A few weeks later and Jasmine still was ignoring Leo’s calls. He had given her a week before he started calling, and even then, it was only one call every few days. Whenever he left her a voicemail, it was something along the lines of, “I’m sorry. I know what you saw looked bad, but I want to explain. Just let me know if you want to talk. I miss you.”
After the first three, Jasmine just started auto-deleting the messages, not even bothering to listen to them first. He wasn’t saying anything new and she didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
Her family, as Leo had originally predicted, however, was giving her space after the breakup, which was the one small relief in this hellish situation. Whenever someone began to even broach the subject of her relationship status at the weekly family dinners, Alex would shoot them a death glare and they quickly changed the topic.
Mary, however, was exempt from that rule. “So, Jasmine, where’s Leo?”
“Um, Gran, I really don’t want to talk about it, so-”
“I’m just saying, whatever happened between you two, I can’t imagine it could be very bad. He was smitten with you,” Mary said.
Alex shook his head vigorously, which did not go unnoticed by Jasmine, but she ignored it and said, “I caught him with another woman.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, to hell with him.”
Jasmine started laughing, pleasantly surprised by the sudden change in attitude. “Thanks, Granny. Anyway, Dad, how’s hockey?”
Richard quickly embraced the new subject, and soon the family was on an entirely different train of thought, which was mostly along the lines of ‘get Richard to shut up about the Rangers.’
As people cleared the table, Alex pulled Jasmine aside and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” she said with a nod. “Why?”
“Well, we haven’t really talked about it since that night. I wanted to check in,” he said.
She raised an eyebrow. “Really? Because you’ve never been the kind of person to want to ‘check in.’”
Alex scoffed. “What? I can’t be concerned for your well-being?”
“No, I’m not saying you can’t be concerned, but you aren’t the person to voice that concern, so you obviously have ulterior motives. Out with it.”
“No ulterior motive. Just shut up and tell me what’s up.”
“Pick one, dumbass. I can’t shut up and talk at the same time.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “You’re so annoying. Talk to me.”
Jasmine shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel. I was literally on the verge of telling him I loved him, but then he did that. I can’t- I just can’t figure out if it was all just a game to him, you know? A challenge. ‘Oh, Jasmine Winters hates me, let’s see how long it takes to get her to have sex with me.’ It’s sickening.”
“I mean, yeah, I can see why you’d think like that,” Alex said. “But, I mean, he is still my best friend and I don’t think that was his intention.”
“What do you know?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
He shook his head. “Nothing!”
Jasmine glared at him and said, “You know something. I know he talked to you. What did he say?”
“Why can’t you just ask him yourself?”
“Because I’m not talking to him,” she said. “Now, tell me, or I’ll use my key to raid your place looking for the ring you got for Theo.”
“You wouldn’t. You’re bluffing.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are you sure you want to take that chance?”
He sighed and slumped in defeat. “Fine. He said that he’s in love with you and it was a big misunderstanding.”
She scoffed and crossed her arms. “And that’s supposed to make me forgive him?”
“No, obviously not,” Alex said.
“Good, because it’s not an excuse. If he really loved me, he wouldn’t have let that happen.”
Leo let out a deep sigh when Jasmine’s phone went to voicemail again. “Hey, Min. I miss you. Alex told me that he told you what I said, or at least a short, abridged version. Just let me know if we can talk. I love you.”
When he hung up, he laid back on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. It had been a month without so much as a word and he couldn’t stand to wait around and do nothing, but he couldn’t quite figure out what to do, up until he remembered something she had told him at the beginning of the arrangement.
He pulled out his phone and opened Spotify, creating a new playlist: To Minnie.
Another two weeks had passed and the calls from Leo had stopped, which was bittersweet. On the one hand, Jasmine was glad to not be getting so many calls from him, but on the other, she began to draw the conclusion that Leo was giving up and that he really didn’t care after all.
As a sort of distraction, she decided to download a dating app, which had yielded a very promising match with a guy named Ethan. With some encouragement from Eliza, Jasmine had accepted a coffee date with him and would be meeting him in an hour.
She stood in front of her mirror, unable to choose an outfit, which was a cruel reminder of the times she had asked for Leo’s opinion. Somewhat out of spite, she closed her eyes and picked a floral yellow dress, then was out the door to meet her date.
Jasmine smiled when she saw him. Ethan was tall with dark hair, a slightly crooked nose, and a contagious smile. Whether or not she was ready for a new relationship, she was pleased by her prospects.
“Hey, Jasmine?” he asked, standing up from the table where he was waiting.
She nodded. “Yeah, hi. Ethan, right?”
He nodded and moved to pull her chair out. “Let me get that for you. It’s nice to meet you. I have to say, you look great in yellow.”
“Thank you,” Jasmine said, blushing.
“So, tell me about yourself,” he said.
She laughed nervously before she started talking. “Well, I’m a social worker. I come from a huge family. I don’t know, what do you want to know?”
Ethan shrugged. “Anything. How about, what do you think of the world right now?”
