Our Playlist Would Be Sick
The three-foot tall snowy centerpieces were a bit much, even for Mindy's grandiose taste.
It had the inherent benefit of blocking her view of Peter, who was entertaining Jeremy with his third round of Dom DeLuise impressions. However, Mindy believed there was such a thing as overkill and, to her, the cluster of hydrangeas, tall, icy branches, dripping crystals, unidentifiable white berries, and snow-dusted pine cones all came together to create a cacophony of crap. The look reeked of a young, overzealous bride with a pushover of a husband-to-be and a bottomless budget. Looking at the newly wedded couple, watching the almost nubile woman hand feed Dr. Thacker coconut-crusted shrimp, she concluded that her assessment wasn't too far off. Yes, these were her centerpieces, this was her wedding, and Mindy assumed that their new home would be decorated with the same mix of tacky and expensive. A part of her wished she could approach this whole union with a little more romantic optimism, but she gathered that she might have exhausted all hope for Dr. Thacker's marital bliss on his last wedding…or it may have been the one prior to that. She wasn't sure.
A grumble muffled by a crusty dinner roll broke through her train of thought.
"Nuffin' about thith wedding mak'sh any sen'sh." Mindy turned her head to her right to find Danny setting the remainder of his roll on a small plate while reaching for his wine. She scowled.
"Okay, chew, swallow, then speak," she instructed with a tone of disgust.
Unfazed, Danny sipped his wine and swallowed his food. "I said, nothing about this wedding makes any damn sense." He used the hand gripping his wine glass to gesture towards the overall aesthetic. "I can't believe Terry actually agreed to this. Winter Wonderland? That's an actual theme that people choose? We live in New York. What exactly is there to still wonder about winter? If she wanted snow, all she had to do was wait a month. She'd be waist-deep in the real stuff."
"Oh yes, Danny, sticky, dirty sludge positively screams romance," Mindy replied with an eye roll. "And Terry's freshly botoxed face is currently being fed by a child bride who just earned the right to buy beer on her own. He would have agreed to just about anything to get to this moment."
Danny shrugged and returned to his final shreds of beef. "You might be right. God, he's such a pervy moron. And these wives keep getting younger and younger."
"Danny, you barely like him. Why do you keep coming to his weddings?"
"Because the food is always great, his bar is always stocked with the good stuff, and he's starting to talk retirement," he explained, ticking each point off on one of his fingers. "And it wouldn't hurt for him to remember how all of his buddies at Shulman and Associates were there during all three of the most important days of his life when he starts referring his patients. Why do you come?"
"Well, at this point it's safe to assume he has an excellent cake guy," Mindy said with a nudge of her chin towards the cake display. "I can identify that satiny frosting in a line-up. This is the only place where I can get a slice of Trulio Bakery's cake without having to trek all the way to the other side of the city and pay ten dollars a slice. And yeah, the booze thing."
She lifted her own glass of pinot grigio and lightly clinked it with Danny's before taking another look around the venue. With a little bit of editing from a decent coordinator, Mindy thought, the theme could have actually been kind of romantic. Cozy cuddling, kissing under a light snowfall...
"So how long do you think this one will last?" Danny asked in a low tone while leaning towards her. Though Mindy would usually deem this kind of guessing game callous (especially when played within close proximity to the couple in question), she considered their host.
"Well, this woman - Naomi, is it? - is doing a much better job of at least pretending to be in love with him. Remember the last one, Sasha? She literally rolled her eyes during the vows and managed to stick with him for a little over a year. Naomi looks like she might have a little more fight in her. Three years, maybe? God, his prenup must be iron-clad, or else his bank account would have been drained two wives ago."
Rather than expound on her guess, Danny sadly shook his head. "That poor, dumb sonofabitch."
"Why do you think he keeps doing this to himself? And in such an elaborate, public manner?"
He drained his glass before setting it down and lightly tracing the rim. "Because underneath his gross, semi-predatory nature I think Terry is a man who actually believes that true love exists. Love has to be the only thing that could influence someone to subject themselves to that type of humiliation over and over again. I can't really fault him, though, if that's the case."
Hearing Danny actually talk about love brought a surprised smile to Mindy's face. "Danny, you big softie!"
Mindy poked his side playfully. "Listen to you, you undercover romantic!"
"Hey, I can be romantic, if need be," he countered defensively, catching Mindy's finger to prevent her from further pestering. "Just because I'm not standing outside of some woman's window while holding a stereo over my head nightly, doesn't mean - OUCH! Why'd you pinch me?!"
Mindy's forefinger and thumb were still in the pinching position when she answered. "Because you lied to me when I asked you if you'd ever seen Say Anything!"
"I did not!" Danny attempted to pinch her back. "I hadn't seen it when you asked! It was on last weekend in the lounge, though, so I watched for a while. The one girl didn't seem worth all the trouble to me. I didn't get it."
