Tempus fugit! That is the simplest answer to this whole spontaneous situation. I went home immediately after Daniel told me we were leaving so soon. Swiftly, like a crazy flurry of sprinting fireworks or a shooting star hastily streaking the sky, I flew between my wardrobe, toiletries and luggage.
College was the easiest thing to deal with. All I had to do was write an email to my professors, telling them that I’d be corresponding as much as wi-fi would allow, overseas. I didn’t really need to be attending much classes either way. Nothing was mandatory and group work would suffice if only one student couldn’t be present.
Either way, I felt like my future was pretty much locked in place after my interview rounds in New York. Finally, it was all coming together; in one harmonious pitch, until the ultimate crescendo.
“That is quick as hell,” Janet said. “I don’t think there’s a surprise bigger than that in the history of the world.”
The girls were strewn across my bed. My lasting departure rushed them over here for a quick girls’ night before the inevitable and exciting send off.
Jodie’s head cocked to one side; eyes on Janet. “You’re joking right?”
Janet shrugged. “Of course, but it’s a pretty big gesture. I must say, I’d drop everything in a heartbeat if Stanley surprised me like that. I’ve barely been outside of California.”
“Besides Chicago and Minneapolis, where is he taking you again?” Chloe asked. The wine in her glass rolling around as she moved her wrist in circular motions.
I shrugged. “I have no idea.” It was so strange for me being in the dark about something so big.
“How could you not know?” Chloe asked, dubiously.
I shrugged twice, not knowing how else to respond. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. What am I supposed to do, hold him at gunpoint until he tells me?”
Chloe laughed. “I’m just surprised you’re not even curious.”
“Oh I’m curious,” I said. “But I’m still trying to process the fact that Daniel did this for us.”
“It’s going to be a huge test,” Janet said, after a slight silence; a prelude to the shift of topic.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When Stanley and I moved in, it was the best thing ever,” Janet began explaining. “But as it turns out, there were certain things I didn’t know here and there. Like the fact that he sometimes clips his toenails and fingernails while he’s sitting on the bed and into the crash can.”
Our faces scrunched up in disgust. The response was unanimous; that is gross.
“Did he stop?” Jodie asked, more concerned for her health on her visits than for Janet and Stanley’s.
Janet nodded. “Oh yeah. The point is, though, is that you guys are really going to see how you gel living together for a long period of time.”
“Daniel and I have slept over more often than not that I feel like I’m already living with him.”
Janet shook her head. “I know some people say that, but in actual fact, it’s a whole different thing. Maybe same ballpark, but not entirely the same deal.”
“So how do you think you’re going to fair?” Jodie asked.
The nervousness building up wasn’t just from this spontaneous trip anymore. It writhed alongside the realisation that Daniel and I have never really spent a prolonged time together. At the same time though, I felt like if anyone could do it, then we could do it. It just took a few adjustments and readjustments that was all. We had to find our balance, our Zen, within our living arrangements. If Janet could convince Stanley of a mannerism, then perhaps it was possible for every other man and woman to convince their significant other to live together, by simply living together.
On our girls’ night out, we decided to grab a few drinks at a bar; and since I knew Martin so well, and wanted to feel as comfortable and calm in a familiar environment as possible, I suggested that we pay a visit. Martin was an old Californian Soul. It wasn’t in terms of his age; but rather, he was so adamant at keeping his bar the way it was, that even if everyone left, the atmosphere remained. The feel of home, stability; the feel of coming back to something you’ve known was there all along.
I put my hand up in the air to grab Martin’s attention. “Martin!”
He was behind the bar, serving. Which meant either one of two things: that it was such a busy night and the other bartenders needed assistance; or, that he either finished or wanted to take a break from his paper work.
“Anna!” he picked me up into a full blown MMA fighter hug. A bear hug, except with muscles instead of brown furry flab. “How are you?”
I grinned widely, on a high. “I’m great. Just wanted to pick up a few drinks with the girls before I leave.”
Martin furrowed his brows. A strange occurrence since he was hardly ever in a state of confusion. “Leave? Where are you off to?”
“Daniel booked us a traveling schedule.”
“And Daniel is…”
I tilted my head. “My boyfriend, Martin.”
Martin chuckled. “Hey, I’m not accustomed to knowing everyone you date.” That was a good and obvious point. “Either way, first drinks are on the house.”
I smiled, obliged. “Thanks Martin.”
The girls grabbed a corner booth, one of the best that had a good view of the entire bar. I awaited the first round of drinks from Martin, each girl wanting a specific order. And seeing as how I’m the bartender of the group, I offered to carry them. It would feel weird if Martin waited on our table.
“Been a long time since I’ve seen you,” a voice next to me said, catching my attention.
Don’t worry people, it wasn’t Derek. I think I would have shat a brick if I saw him walk through the doors. Even from a far my whole body would stiffen from his presence alone; and not in a good way.
“Oh, hey,” I said, “how have you been, Mark.”
Mark was that cute surfer-dude I met on the beach when he accidentally abused me on my walk. We went out on a date, and it was one of the best dates I ever had. We were getting down to business back at his place when his friends ended up walking in on us and I was humiliated. In retrospect, it’s hilarious; but then I felt a tinge of disappointment knowing that I’m not going to have first dates any more.
