It’s kind of like a Romeo and Juliet thing, her and Leah. What with Leah being the hot cheerleader and Juno being -- well. Whatever it is that she is. If high school cliques mattered as much as they do in eighties movies, she would have to sneak around and meet up with Leah in janitors’ closets and back-alleys. But Juno’s known Leah since elementary school, and that kind of thing’s got a tendency to stick. It’s kind of hard to ditch somebody after you’ve officiated their guinea pig’s funeral and shit.
Plus, Leah’s actually kind of a freak. You wouldn’t expect that, her being on the cheerleading squad and all, but it’s there. She’s got this rabbit that she shows at fairs, and this thing for teachers that nobody knows about (except maybe for the other pervs who see her as competition), and once in middle school she totally made out with a Boyz II Men poster. But, see, since no one knows, she’s still got this protective hey, I’m socially acceptable bubble around her. It’s nice during the whole baby thing – people act like Juno’s only mostly an outcast when she’s with Leah.
And Leah – well, obviously she’s there. It’s gotten to the point where it wouldn’t make sense if she wasn’t.
(Juno asked her once, “Is this weird?”
And Leah said, “What, your illegitimate lovechild? No. You’re just a cautionary suburban tale.”
Which summed that up, basically.)
They end up running into Vanessa at the mall a couple times. Which is totally weird, because Juno had this idea of the Lorings going to their own private yuppie mall where everything’s a little brighter and classier and Spencer’s definitely does not exist.
The first time, Vanessa’s there frolicking with some toddler that she might actually be trying to steal. She looks like a made-for-TV mom, the kind who would help you with your science projects and pack stylish Tupperware-container lunches and have a different healthy snack professionally arranged every day after school.
And then she pulls the perfect mother thing again when she runs into Juno and gets all enraptured over feeling the kid kick. Kids at school are usually a little freaked by the whole kicking deal (and it’s not like Juno blames them – it’s bizarre, having this living thing rolling around in there). But Vanessa’s way into it, touching Juno’s stomach with cool fingers, calling the baby her angel, her little miracle. It’s really sweet, actually – if Vanessa’s like that with a fetus, the kid’s gonna have it okay. Which makes it sound like a Hallmark moment, which isn’t totally accurate, because the whole time, Leah stands off to the side, this you have got to be kidding me look on her face. Juno refuses to look directly at her because it would totally spoil Vanessa’s perfect moment if the miracle vessel peed her pants laughing.
When Vanessa goes back to her friends, pretty much literally glowing, Leah laughs. “I think I just threw up in my mouth.”
Juno knocks her with an elbow. “Aw, come on. She really wants this thing.”
She rolls her eyes. “At least someone does.”
“Shut up, you were all over its big alien head during the ultrasound.”
“Yeah, but she, like, wants it wants it. She probably has a million little matching outfits picked out already.” She pulls off a piece of pretzel, which Juno fails to intercept on the way to her mouth. “Actually, it’s cute. Your offspring, in clothes that match.”
“Hey, we don’t all have forty pairs of knee socks.” She grabs the pretzel while Leah’s faking offense, ends up knocking over a wind chime display with her huge pregnant bulk and getting the two of them escorted out of the mall.
“Your baby,” Leah says under her breath in the parking lot, “already a delinquent.” She almost sounds impressed.
The second time, Leah bolts pretty fast. “I have this, um – I have a thing. See ya, Juno, Mrs. Loring.” And she’s gone, waving over her shoulder and probably snickering the whole way to the food court.
Juno gives Vanessa the most apologetic look she can realistically pull off. (She’s getting better at it.) “Yeeeaah. Sorry about her.”
“I think it’s great that you have such supportive friends.” Vanessa tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and beams. It’s kind of hard to tell if she’s even capable of being sarcastic.
Vanessa just smiles wider. “Actually, Juno, I’m glad I ran into you. I know you said you didn’t want any monetary compensation, but I would be happy to pay for any new clothes you need.” She makes this really tasteful gesture that’s obviously supposed to allude to Juno’s newfound cetacean qualities. It’s sort of horrifying – Juno gets this momentary vision of herself in head-to-toe white. Like Moby Dick, basically.
