A few days later, Jasmine’s phone buzzed with a text message and she knew before she even looked at the screen who it was.
>>> Leo: Let’s go out on Friday
>>> Jasmine: This Friday??
>>> Leo: Obviously lol
>>> Jasmine: Do I have to?
>>> Leo: Yes, it’s part of the rules, remember?
She groaned and set her phone down. It was going to take an adjustment period for her to get used to the fact that she was dating Leo Mathers, fake or not.
>>> Jasmine: Okay fine. How about we go see a movie?
>>> Leo: Sounds good to me! Did you want to see anything specific or do you care?
>>> Jasmine: I don’t know, what’s playing?
>>> Leo: Beats me. Let’s just pick when we get there
>>> Jasmine: Okay
>>> Leo: ;) <3
>>> Jasmine: Ew Mathers
>>> Leo: Come on, we’re gonna have to be affectionate eventually Winters
>>> Jasmine: Whyyy
>>> Leo: Because
>>> Jasmine: I hate you
>>> Leo: See you Friday!
Jasmine groaned and laid her head down on the table in front of her.
They had agreed to meet at the theater, where they picked a horror film. As the pair of them walked into the lobby and stood in line for popcorn, Leo decided to take a chance and reached out to hold Jasmine’s hand.
“What are you doing?” she muttered under her breath. “There’s nobody we know here.”
“We need to get in the habit,” he whispered back. Then, at regular volume, he said, “You look beautiful, Jasmine.”
Her face turned a deep red and she couldn’t repress her smile. “Thanks.”
Leo smiled back and planted a kiss on top of her head. “You’re welcome. Also, I think I need a nickname for you.”
“I mean, you could just call me Jas.”
“No, I need something nobody else calls you,” he said.
“Because it gives people the impression that we’re actually closer than they realize.”
She bit her lip as she thought. “I mean, you could call me Min.”
“No.” They stepped up to the counter and Jasmine turned her attention to the greasy teenager taking their order. “Can we get a large popcorn, please?”
Leo nodded. “Two slushies. What flavor do you want, Minnie?”
“I hate you,” she said under her breath. “Blue and red, please.”
Once the transaction was complete, Jasmine kicked Leo’s shin. “You’re an ass, Mathers.”
“Ow! Like it or not, it’s a cute nickname and it’ll show people that we’re close. If you want to be convincing, you’re gonna have to make some sacrifices,” he said. “Also, ow. That hurt.”
“You said that already,” she said.
They found their seats and soon the movie started. Jasmine found that she was a lot more scared than she anticipated she would be, and as much as she hated herself for it, she found herself hiding into Leo’s arm.
Leo, on the other hand, was taking it in stride, and he put his arm over her shoulders so that she could take comfort in his presence throughout the movie. Any nosy moviegoers would easily be convinced of their relationship.
As the theater cleared at the end of the movie, Jasmine tried to peel herself away from Leo’s grasp but he held her close and as much as she hated to admit it, she was comfortable. Still, she had to keep up pretenses. “You do realize we can leave now, right?”
“Yeah, but why would I want to?” he asked, rubbing his thumb in circles on her skin.
She blushed and looked over at him. “You don’t have to do that, you know.”
He smiled and shrugged. “It’s fun.”
“Okay, well, I have to pee.” A lie, but he didn’t have to know that.
“Fine, I guess we can go,” he said, removing his arm from her shoulders and leaving a cold spot. Before she could move away, however, he took hold of her hand and interlocked their fingers, then led her out into the lobby and towards the bathroom. “I’ll wait here.”
Before he could make a comment about how much she was blushing, she rushed into the ladies’ room and over to the sink, where she splashed her face with cool water. She knew it was all fake, she knew it would end in three months, and she knew Leo was playing up the physical affection to get a rise out of her, and yet she was feeling remnants of her high school crush.
“God damn it, Mathers,” she muttered under her breath. Once she calmed down, she left the restroom and marched over to Leo. “New rule: minimize the physical affection unless someone we know is around.”
“Too much for you, huh?” He winked.
“Yes, actually. Unless there is someone we know, keep it to a minimum.”
He sighed and nodded. “Fine. But I will hold you to the physical affection when we are around people we know.”
“Deal,” she nodded. “I just don’t see the point in hanging all over each other when we have nothing to prove.”
