The party went on. Everyone had been unsettled by the fight, but slowly they relaxed and their moods improved. Even Mark’s disturbed soul searching somehow seemed less important as he emptied more and more champagne flutes, the edges on his frustration and anger smoothed, eroded by the flow of alcohol. As the stress drained out of him – and he drained another glass – Lisa began to catch his gaze again, dancing enticingly, enchanting her friends into joining her. Her smoky, shadowed eyes fell on Mark, sparkling green and mischievously, and with a flick of her blonde locks she beckoned him over.
Mark felt himself get up out of his chair and approach Lisa, floating as if in a dream, as if it were not of his own volition – and it wasn’t, as Mark could hardly be expected to control himself when he was in the vicinity of boobs. As the rest of their friends parted, clearing the dance floor, Mark’s hands found their way around Lisa’s waist, pulling her to him. She obliged, her hips swaying closer as the music seemed to slow to match her movements.
At first it was just dancing. But then Lisa edged an inch closer, crossing that invisible threshold between familiarity and intimacy, and Mark, entranced, leaned down. Pressing his cheek to hers, Mark took in the smell of Lisa’s hair, lost in the moment, oblivious to the fact that he was doing this in Lisa’s future husband’s condo, at his birthday party.
As Mark kissed her cheek, Lisa stroked the back of her lover’s neck, her manicured fingernails tracing lines of pleasure across his skin. She moved her head back an inch to gaze up at Mark’s eyes, a subtle smile playing at her lips. If Mark had the power to look away, if he wasn’t completely under Lisa’s control, he would have seen the long black hair and slumped frame of her future husband behind her, glaring at the two’s brazen actions.
Johnny stalked over, his glower gaining fury as he moved. “What are you doing?” he asked, stopping them by putting a hand on Lisa’s shoulder.
“None of your business,” she snapped, staying close to Mark, her hand still caressing his chest.
“You’re my future wife,” Johnny reminded her. His voice went low, full of danger. “What are you doing, Lisa?”
Lisa glanced momentarily at Mark, and he got her message, her command. “Leave her alone, man,” he challenged his best friend. “She doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“Since when do you give me orders?” Johnny demanded, shoving Mark in the chest so hard that an audible thump could be heard throughout the party. This had the intended effect of separating the two lovers, as Mark stumbled back a few feet.
The peace disturbed, the guests lining the room began to watch the display. Smiles and laughter faded. There were murmurs and gasps of shock, whispers of distress.
Unfazed, Mark stalked around Johnny like a vulture circling an injured cow. “Since Lisa changed her mind about you,” he told Johnny, drawing himself up to his full height, his muscular frame obvious even beneath his sweater.
Johnny chuckled in response.
“Wake up, man!” Mark continued, shouting. “What planet are you on?”
From his spot in the corner, replacement Peter reflexively tensed and put his finger on the self-destruct button. He relaxed as he realised the question wasn’t directed at him.
Johnny scoffed and looked away, a wild strand of ebony hair falling in front of his vision. “I think you should leave right now, Mark,” he warned his best friend.
“Don’t spoil it,” Lisa pleaded, reaching out for the crook of her future husband’s arm. “We were just having fun.” She glanced at Mark, demanding his help.
“Don’t worry about it, man,” Mark urged, imitating Lisa’s gesture. As his fingers brushed against Johnny’s jacket, Johnny flinched, slapping his best friend’s hand away.
“Don’t touch me, motherfucker,” he snarled. More hair fell in front of his face, and he seemed to transform into a feral animal. “Get out.”
Enraged at Johnny’s command, Mark flew forward, throwing himself into Johnny. They grappled, Mark trying to push Johnny over and Johnny trying to fend off the fierce attack. Trying to force his best friend away, Johnny grasped Mark’s wrists and held them above their heads.
“Stop it! Stop it!” Lisa screeched, again trying to separate the two men. Trying to help, Denny grabbed Johnny from behind.
“Leave her alone,” Johnny growled as he summoned all his strength, slamming his palms into Mark. Mark seemed to rocket backwards, flung to the hardwood floor, his head smashing into the front door as he slumped on the ground, his face slack from shock at Johnny’s rage. Dazed, he climbed to his feet. Behind Johnny, Denny gaped.
“You two are acting like children,” Lisa sneered as her future husband tossed his head, throwing his hair out of his face.
Ignoring her, Mark stalked forward again. “Son of a bitch,” he swore at his host.
“You’re going to ruin the party,” Lisa told them, somewhat belatedly.
“If you would keep your girl satisfied, she wouldn’t come to me!” Mark bellowed at Johnny, apparently blaming the cuckolded man for his relationship with Lisa.
His expression grim, Johnny almost instantaneously stripped out of his jacket. “Get out of my house,” he ordered again, throwing the garment to the floor. He surged forward. “I kill you!” he roared as he attacked Mark, continuing to yell indistinct threats about breaking things.
As Johnny’s hands searched for Mark’s neck, several sets of hands reached in to grab the men, trying to separate them. They struggled across the small room in a roiling, angry clump.
“Stop! Stop it!” Lisa shrieked again, getting a profound sense of déjà vu.
“I kill you, you bastard,” Johnny was hissing and spitting as he was pried and dragged away, the strength of three men needed to combat his fury.
Standing apart from everyone, tall and proud, Mark watched Johnny. “You couldn’t kill me if you tried,” he defied his former best friend.
Johnny shook the hands off him, flinging his mop of black hair directly into his face as he did. As he stood tall to match Mark, he tried to quickly straighten his locks. “You betrayed me, you’re not good, you,” he spat out the insult. “You’re just a chicken, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep!” He flapped his hands at his side, taunting Mark.
Incensed at the terrible imitation of a chicken, Mark hurled himself forward again, snarling as he slapped at Johnny’s chest. They grabbed each other’s wrists, scratching at each other as they struggled.
Bored of this drama, replacement Peter forced himself in the way and threw the two men apart. “It’s over,” he pronounced.
“Shut up!” Johnny yelled back at the hologram. He threw himself forward again, in his rage attacking replacement Peter instead of Mark.
“It’s over!” replacement Peter repeated.
“Shut up!” Johnny told him again as he was overpowered and pushed back. “It’s not over,” he nearly sobbed, “Everybody betrayed me, I’m fed up with this world!” Frustrated, his threw his arms up, flailing.
The room went silent as Johnny trudged forward, starting up the spiral staircase, festively decorated with balloons and Christmas lights for his birthday. As he disappeared, Lisa turned back to her guests, her displeasure evident on her face even though she had put conscious effort into engineering a scene like the one they had all just watched.
The guests, quiet and anguished, looked back at her, those who knew what had just happened silently judging Lisa without sympathy. By unspoken consensus, they all began to leave, retrieving anything they had come with and beelining for the door as fast as they could. A few waved a quick, awkward goodbye at Lisa, or expressed vague condolences, but most simply refused to look her in the eyes, fleeing the site without a backward glance.