“There she is!” A chorus of hoots and hollers followed Minnie’s announcement as Ashley maneuvered through the crowded bar toward their high top table.
“Here I am!” Ashley lifted her hands into the air and sashayed the final few feet, closing the gap in style.
Minnie flung out an arm squeezing her into a half hug while guiding a shot glass into Ashley’s hand.
“Minnie you dirty dog! Are you trying to get me drunk?” Ashley winked at her companion offering a look that said, I’m not that kind of lady but don’t stop trying anyway.
“Nooo, never, I’m trying to catch you up.” Minnie tapped out a drum roll over the table top as Ashley took the shot.
“Oh wow, that is terrible.” Ashley’s lips curled into a show of disgust.
“Don’t be a wuss!” Minnie slid a second toward her holding up a righteous finger.
“It is only fair, now, we are on an even playing field.” She smiled wide. Ashley laughed and rolled her eyes.
“I’m pretty sure you lawyer types are annoyingly competitive.” They all laughed and raised their own shot glasses. Minnie looked over as she slid another shot glass toward her friend.
“Cheers!” They all yelled in chorus. They toasted and tossed them back.
“Hoo! Burns a little!” Minnie stated in a sidebar.
“Wanna know the funniest part?” The playful smile had made it to Minnie’s eyes.
“We didn’t start drinking until you got here!” She was holding a laugh so hard tears had begun to slip in at the corners.
“It’s ruthless, this game of the LAST MAN STANDING!” She Raised her hands into a victorious V above her head.
Ashley socked her friend in the boob to both their surprise. Before blurting an excited, “No Rules!” back. The table erupted into laughter as each contemplated the many things they were grateful for.
They’d come out as a good bunch of friends, after starting out the long road as strangers they’d helped one another stumble through rough patches, strenuous rapids, sleepless nights, family losses, intimate betrayals, glorious drunken comebacks, and here they were.
Basically family because of it all.
Ashley’s worry faded, slowly at first and then, all at once it disappeared into the tink of toasting glasses.
“I have to slow my roll, or I’m not gonna make it Min!” Ashley yelled over the loud pounding club anthem shooting over the speakers. They’d lost the rest of the pack two bars back, and since the last one they’d trotted from things were beginning to look deliciously unfamiliar.
Ashley strolled over mental maps for a moment before turning happily back to her friend.
“We’ve never been to this one!” Minnie looked around herself curiously, as if for the first time taking the area into account. She smiled victoriously back and raised her arms once again.
“I was thinking about that too!” She grabbed Ashley’s hand and rushed them away from the quickly crowding dance floor.
“I know exactly where we are! Wanna see someplace cool?” It hadn’t occurred to Ashley until this moment that Minnie might have attended more social events or had a life outside of their friendship. In her boozy state, Ashley had suddenly felt like Minnie and she had been friends for her entire life…
A sudden feeling of alienation drifted over Ashley’s lens.
Ashley slowed her steps. Her hand dragged at Minnie’s persuasive hold. The realization struck her between the eyes, a self-calculation pushed out its final answer.
Minnie isn’t Bree…
Ashley’s cheeks burnt, Minnie is a real person, she has feelings and just because I like her friendship, it doesn’t mean I can assume she is like every other close friend I’d ever had.
The realization dug deeper into the real gut of the issue. What was really making her stomach flop right now was the fact that she had left her true best friend out to dry? Ashley knew Bree better than Minnie ever could. She knew better than to assume. Bree’s call was the closest thing to a cry for help she had ever offered.
I am a lazy friend. The internal conversation took a low twist, the bass at the heart of the song, deep and dark… The flashing lights around them suddenly made Ashley feel sick.
As if on cue, she tripped over a well placed single shoe, unattached and drifting aimlessly between more calculated creatures. Ashley’s foot caught the roadblock head on and stumbled back into an upright position with Minnie’s help.
She had twirled around at the yank dealt by Ashley’s tumble. “Whoa! You okay Ash?”
Ashley smiled back, don’t go into that door until after you’ve sobered up. The thought locked the door behind it, leaving the guilt to build behind a sudden rush of endorphins as a favorite dance jam pumped and vibrated from all around her.
