I’m hardly an app-oriented person. I just never saw the intrigue behind downloading a game purely to pass the time. I’d grown up my whole life thinking I spent enough time on my phone to the point where I shouldn’t bother downloading extra incentives to be glued to the screen. That was until I found this game called Love Nikki – Dress-up Queen and the title alone speaks for itself. I wouldn’t say I’m totally obsessed with the game since I go weeks without even looking at the app, mostly because the app isn’t on the front page of my cell, but it’s the only app that’s stayed on my phone this long. The basic point of this game—and I shit you not—you play a character in an alternate reality where people battle each other by picking out outfits. The best outfit wins. Instagram had this app advertised and I don’t even go for ads like that anywhere let alone Instagram, but curiosity got the best of me and it was the first advertised app I’d ever downloaded and I’ve yet to delete it.
I was on my phone playing this game when I got a phone call from Lucy. As soon as her name popped up I immediately felt a yearning for all of them. I’d spent so much time in that small town I was beginning to cherish it despite the distance from Chloe, Jodie and Janet. I wished I could just bunch them all up in one place and stay there forever. Even Chloe was visiting from Chicago. Did I tell you? She got a promotion and moved to a firm up in Chicago. It’s as if college never happened sometimes.
“Heeeeey we miss you!” Lucy exclaimed. I heard Katya and Vivian chirping in the background.
“I miss you guys too!”
“You’re coming back for Christmas, right?”
I nodded. “Sure am.”
“Good, because when it’s snowing it’s like being in a snow globe,” Katya said.
Being in a snow globe doesn’t sound so appealing when I put it in Alice Sebold’s context. And that was all I could think of until thanksgiving dinner. I had been researching other works by Alice Sebold and, other than The Almost Moon, Lucky, and The Lovely Bones, she’d written nothing else. I wondered if anyone missed her. Her work stood out in the way that honey moved at a glacial speed, all consuming and rich in texture. Her words stuck to the roof of your mouth and were swallowed layer upon layer until the last drop, the last word trickling down like the wheezing hippopotamus in Jumanji. This is the last one; this is all I have left; I am done.
What is it about thanksgiving time that makes people look in retrospect and contemplate their life? Thanksgiving is the pivotal moment to look back and New Year’s provided the resolutions for the future. They worked hand in hand, didn’t they? Like Thelma and Louise; hated and loved.
I’d gotten to Janet’s before the festivities began and helped her set up the table. Turns out she’d invited more people than the one dining table could manage so she arranged for a long-ass, last supper looking table outside under a foray of white tents thin enough to see the stars. She was still cooking when people started rolling in and popped out every so often to greet them with Stanley and then they both vanished back into the kitchen. I’d somehow got stuck being a budget hostess and helped with drinks and greeting people as well, most of which I had absolutely no idea who they were and wondered if they’d find it strange that Janet and Stanley’s poor man’s bartender is sitting at the table with them. The bartender being me, of course.
Then, I saw familiar faces burst through the front door. Chloe had kept her hair short, but instead of it being a blunt bob she accented it with some curls. Jodie was showing off thick, tanned legs for the winter after coming off the coast of Australia on holiday with her new girlfriend, Tatiana; an equally mesmerising Adriana Lima clone.
“Hiiiiiii,” I squealed, throwing my hands out and running to Chloe and Jodie for hugs. I hugged Tatiana Lima (see what I did there?) a lot less tight than the other two.
“Okay, before we get down to anything tonight,” Chloe held up her hands palms out, “I have to borrow those shoes,” she said, pointing down at my feet.
“You like?” I twirled.
“I love!” Chloe said in an Italian accent, before kissing her fingertips and then flexing those fingers back.
“I’m after Chloe,” Jodie added with all the seriousness of a hunter ogling its prey.
The hemline of my long-sleeved, chiffon, fall-toned floral dress peaked just below my butt, inches away from my black Stuart Weitzman over the knee boots. I’d been going for a reddish-chocolate mood and my brown with black and gold accent press-on nails matched the ensemble perfectly. Lucy would kill me if she knew I preferred press-on nails.
“You guys know me, you know how I used to fool around a lot,” Jodie said to me and Chloe as Tatiana was getting us a few drinks. “Well, I thought Tatiana was going to be the same, and it was for a while, but then we started, I don’t know, as corny as this sounds—” she rolled her eyes— “we started connecting. It wasn’t just fun, but it was engaging and stimulating, and I started feeling all these feelings I hadn’t felt of much before. It honestly feels great.”
“So, you guys are serious?” Chloe asked.
Jodie nodded. “Yeah. Is that weird?”
“That’s awesome, Jodie,” I said.
“Yeah, what are you even talking about weird for? Weird doesn’t even exist nowadays.” Chloe furrowed her brows.
Jodie sighed. “It just feels so good.”
Tatiana came back carrying our drinks on a tray, somehow becoming the new hostess. We started getting to know her thoroughly, literally interrogating the poor girl, I’d like to defend myself by saying Chloe was doing most of the interrogating. We had somehow become good cop, bad cop.
I trickled away when my heart tumbled at the sight of man bearing the same likeness to Daniel, although, as he got closer, it wasn’t him. I told everyone I was going to get another mocktail when on my way there the front door opened and in came Daniel. With his brown hair and green eyes; his leather jacket and towing his motorcycle helmet underneath his arm. My heart began to pound. He greeted a few people on his way in. I was waiting for him to notice me, but he just kept catching sight of everyone else. My heart slowly started to calm down and I continued onwards to the bar when he went into the kitchen.
“You look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?” a deep voice asked.
I smiled at how coy and cute Daniel was being, but when I twirled it was none other than a complete stranger and my smile grew wider at the mistake. I started to go a bit red. “Oh, no, I don’t think so. Hello.”
“You here by yourself?” He leaned in closer, his bushy beard inches away from my face.
“Yeah—no, my girlfriends are out there,” I said, pointing to the back.
“Girlfriends, huh?” He wriggled his brows.
My cheeks tightened and lifted in disgust. Not at the thought of my girlfriends but at the thought of him with all of us. Is that weird? “Yeah,” I said. “The friends.” He knows what I mean, why am I even trying to clarify?
“I have to go,” I said.
“Well, here’s my card if you ever want to have some fun.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.” I bolted faster than Usain.
I thought the tap on the shoulder was him trying to catch up to me and give me his card, but I kept walking. Then I heard a hearty laugh. “Anna, it’s Daniel, wait up.”
I stopped in my tracks and he bumped into me, grunting. I turned around. “Hey,” I breathed.
He’d never looked better. Toner body, skin a healthy glow, dimples still popping behind the veil of sexy stumble, his brown hair shined as if he just got off the set of a Pantene commercial; I couldn’t believe how hot he looked and how much of him I had forgotten.
It was meeting him for the first time, again.