Authors: Alexis Summers
I pile my hug onto Maddie with the rest of the girls as she squeals in genuine shock, dropping her purse as she covers her mouth with both of her hands. She takes in the streamers Juliet hung up all over my apartment walls and the huge selection of nearly gourmet snacks that April whipped up for the party. It had been my idea to surprise Maddie with a birthday party two weeks before her actual birthday when she would be least expecting it, and—judging by how wide her eyes have gone—the plan seems to have been a success.
“Oh my gosh,
,” she says as she hugs each of us back. “This is amazing. It’s
—I can’t believe April and Erin let you do this to their place! I know you girls hate a mess and—and my birthday’s not for
“That’s what you get when you have—.” April pauses for dramatic effect, pointing to each of us in turn. “—a caterer, an interior decorator, and a near diabolical psychologist in training for friends. Further
, I certainly hope you know you’re worth a little mess at the very least!”
Maddie turns to me with a huge grin on her plump red lips. “A-hah! I just
this was your idea, Erin. Only you could have orchestrated something like this.”
I laugh and move back to let her set her things down properly. Her purse was stuffed full with her usual effects, but also a rather sizable first aid kit since I had called her over to the party under the pretense of having cut my finger while cooking.
“Any one of you girls would have done the same for me,” I say, reaching back for the wine coolers—Maddie’s favorite drink since we started sneaking them into our rooms for big celebrations way back in high school—we had put on ice. “Besides, orchestrating this is basically
I did—you should really be thanking April and Juliet for all the food and decorations we’ve got for the night!”
Maddie hugs each of us again as we move to settle around the couch, waving my modest deflection of her gratitude away. “Oh, shush. You girls are all too good to me—now, let’s get this party started!”
As Juliet and I clear away the dishes from the amazing dinner April prepared in our kitchen, Maddie starts to reach for her presents. She laughs, a bit sheepishly, when we catch her in the act. “Oh, damn it. Can’t I take a little peek?”
“No!” we all say in unison.
The modest pile of presents sitting underneath the coffee table, half hidden from sight, consisted of a few small parcels. I had gotten Maddie some luxury French lip balms that worked wonders on my own chapped lips when my father got me a pack for my own birthday last year. I had helped April wrap her rather sizable package—a box claiming to contain a Magic Bullet blender—but I suspected she had something much more surprising in that box since, when I lifted it, there was practically no weight within. I gave up trying to guess what might
be in there. April was the master of secrets, after all. Her gifts were always a magnificent surprise.
After we get the dishwasher running, we finally allow Maddie to dash over to the couch, pulling us along with her, to rip open her presents. She gasps and claps gleefully as she unwraps Juliet’s present first, revealing a beautiful set of glass figurines.
“They’re not very practical,” Juliet says as Maddie turns each trinket over in her hands, “but I saw you eying them the last time we were at the mall. I hope you like them?”
We can all see Juliet holding her breath in anticipation—she’s always been such a people pleaser, even more eager to make people happy than I was (which was saying a
, since I could almost never help practically devoting my whole life to making my dearest friends and family happy)—until Maddie squeaks a little as she beams with joy.
. Jules, I
them! This swan is just perfect—it’s going front and center on my mantelpiece.”
Juliet relaxes noticeably and returns the smile before passing my present up to Maddie. “Good! Next present, next present!”
We cheer Maddie on as she shakes my gift a little as though trying to figure out what it might be. I laugh when she pouts, hearing nothing rattling around inside, before finally tearing through the wrapping to reveal the cute little package of lip balms.
—Erin! I’ve been dying to try this brand for
I laugh again and reach over to show her where the package opens when she scrabbles at the box a little, trying to get at the lip balms inside. “I thought you might enjoy them. They even let you pick your own flavors—you still like cherry, right?”
Maddie rolls her eyes and pulls a
face at me before grinning again and clutching the box to her chest. “They’re perfect, Erin. Thank you.”
I smile and relax with Juliet—two down, one to go. Just as Maddie begins to reach for the last and largest box, April leaps up and gestures for us to pause.
“Wait!” she says, startling Maddie into stopping with her hands hovering inches away from the last present. “This calls for some special mood music.”
April steps over the wrapping on the floor to her laptop, plugging in her iPod and setting it to some of that modern rock and roll she listens to all the time. I recognize the band as the Rocks, an absurdly popular group that all three of them loved more than their own mothers. (Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but only by a little bit!)
Maddie gasps and claps her hands as she recognizes the tune immediately. “I
this track! Oh, you’re absolutely right—this is the perfect mood music. I could listen to them for
?” April asks, waggling her eyebrows at Maddie as she settles down on the couch with the rest of us again. “I think you mean
, as in Mr. Romeo Lover-boy Ortiz.”
.” Maddie clutches her chest melodramatically. “God’s gift to us ladies. Listen, listen—.”
She begins to sing along to the chorus when it comes on, momentarily forgetting about her last gift as she gets up to dance around the room. I smile and watch as Juliet and April join her, swinging their hips along to the beat, and even allow myself to be pulled up, albeit a bit reluctantly, to join them.
