Another week passed and Leo was over at Alex and Theo’s apartment for dinner. Since he had cooked the last time, they were attempting to compensate, though neither of them were great chefs.
“You know, I could have cooked,” Leo said as he helped fan smoke outside.
“I still maintain that if I hadn’t left the kitchen, it would not be on fire,” Alex said.
Theo rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, it would have. You’re the one who left the burner on and then set a towel on top of it.”
“Oh, right,” Alex said. “Well, at least I didn’t burn the food!”
“No, I’ll admit that was me,” she said with a laugh. “Sorry, Leo. I guess we’re ordering pizza.”
Leo shrugged. “I don’t know why you didn’t just do that to begin with. You could have avoided the house fire altogether!”
With a brief glance towards one another, Alex and Theo began to gang up on Leo, throwing the couch pillows at him until he threw his hands up in surrender. Eventually, they pulled out their Nintendo Switch and the three of them began to play Mario Kart while they awaited the arrival of their food.
Once the delivery guy knocked on the door, Theo immediately knocked the controller out of Alex’s hand with her foot so that he would be forced to get up. Incidentally, doing so also allowed her to win the race while he was paying.
“You’re such a cheater!” Alex said with a laugh. “I don’t know why I bother playing these games with you when you’re always cheating.”
“Such strong accusations from the man who claims that he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up,” Theo retorted.
“Then explain why I fell into the toilet last night,” she said, glaring in his direction.
With a grimace, he shrugged. “Ghosts?”
Leo grabbed the pizza box from Alex and said, “If ghosts are real, then the toilet seat is the least of your worries.”
“Sure, ghosts must have done it. And what about the empty milk in the fridge?” Theo asked.
“Gremlins?” Leo suggested. “Wait, no! Werewolves.”
“You’re both idiots,” she said, laughing. “If you’re going to accuse supernatural creatures, the least you could do is get your stories straight first.”
The three of them devoured the pizza and once they finished eating, Alex turned his attention to Leo and asked, “Did you ever hear back from Jas?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I actually ran into her last week, after I texted you. I was leaving my mom’s and she and Ethan were heading up to her apartment.”
“And?” Theo asked. “What did she think of the CD?”
He shrugged. “She thanked me, but she’s still with him.”
Alex sighed and leaned back into the couch. “Well, maybe she just hasn’t figured it out yet.”
“Maybe,” Leo nodded. “But maybe she’s just decided that she’d rather be with him instead of me, not that I blame her after what happened. But anyway, it’s been like two weeks, so I’m not holding my breath.”
Theo patted him on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry. At least you tried, right?”
“Yeah, exactly,” he said.
Alex, on the other hand, shook his head and said, “No. I’m sorry, but no. I’ve watched you two idiots dance around your feelings for two decades. It’s not over just because it’s been a few weeks.”
“And why are you so sure that it’ll work out between us?” Leo asked.
“I’m not!” Alex said before he let out a groan. “I have no idea if you two will work it out, but giving up after two weeks, especially after how long it’s been, is just pathetic.”
Once Alex’s words sunk in, Leo began to laugh. “Wow. Not even pretending to be a romantic, huh? Good luck with him, Theo.”
She started laughing. “Gee, thanks. I feel like I oughta get revenge by kicking your asses in Mario Kart again.”
“Oh, you’re on,” Alex said as he reached for his controller. “You’re going down!”
The more time Ethan spent at her place, the more Jasmine got frustrated with him. First, it was the small things, like putting his shoes up on the couch, or not washing his dishes well enough, but then they started arguing about other things, like how he almost always came over without asking first.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to spend time with you, but I just wish you would have asked me first before coming over!” she said, opening the door wider so he could enter. “You didn’t even come with me to my family dinner, so I thought it was just going to be me tonight.”
Ethan moved past her as he said, “I didn’t realize it was such an issue for your boyfriend to want to come and see you.”
