[Yeah. Jolene fanfic. Is it technically songfic if it’s just about a song? I tried to keep to the spirit of the original, in that a) the narrator is left mostly a blank slate as a stand-in for all of us who have ever been consumed by the beauty of a ravishing redhead, and b) while the man in question has a name here he barely makes an appearance and isn’t really important.
Anyway, here’s a little over 7k about one of the least heterosexual songs in existence.]
“I’m really glad you called.” She sips at her coffee, bright green eyes smiling out at me over the top of the cup. Her lips leave a faint pink stain on the rim when she sets it down again, and I stare at the mark she’s left behind. It’s easier than looking directly at her, more comfortable than letting myself be dazzled all over again. “I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is working—it’s good to get out of the office for a while.”
“Ryan says the same thing.” I’m fiddling with the tag of my teabag as I struggle to find the words I need to say. “Between my hours and his, we hardly see each other anymore.”
“He’s mentioned that once or twice, I think. I can’t imagine having to be at work by four in the morning every day.” She laughs softly. “Bad enough that I’m there until ten some nights.”
“It was hard to get used to, but I love my job. They’re letting me experiment more with the baking, and that’s nice.” I swallow hard. “I actually—I have a confession to make,” I sigh. We only met once before, at one of Ryan’s work events, but she seems genuinely happy to be meeting me for coffee at the grotty little hole-in-the-wall shop where I work. I’m starting to feel bad. “I had an ulterior motive for asking you out today.”
“Oh?” Glossy red curls fall over her shoulder when she leans forward. My stomach clenches uneasily. It’s no wonder, I think, twisting the ring on my finger as my eyes try to find a safe place to settle. Look at her; look at you. It’s no wonder. There’s a hint of a smile curling up her full lips. I wish I hadn’t asked her to meet me immediately after my shift, that I’d at least taken the time to shower first. “Don’t leave me in suspense.”
“It’s just … god, I don’t know how to say this.”
She reaches out, resting her fingertips against the back of my hand. Her skin looks like ivory against mine, her nails short and neat and as perfect as the rest of her.
“I know we don’t know each other very well yet,” she says gently, “but you can talk to me. Anything you need to—”
“Ryan’s in love with you,” I blurt out. She blinks back at me, fingers withdrawing slowly, and I bury my face in my hands. “I’m sorry.” The words are muffled against my palms. My cheeks feel hot enough to burst into flame, and I press my fingertips hard against my eyes. “I’m sorry, I meant to—I was going to lead up to that, and …” I take a deep breath and lower my hands back to the table, forcing myself to meet her gaze. Her eyes have gone wide with shock and—and disappointment, I think, and my shoulders fall. “He’s in love with you.”
“And you asked me out to … what? Warn me off?” There’s an unsteadiness to her voice that sounds like suppressed laughter, even though she doesn’t look the slightest bit amused, and I can’t bring myself to look at her anymore.
“That makes it sound like there’s something I could do about it,” I say, wincing at the bitterness in my own voice. “I know there’s not, I know—but he’s all I have. He’s all I have, and I know there’s nothing I can do if you decide you want him, too, but I had to try.”
“Hey.” Her hand closes tightly around mine this time. I hadn’t even realized that it was shaking until her grip stilled it. When I look up again, she’s frowning at me with something that seems distressingly like concern. “Your fiance’s not in love with me,” she says gently. “He doesn’t even know me. Not really.”
“He said your name in his sleep the other night.” I sound miserable, pathetic even to my own ears, but I can’t seem to pull my hand away.
“He … well.” That, finally, seems to rattle her a bit. “I can at least promise you that I’m not interested in him.”
I hate the hard surge of hope that makes my chest feel tight. “You’re not?”
“Not even a little bit.” Her frown deepens. “And it doesn’t sound like you should be, either.”
“Come on, it’s not like I can blame him,” I mutter, feeling my cheeks heat again. “I mean, look at you.”
“Look at you.” Her cheeks flush faintly pink, nothing like the blotchy mess that I know from experience my own face must be by now, and she squeezes my hand once before she lets me go to pick up her cup again. “If he doesn’t realize how lucky he is to land a girl like you, then he doesn’t deserve to be marrying anyone.”
I snort out a laugh—unattractive, I know, but I can’t help it. Her lips curve sweetly at the sound, and somehow I don’t feel quite as self-conscious about it as I usually do.
“I wasn’t expecting to really like you,” I hear myself admit. “This would be a lot easier for me to deal with if you’d just be the stuck-up bitch I expected you to be.” I’m slightly horrified that the thought made it out of my mouth, but she just lets out a shocked, delighted laugh. I pick up my tea, sipping at it to cover my own smile.
“I can try to work on that if it’ll make you feel better,” she says dryly. “But I’d rather just be your friend.”
My stomach flutters, and I smile again. “I think that could work for me.” I take a deep breath. “Thank you, Jolene.”
“I told you before.” Her foot slides against mine in a friendly nudge. “Call me Jo.”