Gina’s purse has spilled all over the floor.
Which sucks, but that was her own bad aim – seriously, what is up with her today – dropping it too close to the edge of Amy’s kitchen counter like any simple Charlesian fool. She watched in mildly disinterested horror as it scraped off the edge and plopped onto the floor, its contents skittering everywhere.
The photo really isn’t anything special, which is why Gina’s taken to keeping it at the very bottom of her purse. It makes its home underneath her two burner phones and three makeup bags and Dina Lohan’s face lotion, and that one scarf she likes with the angry flamingos on it. Of course, keeping it stuffed at the pit of her purse is probably why it’s now gotten crumpled at the corners, but Gina thinks that a little paper-creasing is worth her reputation.
Except the picture’s on the floor, now, between an ancient tube of lipstick and her hairdryer, and Jake’s hands have very visibly frozen in the middle of helping her clean her things off the crooked tiles.
She’d shown up at Amy’s – at their - apartment on impulse, telling herself it was because she wanted to tease Amy about how she’d have a hard time keeping her clothes colour-coded and arranged by date purchased now that she was living with an actual human disaster. She’s not sure how much of that is actually true – maybe fifteen percent, the satisfaction derived from Teasing Amy Santiago very much present. Only, Amy isn’t actually there, and she'd turned her copy of the key in the lock to be faced with Jake’s back as he tripped around the kitchen, looking simultaneously foreign and as though he was somehow born for the express purpose of fitting seamlessly into Amy Santiago’s cramped kitchen nook.
Their kitchen nook, Gina corrects herself. They’ve moved in together now. It’s all adult and official and everything.
Which is great, because not only does it mean that her sort-of little brother is no longer being hunted by a crazy criminal madman who wanted to string up his fingers as decoration, she also has a whole new arsenal of things to tease them about, now. The problem is, she’s gotten unfortunately used to sleeping on Amy’s couch, and now --
(Because her own apartment was boring, okay, and Amy’s was always where everyone was at and it always ended up being too late to go home anyway and – maybe a little so that she could make sure Amy was okay, it’s not like she wanted her company or that it was sometimes overwhelming to lay all alone in the dark and think and –)
She can’t quite describe the funny emptiness that she feels in her own place, but it isn’t loneliness.
Anyways. She's here now (she doesn't need a reason), and Jake’s wearing a hoodie and an old t-shirt over his pajama pants when she comes in, and he’s holding his princess mug, and his hair’s smelling like Amy’s shampoo, and suddenly it’s like – God, well. Well.
(It’s still so weird to have him back – like nothing’s changed, but so much has changed, all at once.
He looks more tired, she thinks.
They all do.)
Sitting on the floor with Jake should not be as disconcerting as Gina is finding it at present. She’s sat on floors with Jake too many times before, in Nana’s kitchen after breakups and school hallways passing back and forth an infrequent blunt, and innumerable times on the roof of their old apartment building, watching as the wind tugged at their clothes and daring each other to spit over the edge.
Gina fiddles with the ancient lipstick tube – it’s Dazzle Me Pink, a brand that her corner bodega no longer provides, which Gina finds personally offensive – and pretends that Jake’s hands aren’t shaking very slightly when he reaches over and picks up the bent-out-of-shape photo. The photo that Karen had given her one night on impulse, closed Gina’s hands over it and smiled in a way that she used to when Gina was ten and she was Aunt Karen, saying yes, of course you can stay the night, sweetie.
“Jeez,” he says, smoothing the edges with his thumb, the photo held against his thigh. He’s looking down at the two of them, barely nine years old, sitting in the back of Darlene’s car and looking disgruntled; Gina’s eyes are half closed and Jake’s looking supremely uncomfortable, half-lying in the open trunk of the car, and God and Beyonce help her but they look like nothing less than the absolutely massive dweebs they were.
(Well. They look like the absolutely massive dweebs Jake was; Gina’s never been anything less than sublime and ethereal since birth, thanks very much.)
“I can’t believe you’re actively dating someone who organizes her plates by circumference,” says Gina, into the kitchen’s warmth. She’s not desperate, at all, but it comes out a little funny anyway.
Gina blames the cleaning supplies Amy keeps under her sink – probably emitting fumes to mess with her vocal chords, the inconsiderate felons – and picks at the lipstick label with one turquoise nail.
