After the strangeness of last night, Julep just wanted to let it go and have a good day. She started off by fishing next to her house. She stood next to a neighbor in companionable silence.
Next for the day was the Flea Market in the City. She had seen a flier at the grocery store and wanted to see if she could find some great deals. Ivy had told her to be wary and haggle whenever possible as prices tend to be higher for that reason.
First up was the vendor selling frogs. Thanks to Julep’s amphibian experience she knew their value and haggled for her new buddy. The vendor wasn’t excited about going down on her prices, but eventually gave in to Julep’s charm.
Next up – lunch. The Flea Market was set up with some amazing food vendors, but since Julep wasn’t familiar with the food, and some of the sellers didn’t speak English, there wasn’t a clear understanding on whether or not the food was vegetarian. She ordered something like a dumpling and hoped for the best.
One bite and she knew that she had chosen badly. Definitely some sort of meat product. As if that wasn’t bad enough she heard a voice behind her, clearly talking on the phone.
“Ugh, I don’t know. Some chick he works with…Well, what should I have done, B?…I told him that Sheldon was being Sheldon and he came right home….How good could it have been if he just left?…Have I missed my chance?…” The voice got softer as it moved away.
Dread knotted up her stomach. She couldn’t even force herself to turn around. It had to be Penny. So that was what happened. Did Leonard know? Why hadn’t he called her? Maybe Penny was right…maybe she was the only one that was having a good time?
She decided to just go home, but wanted to make another stop at the frogs. If she could get a good price on another at least she could get them out of the sun.
What she wasn’t expecting was the jerk that started yelling at her for wearing the same pants as him. Not in the mood for his attitude, she quickly handed it back to him.
* * *
Later that night, Leonard texted her and asked if she would meet him in the city. When she arrived she wondered if he’d known that it was the Romance Festival? Maybe things were looking up…
The Love Guru urged them to drink some festival tea.
Don’t mind if I do. Anything if it will help. As she helped herself, she completely missed Leonard’s hesitation.
Feeling the vibes, she threw out her best sexy pose.
So caught up in the moment, she hadn’t realized he was speaking. “…no idea that this was the Romance Festival. I thought it was GeekCon. I’m really sorry.”
What? “Oh,” she stammered, “yeah…same here. Crazy…I thought that too. I’m…sorry. I think there was something in that tea that isn’t agreeing with my stomach. I better go.”
And she ran…
Finally home. Can this day be over now please?
* * *
Monday could not have come sooner. She could just dive into her work. Science…something the understood! But first she wanted to find Leonard and try to smooth things over. The last thing she wanted was to seem like some love-struck teenager. If she was ‘friend zoned’, then she wanted him to know she was a-ok with that.
He found her first. “Julep! How are you feeling?”
“Oh…I’m ok. It passed. The fact the tea was glowing should have been a clear sign to stay away,” she joked.
“I wish you hadn’t gotten sick. I stayed for a little while after you left, but realized that it wasn’t the same without you. I really, really wish you’d stayed,” he said as he moved closer and his voice dropped huskily.
Her heart began to race. Was he for real? Roller-coaster much? Before she could think of a response he took her hand in his, gave it a squeeze, threw her a smile and walked away.
When the shock wore off she realized that Joaquin had been standing there listening, and scowling, the whole time. She stuck her tongue out at him and headed outside to take a look a the rocket they were working on.
“Hey J, you need some help?”
Julep turned to see Brennan. “Oh no thanks, I’m nearly done. How was your weekend?”
“Boring,” he said with a smile. “Yours?”
“Oh, well, it could have been better. I did get a new frog…named him Oscar.”
“Cool! Maybe he and Jax can have a froggy play date sometime.”
“I’m sure he’d love that,” she giggled. Leave it to Brennan to reduce the tension in her mind; what would she do without him?
She finished up and headed back inside. Sheldon stopped her. “Ms. Soto, I understand that you are a friend of Leonard.”
“Oh, uh yes, Dr. Cooper.”
“Good. I really hate to ask this, but he has to run some errands and I need a ride home. Would you mind?”
Shocked, she answered “Sure. I don’t know where you live.”
“Well of course I’ll give you directions.” He went back to typing at his computer and she stood there dumbly. “Do you need something?” he asked.
“Nope. I don’t think so. I’ll see you at 5.” As she walked away she heard him remind her to not be a minute later. Wow…it seems that Leonard didn’t exaggerate. She rounded the corner and quickly got to work on a new serum, trying to shake the strangeness of this day from her mind.
She felt a presence near her and turned to see Joaquin and her boss. One of them was smug, the other did not seem happy.
“Ms. Soto. I have been informed that you were behaving inappropriately with another employee. I’d like to remind you that this is a science lab and no place for romantic overtures. I’ll ask you to please refrain from public displays of affection while at work.”
“Dr. Knox. I’m not sure what you heard,” she said as she glared at Joaquin, “but I had a quiet conversation with a co-worker. There wasn’t anything ‘romantic’ about it.”
Joaquin snorted behind her. “Ms. Soto, you were reported to be holding hands with said co-worker.”
Her face went red, more with anger than embarrassment this time, and she stated “I will make sure that there is no more ‘hand holding’ at work.”
Mr. Knox nodded. Some of his initial bluster appeared to have gone and now he just seemed anxious to leave the conversation. It was at that moment that Sheldon came to find her for his ride home. Ugh this day!
* * *
Sheldon invited Julep inside when she took him home and curiosity got the better of her. She wanted to see how they lived and she admitted to herself that she wanted to get a look at Penny if she had another chance. For now she sat at Leonard’s kitchen island and told him what happened with Dr. Knox.
“…it was so embarrassing!”
“I’m really sorry Julep. I know how Joaquin can be and if I knew he was standing there I would have been more careful. I didn’t meant to make trouble for you…I was just being playful.”
Oh…so its ‘being playful’ now, is it?
As they were talking she heard the door open and close behind her. She assumed it was Leonard, but heard a now-familiar female voice behind her. “Oh…I didn’t know you had company Leonard,” she purred.
“Penny. This is Julep…we work together. Julep, this is Penny, my neighbor.”
Julep turned and gave Penny her friendliest smile and extended her hand. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
Penny took her hand and replied, “Oh? I’m sorry, I wish I could say the same. So you work with Leonard?”
Oh…so that’s how its going to be. Not trusting herself to be pleasant she turned to Leonard. “Can I use your restroom?”
He cringed. “Oh…well, normally yes, but this is Sheldon’s restroom time. Penny, can she use yours?”
“Sure Leonard! Its just across the hall, Julep. I’ll show you.” Penny led the way to her apartment and waited in the bedroom for Julep to get out. When Julep emerged, she pounced. “I remember now…he did mention something about having dinner with someone the other night…was that you?”
“Yeah…that was me. It was also me that was sitting behind you at the Flea Market and heard your phone conversation. The one where you admitted that you lied to him just so he could come home early. That seems like a crappy thing to do to someone you call your friend.”
Penny let out a shriek and lunged for Julep’s face. Julep was able to dodge her, but as she did Penny stumbled into her. Julep shoved her aside and stormed out of the apartment.
Dazed and annoyed, she made her way home.