Wingmen

The bar was just beginning to get interesting. It was late, the witching hour when other bars were starting to close, and the beautiful people were out and about and moving around. Moving, mostly, to here.

Gemma looked around the room. Looked around at perfect faces and silky legs and dresses that would cost her a week’s pay to buy. She looked at men who had spent more time grooming than she did, and whose chin stubble that had taken longer to sculpt than her hair.

She liked being here. She liked being among the beautiful people and trying her luck with them.

She and Josh had arrived early, to make sure they got their favorite spot, down at the furthest end of the bar from the door, where they could watch everything that was going on.

Gemma liked Josh, and liked drinking with him. He was a friend, a fairly close one. They had an understanding. He didn’t get weird about Gemma preferring women, and she didn’t get weird about him preferring women either. They went out together a lot, and pretended it was because they could team up to pull. To eye the room, and keep each other company while they waited, and then not compete with each other when it was time to score.

Not competing was what Josh thought was happening, and Gemma had never told him it wasn’t true. It so obviously wasn’t true, and was horribly, invisiblizingly, biphobic as well, that she’d never actually pointed that out to Josh. She just waited for the night when she could show him how wrong he was in person, because that would be funnier. And because they were sometimes just a little bit competitive with each other.

Josh was fun to be around. He was good for Gemma’s confidence. He liked to think Gemma was more of a player than she actually was, and him thinking so seemed almost to make it real. She acted differently when she was around Josh. Any other time and place, she didn’t pull and score and hit on, she just talked to people, and got along with them, and sometimes then went home with them and had fun. But around Josh, she pulled. Like she was some kind of predator.

And she actually quite liked that. She liked the person she became. More confident, braver, more willing to talk to strangers and just see what happened. Someone who didn’t care if she was shot down. Who’d talk big, and aim high, and who succeeded enough not to feel bad when she didn’t.

She liked the side of herself that Josh encouraged.

Before she’d met Josh, she wouldn’t have dreamed of going to an up-market bar like this and hitting on women who probably weren’t gay, and probably wasted more money on drinks in one night out than she spent on food in a week.

But now she was here. Because of Josh.

This bar had started as a compromise. Here, Josh could pull too. Pull in a way he was happy with, not having Gemma try and set him up with hot men. He got a bit weird in gay places. He was too jumpy around the men, and too patronizing around the women. So patronizing that he sometimes scared off women that Gemma was after, thinking he was helping.

They’d started here as a compromise, but once they had, after the first time they came, Gemma had realized that her being here made a kind of sense. In a gay bar she was just another woman lost in the crowd. Here, she stood out. Here she was this special, unique thing.

She was a snowflake, and the world was hers, and she was going to enjoy it.

Because around Josh, this was her.

She was her, but Josh was Josh. He always needed her help to talk to women. He needed her to start conversations, or point out who was looking at him, and to talk his confidence up before he went off to try a move.

She was a wingman, but any time she said that, Josh didn’t seem to know what she meant. That was how bad he was at it.

Sometimes she wished she had wingman too.

Usually they just went out, and nursed their drinks, and had fun, and usually Josh didn’t pull, and mostly Gemma didn’t either. She did more often than him, though, and she liked knowing that. Mostly they were just here as friends. Talking big to impress each other, and both knowing they were doing it.

Gemma liked having a guy friend just for that kind of talk.

She stood at the bar, sipping her drink, waiting. Finding Josh’s enthusiasm funny. Josh was scanning the room, watching everyone who came in. Gemma didn’t bother, because Josh would tell her when he saw someone for her.

He was a bit creepy like that.

He thought he knew what she liked, and most of the time he did, because she was pretty much into the obvious. Just like he was, really.

She waited, and Josh looked around, and after a while Josh said, “What about her?”

Gemma turned, and looked, and saw gorgeous. A gorgeous dress and gorgeous hair and a gorgeous face too.

And also short nails.

Gemma saw the nails, and assumed Josh had too. She’d explained it to him often enough.

She thought Josh was saying look, here’s someone for you. She was about to say yes, and wow, and thanks, and then one of the dozens of sleazy things they might say to each other. That she’d see him in the morning, or something like that.

Except that Josh didn’t seem to have noticed the fingernails.

“I’m so going to try,” Josh said.

Gemma looked at him, confused.

“I have to try,” Josh said. Then, “What should I say?”

