Here it is, six thirty p.m. and I'm just walking in the door. The traffic was a bitch, and tonight of all nights!
"Hi, babe," he said to me, looking up from the newspaper he was reading and smiling at me, as only he can.
I walked over and kissed him briefly on the forehead and said, "Darn traffic," then after pulling my coat off and hanging it in the closet I sat down beside him on the sofa.
"Don't make yourself too comfortable there, handsome," he said, folding the newspaper and sitting it on his lap, "we're going out!"
"What? Tonight?" I said, rather incredulously. "But....."
"Ssshh. No buts," he replied, cutting me short, while putting his arm around my waist and pulling me to him. "We're being taken out to dinner by the whole gang. It's their treat, seeing as we made it to the end of year one and none of them reckoned we would get this far. Now they're all excited about it."
I have to admit this came as more than a surprise, knowing our friends as I do, and considering that it meant a change in the plans that I had been thinking about all day, but it was a welcome surprise, nonetheless.
"Who would have thought it, huh? A whole year that we've been together. Man, hasn't it flown?"
"Yeah, it sure has. And it's been the best year of my life."
"Mine too," he replied, leaning over and kissing me full on the lips.
"OK, I need a shower first," lifting an arm and taking a quick sniff of myself.
"That makes two of us," he said, with a wicked grin adorning his beautiful face, then jumped to his feet and held his hand out for me, which I graciously took and was soon dragged to my feet as well.
* * * * *
Cynthia met us at the door of the restaurant, looking more dazzling than ever, greeting us both with a kiss. She was no longer the dorky teenager we had gone to high school with, she was an attractive young woman, and even I had to admit that.
"So... did Chad give you any trouble, Lover-boy?" she asked, speaking to my companion, while jerking her head in my general direction.
"Nah, he was a pussy cat," he answered.
"That's not what you said in the shower," I said to him, which caused him to blush.
"Hold it right there, boys," Cynthia said, holding both of her hands up in front of her. "I don't need to know any more than that. Come on, let's get inside. Most of the gang are here already."
As we passed her and headed in through the doors of the restaurant, Cyn looked at her watch, then looked back toward the doors through which we had just come.
"What's up?" I asked, holding the next door open for her.
"He's late," she replied, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "He promised he'd be here."
"Who?" I asked.
She didn't answer me. She just smiled and ushered me through the doorway, where we soon found the rest of our circle of friends seated around a table, with half-filled glasses and open wine bottles sitting in front of them.
They all greeted us warmly, with hugs and kisses all around, and glasses of wine were soon thrust into our hands.
"I hope you guys haven't been waiting too long?" I asked them, after surveying the beginnings of their party.
"Darn guests of honor are always running late," one wise-ass offered, and subsequently received a light hearted belt up the side of the head from Cynthia for his troubles.
"Geez... what kept you guys?" someone else said.
"We thought you'd never make it," said another.
"Sorry, the traffic was a bitch," I answered.
"Well, sit down then," Cyn ordered. "Let's get this party started.
Over drinks and nibblies we caught up with our old school friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in quite a while, and swapped jokes and stories and memories.
After a while I said, "OK, I only want to know one thing though... who won the bet?"
Suddenly the table went silent and all eyes turned my way.
"Well?" I asked.
"Errrrr..... what bet?" someone meekly asked.
"The one about the two of us making it to tonight... or not! You know... a whole year!" I replied, with as deadpan a delivery as I could give.
The two of us had laughed about it from the moment we first heard of it. We don't know if it had been Brian, or Keith, or Ed, or Cynthia, or just who that had dreamt it up not long after we had moved in together, but it certainly didn't worry us. Apparently they had all put fifty dollars into the pot, and nominated how long we would last together, with the last one standing getting to claim the prize.
"Well?" I asked again.
Finally it was Cynthia who broke out in a broad grin. "I guess that would be me," she answered, "at least I had some faith in you guys!"
I raised my glass to her and said, "Thanks, dahlin'. But do we get to find out how long everyone else reckoned we would last?"
"It's probably better you don't know," she answered.
"Try me," I replied, and so, one by one we went around the table and they told us what they thought of our relationship.
"What? Only one month? Oh ye of little faith!" I said to someone I thought I knew better than that.
He just laughed. And so did everyone else.
* * * * *
The 'clink' of crystal glasses, filled with fine wines, is a lovely sound, but one that I don't hear often enough, I feel.
I guess that's because occasions such as this just don't happen often enough amongst our circle of friends. But when we do find ourselves together like this, enjoying each other's company, celebrating some milestone or another, it just goes to remind me what it is that I have. And what it is that I have to be thankful for.
As I looked around the table at the smiling faces of my friends, and my partner, I realized that these guys have always been there for me.
My only hope is that they always will.
"I would like to propose a toast," Cynthia said, raising her glass into the air in front of her. "Here's to Chad and Lover-boy... and may this anniversary be the first of many more to come."
"Here, here," everyone chorused.
"And now it's my turn," I said, raising my glass. "Here's to friendship."
* * * * *
"So... how did you two get together exactly?" Rick Mitchell asked us over dinner.
He was a detective, and he was Cynthia's new boyfriend. He hadn't been on the scene for long, but he seemed an alright kind of guy. I liked him, and I liked that he didn't have any hangups about two guys living together, unlike a few of Cynthia's other tryouts.
"Do you really want to know?" I asked him, while noticing Cyn roll her eyes towards the ceiling as if to say 'here we go again.'
"Of course," he replied. "We have all night, don't we?"
"You'll need more time than that," I heard someone say in jest from the far end of the table.
Rick flashed a smile at them and then said to me, "Well, are you going to tell, or not?"
So I took a deep breath and started at the beginning. My sixteenth birthday.Next Chapter