Jasmine sighed and closed the door before she faced him. “Again, not what I’m saying. But what if I had wanted to just have a night to myself? Or if I wasn’t even at home and I was out with a friend? Not only would you be wasting your time to get over here, but it could easily be avoided if you had just texted me first.”
“You’d go out without telling me?”
He snorted and sat down on the couch, propping his feet up beside him. “I didn’t think you would keep things from me.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are you serious? First of all, get your shoes off my couch. Second, I don’t need permission from you to go out with my friends.”
“I’m not saying you need permission, but why wouldn’t you just tell me?” he asked, feet still propped up.
“Because I’m a grown up! What I do is my business and while I might choose to tell you what I’m doing, I’m not obligated to do so,” she said before she walked over to him and pulled his feet down.
“What did you do that for?” Ethan asked.
With a shrug, Jasmine sat down. “I’ve told you to keep your feet off my couch when you’re wearing your shoes.”
“Fine,” he grumbled before picking up her TV remote. “What do you want to watch?”
“I don’t really care. Let’s just scroll until we find something good.”
While they watched a documentary about serial killers—his choice, not hers—Jasmine pulled out her phone and sent a text to Eliza.
>>> Jasmine: Hey can we go for drinks or something tomorrow?
>>> Eliza: Yes, definitely. What’s up?
>>> Jasmine: Just need to vent
>>> Eliza: About?
>>> Jasmine: About Ethan
>>> Eliza: Lol already?
>>> Jasmine: Shut up
>>> Eliza: Fine but I’m choosing where we go
>>> Jasmine: As long as I don’t have to yell for you to hear me
>>> Eliza: Fair enough. We getting turnt?
>>> Jasmine: Why
>>> Eliza: Why what?
>>> Jasmine: Turnt. Why
>>> Eliza: Why did I say it or why am I asking?
>>> Jasmine: Why would you say it?
>>> Eliza: For fun
>>> Jasmine: You are awful. I’ll see you tomorrow?
>>> Eliza: Yep, and we’re getting TURNT
As Jasmine laughed down at her phone, Ethan glanced over at her and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Eliza. She’s being dumb.”
Without much more than a ‘hmph,’ he turned his attention back to the documentary. If he had actually given a real response, Jasmine would have told him about her plans to meet up with her friend the following night, but she decided to be petty. If he wouldn’t respect boundaries, he’d have to learn the hard way.
The next night, Jasmine sat at a bar, sipping at a mixed drink that Eliza had ordered for her, while Eliza ranted about the latest set of recruits at the fire station.
“They’re awful. They’d let a house burn down before they got their suits on in time,” Eliza said before she tossed back a shot of tequila. “I don’t know why we let men do anything.”
“Speaking of men, can I yell now?” Jasmine asked. When Eliza nodded in response, she continued, “Ethan is pissing me the hell off.”
“What’s he doing?”
“My couch! His dirty shoes on my clean couch! And it’s not like it’s a dark colored couch, where you wouldn’t notice if it got a little dirty, but no, my clean, cream-colored couch with his dirty shoes.”
Eliza raised an eyebrow. “You asked me out to rant about your couch?”
“Not just my couch,” she said.
“Okay, my mistake. Carry on,” Eliza said, gesturing with her hand for Jasmine to continue.
Jasmine took a deep breath and rested her forehead on the bar. “He gets his dirty shoes on my couch, he never washes his dishes, he comes over without asking pretty much all the time, he doesn’t really engage in a conversation that isn’t about him, and, I don’t know, we’re just fighting all the time lately.”
Eliza pushed a shot towards Jasmine and said, “Sounds like you need this more than I do.”
“Yep. So why are you fighting so much?”
Jasmine shrugged. “I don’t know. I think we’re just out of the honeymoon phase.”
“No, it’s gotta be more than that,” Eliza said. “Is there anything else that’s been happening?”
“I don’t know, I mean, Leo apologized to me and I guess I’ve been having second thoughts about Ethan,” Jasmine said.
Eliza smacked Jasmine in the arm. “Oh my god, why didn’t you tell me that? Honeymoon phase, my ass.”
