Eating Worms

(Or, How Things Change)

by Jane Westin


Summary: Sequel to ・Bitter Unrequited,・ ・Honestly,・ etc. Hope you like!

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. The X-Men are not mine. The Powerpuff Girls are not mine. Cosmo, Krispy Kreme, and Soft Bakes are not mine. Heath Ledger is not mine, but I really wish he was.


 

Rogue is not in our room when I return.

I begin to panic. Rogue is an individual of extremes, and I don・t want to think about the extremes to which she may go tonight.

Kitty hates it when I wake her up, but I have to find out where Rogue is.

・Kitty!・ I stumble through the dim room and shake her shoulder. Logan・s voice, flat and toneless, repeats itself in my head: ・She screamed that she hated you.・ Over and over.

・Mmph.・ Kitty turns her back on me. ・Go ・way.・

That she wanted you to die.

・Kitty, where・s Rogue?・ I shake her again, and this time she opens her eyes. ・What time is it?・

I check my watch. ・Three-thirty.・

・Why are you still up?・ She・s squinting at me, bleary-eyed. I roll my eyes in exasperation and impatience.

・Where・s Rogue?・ I demand.

She said you stole me from her.

Kitty rolls away from me and pulls the blanket up over her head. ・She・s staying with ・Ro tonight.・

I breathe a sigh of relief. I・m sure Ororo will keep her safe, and maybe tomorrow she・ll talk to me.

I lie down and stare up at the darkness.

I don・t sleep.

Guilt will do that to you.

***

At six-thirty I decide it・s ridiculous to keep pretending I・m going to get any sleep, so I get up and go downstairs.

I・m somehow not surprised to see Logan at the kitchen table. Nor am I surprised to see the beat-up backpack at his feet, packed so full I think the seams may burst. He・s staring into a cup of coffee, one finger tapping idly on the white ceramic mug. He doesn・t appear to have slept, either.

I sit down next to him, trying hard to ignore the sudden sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew it, I tell myself. I knew it when he grew irritable towards the end of our conversation last night. I knew it was coming, so why should this hurt so much?

・・Morning, Wolvie,・ I say, forcing a little smile.

He gives me a quick sideways glance. ・Hey.・ Tap, tap, tap.

We sit in silence. I get up and pour myself some coffee. I sit down again.

・You・re leaving.・ It・s not a question but a blank statement of fact. I struggle to maintain a conversational tone, fighting the tears that prick, hot and insistent, at the backs of my eyelids.

He answers blandly. ・For a while.・

・How long?・ I feel my lower lip begin to tremble, just a little, and I bite savagely at the inside of my cheek.

・Just for a while, Jubes.・ There・s a warning note in his voice: danger, forbidden territory dead ahead. He wanted to make this a clean break, and it・s pissing him off him that I・m getting upset. Get back, he・s saying with every fiber in his body. Don・t toe the line, just stay the hell away. You・ll regret it if you don・t.

・Why?・ Oh, God, there it is: the little quaver in my voice that starts up right before the tears come. I don・t want to cry, not now. I don・t want to let him see how bad he・s hurting me. Why do you always, always leave me?

Logan begins drumming faster on the mug, and now his leg joins in, bouncing in rhythm to the taps. Tapbouncetapbouncetapbouncetapbounce. The Irritated Dance. His lips are drawn together so tightly they・ve gone white.

・Need to think. Be alone.・ The words are sharp and biting, and oh, they hurt. He wants me to know I・ve crossed his line in the sand, and he doesn・t like it.

・Are you comin・ back?・ I ask in a tiny, plaintive voice that sounds pathetic even to my own ears. Just like me to piss him off more and make it worse. It・s what I always do, and I can・t seem to help it. My hands shake. I feel like throwing up.

There・s a loud, annoyed-sounding whoosh as he exhales through flared nostrils. ・Probably, Jubes.・ He shoves his chair back and stands up, swinging the bulging pack easily over one shoulder. He doesn・t look at me. ・I gotta get goin・.・

Fine, I think. I don・t care about you anyway. Fine. Just fine. Go ahead and leave. Fine.

