Friday night’s celebratory dinner was in full swing when Julie, beer in hand, sidled onto the stool next to mine, where I was waiting for my second brewed root beer (well, everyone except Ces, who liked to complain about how next to the US’s rotating skyscrapers and comm implants, the Philippines was still trekking in the quagmire of the early twenty-first century).
Julie had cut her hair since Roland’s dad’s funeral. She’d gelled them into spikes, which made her tiny face look younger and rounder. Maybe that was why she’d put on a lot of makeup tonight. I hitched my voice low and said, “Miss, ID po. Pang eighteen and up lang po yung bar na ‘to.”
“Gago ka pa rin, I see,” Julie said evenly. She pinched near my elbow. I yelped—she’d been growing her nails and colored them metallic blue whereas when we were going out, she’d kept them short and clear. That was when I noticed her fingers: they had a light dusting of orange. Suddenly, I knew why she wore something that covered her neck and arms and why her face looked a little more bronze. It wasn’t like Julie to be secretive, and it made something in my chest spasm.
“Heard you’re dating an Offworlder now—a Jovian, right?” I said while rubbing where she pinched me.
“Mariel told us you’d gone to Jupiter a few months ago. Is that where you met?”
“Hindi. We met at work. He was going to file a complaint with HR—”
The bartender slid me my root beer as I raised my eyebrow. “And he walked away with your number instead?”
I imagine the face Julie made was what anyone would make if they’d been suckling calamansi. She opened her mouth to retort, but I cut her off. “How old is he and how long have you been dating?”
“Who made you my father?” One corner of Julie’s mouth quirked upward, and just like that, her entire expression turned wry, mischievous, like she was hiding something behind her back. I remembered why we used to date. “He’s twenty-six Jovian years old and it’s been five months now. And just so you know, I’ve already heard everything about having May-December affairs with three hundred and fourteen-year-old guys, so you can spare me your sass, Migs.”
I did some quick math to confirm it, then grinned. “Planning to move there? Will we get to meet the poor bastard before you leave?”
“We’re dating, Migs. Not getting married—”
“And yet you met his parents already.”
I read Julie’s expression as I’ll never tell that tsismosang Mariel anything again. She continued, “At teka lang, ha. Doesn’t pitying him make you a poor bastard for dating me, too?”
I felt my grin getting wider. It hurt a little. “Never denied that.”
“Missed you too, Jules.”