“Speaking of something to prove, time for some evidence,” Leo said.
With a visible grimace on her face, she moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his torso. “Don’t push it.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, pulling out his phone and holding it up for a selfie. “Just look at the camera and smile.” As she did as she was told, Leo planted a kiss on her cheek and took the picture. “Adorable.”
“That’s actually not terrible,” she said. “Send that to me, I guess.”
“You planning on making that your profile picture?” Leo asked with a wink.
She shrugged. “I mean, should I? I guess it would be one way to announce the relationship.”
He nodded. “You’re not wrong. But also, is that how you want your family to find out?”
Once she had ultimately decided to change her profile picture the following Tuesday, Jasmine had to mute her phone because of the various family members constantly calling and texting to voice their opinions. Of all the reactions, Alex’s was the most irritating, having left a voicemail.
“What the fuck, Jas? How do you not tell me that you’re dating my best friend? I feel like that warrants at least a text message. Also, I called it. Henry owes me twenty bucks, so thanks for that. But still, you should have told me. I’m not surprised, but you should have told me.”
Jasmine threw her phone across the room and into the couch when she had first listened to it. Once she got over the initial irritation, however, she texted Leo.
>>> Jasmine: Alex knows and apparently bet on us dating after the elevator
>>> Leo: Yeah, I know. He congratulated me
>>> Jasmine: He mostly just yelled at me
>>> Leo: Lol that’s hilarious
>>> Jasmine: I hate you
>>> Leo: <3
>>> Leo: Can I come over?
>>> Jasmine: I guess so
After twenty minutes, there was a knock at the door, and Jasmine looked through the peephole to see Leo holding a doughnut box.
“Smart move,” she said as she opened the door for him. “What did you get?”
“Variety,” he said.
With a nod, Jasmine pointed towards the living room. “I was just watching TV.”
“Ooh, what are we watching?”
“We’re not watching TV.”
“Why not? You literally just said you were watching TV,” he said as they sat on the couch.
“Yeah, but not with you.”
He laughed and nudged her with his foot. “Come on, Min. Just press play on your weird show already!”
“Star Trek is not a weird- ugh, fine, I can’t even get through that sentence. I hate you.” She slouched against the couch and pressed play, allowing the episode to resume.
As they watched the show, Jasmine slowly relaxed. By the time they were three episodes in, her feet were propped up on Leo’s lap, she was leaning back against a pillow with a blanket draped over her, and she was throwing stray doughnut sprinkles for him to catch in his mouth.
“You’re terrible at this,” she laughed.
He grabbed one from off his shirt and threw it at her, missing her mouth by a fraction of an inch. “You’re not any better!”
“I wasn’t ready! Try again,” she said before she held her mouth open and awaited a sprinkle, but Leo missed again. “You’re so bad at this.”
He laughed and put his hands up. “Okay, fine, you win. I surrender.”
“Where did you get these doughnuts from anyway?”
“Actually, I didn’t. I made them. What do you think?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are you serious? They’re delicious. I can’t believe you made these.”
A smile spread across his face. “Yeah, I did. You really like them?”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “I don’t know how you are with the medical stuff, but I definitely vote you open a bakery instead.”
He blushed and said, “Well, thanks. I don’t think I can but-”
“But I appreciate the sentiment.”
Jasmine smiled and grabbed another doughnut. “Well, you’re welcome, even if you’re a huge chicken.”
“Can you not call me a chicken?”
“Can you not call me Minnie Mouse?”
“Touché.” After a moment’s consideration, he said, “I guess I’m a chicken. Thanks, Minnie.”
She shoved him with her foot and started laughing. “You’re dumb.”
“But you have to admit you’re having fun,” he said. When she grudgingly shrugged, he continued, “So that’ll make this whole thing a bit easier.”
“True,” she said. “You know, you’re still really obnoxious.”
“Yeah, that’s totally fair,” he said.
The next morning, Leo left Jasmine’s apartment after having slept on the couch and, quite by accident, ran into his mother, who was toting a few trash bags to the garbage chute.
Astrid Mathers was a tall blonde, who easily could have intimidated a person if she were not covered in paint on a regular basis and didn’t have the unfortunate habit of forgetting things.
“Leo, were we meeting for breakfast this morning? Please don’t tell me I stood you up,” she said, completely omitting any normal greeting.
