Words with Friends with Benefits

byIroniclaconic©

Jasmine was looking at him sharply. "You're a nice guy. Why didn't you ever ask me out?"

Max made a wry smile, and shook his head, bemused. "You really don't know?"

Her brow furrowed again, and she touched his arm. "Tell me."

"You were a verse in my Nice Guy's Lament."

"I don't think I know that poem."

"It's a term I coined with a few friends in college. Nice guys always seem to find themselves attracted to beautiful, wonderful women who insist on dating assholes, and then cry on our shoulders asking why other guys aren't more like us. Once the woman recovers from heartbreak, they chase after the next asshole and we are forgotten. That was our Lament."

"Is that what I did to you in college?" She gave his arm a squeeze, and he heard a hint of dismay in her voice, which he didn't like at all. He didn't want pity from her.

"That's how I viewed it at the time."

"How about now?"

She needed to understand he was well past that. Max remembered the many times in college he had convinced himself she finally saw him in a romantic light. He would misread a smile, or a light touch on the arm, or a compliment, and be in the process of planning his move when Jasmine would come running to him salivating over some new flame, oblivious to the despair in his heart. It had taken him a year to recalibrate his emotions and realize she didn't see him that way, and never would. It took him a surprisingly short amount of time after that to be convinced that outcome was for the best.

And now she wanted to know whether he still felt that way. If he answered this question wrong, it could completely upset the dynamic of their relationship, which he treasured deeply, so he chose his words carefully. "There was a girl in my dorm who crushed on me," he said. "Eventually she broke down crying, complaining that I didn't appreciate her. I realized I was a verse in her Sweet Girl's Lament. I just didn't find her attractive, physically, intellectually, or emotionally, even though she was very nice to me. I saw that my friends and I had a whiner's way of viewing the world. Being nice to someone doesn't grant sexual entitlement. If someone isn't into you, they aren't into you. So I moved on. I hang out with you because you are fun, a good friend, and I am a better person with you in my life."

Jasmine was staring at him, and seemed about to speak, when he forestalled the additional pity he expected to come from her mouth. He needed to balance the confession of former interest with something that would make it more clear their friendship was safe. "Anyway, now it's clear we would have made a shitty couple, so you were just smarter than me. You would have given me an early heart attack, and I probably would have bored you. There must be a reason I end up with clingy psychos and manipulators, and you only date asshats. Clearly, we are each looking for something that we don't find in each other."

"What do you think I am looking for?" There was a note of sadness in her voice, and she had removed her hand from his arm.

"I remember you telling me that you love it when you dream of falling, and are convinced you are going to die, and the fear wakes you up, and you find yourself safe in bed. I think for some reason you don't appreciate the sense of safety without the preceding panic."

Jasmine twisted her lips. "Maybe."

Max shrugged. "I am not going to try to get in your head. Maybe you are attracted to the type because your dad was that type, or because your Mom was attracted to the type and it's in your genes, inherited from her. Maybe you got imprinted by a narcissistic sociopath in preschool. I won't try to guess why you find these guys sexy, but you clearly do."

Jasmine showed rare embarrassment in her smile. "I never think they are assholes when I start dating them. They just seem confident and hot. I like guys who know what they want. Somewhere out there, I am certain there is a guy who has learned how to master suave confidence without being an asshole." She was looking at him as if she expected him to make fun of her.

He had said something similar to her last month, but she had ignored him. That caused annoyance, which he decided to deflect with a joke. "He is probably dating my perfect girl — a brilliant, needy waif, with a swimsuit model's body and a headful of crazy."

"You're making me sad, saying we are doomed to forever repeat the same failures."

"'The past is prologue.'"

"That's from The Tempest, you know."

"I didn't."

Jasmine was silent for just a moment, and her mood seemed to lighten. "I think it's misunderstood. People often use the phrase like you just did, to mean that the past predicts the future, but Shakespeare's full line is: 'Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come, in yours and my discharge.' He is saying the opposite, that the past may be written, but the future is subject to your choices."

Max grinned at her. He had been thoughtlessly feeding her harsh fatalism after a rough night, and here she was already bouncing back and finding hope. He loved that about her. He would love it more if she could discover a way to do it without rationalizing away her mistakes. "Knowing Shakespeare by memory like that is half the reason you kick my ass in Scrabble."

