[This is what I do on Valentine’s Day: write slightly bitchy, super short stories about being single and rubbing the benefits of being so in the faces of Smug Marrieds. Sometimes I’m an ahole.
No matter how you’re spending today: I hope it’s a good one. Love you all, Xxx Bex.]
Ashley had spent the better part of the evening being insufferable. The Bates were very good friends of hers, but Jenny nearly drove a butter knife into their dining room table to keep from lobbing the thing at her sister-in-law’s face. How her brother had married the biggest bitch from their high school graduating class was completely lost on Jenny. But Jared was his own person, just because they shared a womb didn’t make them telepathic (although, how cool would that have been?).
“Would anyone care for some coffee, or tea?” asked Wendy Bates, the perfect hostess.
Jenny often told her friend how insanely unfair it was that she should be as gracious, smart, and beautiful as she was when the rest of them were so clumsy, inarticulate, and messy. Wendy always laughed and told Jenny to stop being silly.
Wendy and her husband, Mark, had grown up in the same neighborhood as Jenny and Jared. The four of them hadn’t always gotten along, but, by some miracle had remained close ever since Jenny and Wendy teamed up in the third grade to push Jared and Mark into the river behind the old mechanic’s garage. Somehow that moment was a young Wendy’s way of telling Mark she was going to spend the rest of their lives pushing him into things he’d rather not find himself immersed in. But because it was Wendy he never minded what sort of shenanigans she got him into.
Jenny loved her friends.
They were one of the only sets of married friends she had who didn’t make her feel like some sort of third wheel. Jared came in a close second, but Ashley made Jenny feel like she was persona non grata anytime they were together. Including, but not limited to, Ashley and Jared’s wedding (at which Jenny was the Best Man), joint birthday parties for the brother and sister, and family holidays. Jenny’s one vicious triumph came from the fact that Ashley and Jared’s kids were already calling Jenny their “fun auntie”.
“Oh, yes, please,” said Ashley with a slight yawn. “I’m probably going to be the one driving home tonight, thanks to Mr-I’ll-Have-Another-Scotch over here.” Ashley poked her bony elbow into her husband’s ribs. “And, Sylvie will probably still be awake when we get home. We have the neighbor girl watching them,” she said in a stage whisper to Shelley MacIntosh who happened to be sitting near her. Shelley smiled politely and made awkward eye contact with Jenny.
“Are the neighborhood kids as reliable babysitters as they were when we were kids?” asked Ricky MacIntosh, jokingly.
“Not at all,” replied Ashley as seriously as she assumed Ricky was being. “I don’t trust this girl as much as I do other babysitters.”
“Like Jenny,” said Jared, aware his friend had been joking, but also wanting to give his sister the praise his wife never would. “Sylvie is always passed out when Jenny watches them.”
“What’s your secret?” asked Ricky straight up mocking now.
“Sugar crash,” replied Jenny sipping her brother’s scotch before handing it to him.
“What!?” cried Ashley, ready to believe it so she’d have an excuse to stop having Jenny over to watch the kids.
“She’s joking, sweetheart,” Jared assured his wife. “Knowing Jenny she plays really loud music and makes the kids dance until they’re too tired to move.”
“And what makes you so sure?” asked Mark.
“Because that’s how she always tricked our little cousins into going to bed whenever they insisted they weren’t tired.”
“And Jared, more than a few times,” added his sister, with a wicked grin.
“Is this true, Jared?” asked Ricky. “Did you have epic DPs with your sister?”
“How do you think I stayed in shape for football over the summers?”
“Certainly wasn’t from working out,” interjected Wendy returning with cups of coffee.
“Thanks, Wen,” said Jared with a grin.
“You danced your cute butt off with us every weekend. Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it.” This time Wendy had the grin.
Ashley was also smiling; Jenny could almost smell the smoke emanating from her ears. Jenny turned to Shelley.
“How’s your sister doing with the wedding planning?”
“Melanie’s driving me insane,” said Shelley sweetly. Jenny smiled. Shelley was her sister’s maid of honor, and helping her plan the wedding. “Even Mom is getting annoyed. Every time I’m over there to work on the arrangements Mom has an entire pitcher of vodka martinis waiting and ready.”
“Why?” asked Wendy. “What is she doing?”
“Remember that Oxygen movie with Laura Prepon and Princess Leia and Not Hot Hispanic guy?”
“The one where the Bridezilla wakes up married to some Mexican kid after catching her husband in bed with the wedding planner and drinking too much tequila?” asked Jenny.
“Yeah, that one,” confirmed Ricky. Jenny smiled at him, amused.
“She’s actually worse than that girl,” whispered Shelley. “I almost wish she would catch Tony in bed with the wedding planner so we could end this nightmare.”
Ashley’s eyebrows practically flew off her face, she raised them so quickly. Jenny wondered if those muscles could get whiplash.
“Aren’t you the wedding planner?” asked Mark saucily.
“Oh! No!” cried Shelley, realizing the implication. “I didn’t mean me!”
