1.


So.

So, everything's going well. Elaine is mouthing an apology to me, but there's no need. No need at all, because everything is just great. Mr. Rochman's picking a piece of duck out of his mustache. Mrs. Rochman's patting my mom's arm with an endearing smile on her face. My mom's in turn smiling at me, so big and encouraging.

This is good news.

I am smiling away like my life depends on it. "It's fine." The words flow out of me like a dam breaking. "Everything is perfect and fine, fine and perfect."

Elaine reaches across the table and grasps my hand. It's shaking. Yay, I'm shaking. I'm really good at shaking.

"Really, Maxxie?" Her voice is strained.

I nod so hard my head's gonna fall off. "Yes, fantastic. Superb." I snatch my wine glass and clock it back. The whole thing. Her parents are staring. My mom's staring.

They gave me wine and they don't expect me to drink it?

If I can get married I sure as hell can chug a glass of red wine. I can chug it. I will chug it. I have been chugging it.

Wine is a terrible thing to chug.

My eyes water and I set the glass down with a shudder.

Okay.

No.

Casual hysteria isn't okay. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. "Can I help plan it?" Look at me, such a go getter, asking my mom permission if I can plan my own wedding. A jellyfish has more spine than me.

Elaine is frowning, understandably. "You really want to?"

I twitch. I turn to her with a game show host grin. "Of course!"

She looks really freaked out.

"Honey, that would be so fabulous!" Mrs. Rochman throws her hands in the air, all joy. She's usually on some kind of painkillers that make her flaily. At least she's always happy?

Elaine lowers her voice. "You're freaking out, Maxxie."

I flash a more natural smile. Y'know, one that doesn't feel like I've attached hooks to my mouth and pulled. "How about now?"

"Better."

"You know how I am with surprises." I practically hiss this, as if this is her fault. It's never Elaine's fault. She's like me. She goes along, too. We have both been going along for so long. I sit back and touch my glass. "Mrs. Rochman, may I have more wine?"

Mrs. Rochman cheerily pours me some. My mom eyes the glass like it's going to crack in my hand.

I sip politely.

So.

They're pushing the wedding date forward.

So.

What's wrong with that? Since I was a kid, I was set to marry Elaine. We met when we were five and we were inseparable. Our parents held functions together. Our grandparents were rivals but now our families have decided to merge companies. It's not like Elaine and I need to be married for that to happen, but our parents got so happy and invested in the idea we'd get married that it became an unofficial arranged marriage.

I like Elaine.

Elaine likes me.

We're best friends. We've been together since elementary school, middle school, and highschool. We wouldn't date anyone else. We went to prom together. We've always been—together.

So, of course we'll get married in six months.

Why not?

It's supposed to be three years away. That timing's arbitrary. Waiting's pointless, according to Mrs. Rochman. We're gonna do it anyway. Why not marry now?

Why wait?

My friends already think I'm a weirdo. I let my mom dictate my love life. I am weird. It is weird. It is, but it's just this thing that has transpired, first as a joke and then not. Somewhere along the way, it became real. Yeah. Now, it's real. It used to be vague and abstract but now there is an actual date and an actual venue and it is very, very concrete.

Her parents and my mom chitter to each other. Despite my mini flip out, they aren't worried.

I get anxious. This happens. I'm not good with unexpected things. Elaine bought me a dog for Christmas last year and I hyperventilated. My mom surprised me with a two week holiday overseas and I actually cried. Despair-cried, like I couldn't grapple this was a nice thing to do.

I don't fucking like surprises.

I like things clear, cut, and right in my face. I like to see things from a mile—or in this wedding's case—years away. I like to know exactly what I'm going to be up against.

I don't know. It's only certain things, too. I won't have a meltdown if I think I'm getting pancakes for breakfast, but—oh, would ya' look at that, it's eggs and hash browns. It's more like life-altering events. Like a dog is a big responsibility. Flying overseas in the middle of a school term is kinda looked down on. Getting married early is—

I take a deep breath and shut my eyes. I'm fine. It's still in the plan. It's just that things have been bumped ahead, slightly. Just slightly. Just a few years. Getting married at twenty instead of twenty-three. No big deal. Just some numbers.

Elaine's foot touches mine under the table. I open my eyes. She smiles at me, and I smile at her. Genuine, finally.

She's cute. She's really cute, my Elaine. Her dark hair is up and her long neck is exposed. Her brown eyes are warm like melted chocolate. She has some freckles that come out when she's in the sun too long. I've known her all my life. Playing in sand boxes, fending off bullies, getting teased for cooties. She was my first kiss. My first everything. We lost our virginity together when we were in highschool.

Everything new, I have always experienced it with her hand in mine.

I am dopey. Giddy. Our feet wrestle a bit until she laughs and I laugh. Our parents have turned to us with her own dopey looks on their faces.

So.

Everything really is just perfect.


A/N: Sure it is, bro.