・Drive carefully,・ I hear myself choke out thickly, and then I turn and hurry from the room before the first tears fall.

I run to the dining room and stand at the window, waiting for him to come out of the garage on his bike and hating myself for it. Finally he emerges, leather-clad and helmetless, and fresh tears spill down my cheeks as I realize he・s really going.

He glances back at the mansion only once and then mounts the scoot and speeds away, heading out of view and out of my life. Going, going・

・gone.

Just like my parents. Just like everyone I care about.

I stand at the window for a long time, staring at the point on the road where he finally disappeared into the woods and hating him with such passion I feel my fingers itch with the desire to blast him out of existence. Didn・t Logan just get back? Didn・t he promise me in his last short letter that he・d stay longer this time?

Another promise broken. What・s a promise, anyway, when it comes to Logan?

And after all this time I thought I meant something to him.

Bastard.

After a while, my legs get tired and I move away from the window. Tears are dried on my cheeks, but no more fall from my eyes. I feel drained and empty. Numb.

My stomach hurts. What・s going on here? It・s the first Monday morning of summer vacation. I should be sleeping soundly, exhausted from a full forty-eight hours of partying hearty; instead, I・m drifting aimlessly from room to room, wanting simultaneously to cry and do serious damage to everything I touch.

Upon further consideration, I decide it would probably be smarter to try and get some sleep. Logan may have just wrenched my heart out of my chest and stomped all over it with his big stupid boots, but the fact remains that I am very, very tired, and even I know that it・s not exactly prudent to try and deal with situations like this without the advantage of a good night・s sleep. I sigh, traipse upstairs, and am immediately confronted by Severe Weirdness in the now-sunlit room. I don・t know why I didn・t notice it when I left to go downstairs, ・cause it・s screaming out a really high rating on the Weird-o-meter. For one thing, all my stuff is neatly placed where it hypothetically should be: stuffed animals piled in the toy-harness hung from the ceiling, CDs stacked in two tall towers on the dresser, quilt folded neatly and draped over my butterfly chair. Weirdest of all is the fact that all my dirty laundry is stowed in the hamper with the lid closed.

Unbelievable. I never knew there were cleaning fairies at the Mansion.

Wait a minute!

・Heath!・ I exclaim, forgetting my woes long enough to express high indignance.

Kitty sits straight up in bed. ・Here!・ she yelps, sounding half-asleep and panicked.

・Not you, ding-dong,・ I tell her. ・My boyfriend・s been Heath-napped!・

Kitty squints at me. ・Huh?・

・My poster,・ I explain, pointing to the spot on the wall where Heath should be. ・My poster・s gone. Where・s my poster?・

In addition to looking very sleepy, Kitty suddenly looks very uncomfortable. ・Ah・I think・Maybe・・ She breaks off and rubs at her eyes furiously. ・I think Rogue might have had a teeny little temper tantrum last night.・

A temper tantrum? Well, that seems・healthy・sort of・

・So where・s Heath?・ I ask, beginning to rummage through the trash can. ・・oh.・

Poor Heath.

・He・s been mauled,・ I say sadly, uncrumpling one half of the poster and smoothing it out on the floor.

・Jean and ・Ro fixed up the rest of your stuff. She didn・t break anything else.・ Kitty says after a brief pause. Her words sound carefully chosen. Probably she doesn・t want another roommate going bonkers and ripping beautiful people off the walls, but that・s just a guess.

I slide down the wall and plunk down next to Heath. He looks about how I feel.

・How do you know what happened?・ I ask Kitty in a very little voice, still staring at the remains of what was once my favorite poster.

