ONE OF THE BOYS
“Good God, Joe. It’s like ten people, not an army!” Chris said as Joey came in with his third armful of bags and boxes.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to like, cater, or something,” Joey said, smiling. “She said I can use the kitchen, make whatever I want, as long as it’s presentable for the party.”
“Good God,” Chris said again, but he went out to Joey’s SUV to help with the rest of the bags.
“Hey,” Lara said as she came down the steps and almost ran into Joey. “You’re here.”
“I am. And you’re leaving.” Joey gave her a gentle push towards the door.
“I am?” Lara blinked at him. “I hate to tell you, but this isn’t a surprise party, Joey. It’s at MY apartment.”
“I know. But Chris is taking you out so I can cook, and Jayce can decorate.”
“JC is the decorating committee?” Chris asked as he came back in. “Bad.”
“You won’t let him, like, wreck my apartment, will you?” Lara asked anxiously. “It’s little, and it’s nothing like where you all live, but it’s mine.”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head, darlin’,” Lance said, coming in the open door. “I’ll keep everyone under control. I’m here to supervise.”
“Thank God,” Lara said, and Joey glared at her. “Lance? Was that whole accent on the “darlin” thing just for me?”
“It IS your birthday,” Lance said, and Lara laughed.
“Thank you.” She kissed his cheek. “Let me go up and change quick, Chris. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere before the party.” Lara scooted up the steps.
“I can keep her busy for two or three hours…is that enough?” Chris asked.
“I bet you COULD keep her busy,” Lance teased.
“This is the perfect opportunity,” Joey pointed out. “She goes to make a wish as she blows out her candles, and you say, Lara, the best thing you could wish for is right here.”
“That’s lame, Joey,” Lance said, rolling his eyes. “But you WILL be alone with her, you know, while you’re out. You could…”
“I could say, Lara, I have totally fallen in love with you, and then deal with her punching my lights out in the middle of a store somewhere. No, thank you.”
“Okay. Ready.” Lara hurried back down the steps. “Lance, I trust you.” She patted his cheek lightly. “Joey…don’t burn the place down.”
“Some thanks I get,” Joey grumbled. “You’re not even MY friend.” Lara stopped walking and turned to look at him. “Kidding!” Joey threw his hands in the air. “Kidding.”
Chris took Lara to the closest mall to let her walk off some nervous energy. She loved being the center of attention, yet at the same time, she was shy about it. “How about I buy you a present,” Chris suggested.
“No, you said you’ll clean the place. That’s gift enough,” Lara insisted.
“Whatever,” Chris sighed. He looked around the mall. It was already decorated for Christmas, and there were crowds everywhere. “Finish your Christmas shopping yet?”
“Yep,” Lara said proudly, and Chris glared at her. “Just need to do the wrapping.”
“You’re a freak,” Chris said. “No one is done by Thanksgiving.”
“I am.” Lara did a tiny dance. “Except for you.”
“Me?” Chris stopped walking.
“You’re hard to buy for. What do you get for the guy who has everything?”
“For the guy who has everything…I bring you love…” Chris sang, and she giggled. “I’m sure you’ll think of something. I’m easy.” Chris winced as soon as the words left his mouth.
“I never would think it to look at you,” Lara said, stopping to observe him. “You seem fairly choosy. Hard to get, even.”
“That’s me,” Chris said lightly.
Lara linked her arm with his, ignoring the shiver that went down her spine as she pressed against him. “Good. You only deserve the best.”
“Right now, the best would be doing this.” He tugged Lara a few yards down the walkway to a small photo booth.
“Chris. Chris!” Lara shrieked, giggling as he pulled her into the tiny cubicle and shut the curtain.
“Quiet. Either smile or make a goofy face. It’s the rule,” Chris said. He threw an arm around her and licked her cheek just as the flash popped.
“C’mon, Chris,” Lara whined. “Forgive me, pleeeeeease?”
“No.” Chris shoved her out of the way once they entered her apartment. “I’m never speaking to you again.”
“But it’s my birthday!” Lara reminded him as she followed him to the living room.
“NO.” Lance stopped them both and they almost fell over. “Not in here. You can’t come in here until the party starts.”
“But it’s my house!” Lara said.
“Too bad. Go upstairs. You need to get ready.” Lance pointed at the steps.
“Hi, JC,” Lara said, glancing over Lance’s shoulder.
“Hey, baby,” JC said, coming to stand right behind Lance so Lara couldn’t peek. “How was the mall?”
“Don’t fucking ask,” Chris snapped. “I can come in there, right? Not my party.”
“What happened?” Lance asked.
“She embarrassed me,” Chris growled. JC hid something that sounded suspiciously like one of his giggles, Lance chuckled, and they heard Joey cackle from the kitchen. “What? She did!”
“Okay, this has to be good for YOU to be mad,” JC said.
