Standing in front of the long mirror of the hotel room closet, I spin around one last time and bend over to get a good idea of just how much room I have to move before I’m flashing anyone. This trip has gone so differently than I planned and as crazy as it sounds, I’m actually looking forward to spending the night celebrating with Rachel. It helps this is a girls only night so I know that Evan won’t be making an appearance.
My phone chimes with a message from Andrew and my stomach flips a million times in the split second it takes me to pull it up on the screen. I’ve never sent a man a picture or a text that alluded to anything sexual, but he brings out that playful side of me. I also trust him, which is huge for me.
Andrew: Have fun tonight, sweetheart. I’ll see you later. Don’t keep me waiting too long.
I don’t get a chance to respond before there’s a knock at my door. I open it up and Rachel squeals before pulling me into her arms. She smells like cinnamon whiskey and bad decisions. “SOPHIE!! I’m getting married tomorrow!” Her words slur together and I grab her elbow when she releases me from the hug and stumbles back a little. I shoot the other girls a judgmental stare for letting her get this messed up before the night has even began.
We take a car service to a club not too far from our hotel. Being out of state gave me the perfect excuse to not be the go-to person for planning this night. Her second in charge, Kristin, set the night up. She gives Rachel a piece of paper with what looks like a BINGO board on it and announces to us that she must complete the tasks on the board and we have to help her. I glance over Rachel’s shoulder and read along with her as she reads them aloud.
“Give a hot guy a spank. Flash a guy. Give a stranger a lap dance,” she giggles as the list goes on and I cringe knowing this night is not only going to be filled with drunk girls and tacky pink furry tiaras, it will also include public humiliation and lots of evidence that single girls should not be in charge of the bride BINGO board. “Oooo, look! Let a man take a shot from between your boobs!” Great.
I slink down in my seat with a fake smile plastered on my lips and pull my phone out from my clutch even though I swore to myself I would not be the girl on the phone the whole night. Change of plans.
Me: Looks like we’re playing whore BINGO.
Andrew: Wow. I’ll try anything once.
Me: Haha. Not me and you. The girls! Too bad I left my flashing neon SLUTS sign for above our heads at home.
Andrew: While you would need the sign, trust me when I say your company doesn’t. Men can see those girls coming from a mile away.
Rachel is still reading the list as Kristin begins to pass around a bright pink flask. This night is getting out of hand real fast.
Andrew: I’ve got to go. We are about to welcome Honey to the stage.
I laugh when I read his text and a few of the girls look in my direction. “Funny Facebook meme,” I say and the flask is thrust in my direction. I take a long swig just to fit in and then put my arm around Rachel and lean back in to read the remaining items on the list. All are equally cringe worthy.
Once inside, it doesn’t take long for Rachel to start working her way through the list. I sit back and watch, praying none of her friends whip out their cell phones and document any of this. Not that Evan should be kept in the dark, but I guess anything that happens tonight will probably not go over too well in the morning. So far all of the men have played along, not that I would expect anything different since they’re all getting to look at, rub or actually lick some part of her anatomy.
Finally when she has accomplished her BINGO we take to the dance floor. As I dance with Rachel I let myself remember the good times we’ve had over the years. We were on Cheer together and before that we would spend our time dancing in my room or putting on shows for our parents. I realize every fond memory I have of her is back when our relationship was still innocent. It was before we ever saw each other as competition or worried if people liked us enough.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a man approaching Rachel with a drink. When he finally makes his way to us, he leans into the group and practically yells, “I bought your friend a drink.” She reaches for it, but I pull her hand away. Some of the girls look annoyed with me, but I don’t care.
“No thanks. We’ve got her covered.” I pull her a little closer to me and put myself between her and the drink. Who knows what could be in it?
“Come on. Don’t be a party pooper.” He moves a little closer, holding his arm out further this time so Rachel can grab it. I look at her, and shake my head. She knows better than this. I think maybe she’s just too wrapped up in the excitement of a man giving her attention.
“Sounding a little desperate, buddy.” I say to him as I stop dancing.
Finally Rachel speaks up, “She’s right. Thanks, but I’m only drinking what they’re buying. She shrugs her shoulders and then smiles at me before starting to dance again. It’s in this moment that I realize getting drunk is not an option for me tonight. If I’m going to be the only one looking out for her then I need to be sober. The thought of getting through this without alcohol isn’t as daunting as it was when I saw it in the email a few weeks ago. It’s amazing how one person can change your whole outlook on something.