“Total shitshow. You?”
“I agree, one hundred percent. There’s so much crap going on in the world, it’s hard to even focus on one,” he said.
As they continued talking, Jasmine got more comfortable with him and ultimately agreed to another date by the end of their coffee. “Thank you for this. I’ve been dealing with a lot of bullshit and it was nice to go out and forget about it for a few hours.”
“No problem,” he said, smiling at her. “I don’t wanna push my luck, but could I kiss you?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers, causing a pleasant sensation to spread down her body. It wasn’t the most exciting kiss she’d ever had, but it was enough to make her smile as they pulled away from one another. “Text me.”
There was a second date, a third, a fourth, and a fifth date before Jasmine had decided to introduce Ethan to her family at the Thursday dinner. While they had all heard that she was dating a new man, they had been skeptical until he stepped through the door, carrying a container of pie.
“Oh, how sweet! He even brought dessert for us,” Helena had said before giving her daughter a hug. “I like him already.”
Henry and Caitlin were also in attendance, and although he hadn’t heard the whole story of what had happened with Leo, it was clear that he was a lot more hesitant about Ethan than he had been about Leo. “So, how’d you two meet?”
“Dating app,” Ethan said. “Not the most romantic of ways, but the moment she stepped in that coffee shop, I knew she was someone special.”
Gwen wasn’t impressed either. “Really? Is that how it is with most online dates?”
“Gwen, cool it,” Helena hissed at her sister-in-law before smiling at Ethan. “What do you do?”
“I’m a lawyer. I work in a pro-bono office and I handle mostly welfare cases,” he said.
As the family continued to interrogate him, Jasmine was able to slip away into the kitchen for a few minutes to grab a drink, but Alex and Henry were close behind her, girlfriends in tow.
“Jas, what do you know about this guy?” Henry asked her.
“I know more about him than you,” she said as she poured herself some wine. “He’s sweet and he does good work, he listens to what I have to say, and I like him.”
Theo nodded and smiled slightly. “That’s good. He’s cute, I’ll give him that. How is he in bed?”
“Nope, don’t wanna hear that,” Henry said. “Did you look into him before you met him?”
Jasmine scoffed. “Are you serious? You don’t think I’d be careful when meeting with a stranger?”
He raised his hands and shrugged. “I don’t know what you do, I’m just asking a question.”
Caitlin nudged Henry in the ribs with her elbow. “She doesn’t need you acting like an overprotective doofus. So, Jasmine, he’s good to you?”
“Yeah, I think so,” she said, nodding. “My perception of guys is a little skewed now, but he’s been very sweet.”
Alex raised his eyebrows. “Really?”
She nodded again. “Yeah. I mean, he’s not Leo, and that’s good.”
Everyone else in the room looked around at each other before they turned their attention back to Jasmine, and Caitlin spoke, “Do you really want him to be so different from Leo?”
“He does seem to be trying extra hard to impress everyone, and I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Alex said.
“Yes. I don’t know what you’re trying to insinuate, but things with Ethan are good and I would like to focus on that instead of on my ex who betrayed my trust, or on your empty accusations,” Jasmine said, exiting the room with her wine glass.
When she rejoined Ethan, he hung his arm over her shoulders and said, “I missed you, babe.”
“I missed you, too,” she said, smiling and nestling her head into the crook of his arm.
When Leo had asked Alex and Theo to come over for dinner, it was obvious to everyone involved that he had ulterior motives, though unspoken. Still, he had cooked a splendid meal of lobster ravioli and baked a cake that he had spent time decorating, if only for the therapeutic aspects of the routine.
Alex and Theo had arrived on time, knocking on the door with a bottle of wine in hand before entering. “Hey, Leo, we’re here. Whatever you’re cooking, it smells great.”
“Come on in, guys,” Leo said. “I’m glad you came.”
Theo smiled, hugged Leo, and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Good to see you, Leo.”
Alex nodded and followed his girlfriend to give Leo a hug. “Yeah, man, it’s been a minute.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been a bit busy,” Leo said before leading them into the living room.
“Busy with what?” Theo asked.
With a deep breath, Leo pulled out a CD, complete with a booklet that explained his choices for each song, along with all the selfies from their dates. As Theo looked through it, a smile spread across her face and tears pricked her eyes, so Leo asked, “What do you think?”
“It’s perfect,” she said with a nod. “This is for her, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I’ve been working on it for a few weeks. I wanted it to be perfect.”
Alex furrowed his brows together. “Wait, let me see that thing.”
“I’m not done yet!” Theo said, snatching it away from him so she could continue looking through it and reading through the explanations that Leo had put in. Alex, however, started to tickle her until she was smacking him in the thigh with the booklet.
Leo laughed at their childish fight and said, “Hold on, Alex, you can look at it on my computer.”
“Nope, too late,” he said as he continued to tickle his girlfriend. “That booklet will be mine, Theodora Gray!”
