“Why don’t you just go fuck Rachel then?” she lectured with more than a hint of sarcasm.
Todd was disheveled. He had repeated the same sentence over and over despite receiving the same result on her end. On the verge of pulling his radiant hair out, he sighed in disbelief that this conversation was even happening. How did it come to this? How did it go from wine-mouthed laughter to confused and incessant pleading with one another after a Friendsgiving party?
“Rachel. Is. Just. A. Co. Worker,” Todd pleaded one last time.
The night began with the normal preparations for your typical Friendsgiving party. There was a turkey that no one would end up eating, a pie that no one would end up cutting, and a case of wine that would end up swept off the balcony by the wind while all the bottles made their way into the trash.
“Do you think we need more beer? We def need more beer. Let’s get more beer.”
From the living room, Todd called over while playing with Sperry. “I don’t think we need any more beer,” he responded. “We have a TON of beer. But like, I’m not opposed to having more, I just don’t think we need it.”
She knew he was right, but stressing about the beer was easier than stressing about what was actually bothering her. She knew where he was after the Sip & Paint class, but she didn’t know why he was there. She knew who he was with, but she didn’t know why he was with her.
Despite not talking to Todd all the next day after Caroline calmed her down on the phone, and then making up at breakfast on Saturday, her and Todd seemed to be back to normal. They had normal weeks — normal days at work, normal nights in, and even a normal lunch date on Wednesday when Todd had the day off for Veterans Day. But something was still awry, and it had nothing to do with anything except what had transpired the Wednesday before.
“Are you wearing that tonight?” she asked as he filled Sperry’s bowl with dry food.
“I think so. This is fine, right?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Both going back to their remedial tasks, there were no sounds but her Friendsgiving playlist, the buzzing of their phones, and finally (finally) a knock at the door from Caroline who came over early to help prepare (and “get to know” Todd better). After half-hugging, Caroline called Todd over to the kitchen to lift the turkey into the oven. She could do it herself, but she needed a way to get him to feel vulnerable under her terms, and she thought sticking him in the close-quartered kitchen was the perfect opportunity.
“Glass of wine?” he asked Caroline as she put on the chambray apron she had ordered from a small lifestyle blog over her chunky turtleneck sweater.
She obliged as she saw Todd drinking a seasonal beer from Michigan that the fridge was stocked with. “Holy shit, did y’all buy enough beer?” Caroline asked after opening the door and seeing the rows upon rows of bottles.
Her reaction broke the tension between the three, as they each relayed the story to Caroline of how she asked Todd if they should buy more. All laughing at the preposterousness of “needing more beer,” they continued working in the kitchen until everyone started to show up.
The table was set for a dozen people even though everyone was planning on Alex backing out as she normally does. The table, purchased on her dad’s American Express the last time he was in town for the weekend, looked like it had been transplanted from a Pinterest page to a metropolitan one-bedroom apartment. Tea lights, mason jars, gourds, water glasses with cinnamon sticks in them, and a new light fixture above that was simply singular light bulbs reminiscent of Thomas Edison’s time. If the table didn’t get complimented, the evening would go from bad to worse and she’d probably consider moving to another city where people actually appreciated her aesthetic.
After last week’s Text Conversation Heard ‘Round The World, Megan knew what she was walking into — “Ermahgerd! Lurve the table!” she said while Todd had a puzzled look on his face wondering why they all talk like that. Nonetheless, he smiled before heading to the door that had just received a stern knocking.
“Everyone, this is Chip and Rachel,” he said as two newcomers entered the apartment. “Chip played club with me at Michigan and I work with Rachel,” he further explained as they shook hands with everyone.
“Ugh, I love your apartment so much I could die,” Rachel complimented while Todd stood next to the hostess in the kitchen.
After smiling and expressing her thanks, she looked Rachel up and down thinking, “Those jeans with those boots? Puh-lease,” while Megan started asking Todd about his plans for Thanksgiving.
As the charcuterie board dwindled and it became time to sit down for the meal, a third of the case of wine had been exhausted and no one seemed to be slowing up. Everything was perfect from the temperature of the turkey to the intentionally mismatched silverware she had picked up from a boutique on fifth street.
She sat at the head of the table, Todd at the foot. Each had paired off with the people they knew best as to put them at ease, only making the other more uncomfortable as the night wore on. Todd had a sense that he was in trouble as he got a cold shoulder as he topped her wine off, while she focused her attention on Caroline and Megan in favor of Chip and Rachel.
“Should we go to Kilkenny’s after this?” was the question of the night despite everyone knowing that they’d end up at Kilkenny’s at the end of the night screaming the same songs as always.
She asked Todd to help with clearing the table, but not because she needed it. But to get him, again, in the kitchen where the vulnerability would set in when he least expected to be asked the question she’d wanted to ask since they walked in.
“Are you seriously asking me this? Like, is this a serious question?” Todd asked.
“Yes,” she shot back. “I know you had drinks with her last Wednesday. Now I just want to know if there’s anything going on between you two.”
Todd went on to explain that he never would have told her that he wasn’t at his apartment after Sip & Paint had he been “cheating” on her, but the story still didn’t take. When she called him that night after unexpectedly showing up at his apartment, he didn’t answer his phone the first seven times she called because his phone was facedown on the table during his drinks with Rachel. When he finally called and explained what he was doing, she was already in an Uber on the phone with Caroline.
“We are not having this conversation right now,” Todd remarked as he walked back into the dining room. Ultimately, they had been in the kitchen long enough and people had to wonder what was going on. This wasn’t an episode of Frasier — they couldn’t just have a serious and loud conversation in the kitchen expecting no one to hear.
Everyone started to make their way into the living room for a traditional game of drunken charades where a glass of wine was begging to be spilled on her slipcovered eggshell couch from Pottery Barn.
She could hardly scribble her notes as it was clear Todd just didn’t want to be there anymore. Todd, a closet drunken smoker, decided to get a breath of air outside on the balcony while everyone else chose the teams. She followed him, and both of them knew why.
As he shut the door behind them, Todd asked a question he had wanted to ask since the dinner started — “If this was going to go this way, why the hell did you ask me to invite them to Friendsgiving?”
“I asked you to invite them before I knew you had drinks with her on Wednesday night,” she quipped back as to not talk too loud for fear of people realizing they were in a fight.
Todd knew in his head that the conversation couldn’t last longer than his cigarette, but deep down, they both knew it would because his story just wasn’t sticking. She didn’t care that they had worked late on a project and needed a celebratory drink for finishing early. She didn’t care that Chip had just gotten Rachel’s ring size in preparation for a Christmas break engagement. And most of all, she didn’t care about Todd’s pleas to go back inside.
Timid, Caroline poked her head out to let them know that the Uber would be arriving for Kilkenny’s in 8 minutes. It was more of a gesture of good will than an actual “hurry up and let’s go” conversation, and their response was lackluster at best. As Caroline shut the door, she turned around to the rest of the room and mouthed, “Let’s go” before putting on her new camel coat.
And there they stood on the balcony, having the same conversation, over and over, about what Todd and Rachel “were” while everyone drunkenly trickled out one by one. .
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