The library is filled with students for the first time all semester. Finals week drags them out of their dorm rooms and into the building, as if one week of cramming will save them all from months of partying and ditching class for literally anything else. But Darlington students have tradition to uphold and end of semester parties at Club Hillson are some of the biggest.
Harris, however, has his usual spot. Second floor, back corner. Far enough away from the undergrads to actually study, but close enough that he can observe awkward freshmen try to flirt when he needs a break. It’s pretty entertaining — if he weren’t committed to the law life, he might consider becoming a sociologist who studies the mating patterns of eighteen-year-olds. There are endless research opportunities available.
“Harris.” A female voice cuts through his thoughts. He looks up and sees Kennedy slide in across from him. She’s got a weird look on her face — did Fiona put her up to something? Shit, did he forget a birthday? Anniversary?
These sorority girls have way too many dates that he has to remember.
“Kennedy.” Harris returns evenly. The first thing to do when facing a sorority girl is to not show fear. He’s sure he read that somewhere, so that’s what he does.
“Hey. So, I know you’re busy doing law school things, but I need you.”
Oh, hell no. The last time a girl, well girls, needed him he got roped into helping Jules and Ophelia find creeps to torment. Well, that’s not entirely accurate — he volunteered for that gig. He’s quite proud of his contributions to lower the sexual assaults on campus. Graduating from Date Rape U isn’t good for his resume.
From the way Kennedy is grinning, he doesn’t think this is a similar kind of ask.
“You need me? For what?”
“Well, technically, I need you for a project.”
A project, huh? He does enjoy a good project now and again.
Kennedy exhales and her face lights up like a kid at Christmas. This is either going to be really great, or really terrible, but Harris is all in now. “Ok. So, I get the feeling that Jules and Ophelia have some kind of thing going on and —”
“What kind of thing?” Harris interrupts.
Shit. She wants to straight up Parent Trap the two of them. Suddenly, he isn’t all in on this project. There can’t be sex in the Champagne Room, well, training center, dungeon, or wherever the hell it is that Jules and Ophelia go to train. It’s bad for the brand. They already gang up on him as it is, and if they start hooking up, well, Harris can’t compete with that.
Not to mention, he’s pretty sure Jules is straight as hell.
“You know,” Kennedy drawls, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Time to play dumb. He’s pretty good at it, having been an RA and acting like he didn’t know what Ophelia was doing with the food scale and ziplock bags in her dorm room.
“Wait. You mean like a thing-thing? They don’t. They’re just—”
“Study buddies. New besties. Yeah, heard it all before. Anyway, there’s a vibe. Some serious pining and heart eyes between the two of them.”
“I do. And after the shitty year I’ve had, I need to believe in love. So, what do you say?” Kennedy asks, a pleading look on her face.
“What do I say about what?”
“Helping me set them up! Jeez. Fiona said you were really smart, but—”
“Setting up my friend isn’t really my area of expertise.”
“I can tell,” Kennedy huffs. “But you know Ophelia the best, and I already know that she swings both ways, so…”
“Whoa. Now hold on a second.” Harris says. This is not going to be one of those arguments where everyone is a little gay. Not to mention, this is insane. The two of them can take down dudes with their bare hands. The pent-up aggression could mean they don’t ever leave the bedroom. Shit. “Just because she does doesn’t mean that Jules does, or even that they want to—”
“Trust me. Jules does. She may not broadcast it, but my girl is both bi and fly. And, more importantly, she is definitely into Ophelia. Like more than a friend into Ophelia.”
“Okay. Small minor point: they’re both dating other people.” Harris half-lies. Ophelia and Evan had agreed to a mutual parting of ways, as she’d described it, a month back. She didn’t want to get in the way of his oat sowing in Ireland.
Potato farming probably would have been a better euphemism.
“Not exactly. Evan’s away for study abroad and we all know how long that lasts and Jules and Tyler are donezo.”
Shit. She knows.
