This year’s office Christmas party was not going to be awkward, Jeri told herself. Not at all.
She wouldn’t let it anyway.
Well. That ship had sailed about two minutes after she had arrived, only to notice that Pam had brought her brand new girlfriend to the party. Obviously, if the way both of them were canoodling was anything to go by, Pam had wanted to humiliate Jeri quite spectacularly.
Jeri didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did. She thought she was completely over Pam; the past couple months had been quite bitter and horrible, what with the investigation and trial of Wendy’s death and all its strange circumstances. In the end, because everybody involved were indeed lawyers, Pam had gotten away from all that trouble with some self-defence plea and a very light slap on the wrist, while some of the charges had actually been brought onto Jeri for having threatened Wendy. Oh, she also got away almost completely unscathed, but the ordeal had been extremely taxing and Jeri had been lying low ever since, taking some time off and working on much smaller cases. The office was only too glad to oblige and leave her out of any of the most sought after cases, even though she would have had fought for them quite hard in the past.
But the last year had changed Jeri in many ways. It had shaken her in ways she did not think possible. At first, she had thought she should just leave New York and start over somewhere; but it would have been giving up, it would have meant admitting that she had to be ashamed or that she ought to leave, as the undesired family friend that no one really likes but invites out of politeness that she somehow had become. In fact, Jeri only remained in the firm because she needed the money, and because she didn’t know what else to do.
So here they were. It was easy to pretend that Pam didn’t exist or not to run into her when she was just working. She was working on such boring and low profile cases anyway that nobody but Marci Stahl and Foggy Nelson really came to see her or meet her, except the odd visitor or client. Pam certainly avoided her, and latched on one of the other partners.
She should have known better than to come to that ridiculous party anyway. It’s not like anybody really wanted her to be here. People were decent enough to at least acknowledge her presence and start polite conversations about the weather or her latest cases. But she repelled them one after the other with her aloof and gloom disposition.
What had she thought? That Pam would come to her and say she had forgiven her, that she would say Jeri was the only one she wanted and all that jazz? No, she didn’t expect it. But somehow, she also hadn’t been prepared for Pam to flaunt her new arm candy – a young and successful architect that had worked to redesign the office, all dressed in very expensive black minimalistic clothing – to anybody who could see. Obviously, both of them were enjoying themselves immensely, parading from partner to partner, drinking white wine and laughing at unfunny jokes.
So what; Pam had a new girlfriend. She had moved on. Jeri really couldn’t care less. That’s why she was nursing her probably tenth glass of wine and steadily getting as drunk as she could. At least, you didn’t have to make small talk to alcohol.
“Well, someone’s looking bright and happy tonight.”
Jeri started and almost dropped her glass.
“Jessica Jones, as I live and breath. What is it, they say… ‘Always a chore, never a pleasure?’” she said, before drinking the rest of her wine in one swift swig.
“I thought they had sacked you after Wendy’s trial. I mean, I know I would’ve.”
Jeri shook her head in disbelief. “And pray tell me, what are you doing here? This is a private event, Jessica. Go away before I call the cops.”
Leaning back on the wall beside Jeri, Jessica smiled as she looked around the crowd. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, they might come for you for real this time.”
Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was because the past year had been so trying, but Jeri had had enough of people – and Jessica of all people – insinuating she had escaped the justice narrowly and wrongfully.
She made a move to leave. “If you’re just going to stand there and insult me…”
Putting a hand on her forearm Jessica held her back. “Hey, hey, get off your high horse for a minute, will you? I’m not crashing this party, though I daresay, it’s so boring that I almost wish I were.”
“What on earth are you doing here tonight, if not to taunt me?” replied Jeri, crossing her arms sceptically.
“Hey, Missy, I’m not the one dancing with a pretty young thing in front of all your colleagues.”
Looking back at the dance floor, Jeri saw that Pam and her date were indeed dancing quite provocatively on some old tube. “Cheap shot.”
“It’s a bit obvious, though, don’t you think,” said Jessica, taking a bottle of cheap whisky from the inside of her coat. “What, the young successful lawyer who might be the youngest yet to be made partner at one of New York’s most impressive firm hooking up with one of the youngest, trendiest and most successful architect of her generation? Come on. I give it a month, tops.”
Jeri huffed, and looked away. Her head was starting to turn a bit too much and she really could not let herself breakdown over stupid Pam in front of Jessica. “I really couldn’t care less.”
“Yeah right. Bullshit.”
They remained silent for a few minutes, Jeri trying not to look at Pam – and failing – and Jessica texting and drinking way too much hard liquor for someone her size and age.
“Want some?” asked Jessica, seeing that Jeri was eyeing the whisky.
She should say no and just leave, Jeri told herself. But she knew it would be just to go drink some more expensive whisky somewhere else, and maybe hook-up with a young unsuspecting girl who’d only be too happy to let Jeri pay for everything. At this point, the thought was not only depressing; it made Jeri feel even more pathetic that she felt already.
“Don't mind if I do, actually.”
Jessica passed her the bottle and Jeri drank a generous swig from it. If she was going to be drunk, let it be excessively.
“To reply to your question,” started Jessica. “I’m here on a business.”
Jeri drank some more whisky before passing it back to her. “I have nothing for you, not anymore, not ever.”
“Oh, I know that, Hogarth. Actually, I might have something for you.”
Jeri eyed Jessica suspiciously. “What do you mean?”
“You see, I’m here for a friend actually.”
Raising an eyebrow, the lawyer snorted. “You cannot possibly mean me.”
