If someone had told Mattie that she would wake up in a stranger’s home without any idea of how she got there, she would have laughed at them. That was not her style and it would never had happened. So, when she woke up the next morning and couldn’t figure out where she was simply by looking at the ceiling, she was very confused.
The room around her was a swath of white with few decorations. The only prominent item in the room besides a bed and a bureau was a very large television attached to the wall. Simple nightstands sat on either side of the bed frame. The whole room appeared to have been decorated right out of an Ikea catalogue. The nightstand closest to Mattie held a bottle of water, two pills, and a note that read, “take these when you wake up” in familiar handwriting.
Ignoring the note, Mattie stood up slowly and wobbled on her feet. She noticed that her shoes were placed neatly at the end of the bed, next to her purse. She moved to her bag as quickly as her hung over body would take her without getting sick and checked to make sure her belongings were accounted for. She looked around again, confused that her captor would have been so kind as to leave her possessions alone.
From her position on the ground, she was relatively close to the door. She reached up and tentatively turned the knob and looked out the door. Mattie found that she was at the end of a hallway and she could hear people from what she assumed must be the living room. She inched down the hallway on her hands and knees, trying not to make any noise. Peeking around the corner, she saw Ian sitting on the couch playing a video game and a guy that she had remembered meeting. She couldn’t recall the second person’s name, but remembered that it began with a “D.”
“D” looked up from his phone to watch Ian play his game for a few minutes before asking, “hey, do you think tiny dancer is up yet?”
“Dunno. Why don’t you go check?” Ian mumbled back, distractedly.
Realizing that she was about to be found out, Mattie tried to turn quickly to head back to the bedroom. In her haste, she bumped the wall and a photo fell and landed on her head.
“Shit,” she exclaimed. When she looked up, she found Ian and “D” staring down at her.
“You okay?” Ian asked.
“I’m fine. Just made my headache worse.”
“Let me help you up.”
“I can do it,” Mattie pushed his hand away and stood. “Where am I?”
“Oh! You’re at my place,” the man whose name Mattie failed to remember smiled at her.
“And what’s your name again? I remember that it starts with a ‘D’.”
“That’s not the only thing that starts with a--” he was cut off by Ian shoving him in the arm. “Right. Sorry. Name’s Derek.”
“Derek. Right. We met in line at the bathroom.”
“Correct. Would you like some coffee?” he offered.
“Please,” Mattie looked around the apartment awkwardly, inspecting her surroundings. Like the bedroom, the living room was decorated sparsely. It was cozy, but minimal. Even though it was completely different than her own place, she liked it. Her eyes drifted back to Ian and she realized that they were still standing in the hallway. The corner of his mouth lifted.
“Do you want to go into the living room?”
“Sure.” Mattie followed Ian into the living room and sat down on the couch, making sure to keep a good distance from Ian. She saw that they were playing some kind of soccer game on their video game console.
“Do you play?”
“I guess not,” Ian said with a touch too much mirth in his eyes. “It’s a soccer video game.”
“Oh. No I don’t. I don’t really like soccer.”
“That’s a shame,” Ian replied, picking up the controller and fixing his attention back on the game. Mattie’s eyes narrowed and she felt inexplicably challenged by his behavior and felt compelled to prove herself to him.
“I’ve played video games before.”
“Oh yeah? Which ones?”
“The one with...the brothers. They’re supposed to be Italian, I think.”
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
“Old school gamer, I see.”
“I suppose. It’s been a while. So, I’m likely a bit rusty.”
Their conversation was interrupted when Derek returned with coffee for Mattie. He handed it to her and she took a sip. Wrinkling her nose, she asked, “there’s sugar in this?”
“Typically, one might say ‘thank you’ when another person brings them coffee, but yes, there is sugar in that cup.”
“I’m sorry. That was rude. Thank you for the coffee.”
“Is it okay with the sugar?”
“Yeah, I just don’t usually drink it like that. I prefer just a bit of milk.”
“Funny,” Derek said with a smirk, “that’s the way Ian likes it too.”
