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Feliz, Cera, Will, Lavena, Ashlynn, and Tadd sat a table in a large chain restaurant. The restaurant was busy and full of happy people. Even though their table had balloons, party hats, and noise makers, the six friends looked pretty morose. Feliz asked the group, “Should we sing Happy Birthday?”
They all replied, “Nah.”
Ashlynn apologized to Tadd, “I’m sorry I didn’t plan a more exciting party. We all got wrapped up in issues-ours and everyone else’s. It’s funny how when someone reaches a milestone how you start evaluating your own life. What kind of birthday could I possibly have with no job and still living with mom and dad?”
Feliz sniffed a little. “You think your birthday will be a bummer? At least your family supports you. Mine disowned me. I can finally start dating who I want, but I will probably still be single when my thirtieth comes ’cause what guy’ll wanna enter that family drama?”
“You think you’ll still be single on your birthday?” Will put in. “I work in an arcade and live with a crazy cat lady-I know I’ll be single! What are the odds I’ll have my shit together in two months?”
“At least you have some dignity!” Cera opinionated. “I’ll be a thirty year old virgin! Probably. I mean, who would sleep with me? I live with my parents too, but it’s worse ’cause I’ve never even had a real job. I’m like a kid, and my birthday party will probably get treated like that too!”
Lavena lamented, “My birthday will probably be an actual kid’s party! I turn thirty the same day as Mrs. Hollingsworth, so who would babysit them? If I had a husband, we could celebrate as a family. Being a single mom is so hard, ad it’s just gonna keep getting worse as I get older.”
Everyone except for Tadd had a glum look on their face. Tadd observed his friends in surprise. He had been so obsessed with his own woes that he didn’t think about their issues. He was there through all of this and saw everything, but he didn’t have the confidence to say anything…until now. “Wow. Look at the effect I had on you. You all think your life is over and that you’re failures. You’re wrong! There’s nothing wrong with us! When you turn thirty, everyone has all these expectations for how your life should look. Your parents, your religion, your family, neighbors, random community members-everyone expects us to have our life totally together. We’re supposed to have a good job, a happy marriage, a perfect body, et cetera. It was okay to not have it all figured out when we were in our twenties; we still had time to go wild and crazy and figure out this whole ‘adult’ thing. Suddenly, thirty hits and at the drop of a hat, we’re supposed to just have it all figured out. There’s still a lot of things we’re figuring out. We’re only human, and we’ve gone through a lot, probably more than most people. Excuse me if our life isn’t put together yet. I’m sure we’d all like to be there, and we tried our best to make it happen, but the things we want are gonna take a little more time than we thought to come to fruition. What, suddenly we have a deadline ’cause other people are judging us? Screw them! We’ll get there at our own pace!
“Feliz, if your family won’t accept you for who you are, fuck ’em! You deserve to be happy, and if being with a man will give you that, then you should find a good guy! Don’t rush it though-the right man will come around when you least expect it.
“Lavena, you ever wonder why so many skeezy guys hit on you? It’s cause you’re desperate, and men can sense that. The right man gets turned off by that and it turns the wrong guy on. If you want Mister Right, be Mrs. Right. Be the strong, confident woman we both know you are! Enjoy single life, and your prince charming will come around!
“Will, if you don’t like your house or job, then do something about it! Find a new place and a new job. Take classes to get a good job so you can afford a better place. That bartender, Leon, seemed to really enjoy his job, and I can totally see you doing that! Be proactive!
“Cera, you can’t follow every rule in the Bible, it’s impossible! You can still be a good Christian and do more adult things. If you don’t wanna follow your parents’ lifestyle, then don’t. Get a job and move out. I’m sure your church has a dating group, and there’s plenty of online religious dating sites. This is how you find a middle ground between being overly devout and being a deviant: go on dates, find a nice guy, and hey, what happens between you is between you and God. Virgin or not, it’s none of our business!
“Ashlynn, no one cares if you’re broke. You’ve done so much good with your time off, and that’s worth more to society than wasting away at some dead-end job. You turned something very negative into something positive. You brought us together, and your saint-like patience changed my life! I’ll be forever grateful!”
Feliz, Lavena, Will, Cera, and Ashlynn beamed. They went from feeling lousy to almost glowing. Tadd made them feel so good about themselves, and it was such a relief to let go of some of their self, and society’s, criticisms. Ashlynn exclaimed, “This is the Tadd we remember! You’re amazing! Thank you so much for that!”
“Yeah, thanks man!” Will added. “You guys think I’d be a good bartender?”
“You’d be a great one,” Feliz told him. “And I don’t want you to worry about paying for bartending school on your arcade salary-I’m paying for it! Just promise me when you get your own bar that my future boyfriend and I get free drinks!”
“You got it!” Will happily agreed. They bumped fists.
Lavena remarked, “You know, I think I’ll go back to school too. I can squeeze in an online class with my schedule. I wanna set a good example for my kids by going to college and going for a career versus a job!”
