“Get fancy. We’re going out.”
My best friend sighs on the other end of the line. “I don’t really feel like it, T. I just want to put some comfy clothes on, curl up and watch a movie.”
I was prepared for this response. “Ilyssa! Riley and Daniel just broke up. She needs us right now.”
“What? What happened?”
“I don’t know. I just know the wedding is off. She told Dad earlier today. But I’m sure she’s pretty devastated. They’ve been together forever. She needs us. We’re taking her out and having a girls night.”
“All right. I get it. I’ll rally.”
“Great! I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
Success. Now to implement the second half of my plan. My cousin Riley picks up on the third ring.
“Teagan? Is everything okay?”
I feel a tiny twinge of guilt I call so infrequently it’s a cause of concern.
“Yep. Get fancy. We’re going out.” I repeat my instructions to my current target.
Her confusion is fair. There is that twinge again. Despite the fact we grew up together my cousin and I aren’t close. I don’t know that I’ve ever called her for a spontaneous night out before. I was a child when she came to live with us after her parents died. She was sad and quiet and I didn’t know or fully understand what was happening or how to deal with it. So I mostly just left her alone. Years later, when Ilyssa’s mom died and I was older, a little less self absorbed and mature enough to at least understand how grief works I realized how much Riley could have used a friend back then. But by that time she and Daniel were already inseparable and I had Ilyssa.
I am not going to let her grieve her relationship without my support.
“We’re going out. You, me and Ilyssa. Girls Night.”
Riley is quiet, clearly puzzled. “I – I really can’t. I have so much to do.”
I was also prepared for this response. I sigh dramatically and lower my voice conspiratorially. “Look, I really shouldn’t say anything, it’s not my place but… Ilyssa could really use a night out. Her step-father has a parole hearing next week and they always bring everything back up. She needs a fun distraction.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize. Of course. What time?”
Triumphant, I smile. I refuse to feel guilty about my tiny manipulations. They are both perfectly true. Ilyssa and Riley are both going through a rough time. And neither one is going ask for anything for themselves, but they are two of the kindest people I know. They’ll drag themselves out the door for someone else.
“Ilyssa and I will pick you up in an hour.”
“Okay, see you in a bit.”
I text Ilyssa as the cab turns onto her street and she’s just hitting the sidewalk as we pull up in front of her building.
I grin at her out the window. “You look gorgeous.” She does. Ilyssa has that rare combination of fair skin, light eyes and curly jet black hair. She works at an art gallery and the artists she is constantly surrounded by have influenced her style so she always looks effortless chic. I don’t know how she does it. But I’m constantly raiding her closet and copying her outfits when we go out. Much more fun than the suits and professional gear I have to wear on a daily basis.
She slides into the backseat next to me and gives me a side hug. “How is Riley?”
I give the driver the next address before answering her question. “She sounds okay. I still don’t know what happened though.”
“I can’t believe they called off the wedding. They’ve been together since we were kids.”
Fifteen minutes later, Riley hops in on the other side of me and I direct the cab to our first stop, Fizz. She doesn’t say much after her quick greeting but when Ilyssa isn’t looking, Riley makes a questioning face and tilts her head. I interpret this as an inquiry into how Ilyssa is doing and shrug slightly with a small smile.
Fizz is one of my favorite bars but I don’t come here very often. It’s a special occasion kind of place, only serving champagne and champagne cocktails. It’s delightfully decadent and ridiculous and I love it. It seems the perfect place for an impromptu girls night. The hostess seats us at a high table near the front window, the lights of downtown Chicago all around us.
Ilyssa and Riley are making awkward small talk, neither one wanting to bring up ‘the thing‘ they think has brought us together tonight. I was kind of counting on that, neither of them wanting to pry. And frankly, although I suspect they could both probably use an opportunity to unburden themselves I’m not very good with intense emotions. I’m more the ‘lash out at the object of my pain’ type and when that isn’t possible I’m the ‘jump headlong into fun as a distraction’ type.
So, that is what I do. When the waitress approaches to take our order, some stroke of brilliance causes me to inform her that it is Riley’s birthday. The faux-birthday girl looks at me with a puzzled expression but doesn’t deny it. Ilyssa, more used to my antics, hardly blinks and claps excitedly. We order a round of drinks and a dessert to share.
When our order arrives, they’ve put a candle in our cheesecake and I start singing happy birthday. Several of the patrons at the nearby tables join in and soon everyone is clapping in celebration.
For a second Riley blinks, her eyes wide as she glances around us but quickly a wide smile splits her face as she laughs and blows out the candle. Because you know what’s awesome? Strangers cheering for you. And it’s great when you’re out celebrating and having fun and people cheer for you. But you know what’s even more great? When you are sad and feeling shitty and people cheer for you.
People cheer for birthdays. They don’t usually cheer for break ups. Or when you have an evil step-father. But that’s when you need the cheers. When you can’t do it for yourself.
“Don’t worry,” I whisper going in for a ‘birthday hug’, “It’ll be Ilyssa’s birthday at the next bar.”
Meet a younger Teagan here.