But Vanessa’s so bright-eyed and well-meaning, it’s almost a shame to let her down. Fortunately Juno’s starting to get good at disappointing authority figures. “Vanessa. No, it’s totally cool. I’m set. My stepmom -- she gets all seamstress on my jeans.” She stretches out the elastic waistband. “See? And my t-shirts, y’know, they stretch. It’s part of the magic of stretch cotton. All those little fibers.”
“Oh,” she says, all sincere and crestfallen. “Is there anything I can get for you? Anything.” And she looks so committed to the whole thing that Juno has to come up with something.
“I could…really go for fries and a raspberry smoothie.”
Vanessa nods. “Cravings. My friends told me all about them.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” She shrugs. “But I ate this stuff before I got knocked up, so, you never know. The baby’s probably going eat like that. I mean, not immediately, but. At some point. I hope you’re ready.”
Vanessa almost stops walking, almost pauses with the sheer weight of it. “I am.”
At least someone is.
It’s easier, everything’s easier, if you act like everything’s normal. She goes over to Leah’s a lot. It’s nice, sometimes, not to have to be alone at night.
Leah’s pawing through a basket of nail polish. “I can do yours.” She picks out a bottle and flourishes it. “Blue Lagoon.”
“Nah, Bren would probably develop some kind of abandonment complex if she saw I was letting someone else touch my nails. ”
“Your loss.” She opens the bottle and starts on her thumb. “How’s the fetus treating you these days, anyway?”
“Sapping nutrients, kicking my insides. You know, the usual.” Juno kicks her feet off the side of the bed. ”This pregnancy thing kinda blows.”
Leah shrugs. “At least it makes your boobs wicked awesome.”
Which is true. Except so is the bra thing. And the lotion thing. Kind of not actually worth it. “Yeah, well, enjoy them before my body sucks them back in.”
Leah perks up, like she’s answering a question for a particularly hot (which, from what Juno’s seen, apparently means particularly old and be-sweater-vested) teacher. “Like sea anemones.”
And it’s truly unfortunate, in that moment, that more people aren’t around to see the near-perfect Katrina De Voort impression Juno pulls off. “Like-a whatnow?”
“No, seriously, I saw it on Animal Planet. They’re just doing the sea anemone thing and then some fish comes by and they just – fthllp.” Leah stretches her fingers out and wiggles them, little blue-tipped tentacles, and then pulls them into a fist. Fthllp. She grins.
“Ew! Also: ew. That’s maaaybe the last thing I want to think about my breasts doing, and I hear they can get up to some nasty shit during this bearing-a-child thing.”
Leah holds her hands up innocently. Like they weren’t just impromptu sea beasts a second ago. “Hey, nature is beautiful.”
“Right, whatever. The only natural beauty here is me and my freakin’ miracle of life. ”
She was going for self-deprecating but now Leah’s looking at her with this kind of half-smile and she says, “Well. Yeah.” Which is, okay. Weirdly sincere.
It’s quiet for a minute. Leah starts chipping off the smudged polish on her pinky. And then Juno takes off her shirt, and Leah says, “God, you’re huge,” to which the only appropriate response is leering and “Yeah, that’s what the ladies tell me,” and Leah looks like she’s about to throw something at her and it would be so cliché if they started a pillow fight right now so thank god she doesn’t. Instead, Leah pulls off her shirt, unhooks her bra, and now she’s looking at Juno with these eyes that she usually only uses on Mr. Conyers, all lashes and hotness, and is this the first time she’s done that or has Juno been missing something for, like, way too long?
There’s definitely something in the way she undresses, fast and deliberate. Like maybe she’s thought about this, even if Juno hasn’t. (At least, not like this, not the way you think about things like they’re ever going to happen.)
Juno wakes up with Leah sprawled out over the bed, her long legs and cheerleader flexibility letting her take up the maximum amount of space.
Maybe it should be weirder, but then again it’s not like this is the first time she’s slept with her best friend. First time she’s slept with the best friend who has no chance of impregnating her, maybe. Which, really, can only be seen as a plus. Not that she can get double pregnant or anything, but, like. Still.