“I’m gonna get my first real job!” Cera stated, excited by the idea. “Just something to get me experience and pay for an apartment. And I shouldn’t be ashamed for what I do or don’t do behind closed doors. I don’t know when I’ll lose my virginity, but I’d rather take my time and do it right.”
“Let me know when you find a job,” Will said to Cera. “We can find an apartment together-split the costs and be roommates.”
“Okay!” Cera looked elated. They bumped fists too.
Feliz got a text message, and when he looked at his phone, his heart melted. “Nonna said she knew all along and loves me anyways! She’ll accept my future husband, but he can’t know the family’s cannoli recipe. Oh Nonna!” He wiped away a tear.
Ashlynn was so happy that her friends were planting seeds that would grow into something that would make their life grow into something that would make their life better. Now she just needed to figure out where she wanted to work so she could move out too. She wished that she could find an answer as easily as her friends did. As if the universe read her thoughts, Tadd got an email. He read it immediately, and then he breathed a sigh of relief. “I got approved for a small business loan! I haven’t took a gig in so long that I’m a little behind the finances of it all. I got that loan so I could hire someone to do my bookkeeping. So Ashlynn, that was part of your duties at your old job right? Do you think we’d work well together?”
Ashlynn felt thunderstruck. “Are you offering me a job?”
“Yes.” Tadd grinned. “Would you accept it?”
Ashlynn’s heart practically danced. “Oh Tadd! Of course I’ll accept it! You don’t know how much this means to me!”
Tadd shrugged but smiled knowing how happy this gesture made her. “It’s the least I could do!”
They gave each other a hug. Cera, Feliz, and Will also smiled, but it was more of a knowing way. Lavena looked like she was about to burst if she didn’t say something! Feliz, Cera, and Will silently urged her not to do it, but Lavena blurted out, “Kiss her already!”
Ashlynn and Tadd stopped hugging because they felt shocked by the outburst. “What?” Tadd reacted.
“Why would we kiss?” Ashlynn felt like she knew why she would say that but also felt a denial, like she did not want to jump to conclusions.
“Oh come on!” Lavena commented excitedly. “You know how it was so obvious to us all that Feliz was gay? Well, we’ve all known for, like, forever that you two have feelings for each other. Why did it take so long to admit the truth? Quit lying to yourself! You two have a romance budding; you are long overdue for your first kiss together!”
Tadd and Ashlynn gave each other a look of disbelief. When they looked back at their friends, they all seemed to agree more with Lavena. It could not be true. How could she have suppressed feelings like that for so long? She held Tadd in the highest regard, he was the most amazing person that she ever met, but to have romantic feelings? Furthermore, even if she did find a fleeting feeling, she shook that notion because she never felt good enough for a guy like him. Wait, that thought sounded like it agreed with them. It just could not be true! Ashlynn stammered, “I just…it can’t be…I…”
Tadd was on the same page as her. “But I…”
Cera, Lavena, Will, and Feliz now all started to chant, “Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!”
Ashlynn turned to Tadd for answers. Tadd suggested, “We could humor them…”
Ashlynn felt totally awkward but complied. They gave each other a quick peck, but then they lingered. They felt something-electricity. The truth flooded Ashlynn like a dam suddenly sprung a leak. There was feelings-strong ones. Tadd was everything she ever wanted, and she could not believe it took her this long to wake her heart up. Tadd obviously felt the same way too. They kissed each other again, but this time it was longer and more passionate. There was no denying it now-she was in love! They broke apart from their embrace, but they kept their heads close. Ashlynn told him sweetly, “What d’ya know, they were right!”
“How did I get so lucky?” Tadd beamed and grabbed her hand, caressing it gently. Ashlynn blushed-he felt like the lucky one?
Cera and Lavena reacted with, “Awwww!” while Feliz and Will reacted with “Finally!”
Cera raised her glass to make a toast, “Here’s to new beginnings!”
“To the end of blaming society and to the realization that we are society, so we can change it for the better!” Feliz added while raising his glass.
“To our generation, not quite millennials but not generation x-the bridge generation! To generation xy!” Will added while raising his glass.
“To choosing happiness above anything else!” Lavena added while raising her glass.
“To good friends!” Tadd added while raising his glass.
“To a happy thirtieth birthday!” Ashlynn added while raising her glass.
They clinked their glasses together and drank. Tadd smiled from ear to ear. “This turned out to be a great party after all!”
“Happy birthday, Tadd!” Ashlynn exclaimed.
Everyone gave him a hug. They all had a flashback to twelve years ago when Tadd turned eighteen and they hugged him the same way but in their high school’s quad. They came back to this moment and cherished it. It took them a long time to notice a waiter tapping his pen and impatiently waiting for them. “So…are you gonna order or what?” They happily sat and decided what they wanted to order.
It’s funny how ordinary moments become the greatest memories. No one knew what exactly the next chapter of their life held, but they were too happy to care. It took them many years to gain the wisdom that there was no point in worrying about the future-happiness came from enjoying the little moments in life happening right now.