Josh always asked Gemma what to say before he hit on someone. Usually she made something up off the top of her head, because whatever she happened to suggest didn’t matter nearly as much as giving him a bit of confidence. Enough confidence he was himself, and acted normally, because then he would do all right. Gemma could pull off being a sleazy predator, apparently, but Josh couldn’t. He really couldn’t. He just came across a bit strange, and slightly frightening. That was another thing he didn’t know that, because Gemma hadn’t got around to telling him and just helped him fix it instead.

Not this time, though. Not with gorgeous and short nails right over there, waiting.

“Dude,” Gemma said. “You don’t have a hope.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ah, that you don’t have a hope,” Gemma said. “And I do.”

Josh looked at her, confused. Because he thought he could tell, but he also truly believed in her secret lesbian hive-mind telepathy that told her things like that.

“No,” Josh said. “She’s all… made up.”

Gemma looked at him for a while, trying to decide how much of the offensive was on purpose. “So?”

“But makeup.”

“You know you’re an idiot, right?”

“But makeup…”

“Yeah,” she said. “And you’re an idiot. And nails.”

Josh looked again. “She might be a carpenter or something.”

“She might be. But she isn’t.”

Josh was thinking.

“I promise,” Gemma said. “First, we’re here. If she was a builder she couldn’t afford a drink here.”

“We’re here.”

“And I can’t afford it. And anyway, if she was a builder she’d have dirty hands. She doesn’t, but she does have short nails. So, not for you.”

It was something of a stretch, but Josh seemed to be believing her. He looked disappointed, almost actually upset. Like the world had let him down.

Which meant he had his privilege on again, really badly, so Gemma grinned. As nastily as she could. Just to rub it in.

Rubbing in got Josh’s competitive spirit going.

“Don’t do that,” he said.

“Do what?”

“Look all smug.”

“I’m not looking anything.” She knew was looking self-satisfied, maybe a bit delighted. That wasn’t the same as smug.

“You are,” Josh said. “You’re looking so sure of yourself that you think you don’t even need to argue.”

“I don’t,” Gemma said, trying to be annoying. “Because of how I’m right.”

Josh looked back at the woman across the room. Looked carefully. Because he was enough of a pig he really didn’t believe gay women wore dresses and makeup.

That also might be Gemma’s fault. He might be around her so much he just forgot.

“She is,” Gemma said, although she had no real idea other than the nails. She couldn’t tell, she shockingly couldn’t tell, and knew it, and had never been able to properly. But Josh didn’t seem to realize. He’d never worked it out, not even by watching her fail.

She supposed it confused thing that she didn’t mind just going up to people and asking. She wasn’t the sniper Josh thought she was. She was a spammer, a machine-gunner, trying a hundred women and finding one who said yes.

When she was out with Josh, anyway. In this frame of mind.

“Okay,” Josh said, getting exasperated now. “So if you’re so sure, let’s make a bet.”

“Nope.”

“About who can get her.”

“Ah, no.”

“Because you’re wrong,” Josh said, a bit smugly himself now.

“I’m not.”

“You so completely are.”

“I’m really not,” Gemma said. “And anyway, just because she’s gay doesn’t mean she wants me.”

“Yeah she does,” Josh said, because Josh really believed that.

Josh thought Gemma was irresistible to all other women, and she’d never quite worked out why. Because all women were, to each other, she thought, and all gay women were players, so Gemma must be too. Something like that. Josh believed it utterly. Persistently and determinedly, and in the face of actual facts. He believed it even while Gemma was being turned down in bars in front of him, or while she was crying on his sofa, after being dumped, and cheated on, and having her heart broken.

That first set of breakup tears had been when they’d first got close. Josh had kept her company because she didn’t really have that many friends. And as it turned out, his strange ideas had actually helped her get over her misery. Almost as thought she’d slipped into a role, a little bit, in order to fit to his assumptions, but being in that role had made her feel better a lot more quickly than she normally would.

And suddenly she’d been getting more sex. That had probably helped.

The sex was the weird thing about it. She got laid more when Josh was around, as if his belief in his version of Gemma was so strong and complete that she actually became that person.

She became this predatory slinky woman who made passes at anything that moved, and actually, she quite liked being her.

Because really, she wasn’t a player. Not at all. Not inside herself. She was shy and quiet and hadn’t had sex until she was twenty. But this other her, who she was tonight, that was sometimes who she really wanted to be, so she really quite liked that Josh could make her believe she was.

