Okay guys. I'm not one to pander to the masses, but since so many of you asked, I'm giving another update tonight. DON'T think that this will happen all the time though, just because you ask. You guys are awesome; I think I have the best support system. So, thanks bunches to ALL of you, because I do appreciate it, more than you could possibly know!! This probably won't answer a lot of questions, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless....
Kelsey was right; eventually, I would learn to listen to my friends and the people around me who care about me. I think I know what's best for myself, but often I'm just too stubborn to realize that I really have no clue what I need. I drove into Pittsburgh and let Kels drive like she wanted to, as we picked up everyone and went out to Buca di Beppo at Station Square.
Kelsey was right; I deserved to have a good time. The past two weeks were stressful, and it felt good to let my hair down and relax with Véro, Kelsey, Heather, and Marc-André's sister Marylene, who fit right in with us. We ordered plates of food, all served family-style, and shared entrées as we shared stories and laughed. Marylene told us tales from Marc's past that Véro never told us, like when he got in trouble for egging a neighbor's house, and when he pissed off his coach in juniors by refusing to take statistics after he was pulled from the game.
"Are we talking about the same Marc-André Fleury? The super-nice guy I know with an easy and infectious smile?" I asked in semi-disbelief.
"One and the same," Véro laughed. "Those are probably the worst things he's ever done in his life."
"Yeah, he's my parents' dream child," Marylene said while rolling her eyes.
"We don't know where they went wrong with Mary," V added, and we all chuckled.
There was no hockey talk; we weren't The Girlfriends or a sister to a famous hockey player. We were just five girls, talking about life, drinking lots of Chianti, and gorging ourselves on plates of Italian goodness. They didn't bring up Sid, and I was silent but grateful to them for that. I had originally plotted to pick their brains for any information, but it felt good to kind of forget about that for a while. I had been wallowing alone all week. The girls were a great distraction.
This was the best I felt in all of the month of November. Until two thoughts popped into my head: first, that this wasn't the best I had felt, because that would have been after the Sharks game in San José with Sidney; and second, fuck! It was November, and Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away. My entire family was looking forward to meeting the first guy I had ever planned on bringing home to them. This was my chance to show my grandparents that I wasn't a lesbian. How was I going to explain that he wouldn't be coming after all?
Even though we had finally finished eating and it was after ten in the evening, the girls ordered another bottle of wine. Véro was refilling our glasses when I placed my hand over mine. "No more for me."
She pouted her lips. "Why not? We're having a good time! This is my birthday, a celebration! Don't ruin it."
"I'm not planning on ruining it," I replied. "And that's why I'm not going to overdo it. You don't want to see Drunk Noelle."
Heather smiled. "Now that you mention it, I think we do!"
"No. I'm either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. I'm either really affectionate and fun, or I'm a misanthropic ass." I laughed and added, "And on the really interesting nights, I'm both!"
"Well, now you have us really interested," Kelsey said. Before I could reply, my glass was full again. I shook my head but drank anyway, feeling slightly lightheaded. This was Véro's birthday, and I wouldn't put up too much of a fight if it would seriously upset her.
Birthdays are special. Celebrating a birthday is like saying to your friend, "Gee! I'm glad you were born, because my world is better with you in it." They should be the perfect days, and nothing should interfere with that. What Véro wanted, she would get today.
Heather asked, "So, V, what's the plan for tonight?"
"Dancing! When we go out with the boys, we're always on our best behavior. Tonight, we're gonna be regular girls and just have fun."
The waiter brought our check and flashed one more sexy smile, hoping to garner a big tip from his table of women. Heather, Kelsey, and I began to calculate in our heads how to split the bill four ways, so V wouldn't be expected to pay, but Marylene held up her hand. "It's on Marc, tonight. He said to tell you happy birthday," she explained, pulling out a wad of cash from her clutch.
We toasted Marc with our last sips of delicious Chianti, and we left Buca as we debated where to spend the rest of our evening.
"We could go to Zen. I hear that's fun."
"Nah, it's a social club, or something. You need to have a membership to get in."
"Oh. Uh, should I even say it? Diesel?"
"No!" we all yelled.
"Where do you wanna go, V?"
"I don't know," she said. "Somewhere different, low-key, and fun. We're just regular girls tonight."
"Shit, guys," Kelsey mumbled as she dug through her purse and her pockets. "I don't have my I.D. I didn't worry about it, because I knew I wouldn't be drinking. But I can't get into anywhere without it. We're going to have to stop back at my place."
V was already a little tipsy, and she said, "How could you forget your I.D.? It's like, essential for a night out."
"I know, I'm sorry. It'll take two seconds. Come on."
We all had to pile back into Kelsey's car anyway, so the night was taking a slight detour as she navigated through the streets and I found myself back in Tyler's neighborhood. As she pulls into the driveway, I see a lot of cars around, and I conclude that a bunch of the guys have gotten together at TK's while The Girlfriends were out of the house. I even see Sid's silver Range Rover, but I do my best not to think about it. They're probably playing poker or doing whatever they do, and all Kelsey has to do it run in and get her I.D. I won't have to see him.