Lavena, Feliz, Ashlynn, and Will sat a park’s picnic table while Michael and Hannah ran around the grass area beside it. The park area had a trail against a high hill. The grass had started to yellow, and the leaves on the tree were starting to change color. Feliz slumped on the table with a glum look on his face. Lavena conversed with Feliz, “Why did she destroy your car? Was she punishing you for your sexuality?”
“No,” Feliz answered. “She was punishing me for making her angry. Of course she was hurt-I broke up with her, and that’s always a hurtful experience. Some people react inwardly for emotions, and some people channel it out. I read that in a Cosmo a long time ago. One time, I got her a workout DVD for her birthday. She thought I was calling her fat and tore up my Sex and the City posters.”
Will commented, “I can’t believe she didn’t know you were gay!”
Michael and Hannah overheard this part of the conversation, and Michael asked his mother, “What’s gay?”
Lavena was not sure how to explain it, so she tried to find the easiest way to appease them, “Uh, it means you’re happy.”
Hannah observed, “He doesn’t look very happy.”
“Okay.” Lavena knew the time had come to explain this concept to the children. “So, you know how men and women fall in love? Sometimes women fall in love with other women, and men can fall in love with other men. It’s probably hard for you to understand…”
“Nope,” Michael replied. “Makes sense to me.”
“Me too,” Hannah agreed. They went back to playing, totally unfazed. Lavena blinked. She could not believe how accepting they were to this kind of thing.
Will complimented Lavena, “You’re kids are awesome! Weird, but totally awesome”
Ashlynn commented, “It’s funny how some people never grow out of that!” They all laughed.
Cera and Tadd came into the vicinity. Cera was holding Tadd to guide him in the right direction. Tadd looked totally lost while he held a flower stem. Cera revealed to them, “I found him sobbing by the tennis courts. Apparently he played the ‘She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not’ game…”
“She loves me not!” he moaned. No one responded except to shake their heads.
Ashlynn talked to him in a cheery tone, “Your birthday is this weekend! What do you wanna do?” Tadd shrugged. “My parents offered to go out for the night if you wanted to have a party. Did you wanna do that? Or something more quiet?” Tadd shrugged again. Ashlynn got depressed. Tadd’s thirtieth birthday was practically upon them, and she had not succeeded in cheering him up.
They all heard some cheerful whistling in the distance. Tears welled up in Tadd’s eyes, and he ran off. Cera volunteered, “I’m already up, I’ll get him.” She ran in his direction.
“I thought he was past this stage.” Ashlynn hung her head, feeling like a failure.
Lavena wondered, “How is it that over two months later he still looks like hell and Feliz has been broken up for a couple days and is in way better shape than he is?” The whistling slowly grew louder and louder as the perpetrator grew closer and closer.
They turned to Feliz, who thought about what she said for a moment. “I had been mentally prepared for this for a long time, and I think Tadd got blindsided. He just needs closure.”
It was uncanny. The person who had been whistling came into view, and it was Brie! Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched her like a ghost appeared. She walked on the sidewalk outside the grass area to a small, white car. She appeared very happy. Her looks had not changed much since high school except for the wear and tear stemming from her hardcore party lifestyle. Even Hannah and Michael stopped playing to watch this moment that froze everyone. Between Lavena, Feliz, and Will, so many mixed emotions stirred up, and they did not know how to react. The were not sure if they wanted Tadd to find her or not. Ashlynn’s blood was boiling. She felt so much hate for that woman. She was half tempted to run over and rip Brie to shreds. She despised her for what she did to Tadd. She did not want Tadd to see her because she was afraid this meeting would make him even more crazy. She also worried that she would lure Tadd away. Tadd could not be happy with Brie, and Ashlynn could not stand the idea of Tadd getting ensnared by her poisonous trance again.
Brie got to her car and appeared to be searching for something. “Where did I put you?” She checked inside and out of her car for whatever she was missing. “Oh wait, I remember!” She went to the trunk and found what she thought she lost. “Ah, there you are!” She pulled out a small baby. Lavena, as a mother, could not hide her disgust at this and made a disapproving noise. Brie heard this, and she finally noticed them. “Oh my gawd, hi!” Brie seemed oblivious to the negative emotions of everyone present and approached them happily, “Do you remember me?”
“We can never forget you.” Ashlynn’s tone was pure ice.
Brie either did not notice her attitude or did not care. She merrily filled them in, “Oh, awesome! I got married, but I think we’re getting a divorce. Married life is so boring! Oh, this is Brandy. I named her that ’cause that’s what I was drunk on when she was conceived!” She had a very obnoxious laugh, which made them cringe. Will stared at her in total confusion, and she finally started to notice the collective mood. “What?”
Will continued to stare at her incredulously. “I don’t get it. Why would Tadd go so nuts over you?”
Brie questioned, “Tadd? Tadd who?”
