.
Eliza nodded and then taped a box shut. “You know, you have way too much shit. Aren’t you getting rid of anything?”
“Yeah, I already did.”
“You need to get rid of more crap.”
“I do not!”
Eliza raised her eyebrows and then reopened the box she had just shut. “This box is full of worthless junk. You had me pack a tea set that I have never once seen you use.”
Jasmine scoffed. “It has sentimental value.”
“How exactly does this tea set have sentimental value?”
She stuttered over her words, struggling to find an excuse, and started to laugh. “You’re right. I guess that can be donated to a thrift store or something. I don’t even remember how I got it.”
“Hey, do you think I’m making the right decision?” Jasmine asked, a wild deviation from the previous subject that caused Eliza to stop laughing rather suddenly.
Eliza blinked a few times before she said, “Hon, you don’t have doubts, do you? You’re happier than I’ve ever seen you.”
Jasmine shrugged and shook her head. “I think I’m just second guessing myself. I love him. He’s good to me. He makes me so happy.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Nothing, I guess,” she said, smiling slightly before she taped up another box.
When Jasmine was taking the last boxes from her apartment down to her car, she ran into Astrid, who had been trying to catch her for days.
“Oh, finally! Jasmine, dear, I want to give something to you. I mean, really, it’s for you and Leo, but since you’re here and he’s not,” Astrid said. “You remember the painting I did?”
Jasmine’s eyes widened and she set down the box she was carrying. “Astrid, no. You worked so hard on that painting, and it’s so beautiful, but are you sure?”
“Of course! I want to give it to you two as a housewarming present,” Astrid said.
“You’re too sweet,” Jasmine said before she gave Astrid a hug. “Thank you so much.”
As her arms wrapped around the younger woman, Astrid said, “You make my son happy, and he makes you happy. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“And you’re sure you want to part with the painting? You could probably sell it and make so much money, it’s so gorgeous-”
“No, no. I made it for you. At first, I made it just to capture an image, but it was meant for you,” Astrid insisted as she pulled back from the hug and rested her hand on Jasmine’s cheek. “Please, don’t argue. I want you to have it.”
Jasmine smiled and picked her box up from the floor. “Well, thank you, Astrid. I’ll make sure Leo comes by to get it for our place. I don’t think I have enough room in my car to fit it without damaging it.”
“No worries, sweetheart. Come and get it when you can,” she said. “And I want to see where you hang it!”
“Definitely,” Jasmine said before she departed.
As she waited in the elevator, she couldn’t help but smile. Who would have thought that getting stuck in the elevator would have led to such big changes in her life? If it hadn’t been for an electrical malfunction, she would likely still be single, going through her normal weekly routine, and under the impression that Leo was still the same guy he was in high school.
At their high school graduation, Leo and Alex sat together, almost directly behind Jasmine and her friends, and they were all shouting over one another and laughing while they waited for the ceremony to start. Currently, they were all asking about their favorite high school memories.
“How many times have you ditched?” one of Jasmine’s friends asked.
“Four,” Alex said.
Leo thought about it for a moment and then said, “Two.”
“Sixteen,” another friend said.
Jasmine bit her lip and then said, “Zero.”
“Are you serious?” the original girl asked. “You’ve never ditched? At all?”
She shook her head. “No, not once.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “She was trying to get valedictorian, right, Jas?”
“Not even! I just didn’t want to get in trouble,” she said with a shrug.
“There’s time for that in college, anyway,” Leo said quietly, his eyes meeting hers briefly.
Jasmine nodded, confused about his choice to defend her choices, but she said, “Right, exactly. Speaking of college, how many did you all get into?”
“Three of five,” Alex said. “What about you, Leo?”
“Five of six,” Leo said.
Jasmine nodded approvingly before she said, “Six of six.”
“Damn!” Jasmine’s friends said simultaneously, then one said, “Smarty-pants over here. You may not be valedictorian, but they clearly all know you’re a secret genius.”
As she laughed and dismissed their compliments, Jasmine blushed and said, “I’m not a genius.”
