With Violet Light, Part IVOct 29
Okay, folks—this is the last part of our saga. The end!
But is it…(dun dun DUN)…THE END?! As in, the ultimate fate of these characters? The period on their unwieldy, reference-laden sentence?!
The answer is simple: I don’t know. This does feel a bit like a natural stopping place, but sometimes random things (like the phrase “male Star Sapphire”) make me think of other random things and then it leads to writing words down and suddenly I’m asking Paul if he can draw Julie in a Green Lantern outfit.
So. We’ll see. Enjoy the final installment of this little story, and please come back next Friday— I’ll have a special behind-the-scenes extra to share!
“There is something…sort of funny about all this.”
Layla and I are sitting on the Comics Bee’s slightly grotty carpet, propped up against the counter, my head leaning on her shoulder for support. All the other customers have long fled. Braidbeard and Evan are having a hushed-but-spirited debate about Ghost World over in the indie corner, a soft chorus of passionate whispers and the occasional “actually…” wafting through the shop.
“Oh?” I snuffle pathetically into a crumpled tissue. “Why don’t you enlighten me?”
She smiles at me, zen-like. “Well. Tonight we learned you and Jack have yet another thing in common: really bad gaydar.”
“Oh, shut up,” I say, but there’s no heat behind it.
“Just teasing,” she says. She squeezes my shoulder. “He’ll come back.”
“Maybe,” I say, frowning into space. “He turned his phone off, so I have no idea where he is. I’ve just…never seen him blow up like that.”
Layla nods and we sit there for a second in contemplative silence. My eyes zero in on a Witchblade poster plastered to the wall above us. There’s something almost soothing about scrutinizing the ridiculous, anatomically impossible lines of her form, something that turns my brain off and keeps me from thinking. I trace my gaze over her mostly-naked ass.
“Listen…Jules.” Layla’s voice cuts through my borderline pervy thoughts. “I know our matchmaking plan didn’t exactly work out like we thought it would, but I gotta say: it was really fun hanging out with you? Like, in a girly way? Maybe we could do it more often?”
“Eh?” I sit up straight and shoot her a puzzled look. “We do hang out. Like, all the time.”
“I know, but I mean…just us. Without the boys. And maybe we could do girly stuff, like, um…get our nails done? Get cocktails…”
“…with little umbrellas in them?” I finish, cocking a bemused eyebrow. “You really do want us to be like Sex and the City, don’t you?”
She nods eagerly. “I think we could pull it off. And I get a little sick of all the comics-and-action-movies talk.”
I laugh. “Okay,” I say. “You are, honestly, the first real girlfriend I’ve had. And I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
“Hold that thought,” she murmurs, her eyes fixating on something over my shoulder. I turn, following her gaze to the Comics Bee entrance. And there’s Jack, looking exhausted, sheepish, and just a little bit lost.
He crosses over to us, and I stand, trying to prepare what I want to say to him. But before I can open my mouth, Layla’s positioned herself in front of me, hands on her hips.
“Listen, you,” she says, jabbing her pointy index finger into Jack’s chest. “Jules is my girl and I’m not gonna let anyone stomp all over her. So you better be ready to explain yourself, or I’ll…I’ll kick you. In a not nice place! Cause that’s what girlfriends do for each other!!”
Jack holds up his hands in surrender, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I have a really good apology prepared,” he says. “Awards-worthy.”
“Well…okay.” Layla steps to the side, still frowning at him, then turns and lays a hand on my arm. “How was that?!” she asks anxiously. “Super Charlotte-y?”
“More like Samantha,” I say, patting her hand. “Beautifully done. A-plus.”
“Yes!” she exclaims, pumping her fist in the air as she trots off toward the indie section.
Jack stuffs his hands in his pockets, his gaze shifting from side to side and finally meeting mine. “So. I overreacted.”
I cock an eyebrow and look at him expectantly. “Uh-huh…?”
“What I said, the way I acted, that was…incredibly dumb. Almost He-Man grunty, in an energy drink-chugging, Maxim-reading kind of way. I’m an idiot.”
I reach over and gently tug one of his hands out of his pocket, threading my fingers through his. “Lucky for you, you’re a cute idiot.”
He gapes at me. “You’re gonna forgive me just like that?”
I shrug. “Usually it’s me flying off the handle and acting like a demented wildebeest. I guess you’re allowed a turn?” I squeeze his hand. “And I’m sorry, too. Bringing you here and ignoring you like that was really shitty.” I bite my lip, trying to put the words together. “I just got so…preoccupied. Trying to help Layla. And Braidbeard, even. But you have to know: you could never be an afterthought. Not to me. You’re, like…the opposite of that.”