“Oi!” Lavena exclaimed.
Ashlynn felt compelled to yell at her, to completely tear her apart. How dare she have such utter disrespect for such a good man! However, she did not act on those impulses. Cera had come back, leading Tadd by the arm. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw what was taking place. Tadd did not notice her for a moment. Everyone stood on edge, waiting for an explosion, not knowing how he would react.
When Tadd looked up and saw her, he froze completely. He barely even blinked. He went totally blank, like her presence had removed all sense of reality. His friends could practically hear his heart racing. His mind could not fathom this moment. Cera, Lavena, Will, Feliz, Hannah, and Michael all stood still, again, not knowing how to react. Ashlynn could not move either. She did not know whether to rescue Tadd or let the inevitable unfold. This was really happening, they all thought.
Brie nimbly approached Tadd. “Oh yeah, Tadd! Hi Tadd!” He continued to look at her in utter surprise. There was a long, heavy pause. Brie broke the tension, “Did you miss me?”
Without thinking, Tadd answered, “No.”
Feliz and Feliz could not suppress themselves from saying that. Lavena and Cera concurred.
Tadd finally asked her, “What are you doing here?”
Brie answered, “I took Brandy to the park.”
“Oh, you’re drinking in public again?” he questioned.
Brie laughed, “No! I wish! I get lots of dirty looks when I drink with the baby for some reason.” The more she talked, the more disgusted they all became with her. “I’m in town to sign some legal papers. I’m divorcing Jose.”
Everyone dreading her saying that to him. They all wondered how Tadd would react to hearing that she was single again. Tadd looked as thought he could not process anything that was happening. He asked her, in an accusing tone, “Did you cheat on him too?”
Brie giggled. “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that. Gosh, being back in this town brings back so many many memories! But this town is all used up. As soon as the divorce papers are signed, we’re going to Me-ahm-me!”
“Where?” Tadd’s thoughts were clearly swimming, and he continuously tried to get a handle on this moment.
“Miami!” Brie smiled. Impulsively, she invited him, “You should come with me.”
The dreaded moment had arrived. No one wanted their friend to go with this awful woman. Ashlynn’s head was screaming, but she was too horrified to move. No one could. They silently prayed that he would do the right thing. Tadd’s mixed emotions were agonizing him. He could not process anything. He asked her, “You want me to go with you? What, so you wanna get back together?”
“Well, I’m not a one man can of girl, but we can live together in paradise. You and me, side by side on the beach, going on adventures! Sure, we’ll screw each other, but there will be threesomes, orges, just everything our bodies desire. And you can help me take care of Brandy!” She went up to him and purred, “So, what do you say?”
Tadd mulled over everything. Everyone else was paralyzed. They could not believe this was happening. Ashlynn’s heart thumped hard, and she could not breathe. Everyone worried that they were going to lose him. Tadd agonized over how he felt, and suddenly, it clicked. Everyone saw the light bulb go off in his head, and the anticipation was palpable. Tadd realized he knew how he felt and what he wanted. He cut through the mounting tension and spoke softly, “Brie?”
“Yes, Tadd, baby?” Brie cooed.
Tadd stated honestly, “I’ve been waiting to hear those words since you left. I’ve been going crazy wishing things could go back to the way things were. But my answer is…” Everyone’s pulse climaxed. They watched like their friend was about to get killed. Ashlynn felt faint. Brie smiled victoriously. Tadd concluded with, “…Fuck you!”
Time stood still. Relief slowly flooded their bodies. They could not believe what they were hearing. Ashlynn was practically shaking. Could this be real? After everything Tadd went through lately, they could not believe that he was actually doing the right thing. Ashlynn’s adrenaline was still up as if she survived a collision. This was real. Tadd, for once, felt angry, and it showed. Brie backed up, and she felt like she got slapped in the face. “What?”
Tadd’s body surged with rage, and he unloaded on Brie, “You think you can put me through hell and come back like nothing happened? You’re a manipulative bitch! You know how to charm people to serve your selfish needs, and then you through people away like they’re nothing just ’cause you’re bored? You made me believe that I was something special, and I spent the last couple of months believing that I lost someone that made my life magical. None of it was real. You got what you wanted from me and destroyed me without a hint of guilt! How dare you! Do you even care how much of a crazy person you turned me into? You’re like an animal drifting from one place to the next, living hedonistically. And, what, I’m supposed to follow you and be your little bitch, let you use me and throw me away? I’m not falling for it!”
Brie seethed, “Do you know how many boys would kill to just screw around with no commitment?”
“Yeah, boys do that!” Tadd bellowed. “I’m no boy-I’m a man!”
Brie laughed derisively. “You, a man? You’re a loser! You and your friends were always losers! You grew up to be handsome, so you had potential. So, what, you’re saying that instead of living a life of pure pleasure with me, you wanna be buddies with a bunch of thirty-year-olds with no lives?”
