Monday, December 17, 2007

"Well, this is a surprise," James Allen said when he opened his front door to see his green-eyed brunette girlfriend standing there. "Not one that I'm complaining about, mind you," he added as he surveyed that body of hers, from the ponytail at the top of her head, down her neck to her bosom hidden beneath a purple tee, to her legs wrapped in standard blue jeans and finally down to her tennis shoes.

"I'm just as surprised as you are," Claire Zielinski replied with a sigh. "Can I come in?"

"Do you really think you need an invitation?" he said as he made way for her to enter.

"Your parents aren't home, are they?" she said, rubbing her arms nervously, though the winter chill outside probably played its part, even if this was L.A. As he closed the door, she repeated, "Are they?"

"They're not," Jimmy smirked. "It's a weekday, Claire, I'm sure you know that, even if this is winter break."

"Can we sit down?" Claire asked.

"Sure," Jimmy nodded, and they walked together into the living room of his house and sat on the sofa beside one another. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Us, Jimmy."

"This about Friday night?"

"Of course it's about Friday night," Claire said. "But it's about a lot more than that, too." She sighed. "Over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking about where you and I are in our relationship." She swallowed before saying the next thing. "I also did some research, looked online, legal databases…and I know it was traumatic enough for us without calling it that, but a month ago, when we…when you…it…it was rape. Technically."

"Sure," Jimmy said in honest agreement. "I put you in a situation where the only way out was to finally have sex with me. So you did. But you know, that never would've happened that way in the first place if Kent hadn't restricted you to telling only one person about his dirty little secret."

"I know," Claire said as he stroked her hands. "We all know. He admits it, Jimmy, he should've just told us straight up about his dad's insane riches. But that doesn't make what you did any less wrong."

"I shouldn't have forced you into our first time," Jimmy said. "And I shouldn't have threatened to tell everyone Kent's secret if you didn't. I can admit that, but those were desperate, crazy times for us all, Claire. Besides, we were on the verge of doing it anyway, weren't we?"

"We were reaching a boiling point," she said. "But we're past all that now. You and I have had plenty of sex, all of it without our parents' consent, and almost all of it because our parents won't give their consent…simply put, we're fucked up."

"As if we have much of a choice," Jimmy said. "Of course they're not going to give us their consent if we've been acting the way we have."

"Yeah. That's sort of the reason I came by."

"If it's to talk to my Mom and Dad," Jimmy said, "your timing is way off."

"No, this is about you, Jimmy. You and your behavior surrounding all this."

"My behavior?" Jimmy scoffed. "Rusty's right, I've been an asshole lately, but Claire, you're not much better yourself."

"I know what you're thinking about," Claire said, shaking her head. "Don't say it. It's not true, so don't say it."

"You have a thing for Kent," Jimmy said, because it just needed to be verbalized if any more progress was to be made here. "And your denying it is just proof in and of itself."

"Samara accuses me and Kent of being attracted to each other," she said, "and you believe her, no questions asked, but she also accuses you of cheating on me, and I don't even consider it, Jimmy, I know you're not. Now you tell me, what's wrong with this picture?"

"Giving the guy a photo of you in a bikini and sending him a secret birthday present behind my back is not helping your case."

"The bikini pic was just a prop for when I made fun of his dick not working—"

"Which you couldn't prove—"

"As a joke," Claire continued with a snap, "and the birthday present would've been from both of us if you'd just agreed to go along with it in the first place."

"Still," Jimmy said coolly, "not a shred of evidence for my accusation. Isn't that interesting?"

"Do you really want to know why I'm here?"

"Please."

"No more lies."

"It's good that you're setting a goal for yourself."

"Not just me," Claire said. "You, too."

"When have I ever lied to you?"

"I can't recall, but that's the point. You'll be lucky to get the chance. I'm giving you an ultimatum, Jimmy."

"For us?" he asked with more annoyance than worry.

"For us," she nodded. "I talked to Holly this weekend, too, and we both decided to give you one last shot to prove yourself worthy of being with me."

"How, may I ask?"

"Kent's flying back east to visit family after Christmas," Claire began. "You're flying back east to visit family before Christmas. Since Kent and Holly have yet to actually go on an actual date, and we all need to hang out before you two both leave, Holly and I came to the conclusion that the gang should get together this weekend to see a movie. All of us."

"What movie?"

Claire shrugged. "National Treasure 2."

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "That movie looks so stupid."

"Well, if I'm important to you, Jimmy, you'll go. And you'll get along with Kent like a good boyfriend of mine would." She stopped there for a moment to let it sink in—which Jimmy indicated that it had with an annoyed sigh—but then she made it worse. "If you don't, and you continue treating him like shit…then we are done. There's a new year coming up, and if my supposed crush on my best friend's boyfriend is still your primary concern, then you can just take advantage of 2008 to find a new girlfriend."

Jimmy sighed but nodded humbly. "Fine."

"Good," Claire said with a smile as she put her hand on his shoulder. "But remember, this is your last shot. I don't want to end this relationship any more than you do, but I will if you don't keep your end of the bargain." She then made another momentary pause, but this time her words really hit home afterward. "And to make sure of it, I'm cutting you off until you've proven your worth."

"What?" he shrieked.

"It's for the greater good," she said.

"Can we at least have phone sex?" he practically begged her, feeling very unmanly in doing so.

Claire looked to the ceiling, bit her lip while thinking about it, and then answered, "No. None whatsoever."


"What the hell is wrong with me?" Claire said as she hurried to cover her stark naked body with the bed sheet she pulled out from under Jimmy.

"Take my word for it," Jimmy replied with a grin, resting his head on his arms as he lay back against his pillow, nude, and watched her grab her clothes off the floor. "There's nothing wrong with you, Claire." He shrugged and added, "You just like the way it feels."

"I'm a horrible teacher," Claire said, holding her clothes in one hand while balancing the bed sheet wrapped around her body in the other. "I'm not supposed to give you the prize before you take the test! It defeats the whole purpose!"

"There's really no reason for you to do that," Jimmy continued, pointing at her modesty bed sheet. "Considering I've seen you in your bare ass like a dozen times now. To say nothing of the things I've done to you while naked."

Claire shot Jimmy a warning glance. "I'm going to the bathroom to wash up and get dressed. After this, no more sex until you prove yourself."

"Fine," Jimmy said as he finally lifted himself up off the bed and reached for his boxers. "Whatever you say."