“No, Mom, we didn’t have any plans,” he said as he shook his head.
She drew her brows together. “Then what are you doing in my building?”
“I was actually already here.”
He laughed and scratched the back of his head. “Mom, can we talk about this later?”
“Why do we have to talk about this later? I want to- oh. Oh. Oh, Leo! Who is she? Can I meet her?” Astrid grabbed her son’s hands, all too eager for his liking.
“Can we please just talk about this later? I need to go home before I head to class,” Leo said. “We can meet for dinner or something, can’t we?”
She nodded ecstatically and said, “Oh, of course! How about tonight? We can- oh, shoot. Tonight doesn’t work. I’m supposed to have dinner with your father tonight to discuss our wills. Not exactly the best topic of conversation. Oh, drat. I’m really not looking forward to that.”
He nodded and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, Mom. We’ll get together soon. I’ll call you, okay? I really do need to go.”
“Okay, dear. I’ll see you later! What was I doing again? Oh, right,” she said, quickly devolving into mutterings to herself.
As he walked away and towards the elevator, Leo pulled out his phone to send a text to Jasmine.
>>> Leo: Just a warning, my mom saw me this morning and figured out I’m seeing someone. Might wanna steer clear until we can properly tell her
>>> Jasmine: You DO remember this is fake, right? We don’t have to tell her
>>> Leo: We’re doing this for 3 months, it’s gonna happen
>>> Jasmine: Okay, fine, I’ll avoid your mom until we tell her
>>> Leo: Cool. She wants to have dinner with me and probably you, so when’s good? Not tonight
>>> Jasmine: Idk just not tomorrow, Thursdays are my family dinner nights
>>> Leo: I’m going to that, right?
>>> Jasmine: Yep, that’s gonna be the official big reveal
>>> Leo: Okay so how about the day after? On Friday?
>>> Jasmine: Sounds like a plan! Also, you forgot your keys
Already outside, Leo checked his pockets to verify what Jasmine was claiming, then let out a groan when he realized she was right. At least he hadn’t already made it to his car.
>>> Leo: Well fuck. Thanks, i’ll come right up to get them
>>> Jasmine: I can just throw them down, I see you
>>> Leo: How about no? I’ll just come up
>>> Jasmine: Fiiiine lol
A few minutes later, he was knocking at the door and Jasmine opened it up, dangling his keys in front of her face, laughing at him. “Good job, Mathers.”
“Thanks,” he said, taking them from her while he appreciated Jasmine’s appearance: messy hair, Cookie Monster pajama pants, and a loose tank top with no bra. She was adorable and Leo’s fingers were itching to run through the red waves of hair.
“No problem. I’ll see you later?” she asked.
He nodded and smiled. “Before I go, though, I think we should practice something.”
She raised an eyebrow and her voice was hesitant as she asked, “What?”
“Well, we’re going to be around our families, who are going to expect a certain type of physical affection. It might be better for us to get the first one out of the way,” he said, grinning.
Jasmine crossed her arms. “I’m not going to kiss you.”
“If we don’t kiss, they’ll know something’s up.”
“I’m starting to think you started this whole thing just to get into my pants,” she said.
“Hey, I resent that remark! No sex is even one of the rules, remember? Unless you want to change your mind,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
She snorted. “Fat chance. Okay, fine, we can kiss. But new rule: no tongue.”
He put his hands up and nodded, “No frenching, got it.”
As he stepped closer to her, Jasmine hitched her breath and her heartbeat sped up. Leo put one hand at the small of her back and the other at the crook of her neck, then lowered his lips to hers. The moment they made contact, her eyes fluttered shut and goosebumps spread down her arms while she brought her hands up to his shoulders. By the time he broke the kiss, having had to resist the urge to pull her into an even deeper kiss, she was dazed.
“Well, we can check that off the to-do list,” Leo joked, bringing Jasmine back to reality. “You all right there, Minnie?”
Heat pooled into her cheeks as she nodded. “Mhm. Fine. You won’t be if you don’t stop with the nickname, though.”
“Sure,” he said with a grin. “Have no fear, Mouseketeer.”
“You’re the literal worst,” she laughed before she started closing the door on him. “Bye.”
Leo blew a kiss at her just before the door shut and shouted, “See you later, Minnie!”