Just Friends

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Celeste's Wedding

The next morning, Jasmine woke up to an empty bed and a note propped up on Leo’s pillow: Minnie- Went to meet Mom for an early coffee. I’ll bring you back donuts! XO Lionel.

Without a doubt, she was getting more comfortable with him. The physical affection was getting easier with every passing day, and she nearly chastised herself for her slip-up the previous night, except it had just felt so good, and given Leo’s very long shower afterwards, she expected that he agreed.

Rather than wait patiently for doughnuts, she pulled out her phone.

>>> Jasmine: I’m hungry

>>> Leo: You’re up already?

>>> Jasmine: Where are my doughnuts?

>>> Leo: I’m omw

>>> Jasmine: You’d better be

>>> Jasmine: They’re not YOURS are they?

>>> Leo: Meaning what? Did I make them? No, they’re store bought

>>> Jasmine: Fiiine those will do

>>> Leo: You’re saying mine are better?

>>> Jasmine: Obviously. Now hurry up!!!

When she heard the key card open the door, Jasmine sat up in bed and asked, “What did you bring me, dear Lionel?”

“Chocolate with sprinkles, glazed crullers, and a bag of doughnut holes,” he said, holding up a bag in one hand before he raised a drink carrier in the other hand. “I also grabbed coffees for us.”

“You’re amazing,” she said as she grabbed the bag out of his hand.

Leo laughed and sat down on the bed next to her. “I’m tempted to pull out my phone and have you repeat yourself, but I’ll resist.”

Jasmine took a bite out of a chocolate doughnut and spoke with her mouth full. “Yeah, good call.”

“Can I get a hole?” he asked, reaching for the bag, only for it to be snatched away from him and she very carefully handed him a single doughnut hole. “Gee, thanks.”

“So what did you and your mom talk about?” she asked once she swallowed.

He shrugged. “She asked about you some more, she ranted about Dad… Oh, and she told me that her friend Steven actually is her boyfriend.”

Her eyes went wide. “Oh, I freaking called it! Um, how did you respond to this news?”

“I kinda choked on my coffee, but once I got over the initial shock, I told her that I support whatever’s gonna make her happy,” he said. “She didn’t want to break the news with everyone around, so she decided coffee would be a better time to tell me.”

“Yeah, that’s fair,” Jasmine nodded. “So what do you really think about it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, your mom is dating a man who is not your dad, maybe for the first time since their divorce, and she just sprung it on you at your cousin’s wedding, even though you see her on a near-weekly basis,” she said. “You said you would support her, which is great, but how do you really feel about the situation?”

Leo bit the inside of his cheek as he thought about it. “I’m happy for her. Really, I am. She wasn’t ever really happy with Dad, and she broke the news the best way she could given the situation. Yeah, she could have told me sooner, but what’s to say that she was ready before now? I get it.”

“Okay,” Jasmine said with a nod. “Well, I’m glad it went well, then.”

“Me too.” He popped his doughnut hole in his mouth. “Are you done playing therapist now?”

She grinned. “Maybe. I don’t know yet. Pass me a coffee?”

He did as instructed and then leaned his head on her shoulder. “Why are you so comfortable?”

“It’s all the doughnuts. They make me cushier,” she joked. “Seriously, though, yours are way better for some reason.”

“Well, thank you.”

“Have you decided whether or not you’re going to drop from med school yet?”

He bit his cheek again and took a deep breath. “Yeah, I am. I just need to tell my dad.”

“Good!” She smiled at him. “I’m sure Alex can help you with a business plan or something like that.”

“Isn’t that a little fast?”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t know much about baking!”

“Bullshit.”

“Okay, well, I still feel like I need more practice and experience before I try to open my own shop,” he said.

Jasmine shrugged, “Okay that’s fair. So talk to the caterer tonight, see what you could do.”

“Like an apprenticeship?”

“Yeah, if that’s what you want to do,” she said. “The important part is that you’d be taking steps towards your real passion.”

He nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. And I think my dad would be more accepting of it if I had an actual plan.”

“You think? Well, then that’s all the more reason to talk to the caterer,” she said before taking another bite of a doughnut.

They continued eating and talking, then watching TV for a few hours before they finally decided to get ready for the wedding. As promised, Jasmine had already picked her outfit, and by the time she was dressed, Leo was in awe.

