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Todd walked through the door a touch after 6 o’clock with his bag thrown over his shoulder and his sunglasses on. Upon taking them off, he looked at their apartment and noticed it was notably cleaner than when he left it that morning.
“Place looks great, babe,” he told her.
With her head buried into her tasks in the kitchen, she didn’t turn to acknowledge that he had entered the apartment or even make eye contact. “Thanks,” she muttered. “I had the maid come and tidy up so it would look at least presentable for tonight.
Their apartment was spotless, except for the kitchen. On the island between the stove and the living room rested two cases of wine, one of which was from their wine club subscription and the other she had picked up from a cellar about fifteen blocks north. Between their sink and oven, she hovered over a large cutting board that Todd theorized she had bought that day purely for the party. In plastic bags and saran wrap next to the board sat a plethora of food – grapes, cheeses, and high-end deli meat that neither of them could properly pronounce.
“Ohh, that looks good,” Todd said as he approached her.
“Don’t you even dare eat any of this before people get here,” she told him, knife in hand.
Fervently, she began attempting to arrange the meats and cheeses in what appeared to be a presentable way. Several times, she would completely remove the meat and cheese from the board and reposition it hoping it would magically look nicer. And after about ten minutes of watching, Todd asked, “Is it really that important?”
“Todd, you just don’t get it,” she explained. “This looks like shit.”
He reached into one of the boxes and pulled out a bottle of red wine. He looked at the label and realized that this particular bottle was from the cellar and not from their subscription. “Ohhh, this looks pretty good,” he remarked while reaching for the corkscrew.
“Ugh, Todd, seriously,” she pleaded. “Please stop. Save that for the party and drink a bottle that we already have open. I didn’t buy $40 bottles of wine so we could drain them before anyone even got here.”
“Forty dollars?” he thought to himself while calculating the rest of the box. He considered asking who was going to pay for the case of wine, but using his better judgment, he decided against it and thought it best to wait until the next day.
He decided to ask if there was anything he could help with before everyone showed up at 7 o’clock. Upon asking, he had to ask again because she had been distracting herself with attempts to Snapchat her seemingly completed cheeseboard that (to Todd, at least) just looked like a pile of food with name tags stuck into each of the cheeses.
Looking deeply into her phone, still not having made eye contact with him, she finally answered – “I guess you can light all the candles. I look like shit and still have to get dressed before everyone arrives.”
Looking at his watch, Todd mentally registered that forty-five minutes was more than enough time for her to get ready for the simple cocktail party that she had talked herself into having after word got out that Alex and Trip had scheduled their own party for that night (and didn’t invite them).
“Todd, I need to take a body shower and steam my new blouse,” she began. “Can you make sure the baked brie is out of the oven in fifteen minutes? The wine needs to be put away on the rack and we should have at least three different bottles open for when people arrive. All the glasses are still packed away in a box in the pantry, so those are going to need to get unpacked and washed because, like, ew. I couldn’t figure out how to work the Bluetooth on the stereo, so I need you to sort that out too. I made a playlist on our Spotify account called ‘Summer Breeze’ so just put that one and make sure it’s not too loud. Caroline always shows up early, so if she does, ask her to help you turn on the Christmas lights on the porch because sometimes they’re a bitch. And change out of that shirt. It’s so wrinkled.”
Todd looked at her with a shell-shocked face. “Okay,” he responded as she closed the bathroom door and began running the shower. He walked from the kitchen to their bedroom where a shirt was already set out of for him on their bed. “Well,” he thought, “I guess this is what I’m wearing tonight.” He put it on and headed back to the kitchen to check on the brie, which appeared to be smoking.
“Fuck,” he muttered as he opened the oven and took it out. Setting it on the stove, he looked at it closely and had no idea if it was undercooked, overcooked, or perfect. He checked his watch – 6:37 p.m. He grabbed her phone from the island counter and entered the passcode, immediately noticing that she didn’t even have her Bluetooth turned on. He walked over to the stereo and ensured it was on, setting the volume on 17.
“Alright, now for the Christmas lights,” he said while pouring a glass of wine out of one of the three bottles he had opened and set on the bar. He opened the sliding screen door and saw the plug resting over one of the wicker chairs. He grabbed it, plugged it into their outdoor outlet, and each light illuminated perfectly. Looking at his watch again, he saw 6:52 and could hear her still getting ready in the bathroom.
Todd’s mental checklist appeared to be completed, so he made his way to the cheeseboard and made himself a cracker sandwich with smoked gouda and prosciutto.
“Todd!” he heard from afar. “Not. Until. Everyone. Gets. Here.”
He rolled his eyes as a knock on the door interrupted the impending dispute over cheese and crackers.
“Ugh,” she groaned. “It must be fucking Caroline, I’ll get it.”
Todd took his glass of wine and sat on a chair in the living room while she approached the door. As she opened the door, both she and Caroline let out unintelligible screeching before hugging. Caroline had a bottle of wine in hand (“You didn’t have to do that!” she told her) and John carried a canvas bag with some type of appetizer inside. As Caroline entered, she complimented her blouse (“Oh, this old thing?”) and commented on how great their new apartment had come together.
“Ugh, this place is a mess,” she responded. “I didn’t have time to clean up anything before the party, but oh well.”
John approached Todd in the living room and they shook hands.
“What’s up, buddy?” John asked.
“Same shit,” Todd said. “Different day.” .