Sister Sledge was blasting out of the speakers, being celebrated with party poppers and shots of rum. A woman with pink hair and braces whooped loudly as she shot a spout of silly string into the birthday girl's face. It was childish, yet refreshing, and Emily Banks couldn't laugh harder at her friend's antics.
"Ined!" She whined, picking the pink string out of her hair and off her floral smock. "Don't waste 'em all, Roger has yet to show."
Ined Martin stuck out her tongue and took another shot. "Who cares about Roger."
Emily shook her head and went to check on her three toned cake. It was rising comfortably in the oven, oozing pink, yellow, and blue. She got the recipe off a youtube channel, and set her laptop on the counter, replaying the video a dozen times until the cake was set to bake.
She leaned against the marble counter top and sipped at her wine glass, absentmindedly petting her fat cat Minkin. By eleven forty-three she would be thirty and the mere thought made her sad all over again. It was a lie, this thirty and flirty bit, she'd rather be seventeen with a fake ID and a broken car, face value four hundred bucks at some rundown dealership.
"Em, hot shot's here!"
She rushed out of the kitchen and into the living room, watching as Roger set down his briefcase and coat. He smiled sheepishly at Ined, who scowled at him in return, and wrapped his frail arms around Emily. He smelled of regal papers and white out, and she pressed herself further into his white dress shirt. His deep voice rumbled and she giggled as it shook her body.
"Happy Birthday Emily."
She pushed his shoulder playfully and handed him a shot glass. "Drink up, it's gonna be a long night."
At around seven in the morning, Emily rattled off about every game platform she owned and their respective games. She already talked about past relationships, work, and sexual exploits, the conversation topics were dwindling. She was sprawled on the floor, her head resting on a cushion and her feet propped on the coffee table. Ined and Roger were resting quietly on the couch, their hatred extinguished after the ninth drink.
"I hate being thirty."
Ined yawned and placed her head on Roger's shoulder. "Oh stop your whining, it's getting ridiculous."
"Says the twenty-seven year old who's not yet thirty."
"I'm not gonna pity you any longer," she reached for a blanket and tossed it over her lap. "Now shut-up and go to sleep."
Emily groaned and flopped over on her stomach. "But I'm not tired!"
"Do some laps around the block or something."
Emily huffed and slowly picked herself up, swaying as the alcohol hit. She pulled on a knitted cardigan and shuffled her feet into a pair of dirty Chucks, murmuring that she'd be right back and exiting her apartment with a bottle of water and Aspirin.
She ran into her neighbor down the hall who shot her the bird as she smiled drunkenly at her. "How are you Mrs. Crans?" She called when she reached the elevator.
Mrs. Crans glared at her from the doorway and picked up the mail laying at her feet. "Better question is how are you m'dear?"
Emily waved her hand through the air and shrugged, completely forgetting what she asked. She nodded and turned when the lift arrived, "okay."
She tapped her feet to the chiming elevator music and stumbled out when she reached ground floor. She waved hello to the door man and slowly walked to a twenty-four hour diner that served all day breakfast.
Her mouth watered at the pictures of waffles and bacon on the menu and she ordered two full plates of pictures three and seven on page two. A woman with large hips bustled towards her and set down the two steaming plates with a cup of coffee and a tall glass of water. Emily thanked her and devoured her food, leaving little time to chew and breathe.
By eight-thirty she was well fed and detoxified that she clambered up her apartment steps and into the emergency staircase. Slow as a slug she climbed to the twelfth floor, breathing in the smell of plaster and fresh paint. When she reached her apartment she found a man in a dark plaid shirt knocking hesitantly on her door.
"Can I help you?" She slurred, brushing a few strands of hair out of her eyes.
He smiled down at her and rubbed his bearded jaw. "Actually I think I'm looking for you."
She raised a brow and fell against the wall, her legs not agreeing with her. "Are you a stripper? Because Ined said she called a stripper but I didn't believe her, she bluffs a lot you know –"
He eyed her in amusement and only indulged her rant.
" – so if you're a stripper I'm sorry but I'm really not in any condition to amuse your sexual shimmies right now, but here." She barged through her door and made a beeline for her cookie jar where she kept wads of cash. The man lingered in the kitchen doorway, eying the empty bottles of beer and wine.
"Some party." He commented.
Emily shrugged and pressed a couple of hundreds into his hand. "Sorry you came all this way."
"I'm n –"
"Is that not enough?"
"Clearly you haven't had a stripper before." She blushed a deep crimson and shuffled her feet. He threw the cash on the counter and coughed a laugh into his hand.
"I used to live down the street from your Aunt."
She rubbed her temples and sighed, "you're gonna have to be a bit more specific."
"Sally." She clicked her fingers together and nodded, reaching for a glass of stale water. "Not sure if you remember me, uh, Atticus Shay?"
Her eyes widened and she bounded over to him on weak limbs, "Atty? Oh my God!" She went to wrap her arms around him but felt it was too personal after losing contact for so many years, instead patting his shoulder awkwardly, he laughed at her dilemma.
"How are you?"
"I'm doing well actually, and yourself?"
She gestured to her apartment, "I've hit old age."
"Always for the dramatics." She smirked.
"Emily, shut the fuck up!" Ined screamed from the living room. Emily grinned helplessly and grabbed his sleeve, pulling him into her small bathroom. She glanced at her reflection and winced at her messy hair and smeared make-up, licking her fingers and quickly trying to fix it as Atticus sat Indian-style on the plush mat.
"So what brings you to my apartment at nine am?"
He shrugged, "this and that." She floated over to her tub and sat on the edge.
"You married?" She choked on her saliva and hacked until her throat cleared.
"I beg your pardon?" He grinned and shook his head, slowly rising so he was standing a few feet away from her.
"I said, you married?"
"I don't think it's any of your business." Atticus stepped closer, eyeing her expectantly. "No, I'm not."
"Good." He murmured. He stepped closer until her knees bumped his legs and she looked up at him slightly worried.
"Good?" she said, incredulously, and shook her head at him. "And what do you even care?"
"Well a certain someone made a promise to a certain other someone," he said with a grin. "If you'll recall."
She stared at him. "What the hell are you talking about?"
He just grinned. "Think, Emily."
Realization dawned on her face. She felt her limbs slipping and her body being propelled backwards into the tub until she was laying on her back on top of shampoo bottles. Her head pounded, her arms felt numb, and Atticus Shay grinned over her fallen form. "Oh shit."
"Hello, fiancé," he crooned.