“You stand no chance,” she said, barely fending him off as she shook with laughter. Their physical altercation somehow ended with Theo sitting on Alex’s chest, panting as she finished reading the booklet, then she dropped it down onto his face. “There you go, your turn.”
“You two are ridiculous,” Leo said, still laughing at what had happened.
Alex flipped through the booklet and his face sobered as he read Leo’s words. “You really worked hard on this, huh?”
With a nod, he said, “It’s important. She- well, uh, she mentioned mixtapes as a romantic gesture, so I wanted to get it right.”
Theo smiled and said, “Well, I don’t know how Jasmine is going to react, but if I were her, it would definitely be a start to getting in my good graces.”
“Thanks, Theo. Do you think I should mail it to her, or should one of you give it to her for me?”
Alex sighed as he said, “She’s got a boyfriend. I don’t know if she’s ready to get this yet.”
“Wait, what?” Leo asked.
“Yeah. She, um, started dating him about three or four weeks ago. We met him on Thursday,” Alex said. “I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not just a rebound guy, but still.”
Leo slumped back on the couch and let out a long breath. “Wow. I- I didn’t think she’d find someone that fast. I mean, is she really into him?”
“From what she says, yeah,” Theo said sadly. “But that doesn’t mean that she’s actually into him.”
“What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “Like Alex said, he might still just be a rebound. She was really hurt by what you did, so it might just be that she needs someone new to feel in control.”
“Exactly,” Alex said with a nod, pointing over at Theo. “She knows her shit.”
Leo nodded and stared down at the CD. “So when should I give it to her?”
“We’ll let you know.”
The first night Jasmine let Ethan stay over, she had gone all out to impress him: lingerie, candles, and a dinner that Caitlin had helped her make an hour before he arrived. The second time, it was a lot more low-key, wearing a cute set of pajamas while they watched TV before bed.
They had sex before falling asleep, but in the middle of the night, Jasmine’s eyes snapped open as she woke with another migraine. Her head pounded, her eyes watered, and she felt like she was going to throw up, forcing her to leave the comfort of her bed to go hang her head over the toilet.
As she heaved her guts out, she heard Ethan snore even louder than he had already been doing, which was not helping the pain in her head whatsoever, so she tried waking him with a pitiful stage whisper. “Ethan!”
He grunted and turned over, which quieted the snoring ever so briefly.
“Ethan, wake up,” she pleaded with him, tears running down her face.
“Mmph, what?” he mumbled as he gained consciousness.
She sniffled and threw up again. “I don’t feel good. Can you bring me some water, please?”
He groaned and got out of the bed, loudly stumbling into the kitchen to grab her a water bottle before he laid back down and started snoring again.
Jasmine spent the following hour in the bathroom, throwing up until there was nothing left in her stomach, then laying on the floor while she waited for the Excedrin to kick in and relieve the pain in her head. As she waited to feel better, she couldn’t help but remember the migraine she had experienced over the wedding weekend with Leo, when he had stayed up with her and helped her through it.
While there were obvious differences between Leo and Ethan, the difference between that night with this one was the most disappointing.
Jasmine and Eliza were sitting on the firehouse couch, watching television while Eliza waited for the guys to come back with food. It was the first time Jasmine had seen the firehouse in person since Eliza had been given the promotion, which meant it was a lot cleaner than the last time she had visited.
“I assume you are actually enforcing the cleaning schedule, unlike the previous lieutenant,” Jasmine joked.
With a laugh, Eliza nodded and said, “Definitely. It was disgusting when they were only cleaning once a week! Trust me, the filth that builds up with fifteen men in here at any given time.”
Jasmine grimaced. “I believe it. But it looks really nice in here at the moment.”
“Thanks,” Eliza said. “It’s been an adjustment, but they’ve been good. Gary was warning me that the guys might not want me in charge, but if that’s the case, they hide it pretty well.”
“Yep. I was expecting a lot more resistance, but they’re good guys. They were happy for me,” Eliza said, smiling. “And what about you? Any good guys I need to hear about?”
Jasmine’s eyes widened. “Oh, wow, it really has been a bit since I’ve updated you, huh?”
“Remember the guy I met for coffee?”
“Yeah, a month ago, right?”
Jasmine nodded and smiled. “Ethan. I’m still seeing him.”
Eliza rolled her eyes. “How is he?”
With a shrug, Jasmine said, “He’s good. He’s fun and when I’m with him, it’s different but in a good way.”
“Mhm, okay, sure,” Eliza said.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It just seems like you’re rushing into this one, babe.”
Jasmine furrowed her brows. “What do you mean?”
“It’s been how long since Leo?”
Eliza shrugged. “Fine. But you know I’m right.”
“No, I don’t know that,” Jasmine said. “Leo betrayed my trust and I gave myself time before I met Ethan. I’m not rushing into anything.”
“Okay, if you say so. I’m just saying-”
“I know what you’re saying and I’m telling you that you’re wrong,” she said.
Eliza sighed and nodded. “Okay, fine. I just don’t want you to get hurt again.”
“I won’t,” she said, raising her voice as the guys began to reenter the firehouse.