“We were on our way out, and she was all hyped up and bouncing around…”
“Yeah, if that was a reason not to talk to someone, we would have stopped talking to YOU in nineteen ninety-eight,” Lance said.
Chris ignored him. “And then, right when we’re cutting through Bloomingdales, of all places, she starts gushing about the party, wondering what’s going on here.”
“Sounds reasonable,” JC said, and Lara smiled sweetly at Chris.
“THEN she starts singing that stupid Backstreet song, Let’s Have a Party? Which is not only one of the most insanely STUPID songs ever, but it was just ridiculous. All the makeup women were glaring at me. At ME, like it was MY fault.”
JC gave into the giggles, falling against Lance’s back. “Um, Chris?” He managed. “How do you even know that song?”
“I don’t. I just…know it sounded like them. I mean, it was stupid, so it was obviously their song.”
By then, Lance, JC and Lara were laughing. “I’m sorry, Chrissy. Forgive me?” Lara pouted.
“Only because it’s your birthday. Don’t ever do that again, because, that was, you know, awful.” Chris headed for the kitchen. Lara managed to contain herself enough to get upstairs to take a shower.
“Can I come down now?” Lara yelled down the stairs.
JC looked at the living room critically, moving a bouquet of flowers, straightening a streamer. “Yeah,” he called back finally.
“Jesus, JC, you are the gayest straight man ever,” Chris said.
“You say that like it’s an insult,” Lance remarked, raising one eyebrow.
“You know that’s not true,” Chris said. “I just…he…”
“Flames?” JC said, grinning. “Yeah, I know. But I assure you it’s just for show. I’m not interested in dick, Chris.”
“Not even mine?” Chris asked.
“Not even yours. Lance’s dick, maybe…I bet it’s nice.” JC crumpled up some empty bags and packaging.
“Did I just hear you say Lance’s dick is nice?” Lara said hopefully as she got to the bottom of the steps. “Because, you know, the idea of you two getting it on? Best birthday EVER.”
JC blushed and Chris laughed. “Now you’ve done it.”
“HOW do you know Lance’s dick is nice?” Lara asked, walking up to JC with her eyes wide. “Did you…some sort of…tryst…while in Europe or something?” She stopped walking. “Ohmygosh. I saw you naked, touched your…and you actually got to use it…with Lance…”
“You short-circuited her brain.” Chris came over and waved his hand in front of Lara’s face. “Lara. Wake up. Come back.”
“Stop!” JC shrieked, trying to cover his eyes, his ears and his mouth all at once. “No. That’s not. I didn’t. Ever. At all.”
“Too late,” Chris said, laughing long and hard. He took the opportunity to pull Lara in and hug her. “She’s a goner.”
“What’s going on in here?” Lance and Joey hurried in upon hearing JC’s girlish scream, Joey wearing an apron and holding a wooden spoon.
“I need to know EVERYTHING,” Lara said, advancing on JC. “How’d it feel how’d it taste how’d it look?”
“Woman, you are FREAKING me out.” JC scrambled away from her, hiding behind Joey.
“Uh,” Joey mumbled.
“JC mentioned Lance’s dick is nice, and Lara wants details,” Chris barely got out.
“What?” Joey and Lance said together.
“This is so not happening,” JC said helplessly. “Long story short…Chris accused me of flaming, I said I was straight, not interested in dick, Chris said not even mine, I said no, maybe Lance’s though, cuz I bet it’s nice, but I was joking, and then she walked in, and got all hung up on me and Lance and Lance’s DICK, for God’s sake, and then I think I broke something in her brain.”
“Yeah, that was a long story short,” Joey said sarcastically. Lara shook her head and laughed.
“I was just joking, JC. You’re adorable.” She giggled again. “But seriously, if that were true? That story would be the best.birthday.gift.ever.”
“You’re so twisted,” JC said, shaking his head. “Twisted little girl.”
“I’m older than you,” she pointed out. Lara looked around the living room for the first time. “Oh, Jayce…this looks great!” There were streamers and balloons, and three bouquets of her favorite flower, white roses. “I’m almost sorry I picked on you.”
“You’d better be,” JC muttered, but he came out from behind Joey and hugged her. “Happy birthday, you freaking pervert.”
“I don’t remember you minding at one time,” Lara flirted.
“Tramp.” JC pulled her close against him. “You said…”
“I know what I said.” Lara blushed and pulled away, making sure not to look at Chris. “I don’t want Lance’s used goods.”
“Stop it,” JC whined, and Lara laughed again. She sniffed.
“Joey, something smells great.”
“Oh, shit, my sauce.” Joey hurried into the kitchen.
“I bet Kelly loves having him for a wife,” Chris commented.
“Be nice,” Lara said absently, going over to bury her nose in a bouquet.
JC looked at Chris and pointed at Lara behind her back. “Say something,” he mouthed.
“So, Lara…how many people are coming to the party again?” Chris said, and JC rolled his eyes.