Jake’s still looking at the photo.
“This is ancient,” he says after a moment, the corner of his mouth tugging up very gently in a gesture that’s suddenly and absurdly so familiar that Gina’s fingers close tightly around the tube in her hand. “Dang, Goose, d’you remember that day?”
Immediately, before she can stop herself, Gina scoffs.
“Puh-lease,” says Gina, hating how her voice comes out a little strained. “You got stung by a bee and my Mom had to drive us to the emerge.”
“Yeah.” Jake’s laugh is soft and unlike him, but his eyes are brown and big and his. Gina wonders if carrying around a stupid sentimental dweeby-looking photo is unlike her. If showing up at Amy's apartment without prompting is her. Who knows – just. Who knows. “Yeah,” he says. “You kept telling the nurses I was your identical twin and that if I died, you’d die too.”
“Um, excuseh-moi,” says Gina. “I told them you were my identical clone. Get with the program.”
“Oh, right,” says Jake looking up, and his forehead is all creased up and his voice is still too-soft. She wants him to be loud again. Loud and filling up rooms and spaces with what Gina decided when she was eight was probably sunlight and always beside her, so that she can cover his too-big heart with glitter and protect him from the world. God, that’s the worst. Why does he have to smell like Amy’s shampoo, anyway?
“Ugh, God,” she says, looking away. The end of her voice scratches in a uniquely unattractive fashion. “Shut up, or whatever. I missed you.”
And then her face is crumpling, which sucks so much, but it’s sort of okay because Jake’s still gripping the picture tighter than anything but he’s gripping her in a hug even tighter than he is the picture and she doesn’t want to ever let him go again. With her face pressed against his shirt, she can suddenly detect strains of coffee and the sugar from those cheap candies they can get from the bodega at the end of the street dancing there under the vanilla that Amy favors so much.
It's the candy that's hot pink and neon green and he’s been sharing with her since they were twelve; he'd cash in half the allowance Nana gave them just to see their tongues turn colour.
Abruptly, the fact that he still smells the same is the most important thing in the world.
“I missed you too,” says Jake’s voice into Gina’s hair. It’s broken at the end because that’s what Jake’s voice does, it does that, not like hers – it does it now more than ever because Jimmy Figgis is a goddamn atrocity unto mankind and Gina wishes Rosa really could have broken his kneecaps in half, screw the legal system anyway.
She tells Jake this, muffled into his shirt.
“Rosa was gonna break his kneecaps off?”
“In half,” comes a new voice, from somewhere above them. It’s small and a little wavering and entirely Amy’s. She must have gotten home, Gina realizes, and neither of them heard. Gina blinks up at her from under the crook of Jake’s arm and thinks that it’d be useless to move now; her reputation is already shot. “Rosa was gonna break them in half.”
“Oh,” says Jake. His voice is doing its thing again. “Wow.”
“With her bare hands,” adds Gina, burrowing further into his shoulder. She can feel his hands rub at her arms and back gently, its pressure just enough to alleviate - to alleviate. Jake's always given the best hugs, Gina thinks; he's soft in all the right places. She sniffs, then, because it seems appropriate: “If you show anyone that picture I’ll tell Amy about the time you peed your pants in front of Katey Ashwell in the tenth grade.”
"Too late," says Amy; Gina can hear her shrugging off her jacket and folding it over her arm, the rustle of the polyester blend slight and whispering. Unacceptable, thinks Gina.
"No one," says Gina with the appropriate gravitas, "knows the whole story."
“I should definitely be worried,” says Jake, arms still soft and wrapped tightly around her and rocking slightly against Amy’s nice kitchen floor. "Scouts honour, no talking about pictures."
Gina can feel him smiling at Amy over the top of her head; Amy’s curious laugh is light and tinkling, dancing above them. They sit on the tiled floor, so much fancier-looking than the obviously cheap laminate at Gina’s place. She can hear the soft footfalls receding into the other room. Amy’s gone to change out of her work clothes, probably.
“Hey,” says Jake, wiggling his toes. “Race you to the bodega for a tub of bubblegum ice cream.”
“I glide,” says Gina, into the t-shirt. “I don’t race.”
“Tooshie,” says Jake. (This time, his voice is knitting itself back together.)
Her purse is still mostly spilled on the floor, but –
They’ll be okay.