Caroline and Megan arrived early at Luxxe to set up for the 14-person reservation that had been on the books since November. They had rented out a private room in the back of the restaurant, which essentially meant they had to meet a minimum on vodka drinks while simultaneously being as loud as they wanted through the night, to their waiter’s dismay.
As they set up each place setting with the crowns and gift bags, Caroline confirmed with Megan that Alex was indeed coming.
“She told me last night that she and Trip would be here,” Caroline assured her.
“Ugh, not another fucking Trip,” Megan said reluctantly. “Didn’t we get enough of those in college?”
Todd had left work early that day to ensure everything was in order for the night. Spending most of the week in a panic because he had yet to buy a gift, he overspent at Nordstrom the Wednesday before on a handbag that he (and she) thought was a bit ridiculous for the price. Stopping by his place to shower and pick up the box so he could arrive at her apartment by six for pre-dinner drinks, he poured himself a drink to take the edge off.
He arrived at her apartment seemingly early, as the only noise made when he opened the door with his key was Sperry’s paws scurrying to welcome him. With an oversized Nordstrom bag and a bottle of red wine in tow, he unloaded it all on her new Restoration Hardware dining table before setting everything up in anticipation for her arrival.
The Luxxe reservation wasn’t until 7:30, so there was still two hours to kill before they’d even need to leave.
Todd’s phone began to buzz, almost missing the call while trying to ensure the wine glasses didn’t have any water spots on them from the dishwasher.
“I’ll be home in, like, two minutes,” she said out of breath. “It’s freezing out here. I don’t even want to do this dinner anymore, I just want to cuddle up inside.” They both knew that wasn’t true considering the effort and expectations this dinner had already commanded.
When she finally arrived home and took her coat off, she noticed the table — wine poured, the bag sitting perfectly in the middle, and a small cheese plate that Todd had clearly not put together himself as it was still on the plastic plate it came with from Whole Foods.
“Todd! You didn’t have to do all this!” she exclaimed. But Todd knew that he did, in fact, have to do that. They hugged before she hurriedly told him that she needed to get ready for fear of being late for her own birthday dinner. Knowing that there was still an hour and a half until the dinner began, Todd sat on her couch while she spent the next hour and fifteen minutes in the bathroom “putting her face on.”
“Can you call an Uber?” she asked as Todd poured the last of his wine into both of their glasses. He called a black car for the special occasion, which he notified her would be there in five minutes. But after making the driver wait for an additional five minutes after he’d arrived, they were finally en route to the dinner where everyone had already taken their seats.
“Heyyy, I think all my friends are in the back for my birthday dinner,” she told who she thought was the hostess, but was actually just a girl waiting near the entrance of the restaurant. She peeked through the door of the private room and everyone cheered for her while a barrage of “happy birthday” shouts filled the room with an overwhelming volume. Todd mouthed, “What the fuck” to Katie’s husband, Finn, because they could barely hear their own thoughts with the screeches of false excitement for the $120 per head dinner.
When the dust settled and they all decided to sit down at the long table, she had to ask — “Shit, who isn’t here yet?”
Caroline perked up, “Oh, Alex just texted me and she said she’s on her way with Trip.”
“Oh, God, another one?” she laughed. Todd had no idea what they were referring to, remaining unconcerned over any previous hook-ups that she or her friends had prior to his entrance into their friend group.
The private waiter took the appetizer order from Megan — “Two orders of brussel sprouts, the charcuterie board, bacon-wrapped dates, and two California rolls for the table to split.”
The waiter exited the “private” room, which actually wasn’t as private as anyone would think. The glass walls exposed them to the rest of the restaurant, so it acted as more of a terrarium than a VIP lounge.
The first round of drinks went down quickly before Katie pitched the idea of doing bottles of wine for the remainder of the dinner. They ordered four bottles of the second-cheapest Pinot Noir that the waiter knew was actually worse than the cheapest Pinot Noir. He said nothing and went to the cellar to fetch everything.
“Alex better get here soon,” Todd said to Finn behind the hand shielding his mouth. “What is she thinking being this late?” Finn laughed in agreement knowing exactly what he was talking about.
But on the opposite side of the table that faced the rest of the restaurant floor, everyone saw the front door of the restaurant open. Their eyes grew wide and their faces turned immediately white. Todd saw her face and decided to turn around to see what their side of the table was looking at.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” Todd asked.
She looked at him and said slowly, “Are. You. Fucking. Kidding.”
Standing up from the table, Katie and Caroline exited the private room to go greet Alex at the hostess stand.
“Oh, fuck,” Finn said between drinks.
“Am I missing something here?” Todd asked, comforting his visibly distressed girlfriend.
“Did Alex seriously bring my ex-fucking-boyfriend to my birthday dinner?” she asked Victoria, who remained speechless.
Todd finally started putting the pieces together. “Oh, shit, you dated him?” he clarified, before realizing he should’ve never asked the question he already knew the answer to.
Instead of answering, she stood up from the table and went to the bathroom. Todd began to stand up with her before Victoria shook her head at him and mouthed for him to sit down. “I’ll handle this,” Victoria clarified as she stood up and followed quickly behind to the ladies room.
Todd looked over at Finn. “Dude, she dated him in college for, like, two years before he broke up with her when he moved to Geneva for his job. I mean, I wouldn’t worry about the guy, but it’s just clearly a little uncomfortable.”
“Yeah, I mean,” Todd began, “I don’t really care. I’ve got ex-girlfriends I definitely don’t want her knowing about.” They both half-heartedly laughed before everyone Katie, Caroline, Alex, and Trip entered the private room which remained uncomfortably silent as they sat down.
Todd still wondered if he needed to get up and sort things out, but decided acting ignorant was more prudent in the situation. He shook Trip’s hand and gave a steady, “Nice to meet you, man,” before sitting back down.
Meanwhile, Victoria drunkenly guided her friend from the bathroom back to the room. “I’m fine,” she clarified with Victoria, “Everything is fine.”
The birthday girl sat down at the opposite side of the table. She looked over to the previously empty seats, which had now been filled by the elephants in the room. “Hi, Alex,” she said with a fake smile. “Trip, wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.” The room grew more uncomfortable than it had already been, Todd readjusting in his seat and putting his arm on the back of his girlfriend’s chair.
The waiter returned with the wine and allowed the birthday girl the first sip to ensure it was okay. She looked up at him with a drunken smirk on her face — “It’s not very sweet, is it? Pretty dry and bleh, so it’ll be in good company at this table.”
Victoria’s eyes darted towards Alex and Trip while she held back a laugh before turning her head to make sure she wasn’t going to spit her wine out all over the table linen. Alex looked at Trip with a disgusted look on her face and whispered, “Are you fucking kidding me?” before putting her napkin on the table. She stood up and signaled for Trip to do the same.
Alex approached the head of the table and said, “You know, I think we’re just going to leave.”
While Todd remained silent and unsure whether or not he should stand up and bid them farewell, his decision was made for him as he looked over to hear his girlfriend say, “You know, I think that’s probably a good idea,” before pursing her lips and squinting her eyes in Alex’s direction. Todd put his hand on her leg to make sure everything was okay while the waiter stood uncomfortably between the two parties.
“So…do we just need twelve glasses now instead of fourteen?” he chimed in as Alex and Trip closed the door.
“Yeah, that’ll be fine,” Todd assessed while everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “Actually, on second thought, I’ll just have a vodka soda.”
He looked over to see crowned newly-turned 25-year-old was doing before she peered at the waiter and said, “I’ll do the same. But on second thought, make mine a double.” .
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