Kitty swings her legs over the side of the bed and comes to join me on the floor. She puts an arm across my shoulders. ・She was really upset, Jubes,・ she says. Her voice is sympathetic but matter-of-fact. ・I, um, found her・afterwards・and went and got Jean and ・Ro. They took her to ・Ro・s room.・

・Found her?・ Where was she, hiding?

Kitty hesitates. ・She, um, I don・t know exactly what happened, but she was passed out on the floor when I came in.・

My stomach lurches. ・Passed out?・ I croak.

The arm around my shoulders tightens a little. ・You know how Rogue is,・ Kitty tells me, unconvincingly reassuring. ・She flips out over every little thing. You know how Rogue is.・

・Passed out,・ I say. A tear leaks out of the corner of my left eye. Passed out. Throwing tantrums and passing out on the floor. Because of me. Because I・m such a lousy friend. Oh, God, I ruin everything. Everything.

I bury my face in my knees, and Kitty hugs me and doesn・t say anything. That・s another thing I love about Kitty: she knows when to just shut up. But I do try and stop crying for her sake; she doesn・t deserve this, after all, and she didn・t bargain on having to share a room with two crazy people when we moved in here. I snuffle loudly and swipe at my eyes. ・Sorry・sorry・・

Kitty shrugs. ・S・okay.・ She pats my shoulder and adds, ・I・d rather you cry like a normal person, anyway.・

I・m startled out of my misery and turn to stare at her. I don・t think Kitty・s ever made a sarcastic comment in her life, and here she is, with a little grin plastered on her face that looks remarkably like St. John・s when he・s feeling ornery. I give a little, watery laugh.

・Yeah, Kit-Kat,・ I say finally, getting to my feet and offering her a hand up. ・Yeah, that・s me. Normal any day of the week.・

I go back to bed feeling slightly better. Kitty・s offhand attitude about the whole thing makes me think that maybe, just maybe, this isn・t as big a deal as I・m making it out to be. I do, after all, tend to perceive things as way worse than they really are. Sure, Logan freaked out and left; sure, Rogue・s gone psycho and wants to kill me; sure, I・m the cause of this whole problem ・cause I can・t just leave well enough alone・but, like everything else, it・ll blow over.

I hope.

I snuggle into my blankets, close my eyes, and dream about Logan.

***

I wake up mid-afternoon feeling very disoriented. I like sleeping in late, sure, but sleeping the whole day away depresses me. Kitty, of course, is gone, having opted for the whole ・normal sleeping hours・ thing.

I get out of bed and immediately crawl back in. Oh, I do not want to face Rogue today, no no no no no. I・d like to live to see my twenty-first birthday, thank you very much.

Then I remember what ・Ro said to me in the garden and I crawl out of bed again. I think you will have to work very hard to keep your friendship with Rogue intact when she realizes that you and Logan are attracted to each other. Friendship, that・s the key word, right? What is it they・re always saying in Cosmo? Don・t let a guy come between you and your best bud? Yeah, I think that・s it. He・s just a stupid guy・albeit a very sexy one・(shut up, brain!) and losing Rogue as a friend just isn・t worth it.

Besides, if she hates me, it・ll just make it that much harder to borrow that cute suede miniskirt.

I push aside the betrayed hurt that Logan so thoughtfully caused me and pull on my bathrobe. If there・s one thing I・m damn good at, it・s getting rid of pain. Bury it deep, is what I always say. I try on a fake smile and decide that, for now, it・ll work.

I decide to skip the shower for now and head straight down to the kitchen for some grub. It・s been like eighteen hours since I・ve last eaten and I・m positively starving. Some Krispy Kremes would definitely be good right now, but I think I・m a little late for breakfast and there ain・t no way I・m waiting for an after-dinner donut run. I find a half-empty bag of Soft Bakes and pour myself some milk. I figure since I haven・t eaten in almost a day, I can deal with a few extra calories in the form of some very yummy cookies.