“Really? I was rooting for them.” Harris sighs. This isn’t a lie. Ophelia was near planning their wedding and he was disturbingly fascinated with the idea. Mostly because he hadn’t seen this side of Ophelia and in practice, it kind of worked.
Or maybe Lebong James had dunked on him a little too hard. Six-foot bongs could do that to a man.
“Yeah. Me too,” Kennedy rushes out a little too quickly. Interesting. “Oh well, things happen for a reason and that reason is Juphelia.”
Harris whips his head around to face her. She did not just OTP them like this. Shit, she’s been planning this for a while. She might even have a freaking maid of honor speech planned. God damn.
“Juphel—you really just nicknamed them like that?”
“Future biggest couple at Darlington? Of course, I named them.”
“Did you just call them the future biggest couple?”
“No offense,” Kennedy interrupts, and Harris swallows his argument.
Really? Future biggest couple? He and Fiona were a big deal, at least in his mind, anyway. Well, then again, if anyone knew what his two angels were really up to, Harris guessed that’d vaunt them to legendary couple status.
Not that they were dating. No, absolutely not. His status as Charlie is already tenuous at best — the last thing he needs is the two of them having more extracurriculars. Plus, Jules was absolutely not Ophelia’s type. She liked — shit, he had no idea what kind of girls Ophelia liked. But ones that her mom liked were probably not the type.
And Ophelia’s mom loved Jules. An almost ridiculous amount, especially for a rich white lady who hated everything except her own ego. Not that he was entertaining this insane notion. But they did have a weird way of finishing each other’s sentences. Sometimes the tension between the two of them was pretty thick.
Oh hell no.
Kennedy grins, as if she’s reading his thoughts. “You’ve noticed it too, right? The way that they operate like two sides of the same brain sometimes.”
“I—I guess.” Harris stammers. He’d always thought it was because they were a vigilante duo, but maybe there’s more to it than that.
“Listen, Ophelia called me on my shit when I refused to see it. She would go to war for Jules — if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. And honestly? Jules deserves that. So does Ophelia. All they need is a couple Cupids to point them in the right direction.”
“I’ve always wanted to be Cupid.” Harris mutters under his breath, hoping Kennedy doesn’t hear.
Her wide smile shows that the only kind of luck he has is the bad kind. She heard him. “So, you’re in?”
“Yeah, I’m in.”
“Good, because Fiona’s already at the record store putting my plan into motion.”
“What? No, and it’s our plan. You said you needed my help, so it’s now our plan.” Harris argues — if he’s going to help Kennedy get these two assassins together, he wants some of the credit. She may be planning her maid of honor speech, but he’d make a killer best man.
“Fine, whatever. Our plan. Anyway, Fiona is at the store getting Ophelia to go over to Zeta. So you’re going to need to help cover.”
“On it.” Harris agrees, packing up his bag. “Then what?”
Kennedy shrugs. “I think we’re just going to lock them both in the basement until they realize they’re meant to be together.”
“Simple. And a little aggressive. I like it.”
“I thought you might.” Kennedy smiles and this time, Harris smiles back. This plan, as ridiculous as it seems, may be exactly what they need.
Ophelia yawns over the register. She still owes Harris big time for, well, not ratting her out and using his internship to help them get more targets and probably a million other things that she doesn’t care to acknowledge. It’s just her style — she’s afraid he’ll get a big head. But it does mean that she can’t just straight up close the store and go on a fro-yo run like she wants. And since Evan is in Ireland or wherever and they agreed to break up and Jules is off doing Zeta things, she doesn’t have anyone to keep her company.
She checks her phone again. Five minutes later than the last time she’d checked. Progress. Kinda.
The door opens and Fiona pops in. She still can’t get over that Fiona is actually smart as hell. It’s like the girlier her voice gets, the more her brain grows. It’s some kind of weird sorority girl witchcraft. And, considering that mission where she’d almost joined a sorority, witchcraft is absolutely something that goes on during ritual. Along with drinking. A lot of drinking. So much drinking.