My feet are aching by the time Kristin pulls us off the dance floor an hour later. She ushers us over to a private seating area in the back of the club that is decorated with bright pink streamers and feathers. It’s like the Jersey Shore puked all over our area. Leopard print meets hot pink everywhere. We all squeeze into the booth and I take the seat next to Rachel, finally relaxing and enjoying this time with her.
Kristin digs through her large tote bag while we place our orders with the cocktail waitress. My order of ice water goes unnoticed by the other girls and I listen as they talk about boyfriends and school. I wonder if I would be more like them if I had stayed. I’m not sure anymore if I was a different person before I left, or if getting away from here is what changed me. Too many things were going on in my life at the time to be able to say for sure.
Finally Kristin’s hand emerges with a notebook and a stack of papers. She perches herself at the edge of the table so that everyone can hear her. “Ok, ladies! It’s time for the next game.” I feel like rolling my eyes but hold back. I wish we could just all hang out together and dance. I’m not a big fan of games. She puts the notebook down and hands us each a piece of paper with ten questions on it. Reaching back into her tote, she pulls out a box of pens and tosses it onto the center of the table.
The questions are all about Rachel. She is sitting back, sipping on her drink as we try to answer each of them. The first few are easy for me: her birthdate, parent’s names and favorite color. I wonder if she remembers my favorite color. Next it asks her college major, her dream job, and favorite place to shop. I write down my answers, but the questions are beginning to make me realize she and I don’t share as much as we used to.
I remember talking about our college applications and her dreams of becoming a nurse. I also remember shopping with her at Nordstrom’s or a small boutique by the beach. But that was years ago. In the past four years our conversations have been more surface level. I hear her gripes about classmates or how annoying her roommates in the dorms are, but we haven’t had a heart-to-heart in forever.
I take a minute to look around the table at all of the women frantically filling out the questionnaire, laughing at shared memories. I miss my friend more in this moment than I have in the last four years. It’s just so blaringly obvious we’ve let our friendship slip. I feel guilty for holding her relationship with Evan against her. The last four questions I can’t even answer. I don’t know her new address, have no idea how many children she wants to have, where she bought her dress, or what song she and Evan will dance to for the first time as husband and wife.
Setting my pen down on the table, I wait as the other woman squeal and giggle. Kristin asks us to hand them in and then she gives the stack to Rachel to decide the winner. She laughs at a few of the answers and shuffles the papers before looking over mine. I watch as her smile drops when she sees my answers for the last four questions. Instead of some elaborate guess, I answered them as honestly as possible.
Her eyes fill with tears and she pushes the stack of papers away from herself and pulls me in for a tight hug. “I miss you, too,” she says in a whisper. The girls at the table have no idea what I wrote and I imagine they think this is some great moment where I answered everything about her perfectly. This week I’m getting to a place where I might be able to honestly say I forgive her for not waiting longer or considering my feelings before dating my ex. I’m not saying I’ll ever forget it; just feeling like enough time has passed to stop picking the scab off the wound.
She wipes her eyes and laughs as she picks up the stack of papers. “Just give the prize to Gina, I think she could use it.” Gina claps her hands and then holds them out to Kristin awaiting her prize. A tube of edible chocolate body butter is placed in them and her cheeks turn pink under all the stares. It’s adorable and appropriate so I laugh along with the rest of them.
After the waitress returns with another round, Kristin is back to her perch at the edge of the table. This time she says something to the waitress we can’t hear, and then starts flipping through the notebook. The waitress returns with a row of shot glasses. Six clear shot glasses of vodka are lined up in front of Rachel and her eyes grow big.
“Does every one have a drink of their own?” Kristin shouts at us and we each raise our drinks for her to see. “For this game I’m going to ask Rachel a question that I had Evan answer. If she gets it right, we all have to take a big sip of our drinks. No cheating—go big. If she gets it wrong, she has to take the shot.” We all hoot and holler as Rachel lifts a shot glass in Kristin’s direction.
“I’ve totally got this. Fire away.” She’s already drunk so I’m hoping she knows most of the answers so we don’t have to carry her out of here.
“What sports did Evan play in High School?” I think to myself, football and cross country as soon as Kristin completes the sentence.
“Um, running…no, cross country and football.” Rachel smiles at us confidently.
“That’s right, ladies. Drink up!” We all take a drink and let out a small cheer when we’re done. Kristin waits until we put our drinks back down. “What was his football number?” Again, the answer, twenty-four, flashes in my head.
Rachel thinks for a minute and then answers, “Twenty- seven?” Kristin shakes her head and points to the shot glass. Rachel shrugs a shoulder and downs the liquid, earning her a cheer when it doesn’t come right back up.