I settle on the day room couch with my cookies and turn on the TV, preparing to veg out and wallow in self-pity in the company of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. It・s strangely empty on the main floor today, but I figure that・s ・cause it・s a really nice day and everyone・s outside enjoying it. Except Dr McCoy, probably; he・s always buried beneath seven or eight thick books in the MedLab.

I have about three and a half minutes to wallow, and then Kitty comes into the day room wearing a green bikini and carrying four empty glasses. ・Oh, you・re up,・ she says cheerfully, looking flushed and sweaty from the sun. ・Are you coming out? It・s so gorgeous today. Do I look any tanner?・

I have to smile. Honestly, Kitty could make an epidemic of the black plague seem like small potatoes. She・s not inconsiderate; she just likes to keep things in perspective, which is, I think, an admirable trait.

I shrug. ・A little. Dunno if I・m coming out. Gotta finish breakfast first.・ I hold up the bag of Soft Bakes, and Kitty rolls her eyes.

・Very nutritious, roommate-o-mine. Be right back.・ She disappears into the kitchen, presumably to refill the glasses, and I eat another cookie and feel sorry for myself. She reappears a few minutes later carrying the day・s flavor of Kool-Aid. Ice clanks against the glasses as she sets them down and sits next to me.

・How are you?・ she asks, temporarily serious.

I shrug. I know I swore to throw this whole thing off and resume my happy-go-lucky existence, but Kitty always gets the distinct honor of bearing the brunt of my misery. Even if I have to fake it around everyone in the mansion, I don・t have to play cheery with her, at least. ・Okay. Think I might mope for a while before I have to deal with everyone today. Where・s Rogue?・

Do I even want to know? I wonder. She might still be in Ororo・s room, God forbid. What if she never comes out?

I silently mourn the loss of the suede miniskirt.

・Jean and Ororo took her into town today. Think they・re going to do some therapeutic talk,・ Kitty says with a wry little smile.

Something occurs to me, and it makes me very nervous. ・Do they hate me?・ I ask her anxiously.

・Of course not.・ Kitty pats my arm reassuringly. ・If you recall, Rogue never had any real claim on Logan・s affections. I・m fairly sure that Jean at least thinks she・s overreacting,・ she adds, sounding, as usual, as though she swallowed a textbook.

Jean would, I think, for even though I think she・s just absolutely wonderful, she has a tendency to forget that everyone else isn・t as serenely composed as she is.

・Also,・ Kitty adds, ・she mentioned before they left that she wants to talk to you, and she told me not to let you leave for donuts or anything.・

・Wow, am I really that predictable?・ I ask, amazed. Kitty looks momentarily thrown.

・Huh?・ she says.

・Never mind.・

Kitty stands up. ・Anyway, come outside,・ she tells me, collecting her Kool-Aid glasses and starting for the door. ・It won・t do you any good to sulk around in here. And besides, I・m not used to the attention of all three guys at once. It・s disconcerting.・ She smiles at me, then heads back out to the pool.

With a sigh, I polish off the last cookie and get to my feet. Might as well go outside; might make me feel better, and in any case if I・m out there it・ll take Rogue a little longer to find me and maim me when she gets home.

I change into my bathing suit and go outside to find Kitty, Bobby, Remy, and St. John lounging poolside, chatting lazily. Looks like a replay of yesterday. I have a feeling that the majority of the days this summer are going to look like this.

I drop into the deck chair next to Bobby, who grins at me. ・I see you・ve decided to bless us with your presence.・

I wave a hand in the air dismissively. ・Think nothing of it, Bobby, darling, it・s my pleasure, really, it is.・

・You・re a dip, Jubes.・

・Yeah, you like it.・

The great thing about my friends is that even though we・re mutants, even though we・re different, they・re able to make me feel completely and totally normal. We spend an hour or two chatting idly about nothing and, thanks to my wonderful, wonderful friends, I am able to forget about how much my life sucks and concentrate on zapping the iceballs Bobby keeps flicking at my head. I have the feeling that they・re trying extra-hard to make it seem like an ordinary, nontraumatic day, and I love them for it. But all good things must come to an end, and I・m disappointed but not particularly surprised when Jean opens the sliding door and calls to me.