He regards me thoughtfully, then takes my other hand and pulls me close. “I love you,” he says, those blue eyes piercing right through me. “You know that, right?”
Tears prick my eyes and I nod quickly, not trusting myself to speak.
“I…can’t do this long distance thing anymore,” he says slowly, reaching down to brush my hair off my face. “I, um, hate it. Like, really hate it. A lot.”
“Me, too! A lot!” I squawk. “But I didn’t want to freak out on you by saying…that. I was trying to act, you know, like a normal person.”
He shakes his head at me, exasperated. “Since when have you ever done anything like a normal person?”
I give him a look.
“Sorry, that came out wrong.” He exhales slowly. “When I saw you with Evan, my brain sort of…spiraled. I realized he’s someone you could hang out with every day, just because you share a city. You could get comics every Wednesday and fall asleep together every night and…and…do all the little things. Like grocery shopping. And laundry.”
I frown. “Those are little things,” I say. “Kind of stupid little things.”
“Stupid little things I want to do with you,” he says.
I stop breathing for a minute, my heart crumbling like a three-day-old cookie. I realize, suddenly, that I want to do laundry with him, too. Desperately. If someone handed me a basket of dirty clothes right now, I would sort the shit out of the lights and darks.
“Let’s move in together,” I blurt out.
He opens his mouth, closes it. And gives me a somewhat peevish look. “That was supposed to be my line,” he says. “Are you ever gonna let me do anything like a real manly man?”
“Probably not.” I give him a tentative smile. “Can you, um…live with that? So to speak?”
His gentle hands cup my face, his eyes taking in every inch of me. He’s the only person I know who looks at me so intently, so earnestly. Always seeing me for what I really am.
“Hell yes,” he says softly.
I throw my arms around his neck, drawing him closer, our bodies fitting together like they always do.
“Oh, hey,” he says, pulling back and rummaging around in his pocket. “This was supposed to be for you.” He pulls out the ridiculously pink Star Sapphire ring.
“Me?” I laugh, holding out my hand. “Since when?”
He tries fitting it on each of my fingers, but the plastic loop is way too big—designed for more fanboyish hands. He finally slips it onto my thumb.
“Perfect,” he says, bringing my fingertips to his lips. “And I really think you ascended to Star Sapphireness just now. By proposing the whole ‘moving in together’ thing.”
“But you had the same idea!” I protest.
“Doesn’t matter. Come on, say it: ‘for hearts long lost and full of fright, for those alone in blackest night—’”
I shut him up with a kiss. It’s probably a Star Sapphire-y thing to do, but damn—it sure is effective.
“Wow, that’s really pink.” I narrow my eyes suspiciously at the perky concoction Layla’s set in front of me. We’re sitting in a too-loud bar, wearing too-short dresses, trying for something resembling a conversation over all the noise.
“It’s a cosmo,” she admonishes, gleefully piling tiny umbrellas in the glass. “It’s supposed to be pink!”
“Yikes.” I snatch the fruity thing away from her before she can attack it with yet another umbrella.
“Here’s to us!” she cries, clinking her glass against mine. “I’m having sex again and you’re on the verge of cohabitation!”
We both take healthy guzzles.
“Speaking of,” I say, as the vile pink stuff burns my throat, “we finally made a decision: I’m moving to L.A. And I need you to help me figure out how to break it to the guys.”
She freezes for a moment, frothy glass halfway to her lips, and her eyes get very bright. “You…you’re telling me first?” she asks, her voice tremulous.
“Well…yeah.” I give her a little half-smile. “I was also thinking you could help me drive everything down—you know, road trip-style. Like Sex and the City-type girlfriends do? Or so I hear?”
“Oh, Jules!” She throws her arms around me, splashing alcohol all over my stupid dress in the process. I hug her back, trying to ignore the sticky feeling of the flimsy fabric clinging to me.
“Hey, I have to show you something.” I whip out my iPhone and tap the Facebook icon. “Check out Braidbeard’s new avatar,” I say, gesturing to the screen.
“Ohmygosh!” she exclaims. “What an adorable shot of him and Evan!”
“Mmm,” I agree. “And it’s the first documented instance of B using a photo—rather than a comic book image—as his icon.”
She smiles at me: a sweet Layla smile, full of optimism and fucking sunflowers. “Was I right or what?” she beams. “Love for all: anti-social misanthropes included.”
I twirl a tiny umbrella through my fingers. “You said it, Charlotte.”