Kelsey slid out of her seat. "It might take me a while to find it. I don't know where it is if it isn't in my wallet. Why don't you girls come in while I search for it?"
Fuck. Suddenly it dawned on me and I knew what was going on, and it was equally obvious to me that no one else did. Well, except for Kelsey, because she was in on it. I hung back, hesitant to join everyone else as they headed toward the house.
"I'm sorry but I couldn't tell you," Kelsey apologized. "But remember that today is about V, okay? Just stay a little while, smile, and then you can leave."
I nodded and followed, and I smiled and clapped as everyone in the house jumped up and yelled "Surprise!" as Véro walked in the door. And I kept that fake smile plastered on my lips as I spotted Sidney in the corner with Max, looking back at me with an odd expression.
V ran to Marc and captured him in a big hug, planting sloppy kisses all over his face. They were the perfect couple, and I knew that they deserved each other, but I couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy and regret. Sometimes, it's just not fair. I wanted that; I wanted what V and Marc shared. I thought I had it, but I guess I was wrong.
This was a simple house party, but everyone was having a blast. There were so many people I didn't know, probably V's friends from home. The music was playing loudly, people were dancing in the darkened living room, and an expansive bar was set up in the kitchen. I did my best to blend into the crowd as an anonymous face. I hung around on the perimeter of the makeshift dance floor, avoiding everyone's looks, especially Sid's. I don't know why he was looking at me, even with Marylene standing beside him and talking to him. When our eyes would meet, he'd quickly look away, just like I did, and neither of us made a move to speak to each other or come any closer. Regardless, it was stressful just to be around him, and I felt my anxiety level rise.
I tried to back out at leave early, but V told me she wanted me there, guilting me into staying by whining that it was her birthday, and she wanted her friends there. I was her friend, and so was Sid, so why couldn't we just get along together for one evening for her sake? So I tried. It was a jovial occasion, but I was the only person not having fun. Kelsey and Tyler, Heather and Jordan kept sneaking glances at me. I didn't want to ruin their good time by having them inquire after me and pay attention to my fragile emotional state. Today was V's day, and she was having fun with everyone else, and I certainly didn't want to ruin V's birthday party for everyone by being the party-pooper.
Then, again, I ruined everything: relationships, careers, lives... why stop at a party?
When I couldn't take it anymore, I looked for something to distract me or something to relieve the anxiety. I turned to the one thing that wouldn't judge me. Yes, I turned to alcohol, unsure which side of me would come out but not particularly caring either.
I went into the kitchen and found the expansive bar; more specifically, I found an opened bottle of Jack Daniels that had my name on it and reached for it, but I came into contact with another hand. "Charlotte, I didn't know you were here!"
"Yeah, well, I didn't know Max was going to be here. Marc told me this was a party for V, and if I had known, I wouldn't have showed up."
"You know, he's really trying to figure out what he did. What happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she snapped. "What about you and Sid? You guys are usually attached at the hip, and you haven't even spoken to him."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"It's settled then," Charlotte concluded. "There are some men you can't rely on. But there is one that has never let me down. And that's Jack. What do you say we get our drink on?"
I couldn't argue with that. We took turns gulping from the bottle. Luckily, I started out as Dr. Jekyll, the Affectionate Drunk Noelle. Charlotte and I started dancing in the kitchen before some guy with a lovely French accent and poor English grabbed me and pulled me into the dark living room. I looked back and saw Max approach Charlotte, and I knew that this fellow had been commissioned to lure me away so Max could finally get the answers he'd been searching for.
Not that I minded. Nothing was hotter than meeting a man who could only communicate with you through international body language. By now, I was feeling good, my anxiety having thawed, and I placed my hands on his shoulders. It was a fun song, "Love Drunk" by Boys Like Girls. His hands were on my sides, and he didn't look me in the eyes; he was too busy watching as I swiveled my hips in figure-eights in time with the pulsing beat of the music. I almost forgot the reason I had begun drinking so heavily in the first place.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I didn't even have to look to know it was Sid's because I just knew. I jerked away from his touch, but he didn't leave. Sid shot a look at my new French friend, who turned and abruptly left.
"What do you think you're doing?" I hissed at him. Goodbye Affectionate Noelle, hello Misanthropic Ass.
"Stop it. You're embarrassing yourself," he answered with a low voice.
"What the hell do you care about me for?"
"Fine. You're embarrassing me."
"Fuck you," I spat. How dare he approach me like this! He was the one that didn't call. It was over—what else was I supposed to think? And now he wanted to tell me what to do? I wasn't his girlfriend anymore, so I could do as I pleased without worrying how it affected him.
I spun on my heel and was gone. It was supposed to be a slick exit, but I stumbled as I moved too quickly. I walked back into the kitchen, only to see Max and Charlotte holding hands. I guess they had made up. If I had been in my right mind, I would have been happy for them. But I wasn't, so I grabbed the rest of the bottle of Jack and went outside into the cold November night air.
And that's the last thing I remember. I blacked out.
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