Paige swats at Pooja’s hand before she can grab a waffle off of the massive tower she’s made. Pooja moans.
“Instagram first, eat later,” says Paige—words I’m hearing more and more often now that Paige actually comes home for breaks, and even some weekends too. Sure enough, she angles her lens at the stack, documenting the Where Are They Now? Waffles for our now-public baking blog.
“Sheesh,” says Pooja, “you’re even bossier than your sister.”
“I resent that,” I call from the couch, where a good portion of my limbs are tangled with Jack’s. He’s in full Thanksgiving break form today, in a pair of worn jeans and a faded flannel so soft that even if I weren’t so partial to his face and everything that comes with it, it’d be scientifically impossible not to glom onto him.
“Surprised you can hear anything at all, sucking face over there!” Pooja singsongs.
I raise my eyebrows at her. “What’s that saying about the pot and the kettle…”
“This pot only makes out with her boyfriend at parties and Instagrammable locations,” says Pooja—which is an out-and-out lie. I may not be anywhere near Stanford or the swim team captain who swept her off her mermaid fin, but if her Snapchats are any indication, her face is attached to his more often than not. At least they’re both putting their impressive lung capacities to good use. “You two, on the other hand, are in exhibitionist territory.”
Jack pulls maybe an inch away from me, just enough I can see the hint of a sheepish smile. “Lay off me, I haven’t seen her in like seven hours.”
I can’t see Paige’s eyes rolling so much as I can feel them. “You two are the grossest thing to ever happen to the internet.”
“Speaking of, can we hurry this up?” says Ethan from the other couch, where he’s perched next to Stephen. They’ve been off-again, on-again ever since Ethan headed to Stanford with Pooja, and Stephen stayed in the city with Landon to get their startup off the ground—but now, it seems, they are decidedly on, if their aggressive proximity is any indication. “The Hub Seed article’s been live for like half an hour.”
Pooja heads to the waffle maker and eats the little cooked pieces that dribbled off on the counter. “We’re waiting on Paul.”
Right on cue, there’s a frantic series of knocks on the front door to the apartment, which can only belong to him.
“Sorry I’m late,” says Paul, out of breath as usual. “Forgot to pick up our Thanksgiving pies for tomorrow.”
“Dude,” says Ethan. “Pepper could have just brought them to you. She was on shift at the deli, like, all day.”
Paul stops dead in the doorway. “I’m an idiot.”
“An idiot with a spot saved over here,” says Paige, gesturing to the couch. “Peanut butter or lemon curd on your waffle?”
Paul goes the tomato shade of red he always does whenever Paige addresses him. They ended up at UPenn together, and she generously took him under her wing, telling him all the campus hot spots and which teachers to avoid and how to make some cocktail called the Pennsylvanian. Paul only recently graduated to speaking full sentences in front of her without stammering. We’re all very proud.
“Um—you decide. You’re the dessert whiz.”
“Pepper’s the dessert whiz.” Paige points a knife covered in Nutella at me. “What the heck did you put in that apple pie again?”
It’s more than a little conceited of me that I’m drooling at the thought of my own creation. “Mascarpone and almonds.”
Jack nods, beaming like a traffic light. “They’re completely sold out for the holiday. Mom and Pepper have been baking them round the clock.”
“Well, that explains why she comes home smelling like the inside of a Bath & Body Works candle every night,” says Paige.
She sets down a massive platter of waffles on the coffee table in front of us, and everyone reaches forward and grabs the paper plate with their waffle on it, all customized for them by me and by Paige. Over the summer, before we all dispersed for college, the group of us started convening in our apartment so often, we have everyone’s preferences memorized like we’ve got GPS on their taste buds. After all these months, it’s a relief to have us all here together again—to have something as familiar as Pooja’s obsession with adding syrup to everything, and Stephen’s love for any kind of jam, and Paul’s numerous food allergies. Like we’re settling back into a rhythm again.
“Are we all accounted for?” says Ethan.
“Aye-aye, captain,” says Pooja, plopping herself down next to him and shimmying her butt to volley for more space on the couch. She turns to Jack. “Load up the post, maestro.”
Jack obliges, pulling up the computer screen he synced to my mom’s giant television. My dad’s in town for Thanksgiving, so he and my mom are grabbing dinner to catch up—and also, I suspect, to give us some rein over the apartment so we can read the new Hub Seed article about us in peace.
I take a bite of my Where Are They Now? Waffle just as the post—appropriately subtitled “~*~Where Are They Now?~*~”—loads up on the screen. Headline: Um, We Have The CUTEST Update About That Big League Burger Twitter War From Last Year.
“Oh em gee, the CUTEST update,” Pooja deadpans.
Jack flings a peanut at her, which she unexpectedly and deftly catches in her open mouth.
“Sick,” says Paul.
“Scroll down!” Paige demands.
I’m delighted to see the first image on the post is of a bunch of my new dessert creations, all on display in the case at Girl Cheesing. I’m enrolled at Columbia, and hoping for a spot in the Business Management concentration next year, but all the time I’m not in class or studying, I’ve been working at Girl Cheesing to learn the ropes of owning a small business. As a result, Jack’s mom has given me free rein to add any desserts I want to the menu.