“Ow! First of all, that hurt. Secondly, I don’t know, I just didn’t.” She shrugged and took the shot that Eliza had pushed towards her. “I don’t know, what do you want to know?”
“Well, everything. But how did he apologize?”
“He made me a CD,” Jasmine said, smiling slightly. “He included a bunch of really cute songs and then wrote a little booklet thing with special notes to go with each song.”
Eliza’s eyes widened. “Wow, that’s actually really sweet. He did that for you?”
“Yeah,” she said while she nodded.
“And what happened when he gave it to you?”
“Nothing. He mailed it to me and I listened to it, and then when I ran into him the other day, I thanked him for it but said that I’m still with Ethan,” Jasmine said with a shrug. “I don’t know.”
Eliza shook her head. “That’s your first mistake right there. You always go for the guy who makes the big romantic gestures. It’s the law.”
“And if the romantic gesture guy happens to be a serial killer?”
“Then why are you asking?”
Jasmine smiled. “To poke holes in your argument.”
“That’s dumb,” Eliza said before she took another shot. “But seriously, why haven’t you broken up with Ethan? You’re fighting with him all the time—your words—and you have a guy who is seriously in love with you and sending you romantic gifts.”
“I don’t know if that’s what I want,” Jasmine said. “It’s not like it erases what he did.”
“But has he owned up to it?”
She nodded and said, “Yeah.”
“And he apologized, right?”
“Well, yeah,” she said with another nod.
Eliza shrugged. “Then why isn’t that enough? Clearly he cares, and my guess is that if he cares enough to take the time to make something so sweet for you, then he’ll care enough not to make such a jackass move again.”
Jasmine sighed and stared down at her drink. “And what about Ethan?”
“Let me ask you something. If you were one hundred percent happy with him, would you be considering breaking up with him at all?”
“No, of course not. But that’s not a fair question anyway, because relationships aren’t always happy all the time, even in good relationships,” Jasmine said.
Eliza shook her head. “That wasn’t the question. You aren’t happy, so why drag this out and string this guy along? It’ll only hurt him more if you lead him on, only to break up with him later.”
“But I never said I wasn’t happy with him, just that we were fighting all the time.”
“Okay, fine. But fighting all the time isn’t good either,” Eliza said. “Bickering is one thing, but if you’re actually fighting, then there’s an issue that’s not being addressed, and my bet is on the fact that you’re in love with Leo but you’re staying in a relationship with another guy.”
Rather than dignify that comment with a response, Jasmine finished off her drink and said, “You sure have a lot of opinions for someone not in a relationship. Hey, have you met anyone yet?”
And just like that, Eliza was redirected to a new topic, filled with raunchy sex stories with details that Jasmine immediately wished she had never heard. She almost didn’t notice the text that had come in on her phone.
>>> Ethan: Where are u??
>>> Jasmine: Im out with my friend
>>> Ethan: You could have said something, I’m at your place right now
>>> Jasmine: you cuold have askedd
>>> Ethan: Are u drunk?
>>> Jasmine: Maybe
>>> Ethan: Just say something next time
>>> Jasmine: No you need to start asking when yuo wanna come over
>>> Ethan: Fine just be safe
>>> Jasmine: K
Before she could get another text from him, Jasmine pocketed her phone and took another shot.
Jasmine’s head was pounding the next morning and she was grateful it was the weekend. If nothing else, it allowed her to stay in bed until she felt the need to pee.
When she finally did get up and check her phone, she realized that she had forgotten to charge it the night before, so she brought her charger into the bathroom with her. As she scrolled through her notifications, she noticed one more from Ethan that she didn’t see the previous night.
>>> Ethan: ily babe
Her stomach sank at the sight of the acronym. If he was saying the “l-word,” it made things a lot more complicated. She still hadn’t figured out who she wanted to be with, but now she had two guys saying that they loved her.
Rather than bother Eliza again, she decided to go to Alex for help this time.
>>> Jasmine: You down for breakfast?