“Where are we going?” A guy dancing close offered a hopeful stare, waiting for Ashley to make eye contact. He lit up before she smiled and lost him to her fading peripherals.
“You’ll see!” They rushed toward the entrance like little kids on their way to a favorite jungle gym. Before it brings out the worst, spirits often bring out the best. Childlike qualities that humans do their best to suppress with age and experience.
“Hey! Girls, Hold on for a second.” Minnie turned around looking past Ashley.
I have such pretty friends… Ashley’s inner mush was showing itself through her boozed haze. She smiled through squinting eyes.
Minnie’s eyes suddenly bulged. “Shit, Ashley, there’s a big security guy trying to stop us, Don’t look back.” As if following directions Ashley immediately looked back.
“Well hey there ya big teddy bear.” She looked the beefy man in a black suit up and down. Minnie’s lips went slack at Ashley’s unexpected response. She was way too drunk to be directing this conversation.
Minnie’s mouth betrayed her with a small giggle that quickly escalated into a full-bore laugh attack.
“I am so sorry about my friend, we were just leaving, she has a magical pumpkin waiting for her outside.” Minnie pointed to the Uber car rushing their way over her phone screen.
“No, you can’t leave just yet.” He held back his smile with authority. His boss had requested an audience, and he would get one.
“Can I call you Ted?” Ashley continued, poking the man bear with a mischievous grin. She stood as tall as she could on her chuck-offs and still only reached his chest.
She looked up to meet his eyes and the smile finally broke free.
“You can call me whatever you want sweetheart, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t leave without coming with me.”
“Are you with the FBI? Or the MIB? I always get them confused but you are way too big to be Bond…” Ashley’s monologue followed him down the hallway he was leading them through.
She looked back and offered an over exaggerated wink to Minnie. Now she was just acting up… Minnie watched Thing One doing it’s ‘thing’ as she did her best to figure out where to jump in. Ashley continued in mock stupidity. “I imagine him much more horse jockey than Hulk-Smash-ey don’t you?”
“Definitely, Hey Hulk, I mean Ted, what deep dark dungeon are you taking us too?” Minnie piped in.
“Yeah, Are we going to meet The Batman?” Ashley continued with playful warmth. The patterns on the walls were beautiful in the low light. It was calming, she wondered how many people would walk past it without realizing they were the cause of sudden comfort and dreaminess. False comfort in a den of spiders…
The girls went back and forth between Batman and Robin, somehow jumping over to the Robin Hood wagon before they finally reached a red velvet curtain.
“Shit.” Ashley sounded disappointed.
“I didn’t even think of Oz… Of course, we would be meeting a wizard!!”
The security guard smiled fondly into the curtain as he pulled it to the side for them to enter into the strobe-lights of the main floor from a viewpoint high above it all.
“No secret password?” Ashley’s pseudo-disappointment deepened convincingly.
“Boring, worst secret lair ever… too easy.” She looked back at Minnie to confirm she felt the same. They laughed together. Neither made a move toward the door.
“We just wanted to see if the hall did actually lead to the bat cave, since it doesn’t we’ll be leaving, thank you for the grand tour, Ted.” Ashley turned toward the door, Minnie skipped up to her excitedly.
“Waaaait! Why are we leaving? That was one of the VIP areas! We could have totally partied away from the sweating masses!” Minnie seemed to be pleading the case for their remaining.
“I’ve seen this movie, we wake up in the back of some windowless van with some big scary dude named Ivan as our driver.” Ashley was anxious to get back to her apartment suddenly. Her cat… Her slippers, a warm blanket and a cup of steaming coffee with a tiny bit of cream to cut the inevitable hangover to come.
Minnie had stopped walking down the hall, she’d planted her feet firmly in place and would need persuading if Ashley hoped to fulfill her current daydream of home and comfort.
“Ash, this is the first time that we’ve really hung out together without a school agenda involved. Let me enjoy this please, you are so much fun!” Ashley looked at her for a long moment of silence. It seemed long through the buzzing in the back of her head.
“Fine… One hour. We leave at 1:30!” Minnie squealed and did a little dance and spin as Ashley traced her steps back toward the door. The security guard pulled the curtain to the side, a blast of club music burst out to meet them as they made their way toward the strobing lights.
“You girls be careful tonight.” The security guard said kindly.