Melly and David hosted a New Year’s party at their townhouse and Miles got roped into going. What had really happened was that Melly had found out that he and Iggy were dating and she had demanded that Iggy show up with Miles. They were going to have a games night with all of their other couple friends. It was everything Melly had ever wanted and also everything that Miles had been hoping to avoid forever if at all possible. The only upside, marginal as it was, was that Iggy and Melly’s friend Jacklyn would also be there with her newish boyfriend Aaron. Miles had met Aaron once before at another one of Melly and David’s painfully boring parties, just before he and Jacklyn made their relationship official. There were three things Miles liked about Aaron specifically: he was enormous, even taller and broader than Bear; he very obviously didn’t like Danielle or Jake and did nothing to hide it; and he was absolutely way too cool for charades.
“I want to be friends with Aaron,” Miles said as he and Iggy walked up Melly and David’s snow-covered front walk. “He’s so much cooler than the friends I have already.”
“Well, I’ve met the friends you have already and that is one hundred per cent true,” Iggy replied.
“That’s not a very kind thing to say,” Miles protested, despite having said the exact same thing only moments before. Iggy shot him a dark look. She was still glaring at him when Melly opened the door and ushered them inside.
“Happy New Year!” She greeted them, kissing them each on the cheek. David was standing just behind her, beaming like an idiot. Further inside, Miles could hear Danielle shrieking with laughter, most likely at someone else’s expense. Jake had probably already brought up the championship-winning football game of grade twelve he was particularly proud of. Miles was already tired of being there and they had only just arrived. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t going to suffer through this particular party alone. This time, he had someone else to share in his pain.
“Why don’t you guys go—” Melly began.
“See the baby,” Miles finished for her. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s go.”
He grabbed Iggy’s hand, ignored Melly’s excited squeal of delight, and lead the way upstairs to the nursery where they stopped in front of the crib to stare at Madison sleeping for a bit. She looked even more like Kim Jong-Il than usual. Melly hadn’t attempted to do anything with her hair, most likely because she was asleep, but it did nothing to prevent her from looking like a middle-aged Korean man. Miles honestly couldn’t figure out if she was cute or not. He knew Iggy had said all babies were inherently cute based solely on the fact that they were babies, but his cousin’s baby Stephanie really was a shocking sight, especially if thrust on someone unsuspecting.
“At what point in this kid’s life do you think people will be able to stop staring at her?” Miles asked as they stood there. “Or is this forever? Am I still going to be ushered into rooms to stare at her for extended periods of time when she’s sixteen? Because I think I could get arrested for doing shit like that.”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to say shit in front of babies,” was Iggy’s response.
“You literally just did,” he pointed out. “And besides, it’s not like she knows what I’m saying. She’s asleep. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, she can barely hold herself upright. She doesn’t function nearly enough to be able to decipher words, let alone which ones are worse than others.”
“Wow, so harsh. You have no faith in this kid,” Iggy told him, but she grinned at him so he ignored her.
When they returned to the main floor, they found themselves in the small living room with the other three couples. Melly had set out many trays of appetizers. There was a crock pot full of chilli that David had made earlier that day and a stack of games on the coffee table. Danielle was telling a story about her sad and pathetic co-worker and Aaron was regarding her with thinly veiled repulsion. Miles and Iggy sat down on the love seat together and Miles put his arm around her shoulders. Danielle stopped mid-sentence to stare at them. Melly grinned smugly. Aaron paid them no attention whatsoever and remained Miles’ favourite.
“I didn’t know you guys were together,” Danielle said, eyes narrowed. She said it like it was an accusation. Miles was trying to imagine why she thought she was in any way entitled to that information, as if he would confide in either her or Jake about his brand new relationship. He barely spoke to her when he was forced to.
“It’s new,” Melly answered for them, grinning. She may have even winked.
“Well, great!” Jake chimed in, leaning forward and stretching out his hand for a fist bump from Miles, who obliged reluctantly.