・Hey, Jubilee!・

I heave a sigh and pull my sunglasses off. ・Here we go,・ I mutter under my breath, standing up and heading toward the door. Remy flashes me a smile that is surprisingly sympathetic. ・Remy wish you luck, petit,・ he says.

・Thanks.・

As I walk, I consider my options and decide that the Clueless Maneuver is the best way to go.

・Hi, Jean!・ I chirp brightly as I approach her.

To her credit, she doesn・t sigh or look exasperated. Instead, surprisingly, she returns my smile and gestures me inside. ・Hi. How are you?・

・Never been better. Yourself?・ Good lord, this grin is beginning to hurt my cheeks. I have the faint notion that I may be overdoing it just a tiny little bit.

・Not bad.・

・How was your trip into town?・ I follow her to the elevator. Presumably we・re headed to the MedLab・either that, or she・s going to kill me and hide my body in one of the sub-basements no one knows about.

Hm. Maybe Kitty・s right. Maybe I do tend to get overly paranoid.

・Good.・ We・ve arrived at the lab, and Jean leads me inside and sits down on one of the microscope stools. I・ve never felt comfortable down here・too confined・and I hover nearby, feeling nervous. ・Go ahead and sit down, Jubilee. I・m not going to yell at you.・

Whew.

・You・re not?・ I tilt my head and squint at her, trying to figure out if she・s lying so she can catch me off guard later. Her reassuring little smile, though, is genuine, and I relax and sit down. ・What are you going to do, then?・

Jean sighs and lets her hands flop limply in her lap. It・s the first time I・ve ever seen her make such a helpless little gesture: usually she looks so put-together and composed. ・Talk, I guess. Mostly about this thing with Rogue.・

Thing with Rogue? What thing with Rogue? I think, but decide it・s wiser to avoid that path. ・What about it?・ I opt to say instead.

There・s a long, pregnant pause.

・Does she hate me?・ I blurt out, unable to stop myself.

Jean・s eyes round and she stares at me. ・Hate you?・ she asks blankly. ・No・no, of course she doesn・t hate you. Why would she?・

WHEW.

・Because・because・Logan and I・I mean, he・s gone, and・I totally・I・・ I sound completely speech-impaired and decide wisely to shut my mouth until I can form a complete sentence. There・s another pause while I mentally form an outline of what I・m going to say. ・What I mean is, this whole mess is because・・ I feel a lump form suddenly in my throat and swallow hard・・because of me, and Logan left because of me, and・and・・ I fight to keep from crying and fail miserably. Jeez. If I didn・t know otherwise, I・d think I was manic-depressive. ・・and she p-p-passed out because of me, and she tore down my stuff, and I r-ruin everything.・

I・m sobbing outright now, knowing I sound like a little kid and not caring one bit.

Jean pats my hand awkwardly. We・ve never exactly been close, due in part to Logan・s worship of her, but her expression now is kind.

・It・s not your fault at all,・ she says, once I・ve quieted enough for her to speak. ・Rogue knows that, and she・s not angry any more. She・s just・・ here Jean pauses, looking reflective・・hurt, and, I think, a little jealous of Logan・s feelings for you.・

・B-but I don・t even know what Logan・s feelings for me are!・ I cry, slapping the tops of my thighs in frustration. ・He just went and l-left this morning and didn・t even hug me g-g-goodbye!・

And I burst into a fresh flood of tears.

・Jubilee.・ Jean・s voice is quiet but firmly insistent. I look up at her, sniffling.

・What?・ I say petulantly, sniffling.

