As soon as my phone starts to ring, I pick up all the brushes from my spare room and drop them in the cup they are supposed to stay, or at least till I have time to clean them. My eyes search around, trying to find the rag of fabric to clean my hands so that I can unlock the screen.
It rings again, alerting me of a second text.
“Jesus Lee, chill.”
I don’t need to read it to know it’s him. Liam usually spam’s me until I check my phone. It’s my fault, to be honest; my brain can get to absorb into work or painting, so he might have feel neglected a couple of times.
Are we all set for tonight?
And by set, I mean DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH FOOD?
My eyes travel to the ceiling of the room, and I release a long breath before replying.
Ji-hun is coming, so yes, I HAVE ENOUGH FOOD
Just checking, I still love you
As I suspected
Knowing he is always the last to arrive, I head to the bathroom to clean my face and do something with my hair. With the feeling I’m more decent to the untrained eye, I walk to the kitchen and start to fill the table with food. It is not that the other two eat a lot; I mean, both Jimmy and Peter eat more than average, but Liam and Ji-hun pretty much empty my fridge on Fridays.
Our game night.
It started when we were teens; four of us would get together after school on Fridays and just play video games. Once I met Ji-hun in college, it turned to be five of us playing, and now sometimes it’s video games, other times it’s cards or whatever we feel like to. I’m guessing Jimmy will veto poker tonight after losing all his money to Ji-hun last week. Me saying we shouldn’t play strip poker like he wanted turned out to be a good thing for him; he ran out of money pretty fast.
The doorbell echoes across the house, and I rush to it while three voices I know so well yell on the other side. No, they’re not screaming; they are speaking with passion, as Peter would say.
“No, Jimmy, it doesn’t work like that.” Ji-hun’s voice travels inside my apartment soon as I open the door. “Hi, Violet.”
All three greet me with hugs, but tonight it seems two of them are into some heated argument, and I glance at Peter to figure out what’s going on. Or try to.
“They’re fighting over Twitter again.”
“Day mode just seems cleaner,” Jimmy says, folding his arms over his chest.
“It’s supposed to be used on night mode. The other one, it’s too bright,” Ji-hun adds, gaining a snort from the older.
The offended look my colleague gives him has both Peter and I turning around so that they can’t see us laughing nor drag us to their fight. I’m still not over the blue/gold dress brawl from years ago. We head to the counters watching as they still try to convince each other which one is the best. When it starts to get too out of hand, it’s time to intervene.
“Hey, Ji-hun, I have pizza.”
Ji-hun paces towards the kitchen counter and opens one of the boxes, inhaling the aroma of the still warm fast food.
“Ah, you always take care of me, Vi. Thank you.”
“Liam is late again?” Peter asks, helping me to pick up the sodas and beer from the fridge.
“As usual. Let’s go and put those two playing something now before they tear each other apart.”
As time passes and both men start to take out their frustration in the games, I can feel the tension easing a bit. If only Jimmy knew why Ji-hun fights so much with him. Though I’m not sure if Ji-hun knows why as well.
The clatter of a key opening the door grabs my attention, and I peek into the hallway to check. His hair pops out against the white walls as he walks inside my apartment with a takeout bag while a smile forms on my face and his as well.
“I brought you a veggie burger.”
Liam hands me the paper brown bag, planting a kiss on my head, and I can smell the sweet scent of lavender from him, which should be calming but instead makes my heart beat faster against my chest. He has been my best friend for more than twenty years now, and still, it never fails to amaze me how flutter I can get every time he thinks of me.
Seated between him and Peter, I appreciate how lucky I am; I have this amazing group of friends who make me feel so much love every single day of my life.
And yet, I want more. Well, from one of them, at least.
My eyes travel to Liam’s face as I watch him eating my fries. To this day, I don’t know how I ended up with him as my best friend. Sometimes it feels both a blessing and a curse to be in my position. Because I have him, but he will never be mine.
“What? Do I have ketchup on my face?” He asks, and I realize I’ve been staring the whole time.
With a giggle, I shake my head no at him, and Liam faces the tv again. We end the night late, too late. Peter takes both Jimmy and Ji-hun with him when he notices they are a bit more than tipsy. Especially when the latter keeps flashing us with his abs.
“Hey, just touch them.” He whines as Peter pushes the two drunk men to the door.
“Ji-huney, I know they are there; I’ve seen them. Now walk.”
Before closing the door, Peter rolls his eyes but waves me goodbye and smiles as Liam, and I start to clean the mess that is now my living room.
“I don’t know how you don’t go bankrupt feeding us.” He states, picking one of the empty boxes from the floor.
“Well, you guys buy me food all the time.”
“Yes, Vi, but Ji-hun eats for three pregnant women.”
My ears pick the sound of him dropping the containers on the trash and coming behind me as I wash the dishes. His chin rests on my shoulder while watching with meticulous attention the foam on the sink.
“Are you comfortable?” I ask, teasing him.
“Very much. You know you’re my favorite pillow.”
Before I can understand, Liam grabs a handful of foam and splatters it all over my head. My mouth falls open in shock, and I turn to face him in slow motion. His boxy smile is the first thing I see while grabbing the sponge and shoving it on his hair.
“Hey,” he whines.
“You shouldn’t say stuff like that when you look like a blueberry.”
The foam fight doesn’t endure for too long; it finishes after he throws both arms, grabbing me in a tight lock. I try to move, but he just hugs me tighter, and no matter what I do, there’s no escape from him.
“Fine, I quit.”
Those words always make my cheeks just the tiniest hint of red. I catch him walking towards the sofa from the corner of my eye, yawning before grabbing his jacket. There’s something about him, something that no matter how many times I stare, he just seems perfect. Too perfect.
“Are we all set up for tomorrow?” He asks, loud, feeling excited.
“Lee, don’t you think we are too old for laser tag?”
“Please, we are never too old for laser tag.”
His lips kiss my cheek before turning around and giving me a victory sign walking down the hallway. It’s not too long after that I see as his apartment lights turn on across the street, and Lee waves at me from his window, resembling very much to his 4-year-old self.