She digs a pack of Pop-Tarts out of Leah’s purse and eats them cold, wondering if this one night stand thing is a habit now, (because she always figured she wouldn’t start the one night stand phase until college at least), wondering if things are going to be totally weird now.
Leah pretty much answers that second question fast – when she wakes up, she snatches the last piece of Pop-Tart and grins and says, “You know, maybe you should have started sleeping with chicks before you got knocked up,” and that’s pretty much the extent of them talking about it.
The bed’s all tangled sheets and crumbs by the time Juno leaves but it’s not like anybody minds.
The baby, you know, happens. And then things kind of get normal again.
They end up going to senior prom, anyway. A double date, Juno and Paulie, plus Leah and her on again-off again basketball team boyfriend. Leah says her mom is pretty much forcing her to go (apparently senior prom is the second most important day of a woman’s life, who knew?), plus Juno and Bleeker kind of missed the whole junior prom experience.
It turns out prom is basically exactly what you would expect. The theme is Tropical Paris Casino or something, mainly expressed through streamers. But it’s fun, in a lame way. Leah dances with her in that casually sexy way girls like her must learn at cheerleading camp, with her perfect nails just barely touching Juno’s waist. It doesn’t last that long, which is too bad, since Basketball Guy apparently can only handle hanging out with weirdos like Paulie and Juno for about the length of three songs. He ends up dragging Leah off to dance. Which, according to typical high school social behavior, means they’re totally going to have sex, possibly in the coat room. And it’s shitty, because they were off-again all of two weeks ago. And it’s shittier, because if it were the other way around, Leah wouldn’t care. She’s been pretty blithe about Bleeker – and anything that makes Juno happy, basically.
Whatever. She yells “Use protection!” It’s a little late; Leah and her date have disappeared into the tight herd of people, and her voice is barely audible over the throbbing bass. A bunch of kids standing nearby manage to hear and they look scandalized. “What, too soon? Fuck you.”
Bleeker sort of awkwardly touches her shoulder, and it’s nice and all but suddenly prom sucks massive balls. She and Bleeker end up ditching out early and smoking pot in the back of the Previa, and then having sex (also in the back of the Previa, because it’s prom night after all), and it’s about forty percent less magical than maybe she thought it would be.
Vanessa sends these envelopes sometimes. Pictures of the baby, probably. Like she doesn’t understand the point of a closed adoption. But Juno kind of gets it – the point is that the possibility is there, not that she’s actually expected to ever open them. Which is good, because she never does, just keeps them in a pile propped up between cactuses like a shrine to absent biological moms.
She thinks about maybe giving Bleeker the option, maybe sneaking an envelope into his room, but she realizes it would be a profoundly dick move. Anyway, she ends up dumping Bleeker eventually.
The surprising thing: it doesn’t feel bad, exactly. Okay, it doesn’t feel great, but Juno realized maybe halfway through senior year that it was never going to be a long-term thing and she can’t remember if it was a disappointment or a relief. Plus it’s easier this way, making a clean break, especially with college and everything. She still goes to his graduation party and does the let’s-be-friends thing, but it’s awkward. Everyone’s looking at her and it’s like the pregnant year all over again.
Juno doesn’t stick around long. She ends up biking aimless loops for a while – and then something clicks. And it’s too obvious, almost, too easy: a bunch of clichés about the one in front of you all along, the things her dad said about the right kind of person. It sucks that the summer’s almost over, that she’s going to college where if people look at her like she’s normal, it’s not because they’ve known her forever but because they don’t know her at all.
But then there’s still tonight, right?
She bikes to Leah’s, and of course Leah’s there, in the same way she’s always wherever Juno happens to need her to be. She looks up when Juno walks in and she grins, like maybe she knows.
Juno doesn’t say hello. Or anything, really. Not unless you count the way she pushes Leah against her closet door, kisses her hard and not really desperate but definitely sincere. Leah laughs against her mouth, presses fingers to her hip, and god, she has got to get better at falling in love with people at the right time. But this is good. For right now, this is more than enough.