You can't decide whether money changes things or not; it does. You can decide, however, whether it changes things for better or worse.


50. Fifty

After getting ready, I go downstairs to wait for Jem to pick me up. My dad looks me up and down when I walk into the kitchen. 

"Uh oh." he says, raising his eyebrows and looking at his newspaper.

"What?" I frown. 

"I know that skirt." he says in a knowing voice. 

I frown, looking at my skirt. It's just a dark red skirt. I look back at Dad, still not understanding. "What do you mean?"

"That's your date skirt." he says matter of factly. "The only time you wear that skirt is when you're going on a date. You have worn that skirt of every first date you've been on."

When I think about it, I realise he's right. I roll my eyes anyway. "So what?"

"So I thought Jem was just picking you up to hang out but are you guys going on a date?" 

"Yeah." I shrug. "It's no big deal."

He smiles the kind of smile he does when he's about to start rambling. "I knew you two liked each other. I just knew it. And I like him way better than I ever liked Alex. And you know, Jem's the kind of boy who will settle down early. I don't worry about you with him. Whenever you'd go out with Alex, I'd worry, like would he crash the car? Would he try something with you? Would he dump you? Would you get into an argument? I always worried. I don't worry with Jem. Jem's a good kid. And did you know he lives in England? That shows he's responsible-"

"Dad." I cut him off. "He's outside. I have to go."

"Okay." Dad beams. "Have fun."

"Will do!" I call as I leave the house. 

Jem grins when he sees me. "You are wearing the date skirt."

"How do you know about the date skirt? I didn't even know I had a date skirt." I say.

"Your dad told me." he chuckles, opening the car door for me. "You look lovely."

"Thank you." I smile, getting into the car. He looks so good as well but I'm not in a rush to tell him he looks lovely. "So what are we doing?" 

"Well, I'm taking you to a fancy Italian restaurant." he grins as he backs out of my street. "And then- this is only if you want to- but there is a party going on at my friend's house later on if you want to go to that. That isn't part of the date, don't worry, I just thought it might be a fun post date activity but if you don't want to-"

"No, no, it sounds fun." I promise.

The restaurant really is fancy and the food is good and the company is even better. Having fun when spending time with somebody is so overlooked. When people are trying to find somebody who they like, I feel like they overlook the fact that you need to have fun when you spend time with them. That's my favourite thing about Jem. I'm never ever bored around him.

By the time we finish dinner, it's already quarter past nine so we decide to go to the party. As we're walking around the block to his car, he takes my hand while he's talking and it's so casual that I wonder if he's just doing it in a friendly sort of way. But when he pauses outside his car, he leans down and kisses me on the cheek. His face still close to mine, he smiles at me with a sort of glint in his eye. It's like he's asking for my permission and I smile back at him as if to say yes and he kisses me properly. Softly and gently. And then he pulls away and chuckles. 

"We're a thing now." he says. "Just so you know."

"Oh I'm glad I had a say in it." I laugh and he knows I'm only joking. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes so of course he knew I wasn't going to object. 

It's a surreal moment showing up to a college party hand in hand with Jem. It's fun meeting all his friends he made in high school and hearing funny stories about him. Being here feels like I'm putting the whole Alex and Johanna incident behind me. I'm starting to accept that that's just the way things happen but I'm happy now and that's good. 

But I swear to god, Alex knows exactly when I'm starting to feel content again because at some point when Jem and I and some of his friends are outside talking, Alex's Lamborghini pulls up and he and Johanna climb out of it. 

"Shit." Jem mutters. "I didn't know they were coming."

"Oh god." I mumble back as they spot us.

"Just come here." Jem murmurs, twisting me around to face him and putting his arms around my waist. He holds me close to him and I link my hands behind his neck. "Just look at me."

"Okay." I murmur back, just looking at him. "Have they gone?"

"I don't know." he says, not taking his eyes off me. "We're not going to look at them, okay?" 

"Yeah." I nod but my eyes wander over his shoulder anyway, trying to see if I can see them.

Jem sighs and leans down and kisses me. He pulls away for a slight moment and whispers "they don't matter" before kissing me again and I realise he's right. Why do I care if they're here? I should just be happy I'm here with Jem and I am happy about that. I pull him closer and he chuckles, hugging me and resting his chin on the top of my head. 

"See?" he says gently. "They don't matter."

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