Feliz, Cera, Lavena, Will, and Ashlynn all got offended by that, but Tadd reacted before they could. “They’re not losers! They’re true friends! They stuck by my side even when I acted insane, and they sacrificed most of their free time to help me. So, they encountered some obstacles, but they have goals, and they won’t give up ’til they achieve them. That makes them amazing people. And you-you call them losers?You’re like a hooker without the pay! They’ll make something out of their life, but you, you don’t know where you’re going! You’re the loser!”
“Hmpf! Well, congratulations, you just got dumped by a loser!” Brie stomped to her car and drove off. She quickly reversed, grabbed her baby, stomped back, and peeled off. It was over. Everyone took a moment to let this sink in.
“He’s back!” Ashlynn exclaimed. Everyone gave him a hug. Tadd appeared winded but the sadness and insanity that he displayed before had clearly vanished. He seemed a little depressed, but he clearly had way more thought than he had before. Ashlynn looked him in the eye and told him, “I’m so proud of you!”
Everyone agreed. Tadd felt a little disoriented, like he was coming out of a trance. He blankly asked, “So, now what?”
Cera replied, “We gotta watch over you ’cause now you’re in the rebound stage.”
“Nah,” Tadd stated, “I don’t need to replace her. Not when I have friends like you!” Everyone beamed and gave him another hug.
Cera cried her eyes out on Feliz’s couch. Feliz and Ashlynn sat by her to comfort her. Cera wailed, “I can’t believe I did that! I just abandoned my faith like it was…nothing! For what? Some uncomfortable, awkward interaction with a stranger in a dive bar parking lot! I’m a sinner!”
Feliz tried to reassure her, “Don’t beat yourself up! You didn’t actually do anything wrong. You’re still a virgin.”
Cera refuted, “I interacted with his…manhood! Even thinking about a man that way is a sin! I’m a terrible person!”
“No you’re not,” Ashlynn expressed, “You just had terrible sex!”
“But…but I…I…!” Cera stammered.
Davida came out of their bedroom in her pajamas. “What’s going on?”
Feliz explained, “Cera is drunk.”
“I’m not drunk!” Cera argued. “I’m sad!”
Feliz told Davida, “She is VERY sad.”
“Oh I see. Well, I can make her some coffee then.” Davida went into the kitchen.
Ashlynn stated to Cera, “Look, no one is perfect. It’s impossible to follow every single rule, and you should chastise yourself for not obeying every minute detail and technicality. The most important thing is to treat people with kindness, and as long as I’ve known you, you have always loved to help others. You can’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. All you can do is try your best to be a decent person.”
Feliz added, “I consider myself to be a good Catholic, but I am not perfect. Like, last Friday, I had some steak, but we’re not supposed to have meat that day. Does that mean I’m doomed? I won’t get into Heaven for that? The little things won’t ultimately matter in the end, so I don’t fret about them. God forgives mistakes as long as the list of good you do for the world is bigger than anything else.”
Cera sniffed. “I feel like such a whore!”
“Mary Magdalene was an actual whore,” Ashlynn pointed out, “and she was one of Jesus’ best friends. She wasn’t perfect, but she was forgiven, and no one judged her. They moved on and did greater things. I”m not a Catholic. I had premarital sex. Do you think I’m going to Hell?”
“No!” Cera saw her point. “And Feliz, our religion is not kind to your people, but I won’t stop being your friend!”
“What do you mean by ‘your people?'” Davida probed. No one saw her come back into the living room with the mug of coffee, and when they realized she was there and that she heard that part of the conversation, they jumped out of their skins. Ashlynn looked nervous, Cera felt guilty, and Feliz trembled in fear. Davida noticed their reactions. “What are you hiding from me? I’m your wife, you owe me the truth! Be honest! Tell me, please! Why won’t you say anything? Speak to me!” Feliz tried to speak but could not get the words out. An email notification went off on his phone. Feliz tried to grab it, but Davida reached it first. She saw the title of the email and read outloud, “In response to Need Help Coing Out. Coming out where?” Feliz could not say it. She asked Ashlynn and Cera, “Do you know what this means?”
Ashlynn shook her head, refusing to be a part of that argument. Cera, because of her lack of sobriety, honestly said, “We all figured it out, even before he did! You know! We don’t need to say anything. You know!”
Davida just looked angry, like she wanted to yell but didn’t know why, so she held it in. Feliz stepped up to her and softly said, “This isn’t how I wanted you to find out…” Davida had a look of denial on her face. She knew what was coming, and she knew she didn’t want to hear it but had to. Feliz took a deep breath and confessed, “I’m gay.”
“No!” All of the fight got drained from Davida. “I can’t believe it! Don’t you love me?”
“I do love you, but I’m not attracted to you,” Feliz told her.
Davida started to cry. “My husband isn’t attracted to me!” She sobbed, but when Feliz touched her arm to comfort her, she shrieked, “Don’t touch me, you pervert!”
“Pervert? I haven’t slept with any men yet!”