Her eyes are locked on mine, and I hear her telepathic voice echo her spoken words in my head. I caught some of Logan・s projected thoughts and ・He・s just as confused as you are. That・s why he left. He needed some time.・ ・i>to sort out his feelings for you and for Rogue. He didn・t want to hurt you, ・He just needs to get away and think. You know that, don・t you?・

I stare at my hands, which are spattered with tears. ・I know.・

・He (loves you) cares about you very much, and he (loves) cares about Rogue, too. But he・s just beginning to see that his feelings about you and his feelings about Rogue are very different, and it (scared him) made him nervous.・ She looks at me imploringly. As if I could miss the psychic enhancement of her words.

・He runs when he・s scared,・ I murmur to myself. I know that・s true, even if I can・t make myself believe that he cares about me. To Jean I say, ・If Rogue・s not mad・・

・She・s hurt,・ Jean says, and I catch a glimmer of reflected sadness in her eyes. ・She・s not angry, but she・s very hurt. She said to tell you that she still wants to be your friend, but that she needs some time to work things out with herself. She・s upstairs now; I think she・s probably going to stay in Ororo・s room for a while.・

I nod. Of course that・s to be expected; I would have been surprised if she moved right back in, but it hurts all the same.

I stare at my hands. ・Jean?・

・Yes?・

・I feel really, really bad about all this.・

・I know. But Logan will get over it, and, in time, so will Rogue.・ Jean・s words sound genuine, and I believe her.

With a little smile, she adds, ・She bought you this at the mall.・

From underneath the lab table she draws a long, slender cylinder. A poster. Jean hands it to me; I pull off the plastic and begin to unroll it, even though I・m sure I already know what it is.

It・s Heath Ledger.

***

So now it・s two weeks later, and things are surprisingly normal. Despite the fact that Rogue is obviously avoiding everyone but Jean and ・Ro, the summer routine is pretty much unchanged. Kitty, St. John, Rogue, and I have jobs (I waitress at this little Japanese restaurant called Ekimae. Typecasting, you know. But I get free sake! Score!) and Bobby and Remy, are, as usual, either glued to the TV playing video games or outside working on their tans (Remy・s is turning out rather nice; Bobby・s, of course, is nonexistent).

Rogue・s also found herself a fan club in the form of two tiny mutants named Artie and Leech, and she takes them to the movies every Wednesday afternoon, when they show kid・s classics for free. If you ask me, I think she adores them even more than they adore her, if that・s possible. This week it・s Mary Poppins, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies. I・m kinda jealous of those kids. Not only do they get the distinct pleasure of Rogue・s company, which I・m really starting to miss, but they get to see cool movies every single week.

Then, that Tuesday, something Very Exciting happened, and I・m not talking about an attack from Magneto or whatever.

When I checked my e-mail, I found this waiting in my Inbox.

---

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: (none)

hi j

how you doing? i・m not too bad. jsut wanted to check up on you and see what lifes like at the mansion without me. did you find out about you know what yet?

right now i・m on a little island called madripoor. the prof talked to smoe people he knows and found some leads and guess what? turns out i owned a bar here some 22 odd years ago. weird huh. so im checking it out. it・s a nice place, i think you・d like it.

im heading to japan after this. some people i talked to mentioned a couple places i might visit. i・ll send you the flashiest postcard i can find.

i・m sorry i took off like that. wasn・t the right thing to do but i needed to get away for a while. didn・t mean to hurt ya.

miss you

l

ps hows marie?

---

I fall off my chair.

Is this possible? Logan never e-mails anyone! He types slower than a monkey writing Hamlet! I・m not even sure if he even knows how to turn a computer on!

I read and re-read the e-mail, then double-check in my address book to make sure that it・s really his e-mail address, then let out a whoop of joy when I・m pretty sure that it・s really him writing me.

Then, after I establish that there isn・t some anti-Jubilee conspiracy trying to get my hopes up only to bring them crashing down again, I actually read the e-mail and absorb what it says. Madripoor? Where the hell is Madripoor? And Japan?

Wow. I always thought Logan was sort of stuck on one country, namely Canada. I・m not sure they even have hockey in Japan. And I know for a fact that he won・t eat sushi.

