I met up with Jess outside her flat and we started walking to the mall but I asked straightaway whether she’d prefer to come up to the flat and we could rather watch a movie or something. She asked whether Chris was home and I told her he’d gone out for the evening. She didn’t say anything and it was obvious she was thinking about it so I said there was something I wanted to show her anyway because I wanted to know what she thought about it. She asked what it was and I told her it was a picture Chris had hung on the wall. She thought some more and then said fine and maybe we could still go to the mall afterwards.
I’d brought the necklace along and I decided to give it to her right then rather than wait until we got up to the flat. I said I’d bought her something and I hoped she liked it and then I just gave her the box. It wasn’t very romantic but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it in case she didn’t like it anyway. I said it was a present for lying about my essay. She said she didn’t lie about it, she just stretched the truth a little and I said whatever, I’d still got eighty eight per cent thanks to her. She stopped walking so that she could open the box and I stopped too. There were lots of other people on the pavement and we had to stand against a wall so we wouldn’t be in the way.
Jess doesn’t smile much but when she does her whole face changes and she looks fantastic. She’s got the best smile I’ve ever seen on anybody. That’s what happened when she opened the box. It was like there was a bright light in the box and it lit up her face when she took the lid off. She said it was the nicest present anyone had given her and she did a little dance and then gave me a big hug. It was all kind of embarrassing amongst all those people passing on the pavement. She wanted me to help her put it on but I said we should do that when we got up to the flat. I said we might drop it and someone could stomp on it and she should put it back in the box until we got home.
The smile stayed on Jess’s face the whole way to the flat. It was still there when I opened the front door but it faded away when she saw the picture. She didn’t look cross or shocked, she looked bewildered at first. I said that’s what I’d wanted to show her and what did she think. She stood in front of the picture for a long time without saying anything, like Chris had done. Then she sat down on the couch. She said it was an awesome photo and I looked really beautiful, absolutely stunning. I grinned and asked didn’t she mean handsome and she shook her head. She didn’t look at me; she just kept looking at the picture and she said Chris was a brilliant photographer. She said it was almost like a painting. She asked whether it was from the Ganymede shoot in Norfolk and I said yes.
I asked her whether she didn’t think it was a bit weird for Chris to hang up such a big picture of me like that. She shook her head again. She said one of her uncle’s was gay and he was a really nice bloke. I’d been feeling quite happy until she said that. I said Chris wasn’t gay and why would she think he was. She said she just thought he was because he’d put a huge picture of a boy with no clothes on up in the lounge. I said he was a photographer and he’d said the picture was one of the best he’d ever taken so why shouldn’t he put it up. I said I had a swimming costume on in case she hadn’t noticed. She giggled and by then I was in a huff and I sat down in one of the chairs, not on the couch with her. I said besides Chris was out this evening with his girlfriend and he always had a girlfriend.
She didn’t say anything for a while, she just looked at me and I scowled at the carpet.
Then she said she didn’t mean to be nasty or upset me, she’d just assumed it; that was all. He probably wasn’t gay and if he was it didn’t matter because he obviously loved me anyway.
She asked whether I’d still help her with the necklace. I’d forgotten all about it and I got up and helped fasten it. She asked where there was a mirror and I said she could go into my room. I stayed in the lounge and looked at the picture and noticed I was wearing the necklace Chris had given me. It had been there all along of course but until then I hadn’t noticed it especially because it didn’t mean anything. I sat down on the couch and turned on the TV. Jess came back after a couple of minutes and she sat beside me. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and said thanks. I said the necklace looked very pretty and I also remembered how the woman cop had said that about my one.
There was a documentary on the box about polar bears and we stared at that for a bit. They were in big shit because of the melting ice and it was plain depressing. I didn’t want to watch it and I asked Jess whether she’d had supper because I hadn’t and I was going to make something. She said all she wanted was a coke so I brought her that and then made a sandwich and some popcorn in the microwave.
She turned off the TV and got up to look at the picture of me again. She asked whether I could email a copy of the photo to her because she’d like to send it to Sandra. I said I’d ask Chris for it but I didn’t sound very keen. She turned round suddenly from looking at the picture and came straight over to me with a fierce look of her face, put her arms around my neck and kissed me on the mouth. My mouth was full of ham sandwich and I couldn’t hug her back either because I had a glass of coke in one hand and a plate with the rest of the sandwich in the other. She said she couldn’t believe she was kissing the same boy as the one in the photo, that I could be so totally cute and gorgeous. Jess is a bit taller and heavier than me and she seemed much older as well when she kissed me like that.
I sat down on the couch and wondered what was going to happen next. I was a bit nervous all of a sudden. But Jess’s mobile rang and she looked at the screen and then went over to the window to talk to whoever it was. She nattered away for ages and I turned on the TV again so that she wouldn’t think I was sitting there listening. By the time she’d finished talking I’d eaten the sandwich and half the popcorn and was getting a little pissed off. I asked her who she’d been talking to and she said it was another cousin who lived in Brighton. She asked whether we were still going to the mall. I looked at my watch and it was almost nine so I said maybe it was a bit late to go still if her mom wanted her to be home at nine thirty. She pulled a face but she didn’t argue about it.
She sat on the couch next to me and asked whether they’d let me keep the costume I was wearing in the photo. I said not that one, but Chris had given me one just like it. She giggled when I said that and I asked her what was so funny. She didn’t tell me but she asked whether I was going to wear it when I next went to the beach. I said it was just for the modeling shoot and I didn’t like it. She said it was very tiny and I said that’s why I didn’t like it. She said why didn’t I put it on now and show her what it looked like. I didn’t say anything for a while because I was wondering whether it would be a good move or whether I’d just look silly and she’d start giggling again. To be honest I didn’t know what to think. She prodded me in the side as if to tell me to get going.
I stood up, dusted off bits of popcorn and made her promise that she wasn’t going to laugh if I showed her. She folded her arms and nodded and so I went to my bedroom and put the costume on. I felt even more nervous than when I’d first worn it in Chris’s studio. As soon as I had it on I changed my mind and took it off but then I changed my mind again and I came out of the bedroom to show her. She was still sitting on the couch with her arms folded and she smiled but she didn’t giggle. I said well that’s it, and started back towards my bedroom but she called out to me to wait because she hadn’t seen it properly. I stayed where I was and she got up from the couch and came to have a closer look. I asked her whether she thought I looked sexy and she said I looked cute. I was getting fed up with being called cute. I said why didn’t she show me what she looked like in her knickers. She said no way and went back and sat on the couch. She picked up a cushion and put it on her lap like she’d done with the cat.
I didn’t go back to the bedroom. I was in full showoff mode by then. I jumped onto the coffee table and I wiggled my hips and did the same pose as I’d done in the photo. That’s when the front door opened and Judy came in. She did a kind of double take when she saw me on the coffee table and then she said hello and that she’d forgotten something and walked straight through to Chris’s study like nothing strange was going on. I didn’t worry about Jess; I just ran back to my bedroom and got changed as fast as I could. When I came out again Judy was still in the study and Jess was still on the couch with the cushion on her lap staring at the TV like it was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. I sat down next to her and she pulled a face at me.
Judy came back out after a couple of minutes and she was really sweet about it. She wasn’t smirking and she didn’t hang around or ask us any questions; she marched straight back to the door and said sorry to barge in unannounced and then she was gone.
Jess stood up and said she thought she’d better go too and asked me to walk back with her. I could she was upset about Judy coming in and catching us, or rather me like that but I thought it was quite funny. I said it was lucky she hadn’t been in her knickers and Jess said as though that was ever going to happen. I thought it was a bit unfair considering, but I didn’t say so.