“Harris isn’t here,” Ophelia offers, not looking at her. “Unless you’re looking to stock up for a party. In which case, I just got a new —”
“Jules and Tyler broke up,” Fiona interrupts, the words spilling out of her like vomit.
“What? How? No. I was really rooting for them –” Ophelia stops, her mind running faster than even her mouth will allow. Shit. Really? That bastard dumped Jules? “Wait, how do you know, and I don’t? It’s not like —”
“Stop plotting his murder,” Fiona orders.
Ophelia blinks. “I’m not plotting—”
“Your face says otherwise. Has anyone ever told you that you have a very expressive face when you’re pissed?”
“Well, you do. Anyways, she broke up with him.”
Ophelia stares at Fiona for a second, then relaxes. She’s telling the truth, so there’s no need to defend Jules’ honor, after all. Not that Jules needs help in that department — she can certainly kick her fair share of ass. And Tyler is a good dude, and other than the whole accidentally killing your brother thing, he and Jules would be perfect. She supposes this is somewhat an inevitable parting. Can’t really have a happily ever after when you’ve cut big bro’s fingers off.
“Why didn’t she tell me?” Ophelia whines, realizing that she has to say something. And technically, the whining has a basis in fact. These are the kind of things that could affect a mission. Not that they’ve had many lately. Since Sweet/Vicious went viral, the sexual assaults on campus have taken a nosedive. Not a bad thing, but she does miss punching douchebags in the face.
“I dunno, but all of Zeta knows. Sisters always know first.” Fiona shrugs and it feels like there’s a knife twisting in her back. Sisters before sisters in arms? Seriously? Technically speaking, body burying buddies rank significantly higher on the breaking news disclosure list.
There’s no official scale, but if there were, that would definitely be the case.
Ophelia sighs and runs a hand through her hair. This is a lot to take in. “You literally pay for this friendship. Like, it’s not a blood oath. Is it a blood oath?”
“Maybe,” Fiona smirks, her sing-song grating Ophelia’s last nerve. “It’s a secret.”
“Because that’s not ominous or anything.”
“I know, right?” Fiona grins, triumphant. Man, Harris must be into some weird sex shit if he’s kept her around this long. And oh god — she’s imagining Harris, who’s like a brother to her, in bed. Where’s the brain bleach when she needs it?
Time to change the subject. Like to why Fiona is here — if Jules wanted her to know, she’d tell her. And it’s a little hurtful, honestly, that she’s finding out from Fiona and not even Kennedy, who’s become something of a bestie to her over the semester. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I dunno. You could like console her or whatever.”
Wait. What? Does Jules need consoling? Fiona had just said that Jules broke up with — wait.
“Didn’t you just say that sisters know first?”
Fiona whips her head around. “Oh. Yes. Why?”
“Then why aren’t you consoling her? Wait. Are you trying to get her high? Because she’s really not into herbals—”
“Yeah. That’s totally what I’m trying.” Fiona sighs and suddenly everything makes sense. Of course, she’d go with weed. Rookie mistake. For all this sisterhood nonsense it’s like Fiona doesn’t know Jules at all.
Ophelia frowns. She should be there. Handling things — keeping her busy. Right? Right.
“Well, it’s not going to work,” Ophelia huffs. “You know what? Never mind. I’ll go see her.”
“She’s at the house.” Fiona answers her unsaid question. As if she’s been waiting for Ophelia to get there all along. But she doesn’t bother dwelling on it — she has to go to greek row and see what’s up. It’s not the first time Fiona’s been cryptic as fuck, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Jules rolls her eyes as Mackenzie debates between two planners. She’d been reluctantly roped into this errand as the lone Zeta in the house and there was nothing worse than watching Mackenzie struggle to make a decision. It took hours for her to pick between a skirt and pants in the middle of winter when obviously pants were the way to go.