Beside her, Josh was still going on about her chances with the woman across the room.

“She’ll want you,” Josh was saying. “Because of how everyone does.”

“Really,” Gemma said. “Just no.”

“Come on, you’re hot. All the women think you’re hot.”

“All the women?”

“Yeah.”

“All of them?”

Josh shrugged.

Gemma just looked at him for a moment, then decided she may as well try and get through to him about this. Again. Not that she didn’t like this idea of her, but sometimes it just got too unrealistic. Annoyingly and unhelpfully so.

“Dude,” she said. “Seriously. You haven’t remotely seen me with all the women.”

She realized what she’d said at the same time as he started to grin. “Don’t,” she said, automatically. “Too much creepy.”

“Sorry.”

“You don’t know about all the women. You’ve seen me with some women. A tiny number.”

“Yeah.”

“Women I’m already involved with.”

“Yeah.”

“Who’re kind of predisposed, you dick. To be into me. That isn’t all the women.”

“Yeah,” Josh said, not convinced. “It’s not just girlfriends, though, is it. There’s the ones in bars, too. When you pull.”

“That’s like, three.”

“Liar. It’s like, fifteen.”

She glared at him. He was kind of calling her a slut, even though he wasn’t because he meant it as praise, because she was a player, but still. It was kind of rude.

“Come on,” Josh said. “Of course she wants you. Everyone does.”

Gemma stood there for a moment, scowling. Then changed her mind and grinned. Because she did like that idea of herself, even if it was wrong. And because she was pretty sure he was trying to manipulate her for no real reason other than they were there, and he could, and it was kind of sweet he was bothering. Trying to talk her up, to convince her make a pass, like she did for him.

Because that was what he was doing, in his own weird way, even though he’d never admit it.

And neither would she.

“Fine,” she said. “All right. You whiner. So what’s the bet?”

“You sleep with me if you lose.”

He wasn’t serious. She was almost sure he wasn’t serious. “Don’t be revolting,” she said.

“So you’re not that sure about her?”

“I’m sure. Just don’t be disgusting.”

He was grinning, teasing. Even though she didn’t like him joking about this. “Okay,” he said. “So how about the loser gives winner head.”

“Ah, dude, seriously. Still just yuk.”

“That’s not sex.”

“And yuk.”

“And…

“Stop.” She glared at him, starting to actually get annoyed. “Just no fucking way.”

“If you’re not sure…”

“Don’t be a dick. Just fucking move on, okay?”

Josh shrugged, and looked away. He was only being obnoxious to annoy her, but it was working. She was annoyed.

Sometimes being friends with straight men just got unbelievably fucking complicated. So complicated she almost couldn’t be bothered.

A moment like this, a joke, and suddenly there were all undercurrents that might just be talking shit, but might also be half-concealed truth and deeply felt. And she couldn’t tell.

And worse, now it was up to her to fix this. It was always on her, because Josh was a guy, and he wouldn’t even notice she was upset. Josh hadn’t noticed yet. He’d care when he realized, but he hadn’t yet and it might take hours before he did.

Which somehow that meant this was Gemma’s problem, even though Josh had caused it. Gemma’s place to say something, and Gemma’s problem to fix this if she wanted it fixed.

If she even wanted to say anything, rather than just let it fester forever. It really wasn’t fair it had to be her.

She sat there for a moment, furious.

“Say sorry,” she said.

“For what?”

“For being a creepy fuck.”

Josh looked at her, thinking. Thinking slowly. “Sorry,” he said.

“And don’t be disgusting,” Gemma said. “That’s really not cool.”

“Yeah, okay. Sorry.

Gemma decided to meet him halfway. “Anyway,” she said. “Why the fuck would you want a blowjob from me.”

Josh looked at her.

“I’d have no idea what I was doing. With man parts.”

“You’d manage.”

“I really don’t think I would. Because teeth, for instance.”

“So…?”

“I’ve heard teeth can be a problem.”

Josh kept looking at her, confused.

“I don’t know about teeth,” Gemma said. “I’ve never had to worry about teeth. But what I heard was teeth are a thing, that you want to stay away from people who are learning as they go. Learning on you. Because of teeth.”

Josh understood. He started to grin.

“It’s up to you though,” Gemma said, and Josh was smiling, and they were all right again. Like they always were, whenever she fixed them.

Even though it was always her.