Leo, on the other hand, knew better. She had consistently outscored him on every test, gotten a higher grade in their shared classes, and proven herself to be a much better student. If he wasn’t so bitter about it, he would have congratulated her. Instead, he said, “Don’t be modest if you don’t mean it.”
When her face fell, Alex elbowed Leo in the ribs and muttered, “Way to be a dick, asshole.”
Luckily, the euphoria of graduation overpowered her anger, and Jasmine thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the evening, though his words stuck in the back of her mind.
As they collapsed onto the bed, surrounded by boxes piled high in their bedroom, Leo pulled Jasmine close and placed a kiss on her shoulder. “It’s official, Min. We live together.”
“Yes, we do,” she said. “Are you happy?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
She shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t know.”
He kissed her shoulder again and asked, “Are you happy?”
“Yes, very much so. You know, I saw your mom today.”
“She’s giving us the painting,” she said. “You need to go pick it up so we can hang it up in the living room.”
Leo laughed and nodded. “Okay, got it.”
As she stared up at the ceiling for a little while, she asked, “How did we get here?”
“Hmm, I think it was the careful balance of adolescent hatred and adult sexual tension,” Leo joked, eliciting a loud laugh from Jasmine. “No, but seriously, I think it’s just the fact that I have been in love with you for a lot longer than I ever wanted to admit.”
“When did you fall in love with me? I don’t think you’ve ever told me.”
Leo stared at the redhead as she danced with her friends. It was the spring dance in their tenth grade year and she was wearing a bright pink, sparkly dress that kept catching his eye. His own date, Erica, had begun to notice that he was distracted by the other girl, and was getting quite irritated about it.
“Leo! Why do you keep looking at Jasmine? You’re here with me,” Erica whined. “Come on, let’s dance or something.”
He turned his attention back to her. “What? Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“I said we should go dance,” she said.
Leo shook his head and said, “No, I don’t feel like it right now. Maybe later.”
“Ugh, forget it. I’m going to go find someone else to dance with.” Erica walked away, crossing her arms as she sought out her own friends.
“Dude, what did you do?” Alex asked as he approached.
Leo shrugged and looked back at Jasmine. “Did she not come with the meathead?”
Alex furrowed his brows. “Who? Jas? Yeah, she and Colby broke up.”
“I don’t know, man, I didn’t ask.”
“Why are you asking about Jasmine?” Alex asked.
He shook his head and said, “No reason.”
“You’re not trying to go after her, are you?”
“No! No way, man.”
Alex snorted and said, “Whatever you say, man. I’m gonna go get some punch. Want any?”
Leo didn’t bother responding. He was too busy watching Jasmine, laughing with her friends and spinning around in her sparkly pink dress, briefly considering asking her to dance before he dismissed the idea entirely. What the hell put that idea in his head?
As he recalled the memory, Leo said, “I think I realized it when we were in tenth grade. You were dating Colby, and then you broke up with him, and I realized that you were so much better than him and I didn’t understand why you had been with him in the first place.”
Jasmine smiled and said, “You were jealous.”
“I was. I didn’t handle it well, clearly.”
“No, you didn’t,” Jasmine laughed. “You were so mean to me!”
Leo laughed with her and said, “I know. I didn’t know how to handle my emotions, so I was stupid and pushed away the only girl that actually meant something to me.”
“Not a smart move,” she said. “I think that may have set us back a good decade.”
“Hey, it worked out, didn’t it? I got the girl,” he said before he kissed her cheek.
She laughed and said, “That you did. How’s it feel to be the ultimate victor?”
“Pretty damn good,” he said. “I think I should celebrate.”
“I don’t know if I have the energy to celebrate!” she said with a whine. “I’ve been moving boxes all day, remember?”
Leo kissed the crook of her neck. “I know. You don’t have to do anything except enjoy.”
“My favorite way to celebrate.”
As they started kissing, Leo’s hands wandered under Jasmine’s shirt and traced the skin on her stomach, eliciting a moan from her. “I love you, Min.”
“I love you too.”
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