“We know what you meant, sweets,” said Jenny playfully pulling her friend’s hair. She hoped the light teasing would stop the ideas she could see turning around in Ashley’s brain. Obviously Shelley didn’t want to sleep with her little sister’s fiance. First of all, Shelley, who liked everyone, enjoyed her future brother-in-law less than she enjoyed planning his wedding with her uptight, type A little sister. Secondly, Shelley was way too nice to screw over someone she liked less than her little sister, whom, incidentally, she loved fiercely.
“What about you, Jenny?” asked Ashley who could no longer sit around not speaking. “Are you seeing any one? It’s almost Valentine’s Day, you know.”
“Do those go together?” asked Mark.
The women ignored him.
“No, I’m not seeing anyone currently. I’m sure you would have heard, if I were. You know my mother, can’t keep the murderer on last night’s Law & Order secret.”
“Who taught her how to text?” interrupted Jared. “I tell her I’m recording it and yet she’s always texting asking if I can believe the killer was so-and-so!”
“I blame Dad,” answered Jenny.
Ashley had a well constructed expression of confusion on her face.
“You’re not seeing anyone?” she asked again.
“No, Ash, I’m not dating anyone.”
“I could have sworn Tammy said she saw you at The Wildwood with a young man.”
“Probably not,” said Jenny, a hard edge to her voice.
“Jenny hates The Wildwood,” added Jared.
“Maybe it wasn’t The Wildwood. But I’m sure, Tammy said she saw you last weekend at dinner somewhere with a young man. Chez Antoine’s? No, that wasn’t it.”
“Tammy often mistakes me for that Laurie girl from the Leicester debate team who married then divorced April Bishop last year. It may have been her she saw,” said Jenny breezily. She turned back to Wendy and asked about a new piece of art in the hall.
“No, I know,” said Ashley before Wendy could answer. “It was last Thursday at that new Creole place in Bolton: Limyè.”
“So it was a date?” asked Ashley innocently.
“No. It wasn’t.”
“Why would you think it was a date?”
“Something Tammy said,” said Ashley evasively. And then Jenny remembered what Tammy, Ashley, and her dinner companion all had in common.
“She told you who I was there with, didn’t she?”
“I don’t remember…”
“Yes, you do.”
If Ashley had, like she’d always wanted, the ability to shoot death rays from her eyes, Jenny would have been incinerated on the spot.
“Who were you at dinner with?” Jared asked his sister.
Feeling like a colossal jerk, Jenny smiled kindly at her brother.
“That’s my business, brother dear.” She turned back to Wendy, determined to salvage the pleasant evening. “You got that painting at the auction last month?”
The following hour and a quarter went smoothly. The friends engaged in happy conversation about current events, politics, and the Olympics. Jenny and the men swirled their scotch and waters and discussed hockey while the women discussed the handsome ski jumper from that snowy country they couldn’t remember the name of and the ice dancers costumes from the night before. Finally it was time for everyone to go.
“Time to get back to the children, hubby,” crooned Ashley when Jenny appeared with her coat and purse. “So stressful, isn’t it, parenthood?” said Ashley to Shelley whose perfect two year old had probably been sound asleep for the sitter for at least two hours.
“Not really,” said Shelley, sweetly.
“Wait till they get older. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with Tyler. He has so much energy.”
“He’s a big fan of P!nk,” pipped up Jenny. “Boy could dance to her all night long.”
Ashley smiled like she was holding in a fart. Ashley had aired loud opinions Senior year when Jenny, Wendy, Mark, Ricky, and Jason Marquez went to a P!nk concert instead of attending the Senior Reception. It didn’t help that Ashley, who never didn’t have a date to any event, had the biggest schoolgirl crush on Jason Marquez. Her sense of self-entitlement and superiority to the loud-mouthed, tomboy Jenny Davis made it impossible for her to understand how Jason Marquez could possible prefer Jenny’s company to hers. He was far too handsome and destined for success later in life to waste his time with the geeky, crass, unwashed, ready to skip very important events Jenny Davis. He ought to, she was sure, be spending time with a like-minded, ambitious, regularly showered girl like herself who saw the value of traditions like the Senior Reception.
But everything worked out in the end. Jared Davis proved to be as successful as everyone thought Jason Marquez was going to be; plus, he went to school on a football scholarship and very successfully obtained his MBA. But Jenny was still a force to be reckoned with.
“Jenny, I don’t really think P!nk is appropriate for young children.”
“Come on, Ash,” said her husband. “You play the clean versions, right?”
“Of course! You can look over the playlist anytime you want Ashley. I promise there’s nothing inappropriate for Tyler and Sylvie on there.”
“Oh, I trust you, Jenny,” condescension dripped from each of Ashley’s words. “Jared, we really must be going. Home. To our house. And our children.”
“Thanks for a lovely evening,” said Jenny to Wendy and Mark. “I really must be off as well. I’ve allotted at least an hour before bed for drinking red wine and soaking, uninterrupted, in the tub. Talk to you soon, bro,” she added to Jared, and sailed out the door.