“Yeah,” Josh said. “You’re right. And you probably wouldn’t be any good either.”

“I’d be fucking amazing. I’d just deal to you with teeth.”

Josh was still grinning. “Maybe I’d risk it,” he said. “Just because I like you so much. Dude.”

“Maybe you would, you fucking idiot. But I wouldn’t. Never. Just no. So stop it.”

Josh shrugged. “Fine.”

They sat there for a while, without speaking. They were okay again, Gemma thought. She was still mostly thinking about the woman across the room.

“So how about this,” Gemma said. “We have a bet. Whether she is. And the loser sleeps with a man.

Because she wanted to punish Josh. To do something mean, to make him get uncomfortable and suffer a bit from being talked the way he’d been talking to her.

“It’s the same ick for me as for you,” Gemma said, trying to sound reasonable. Trying to talk him into it.

Josh didn’t answer.

“Not so interested now?” Gemma said.

“No, I…”

“Won’t?”

“Might.”

“I’d make that bet,” Gemma said. “Seriously.”

Josh was thinking. He was actually thinking about it carefully. “All right,” he said.

Gemma was surprised. “You will?”

Josh started to grin. Like he’d just won a game of chicken. And maybe he had. “Changing your mind?” he said.

“Ah, no. Just wondering if you’re completely stupid.”

“You can change your mind if you like.”

“No way.” She held out her hand. “Shake.”

“We’re on?”

“Oh we’re so on, dude.”

Gemma kept looking at Josh, though, thinking.

She was worried again. About that bet. Not about losing, because if she lost, she’d just refuse to go through with it anyway.

It wasn’t that.

She was worried about Josh. And about their friendship.

That Josh might be getting some weird fixation about her that would ruin everything.

They’d always got along pretty well, in a flirty competitive kind of way. In places like this, chasing women together. Gemma didn’t really mind Josh constantly talking about sex and women, not if he was just saying it to tease her. And she’d always just assumed teasing was all it was.

She’d never actually checked.

It was all so unbelievably complicated. If Josh was having some kind of weird crush, or if he actually hit on her, that would completely ruin their friendship. She thought he knew that, but she wasn’t completely sure.

She looked at him, wondering. Wondering what was going on. Why he was pushing this whole thing so hard. And why she was too.

“So are you going?” Josh said.

“Yep.”

“I’d hurry. Before someone else tries it on with her.”

“Yeah, thanks for the tip.”

“You’re thinking,” Josh said suddenly. Finally noticing. Finally noticing everything wasn’t all right.

“Yeah,” Gemma said.

“What about?”

Gemma just looked at him.

“You’re worried about something,” Josh said.

“Yeah.”

“This?”

Gemma nodded.

He looked at her, and was instantly all concerned. Which was why she liked him in the first place. “Oh,” he said. “Right. You think she isn’t?”

Gemma looked at him, astonished.

He was sweet, and when things got through to him he really did care. Like when he’d spent days with her crying, when she’d been dumped. Just things didn’t get through to him very often, or very clearly, and it wasn’t always the right things that did. Not without him being slapped in the face with whatever it was.

“We can call it off,” Josh was saying. “That’s fine. I mean…”

“No, you dickfuck. Not that.”

He looked confused again. “So what?”

“About you obsessing over this. About why you want me to be with a man so much.”

“We make bets all the time.”

“About drinks and doing stupid shit in public. Not like this one. Not about sleeping with people.”

“I guess.”

“So why?”

Josh was looking defensive. Gay stuff made him defensive. Her wanting to be treated differently to any other woman made him defensive, too, because he felt like he didn’t really know what to do then.

“Hey,” he said. “Don’t get weird.”

He always said that. That was his starting point.

“I’m not getting fucking weird,” Gemma said. “I’m asking why.”

“I don’t know. Because.”

“Because you suddenly care who I sleep with?”

Josh looked surprised. “What? No.”

Gemma looked at him.

“Gem, fuck no,” Josh said. “Seriously, dude. I’m just giving you shit.”

“You’re better be.”

“I fucking swear. I just want you to lose, that’s all.”

“You’re sure? It’s just competitive shit?”

“Yeah.”

“Not anything creepy.”

“Fuck no. I mean…” He was looking at her, almost hurt. “Just no. Shit, Gemma…”

Gemma was relieved. Relieved, and also wondering if this was another thing she was going to have to fix.

“Shit,” Josh said. “It’s not like you actually would anyway, is it?”