They had reached Jasmine's apartment. She gave him a hug before exiting the car, resting her head on his shoulder for a pleasant minute. "Thank you, Max. Did I ever tell you that you're my best friend?". She kissed him on the cheek and left him in the car.

His phone buzzed as he drove home, but he forgot about it and didn't see it until the next morning.

Jazmatazz played LEARN for 15 points.

She laid it vertically, in parallel to the word "DEALT", with a two letter offset. It was a deft play in terms of lining up the two words, but it was weak in points.

October

MedMax: I had a date last night. Melanie.

Jazmatazz: Oh? Nothing in a month for me. How did it go?

MedMax: Just a first date. Kissed her at her front door, arranged a second date next weekend.

Jazmatazz played HO for 10 points.

She snagged a triple letter in what had turned into a cramped board made up of short words.

MedMax: Hey! You don't even know her yet!

Jazmatazz: Just my best play. Someone in their late twenties who only gives a front porch smooch on the first date is more of a priss than a ho, anyway.

MedMax played HORN for 14 points. He extended two tiles off her play to hit a double word score.

Jazmatazz played HORNY for 10 points.

Max did a quick scan of the board. There wasn't much he could use. He had VITODTG and no great prospects, except hooking off the open H from HORNY. He scrambled his letters a few more times, and saw the play.

MedMax played DITTO for 11 points.

He smiled, imagining Jaz laughing when she saw his DITTO connected to her HORNY.

Jazmatazz: LOL! I will be right over.

His smile died. He hated when she did this. She was fucking with him again, just like she did back in college. His best option was defusing it with humor.

MedMax: Awesome! I will change into my pajamas. I will leave the door unlocked and be up in bed.

Jazmatazz: You have pajamas?

MedMax: It sounded sexier than "My Bulls t-shirt and boxers".

Jazmatazz: No, those are pretty sexy. What kind of boxers?

MedMax: Navy cotton.

Jazmatazz: Verrrry sexy.

She was taking this too far.

MedMax: I have been celibate for two months. Don't fuck with me.

Jazmatazz: It's only been a month for me, and I am going crazy. How have you made it for two?

MedMax: I have transcended the need for female companionship.

Jazmatazz: Ah, masturbation. Me too.

MedMax: Which reminds me, it's time for bed.

Jazmatazz: Cockteasing bastard.

MedMax: :P

November

"I am just saying that Max could help his career by choosing a different speciality." Melanie's voice contained a timber of annoyance. She didn't like having a friend of Max's question her prerogatives.

Max rubbed his temples. Melanie had voiced subtle suspicions about him having a best friend with breasts, and it had seemed a good idea to have them meet. Instead of defusing a conflict, however, he had detonated it.

Jaz displayed a girlish glower. "You think he would help his career by choosing a speciality he doesn't enjoy? He loves pathology. He views himself as a medical detective. He is great at it, and he helps people."

"He could help people as a urologist too. They make a lot more."

"But he would be pissing and moaning about how much he hated his work." Jasmine gave a double eyebrow waggle to Max, who acknowledged the play on words with closed eyes and a shake of his head.

"Or Cardiology", Melanie suggested.

Max looked back at Jasmine, expecting "his heart isn't in it," but she merely shook her own head and silently mouthed, "too easy".

Melanie seemed to take Jasmine's silence as surrender. "I see better things for him." She spoke with a this-conversation-is-done tone that Max already disliked after only a month of dating.

Jasmine either didn't recognize it or ignored it. "Why the hell are you dating him if you want to change him so fundamentally?"

Melanie looked at Max, with an outraged look indicating she expected him to defend her.

Max closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead again. A headache was definitely coming. "Jasmine, please be civil."

Jasmine had a fire in her eye that told him this wouldn't end well. "Max, dear, if I was being uncivil, I would say you can do so much better than this cosmetically challenged social climber."

Melanie's outrage went nuclear, her voice rising to a shrill pitch as she checked her makeup in the bar mirror. "Max! Are you going to let her talk to me like this?"

Jasmine looked at him, expectantly. Max was silent, wishing it was yesterday.