“You’re a pervert, and you will soon have to answer for your sin! What did your family say?”
“When they find out, they will disown you!”
“I hope they will love me no matter what.”
Davida laughed derisively. “If I can’t stand to look at you, I don’t see how they could want you in their life still. I’m leaving, and they won’t be here for you either, so I hope you’ll be happy with these perverted thoughts because you’ll be all alone with them”
Ashlynn stood up and defended him, “He’s not gonna be alone! He has us! We’ve known this all along, but we never cared! He’s a loving, sweet man, and if you don’t want a friendship with him, it’s your loss! We don’t need your narrow-minded ass around!”
Davida gave her a dirty look and stomped into the bedroom to pack her bags. Feliz sank onto his love seat and cried. Ashlynn put an arm around him to comfort him. Cera stepped towards him, but her legs felt too heavy to move because the alcohol kicked in full swing at this point. She slurred, “You’re not a pervert, I am!” She pased out onto the couch.
That momentarily distracted Feliz, but after a moment, he buried his head in his hands. “I knew this would be horrible.”
Ashlynn responded, “How much longer were you planning to sacrifice your happiness for hers?”
“I wasn’t ready!” he lamented.
“No one is ever really ready. Life happens unexpectedly, and when the universe wants you to open up a new chapter whether you’re ready or not!” Ashlynn exclaimed. “When you get to that pivotal point in your life, you have two choices-drown in the ocean or surf with the tide. That thing you were dreading to tell her is out now. You’re free! You can stop worrying and move on!”
Feliz seemed somewhat appeased by her words. Davida came out with a suitcase. “I’ll be back for the rest of my things when you’re at work. Do your coworkers know?”
“No,” Feliz answered.
Ashlynn corrected him, “Yes, trust me, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain!” Davida glared at her and left without saying goodbye. Feliz looked relieved that she did not have a stronger response. Ashlynn told him, “You don’t recognize a storm brewing, do you?”
Feliz shrugged. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“Are you sure? You probably shouldn’t be alone.”
“Cera will be here all night probably.”
They turned their heads to Cera, who was still passed out. Ashlynn gave Feliz a supportive hug. After a moment, she gathered her things so they could leave. She asked again, “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
He answered, “It’s gonna be weird, but I’ll be okay. I think the hardest part will be letting go of that loving feeling towards her.”
As they left, Ashlynn looked over the balcony and saw something alarming. “Uh, Davida is smashing your car with a golf club!”
“WHAT?” Feliz ran to the balcony and perched, glaring towards the direction where he was parked. “That bitch! I’ll kill her!” He grabbed his phone and called the police. While he was on hold, he observed, “Oh, hey! The loving feelings are gone!” Ashlynn laughed, and Feliz grinned a little.
Ashlynn sat alone at a table for six in a busy pizza parlor. She anxiously watched the doors and glanced at anyone who passed by. A young, bubbly girl in a sorority sweatshirt came up to her and whispered, “If you’re getting stood up, you should move to a smaller table. This big, empty table makes it super obvious that you’re all alone!”
“I’m waiting for my friends, not a date!” Ashlynn could tell she sounded harsher than she meant to portray.
The girl looked slightly offended and went back to her table, which had a bunch of college students. Ashlynn heard her say, “God, I hope I’m not that cranky when I’m that age!” Her friends all laughed. Ashlynn rolled her eyes, but it made her think-was she really that far apart from the new generation?
She got so distracted by her train of thought that she did not notice Lavena had arrived. She sat down, looking lost. “I got here so quick! It feels a little weird to come where without the kids!”
Ashlynn laughed. Feliz tapped Lavena’s shoulder. Lavena let out an excited little shrie and they hugged. Ashlynn forgot that she met up with everyone this week, but they hadn’t seen each other in twelve years. Cera arrived next and looked a little intimidated to be ambushed by Lavena and Feliz. While they reacquainted, Ashlynn turned to the sorority girl and said indignantly, “See! I have friends!” The girl rolled her eyes and whispered to her friends, who all laughed. Ashlynn said to herself, “Young people are so rude!”
Lavena, Cera, and Feliz sat down, chatting excitedly. When Will arrived, he hopped in front of the table with his hands in the air showing the “rock on” sign. Lavena, Cera, and Feliz all joyfully got up and gave him a hug. Cera exclaimed, “This is awesome! I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other in over a decade!”
Lavena responded, “Well, I didn’t go to the reunion…”
“I don’t think I got the ten year reunion thing in the mail,” Will commented. “Don’t they usually mail it to you?”
Feliz replied, “Our parents got it in the mail. We got an event invite on Facebook. I went and was rather bored. The only person that recognized me was Tadd. Well, Brie did too, but she thought I was Enrique Iglesias.”
Ashlynn piped in, “Speaking of Tadd, he should be here soon. I gotta warn ya, he’s beyond hot mess status. Don’t expect him to be super excited, but let’s stay excited. Maybe it’ll be infectious. At least, I hope it prevents any kind of screaming fits…”
“If he’s such a killjoy, why’s he gonna help plan a party?” Will inquired.