But he misses me!

HE MISSES ME!

AND HE SAID HE WAS SORRY FOR LEAVING ME!

I give another holler and do a little chair-dance of joy. Then I compose myself and type back as fast as I can:

---

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: sushi

hi wolvie!!!

i was positively psyched to hear from you!!! i miss you!! J

what・s this Madripoor place like? I・ve never even heard of it. it doesn・t really surprise me that you owned a bar. if i go, will i get free beer? ;)

Everything・s pretty much normal here. rogue is fine and isn・t mad any more, at least, that・s what jean keeps telling me, she says she just needs time. I really miss talking to her though. She・s made friends with these two kids named artie and leech. they・re really cute but they talk a lot (sound like anyone you know?!?! ;) ) she takes them to the movies on wednesdays and i wish I could go this week cause it・s mary poppins and you know how i feel about mary poppins. kitty is good, she・s workign as a stripper (haha just kidding, it・s gambit that・s working as a stripper・just kidding again!!) no seriously, kittys workign at the bank in salem center and i・m working at Ekimae, you know that little japanese place by the mall. they give me sake!!! but hey i・m ALMOST legal. speaking of which, yes SOMEONE・S bday is coming up real soon here, and she might want a really tacky souvenir for a present, hint hint. J speaking of japanese, what are you going to eat in japan anyway? you don・t even like sushi!!! ;)

i hear they put corn on their pizza over there. make sure you eat some corn pizza for me.

the mansion is positively boring without you. Saturday nights aren・t near as fun as they used to be, i really miss going out to those nasty bars with you. also cyke・s head is getting really big again now that youre not here to prune him every once and a while. Really we need you here. his ego・s totally out of control J

The team is good too. they just got a new recruit named Sean Cassidy. I・m not really sure what his mutant power is but i think it has someth to do with sound. he・s going to start teaching next year too but i don・t know what. he・s really nice though and he has a really really cute irish accent. J J J

I havent heard about you know what yet but i・ll let you know when i do, here・s hoping!!!! J

anyway i better stop writing, this is turning into a novel. i was so glad you wrote, you positively made my day! take care and be safe and if you get a chance write me back cause i always love to hear from you.

miss you a lot,

Jubilee

---

I read the e-mail over twice to make sure it doesn・t sound too completely inane, then click Send and dance all the way to the kitchen. This happy occasion calls for Doritos!!

On my way to the kitchen, I spot the mail sitting on the front-room table. I dash over and begin sifting through the pile of envelopes. My heart stops.

There, among the bills and junk, are two letters addressed to Jubilation Lee.

One is postmarked Los Angeles.

The other is postmarked New Haven, Connecticut.

Suddenly shaking, I run outside to the pool and throw the Connecticut envelope on Bobby・s lap. He and Remy stare at me. ・Hi?・ Bobby asks questioningly, picking up the letter and examining it.

Then his eyes widen. ・Is this・・

I kick the deck chair. ・How should I know?・ I yell. ・I・m too afraid to open it!・

A grin spreads across Bobby・s face. ・Ooh. That means I get the honor?・

My heart・s going a hundred miles an hour. ・Hurry up and open it already, snowball.・

Bobby twirls the envelope and raises his eyebrows at me. ・If you call me names, this・ll take a lot loonnnnnnger,・ he sings.

ARGH! ・Okay, okay, okay, I・m sorry. Now will you open it already?・

Surprisingly, he complies, ripping open the envelope and pulling out the single folded sheet inside. I・m hopping from foot to foot impatiently.

・・Dear Ms. Lee,・・ Bobby reads, and then his face falls.

・Aw, Jubes, I・m sorry,・ he says, reaching out to take my hand.

My heart sinks into the floor.

・You can・t・I didn・t・・ I feel like crying. So much for my great plans. All down the drain.

Then Bobby・s frown spreads into a broad smile. ・Just kidding,・ he laughs, standing up and thrusting the letter in my face.