“Hit on her?”

“Follow through. If you lose.”

Gemma looked at him. “Yeah I would.”

“No you wouldn’t. You never do when you don’t like what the bet was.”

“I…”

“Worms. Chili martini. Stealing a cop’s hat.”

“That’s against the law.”

“You didn’t even try.”

Gemma wasn’t sure what to say. She glared, instead.

“Come on,” Josh said. “You weren’t going to do this, so don’t make a big fucking fuss about it. About something you weren’t going to do in the first place.”

Gemma didn’t say anything.

“Or were you?” Josh said.

“Ah, of course not. Dickhead. I mean, sex with you. Total yuk.”

“See?”

Gemma started to grin.

“But you’ll still try and make me follow through if you win, won’t you?” Josh said.

Gemma kept grinning. “Yep. Of course.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“So?” Gemma said, still grinning. “Want to be mates with me or not?”

Josh grinned back.

“I’m cooler,” Gemma said. “So I make the rules.”

“Yeah you do,” Josh said.

“Yeah I do.”

Gemma looked over at the woman again. She decided she’d better get moving, if she was going to, before someone else did.

“I’d better go talk to her,” she said.

“So go.”

“I am,” Gemma said. “But we still have a bet to sort out. So make one. Quick.”

Josh shrugged. “Loser watches the winner fuck?”

“Just stop,” Gemma. “Seriously.”

He looked a bit embarrassed. “Sorry.”

She went to halfway again. “And I get why you want to perve at me,” she said. “But why the fuck would I want to perve at you?”

“So you can see a straight chick fucking?”

She hardly even understood how that was supposed to be good, but she just went with the premise and said, “Dude. Porn. If I cared.”

Josh shrugged.

“And she probably wouldn’t be into that anyway,” Gemma said. “You’ve thought of that, right? I mean, it’s kind of weird…”

“Any woman. It doesn’t have to be her.”

Gemma just stared at him, until he said, “Or not. It’s up to you.”

“Not.”

“Okay.”

“Think up something I’d actually do,” Gemma said. “And hurry. In case she goes off with someone else while you’re dicking around.”

“Yeah,” Josh said. “I’m thinking.”

“You’re shit at thinking. So hurry.”

“I’m trying.”

“You’re shit. So I’ll think for you. Here’s the bet. The loser is the winner’s wingman for a night.”

Josh was looking blank.

“You know,” Gemma said. “Wingman. You help me pull. Set me up.”

“Like how?”

“You know. Vetting.”

“Vetting?”

“Go up to women and say that although they wouldn’t possibly demean themselves so much as to actually notice your nasty little man parts, your hot friend over there likes the look of them and you hear she’s excellent in bed. Something like that.”

“Hot friend?”

“Ah, yeah. That’s me.”

“I got that. And nasty little man parts?”

“Oh fuck yes. You are so completely saying nasty little man parts. That’s my actual win.”

Josh looked at her.

“And it’ll be next week, too,” Gemma said, thinking about this now. “Or some other night. Not tonight, because of how I’ll have already pulled tonight, if I win.”

“How about,” Josh said, a bit desperately. “I’ll wingman if you win, but I get to watch you if I do.”

“Dude,” Gemma said. “Just fucking seriously. Stop pushing that.”

Josh shrugged, and looked away.

Gemma was suddenly worried again.

“Yeah,” she said. “Why do you want that?”

“Don’t know.”

“Do you really want to?” Gemma said. “Like for real?”

“Yeah, actually. Kind of.”

“Do you want to because it’s me and it’d turn you on, or because I’d be fucking embarrassed if you were sitting there smirking at me?”

“Honestly?”

Gemma wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer, but she said, “Yeah, honestly.”

“Because you’d be embarrassed.”

Gemma looked at him and decided that was the truth. And it was a bit awful, but not nearly as awful as him wanting to watch to see her having sex for the sake of sex. Not if she didn’t think about it too much, and wonder about his nasty streak.

Embarrassing her was far better than planning to jerk off to her.

Not that it mattered. Because that was only if he won, and he wasn’t going to.

“Fine,” Gemma said. “If I ever find someone who will, we’ll do that.”

“Okay.”

“If I ever do,” Gemma said, deliberately.

“Yeah,” Josh said. “Of course. With the imaginary lady.”

“Yeah,” Gemma said. “But you’re not joining in. That’d be too weird.”

