“Jillian? Jillian—” Jax said tersely, knocking rapidly on the bathroom door.
“Jillian, I know you’re in there. I can smell Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia through the door,” he said firmly. “You need to open this door.”
He crossed his arms and waited.
“I’m not going away, Jillian. I’m never going away. We’ve been friends since 3rd grade. We’re going to be friends until the grave.”
“Well, good. Because you are dead to me,” she replied.
He heard Jillian sniff, then blow her nose. He heard a spoon scraping the bottom of a cardboard container. It usually took Jillian two pints to get herself together on nights like these, but tonight was looking to be a triple Ben & Jerry’s emergency.
“Jillian. Enough already, girl. Open the door.”
“Jillian, you can’t let this ruin our friend—”
“If you were a friend, you wouldn’t have done it,” she interrupted him, her controlled tone verging on hysteria.
“I didn’t know I had done it until I had done it,” Jax said, exasperated. He paused. “You cannot be mad at me doing it when I did it before I had known I had done it.”
“Do we have donuts?” she asked.
“Don’t change the subject, Jillian. You cannot be mad at me.”
“I’m doing a very good impression of it, Jax.”
He folded his arms again. Waited for three seconds. Then he rapidly knocked on the bathroom door again.
“What?” she cried. “Leave me alone.”
“I can’t,” Jax said.
“Oh, you certainly can—just like you did at the party!”
“I can’t leave you alone because we only have one bathroom in our apartment,” he explained.
“Oh,” she said in her normal voice. “Do you have to go?”
“No, not right now,” he said. “But eventually, I’m fairly certain of it. That queso dip at the party was questionable at best . . .” He delicately patted his stomach. Velveeta was the anti-Christ.
“Just let me know if you need the bathroom, Jax . . . and I will go to my room. All alone.” She sobbed again.
Jax felt horrible. How was he supposed to know about her and Antoine?
“Can I get you anything? Another pint of ice cream?” Jax offered. “A pint of Jack Daniels? A cocker spaniel named Jack Daniels? A manual to care for a spaniel named Jack Daniels?”
He heard Jillian stifle a laugh. He smiled.
“I’m still mad at you,” Jillian said, not meaning it.
“How could you be mad at me? I am your oldest friend. Your first childhood friend. We read all of Judy Blume’s books together—Remember The Mouse and the Motorcycle? You and I almost successfully trained a mouse to ride my older brother’s G. I. Joe’s remote-control jeep.”
“We almost mortally injured a mouse, Jax. You’re lucky PETA didn’t find out, or we’d be spectacularly canceled. Duct tape and mammals are never a good combination. You really want to bring up that near tragedy tonight? Hasn’t there been enough carnage?”
“That little shit rat bit me. I could have gotten botulism or rabies or SARS.”
“Just leave me alone, Jax. I’ll be alright. I just need a good cry—”
He left her alone for another three seconds. He knocked on the bathroom door again.
“And then in middle school we read Judy Blume’s Blubber at Mary Christine Epstein’s slumber party? She was the only half-Catholic half-Jew in our school.”
“You can’t bring up Blubber, Jax. That isn’t fighting fair,” Jillian replied, her voice stronger now, coming right through the door.
“We loved Blubber. It taught us how to avoid bullies and how to bully other students successfully. It was almost a training manual. I mean, what kind of anarchist was Judy Blume? And remember: I’m bitchy Jill Brenner, and you are my rock-solid Tracy Wu . . .”
“I did want to dress up as Big Bird for Halloween every year after that,” Jillian conceded. “I still do.”
“And remember when we read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret right in the back of the library, eating banana Laffy Taffy? You were the first person who told me that I wasn’t ever going to get my period. I was so upset.”
This time, Jillian’s laugh wasn’t even muffled a little bit.
“Look, Jillian. When it comes to relationships, we’ve both fallen in love, fallen in infatuation, and fallen in steaming piles of diarrhea. And if you don’t get out of the bathroom soon, you’ll have to clean up the latter in the hallway after I die from queso-poisoning.”
“What I’m saying here is that there will always be another Antoine around the corner. What did your mother tell us? Men are like buses; miss one? Catch the next.”
“True,” Jillian said.
“I love you, Jillian,” Jax said, running his knuckle around the door handle. “Tonight was just stupid. I didn’t know you were interested in Antoine. I just had fun talking with him, too.”
“You don’t understand, Jax. Everyone loves you,” Jillian said, annoyed at the whine in her voice. “Everyone has always loved you.”
“It’s true,” he agreed.
“At the party tonight, I sincerely thought Antoine liked me. Like he liked liked me. Sometimes I’m tired of just being Jax’s sidekick. Sometimes I want to be Diana Ross.”
“But you are supreme at being . . .”
“Ha. Not funny, Jax.”
“Jillian, it’s not easy being Roxy Hart all the time,” Jax confided. When Jillian didn’t reply, he started to tap dance outside the bathroom door. Badly.
“So now you’re Diana Ross and Roxy Hart,” she said snidely. “Please don’t sing a Chicago medley. I am just not in the mood . . .”
“If you insist!” Jax shouted. “And then those ding-dong daddies started to roar / Whistled, stomped and stamped on the floor / Yelling, screaming, begging for more . . .”
“Jax . . .”
“Jillian, you know you want to . . .” Jax smiled broadly.
Jillian suddenly opened the bathroom door, holding her ice cream spoon up like a microphone. “And we’d say, o.k. fellas, keep your socks up. / You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!“
Jax leaned in and they both sang together, holding the last note for an impossibly long time: “But I simply cannot do it alone!”
They both dissolved into laughter.
“So, are you up for The Wizard of Oz tonight?” Jillian asked.
“Ooh girl,” Jax replied, shaking his head. “I just can’t tonight.” He put his arm around her.
“Why not?” Jillian asked. “You love saying: As Mayor of Munchkin City, in the County of the Land of Oz, I welcome you most regally . . .”
Jax affected the munchkin’s accent and finished the line, holding up his index finger. “But we’ve got to verify it legally, to see, if she, is morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead!”
Both Jillian and Jax laughed again, tears streaming down both their faces.
“So no Oz tonight?” Jillian repeated, wiping her eyes and hugging Jax.
“Uh, no,” Jax looked sheepish. “Tonight’s not good.”
Jillian pulled back, quizzically.
“Well, Jillian,” Jax said, smiling painfully at her. “Antoine is coming over in an hour. And . . . there’s no place like home!”