“Nah. Obviously. I think you might know him a little, though. He’s called Matt Murdoch.”
Now, that caught Jeri’s attention. “Murdoch? You’re friends with him?”
The private investigator nodded. “Sort of.”
“We’ve recently hired his former better half, Foggy Nelson.”
Looking down at her phone, Jessica passed the whisky bottle back to Jeri. “Funny you should say that. That’s kinda why I’m here actually.”
Oh, but the plot thickens, thought Jeri. She poured some whisky in her empty wine glass. “Are you investigating Nelson?”
“No, nothing of the sort. I’m mostly investigating people interested in him, and also just looking out for the guy.”
This was getting more and more mysterious. Jeri couldn’t help but be intrigued. “I see. And why did you say you might have something for me? You know I hired the guy before I fell out of grace at the firm. He probably has more influence with the partners than I do now.”
Jessica took a picture of the crowd, zooming in on Nelson who was currently speaking very intimately with Marci. She sent it to some number with a quick sleight of hand . “Well. I know for a fact that you two are going to work on a project together. A new case, in which much of your–unique–expertise will be called upon.”
The investigator looked directly at Jeri this time. “Let’s just say that both Murdoch and I have an interest in that particular case. And in Nelson’s participation in it.”
Jeri narrowed her eyes. “So you want me to pass information to you or something? Won’t that be a bit suspicious?”
“You didn’t say ‘illegal’, though,” remarked Jessica.
“Oh, that too, but I think if the past year has taught me something, it’s that the law and lawyers only really selectively care about what’s legal and what isn’t.”
Jessica raised her bottle to Jeri’s glass. “Hear, hear.”
Looking at Foggy and Marci, now laughing at some private joke, Jeri wondered who could possibly be after a guy like him. “What’s in it for me?”
“Money, obviously. Though, I know that money itself is not enough to move you. You’re more principled than you want people to think you are, you know.”
Jeri smiled at that. “Or you just never offered me enough money.”
Jessica bowed her head in the lawyer’s direction. “Ha. This time there is some substantial money implicated; I don’t think even you could disdain it. There’s another reason, though, for why you’ll want to do it. You’ll get to get back at Pam.”
Jeri almost spit her drink in surprise. “How? How will I – will you achieve that?”
Getting closer, Jessica whispered mischievously, “Because I’ll pretend to be your girlfriend.”
Jeri could only laugh at the idea. “Really, I’m very flattered, Jones, but I never take – let alone date – desperate cases.”
Raising her eyebrow, Jessica replaced a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “Totally not true, but that’s a battle for another day. I think you might have missed me using the word ‘pretend’. I don’t actually want to date you.”
Though clearly Jeri was not especially interested in Jessica, it still stung a bit. She blamed the whisky.
“You’re not my type anyway.”
Jessica huffed. “Neither are you.”
Both women looked at each other, measuring. Jeri lifted her glass to her lips and took a sip, licking a remnant drop with a quick flick of her tongue.
“So why will you pretend to be my girlfriend?”
“So I can drop to your office on a regular basis, or tag along if you are grabbing dinner with him and Marci. To give me a good alibi, basically.”
“When do you propose to start?”
Jessica poured some more whisky in Jeri’s glass. “Tonight, actually.”
“People know you here, though. Pam knows you. She’ll get suspicious.”
Inching a bit closer, Jessica seductively brushed her hand on Jeri’s arm. “Well, I guess we’ll have to be especially convincing then. I’ll even put on fancy clothes for you.”
Sceptical, Jeri gave her the onceover. “Certainly not those ones, hopefully.”
Pointing at the bag she was holding, Jessica winked. “I can be very resourceful and outrageously sexy when I want to.”
Jeri had to agree. Jessica was a stunning woman, though a bit too thin for her taste. She half-smiled at the thought of Pam seeing her with Jessica. She’d be so mad. Maybe she could even drop some hints that it had been going on for even longer. Oh yes. That’d be interesting.
“So what do we do? We go make out on the dance floor and then start giggling like schoolgirls and act overly sweet with each other in front of the partners?”
“We’re pretty hidden here,” said Jessica, pointing at the crowd, who was much too busy cheering Pam and her token girlfriend to notice anything else. “I don’t think anybody saw me come in. Let me make a grand entrance, and go along with what I’ll do.”
It was extremely tempting. Just like Jessica’s lips right now, which were much too close and too red for Jeri’s libido. It was weird though, because Jeri had never been particularly attracted to Jessica before. Maybe it was the wine, or just the thought of making Pam jealous.
“I must be way drunker than I think I am to say yes to any of this.”
Jessica got even closer, looking at Jeri with a lazy smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Or just eager to make your ex jealous.”
Jessica suddenly bridged the gap between their mouths and kissed her, snaking her hand in the other woman’s hair. To her own surprise, Jeri responded quite passionately to the kiss.
Jessica pulled from the kiss as abruptly as she had initiated it.
“What was that all about?” Jeri asked, a bit annoyed to notice that she was breathless.
The other woman winked. “Practice for later.”
Jeri was too stunned to reply anything. What a weird and strange evening it was becoming. Was she really agreeing to pretend to be Jessica Jones’s girlfriend?
Yes. She was definitely drunk.
Jessica leaned over and murmured in her ear. “Let’s put on a show they’ll talk about until next Christmas, shall we?”
With a wink, she then lightly clapped Jeri’s shoulder and left through the emergency exit hidden by the railings of coats nearby. “See you later, honey.”
Oh yes. This was indeed going to be interesting.