She wore a pink satin dress with black lace laid over it in patterns, along with an even more intricate braid crown than the night before. “What do you think?”

“I- uh- you-” Leo swallowed and tried again. “You look beautiful, Jasmine. I’m- I’m at a loss for words.”

Her entire body heated as she blushed and she couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks. If you have one, could you wear a pink tie? That way we match.”

“I don’t, but I do have a pink pocket square. That works, right?”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “You really like this dress?”

“How could I not?”

Arm in arm, they left the hotel room and departed for the wedding venue, which was on a golf course on the hotel grounds. Luckily, hotel guests were allowed to use golf carts to make it over to where the ceremony was taking place, or else Jasmine would have had to take off her heels for the trek.

Once they had reached their destination, a canopied area surrounded by flowers and twinkly lights, it was clear that many, if not all, eyes were on them.

“I’m not even the bride, can’t they just look somewhere else?”

“Why? You’re a better view,” Leo whispered into her ear.

She nudged him with her elbow but she smiled. “Shut up, Leo.”

They took their seats, chatting to nearby guests, until the music cued the bridal party’s entrance. Each of the bridesmaids wore a teal dress, accented with pink and purple, and the groomsmen wore black tuxedos with teal ties and pink or purple flowers on their lapels. They were followed by the flower girl and a ring bearer, kids no older than four, and then the bride, escorted by both her parents. Celeste was beautiful, wearing a silver dress rather than white, and had pink and purple flowers woven into her hair.

The ceremony was about twenty minutes long, then once Celeste and Philip said ‘I do,’ they were swept away to take pictures, while the guests were ushered towards an event tent.

“That was a beautiful ceremony,” Jasmine said to Leo with a smile.

He nodded. “Yeah, definitely. They’re a good couple, I’m happy for them.”

“As you should be,” she added. “Hey, can you go get me a drink? My feet are already sore; I need to take off my shoes.”

With another nod, he departed towards the bar, leaving Jasmine alone at their table until another man approached her. “Might I just say that you look stunning?”

She glanced up at him briefly before returning her attention back to her shoes. “Well, you just did, so thanks.”

“You’re Jasmine, right? Jasmine Winters?”

She looked back up at him again. “Do I know you?”

“No,” he said with a shake of his head. “I’m Mike. You came here with Leo?”

“Yes, and he’ll be back any minute,” she said, crossing her arms as she watched him.

Mike smiled and shook his head. “That’s fine. I just wanted to tell you that you’re rather beautiful and if you ever split with Leo, I’m around.”

“She’s not interested,” Leo said from behind him, making Mike jump and Jasmine visibly relax. “Beat it, Mike. Trolling for my leftovers isn’t going to work this time, is it, babe?”

She shook her head and watched as Mike sulked and walked away. “Thank you, you saved me.”

He grimaced as he looked over his shoulder at Mike. “Yeah, he’s a creep. That tends to be his schtick, harassing women that already have dates. I doubt it’s ever actually worked in his favor.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” she said with a snort.

“Anyway, here is your alcoholic beverage,” Leo said, handing the glass over with a flourish. “One martini, with extra olives.”

Jasmine smiled and said, “Thank you. Where’s yours?”

He shrugged. “Didn’t want one yet.”

“Your loss,” she said before she took a sip from hers. “This is good. You sure you don’t want a little bit?”

“I’ll just get a taste.” Then, before she could hand him her glass, he leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips. “Mm, that is pretty good. Maybe I should get another taste.”

Jasmine laughed and pulled him in for another kiss by his tie. When they pulled apart, she said, “You’re such an idiot, you know.”

He smiled and kissed the tip of her nose. “Yeah, but you love it.”

“No comment,” she teased. “So, what’s the game plan for tonight?”

“Drinks, food, dancing, and small talk with family members that don’t care enough to even send a Christmas card.”

“Oh, joy. I’m going to need another martini.”

Leo held his hand out and then pulled her to her now-bare feet. “Let’s go, Min.”

“Where to first?”

“How about to my mom and her boyfriend?”

She chuckled and watched his face. “How’s that taste?”

“Not great, but I’m happy for her. I am.”