Who was I to spoil the party mood just as it was getting going, after all? I sway along with them, mimicking their moves and following along as best as I can to a song that I’m not as familiar with. It wasn’t that I didn’t
the Rocks, of course—though I certainly wasn’t as into them as any of my friends. Their music was passionate and that singer the girls never stopped talking about was pretty attractive in that overexposed Hollywood way, but I guess I missed the craze.
I could see the appeal, I guess, but it just wasn’t my thing.
That didn’t stop me from laughing and partying with my best friends, though—the music kept us all buzzing around for a while longer until Maddie finally collapses back down on the couch to grab at her last present.
“Okay, okay! Distraction over—can I open this up now?”
We all look to April to confirm and she nods, smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” April says as Maddie begins to peel the wrapping paper again. “Go for it! We’ve still got the cake to do after this.”
Maddie rattles the box a little before getting the paper off completely, hearing something tumble around inside. Her eyes go a bit wide and she shoots April a look of playful suspicion as she pulls the Magic Bullet box out.
,” she says contemplatively as she bounces the box up a few times, feeling how light it is. “Well,
isn’t what it appears, is it.”
April laughs and settles back to watch her handiwork at work, bringing a confused look to Maddie’s face. “I couldn’t make it that easy for you, could I? Go deeper!”
Maddie grins, her suspicions that a Magic Bullet wasn’t
her gift now confirmed, and opens up the box from the top. Juliet and I lean in closer, also curious as to what April could have hid in there. The box is stuffed to the brim with tissue papers, which Maddie sifts through carefully until, finally, she finds a plain, unmarked envelope inside.
“Getting closer,” April says mysteriously.
Maddie laughs and slides a finger under the fold to tear open the envelope, careful not to damage whatever might be inside. She pulls out a few scraps of paper that I can’t quite see and blinks a few times before
! This is—this is—!”
It’s April’s turn to laugh now as she leans in and pats Maddie on the back. “
“Front row seats to the
!” she screams, finally, as she clutches the tickets tightly to her chest and hugs April with her free arm. She turns to Juliet and me, next, hugging each of us as well, so tightly that she practically squeezes all the air out of our bodies. “
front row seat tickets! Juliet—Erin—
April laughs as Juliet gasps, too, her eyes going as wide as Maddie’s as though her own birthday had come early.
. I think I’ve broken the birthday girl.”
her on the arm lightly. “Oh, shush! You
you’ve broken me—but don’t even pretend you’re not just as excited as I am. Admit it—just
about it. Oh, God, Romeo Ortiz. In the
,” April counters with a dreamy sigh. “You can have your bad boy Romeo. I’m going to be busy making eyes at bad boy
“Maybe I’ll have her bad boy Romeo,” Juliet says with a mischievous grin. “My name
Juliet, after all.”
They all laugh and I join in even though I can barely follow the flow of the conversation. Although I’m grateful that April thought to include me in this gift, I almost wish she had saved her money—I’m sure there were other people out there who would enjoy my seat much more than I do.
I don’t mention that, though, if only because it would be rude to turn down such a considerate gift. Besides, it was a night out with my girls—the music didn’t matter. It would be fun!
When I tune into the conversation again, they’re talking about perhaps being the one girl selected for some sort of ritual on stage. It sounds almost creepy (“
?” I ask skeptically, drawing a laugh out of the others) until Maddie explains excitedly that Romeo always chose a girl at the end of each show to bring on stage, where he would sing a beautiful love ballad to her.
“I’ll be happy for any one of you girls if he picks you,” Maddie says as she stares reverently at the tickets, “but of
I’m going to have my fingers crossed for me.”
“I’ll have my fingers crossed for you, too,” I promise. Though maybe I wouldn’t mind getting up there myself, too—if only to get a closer look at this guy that makes girls want to throw their panties on stage. (Surprisingly, that’s not even an exaggeration in the slightest if stories about their last European tour could be believed.)
A fast-paced rock anthem from one of the Rocks’ older albums comes on. Maddie pulls us all up to dance with her once more, and it’s easy to cut loose and enjoy the music even if it does just sound kind of generic to me. I sashay around the living room with the girls, genuinely looking forward to this concert night with them—after all, as fun as this girls’ night in has been, it’s been a good long while since we’ve had a girls’ night out!
With only a week to spare before the concert, the girls are practically living at the mall. Maddie claims that she can’t find a single thing to wear in her closet (which must be patently untrue since her closet is
and packed with every style and color I could ever imagine) and whisks us all away for shopping trips whenever we’re free.
We spend most of our time going in and out of dressing rooms, trying on outfits from cute to sexy to chic to
. Once in a while, a song by the Rocks will come on in the store we’re in and the girls would drop everything to dance and sing along. They get a few strange looks, but they seem happy enough to laugh it off—and I don’t allow myself to feel self-conscious at all. After all, I’m out with my best friends, looking forward to a concert that everyone swears will be awesome. Who cares what a few strangers think?
Alas, as a grad student on summer vacation, I happen to be free nearly
of the time. The shopping trips are fun, but exhausting. I never want to refuse when Maddie drags me out to some new outlet mall, but I feel like my feet are practically going to fall off. I love shopping as much as the next girl, but there was only so much I could take!