Cera answered, “I think it’s a great idea. After twelve years, we don’t know what he likes and doesn’t like. But how do you know he’s even gonna show up?”
Ashlynn smiled mischievously. “I forced his aunt to bring him here. She’s also paying for dinner for everyone. Now we’ll be even for five hours of babysitting!”
Feliz asked, “Aren’t her kids all adults?”
“Yup,” she answered.
Lavena put in, “Don’t ask.”
Feliz looked confused but he decided to change the subject. “Well, while we’re here to get to the new us and catch up on how things changed, I should start with an important discovery that I made about myself. Guys, this is difficult to tell you, but…”
Will interrupted, “You’re gay. We know.”
Feliz gave Ashlynn a look. “You told them?”
Ashlynn bemusedly informed him, “No. We all knew. We figured it out ages ago!” Cera, Will, and Lavena all nodded in agreement.
Feliz looked a little confused. “But I dated women in high school! I never revealed my secret feelings!”
“Look,” Will said to him, “You were in closet, but that closet was covered in sparkles and rainbows!”
Lavena added, “Yeah, you were in the closet…with a naked man!”
Everyone laughed heartily. Tadd arrived with a very somber look. his posture was somewhat slumped as he moped over to the table. Cera, Will, and Feliz had not seen him in the state yet, so they had a horrified look on their face. Lavena’s motherly instincts prompted her to wrap an arm around him and guide him to his chair. Ashlynn evaluated him. So far, he didn’t seem like he would rave like a lunatic. She wasn’t sure what to expect from him and kept an eye on his every move. Tadd forced himself to look at the group and say, “Hi.”
No one could respond for a second. Clearly, like Ashlynn, they were stunned to see their once happy-go-lucky friend in a state like this. Eventually, Will chimed, “Hey Tadd! How ya doin’, buddy?”
Tadd looked at an empty plate on the table as he responded listlessly, “I am only half here because my other half is gone. I gave her my heart, but she didn’t want it. So now I’m left with is a life a pain!”
Again, no one knew had to respond. Feliz decided to joke, “You sound like a bad country song!”
Everyone but Tadd laughed. At this point, the waiter came over with a large, New York style pizza. He put it on the table and left. Everyone but Tadd picked up a slice and put it on their plate. Automatically, Lavena picked up a fork and knife and attempted to use them on her pizza. Ashlynn, Will, Cera, and Feliz all stop her by saying, “Woah, woah, woah!”
Will probed, “You’ve lived in New York for how long?”
Lavena just realized what she almost did and tossed away her utensils. “Sorry, force of habit! I’m used to splitting a slice for the kids.”
Ashlynn asked, “You don’t get out without the kids much, do you?”
Lavena admitted, “I really don’t! No wonder I can’t find a man! How am I supposed to get married before thirty at this rate?”
Cera unexpectedly interjected, “I don’t care if I ever get married…I just wanna find a guy to screw!” Feliz, Lavena, Ashlynn, and Will looked at her in disbelief. Cera looked shocked at her bravery and burried her head in her hands.
Tadd, who still stared at his plate, bemoaned, “Brie found a guy to screw! Several actually. And a girl.”
Tadd started to bawl, making everyone immediately uncomfortable. Once again, no one knew how to react. Ashlynn knew that this behavior could be ignored and held her pizza up, “Here’s to our old friends!”
Will exclaimed, “Here, here!” Ashlynn, Will, Lavena, Cera, and Feliz clinked their pizzas together like a toast. Everyone then began to eat.
After a moment of eating, it felt awkward again. Feliz cut the tension with, “So, Tadd, where do you work nowadays?”
Tadd wiped away some tears and stopped crying momentarily. “I own a catering business.”
Everyone looked impressed. Lavena complimented, “That’s great!”
Tadd woefully said, “I wish I never learned to cook! It was what brought us together one fateful day. She tempted me to her evil love with a kind word about my cooking. How can I be so fucking stupid!”
Tadd stared blankly ahead. Everyone else just looked surprised that he didn’t start crying again, but they did stare at him in a stunned silence. Will reacted, “Jesus Christ, Tadd!”
Cera scolded him, “Don’t say the Lord’s name in…” She paused. “Wait, that’s not me anymore. If I’m committed to breaking the rules, I gotta start now. Time for freedom…dammit!”
Everyone but Tadd smiled at her awkward courage. Ashlynn conversed, “My idea of freedom is to start making enough money to support myself. My parents are kind for for helping me out like this, but I can tell living with them again is gonna drive me insane! Earlier today, they found my box of liquor and now they think I have a drinking problem!”
Lavena asked, “Do you?”
Ashlynn blushed. “I don’t think it’s a problem!”
