Melly and David threw a party for Madison’s first birthday. Against all odds, Miles received an invitation in the mail. It came in a pale pink envelope and the card itself had been handcrafted by Melly and her mother. Each silk butterfly had been hot-glued on with care. Miles and David still weren’t on good terms, ever since Miles had shouted at their friend Danielle during their New Year’s party and then again at David at another house party. Miles wasn’t quite sure if the invitation was an olive branch or not. There was a chance he had been invited for purely sentimental reasons. There was another chance he had only been invited because Melly had invited Iggy as well and didn’t want there to be any awkwardness. Miles figured it would still be pretty awkward.
“What do you guys think it means?” Miles asked Ramsay and Oscar at work one day.
“I don’t give a shit,” was Ramsay’s very unhelpful, but expected response. “I’m just happy I don’t have to go.”
“How exactly did you swing that, by the way?” Oscar asked, swivelling around in his desk chair to join the conversation. Ramsay shrugged.
“David’s not my friend, he’s your friend,” Ramsay answered. “Besides, I don’t think Melly likes me.”
“She doesn’t,” Miles confirmed, only marginally to be cruel.
“Good,” Ramsay said flatly.
Miles and Oscar went to Madison’s birthday party together. Iggy went ahead with Jacklyn, claiming that she had been asked to help set up. Miles knew that nobody in their right mind would ask Iggy to help them set up for a party, least of all Melly, which lead him to believe that she was actually just avoiding showing up with him and the shame that was associated with that. All things considered, he didn’t really blame her. He himself wasn’t really looking forward to that either. He contemplated how best to handle the situation while he and Oscar stood on the subway together. Oscar was holding his unwrapped present for Madison in the hand that he wasn’t using to hold onto the overhead rail. It was a book, a singular book, something about mittens that he had apparently picked up at the bookstore with very little forethought, during-thought, or afterthought.
“This is the present you’re giving to someone for their first birthday?” Miles commented, tired of his own thoughts, nodding to the book.
“Well I was going to give her cash,” Oscar returned.
“Cash?” Miles repeated, laughing.
“A twenty,” Oscar smiled. “But let’s be honest, it’s not like she’s going to know or give a shit. She’s a one year old. So many people are going to give her things today and she’s probably going to like the packaging more than anything.”
“I feel like none of what you just said should ever be said in front of Melly,” Miles said thoughtfully, swaying forward with the jostling of the train.
“I don’t think it matters what I say. You’re public enemy number one,” Oscar pointed out. Miles wished it wasn’t as true a statement as it was.
Miles arrived at David and Melly’s house praying that he wouldn’t see David for at least a little bit longer. If possible, he was hoping to avoid seeing David at all. He figured it was kind of a long shot, but a possibility not worth eliminating, no matter how slight. Of course, David was the one to greet them at the door, which effectively squashed any and all hope Miles had been fostering for the evening. Oscar held out his book unceremoniously.
“This is for your child,” he announced. David took it without a word. He kept shooting glances at Miles, almost as if he thought he was being subtle. Miles was trying to think of a single thing to say that would alleviate some of the awkwardness, but nothing came to mind.
“Thanks,” David finally said to Oscar. “And thanks for coming.”
His words implied he was pleased that they were there, but he sure as hell didn’t look pleased.
“Shall we?” Oscar said after another long, excruciating silence, gesturing toward the general space behind David.
“Oh, yup,” David said, clearly startled. He moved aside and Miles quickly rushed past, hoping that that would be it for painfully awkward social interactions for the evening.
And then he almost walked directly into Danielle and Jake.
He wasn’t sure why he’d thought they wouldn’t be there. They were the other half of Melly and David’s ultimate couple friendship. David and Jake had played on their high school football team together, which had comprised the four greatest years of Jake’s life. Of course they would be at Melly and David’s daughter’s first birthday party. Miles really should’ve known. More accurately, he should’ve been preparing because now that he was face to face with an extremely irate Danielle, he had no idea how to proceed. Obviously what he should’ve done is not tell her that her laugh sounded like crows being murdered, but as that had already happened, there wasn’t much coming back from it. Even Jake looked pissed at him. It was a surprising show of emotion from a man who didn’t seem like he had the depth to be anything but dumbly happy at all times.
“Oh hello!” Miles greeted them, going with blinding and nonsensical cheeriness to combat the tension. Ultimately, he wasn’t sure it was going to be a very successful tactic because Danielle looked even more like she wanted to tear his limbs from his body with her bare hands. She and Jake glared back at him wordlessly.
“How’s it going?” Miles continued despite every fibre of his being telling him to run in the opposite direction and never look back. “Nice out there, eh? It’s going to be a beautiful spring.”
