16: “Real damn slim”

Griffin made a terrible mistake. It happened at a house party that Jesse and Emma threw at his and Jesse’s shared apartment. Emma loved hosting parties. She was such a warm and friendly person that it suited her really well. Griffin could talk about her ability to host a good party for hours.

“Literal hours,” Dylan said the day before the party, clearly unimpressed. “You’ve been talking about this for literal hours. I just wanted to know when to show up and instead you’ve told me about the forty-seven different ways Emma knows how to fold a napkin.”

“I hasn’t been hours,” Griffin rolled his eyes, feeling embarrassed despite himself.

“It’s certainly felt like hours,” Dylan returned.

“It’s been at least forty minutes,” Luke cut in, looking equally as unimpressed.

“All I’m saying is that she’s good at hosting parties,” Griffin defended himself.

“Oh my God, we know!” Dylan returned in exasperation.

“That is not all you’re saying,” Luke returned at the same time. “It was one of many, many things you’ve said, but it certainly wasn’t all of it.”

“You two are assholes, you know that?” Griffin glared at them both.

“Yeah,” Luke returned, completely unbothered.

“Birds of a feather and all that,” Dylan added dismissively with a wave of his hand.

Emma was over for most of the day, setting up for the party. She spent a lot of that time cooking appetizers and directing both Jesse and Griffin to clean. Griffin was far more eager to help than Jesse, as if he thought that his willingness to scrub a toilet would somehow impress Emma into loving him. It was sad really. The worst part was that he was fully aware of how sad it was, but he did it anyway.

Amongst the first to arrive was Gemma. She came in with some of Emma’s other close friends. Griffin waved to all of them to be polite and Gemma gave him a strange look in return, one that continued the next few times he saw her. Griffin assumed Gemma was eying him strangely because of their terrible double-date. He vowed to do his best to ignore and avoid her for the remainder of the evening. She would be fine with that, clearly well aware of how awful their date had been as well. It wasn’t until Luke and Bill showed up that he learned what was really going on. Bill and Luke had come together because Bill had gone for dinner at the restaurant where Luke was a chef. Gillian had friends over, one of them was her ex-boyfriend Matt, and Bill hadn’t really wanted to be around for that, even if he was hiding in his bedroom. He still needed to eat dinner and, seeing as how he would rather shove thumbtacks into his eyeballs than cook while Gillian hit on her jacked and impressively intelligent ex-boyfriend, he had fled to Luke’s restaurant and had forced him to cook him dinner there instead. Presumably Bill paid him, though Dylan  and Ward for sure would not have.

“She’s so into you, dude,” Bill told him, rolling his eyes, after Griffin had explained that Gemma was giving him uncomfortable looks.

“I don’t think so,” Griffin returned. That wasn’t the vibe he was getting from Gemma. She looked faintly distressed.

“She’s being coy,” Bill explained. Griffin looked over to where she was standing with another friend. She caught him looking and flashed him a small, closed-mouth smile. She flipped her hair and turned back to her conversation. Griffin continued to stare at her, confused and amazed. He wondered why she was suddenly interested in him. She hadn’t been before and surely it couldn’t have anything to do with their disastrous double-date, to which he had invited friends.

“How could she like me?” He asked Bill and Luke, still looking over at Gemma. He was openly staring, but she still had her head turned. Occasionally she would flick her hair about again.

“Difficult to say, man,” Bill answered.

“I can’t think of a single reason,” Luke added, which felt unnecessarily harsh, but then again, so were most of the things Luke said.

Griffin’s mistake didn’t happen until after the party had ended. Somehow, at some point which he could no longer properly determine, he had allowed himself to be talked into taking shots with his and Jesse’s old university roommate Ryan. Then he ended up taking even more shots with Ryan, followed by a few more with Ryan and Jesse. Emma participated for a few, which no doubt only helped to convince Griffin. Gemma was there as well, blushing and flicking her hair. It was slightly mesmerizing. Griffin felt like the constant hair flipping and the vodka had him hypnotized. That, he claimed, was why he had slept with Gemma that night after the party had ended. In the morning, she made him breakfast with his very limited groceries (a boring and dry omelette with some limp asparagus and half of a yellow pepper that hadn’t gone mouldy unlike the other half). Then she left, promising to text him later. His only saving grace was that Emma and Jesse weren’t up to witness it. He could only imagine how thrilled Emma would be and that hurt more than he was willing to admit.

Later in the morning, still before Emma and Jesse woke up and joined him in the living room, he biked over to Bear’s apartment. It was still winter, but the roads were clear in the city. It was only wet with slush. Griffin locked his bike up to the tree at the front of Bear’s building and then bounded up the stairs, taking two at a time, to Bear’s apartment. When Bear let him inside, Bill and Godfrey were already there, nursing hangovers of their own. Griffin had nearly vomited on his bike ride a couple times.

“You look nice,” Godfrey told him, a clear lie. He was smirking, as if he had made a hilarious joke. Bear smiled at both of them genially.

“I slept with Gemma last night,” Griffin admitted before the conversation could go any further. All three of them stared at him blankly for a long time. Bear didn’t even blink for a few minutes.

“You what?” He asked mildly eventually, still stunned.

“What have you done, dude?” Bill cut in a moment later. “You were already on shaky ground as it was. If Emma were to ever break things off with Jesse, the chances that she would then turn to you, his close friend and roommate, are slim.”

“Real damn slim,” Godfrey nodded.

“And now that you’ve slept with her best friend and roommate, the chances have become, amazingly, even slimmer,” Bill continued.

“Real damn slim,” Godfrey repeated, nodding once more.

“I don’t know why I did it,” Griffin answered, panicked. “I was drunk.”

“Oh Jesus,” Bill groaned.

“Bad excuse,” Godfrey told him bluntly. “Very bad. No one is going to like that. That’s just going to hurt Gemma and then Emma will be pissed at you for being a dick and only sleeping with her best friend because you were drunk.”

Griffin groaned and sat down on one of the bar stools around Bear’s kitchen island. The other three watched him.

“I don’t know how to fix this,” he said, head in his hands.

“Uh, I don’t think you can fix this,” was Bill’s very unhelpful reply. Griffin wasn’t really expecting anything useful from him though because he was still living in a very small condo with his ex-girlfriend; clearly Bill made poor decisions as well. He looked up at Godfrey and Bear imploringly. Bear cleared his throat.

“Well,” he began, glancing over at Godfrey and Bill before continuing. “Let’s be honest here, you were never going to be with Emma.”

Griffin knew that. He had known that for six years, ever since Emma had starting dating his roommate and friend. For some reason, however, hearing someone else say it out loud so bluntly hurt more than he’d been anticipating. It was as if he’d never really imagined that he would end up with Emma. In his head, he’d known he never would. Most likely, she and Jesse would get married and live a long and happy life together. He might even part of their wedding party, God forbid. It was never going to be him and her at the end.

“Yeah,” he said eventually.

“Okay, so maybe this isn’t such a bad thing,” Bear offered, clearly aiming for positivity, but not quite reaching it. “Maybe you can date Gemma now. Maybe that would be nice.”

Griffin thought about Gemma and the way she flipped her hair. Then he thought about how she was learning to pot her own succulents in the clay planters she’d made in her pottery class. He groaned again.

“I’m an idiot,” he said into his hands, head back in their cradled embrace.

“Yes,” Bill agreed. Again, it was not very helpful.

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