The first time Amy meets Rosa, she's very, very scared. Rosa looks like the kind of playground bully who would have turned Amy upside down to shake the lunch money out of her pockets, and maybe given her a bonus swirlie to boot. Or maybe that's not fair. Rosa's a cop after all, so she probably loves law and order deep down. Maybe she was just one of the impossibly cool girls who smoked in the bathroom and made Amy afraid to pee. But it's not really right for Amy to hate those girls; after all, they didn't know she had such a shy bladder.
Anyway, she's getting sidetracked. Jake is pelting her with small wads of paper and asking what she's doing this Friday night.
"I'm having my book club," Amy says primly, sitting up straight and brushing the little paper wads into the trash can.
"Reading Pride and Prejudice to your cat is not a book club," Jake says, turning back and forth to take in his appreciative audience. Scully claps vaguely, and Boyle sits up suddenly, muttering apologetically for missing a one-liner.
Rosa looms over Amy's desk and says, "I wanna join your book club."
"Please don't kill me," Amy squeaks. Wait. That was not the appropriate response. She clears her throat, sitting up straight again. "I mean, Oreo and I would be delighted to have you." She lowers her voice and looks around to make sure no one is listening. "Um, it actually is just me and my cat."
"That's weird," Rosa says, not bothering to be quiet. "I'm still in though. Where do we meet?"
"Um, my apartment at seven," Amy says. It comes out sounding like a question even though she doesn't mean for it to.
"I don't go to people's apartments," Rosa says.
"That's weird," Amy snaps, and feels pleased with herself. Maybe Rosa isn't so scary after all.
"There's a coffee shop on Kent Street. Meet you there?"
"Okay," Amy says, making a little note on her calendar. "And we're actually reading Jane Eyre." She hopes Rosa loves highlighting and annotating as much as she does.
"Stay cool, Santiago," Amy mutters under her breath. Does she have to turn into a basket case every time she hangs out with someone new?
And really, she shouldn't have worried. Rosa strolls in at 6:58, which is just the right amount of time to order a black coffee and sit down at exactly seven p.m.
"Thanks for being so punctual," Amy says. Punctuality was part of the book club charter, but she hadn’t asked Rosa to sign it yet.
"I hate late people," Rosa says, and Amy relaxes slightly. Maybe deep down, she and Rosa are the same.
But then Rosa snatches Amy’s copy of Jane Eyre from the table. The spine is broken, her favorite pages are dog-eared, and the margins are filled with notes in her crabby little handwriting.
"You violate your books," Rosa says, staring at the creased cover as though she could burn a hole through it with her eyes.
"No, I like to interact with my books," she says, eyeing Rosa's pristine copy. Its corners are still perfectly rigid, its spine unblemished. Maybe Rosa never even opened it at all. Maybe she just watched the movie.
Amy licks her lips and sits up straighter. "Rosa, I think you should know that I take book club very seriously," she says, suddenly glad that she's still wearing her suit jacket. It makes her feel much more authoritative and confident. "Maybe that's why everyone but Oreo quit after one meeting, but it's the way I am, and I can't change it."
"That's fine," Rosa says quickly, without even making fun of her. "I take everything seriously."
"I probably should have noticed that," Amy says, relaxing again. "Would you like to discuss theme, motifs, or characterization first?"
"Rochester was a little bitch," Rosa says, which doesn’t quite answer the question. "He shouldn't have locked his wife in the attic, and if he was going to lock his wife in the attic, he should've said something to Jane before he tried to marry her. If I were her, I would've flushed his head down the toilet."
"I see," Amy says delicately. Now doesn't seem like the right time to admit she finds Rochester's man pain extremely attractive and she hopes to marry someone just like him. Minus the pyromaniac wife, of course. "The thing is, you wouldn't have existed in Jane's time. You couldn't have. I think Jane's love is beautiful and forgiving, but a poor, parentless woman in her time didn't really have other options."
"Yeah, well, she still didn't have to go back," Rosa argues. "She was doing just fine without him before."
"Okay, fine," Amy admits. "But the point is, she loved him and she missed him, so she forgave him. He was just as trapped by social conventions as she was, and anyway, if you leave everyone who disappoints you once, you'll spend your life alone."
Rosa narrows her eyes. "Is Jane Eyre your role model?"
"Yes," Amy says and manages not to blush. "She was strong and independent, but she still admitted she wanted a relationship in her life. I think that's brave."
"I guess so," Rosa allows grudgingly. "But Rochester was still a little bitch."
"He might have been kind of selfish. But he was really trying to look out for everyone in a difficult situation," Amy argues, even though she knows she's being a little irrational just because the thought of her own Rochester makes her want to swoon. She takes a deep breath. "Do you say everything like it's a threat?" she asks. "Because I can't tell if you're planning to shank me in the parking lot."
At that, Rosa laughs. Or at least, Amy thinks she does. It's more like a weird bark.
"I'm not going to kill you," Rosa says. "But I do say everything like it's a threat. That's why I got kicked out of my last book club. Is that going to be a problem for you?"
"I don't think so," Amy says. After all, she'd grown up with six brothers; Rosa was unfamiliar, but she wasn't really worse than they were.
"Good," Rosa says, looking faintly pleased. "Because I want to read American Psycho next."
"I can't read this," she says, suppressing a small shudder.
Rosa glares at her balefully. "It has words. In English."