And, uh, I might have gotten slightly carried away.
Hey, kids! Remember last year when we all semi-creepily (but with the BEST OF INTENTIONS!!) started shipping the two teens behind the Big League Burger and Girl Cheesing Twitter accounts that were warring on this here internet?
Well, I am delighted to be the bearer of slightly-less-creepy news—the teens are dating IRL! And also super successful in their budding professional ambitions! But more importantly, THEY ARE DATING IRL!!!
“Oh my god,” says Jack. “I’m blinded by the caps lock.”
“Not the majesty of my desserts?”
He and his half smirk lean in and kiss me on the cheek. Paige gags theatrically, and Pooja leans from her perch to grab the laptop from Jack so she can keep scrolling.
Yes, the teens are very much in love, and—in the ultimate plot twist—have Parent Trap’d themselves. You see, young Jack is reportedly taking classes in mobile app development at NYU, while interning with an app team … at Big League Burger HQ in New York.
(Hub Seed reached out to BLB for comment on what this new app is about and when we can expect a launch, and received a response of three winking emojis, so. Y’know. Interpret that however you will.)
Meanwhile, Patricia, who started at Columbia this semester, is working for—drumroll please, y’all—none other than Girl Cheesing. And ICYMI, homegirl is nothing short of a dessert genius.
The newly revamped Girl Cheesing Instagram account is such goals I want the pics of her desserts tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. (Word to the wise: If you haven’t had Monster Cake yet, you have not fully experienced what this mortal realm has to offer.)
“Yesss, more Monster Cake stans!” Paige cheers.
Stephen grimaces. “Three winking emojis? Dude.”
I shrug. The biggest relief of my life is that I no longer have any hand in any of Big League Burger’s internet presence—not the Twitter, the email account, or even Taffy’s newly launched Instagram, where she and her dog have been touring the recently expanded Big League International locations in Europe and Asia while taking lots of adorable, curated pics (a job she is much better suited for than BLB’s Twitter, which is now being run by an extremely snarky outside hire who lives and breathes memes, thank god).
Jack shrugs. “I mean, it’s not that top secret. It’s just for like, mobile ordering and delivery. And some interactive chats and games.”
I hike my knees up and nudge him with my foot. “Chats and games they’re letting Jack develop on his own. He was the one who pitched them in the first place.”
Jack smiles down at his lap. “Should be fun,” he says, chronically underselling himself as usual.
“Congrats, man,” says Stephen. “Hey, you should take a look at this client we’re trying to pitch a chat platform to right now that’s kind of like Weazel—do you freelance? Because if you had any ideas, we c—”
“Please embargo this nerd-palooza for another five minutes,” says Pooja, knowing that, left to their own devices, Jack and Stephen will start talking about the respective apps they’re working on until they’re blue in the face. She scrolls down.
Jactricia—or PepperJack, as they’ve come to be known, once Patricia’s nickname came to light (seriously, HOW STINKING CUTE are these two?)—has stayed pretty chill since the war died down. They still don’t have Twitter accounts of their own, and their Instas, if they exist, are private.
But they were kind enough to provide the Hub with a recent pic, posing with the latest permanent offering on Girl Cheesing’s menu: the PepperJack Grilled Cheese. Cue the collective “d’awwww.”
Paul and Pooja let out an actual “d’awww” at the same time, hers mocking and his unabashedly earnest. The picture is one Ethan took of me and Jack the day we all had a picnic in Washington Square Park just before the first semester of college started—sandwiches from Girl Cheesing with massive shakes and fries from Big League Burger. Naturally, Jack and I were hamming it up for the camera, both trying to shove our grilled cheeses into the other’s face. Even I have to admit we look insufferably cute.
There you have it, folks. A fitting end to the cheesiest romance ever told, and a love we can all brie-lieve in.
Paige raises a paper cup full of hot cider, prompting us all to do the same.
“To my little sister and her weird dessert brain.”
Ethan chimes in. “To my little brother—”
“By eleven minutes—”
“—and his secret dorky hobbies.”
We all cheer, and Pooja looks up from her now-empty waffle plate and says, “Okay, okay, that’s enough cuteness for one night. Turn on Mean Girls before we all get diabetes.”
Paige does the honors of pulling it up on the TV, and I look around the room at the happy, mismatched lot of us—Pooja in her Stanford Swimming sweats, Paul in a bowtie, Stephen with his face full of waffle, Ethan making fun of him, Paige watching it all with an amused kind of exasperation—and Jack, already staring at me when I look for his eyes, the same way he always seems to be. He smiles one of those half smiles, the kind I return without thinking. Of all the unexpected recipes this “weird dessert brain” of mine has ever come up with, I doubt I’ll ever create anything as perfect as the one right in this room.
This may have started with a war, but whatever it is now, there isn’t an end in sight—not as long as we’re both still winning.