“When Oscar and Katy broke up, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to have proper charades teams again,” Danielle said, laughing unkindly. Oscar was such an ass, especially about his break-up. He had become bitter and cruel and he spent way too much time lying on the floor. Nonetheless, Miles took umbrage to the way Danielle, and even Melly and David, talked about him now that he was no longer with Katy. Oscar was clearly devastated; any rational, fairly sympathetic person could see that. And yet, the they had chosen to view it as a mark against them, like his break-up somehow negatively impacted them because they no longer had people to drag into Pictionary tournaments.
“I’m sure that was his primary concern as well,” Miles interjected flatly. David shot him a warning look and Aaron continued to ignore them all. Jacklyn was pointedly not making eye contact with anybody in the room and Iggy had stiffened in her seat next to him.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Danielle brushed him off. Jake laughed jovially. It was the laugh that usually followed a story about something dumb one of them had done in high school.
“How did you mean it then?” Miles pressed, ignoring David’s increasingly dark looks. Melly had stood up and was trying to interrupt, asking if anybody wanted a refill really loudly. Miles was ruining their New Year’s party. If he let it go right then, they could recover. It would be pushed aside just like every other horrible thing Danielle ever said and they’d play several rounds of euchre. David already had the cards out and ready to go.
Miles didn’t let it go.
“Because Oscar’s actually really upset,” he continued, talking louder to be heard over Melly, who only increased her volume so that they were effectively shouting. “And maybe if you cared about him half as much as you care about having the right number for charades, you would’ve known that already!”
Iggy turned to shoot him a look. Unlike David, it wasn’t a warning. It was definitely shock. Even Jacklyn had turned to stare at him, looking dazed. Aaron was still ignoring everybody in the room. Miles was fairly certain he was watching basketball on his phone.
“Alright, that’s enough,” David cut in, bypassing all the polite indirect tactics Melly was still desperately trying to employ. Danielle was furious, but Miles didn’t care. He’d already ruined the evening, there was very little chance he’d be able to come back from it, and, to be quite frank, he didn’t really care to try. It would probably mean he’d never be invited back to another games night again and that didn’t seem like such a bad thing.
“Couldn’t agree more,” he said to David, pushing himself to stand up, staring down Danielle the entire time. “You’re a terrible person and your laugh sounds like a thousand crows being murdered.”
There was a heavy silence in the room. Iggy was clearly deciding whether to get up as well, making a lot of panicked eye contact with Jacklyn from across the small living room. David’s hands were literally shaking, he was so angry. For once, Jake didn’t look like a dumbfounded golden retriever. He looked almost as aghast and offended as Danielle, who kept opening and closing her mouth, as if she couldn’t quite find the words she wanted to use.
“Pun intended?” Aaron asked, breaking the taught silence after a long, painful moment. Miles barked out a laugh.
“Yeah,” he said. “Pun intended.”
Then he turned to leave, Iggy scrambling to follow after him. They left the house together, Miles wondering if he’d ever have to stare at Madison while she slept again. He’d never seen David so angry in the entire time they’d known each other. They hadn’t made it to midnight. They’d barely made it to nine o’clock.
“Jesus fuck,” Iggy said as they walked back down the front walk. “Warn me next time you decide to go all righteously nuclear, okay?”
“Sorry,” Miles said a little sheepishly, actually feeling a bit bad for ruining her evening and possibly getting her in trouble with Melly.
“It’s fine, just startling,” she said. “I’m not used to that kind of fire. It was like watching a furious Scott Baio.”
“Fuck off,” Miles tried to sound offended, but he ended up laughing.
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly about Oscar,” Iggy continued, bumping his shoulder with her own.
“Yeah, me neither,” Miles returned.
“He’s lucky to have you,” she continued.
“Yeah, he is,” Miles agreed.
“Jesus, like the most aggressive episode of Happy Days ever,” she remarked, laughing to herself. She continued to laugh until he threw a snowball at the back of her head.