Jane sat at the table with her three oldest girlfriends and tried not to shuffle in her seat. She was resisting the buzz of a new message on her phone, which she purposely placed in her bag on the floor.
It was a lazy attempt at tech-detachment. The bag’s outer pocket, which contained the phone was resting on her foot.
There it went again. She shifted again, tucked invisible hairs behind her ear and cleared her throat. Her discomfort was completely obvious. Jane ordinarily commanded the most attention at these catch-ups. Today was different. Jane wanted to be incognito.
Truth be told, she was doing a horrible job at hiding her malaise. Anyway, the others knew her too well not to notice her acting strangely.
Sylvie, Anette, Roxie and Jane had been friend since year seven. Now all thirty, they’d seen each other through braces, breakups, bad bosses, and everything in between. There’s just something about growing up with people through those formative years. They feel like home, and they know you like the back of their hands.
Another buzz went off from under the table, followed by Jane’s unconscious show. Sylvie laughed out loud. She couldn’t ignore it anymore. “Ahhh, Jane? Do you maybe want to tell us all something?”
Jane looked up in shock. She was thinking about the buzzing phone on her foot. “What? What do you mean?”, she replied, trying to act cool. She tried to remember what the converstion they were all having was about. She fumbled through a reply, “I think Roxie’s guy sounds nice… what’s his name… Brad… yeah, he sounds really nice”.
Sylvie, Anette and Roxie erupted in a fit of laughter. Dammit, she’d guessed wrong.
After Roxie caught her breath, she turned to Jane and said “I told Ben, not Brad, that I didn’t want to see him anymore. I could tell you weren’t listening! What’s going on? Just hurry up and tell us.”
She was trapped. She knew it. But she still tried to talk her way out of it. “What? Why did you break it off with Ben… and I knew it was Ben, I don’t know where Brad came from…”
“The holiday, Jane. She didn’t want to be attached for our holiday,” said Anette.
“Oh, of course. Right, the holiday” murmured Jane. “Shit”.
“Shit? What does that mean?”, asked Sylvie. The tone of her voiced changed from amused to concerned.
They’d been planning this holiday for months. It was a holiday they were all taking together to celebrate the start of ‘the best decade of their lives’. Or so they were told by older, wiser friends.
Sylvie, now properly alarmed by Jane’s silence asked, “Jane, you’re still on for Europe right? Because it’s all been booked and we’ve been planning it for months and this is how we all said we’d start the best decade ever?”
Bloody hell thought Jane. The effect of all those years staring at her phone, trying to manifest a text response must be starting now. At such an inconvenient time. Thanks universe.
“I have a boyfriend,” She said “Like a met the parents boyfriend.” Jane exhaled, slumped in her chair.
The three girls stared at her in silence, mouths agape, hands tightly gripping wine glasses. After what felt like an eternity to Jane Roxie broke the silence.
“What!?” She took a big swig of her wine. “I broke up with Ben!”
Jane spoke into her wine glass before she took a big gulp herself, “I know, I know…. I’m sorry. It just kind of happened.”
Another long silence was broken by Sylvie, “well, I’m glad Europe is still on. Even if you won’t be single with the rest of us, even though it was you who gave us the ‘Europe will be more fun if we’re all single’ sales pitch.”
The girls could always count on Sylvie to be diplomatic. “That message you’ve been trying to ignore is from him isn’t it?” continued Sylvie. “Well go on, read it. Out loud as punishment…”
They all laughed. Jane was relieved at how well the girls were taking the news of her backflip. She excitedly made a move for her phone.
It read, ‘how is dinner with the girls going? Hope they’re not giving you too much flack. I’m excited to see you tonight. – El’
“El? Who is this El that’s turned your whole holiday philosophy upside down?” asked Roxie. Her shock expired and turned into curiosity. Yes, she stopped seeing Ben partly because of their little pact, but also because she didn’t really like him. And besides she was happy for her friend.
Jane answered, “It’s Elliot”.
Anette struggled to swallow the unfortunately timed mouthful of wine she took before she blurted, “Elliot!? As in high school Elliot!? What the fuck Jane?”