This admission isn’t to say that Daniel and I have lost our spark, but that I wondered if we could keep it up. I never ever want our fireworks to dwindle, and certain stories about long-term couples losing interest, or love even, of their significant others scare me in that sense. All I needed to do was shake my mind of the uneasy feelings. We were going on vacation for Pete’s sake, I should be over the moon. At least until we’re on the plane and the moon is overshadowed by a darkly fear of a bumpy ride.
“I’ve been alright,” Mark said. His blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail. Nothing too overtly feminine. “You?”
I nodded. “Wonderful.”
“I was thinking the other day about how good our date was. Do you remember?”
I smiled. “I do.”
“It’s a shame we didn’t complete it.”
I continued my smile. “We failed that mission.”
“Oh, it had to be aborted. No right could come of it after that.”
I chuckled. “Good times.”
“It could turn into better times?” Mark finally offered.
I had a feeling it was coming, but I didn’t want to come off as presumptuous in thinking that that was what he was referring to. Which is why I let the conversation flow before I jumped to conclusions and let him know, out of the blue, from the get-go, that I have a boyfriend.
“I’m taken,” I simply said.
Mark threw back some beer. “Oh? How unfortunate.”
I laughed. “Yeah, well, we’re taking a vacation together and we’re moving in together soon.”
I nodded. “We are.”
“Then I was too late.”
I blushed. “It would seem so.”
“So where are you guys off to on your vacation?”
“I know we’re going to Chicago and Minneapolis, but other particular destinations are a surprise.”
Mark lifted an eyebrow. “Sounds pretty serious. Or like a Buffalo Bill situation.”
“Oh, I hope not,” I laughed.
“Monogamy is overrated. You should get with the twenty-first century,” he half-joked.
Oh, he’s one of those people. I don’t mind it, but I didn’t expect it either. “I didn’t know you were one of those, crossover from one-to-another people.”
“Shocking?” Mark grinned. It was even cuter than I remembered.
I shrugged. “No, I just figured…well, assumed really, that you were a relationship kind of guy.”
“I was, once.”
“What was the catalyst?” I wondered.
Mark took another swig, and then leaned in, lowering his chin as if telling a secret. “A cheating scandal,” he whispered.
I thought it would tear my insides once I heard that word. That my heart would drop and I wouldn’t be able to breathe properly like it used to happen. Oddly enough though, I didn’t feel that way. At least, not entirely. Then when I realised that, I started to think about the fact I was feeling easier about it. I was feeling more uplifted about the fact that a heavy weight had been lifted. I was healing, and it felt good.
“A cheating scandal is what ruined me, or set me free depending on how you look at it,” Mark explained. “You can’t really come back from something as heavy as that. And I’ll never understand the people that can forgive and forget. Seems kind of stupid to me. Almost like they’re asking to be cheated on again.” I nodded, my lips tight. Mark then shrugged. “Just my opinion.”
I nodded again, and was about to lay a rebuttal when Chloe jumped out at me. “What the hell is with the hold up? We’re sippin’ juices from our tongue over here.”
Instantaneously, I noticed the drinks on the counter and slipped into a fuzzy recollection of Martin notifying me they were done.
“Sorry,” I said to Chloe. “Mark; Chloe, Chloe; Mark.”
They shook hands, and gave that look that every first timer looks when they see a semblance of potential. Knowing Mark was a free for all kind of guy, I didn’t know whether I should warn Chloe and stop her, or if that’s what she would have wanted. It was a 50\50 toss up. Chloe had been uphill and down with her relationship with Scotty, and hadn’t had much luck with other guys lately, that I figured Mark would be the perfect candidate for her. At the same time, I wasn’t matcher maker, match maker, making a match, finding a find, or catching a catch. In the end, I didn’t know what she wants in a man as of late for me to intervene.
“Care to join me for a drink?” Mark asked Chloe.
For some reason, Mark offering that up didn’t make feel awkward. Was it because I was with Daniel? He was so honest? Or perhaps both? Mark is a nice enough guy, and straight forward. One of the best qualities about him is that he’s not sugar coating. So I figured he wasn’t so harmful to Chloe. Either way, it would probably be good to let her know.
“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s girls’ night tonight,” Chloe said, biting her bottom lip and fluttering her eyes.
Mark held up his beer and nodded. “I’ll be seeing you then. Nice to see you again, Anna.”
I smiled. “Nice to see you, too.”
I carried the drinks to the table and all the while Chloe was asking me questions about him. Namely, how I knew him. I gave her the rundown about where and when we met, clearly a traumatising enough occurrence to remember till this day! I ended up telling her what he told about his free for all, surfer-dude nature, and she didn’t mind at all.
Chloe shrugged. “It might be just what I need right now. Just like you and your vacation with Daniel. To see how you guys gel.”
“What do you need now?” Janet asked.
We all took our own drinks from the tray while Chloe spoke about the whole situation. In that moment, I realised that not only would I have to experience for the first time, what it’s like living with Daniel; but I’d also have to be separated from my best friends. I’d have to start a whole new life, and it hadn’t hit me until right now. We lifted our drinks in the air and clinked; it was one of those moments of pure clarity, where the love for my best friends was palpable, prominent, and persistent! We knocked back our drinks and laughed at each other’s skewed faces.
Click, instamemory taken!