The moment he brought up the weather, Miles knew he was well and truly fucked. The weather was pure small-talk. It was the thing you brought up to cashiers at grocery stores, not people you’ve known for most of your life. Miles could tell that Jake and Danielle also knew he was fucked because Danielle got this predatory glint in her eye, like a lioness on the hunt about to take down a baby antelope. Miles wasn’t sure how he felt about comparing himself to a baby antelope. Danielle was going to eviscerate him.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” she told him with no small amount of snark. “Or Oscar either. With the way you were talking about him, I’d expect to see him weeping on his deathbed.”
She said it just loud enough for Oscar to be able to hear as he was walking past. Miles prayed for him to keep going on his merry way. Of course, Oscar immediately stopped and turned back to Danielle. Miles began to seriously consider bringing up the weather again. They were having a dry spell. He could mention that.
“Well, that’s what I do on weekdays,” Oscar told her. “But seeing as this is a weekend and also such a momentous occasion, I hopped off my deathbed and came to celebrate with my closest friends.”
He said the last part with a very pointed look in Danielle’s direction. She looked wholly unimpressed. He had backed her into a corner though. She couldn’t say anything passive-aggressive, or just plain aggressive, in response without it looking like she was starting an argument with a very sad man who had just implied that she was one of his closest friends. If Miles’ palms weren’t sweating so profusely, he might’ve been impressed.
For the next hour or so, Miles was in the clear. David and Melly orbited him, clearly unwilling to hash anything out in front of their other guests. Danielle still looked furious, but thwarted. Miles got to spend most of the party with Oscar and Iggy, not being instructed to stare at David and Melly’s one year old. It was glorious.
And then David cornered him outside of the upstairs bathroom. Miles had gone up to use it since the one on the main floor was occupied. He got the impression that David had seen him go and followed him up to the second floor, lingering outside the bathroom until Miles emerged. It was startling to say the least. Miles jumped about a foot in the air when he stepped out of the bathroom and essentially onto David, who didn’t look the least bit apologetic. He was wringing his hands together like a nervous church lady. Miles fought the urge to make fun of him for it because he sensed that it would only make whatever was about to happen much, much worse.
“I didn’t mean to be so inconsiderate to Oscar’s feelings,” was the first thing David said. Miles was surprised. He’d thought for sure they were about to have yet another argument about why Oscar’s break-up was most unfortunate for their charades teams.
“Okay,” Miles said, mainly because he couldn’t think of anything better to say.
“But you were equally as inconsiderate of my feelings,” David continued, moving along to a vein that Miles had more expected.
“Yeah,” Miles agreed. “I’m sorry about that.”
And he was. He wasn’t totally heartless. He had always felt bad about ruining David and Melly’s New Year’s party and then the party they’d thrown after that. Hosting meant a lot to them.
“It just sucks, you know?” David continued and Miles nodded like he did know when in fact he had no idea what David was talking about. “We used to be best friends, the three of us.”
If he started spouting off about the glory days, also known as high school, Miles was going to accuse him of spending far too much time with Jake. He didn’t understand the nostalgia. High school had been alright, but there were far better things in life than sitting on uncomfortable chairs welded to hard desks and learning about fractions.
“And now you and Oscar are still so close,” David continued morosely. “I get it, you know. I have Melly and Madison now. Our lives are at different places. I was upset that you ruined our New Year’s party, don’t get me wrong. Melly had been planning that for months. But I think I was also just upset that you had chosen Oscar over me so blatantly.”
“I haven’t chosen anybody over you, man,” Miles said immediately. “It’s just that, like you said, you’re not around as much anymore because you’ve got this little family thing going on and that’s amazing. It just means that you haven’t seen Oscar as much since the break-up. He’s doing alright now, but, dude, he spent a whole lot of time lying on the ground. It was real damn sad and not just because now we’ll have uneven charades teams.”
David was silent for a long moment, clearly thinking over what Miles had said. For his part, Miles was very aware that they had just had a heart to heart on the threshold of David’s guest bathroom.
“Well I’m sorry,” David said after a while.
“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” Miles nodded. David beamed at him immediately, roping him into a bone-crushing hug, which was nice and all, but still odd to have happen outside a bathroom door. David released him, Miles tried to subtly rub his ribs, and the two of them went downstairs to rejoin the party. Everything was back to normal. Miles and Oscar had to stare at Madison for a good five minutes before Melly would let them leave the house to go home.
“I don’t get it, does she think we’re going to forget what her child looks like?” Oscar asked as they walked down the front walk. “Because, at this point, I think I would have an easier time recognizing that kid’s face more than my own.”
“More than mine even?” Miles returned, waggling his eyebrows.
“Of course not, buddy,” Oscar said, slinging an arm around Miles’ shoulders as they walked. “Because you have the same unforgettable face of Scott Baio.”
Miles regretted saying anything.