Party Time

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“Ben!” Lilah shook his arm. “Look! She’s right there. Coming down from the balcony.”

He twisted, trying to see. Indeed, there she was, making her way down the stairs. She looked fine. Good, even. A new sort of confidence radiated from her. She looked…excited. As though whatever had been worrying her earlier had been resolved in a very satisfying way.

He breathed a sigh of relief. It was good to see her – well, not happy, per se, but at least in a better mood than before. Whatever secret thing she’d been doing, he was glad it was helping her mental health. He hoped it would continue to help.

He would not ask her. Nope. He was going to move on.

He smiled and held out his hands to her as she came closer. She squeezed them briefly, then struggled to fit behind the circular table of the curved booth. She reached for his glass.

“Wait!” he and Lilah exclaimed at the same time as the straw reached her lips.

Her hand jerked, spilling contents over her hand. “What?” she shouted back, her dark eyes wide. “Is it poisoned?”

“No! It’s sprite and gin,” Ben explained, gently taking it from her. “Not very good for a designated driver. Or a baby maker.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Can someone get me a water?”

Lilah slid hers over, and Lanie drank gratefully. “You shouldn’t be drinking, Ben,”

“You said that already, Lilah,” he reminded her. “And I told you, this is a special occasion. I’m fine.”

Lanie gave him a look, but didn’t say anything, just kept drinking her water.

“You’re an alcoholic,” Lilah chastised, taking a long sip of her own drink. “That’s a lifelong disease.”

“I’m not an alcoholic!” Wounded, he put a hand to his chest. “You’re so mean.”

Lilah’s face fell. “You’re right. I’m a cow.”

“You’re a mess, Lilah!” Lanie griped. “You’ve got to stop having emotions all over the place before you get someone hurt. Stop fishing for compliments and go get laid, already.”

“I can’t,” Lilah sniffed, and Ben put his arm around her again. “I’m still married, until those papers are finalized. That would be adultery.”

“That’s stupid,” Ben said, even though he knew he was starting to sound like her parents. “He broke your marriage first by leaving. You wouldn’t be doing anything wrong.”

Lilah’s huge violet eyes turned to liquid, and Ben panicked, grabbing Lanie’s hand on the left and Lilah’s hand on the right. He couldn’t deal with another crying woman, because then he’d start crying, and they’d all be a mess.

“Let’s dance, guys! Let’s show every eligible bachelor here that our Lilah is hot and ready and not going steady!” He chuckled at his own genius.

Lanie wouldn’t budge, though. “You guys go on,” she insisted, pulling her hand away from his and leaning back in the booth. “I’ll catch up in a few minutes.”

Not about to give up an opportunity to show off his excellent dance moves, he tugged on Lilah until she came with him. The beat was so heavy that it forged a second life-force inside of him. At first, Lilah was stiff and sullen, but when he spun her in a twirl and caught her before her silver-clad feet tripped, she let out a surprise laugh, catching his arms.

“Steady, there!”

She gazed up at him, and he was relieved to see that she didn’t seem on the verge of tears anymore. And, she was getting some appreciative glances from several of their nearby dance-floor companions. He discreetly scanned for someone who didn’t look too oafish. He smiled to himself, pleased with what a good wingman he was. He had the vaguest memory of dancing with her like this in Mexico, around a campfire with the rest of the group, but the memory brought no longing. He was as happy to be with her as he would be if he was dancing with Miranda. Well, before Miranda had shattered him.

She smiled back. “You smell amazing, Ben.”

Holding her hands, he led them in a slightly silly, over-the-top samba that required her to move her body in very intriguing ways, earning her even more attention. “Thanks! It’s a special exfoliant that I read about in a magazine. I think it was my second – no, third stay in the psych ward.” He winked. “I can give you the recipe later if you want!”

“How about when I see you on Friday?” she asked.

“Friday? What’s Friday?”

She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Whoops! I meant, you said you’re coming by the apartment on Friday.”