"Yes, but they're really violent words," Amy says. "I can't handle chainsaw massacres."
"So what? You want a book about rainbows and kittens?"
"No." Amy crosses her arms over her chest and holds her ground. "I just don't want to read about rivers of blood and orgiastic killing sprees."
Jake appears instantly. "Did you say orgiastic?"
Rosa throws the book at his head, and it bounces off with a dull thud. Amy thinks that's a bit of an over-reaction, but then, maybe Jake needed to be smacked in the head with a book once in awhile. He might absorb a few words.
"You can't join our book club, pineapple," Rosa says. "Go away."
"I can read really good," Jake says, puffing up. He picks the book up from the floor and opens it to a random passage, looking studious. Then he shrieks and drops it in the trashcan. "That is really disturbing. I'm with Amy. I want to read something else."
Rosa rolls her eyes. "Fine. We're reading The Handmaid's Tale."
"We can't start yet," Amy says as Rosa slides into a seat at their favorite table. "Jake's not here."
Of course, Jake will probably arrive twenty minutes late and a little buzzed, but waiting on Jake has become a familiar part of Amy's life. Rosa should probably get used to it too.
"Jake's not coming," Rosa says.
Amy winces. "I'm sorry, I know you didn't want him to join, but I just didn't feel right about excluding him. I kind of told him about the meeting."
"I know," Rosa says. "So I told him we were meeting in the evidence room. And then I locked him in the evidence room."
“Rosa,” Amy says reprovingly. “I know that Jake doesn’t share our appreciation of literature, but --”
“But nothing,” Rosa snaps. “We’re cops. We spend all our time with dudes. This is my girl’s night.”
Amy’s face lights up. “Wait a second. I’m your girls night?”
Rosa glowers. “We never order pink drinks. Ever.”
Amy glances around the coffee shop. Everyone is dressed in black, and the menu consists of espresso and black coffee that tastes like jet fuel.
“I don’t think that’s much risk here," Amy says. She kind of wants to ask if girl's night means they can branch out into styling products and make-up choices, but she has a feeling that Rosa's not ready for that just yet. Better to stick to official book club business. "What do you want to talk about first?" she asks. "Themes, motifs, or characterization?"
“I want to talk about how language usage in Gilead supports the othering of marginalized groups,” Rosa says, looking deadly serious.
Amy squares her shoulders and opens her book. The spine flops in a way that makes Rosa cringe, and Amy smiles at her discomfort. “Frankly, Rosa, I don’t know which is more unsettling -- labeling African-Americans as Sons of Ham, or dividing women into Wives, Handmaids, and Marthas.”
The Ladies’ Book Club of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine is officially in session.
"I can't read this shit," Rosa says, but she doesn't throw it on the desk the way Amy had done with American Psycho. She throws it in the trash can, douses it with lighter fluid, and drops in a match. Luckily, the sprinklers are so encrusted with dust that the one above the desk only manages a thin tricle of water before Amy gets the fire extinguisher.
"This is not how adults settle literary disagreements," Amy says, breathing heavily.
"Yeah, well," Rosa says. Maybe it's just Amy's imagination, but she sounds a little chagrined. Then she gets that constipated expression Amy's coming to recognize as a symptom of Rosa forcing herself to be polite. "Would you be willing to make another selection?" Rosa asks.
Amy looks down at the singed pages in the trash can. "Would Fahrenheit 451 be acceptable?" she snaps.
Rosa's lips curl up a fraction of an inch.
"Deal," she says.
That afternoon, Amy finds the book club charter on her desk.
"Where did you get this?" she asks. She can feel her face turning red. Sure, she'd wanted Rosa to sign it right from the very beginning, but she'd never even mentioned it at one of their meetings. Once she saw how seriously Rosa took book club, it had seemed insulting to ask her to sign a contract.
"It's been in your purse every week, dork," Rosa says.
"Oh. Right," Amy murmurs. She really should remember that she hangs out with detectives, after all.
Rosa shifts on her feet. "Aren't you going to read it?" she asks, and Amy picks it up from the desk hesitantly.
Rosa's inked her initials on the blank space next to each of the by-laws, like arriving punctually, actually reading the book, and remembering that this is a literary discussion group, not an excuse to go out for drinks after work. Underneath those, Rosa's written in some rules of her own.
1. Book club is called book club. If you have some other stupid name for it, don't say it out loud.
2. No inviting boys.
3. No inviting Gina. She only reads Twilight.
4. No graphic violence (in books, or at meetings).
5. Nothing approximating a romance novel.
6. No more setting disagreeable selections on fire.
"If I sign this, does that mean we're friends?" Amy asks cautiously.
Rosa snatches the charter out of her hand and scrawls down a new rule: real friends don't have to say they're friends. Or braid each other's hair. Or talk about boys. Or text each other on the weekends.
"Fine," Amy says, rolling her eyes. She signs her full name in neat cursive at the bottom of the charter, underneath Rosa's jagged scrawl. She wonders if they should hug or shake hands or something, but it's hard to say. Her last book club had kicked her out rather than sign the charter, after all.
Rosa looks at Amy with narrowed eyes. "Just because we're friends now doesn't mean you can touch me."
Amy snatches a couple colored pens and a highlighter from her desk. "Okay," she says, "But only if you agree to try annotating just this once."
"Whatever, weirdo," Rosa says, but she takes the pens from Amy's outstretched hand. "See you next Friday."