Melanie escalated. "Max, let's go. I never want us to see her again." She stood to leave.

Max rolled his eyes to the heavens. He was annoyed with Jasmine for picking this fight, but Melanie was showing a controlling side to her personality that he hadn't seen before. Had Jasmine spotted it so easily or had she brought it out? He didn't think it mattered.

Damn it. He had just started having sex again after a three month drought.

"Melanie," he said, "I am sorry our relationship didn't work out. I will walk you to your car."

Melanie looked as if she had just eaten worms cooked in lemon juice. "Don't bother," she spat. She left the bar, leaving anger and defeat in her wake.

Max noted with relief that his headache was departing with her.

Jasmine's smile reached her ears, which Max took as a taunt.

"You didn't see her good side," he said. "She was smart, pretty, well-read, and had a touch of class."

"You were settling."

Her presumption galled him. "Where the hell do you get off deciding whether someone is good enough for me? This may come as a shock to someone who can date the hottest guy in the room just by crooking her little finger, but I don't meet very many women who interest me, and damned few of them return the favor."

Jasmine boggled. "Oh, bullshit."

"I am serious. I didn't date at all in high school and only a few times in college. I don't have enough luck with women to be throwing them away like that."

Jaz's eyes widened further. "You really don't know, do you? You still think you're the person you were at eighteen — smart and cute, but sexually insecure and desperate because you weren't the captain of the football team? Is that why you keep dating these train wrecks?"

"What?"

Her smiled turned beatific. "Why do you think that clutch of Yentas at your hospital is trying to set you up with their single friends and relatives? Let me lay it out for you, sweetie. You're a successful doctor in his twenties, just finished with his residency and starting to make real money. You purchased a Prius because you prefer conscience to status but you could have afforded a Mercedes and you know it. You keep yourself in shape, but aren't narcissistic about it. You're six-two, and depending on your mood you sport either intense eyes, or a killer smile. Your last ex, Tasha, may have been just another psycho, but she dressed you well, and for the first time in your life you don't look like a relic from the grunge era who got lost at K-MART. You have this cool cowlicky hair that most women would love to run their hands through when they wake up next to you in the morning. And that's just the superficial stuff. You're also whip smart, witty, kind, and so loyal to your friends that you risk life and limb to save their stupid ass when they desperately call for help in the middle of the night, and then don't even hesitate about breaking up with a girlfriend when she tries to force you to choose her over the stupid friend. You're confident in every area of your life except when it comes to women, where for some inexplicable reason you passively wait for these leeches to find you."

Jasmine stood, and threw ten dollars on the table for her drinks. "Max, honey, there isn't a woman in this bar who hasn't checked you out tonight, because you are the hottest guy in the room. It's time you fucking acted like it, and set your sights on a woman worthy of you. Take some fucking chances, Max."

She flashed a quick smile at him, turned, and walked out to her car, leaving Max alone and aghast.

His mouth still hadn't closed when his phone buzzed two minutes later. Jasmine hadn't made a move in their current game for several weeks, and had ignored his reminders, but she must have just typed in a word from the parking lot.

Jazmatazz has played BEZIQUES for 245 points.

Max had to blink twice. It was the highest point play he had ever seen in a real game. He had left an open E on the bottom line of the board, and she had laid the Z and Q both on triple letters, nailed the triple word score, and had bingoed to boot, gaining thirty-five points by using all her letters.

Jasmine had been sitting on the word, he realized, waiting for the right moment to use it. The play was Jasmine's equivalent of an endzone dance.

What the fuck was a bezique?

December

MedMax: Are you still planning to come over for bezique night? I have the deck ready, and a case of Goose Island chilling in the fridge.

Jazmatazz has played YA for 9 points.

January

Jazmatazz has played SOLO for 24 points.

She had played the word in parallel underneath her earlier play of ALAS, forming five words at once, but she had left him an open triple letter.

MedMax: Speaking of SOLO, this has to be your longest sexual dry spell in living memory. What's up?

MedMax has played SIRE for 12 points.

Jazmatazz: That night in September spooked me. Taking a break.

Max caught himself smiling too broadly at that, and mentally kicked himself. He wasn't going to get sucked back into that trap again.