"Oh, geez." With that, the DJ began to play music that thumped through the surround sound system with purpose. The drunken, enthusiastic cries of the youthful bridesmaids rang through the crowd as they made their way around their table towards the dance floor. Considering the constricting nature of their mermaid-style light blue dresses and the their liberal consumption of alcohol throughout the dinner, the young women were moving quite impressively. This wasn't lost on Peter nor Jeremy, who immediately left the table to join the fray of tipsy potential dates. Mindy groaned at the sight.
"Dammit!" she hissed. "Can't Peter just be a reliable wedding partner for once?!"
"Why do you say that?" Danny turned to her with a confused dip of his eyebrows. "Is he your date?"
"Oh God, no," she blanched. "But he was my ride here...and I assumed that he'd be my ride home, but my guess is that he's gonna scam on those poor girls until one of them decides to go home with him. Then I'll be left in the dust. He's totally paying my cab fare home, if that's how he's going to be."
Danny took a moment to consider Mindy's plight, then said, "Well, why don't we just bypass the awkwardness altogether and I can give you a ride home? That frees him up to be a creep and you won't have to ride with a stranger all the way back to the city."
With a warm grin, Mindy placed a kind hand on the crook of Danny's elbow. "That's a really kind gesture, Danny. Thank you. I promise to only control the radio for the second half of the ride."
"That's thoughtful of you."
Danny shook his head, but the tiny smirk on his lips was not to be missed.
The party progressed with more buzzy music, embarrassing speeches from the best man (riddled with jokes about failed marriages - very awkward, indeed) and the maid of honor (containing more stories from their sorority days than Mindy thought was necessary), and the cutting of the cake.
"Finally!" Mindy squealed as she was served her slice. Grabbing the nearest fork, she dug in with little reservation. After taking the first bite, she hummed around the tines of her fork. "Amaretto. Damn, Terry knows his cake."
She looked over to find Danny taking a bite, as well. Though he wasn't quite as emphatic as her, she recognized the nod of approval. "Yeah, you're right. This is pretty good cake. Hey, where are Peter and Jeremy?"
"Ugh. Do you honestly want to know at this point?"
"No, I guess not," he conceded. "I say if they don't turn up in half an hour, we get their cake."
They smiled at their solidarity in the matter, then returned to their dessert. Mindy ran the tip of her utensil through the remaining frosting. "You know, if I ever get married, I'm definitely going to Trulio's for my cake. I might even steal the design from the last wedding! It was so gorgeous."
Danny slowly looked around the venue, taking everything in, then returned his attention to his friend. "You know, I could easily picture you having a wedding like this. The sparkly dress, the fancy lights, jewels everywhere..."
"Gross!" Mindy cried. "Not this wedding! Have a little more faith in me than that. I would never be this ostentatious!"
"Yes, you would!" he challenged. "You're the one who once said you wanted actors dressed as angels literally dangling from the rafters!"
"No, I said I saw it in a Tyler Perry movie one time and thought it looked cool! I wouldn't actually do it!"
"No...unless you're volunteering to be one of my angels, then by all means..."
"Ha ha," he replied. "Well, maybe you'd approach the whole thing with much better taste...but still, I can imagine that your day will be a big one...and I'm sure it'll be really beautiful."
Looking at his face, Mindy could easily spot the sincerity. Not only was she touched, but she was suddenly very glad that they had the table to themselves.
"Thank you, Danny." She gave him a soft smile and was happy to see him return it with one of his own.
Almost instantly, the atmosphere changed with the beginning chords of an older Michael Buble ballad. Mindy's eyes lit up with recognition. "I love this song so much! It's been so long!"
"You should go out there and dance, then," Danny suggested with a lazy point of his finger towards the dance floor.
Mindy tilted her head incredulously and narrowed her eyes at her friend. "By myself? How do you see that working?"
Despite the automatic roll of his eyes, Danny stood up and offered an outstretched hand to her. "You know, all you had to do was ask if you wanted to dance with me that badly."
"Oh, don't you start," she warned, though she tried to suppress a grin as she placed her hand in his and allowed him to pull her to her feet. He laughed as he led her to the crowded dance floor, easily finding a vacant spot. Once satisfied, he turned towards her and deposited the hand he was holding onto his shoulder. Then, he gently held onto her waist while his free hand carefully took possession of hers. They fell into a shockingly comfortable sway. As they slowly rotated, Mindy caught sight of the newlyweds and for a brief moment, she thought she saw a spark of mutual love between them. It was enough to dull some of the edges off of her skepticism.
"Danny, do you think you'll ever get remarried?" she asked, her eyes still trained on the couple for a few seconds before she looked back at her dancing partner. A part of her expected an enthusiastic denial, but she was surprised to see him genuinely consider her question.