“You’d better sound more convincing by the time we reach them because right now, I don’t think even you’re buying that bullshit,” she said quietly. “Do you want your mom happy?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Is she?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Jasmine nodded. “Exactly. Focus on that.”

They walked towards the other side of the dance floor and over to the table where Astrid and Steven were sitting. They were laughing amongst themselves and sharing appetizers before they noticed Leo and Jasmine approaching, but when they did, Astrid’s smile widened and she stood to greet them.

“Hey, kids! Have you tried the fried macaroni and cheese bites yet? They’re so delicious, I can’t get enough of them,” Astrid said.

Steven smiled and nodded. “It’s true. We’ve already had two plates worth.”

“You do know that dinner is included, right?” Leo asked, raising an eyebrow.

Astrid laughed and lightly shoved her son’s shoulder. “You never stop with the teasing, do you?”

Jasmine shook her head. “Never. I don’t think he’s physically capable. He might die.”

“And you’re any better?” Leo asked.

“I never claimed to be!” she said.

“Well, Jasmine, I don’t think you and Steven have been introduced,” Astrid said before the playful bickering could continue. “This is my boyfriend. Ugh, I hate that term, though. It feels so juvenile, don’t you think?”

“Darling, I told you we could use different labels if you weren’t comfortable with it,” Steven said.

“Yes, but what’s the alternative? ‘Lovers’? They just need to invent a new term,” Astrid said with a wave of her hand.

Jasmine held out her hand to Steven and said, “Well, no matter the label, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Leo’s girlfriend.”

“Yes, I’ve heard good things about you. I don’t think Astrid has said a single negative thing about you, actually,” Steven said.

“Oh,” Jasmine said, blushing. “That’s so sweet. Um, well, I’ve got my flaws, just like everyone else, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment.”

As Jasmine and Steven talked, Astrid pulled her son aside for a moment and asked, “Are you really okay with me and Steven?”

Leo nodded and smiled. “Yeah, Mom. If you’re happy, that’s what matters, right? Don’t worry about me.”

“Okay, sweetie. And you and Jasmine? Are you two doing well?”

“Yeah,” he said, staring over at Jasmine with a smile. “She’s good for me. I’m, uh, making some changes and she’s the whole reason I’m doing it. I’m not ready to talk about it yet, but it’s good.”

Astrid raised her eyebrows. “Really? Well, whatever it is, I hope you tell me soon.”

“Yeah, I will. I just have to figure a few details out first, but I promise you’ll be one of the first to know,” Leo said before he planted a kiss on his mother’s cheek. “I’ve got to go talk to a few other people, but save me a dance, all right?”

“Will do,” she said with a smile, then she took her place back at the table while Leo led Jasmine away.

As they walked around and talked to various members of Leo’s family, many comments were made about how commitment was ‘out of character’ for Leo, but how it was nice to see him with a girl that could challenge him.

With every conversation, Jasmine felt more and more self-conscious of how good she and Leo were together. They bickered constantly, but they helped each other and were in-sync with so many things, and she almost never was actually unhappy when he was around. Rather than directly confront her emotions, she decided to drown them in alcohol. Whatever it was that she was feeling, she could deal with a different day.

“Hey, you might want to slow down a little,” Leo said quietly. “The cake hasn’t even been cut yet.”

She finished her drink. “Sorry, I’m, uh, nervous. Are they doing the cake soon?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Ooh, don’t forget, you need to talk to the caterers, right?” she asked, hoping a subject change would distract him from her alcohol consumption. “You should definitely ask them about whatever you can do to get a good footing in the bakery stuff.”

“Right, an apprenticeship,” he said.

“Yeah, sure, that,” she said, nodding. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll just go talk to your cousin.”

“Which one?”

“The pregnant one?”

He chuckled and asked, “Blair?”

Jasmine started laughing. “Are you serious? Her name is Blair? Why didn’t I remember that?”

“Maybe because you’re already drunk?” he asked. “Will you please at least drink some water before I go?”

“Fine, hand me that glass,” she said, pointing at a nearby water, then she chugged it once he gave it to her.

Leo smiled and kissed her. “Thanks, Min.”

She nodded and smiled. “Yeah, sure. Now, go! No coming back until you’ve talked to them.”

