“Please, please, Alex,” Kate said, wearily, “Don’t make me arrest you. You promised you’d be on your good behavior today. Please don’t do this.”
She was standing between me and my arch nemesis since we were all kids in kindergarten. Over her shoulder, Rohan Banerjee gave me a cheeky grin.
“Still looking for an excuse to get your hands on me, are you, Alex?” he teased me.
I went red. Kate restrained me again and reminded me of the awkward position I was putting her in. “Alex, behave. Please. I just made Detective six months ago. I cannot arrest my best friend for disorderly conduct at my birthday party.”
“Why did you invite me if you knew there was going to be an incident?” I asked, angrily. I was pretty sure my eyes were flashing my anger. It didn’t help matters that Rohan found this highly amusing.
He was holding his drink in his left hand, right hand on his waist. His soft brown eyes seemed to be highly entertained by the scene before him. A short blonde woman standing between his 5’9 frame and my 5’4 frame.
“Rohan,” she scolded him now, “why do you keep riling her up all the time?”
“I don’t rile her up,” he said, feigning innocence. “Maybe she just finds me irresistible?”
“I’ll show you how irresistible I find you…” I shrieked but I was interrupted.
“Hey Kate…” called Neal, as he walked into our beautiful little scene in her kitchen, “…it’s time to cut the cake…but you’re occupied trying to end the battle between these two again.”
“It’s not a battle, Neal,” I said, angrily. Neal laughed.
“Alright. Just don’t murder him, Alex,” he joked, “I don’t want my girlfriend’s birthday turning into a crime scene.”
“Can I trust you two enough to play nice?” Kate asked, cautiously.
I looked at her face now. Beneath the amusement was strain. The strain of having to constantly play the peacemaker between me and Rohan. She’d been doing this since we were barely 5 years old. It was her birthday. She had landed her dream job. She was dating the love of her life. And I was her best friend. I was ruining her epic night.
And then I remembered something else that was going to happen once midnight struck, and other people cleared out. I looked at Neal now. He was giving me the look too. I was the only one he’d told. And I was ruining his night too.
I shifted a little, so that he could see my hand next to my thigh. I signaled to him that I was sorry. He winked at me.
“I promise you I won’t hurt him,” I said, giving Kate a quick hug. “I’m sorry, Kate. It’s your party. You should have fun. We shouldn’t let something as silly as an arch-nemesis get in the way of celebration.”
“Arch-nemesis?” Neal asked, raising an eyebrow, “Suddenly I wish I’d gone to school with you guys.”
“No, trust me, you don’t.” Kate sighed. “And as much as I love you both…”
“Why do you love Rohan?” I asked, annoyed. “We’re best friends. Why is he even here?”
“Because you guys are my family, Alex,” Kate said, glaring at us both. “And like it or not, he’s my best friend too, Alex.”
“Fine. Just as long as he’s not your Maid of Honor,” I grumbled.
“What?” Kate asked, frowning.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Neal wildly shaking my head. He was warning me not to spoil his surprise. Oh my god. I was going to ruin everything. Again.
“Nothing, nothing…should we go out and get the cake, Kate?” I asked, cheerfully.
“Yeah, I hope it’s butterscotch. Wait – I know it’s butterscotch because I got it for you, Kate. So, I am your best friend.” Rohan piped up, making my blood boil again.
“You know what,” Kate said, clearly losing the last shred of patience she had with us, “I don’t trust either of you to keep your word. So, I’m going to handle it as I see fit.”
“Which is…” I asked, skeptically.
“I’m handcuffing you both to the kitchen table. You can either work out your differences or kill each other. I don’t care anymore. You know why? Because it’s my birthday. And I want to have a good time.”
She fished her handcuffs out of the back pocket of her jeans. Both Rohan and I stared at her incredulously.
“Are you serious right now?” I asked, annoyed.
“Dead serious,” she replied, “I have a party and guests to attend to. I can’t babysit you guys forever. Figure it out.”
With that she handcuffed us to her dining table. She blew us a kiss as she went out of kitchen.
“Neal!” I shrieked.
“Sorry, Alex,” he said, shaking his head, “Behave and we’ll free you soon.”
He went out of the kitchen door too, close on Kate’s heels. I turned to look at the smirk on Rohan’s face.
“What are you smirking about?” I asked, glaring at me.
“Well, usually before I can have a halfway decent conversation with you, you tend to leave me in the dust,” he said. It wasn’t a complaint. Just an observation.
“Yeah, Rohan,” I said, “Because you can never keep up with me. Even when we were kids.”
“Don’t you think you should slow down…just a bit and just enjoy life?” he asked.
“No, I don’t,” I replied. “C’mon, Rohan. People like us – we can’t afford to relax and just take a chill pill.”
“People like us?” he echoed.
“We are second generation Indian-Americans, Rohan,” I reminded him, “It’s the same lecture I’ve heard every time brought something less than straight As, home. So no, I can’t afford to slow down. Or skirt through life, as you do.”
“You’re doing well for yourself, Alex,” he said, gently. “Aren’t you working as a journalist at someone hotshot website?”
“I sit and write freaking fluff pieces, Rohan,” I snapped, “And I have to watch shows I’m not even interested in and write about those.”
“Entertainment journalist,” he said, kindly, “And it’s not a bad deal, Alex.”
I rolled my eyes. I reached into my pocket and brought out of the nifty little lock picker that I’d started to keep on my person.
“What are you doing?” Rohan asked, curiously, “Wait – Alex! When did you learn how to pick a lock?”
“Around the same time our best friend decided she wants to go into law enforcement,” I replied, absentmindedly.
“You knew she’d handcuff us together someday, didn’t you?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Kate is many things,” I said, carefully, “unpredictable isn’t one of them. I knew she’d try to force us to get alone one way or another.”
Finally! I heard the click and then my poor wrist was free. I grinned at Rohan. He was still handcuffed to the table.
“Oh, sweet freedom,” I commented.
“Do you mind helping me out too?” he asked, rattling the handcuff.
“Sorry, Rohan. You’re smart. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” I laughed. Then I tossed him the picker I’d used. “And if you get out of your prison, come find me. I’ll hear you out. I promise.”
Confident that he wouldn’t be able to pick the handcuff as easily as I did, I walked out of the kitchen laughing. Little did I know that Rohan had laid the perfect trap for me.