Valentine's Day, 1994 (not the first or the last, for the record)
"Only the best," Jess sings quietly as she flits from desk to desk, dropping paper Valentines in each mailbox -- poorly crafted things done up with cardboard and heart cut-outs. She stops short when she gets to Cece's desk, winking lasciviously behind her glasses.
"Hey Jess," Cece looks up and grins, her mouth a little big for her face -- perfect. "Happy Valentine's Day."
"So, you know how Mrs. F told us we were absolutely not allowed to exchange candy because of how Laura got sick last year and threatened to sue the district, you know, from the peanuts?" Cece nods, her smile still in place. "Well, you should pay extra attention to your playful cartoon valentine from me, Ms. Meyers, because it definitely does not contain a contraband Tootsie Roll." Jess shifts her weight (still in tune to the song drifting through her head) and as casually as she can, drops Cece's Valentine into her box. Still, unable to leave it at that, she leans low, balancing precariously on one shiny Mary Jane to whisper "I put a candy in your valentine, Cece," and hop, righting herself, winking again. Cece plays her part and peeks inside her mailbox. She's unable to distinguish between the lumps of cardboard gifted to her from various classmates, but pulls back and returns Jess's wink with a long one, squinting deliberately and wishing they weren't at school so she could give Jess's hand a squeeze as well. "I have something for you later, some candy." Mrs. F turns around like she's been kick-started, "Did someone say candy?"
Jess's eyes go wide and she crosses her fingers behind her back. "Absolutely not. But I do have a candy-free Valentine for you!"
Once they're off school premises and tucked safely in Cece's tree house (she's the envy of the neighborhood) Cece pops the lone contraband Tootsie Roll into her mouth and chews thoughtfully while rummaging for Jess's gift. "I hope it's okay," she mumbles, talking around the chocolate. Her heart kicking up, she turns around, drops the candy in Jess's lap and plants a quick kiss on her lips. "Kisses," Cece smiles, "see?"
"Oh," Jess says, blinking, smiling. "This is perfect."
President's Day, 2001 (it's not a thing, okay?)
Cece is in town for once, and Jess's classes have been cancelled "in honor of our Nation's Presidents" which means they find themselves jolting awake at the 6:15 alarm, untangling in record time from the comforter, from each other. "Dear God," Cece moans, crashing back against the pillow as Jess darts to beat the clock senseless. "Remind me to thank you for doing that." She smiles benignly and takes far more than her share of the blankets, wrapping up with a sigh.
"You monster," Jess growls, throwing herself at the heap on the bed, assuming that Cece is in there somewhere.
"You're the one who left her alarm on!" comes Cece's muffled rebuttal.
"And the one who's bed you're in. And the one about to let you use her meal card for terrible, terrible omelets."
Cece rolls about, scrambling for an opening and peers out at Jess. "I'm not hungry. Why can't we sleep in?" She stretches, poking Jess in the side.
"Cold fingers!" Jess yelps, her whole body arching and tensing, her breath catching.
"Warmer in here, but only if you promise the beeping is over. And no omelets."
Jess lifts the comforter and wiggles her way inside the cocoon Cece has built. "Pinky promise," she says, sighing when their skin touches. Sighing again.
Jess's Birthday, 2007 (definitely not the first or the last)
Jess turns twenty five the year they share a little one bedroom. It is, Cece says, a milestone. Not only because Jess and Spencer have been dating almost a year, and that's some big girl shit right there, but because, come on, twenty five. That's a quarter century. Cen-tur-ry.
The natural thing to do, Cece says, is to throw a party.
"You know I'm not really into that...," Jess grimaces, flipping her hand as punctuation, (she's remembering the last time they -- well, Cece -- threw a party, Cece knows, and by the look on her face, having full-system flash backs to curling around the toilet, singing the theme to Gilligan's Island only to stand up, swear that she was totally fine and projectile vomit into the shower. At least there was tile.) "whole thing." Then, without missing a beat: "Can it be LOST-themed? I have a pair of Bermuda shorts that were made very poorly and, sadly, did not make the sojourn through their first machine wash. It's pretty perfect, if you ask me."
"I didn't ask you," Cece says, knowing that -- yep -- her abrupt tone will be met with a scowl and a dramatic crossing of arms.
"But it's my birthday, isn't it? And the birthday girl gets to choose!"
Cece shrugs. "Your birthday, my idea. That means I get to make the plans, the decorations, the guest list, and the food."
Jess deflates. "You're being a birthday bummer, Cece. A birthday bummer who won't let me bake. She won't let me bake / my birthday cake." She sighs, huffing the air outward so that it makes a rough hissing noise. She's adorable.
By the end of the week, Cece can't count the number of times she'd looked up from whatever she was doing to find Jess lurking behind some doorway, staring creepily and singing what Cece has now dubbed the "Unfair Birthday" song under her breath (and in the shower). If she were a lesser being, she would have given in by now.
Fortunately, she is not a lesser being. Fortunately, Cece is awesome.
"Please don't make me wait any longer, Cece. I just want to put up streamers and bake and draw little hearts on the invitations, and I think it's really mean of you to keep this very simple pleasure from me, who I might remind you is the birthday girl." Jess collapses onto Cece's bed, absolutely crushing the latest issue of Cosmo on and breathes heavily into the comforter. "Your bed smells like mangoes."
"Okay," Cece says, and even though she planned this Jess's head pops up like Cece just yelled "Surprise!"
Her eyes widen, then narrow. "Really?"
"You have the rest of the day free, right?"
"Uh... Obviously!" Jess flips back over, ripping the magazine, her face turning sheepish. She wiggles the papers out from underneath her -- hard to manage, Cece knows, under the pillow of skirts and hands the mangled magazine to Cece. "Sorry about your overpriced collection of gender stereotypes, Cece. Even if you do -- did -- deserve it for being a birthday bummer..."
Cece holds up a hand to stop the singing. Jess starts singing and this all ends here. "All right, Jess, but you have to be ready to really commit to this." And even though she knows her idea is probably the best birthday idea she's ever had and definitely not a bummer. Cece is a little afraid of being a let down. Maybe she should have gone for the whole shebang. Banners and flashing lights and strangers and mixed drinks.
Jess grabs her hands and squeezes. "I am so ready."
"You better find those Bermuda shorts, because you and I are about to have a LOST-themed bake-off." Cece bites her lower lip. "And I'm pretty sure that my mom's lava cookies will bake you right off the island."
When Jess speaks, her voice is thick, and she doesn't show any signs of letting go of Cece's hands. "That's Survivor, you goof."
It's funny, Cece thinks later, when they're both so full they could probably explode and it not be a scientific anomaly, when they're splayed out on the couch actually watching LOST and Jess is tugging at Cece's arm to get her fingers in frosting-licking range, that Spencer didn't call once, and Jess doesn't seem to care.
Cece likes it better this way anyhow.