>>> Alex: Why?
>>> Jasmine: I wanna talk to you and I’m hungover and need eggs
>>> Alex: Okay but I’m bringing Theo
>>> Jasmine: Yeah that’s totally fine. Do you want Denny’s or Black Bear or what?
>>> Alex: Lemme ask Theo real quick
>>> Alex: She picked Black Bear
>>> Jasmine: Sounds good, see you in an hour?
>>> Alex: Sure
Despite her self-imposed deadline, she moved slowly as she got ready and ended up leaving her apartment with only five minutes to spare. Somehow, even as she was running late, she still managed to arrive at the restaurant before her cousin and his girlfriend.
“How did I get here before you?” she asked when they finally stepped through the doors.
Theo shrugged. “Alex is a diva and was doing his hair.”
Theo, who was wearing sweats and had her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, raised her eyebrows at him. “Really? Who has gel in his hair?”
Alex rolled his eyes and then turned to Jasmine. “Sorry we’re late.”
“It’s fine. We’re just waiting on a table anyway,” she said. “So, what have you two been up to?”
“Since Thursday? Work and Netflix, now this,” Alex said.
Jasmine laughed and said, “You’re boring. Theo?”
“I went to get my nails done yesterday,” she said, quickly flashing her manicure before she shrugged. “Other than that, yeah, I’ve been boring too.”
Before she could respond, the hostess called out Jasmine’s name and led them to a table. Once their drink orders were taken, Jasmine took a deep breath and said, “Okay, so the real reason I asked you to breakfast was because I need some advice.”
Theo raised her eyebrows and leaned back into her seat. “This seems to be a recurring theme lately.”
“No kidding,” Alex said. “What’s going on?”
“So, I assume you know what’s been going on with Leo. He did what he did, made me a CD, and apologized,” Jasmine said. “Right?”
Both Theo and Alex nodded.
“Okay, so there’s that. And you know I’m dating Ethan.”
“No need to sound so excited,” she said as she threw a crumpled up napkin at Alex. “Anyway, so the issue is that while I’m still with Ethan and I do like him, he and I have been fighting a lot more and it’s been giving me second thoughts. To make matters worse, he just sent me a text, basically saying that he loves me.”
“Wait, what?” Theo asked, leaning forward in her seat. “Let me see!”
Jasmine pulled out her phone and showed her the text. “So, what do you think?”
“Do you love him?” Theo asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe? At least, I could.”
“And do you love Leo?”
“Maybe. I think I did, but I’m not sure anymore,” Jasmine said. “I just don’t know who to choose and that’s where I’m stuck.”
“I vote Leo,” Alex said.
“Yeah, of course you do. But do you want me to be with Leo because he’s a better fit for me or because he’s your best friend?”
He shrugged. “What does it matter?”
“It does matter, babe,” Theo said. “Voting for him just because you like him doesn’t mean that he and Jas make a good couple.”
“Exactly,” Jasmine said. “So which is it?”
He groaned and thought about it for a moment. “I guess I think you’re better with Leo. Like, not just better as a couple, but you are better. You’re happier with him.”
They were briefly interrupted by the waiter to take their orders, but then Theo spoke up. “I think you should be with Leo too. I don’t know if I should say this, but I don’t care, Leo is starting to lose hope and he would probably settle for your left shoe if that’s all you’d give him.”
“Babe!” Alex said, nudging her.
“I said I don’t care,” Theo said before turning back to Jasmine. “If you’re not going to choose him, fine, that’s your choice and you are entitled to make whatever choice you want, but you need to make your decision clear to him instead of letting him draw his own conclusions.”
Jasmine nodded and let out a sigh. “You’re right. Thank you.”
With a nod, Theo leaned back and onto Alex. “You’re welcome. I know I’m not family-”
“That’s very sweet, but as I was saying, I know I’m not family, but I care about you and I want you to be happy,” Theo finished.
“Now if only I could figure out what’s going to make me happy,” Jasmine said with a chuckle.