13: “He’s the Second Wu”

Bernie and Lawrence hosted Bernie and Priscilla’s joint birthday party the second weekend in May. She and Lawrence had the space plus, as Priscilla claimed, she was tired of having people in her apartment.

“I spend so much time playing host to you people,” she complained during the official party planning committee meeting. Essentially, Bernie, Priscilla, Jemima, and Iggy went out for dinner and then bought some balloons and streamers at the dollar store to decorate.

“Would we call it hosting?” Iggy snorted in response. “I don’t think you’ve once offered me a drink.”

“You know why that is?” Priscilla returned somewhat menacingly and Bernie got the impression that Iggy wouldn’t actually like to know the answer. “It’s because I’m sure you have many drinks at your own house where you should go to drink them.”

“Saw that coming,” Jemima interjected.

“I just think it would be nice for you to offer to get me a drink at least once sometime when I’m over,” Iggy told Priscilla with a sniff.

“I could do that, sure, but you have arms and legs and the ability to walk,” Priscilla countered. “I wouldn’t want you to forget how to do that. I don’t want to enable you. That’s how people end up on ‘My 600 lb Life’.”

“I’m, like, ninety-eight per cent positive that it isn’t,” Bernie chimed in.

“I guess we’ll never know,” Priscilla returned loftily before directing her attention back to her gnocchi with vigour.

The party was reminiscent to the New Year’s Eve party Bernie and Lawrence had thrown in that their apartment was full of people Bernie didn’t recognize. She assumed Priscilla had a lot of friends she’d never met. She also suspected that a lot of them had come with Oscar. She herself had a few guests there who were actually there for Lawrence, including Roisin and Carla, who were in the midst of yet another break, and Keith. That had seemed an unwise move to Bernie. Part of her thought maybe he just liked to be places that caused him misery, like he had some sort of extremely sad masochism thing going on. She couldn’t really think of any other reason for why he would possibly choose to go to the same party as his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, the guy who had punched him in the face at a wedding.

“Do you think Keith hates himself?” Bernie asked Sybil at one point. “Is that why he came?”

“I think Keith’s an idiot,” Sybil returned. “And that’s why he came.”

Keith had been there only forty-three minutes before Bernie was exhausted by his sheer presence. She kept track. She was already irritated because both Carla and Roisin kept asking her to weigh in on their relationship problems so her patience for Keith was regrettably thin. She wondered if Lawrence had any other friends that she wouldn’t dislike quite so much. There was Georgia and Mickey, his only tolerable couple friends, but they hadn’t been able to make it. Apparently they were closer to Mickey’s friends than they were to Georgia’s, which frankly made  lot of sense to Bernie. She hoped she and Lawrence would be much closer to her friends than to his. Iggy and Miles were human disasters, but it was nothing compared to Roisin and Carla, who appeared to be fighting about how Carla made banana bread.

“She used raisins instead of chocolate chips,” Roisin complained multiple times throughout the night, once to Bernie and Tallulah.

“I mean, yeah, she can go straight to hell,” was Tallulah’s blunt and startling response. “Who the fuck chooses raisins over chocolate chips? She should be shot.”

Roisin was clearly torn over whether or not to bask in the aggressive vindication of Tallulah’s statement or to be offended that Tallulah had suggested Carla be shot over raisins. Fortunately for all of them, she was saved from answering by the arrival of Lawrence, who inserted himself into their conversation with a massive grin and a bounce in his step. He threw an arm around Bernie’s shoulders.

“My cousin just messaged me,” he announced primarily to Bernie, but he was careful not to exclude the other two. “He said that his other plans fell through so he can come to the party. He’s on his way up to the condo!”

Lawrence had been talking about his cousin coming to their party for weeks. He’d been a firm maybe from the beginning. He and Lawrence were quite close, but Bernie had yet to meet him. He was a couple years older than Lawrence and apparently like the older brother Lawrence never had. Lawrence had an older sister, but he claimed it just wasn’t the same. Bernie, the only child of two only children, didn’t understand, but took his word for it.

“Oh, Gene’s coming?” Roisin replied. Her interest seemed feigned. She was likely still internally seething about raisins.

“Gene?” Tallulah questioned, head cocked to the side. Bernie was revelling in the knowledge that one of Lawrence’s close friends would be as under-accomplished and ordinary as she was, Keith excluded of course, based solely on the name Gene alone when Gene made his grand entrance into the condo. Her revelry was short-lived and misguided. The people closest to the front door literally stopped talking mid-conversation to gawk at Gene. And Bernie knew that was true because two of those people were Jemima and Iggy.

“Gene!” Lawrence called, beckoning his cousin over to their little corner of the living room. Gene looked over at the sound of his name, smiled, and then began making his way over.

“Holy shit,” Tallulah breathed next to Bernie. “He’s the Second Wu.”

She wasn’t wrong. Gene was undeniably handsome. He bore a striking resemblance to Lawrence, including Lawrence’s beautiful eyes, which was genuinely good for both of them. They really were two of the most handsome men Bernie had ever seen in real life.

“Gene, this is my fiancee Bernie,” Lawrence began the introductions when Gene reached them.

“Lovely to finally meet you,” Gene told her with a beautiful smile. He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Happy birthday.”

Bernie would never ever admit it out loud, but her knees buckled slightly in that moment.

“You remember Roisin,” Lawrence continued, pointing to Roisin, who wasn’t paying attention. “And this is Bernie’s friend Tallulah. She’s one of the bridesmaids.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Gene replied and then kissed Tallulah on the cheek as well. “Lovely to meet you too.”

The four of them chatted for a while until Gene and Lawrence left in search of drinks. Bernie and Tallulah watched them go. Roisin had left them a while ago in favour of complaining to Keith about Carla and raisins. Keith definitely wasn’t paying attention to anything she was saying. Bernie could see him glaring at the back of Oscar’s head from across the living room.

“Prior to this night, I thought Lawrence was literally the most attractive person in the whole world,” Tallulah told Bernie, eyes still trained on the Wu cousins. “He is more attractive than Jacklyn’s hot neighbour, he is more attractive than Idris Elba, and he is more attractive than shirtless Chris Hemsworth. But now apparently there are two of them and I just don’t think I can handle it.”

“They’re just regular people,” Bernie scoffed.

“Excuse you,” Tallulah retorted, clutching at her chest in offence. “How dare you? They are magnificent.”

Bernie thought it over a moment.

“We’re going to have really attractive children,” she said smugly.

“Unless they wind up with more of your genes,” Tallulah replied harshly. Bernie turned to give her an affronted look. “Hey, man, I’ve seen those high school photos. I don’t think there’s any amount of Lawrence that can erase those Bonnie Tyler feathered bangs.”

“That’s only hair!” Bernie protested.

“Dude, it was, like, 2006,” Tallulah returned. Bernie glared at her, but it had zero effect, least of all because Tallulah was too busy staring at Gene to notice.

At the end of the night, Bernie had to literally push Keith out of her home. He was very, very drunk and very, very angry with Oscar, who had gone approximately an hour earlier. Keith kept calling him a butt-face and making grand claims that he was going to beat him up the next time they were in the same room. Bernie sensed that she and Lawrence were going to have one hell of a dramatic rehearsal dinner.

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