“I just don’t know if I get a real goal getter vibe from this planner.” Mackenzie sighs. “Like I know it says Girl Boss on it, but I feel like it’s a bit on the nose.”
“It’s a planner, Mackenzie. Not a mantra.” Jules replies. They’ve gone back and forth about horizontal spreads versus vertical ones, now it’s covers and colors. She’s beyond over it.
“That’s where you’re wrong, Jules. A goal without a plan is just a dream. And I am not a dreamer, ok? I’m a doer.”
“Ok, fine. You’re a doer.”
“Exactly.” Mackenzie pauses, then looks at her phone. She plasters on a bright smile, the one she uses on the first day of rush week. A little predatory, but mostly genuine. Jules perks up. Maybe she’s making a freaking decision and they can get out of here. The employees are starting to give them dirty looks.
“So, where’s the doer planner?”
“Not sure yet. I actually need you to do me a favor.”
Rats! Not that. Jules steels her face. “What’s up?”
“Can you like run to the house and grab my Rosie the Riveter pen pouch? I need to make sure the planner fits my whole aesthetic.”
Her whole what now? Jules takes a second to mull it over. It would get her out of the shop at least for a little while. But then she’d have to come back here – then again, if Mackenzie doesn’t have her pen case, they may never leave. She sighs. “Yeah. Ok. I’ll be right back.”
Ophelia marches down the quad, weaving her way between throngs of prospective students. Starry-eyed juniors and seniors with their parents, all eager to see what Darlington has to offer.
“Ophelia!” She cringes. She knows that voice – and it is definitely not welcome.
“Barton.” Ophelia says, turning to face her favorite campus security guard. Or at least the one she interacts with the most. They have a bond, the two of them. One where he is dazzled by her wits and continuously fails to tag her with anything serious.
“Uh, nothing.” Ophelia replies, unsure what Barton wants. “Also — I don’t have anything on me, so.”
“I know. I’m not here to talk to you about that.” Barton smiles and Ophelia is pretty sure she’s never been this uncomfortable in her life. Ok, no, that’s a lie. Cutting off fingers and removing teeth was definitely more uncomfortable, but this is close.
“So, what are you here to talk to me about?”
“Well, ok then.”
Awkward. So, so awkward. Wait, are they friends now? Like is this the part where the villain and the hero sit down, bury the hatchet, and get fucking baked? Because that could be an interesting way to spend the afternoon, if she weren’t already going to see Jules.
“I just heard some of the girls talking and I think they’re worried about your girlfriend.”
What? What girls? What girlfriend?
“You know. The blonde girl you hang out with.” Barton shrugs and Ophelia swallows, hard. It’s not like she hasn’t done the what-if game in her head. What if Jules weren’t straight? What if they accidentally maybe kissed? What if they pretended to be a couple and realized they should actually be a couple?
There were several versions of the what-if game.
“You mean Jules? Jules is definitely not my girlfriend.”
“What?! Why? She’s really pretty. You’d be outkicking the coverage,” Barton sighs. God, he can be so dramatic.
“Yeah, I know.” Ophelia admits.
“So, what’s the problem? Are you too afraid to ask her?”
Ophelia scowls. How dare Barton assume that she’s afraid to do anything. She’s Ophelia Mayer. She’s not scared of anything. Well, except spiders. No one should trust anything with that many legs. It’s just not right.
“One: pretty sure she’s straight. And two: we’re friends.”
“Okay, but she’s not — at least according to what I heard.” Barton replies. Ophelia files that bit of probably wrong intel far, far away. In fact, it’s probably better that she just forgets she’d ever heard it at all. Romance could just complicate their mission, which is going pretty darn well, if she says so herself.
“Wait. What did you hear?” She says. Obviously, her mouth didn’t get the whole “forget that Barton said Jules isn’t straight” memo.