Jasmine watched as Leo approached the caterer, who seemed all too happy to speak to someone about the food, but was equally distracted by her job’s demands and indicated a five minute wait before she was free. Leo looked back over at Jasmine with an exasperated look, but she shook her head and mouthed the word ‘stay.’

He rolled his eyes but ultimately obeyed her demand, allowing her to make her way to the bar without supervision.

While there, Jasmine overheard some women playing Would You Rather, and her timing was impeccable. “Would you rather sleep with Leo Mathers or-”

“Yes, that, I’ll sleep with him,” one woman interrupted.

“You have to let me finish, Gina,” the first woman said. “Would you rather sleep with Leo Mathers or slap every one of your exes and be paid one thousand dollars each?”

Gina’s eyebrows raised and she took a sip of her drink while she considered her options. “Shit, I think I still pick Leo.”

“Not me! I’d pay a thousand to slap my ex in his smug face,” another woman said.

A fourth woman said, “Leo, for sure. He’s got strong hands.”

Hearing that, Jasmine nearly choked on her drink, and she tried to play it off like she wasn’t listening, but the other women were quickly made aware of her presence. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”

“It’s no problem,” Gina said. “Just settle something for us, would you? Would sex with Leo be better than the thousand-per-slap?”

“Um, I don’t- I mean, um, it’s- yeah.” She nodded and took a deep breath before she spoke again. “Yes, much better.”

The fourth woman nodded. “See? I called it. He makes your toes curl, doesn’t he?”

Jasmine laughed nervously and took a sip of her drink. “I think I need to go find Leo.”

“For some toe-curling sex,” Gina said in a stage-whisper.

She walked away before the group of women could make her blush more and she sat down at her table again, just in time for the cake cutting to be announced. “Finally.”

Another woman sat at the table with her and said, “So, how do you know the happy couple?”

“I don’t, not really,” Jasmine said. “I’m just here as a date.”

“Which side?”

“Bride’s. I’ve met Celeste maybe twice in my life, including last night,” she said. “How about you?”

The woman smiled. “Groom’s side. Phil’s my little brother. I’m Ava.”

“Oh, okay. So where’s your date?” Jasmine asked.

“She’s around here somewhere,” Ava said, looking around briefly before she shrugged. “She’s probably hovering near the cake.”

Jasmine laughed and nodded. “Makes sense.”

They sat in silence for a few moments before Ava said, “Sorry if I’m intruding, but you look like you’re dealing with something. If you want to talk about it, I’m a licensed therapist.”

“No, sorry, it’s nothing,” Jasmine said, shaking her head. “I’m just trying to figure something out.”

“Okay, well, my offer still stands,” Ava said.

Jasmine smiled and shook her head again. “Thanks, but no. I just want to enjoy tonight.”

Soon, Ava’s girlfriend showed up, Simone, and the two women shared a piece of cake before migrating towards other tables, leaving Jasmine alone with her thoughts once more. When she glanced over at Leo again, he was engaged in conversation with the caterer woman, smiling, which caused a twinge in Jasmine’s chest.

Finally, he returned to the table carrying two plates of cake. “Tokens of my appreciation.”

“How did it go?” she asked him.

“Well, Natalie - that’s her name, the caterer - was talking to me about how she got started in the business, some classes I could take, and some bakeries that might be willing to take on some help,” Leo said. “You were totally right, Min.”

She smiled and, before she took a bite of cake, said, “Told you.”

He nodded. “That you did. You’re a genius.”

Rather than gloat further, she let him talk about everything that Natalie had told him, though she felt an involuntary pang of jealousy whenever he mentioned her name, but she kept a smile on her face and continued to eat her cake, along with some of his.

“Hey, I was gonna eat that,” he complained once he finally noticed how much of the cake was gone. “Do you want to just finish that one and I’ll get another piece?”

Jasmine shook her head. “No, you finish it. Sorry. Do you still want another piece?”

“No, it’s fine,” he said. “I guess I’m just excited, huh?”

She chuckled. “No, really? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Don’t you get sassy with me. Last I checked, I won that pillow fight,” he teased her.