"Possibly," he answered. "I'm not sure there would be a need for another fancy wedding, though."
"Really? But you have so much more money now! Your second wedding could be ten times better than your first!"
"So? Just seems like a waste of money for something my family's already seen."
"Oh, God," Mindy groaned. "We could never get married."
As soon as the assertion left her lips, she immediately realized how that sounded, like it was something she had thought about before. In reality, she had considered the scenario only a little more with Danny than she had with other men within the practice. Even though she had long concluded that she and Danny would have a far better chance than she and any of the other men in her life, Mindy had no intention of providing him with that information.
But as surprised as she was by her own runaway tongue, she was more taken aback by his lack of a fully deserved freak-out. Instead, he looked a combination of amused and mildly offended.
"Oh, really? Why not?"
Rather than question it, Mindy opted to play along. "Because you'd push for something super lame, like getting married at the courthouse during our lunch break, all in the name of thriftiness."
"Hey, I wouldn't be cheap about everything!" he defended, though his eyes still betrayed a mischievous glint. "I'd spring for extra meat on your sandwich from the deli next door afterwards."
"And I would take that sandwich in a heartbeat, but I'd still demand a gorgeous wedding, Castellano."
Danny laughed. "Okay, okay, for you…I'd compromise a little bit. I'd agree to a nicer wedding, but the ceremony would have to be in a Catholic church and I wouldn't want more than, like, 30 guests."
"Mindy, no! 50."
"70, and no unwanted courtesy invites."
Danny considered her counteroffer, then acquiesced. "Okay, fine. But none of your really annoying exes. No Josh."
Mindy nodded in agreement. "He's out. And you can't invite Eyepatch. I can't risk any of the guests looking hotter than me."
"I doubt that that's something you'd even have to truly worry about," he assured her, "but it's your day, so no Eyepatch."
Mindy rewarded him with a glowing smile. "Wow, you really do know how to compromise! Okay, I would promise not to go for any of the trendy cake flavors, so no red velvet."
Danny tipped his head. "I'd appreciate that. There's nothing wrong with classic wedding cake…though that amaretto flavor was a good one. I could get on board with that."
At some point during their exchange they had managed to near a little closer to each other. The hand that was once on Mindy's was now closer to the base of her spine and their entwined hands were now resting against his chest. They continued to sway, but their movement wasn't quite as uniformed with the song's tempo like before. She found that she didn't mind.
"How opposed would you be to a large wedding party?" Mindy asked, her tone just a little lower than before.
Danny gave a slight shrug. "I wouldn't care too much about that. What about Fertelli's catering?"
"I'd be cool with that…but nothing lazy, like spaghetti."
"You've got a deal."
They were both sporting easy smiles by the conclusion of their dance. When the DJ immediately moved on to a bass-heavy Gwen Stefani song, Mindy ignored the cheers of the nostalgic crowd and lingered in Danny's hold a little longer than she meant to. She noticed that he wasn't so hasty to pull away, neither.
"So, uhm…" Mindy trailed off while she searched for something to say. Danny assisted her.
"Listen, uh, I know we said we'd give 'em half an hour, but screw it. You wanna go steal Peter and Jeremy's cake?'
"God, yes." Without a moment's hesitation, Mindy grabbed Danny's hand and dragged him through the crowd all the way to their table. They were happy to find both slices still in place, untouched. Once they each grabbed a plate, they sat and laughed.
"I swear, this cake brings out the worst in me," Mindy said with a sigh as she grabbed the same fork from before and stabbed at the cake. Danny, already working on his first big bite, simply waved his hand dismissively, wordlessly assuring her that she had nothing to worry about. The pair ate in silence for a while, simply enjoying the distance from the raucous scene.
"So," Danny finally spoke, "after we're done with our cake, is there anything else you want to hang around for?"
Mindy shook her head. "No, I think we're done here. I'll text Peter and let him know we're leaving."
After they politely wished farewell to Dr. Thacker and Naomi, they started their twenty-minute journey back to the city. Mindy vaguely registered a familiar guitar solo wailing through the car speakers, but her mind was elsewhere. It was perfectly normal for two friends to discuss their hypothetical wedding. All platonic friends joke around about it at some point, right? She could have easily had that very same conversation with Peter or Jeremy or even Morgan. It was really no big deal.
The only difference – and this was strictly hypothetical, naturally – was that the idea of entering a union with any of those other men, even jokingly, caused this fairly nauseous curdling feeling in her stomach. Thinking of it briefly now made her shudder a little.
The thought of marrying Danny Castellano, however…it did something to her stomach, she just couldn't pinpoint how to describe it. As she pondered a way to catalogue this seemingly strange sensation, she caught the tail-end of a murmured sentence from the driver's seat. Mindy turned to Danny.