“Oh, I dunno. Stuff. I was only half listening. I was busy reading, when—”
Barton, so unhelpful. So, so unhelp—hold on.
“Wait. You read? Like actual books?” This she has to know more about.
“I may indulge in a bit of Twilight fanfic—”
Ophelia smacks her palm to her forehead. Really? Twilight in 2017? Come on, man. “Seriously Barton? Twilight?”
“Don’t knock the classics.”
“Gross.” Ophelia tsks. “Anyway, this has been sufficiently awkward, so I’m just going to —”
“Ok, fine,” Barton whines. “But you should really tell Jules how you feel.”
“How I feel? I feel like she’s a friend and you’re being super weird right now.” Ophelia says, rolling her eyes. Since when does Barton care about her love life? Are they buddies now? Is this what they do? Yikes. She really needs to up her friend game.
“Yes, Barton.” She says, turning back to him.
“Just because they’re legalizing in Mass doesn’t mean it’s legal at Darlington.” Barton says, mimicking a joint. Good god, that is not how you smoke weed.
“Yeah. Got it. Good talk.”
Ophelia nods and heads off toward Greek row, definitely not thinking about anything that was just said. At all.
The Zeta house calls to her like a beacon and Ophelia knocks on the door, fully expecting Jules to answer. Instead it’s Gabby, Fiona’s friend who bought a ton of weed. It’s strange to see one without the other – before Harris, and honestly, even after Harris, Fiona and Gabby were like two heads of a hydra. Always together, often finishing each other’s sentences, possibly sharing one brain. It’s kind of cute how attached they are.
“Hey – is Jules here?”
Gabby gives her a look. It’s a mix of what do you want and of course Jules is here, it’s her house too. “Oh! Yeah. She’s here.”
“Can I see her? Is she ok after everything?”
“Yep. She’s fine. She’s actually in the basement.” Gabby shrugs. “You should go down and see her.”
Ophelia frowns. The basement. That means she’s probably training and numbing the pain with actual physical pain. Which is – not great. Or it could be great. Hot, sweaty, suddenly a possibility Jules doing Jules things.
God dammit Barton! He just had to tell her that Jules could be in her future. How is she ever going to be able to see her the same way again.
“Ok. I will, uh. Do that.”
“’K.” Gabby says and leads the way. Ophelia is so wrapped up in her own head that she misses the mischievous look on her face.
Jules enters the house and immediately finds Gabby on the couch. She relaxes – if anyone knows where Mackenzie stashes things, it’s her. “Hey Gabby, do you know where Mackenzie put her pencil case?”
“Oh, yeah,” Gabby says. “It’s in the basement.”
Wait, what? Mackenzie hates the basement. She claims it’s full of germs and the ghosts of past Zetas' virginities. “Why is it in the basement?”
Gabby shrugs. “I think she started a gratitude practice or something and was working on her journal down there.”
“In the basement?”
Ok. That’s kind of weird, but so is Mackenzie. Maybe it was something she’d read on insta or in Goop. Channeling the light in the darkest parts of your space or something. Jules shrugs. It’s strange, but not outside the realm of possibility.
“Yeah. I thought it was kind of weird too, but she says that it helps her connect with her authentic self.”
“Wow. Ok. So, I guess I’ll just—”
“Yeah, you should get it.” Gabby interrupts, a little too eager. What is with everyone today? Did they get their cycles all aligned again?
She shrugs and heads down the basement, missing the audible click behind her.
Ophelia is pretty sure she’s going to die down here. She’s banged on the door at least 4 times, tried to pick the lock without success, and every single call and text to Harris has gone unanswered. And she’s left several messages. After her experience investigating the Kappas, ritual sacrifice isn’t exactly off the list of things that might go on at a sorority house.
She’s also slightly afraid of the dark. It’s a thing. She’s working on it.
The door opens and Jules steps into view. Well, this is unexpected. And also kind of great. Jules would have veto power on the ritual sacrifice thing.