“Even if she wants me to?”

“Dude,” Gemma said, almost outraged again. “Actually seriously?”

“So no?”

“Not a fucking chance. Not ever.”

“Even if she asks?”

“She won’t be asking. Not if she’s with me.”

“Because of how she’s a figment of your imagination and won’t ever actually be real?”

“Yeah,” Gemma said. “That.”

“But if she does?”

“Even then. Even if she begs. Just too, too weird.”

Josh shrugged, and held out his hand. “Fine.”

“That’s a bet?”

“Bet.”

Gemma shook. “Done.”

“Go on, then,” Josh said.

“And what?”

“Go hit on her. Get it over with.”

“You don’t want to go first?”

“Nah, you go. I’ll be a gentleman.”

Gemma looked at him for a minute. “You just want to watch me, don’t you. For pointers. Because I’m that fucking good.”

Josh grinned. “That too.”

Gemma looked over at the woman.

She was holding an empty shot glass, and was standing with a group of her friends, who also had shot glasses. Gemma hadn’t noticed what, but they didn’t look like people who did sugary shots.

She waved to the bartender and asked for two tequilas, good tequilas, then said to Josh, “You pay.”

Josh looked annoyed, but did.

Gemma ignored him after that. Mainly so he’d think she was getting in her zone, or some shit. Because he really didn’t understand she just hit on people, haphazardly, and a lot of them said no.

The bartender came back, and put two glasses in front of Gemma, and a small tray with lime wedges and salt, too.

Gemma picked everything up, and went over to the woman. It looked like her friends hadn’t been able to find a table. They were standing in a loose circle against one wall.

Gemma hoped this wasn’t going to go horribly badly. Not really because of the bet, any more, but because she had her pride, and after all her boasting and all the talk, she didn’t want to get told flatly no, the woman wasn’t. Or yes, but she was waiting for her girlfriend. Or whatever.

“Hey,” Gemma said, and touched the woman’s arm. The woman turned around.

“I’m Gemma,” Gemma said, and held out the shot glasses.

She got a look. A grinning, smug, contemplative kind of look.

Not a confused straight woman look.

A smile, too. A smile was good.

The woman took the glass and a lime wedge, and tipped it back. Gemma drank hers as well, watching. Then held out the tray so they could both reach the salt.

“What’s your name,” Gemma said.

“Sam.”

“Sam,” Gemma said back to her, like some shitty sales trick. “I’m Gemma.”

“I know.”

Gemma was confused. Almost thrown off her game, and back into her real self. “Okay. Um, how?”

“You’ve slept with two of my friends.”

Gemma looked at her, and couldn’t decide what to say. This wasn’t going quite as she’d expected.

“You never called them afterwards, either,” Sam said.

Gemma kept standing there. Looking cool, keeping it together, but wondering how ugly this was going to get. She was almost starting to worry.

She was wondering if Josh had set this up. If it was an elaborate trick, to teach Gemma not to be so fully of herself.

But that wasn’t Josh. It was far too complicated.

“Um,” Gemma said. “I…”

“Yeah?” Sam said.

“I feel bad about that,” Gemma said.

“Sure you do.”

Gemma waited for everything to get unpleasant. For the friends to start listening, or joining in.

But after a moment, Sam grinned. She kept grinning. “I’m teasing,” she said.

Gemma was relieved.

“Actually I’m kind of interested,” Sam said.

“Oh yeah?”

“I’m really curious,” Sam said. “About what’s so great. About you. That everyone’ll fuck you and not care that you never call.”

Gemma felt good again. She felt like a player. She felt like the woman Josh thought she was, and the women Sam apparently thought she was too.

She just stood there, being cool. Not letting Sam know how much she’d got to her.

“So I’ll call you,” Gemma said. “I promise. Since it’s a big deal.”

“Oh fuck you will,” Sam said. “You totally will. Because I’m that good too.”

There was a lot of smiling, right then. A lot of being mutually proud of themselves at how clever they were. A lot of fucking each other with their eyes, and ignoring being bumped by people walking past.

Gemma wanted to say something, but had no idea what to say.

Not that wouldn’t ruin such a good start. Sam seemed stuck too. They just stood there grinning, not speaking, staring at each other.

“So,” Sam said, in the end. “I’m in. If you want to.”

“You’re in?”

“Yeah. I’m in. In as in, if you want to go, let’s go.”