Lavena, Feliz, Cera, and Will laughed heartily again. At that moment, a frat boy walked past their table, clearly lost and looking for his friends’ table. One of the sorority girl’s friends stood up and shouted, “Hey Tony!” He gave him a wolf whistle, and Tadd immediately went into tantrum mode.
Ashlynn’s heart dropped, but she took action right away. “Shit! Well, time to go!” She grabbed his flailing his arms and turned to her friends. “Remember how Brie used to constantly whistle? Every time he hears a whistle…well, you can probably guess.” He fought her grip, but Ashlynn gained control. As she pushed him towards the exit, she told her friends, “We need to take turns trying to cheer him up, ‘kay?” She pushed him out the door.
Cera, Feliz, and Lavena all gave each other a a look that said non-verbally how impossible they thought the task would be. They hear chewing, and they turn to see Will eating the pizza. They gave him a “how could you?” look, and he responded with his mouthful, “What? Am I supposed to waste a perfectly good pie?” They all agreed that he had a point and grabbed another slice.
EXT. VILLAGE ROAD. AFTERNOON.
People are screaming and fleeing their homes as the Menoreas destroy one building at a time and crushes anyone in its path. Cyrek and Orcus stand at the end of the road watching. The heroes stand closer to the monster and are at a loss for words.
For the first time as far as I
remember, I’m out of ideas!
What? You’re supposed to be
the idea person!
Okay, mister great warrior, since your
family has always been so victorious,
now’s your chance to amaze us.
Uh…We need to think a strategy
before we attack.
Why don’t we just all try to attack
one at a time to see its weakness?
They all look at him expectantly.
Wait, you want me to go first?
It was your idea! You’d be a great
warrior if you weren’t so lazy!
Ugh, I shouldn’t have sat down!
Hypnos forces himself to get up. He casually walks up to the Menoreas. Hypnos looks at him, and he looks back curiously. Hypnos holds up his hands.
Prepare to die!
The Menoreas slaps him back to his original spot. He lands by the group in a heap.
I guess I was talking to myself!
PAN to Cyrek and Orcus watching.
I’m beginning to have second
thoughts about this.
They watch the Menoreas play with Geekius like a tennis ball.
Well, you know, Melampia was on drugs.
All of the oracles are on drugs!
PAN BACK- Geekius is thrown back to them, hits his head on a water trough, and turns invisible.
Oh sure, now you turn invisible!
Exelda runs over to the Menoreas, but the Menoreas is too quick for her to make any real attacks. She dodges it a couple of times but gets caught off guard and thrown back.
We thought of a strategy, but you
haven’t moved yet.
We need a better strategy…
Exelda kicks his butt, and he is forced to walk over to the Menoreas. He is better at dodging him because of his super speed, but when he tries to stab him, the sword cannot penetrate his tough skin and breaks. Narcius is thrown back and hits a hitching post.
Quick, someone make me cry!
Once my horse trampled a kitten
on the road…
Was the kitten okay?
Exelda shakes her head. Ditzia cries. She then gets angry and flies over to the Menoreas. The Menoreas swats her like a fly, and she lands in a puddle. The puddle splashes onto the Menoreas, who shrieks in pain.
That’s it! Water! Narcius, grab that
rope. You and Ditzia will wrap it
around his legs. Geekius, make sure
he doesn’t fall into any buildings.
Hypnos, help me carry this trough.
Geekius, still invisible, gets the Menoreas to step away from the buildings. The Menoreas is confused. Ditzia flies with one end of the rope and Narcius carries the other end. They wrap the rope around its ankles. He tries to move forward and falls down. Exelda and Hypnos have moved the trough by the Menoreas side. It takes all five to lift the trough high enough to hit the Menoreas in the head. The Menoreas screams and dies. The townspeople recognize this victory and run up to them in celebration. The heroes are a little bashful but proud.
Thank you! We were glad to help.
Great! And now you’re prepared
for next time!
There’s going to be another one?
Several more. Did I forget to mention
that? What do you say?
Do we have a choice?
Don’t you want revenge for
Let’s kill some monsters!
The others cheer in agreement. A messenger comes and hands Cyrek a note.
Ah. Prince Philoles requests
Exelda frowns slightly, but everyone seems reasonably pleased. A villager stops them.
What are we supposed to do
He points at the Menoreas’s corpse.
Sorry, we were just hired to kill it,
not clean it up.
The heroes, Cyrek, and Orcus leave the village.
INT. MERCINON’S OFFICE. AFTERNOON.
Mercinon is carefully stacking some cards into a pyramid. Darius enters.
Are you bored, your majesty?
No, this is important.
Well, sir, I have news that may make
things more interesting.
Interesting good or interesting bad?
Bad. The Menoreas has been killed.
Mercinon loses his concentration and topples his cards.
Great! Now my whole day has been
a waste of time!
Why are you just standing there?
Go find more monsters!
Or make them.
Make them! What am I? Zeus?
Mercinon glares at Darius.
I’ll go find some!
Mercinon rubs his forehead in frustration.