“Jules. Oh my god, you’re here.”
Jules studies her for a second. “Yeah, I’m here. Why are you here?”
Well, good question Jules. Too bad she doesn’t know—not really.
“Look, I dunno, I came by to find you and Gabby said you were in the basement, but she locked me in here and—”
“She locked you in here?”
“Yeah. Wait. Has everyone been acting really weird all day with you, too?”
“Kind of, yeah.” Jules answers, then looks at her with wide eyes.
Ophelia’s pretty sure her face mirrors Jules’. This is totally a planned thing. The two of them, back where they first met, it’s oddly romantic, in a way.
“Oh my god. This is a set-up.”
“You just figured that out?”
Wait, was Jules in on this? Is this some elaborate plan that has Jules, innocent, beautiful badass Jules at the center? Well, not innocent, but she can’t even hack a phone, let alone plan an elaborate set-up like this.
God, it’s a wonder no one has found them out yet.
“Yes! No. Yes? Wait – did you know?” Ophelia asks.
“I didn’t until like five seconds ago. But they’re totally Parent Trapping us.” Jules says with a smile. Why is she smiling? Oh god, is she smiling back? Is this actually happening?
Ophelia pinches herself. Nope, definitely not dreaming. Wow. Ok.
“They are aren’t they?” Ophelia says. “So, how do you feel—”
“I’m good with it. Yeah.” Jules breathes and the knot in her stomach grows bigger.
“Wait. You are?”
“Yeah,” Jules shrugs. Why is she shrugging? How can she be shrugging at this turning point in their relationship? This is a tectonic shift, the big bang. The death of dinosaurs and the start of girlfriends. It’s a weird analogy, but she’s going with it. “Why? Aren’t you?”
Ophelia opens her mouth a few times, trying to find the words. She is more than good with it. “I—I’m totally great with it. Yeah. Absolutely great.”
Jules stares at her for a moment, then inhales. Oh man, it’s serious talk time. She’s not sure she’s ready for this. Maybe Jules regrets what she’s just said. Oh, no. “Ophelia, I broke up with Tyler for you.”
“What do you mean for me? I’d never ask you to do that.” Ophelia asks. She can’t believe this is happening. Good god.
Thankfully Jules is somehow immune or ignoring the millions of emotions that are playing out in Ophelia’s head. Because there is a lot going on up there right now. Like—a whole lot.
“I know. But I realized I didn’t love him. I think I might actually—”
“Like me?” Ophelia interrupts, not wanting to have to deal with the weight of the L word just yet. This is all too new and too mind-blowing to really handle any grand proclamations on top of it.
“Yeah. Is that ok?”
“No, it’s great. I think I might like you too. Like, a lot.”
“Ok. Then, great.” Jules smiles and Ophelia smiles back like she’s hung the moon. And it’s not impossible, because Jules is awesome. And hot and into her.
“But, ok. Serious question before we go down this road. Are we even compatible? I know this may come as a shock, given my aggressive confidence and all, but I’m a bottom.”
Ophelia cringes after realizing what she’s said. Another instance of her mouth moving faster than her brain. But it is a decent question, if inelegantly delivered.
Jules roles her eyes. “Literally everyone knows you’re a bottom, Ophelia. It could be tattooed on your forehead.”
Ouch. That was way harsh, Tai. Or Jules. Whatever. 90s movie references are her thing. Well one of about 100 of her things.
“I—I resemble that remark.” Ophelia stammers, blushing slightly.
“Good thing I know how to take charge,” Jules grins. Her hands lace through Ophelia’s green hair as she pulls her closer. Their lips meet and Ophelia smiles against her mouth.
“Do you think we should let them know their plan worked?” Ophelia asks, breathless.
“Oh, I dunno. I think we should make them sweat it out a little longer.”
“Yeah, let’s do that.” Ophelia whispers, lowering her mouth slightly and capturing Jules’ lips with her own. It’s even better the second time.