Mattie took another sip of her coffee and peeked at Ian, whose eyes were fixed on the television. She noticed a bit of red start to spread up his neck and his game playing became a little more aggressive. He seemed uncomfortable, so Mattie decided to change the subject.
“So, is it possible that you could let me know why I am here?”
“Oh, right. Shit. We didn’t do that, did we?” Derek asked, sitting on the arm of the couch. “Yea...you got like, really drunk. Your sister and Chris were going to head back to his place, but she really didn’t want to leave you alone. So, Ian and I told her we’d bring you here and set you up in my guest room.”
Mattie processed this information for a minute. Initially, she bristled at the idea of her sister pawning her off to Chris’s friends, but took solace in the idea that she had done so because Anna knew these guys and likely trusted them. She took another sip and was about to continue when Derek shared that Anna and Chris had promised to come by that morning for breakfast and to check on Mattie.
“Cool...So, this is your apartment?” Mattie asked Derek.
“Yeah. Are you surprised?”
“Uhm, no. I just thought…” Mattie gestured toward Ian. He realized that he was the topic of conversation and dragged his attention from his game.
“Nah, Lawson lives outside the city. He bought some big house for him and his--” Derek stopped suddenly when he slipped off the arm of the couch.
“Sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean to do that,” Ian apologized. He reached out a hand and helped Derek back up.
“Yea, sure you didn’t.”
The conversation ended and Mattie and the boys waited for her sister and Chris to arrive. When they did, the guys went into the kitchen to put together some breakfast while Mattie and Anna relaxed on the couch. Anna looked smugly at Mattie from across the coffee table.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“No reason. Just curious about what happened after Chris and I left last night.”
“I went to bed.”
Mattie blanched at the question and desperately tried to recall memories from the night before. She felt slightly hungover and knew that she had a few drinks too many, but she was sure that nothing had happened that was compromising. Although, she thought, I didn’t remember being brought back here.
“Yes, alone. Is there a reason you wouldn’t think that was the case?”
“Not at all. You just seemed pretty cozy with Ian when we all came back here. And you kept bringing up notes.”
“Well, I woke up alone--fully clothed.” Mattie replied, pointedly.
“Good to know that I haven’t rubbed off on you too much.”
Mattie rolled her eyes and took another sip of her coffee.
“How late were we out last night?”
“We got back here around 2:30.”
“Jesus. I don’t remember the last time I was up that late.”
“I’m glad you got to let your hair down a bit. You always seem so tense.”
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way. It’s just an observation.”
Over the next fifteen minutes, Anna filled Mattie in on the events of the night before. Apparently after seeing Ian, Mattie had said hello and quickly downed her drink before asking for another. About three drinks later, Mattie was nowhere to be found and, after searching for a little bit, Ian and Derek had located her on the dance floor being groped by a stranger. Derek had asked to cut in and when the other guy walked away, he quickly whisked Mattie off of the dance floor. When Anna was finished with her tale, her sister’s face was tomato red.
“So, Derek effectively saved me?”
“Yeah, I thought that it would have been Ian, but I guess not.”
“I think that Ian might be trying to keep his distance from me.”
“Why’s that?” Mattie sighed and then recounted to her sister the details of her interactions with Ian beginning with the grocery store and ending with the cake. “So, that’s why you downed your drink so quickly when you saw him.”
“Well, I definitely didn’t expect him to be friends with my sister’s fiance and I certainly didn’t expect to see him again after I left such a great impression.”
“Speaking of fiance, you know Ian is going to be in the wedding party, right? I think that Chris might ask him to be his best man.”
“Of course he is.”
“And, of course you will be my maid of honor.” Mattie had a feeling that this would be coming. Even if things had been hard for them over the years and their relationship struggled, they were each other’s support.
“Anna, I would love that.” The sisters hugged and Mattie felt a tear spring to her eye as she thought back on her memories with Anna. Briefly, her mind wandered to her mother and Mattie hoped that she would be proud of both of them.
Anna pulled back and looked Mattie dead in the eye with a stern expression. “Now that is settled, I am going to need you to work on being more friendly with Ian.”