Jazmatazz has played DESIRE for 15 points.

Max also knew he wasn't being a good friend, monopolizing her time like he had been doing these past months, when he really should be pushing her to go out and date again.

MedMax: You can't let that spook you forever. You need to get back out there.

MedMax has played DING for 13 points.

He hit another triple letter with his G. She was leaving them wide open.

Jazmatazz has played BIDING for 26 points.

She stretched his last play to hit the Double Word.

That was more like her.

Jazmatazz: Maybe. There is a guy I have been planning to seduce, but I am not sure he is interested in a relationship with me.

Probably a colleague, Max thought. Hopefully he wasn't another asshole.

MedMax: If he isn't interested in you, he is blind and stupid, or gay.

Jazmatazz: :) You have no idea how much I value your input on this, but it's kinda complicated.

MedMax: You are a clever girl. You will figure it out.

Jazmatazz: You have convinced me.

MedMax: Now, go forth and fuck, woman!

Jazmatazz: Yes, sir!

February

Jazmatazz: Did you get lucky at that convention in San Diego?

Jazmatazz has played HOPE for 15 points.

MedMax: Almost. There was a hot blonde Ob/Gyn from Minneapolis. She was flirting with me, and I made plans to walk the Embarcadero with her to find some dinner. I watched her closer, and she was flirting with everyone, so I cancelled, sensing an emo drama queen craving attention.

MedMax has played MET for 16 points.

Jazmatazz: You shouldn't date them seriously, but eager-to-please has its place. All the desperate women I know are claimed by their lovers to be hellcats in the sack when they can be talked off the ledge.

MedMax: Not what I am looking for.

Jazmatazz: A hellcat?

MedMax: Desperate. I could use a hellcat.

Jazmatazz has played SMILE for 9 points.

Max frowned. That was a particularly weak play, and a waste of an S, which could have been hooked off four other words on the board to make two words at once. He had been kicking her ass lately. She was definitely off her game. He would have thought she was commenting on their in-game dialogue, but he hadn't said anything really funny.

MedMax: How about you? Did the seduction of that guy at work pan out?

Jazmatazz: Not a guy from work, and no, I am still working my way around the complications. It might take awhile, but I think he is worth it.

Must be someone from the community theater where she volunteered. That was good. Most of them weren't assholes. Max suppressed another tinge of jealousy. The feeling was common lately when he thought of her with someone else. This happened whenever he spent a lot of time with her — his old college feelings would resurface, and he would have to control them again. Fortunately, he had much practice.

MedMax: Then it looks like both of us will be single on Valentine's Day.

Jazmatazz: Not celebrating Valentine's Day this year. Celebrating Anti-Valentine's Day instead.

That made him laugh. He punched her number.

"OK, I will bite. What the hell is Anti-Valentine's Day?"

"It's a subculture holiday for people who are feeling unromantic on Valentine's Day, either out of nonconformist pride or sullen bitterness. The way I celebrate it, you get together with someone you aren't dating, and do un-romantic stuff, like paint the kitchen, go out and eat fast food, and then come home and watch a depressing European art film where an alienated couple destroys each other's chances at happiness. Or an art house thriller. I haven't decided yet."

"That sounds wonderfully unromantic. Who's your anti-date?" Max asked, knowing the answer, and already looking forward to it.

"Well, I was hoping you would be, unless you have other plans."

"I would be honored to not be your date on Valentine's Day."

"I can always count on you."

Valentine's Day

"These are the stencils I want used with red paint. These are for yellow. I marked up the walls indicating where I want them. I will touch them up with accent colors tomorrow." Jasmine had cut the stencils herself - an assortment of easily recognizable culinary images.

Max paged through them, making note: chili pepper, cherry, ice cream cone, banana, lemon, tomato, and strawberry. He had expected to be handed a roller brush and a tray of beige paint, but he really should have known better — Jasmine would never go through the work it took to paint a kitchen herself if she weren't expressing herself in some way. "I haven't painted anything like this since elementary school," he said. "Mrs. Weinbaum looked at my painting of my pet hamster Elmo, and had me hauled in front of the principal because she thought I had painted a picture of dog shit."

"That's why I gave you stencils."

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