Before she could retort, the DJ announced the first dance between the bride and groom, then the father/daughter and mother/son dance. As more parent/child pairs were allowed onto the dance floor, Leo had to dismiss himself to dance with his mother, and Jasmine was unable to tear her eyes away from them. Unsurprisingly, they were one of the only couples actually ballroom dancing, while everyone else simply swayed back and forth with one another. Astrid was, of course, very elegant and gracefully moved around the floor, but Leo was simply tender, moving with care as he led his mother in the dance. Having been at the receiving end of his attentions, watching them dance was further proof at how genuine he really was.

When the dance ended, Leo led Astrid back over to Steven, then came for Jasmine. “Come on, Min. Wanna dance?”

“Yeah,” she said with a nod and a smile. “Let’s hit it.”

They walked to the middle of the floor and Leo wrapped his hands around her waist, pulling her close. Jasmine’s hands went to the back of his neck while she rested her head on his chest, unable to bring herself to make eye contact with him. They swayed back and forth together until the music changed and a more upbeat song began to play.

“Should I spin you?” he joked.

“I’ll fall on my ass, but you can try,” she laughed before meeting his gaze.

They attempted to dance well, but Jasmine was so clumsy that it was nearly impossible for Leo to show off his moves, but it was clear they were having fun. When the music changed yet again, she needed to take a break from the dancing and started laughing uncontrollably when Leo scooped her up in his arms and carried her over to their table.

“I could have walked!” she said, gripping her side as she tried to control herself.

He shook his head. “Nope, not a chance!”

Jasmine was going to say something more, but instead, she pulled him down a few inches to close the distance between their lips. This kiss was different than the others. It wasn’t for show. She was tentative in the kiss, slow, and his lips moved in sync with hers, just as tender as he was in his dancing. When they pulled apart, she didn’t want to open her eyes, but as she felt him sit down and move a hand from under her legs to her cheek, stroking with his thumb, she gazed up at him and blushed.

“Hey,” he said softly.

“Hey.”

Leo smiled and planted a peck on her lips. “Wanna get out of here?”

She nodded and stood up from his lap, grabbing her shoes, her clutch, and her sweater before she took his hand and allowed him to lead the way to a golf cart, which was manned by an attendant. “Can you take us back to the hotel, please?”

“Sure thing.”

The ride up to the hotel didn’t take long, nor did the walk upstairs to their room, but neither Jasmine nor Leo talked more than they had to, choosing instead to be together in silence. Once they reached their room, Leo opened the door with his key card and they finally dropped each other’s hands.

“I’m gonna get changed real quick,” Jasmine said as she gathered up her pajamas.

He nodded and once the door shut, started removing his tux and changing into a pair of pajama bottoms. When she didn’t come out after a few minutes, he knocked on the door and asked, “Hey, Min? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” she called back. “Just give me a minute!”

In reality, she was sitting on the toilet, half-naked, crying. She would have to use makeup wipes to get the streaks off her face, but the tears just kept coming, and she wasn’t even sure why. The wedding was beautiful and she had had fun, Leo had been a wonderful date, they had just shared an intimate moment, and yet she was still crying.

It took a while, but once she was able to calm herself down, she set to work on removing all the makeup stains from her face and then she finished changing into her pajamas. Before she left the bathroom, she looked in the mirror one last time and she took a deep breath.

Leo was lying on the bed watching TV when she emerged from the bathroom, but he immediately turned his attention to her when he heard the door open. “Hey. You okay?”

“Yeah,” she nodded and smiled.

He furrowed his brows, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he scooted over on the bed to make room for her. “What do you wanna watch?”

Jasmine shrugged. “I don’t care. Put on whatever.”

As they watched TV, Jasmine pulled out her phone and sent a text to Alex, careful to angle the screen out of Leo’s view.

>>> Jasmine: Hey, Leo and I should be getting back from the wedding around like 3 tomorrow. Can we meet up and talk??

>>> Alex: Yeah why? What’s up?

>>> Jasmine: I just need to talk to you about stuff and I’d rather do it in person

>>> Alex: Okay yeah sure, just let me know when you’re back in town and you can head over to my place

>>> Jasmine: Thanks

Soon after sending the last text, she began drifting to sleep, her body involuntarily gravitating towards Leo for his warmth. His arms wrapped around her and he barely had time to turn off the TV before he fell asleep too.

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