“Where was his favorite place to eat in high school?”
Rachel throws her head back laughing, “Beer and Burgers.”
“That’s right.” We all take another drink and I begin to grow uncomfortable with this game.
“What was his order?” Cheeseburger, no onions, extra sauce and ranch for his fries. I look right at Rachel as she hesitates. Kristin thinks this game is fun, but she has no idea how awkward this whole thing is. I was the one who dated him in high school, not Rachel. He broke up with me the last week of June in 2010, a week after our graduation.
“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.” She answers with a little laugh but I can tell she’s growing anxious.
Kristin doesn’t let her off the hook. “He told me a cheeseburger, no onions, extra sauce and a side of ranch for his fries. Drink up buttercup!” Rachel salutes us with the shot glass before downing it.
“What is Evan’s favorite holiday?” The Fourth of July. I hate that I know all of these things about him. Why won’t my brain just stay out of this stupid game? This time when Rachel looks at me there’s no humor on her face. I mouth the answer to her, but she just keeps her eyes on me and lifts her glass in the air. A little bit of the vodka sloshes out and I know she is definitely feeling the alcohol.
“I don’t know this one either.” She finally turns her head back to Kristin and downs the glass. She laughs as she sets the glass down and I take a second to glance around at the other women. They have no idea what’s happening, it’s like they’re on a completely different wavelength than Rachel and I. Of course, Rachel is acting like none of it matters. She’s the queen of playing things off.
“Before wanting to be an accountant, what did Evan want to be growing up?” Kristin hasn’t even finished before Rachel’s eyes are burning into mine. This time I don’t try to mouth the answer, policeman, to her. I just stare back. She knows I can answer it and the reality that I might know him better is now blatantly obvious to the both of us.
She puts her fingers on the rim of her vodka shot but keeps her eyes on me. This feels horrible. She’s hurting and I can’t do anything about it. I give her my best comforting face, but she just shakes her head and sucks down the vodka without any laughing or smiles. This time the table gets quiet. All eyes are on us and it feels like an old western duel. I won’t pull my weapon and she should know that. I would never embarrass her in front of people. It doesn’t even matter if I know the answers anyway, he chose her.
Kristin quickly flips the page in her notebook and I’m hoping she has finally figured out that she needs to ask a question only Rachel and Evan will know the answer to: something AFTER me. “Where did you and Evan have sex for the first time together.” I breathe a sign of relief and close my eyes for just a second, feeling my heart slow down.
“In the backset of his truck.” This time she smiles and I know she has to be right. I feel the tension between us fade as she looks up to a confused Kristin.
“No, he said in your room,” Kristin corrects looking back at the paper like his answer might magically change right before her eyes. At this point, the whole table is looking back and forth from Rachel to Kristin, much like the audience at a tennis tournament. I feel a wave of unease rush over me as I look at my best friend. She’s already shaking her head, her eyes hazy from the alcohol. She leans forward, resting her elbows on the table, knocking over one of the empty shot glasses. The awkward tension at the table reaches a fever pitch.
“I told you, it was in the backseat of his truck. I remember it because he was all sweaty from the football game and the windows started fogging up.” Her words are slurring and she starts to giggle with the memory. “I can’t believe he could forget that,” she reaches for her shot glass in another sloppy move that has the entire table watching her closely. I think maybe it’s time to call it a night and take her back to the hotel.
Kristin shrugs her shoulder and says, “I didn’t realize he played football in college.”
“He didn’t. It was our senior year after the last game.” Her words fade out as if she realizes what she’s saying, but can’t stop them. Her eyes flash up to mine and she covers her mouth as a collective gasp is heard from the other women. A quick look around the table confirms what I already know. Not one of the women sitting here can look me in the eyes because they all knew it was happening and hadn’t told me. I feel my heart break in my chest. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt, worse than the day Evan broke up with me or the day she told me they were dating. Hearing her accidently admit to having sex with my boyfriend six months before he and I broke up nearly kills me.
She reaches out quickly for my wrist, but I pull it away and push myself back from her. “Don’t!” I manage as I feel the bile rising in my throat. I’m going to be sick.
“Please, Sophie. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she cries, but I put my hands up to stop her.
“I need to get out of here. You need to move.” I look her straight in the eye, my voice stern and unwavering.
“No, I won’t. We need to fix this.”
“Get out of the fucking booth Rachel!” I feel my last bit of restraint snap and then it’s gone. All that’s left is the unrelenting burning rage that her betrayal has ignited within me.