"I'm sorry, what was that?" she asked, still dazed.
"Uh, I was just saying that I think we'd have a really good play list," he repeated a little louder. His voice was impressively steady, but the bob of his throat and the way his eyes darted from her to the road in front of them lead her to believe that he was a little embarrassed to be continuing the conversation on his own accord. Her natural instinct was to capitalize on his embarrassment, but she was too charmed by the cuteness of it all.
"Really?" she asked with a smile. "You don't think the music would be a major point of contention between us?"
The sight of Danny's shoulders loosening up at her willingness to play along caused that same yet-to-be-identified something in her stomach to bubble as it did before, and when the corner of his mouth turned upward in his easy half-smile, it became much clearer. Ah, she thought, that's definitely interesting.
Danny turned to look at her for a moment. Mindy rested her temple against the headrest and gave him her undivided attention. Pleased, he faced forward once again. "Nah, it's a party, right? And I like to dance, so…I figure you'd have a good handle on decent dance music."
After thinking about it for a moment, Mindy nodded in agreement. "Yeah. And there are actually some pretty fun Bruce Springsteen songs. I mean, most 80's music is fun by nature, so you'd have a few of your own favorites that we could definitely enjoy."
"Sure," Danny replied. "Can we draw the line at Miley Cyrus, though?"
"Oh, Danny, Miley's such old news," Mindy sighed dramatically, which caused Danny to snort. "Now it's Ariana Grande, which will definitely be playing, and that's non-negotiable. Grande, Minaj, Gaga, Beyonce, Perry, and Rihanna. Those are staples that cannot be excluded."
"Okay, but I'm definitely getting Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Earth, Wind & Fire, The National, Black Keys, and Blues Traveler, right?"
"I don't think it would be hard to find songs by those guys that both of us could agree on."
"Good. I don't think it would be hard, either."
The ride continued with the two working together to build their imaginary play list. Just as they were congratulating themselves on a roster far superior to any wedding play list they had ever heard, they had reached Mindy's building. She never expected to feel disappointed by the sight of her home at the end of the night. It would have been very easy to continue spending this quality time with Danny, even if it meant just driving around the block a couple times. Rather than suggest anything that could possibly make her look needy, she sighed and prepared to depart.
"Well, this is me," she announced unnecessarily while point back at her building. The unmistakable look of disappointment on Danny's face made her feel a twinge of relief.
"Yeah," he uttered without a modicum of enthusiasm.
"Thank you for giving me a ride."
"No, thank you for keeping me company. It was actually kind of fun."
"Yeah, it was."
They looked at each other for a moment longer, then Mindy unbuckled her seatbelt, turned her body towards Danny, and gathered the strength needed to lean forward and place a gentle kiss on his cheek. She rested a hand on his upper arms for balance and lingered a fraction of a second longer than she normally would for a typical friendly kiss goodnight. As she began to pull away, she fell him reach over and cover the hand on his arm with his own, holding it in place. Her eyes rested on his arm for a moment, then quickly made their way to his face expectantly. It was then that she realized their faces were still rather close.
"Let's go get a drink," he suggested. While his tone was casual, his eyes were pleading. It was a hard offer to resist, however…
"I normally would, but you're driving tonight," she declined softly, a hint of a smile on her lips. "That's not exactly safe."
"Okay," he shrugged, "let's do something safe, then. Milkshakes? Glen's Diner shouldn't be too busy just yet. We can go there."
The grin on Mindy's face was unstoppable. "Will they let me mix two flavors? I tried to order a chocolate strawberry milkshake at Buster's once and the server lectured me on not wanting to ruin the integrity of their blessed shake. It was terrible."
For a second, she thought that Danny might complain about her wanting to make things too complicated. Instead, he smiled wide then leaned forward and kissed her lips softly. It took her a moment to register that he was actually kissing her, but Mindy quickly accepted the moment as a reality she had hoped for for some time. Though his lips remained tender, she could feel the hand on top of hers squeeze just a little, as if to confirm that this was happening in the flesh. She didn't have the clearest understanding of how they reached this point, but she was thrilled that they had.
Before Mindy had a chance to deepen the kiss, he pulled back. The smile on his face was both relieved and cocky, which only made her want to kiss him harder.
"If they give you a hard time about mixing flavors," he finally answered, his voice slightly hoarse. "We'll scour the city until we find a place that'll be cool about it. How does that sound?"
Giggling, Mindy gave him a quick kiss of approval before settling back into her seat and securing her seatbelt once again. Still smiling, Danny began to pull out of the parking spot and reached for Mindy's hand.
"You know, it's a good thing we're not ending the night just yet," she informed him as she took his hand and threaded her fingers through his. "We still haven't talked about your tux."