Dear Ms. Lee (the letter reads),

Congratulations!

That・s as far as I get. I throw the letter to the ground and jump up and down, screaming, then fling myself into Bobby・s arms. ・I・m in! I・m in! I・m in! I・m in!・ I screech into his ear.

Bobby・s laughing. ・Congratulations, Jubes.・ He picks me up and spins me around, and over his shoulder I catch sight of Remy, who・s smiling.

・Congratulations, petit,・ he says, coming over to hug me after Bobby puts me down.

Bobby grabs his glass and lifts it heavenward. ・I・d like to propose a toast!・ he cries. ・To Jubilee, our resident student of Yale University!・

Remy clinks his glass against Bobby・s, and then, cheering, they dump me into the pool.

By the time I・m out of the pool and reasonably dry (Remy sacrificed his towel・what a gentleman) I・ve remembered the other letter. I・d dropped it in the grass nearby on my hustle outside. I retrieve it.

The return address is unfamiliar. Who could be writing me from Los Angeles? I think.

・Who・s it from?・ Bobby asks.

・Dunno,・ I reply, opening the envelope and withdrawing the folded notebook paper inside.

Hi, Jubes!

How・s it going? Betcha never thought you・d ever get an actual, handwritten letter from your old buddy Jono.

・Jono!・ I exclaim. Jono moved out a year ago and we・ve heard barely a word from him for the past six months.

・Dude!・ Bobby says. ・Where is he? What・s he doing? What・s he say?・ He peers over my shoulder and begins reading the letter aloud.

・Hello, privacy?・ I say, elbowing him in the ribs, but to no avail.

・・I・m in L.A. for the moment,・・ Bobby reads. ・・Found some of me old friends from home; they・d moved here to sign a record deal. Perhaps you・ve heard of Bilge?・ Bilge?!・ he yelps. ・They・re only one of my favorite bands!・

I begin to laugh. ・Shut up, Bobby, they are not. You・re just saying that ・cause Jono knows them.・

Bobby pouts. ・I have their album.・

I roll my eyes and take over where Bobby left off. ・Whatever. Anyway. ・I・m to play second guitar with the band. Should be fairly exciting, as they・ll be recording their second album soon. I・ve found a flat in the suburbs that・s not too pricey and now that I・ve settled in, I was wondering if perhaps you・d like to fly out for a short visit this summer? I・m afraid I can・t foot the airline bill, as I・m rather broke right now, but I promise I・ll take you shopping at least once on Rodeo Drive.・ Rodeo Drive!!・ I squeal. ・No way!・

・You・re right, no way,・ Remy comments, tapping the next line.

・Aww,・ I say. ・・Just kidding. Can・t quite afford that yet, but maybe when I・m a big famous musician. Well, must be off, got to get to work. Let me know. Best, Jono.・・

My face breaks into a grin, and I would hug the letter if my entire body wasn・t sopping wet. ・He・s inviting me to L.A.!・ I scream. ・I・m going to California! I・m going to California!・

・And Yale,・ Bobby reminds me.

・Yale schmale,・ I laugh. ・I・m going to go shopping in Los Angeles!

・Women,・ Bobby mutters.

I dance all the way up to my and Kitty・s room and change clothes, grinning like a madwoman. Then I plunk down at my computer and hammer out two quick e-mails:

---

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: GUESS WHAT

 

I・M IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

---

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: so cal here i come!!!!!!

you ask if i・m interested!! I AM SO INTERESTED!!!!!

i have to ask the prof if he・ll fund it but i・m sure he will!!!!!! I LOVE YOU JONO!!!!!!

xoxoxoxo!!!!!

jubilee

---

With a happy little squeal, I run downstairs to find someone else to tell.

***

 

You like? Reviews are always appreciated, as usual. I・d like to know what you guys think of how I・m handling the mess I・ve put everyone into. Input, input, input!!

By the way, is this not total serendipity? I・m so proud of me.