He peered at her through the haze in his brain. She was lying to him about something. “You’re lying to me about something.”

“No, I swear to God, Ben. Don’t say anything, or Lanie will kill me. Dre, too. You didn’t hear it from me.”

 “Didn’t hear what?”

“Exactly! You’re good at this. What are you, a spy or something?”


He looked up to see Ian and John stumbling toward him, their wives on their arms.

“Our services have been requested,” John slurred. “We have a show to put on.”

Dropping one of Lilah’s hands, Ben turned to them. “A show?”

“Audrey has made a special request for a sexy dance,” John explained. “But Ian here is too chicken to do it without us.”

“I’m not chicken!” Ian protested, clutching the ever-present camera around his neck.

“Are too!” Annalise chimed. Just then, the music changed, shifting into a classic song that sent an instant whoop through the crowd. 

“Isn’t this a stripper song?” Lilah asked as she and the other women were ushered back to the booth. Lanie sat up with a snort where she had been relaxing with her head back against the seat, looking around and blinking.

“Frankie Goes to Hollywood!” Annalise squealed, clapping her hands. 

Ian’s tentative but determined voice came on over the speakers, and Ben looked to see him next to the DJ, holding a microphone.  “I’d like to dedicate this song to my best friend and partner for life! Here’s to another ten years with you, my lovely wife!”

Another rhyme. Laughing, Ben downed the rest of his drink as applause swelled, then joined his friends in the wild, uncoordinated mess that was dedicated to the women that made their lives complete. Lanie looked faintly amused as she watched him, and he put extra effort into his moves. The pressing crowd laughed and joined in. When they got a little too rowdy and pressing too close to Lanie’s booth, Ben sat beside her and pulled her close.

“I’ve got you,” he said to her protectively, but she wriggled out of his grasp.

“You don’t smell very good.” She gazed up at him with a smiling expression that he couldn’t quite read, the flashing lights of the party casting her lips and teeth in a faint red glow. Sometimes, she looked as though she were a million miles away, listening to voices that no one else could hear. Voices that scared her, but that he couldn’t quite seem to expel, no matter what he did. “I…do you think you’ve had enough?”

What? Did she think that he was an alcoholic, too? Well, if he could respect her self-care methods, she could respect his. But he didn’t want to make her upset, so he nodded. “I think you’re right. Why don’t you and I get out of here?”

“We can’t, Ben. I’m driving, so we all have to go back together.” She leaned her head back against the booth as though she were about to go back to sleep again, even with the pounding beat.

“Hey, if you guys are ready to go, then so am I!” Audrey giggled, watching Ian’s antics on the dancefloor. “What about you, Annalise?”

“Oh, yeah,” Annalise purred. “I think I know how we’re going to spend the rest of the night.”

“I guess I’ll be going back to the apartment alone,” Lilah muttered.

“What was that?” Lanie asked, not opening her eyes.

“Nothing!” Lilah replied, smiling brightly. “Just that I’m tired and looking forward to going to sleep.”

“I want one more dance!” Ian, now a lot more outgoing after accomplishing his goal, hung off Audrey like an extra limb. “At least!”

Annalise and John were now making out next to Lanie, groping each other and barely paying attention. Ben tried once more to encourage Lanie. “I haven’t danced with you at all, my love!” 

She rubbed her leg. “I know. I just…”

“Fine! Stay there and make sure those two don’t start tearing each other’s clothes off.” Audrey laughed, grabbing hold of Ben and Lilah as Ian started hauling her away by the waist. “The only fun ones here are Ben and Lilah. Come on, guys!”

After a brief flash of concern for Lanie, wondering if she was having any fun, his attention was caught by Lilah’s attempt at dancing Ian. She tripped again, and his small frame was barely able to hold her up. Laughing, he reached out and grabbed her elbow before she tipped into Audrey. The four of them jumped and bopped and swung each other around in a mad frenzy, and Ben was sure he’d never felt more alive. He never wanted the night to end.

Thanks for Stopping by!

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~ Romans 15:13


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