Gemma wanted to, a lot. “Okay,” was all she said.

She looked over at Josh, and waved, and pointed to the door. Sam glanced over where Gemma was looking.

“Just telling my friend I’m out of here,” Gemma said.

Sam nodded. She was looking back at Gemma now, like she couldn’t keep her eyes away. Across the room, Josh seemed dismayed.

Gemma had to make herself not grin.

Sam noticed she was distracted, and glanced over again, but didn’t seem to see anyone particular over by the bar.

“So come on,” Sam said, impatient.

“Yep,” Gemma said, and followed her outside.

She’d won, and was pretty pleased with that. And pleased that everything Josh thought about her prowess was apparently true.

And Sam was hot. And she seemed kind of fun. And interesting.

Gemma wanted this to go well. Really well.

 

*

 

It went well. They went to Sam’s and it turned out Sam was fun, and smart, and a really good fuck as well.

That wasn’t surprising. Gemma liked most people. She liked most women. She thought most people were good in bed, and had liked all the women she’d slept with. She just liked sex, she supposed.

And she really liked Sam. She liked Sam enough to drop the whole pretence of being a player, and just get into her, and talk to her, and end up with a pretty nasty crush.

And to think, by three or four in the morning, that Sam was getting one back.

They slept for a while around dawn, and by the time Gemma woke up, it was late in the morning. Late, but Gemma waited for Sam to wake up as well, instead of slipping out quietly.

Then they kissed for a while, and it got later, and Sam said she really had to go. That she had a thing. But that Gemma had promised to call.

She reminded Gemma about that three times.

Gemma said she would, that she really would, and Sam seemed satisfied and let her leave.

Gemma found her things, and said goodbye, and kissed a bit more, and then went outside. Then looked around and tried to remember what part of the city she was in. She hadn’t really paid attention in the last night.

She picked a direction and started walking, looking for a taxi. Or a train.

As she walked, she called Josh.

“So about Sam…” she said, when he answered.

“Who’s Sam?”

“From last night.”

“The bet?”

“Yeah the bet. We’re never telling her, okay?”

Josh thought for a moment. “So we’re forgetting the bet?”

“Ah, no.”

“Isn’t that what you just said?”

“Do you dare, you fucking welsher.”

“So we’re not forgetting the bet?”

“We’re not forgetting completely. Just…”

“Forgetting how we made a bet about her? While still making me pay up?”

Gemma didn’t answer for a moment. “Um,” she said. “Yeah. Pretty much.”

“Yeah, that’s going to happen. The bet about you nailing her?”

“Yeah. That part.”

“The her who you apparently like now.”

“Um, yeah.”

“And the bet about whether she was into women? We should probably forget that too, if we’re worried about upsetting her”

“Yeah,” Gemma said. “That too.”

“So there isn’t much of a bet left, is there?”

“There’s still a bet. Like the underlying thing of a bet.”

“Even if the rest has kind of disappeared?”

“Um,” Gemma said. “Yeah.”

“Not really there isn’t,” Josh said. “Especially if we’re forgetting about me losing.”

“We’re not forgetting that.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure we are.”

Gemma didn’t answer.

“So really,” Josh said. “We’re just forgetting the bet completely, aren’t we?”

Gemma suddenly didn’t care. She had Sam. She liked Sam. She didn’t have to pretend to be a player with Josh any more, and care about competitions and stupid bets, because she was going to try and be a couple instead, at least for a while.

And that mattered a lot more.

Even thought she was being a bit of a cliché. Even though she’d only met Sam twelve hours ago, and she already had a crush and probably half-wanted to move in with her tomorrow.

Even then, Sam mattered more.

“Whatever,” Gemma said. “Fine. Forget the bet. If you come and get me.”

“Sure. Where are you?”

Gemma looked around for street signs. “No fucking idea. Start driving and I’ll look around and tell you when you arrive.”

 

* * *

 

So the thing with this.  A strange little thing I tried.

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with websites where you can make comics lately. As anyone looking at the blog might have noticed.

So there’s this. And there’s also a graphic novel short story. Yes a comic.

What happened was I wrote a draft of this story, then did the comic, then finished this. So it’s the same core, but a little of the detail is different. This story fills in more of the detail of Gemma and Josh’s friendship, but it was half-written with the pictures in the graphic version. So really, both versions are kind of twisted together.

So anyways. If anyone is interested, please do come and have a look. The graphic novel version is here.