DATING TRUTH #1: Just when you’ve comfortably established a group of single girlfriends, disaster strikes.
“Jonathan is everything I ever wanted in a guy.” Angie spun the cocktail stirrer around her martini. “I can’t believe my brother never brought him home before. I mean, they’ve been best friends since college.”
She said it as if college was decades ago instead of only a couple years. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe knowing his sister would steal his best friend was why he’d never brought Jonathan home. He’d been hiding the poor guy. Caving meant he’d probably lost him forever.
“Wow.” Claire grinned. It made me nervous.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Angie. But Claire’s sense of humor was cutting, even if it was right on. She had the wardrobe of Carrie Bradshaw and the wit of Dorothy Parker. Her commentary always felt like it came out of nowhere. Like a summer cold. One day you’re at the beach, then—Bam!—you’re sick in bed. She kind of scared me.
“Going home must be the way to find a guy,” Claire continued before a drama-pause. “I got back together with Marcus.”
“Really?” Becca pushed her drink out of her way. “How did that happen?”
Not surprisingly, I was lost. “Who’s Marcus?”
Claire waved down the waitress and pointed to her half-full drink, not bothering to look my way. “I always forget you weren’t around for that.”
The truth was, I wasn’t around for a lot of things with these ladies.
Last fall I’d had a lovely group of girlfriends. Just like any group, you had an inner circle of friends and loosely touching outer circles. Like a Venn diagram of relationships. A comfy little life with plenty of friends to go around.
Until the first engagements…then weddings… then houses in the suburbs happened. Next thing you know, your inner circle is married and there you are. Left with a mish-mash of looser, less cohesive circles. Still a nice little group though. Life was good.
Until Thanksgiving week.
“Marcus and I grew up together, but didn’t start dating until senior year of college. When we graduated, he moved back to run the family’s construction company and I moved here to go into advertising. Can you see me living in the Great American Farmland?”
No. I really couldn’t. Claire refused to let anyone without local celebrity status touch her hair or skin. Just staying groomed would mean monthly four-hour drives.
“But when I saw him at the football game Thursday, it was like we’d never been apart and… Well, let’s just say everything is back on track.”
She sounded so happy—so not Claire—I didn’t have the heart to ask how it was going to work out this time around.
“I can’t believe you guys hooked up over the weekend, because”—Becca drew the word out and I knew what was coming. “I met the greatest guy on the plane. He’s a lawyer in New York. We sat next to each other. I’ve never been so happy to be stuck on the tarmac for three hours. He changed his flight so we did part of our return together too. And,”—Becca sucked in an excited breath before finishing in a rush—“he’s coming here for New Year’s.”
I sat back listening to them gush about their guys—new and recycled—and their trips and the New Year and how great the holiday was going to be.
“You know what we should do? If they’re all coming here, we should change our reservation for New Year’s.”
Wait. What? No.
“We’ll just add them to our table.”
“But I thought it was sold out.” I tried to keep the desperation out of my voice. We’d planned this months ago. The single girls having a fun night out. No couples making us feel all single-loserish on the second biggest date night of the year.
“I’ll call my ticket guy right now. I’m sure he can hook us up.” Claire was on her phone before I could say girls’ night. “Hi, handsome. It’s Claire. I’m looking for a favor.” She laughed her that’s-not-funny-but-I-need-something-from-you laugh before flashing our table a grin. “Oh, you’re too sweet … I know, right? I need a little help with our table for the Murder on the Rocks party … I know, right? I’m going to look fabulous in my flapper dress. The whole roaring twenties murder mystery is genius.”
Angie and Becca both pushed their drinks aside to lean in, listening over the rumble of the growing bar crowd.
“Well, we’d like to get a few more people seated with us. Is there anyway we could shuffle them in? … Uh-huh … Yup … Absolutely. I can make sure you get on the list for that opening … Of course. Well, we need three more.”
“Wait.” Angie waved her hand in front of Clair. “What about Sarah?”
Everyone turned my way and I was tempted to tell them I was engaged and getting married on New Year’s Eve if they and their newly found plus-ones were available.
“Oh. Sarah, did you meet someone too?” Since the beginning of time—otherwise known as Julie’s wedding four years ago—Claire disliked me on sight. Her competitive nature seemed to triple around me. Only I didn’t really know what we were competing over, so I just tried to stay out of her way.
I thought about lying, but knew faking a boyfriend would lead to all kinds of social pitfalls I couldn’t navigate. Plus, I’d seen The Wedding Date. That was so a path I didn’t want to walk down.
“No. Not really.” I dragged the really out hoping they’d read something into it I didn’t mean—like maybe there was a guy I’d been holding out on them about. An amazingly hot guy who owned a small, undisclosed island off the coast of a certain wealthy country. Obviously I couldn’t talk about him for security reasons.
“Say four,” Angie whispered. “I’m sure Sarah won’t have a problem getting a date.”
Claire cocked an eyebrow at me as if she not only knew how doubtful it was, but she expected me to back her up.
Oh, no, Claire. Don’t ask for a fourth seat. We all know no one would ever want to go out with me, let alone give up one of the best party nights of the year to hang out with a nerdy museum curator.
Instead, I just smiled.
And thought nasty thoughts.
Claire tilted her head as if she could read my mind and smiled in a way that clearly said, Oh. You poor thing.
“Why don’t you make it four? That’s a full table, right?” Claire grinned and nodded. “Just put it on my credit card. We’ll take care of splitting it on our end.”
Great. Way to kick yourself in the rear, Sarah. Exactly what makes the holidays shiny. Paying for an empty chair.