First of all, thank you for all of the birthday wishes! And I passed them along to Will as well. I just got home from a wonderful birthday dinner with some of my favorite people in the world. That said, I have quite a bit of wine in my system, so please excuse any typos in this post. (Hell, and every post before this one!)
OK, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
When our bellies were full and our jeans were too tight to keep the the top button secure, Mom and Meg snuck into the garage and came back with a chocolate cake in their hands, lit up with a big 28 candle. We all broke out in a terrible rendition of "Happy Birthday," and he took it like a champ. I always feel awkward when people sing to me. Well, when a group sings "Happy Birthday" to me at least. When Blake (lead singer of Akudama) sang "Only Living Boy in New York" to me during my going away party, well, that was a different story. I cried. (A good cry. Like, the one-tear-at-a-time cry, not the gasping, choking, ugly cry.)
Opening presents in front of people is even worse. I'm always afraid I don't sound genuine enough in my reaction. Did I sound fake? Can they tell this gift really just made my day? Or do they think I'm just saying that? As social as I am in my everyday life, I can be really awkward on my birthday.
But Cayden held it together. He didn't laugh too hard at our horrible singing. He even made a wish and blew out the candle. I'm going to guess he wished to land the perfect job in Dallas and move into the Merc with me and host fabulous dinner parties and travel the world with our other young, fabulous couple-friends. (Or maybe that was the wish I made today...)
We all attempted to cram a few bites into our Cuban-food-filled stomachs because let's be honest, you can't leave a perfectly good chocolaty birthday cake just sitting there.
"Should I go get the cheesecake?" Meg asked and we all groaned. Let me let you in on a little secret: The best cheesecake you will ever eat in your entire life is the Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake. The kind you make right out of the box. It's the creamiest, most-delicious cheesecake my tastebuds have ever encountered (and they've encountered quite a few cheesecakes). So forget Cheesecake Factory or that stale, dry shit they give you at Italian restaurants. Go with the Jell-O No-Bake. End of rant.
We heard the front door open and the parade of dogs chased each other to the door, barking and tripping over each other. We have a very open-door policy at our house, so none of us moved to see who it was. Once the dogs calmed themselves we saw our neighbors Nicole and Ashlea round the corner into the living room.
"Looks like we're late for family dinner!" Nicole joked.
"But just in time for cake!" I said.
"Is this the guy we've been reading so much about?" she asked.
"Hello, I'm Cayden," he said, and by the looks on their faces I could tell they loved his accent as much as I did. How could they not?
We force fed them a slice of cake while they joined our conversation.
"So, what's the plan? Is it a Pappa G's kind of night?" Nicole asked.
We all groaned and rolled our eyes, even though we knew that's exactly where we'd end up.
"What's Pappa G's?" Cayden asked.
Pappa Gs is one of the only bars in town. It's a sports bar by day, Cougar bar by night. Not exactly the creme de la creme of Cougars, either. More of the heavy-smoking, in-need-of-a-serious-root-touch-up Cougars. During the holidays it turns into one huge high school reunion for anyone who graduated between 2000 and 2008. People run up to me and hug me and exclaim, "it's been so long!" and all the while I'm thinking, "Pretty sure we never spoke in high school. In fact, I don't even think we're Facebook friends," but I really say, "I know, right? Time flies!" We briefly filled Cayden in on the trashiness that is Pappa Gs (also known as 'The G Spot.')
"I'm in!" he said.
"Well, I guess I'm out then," Ashlea chimed in. "I'm not exactly of age for the G."
Ashlea's my brother's age (19), and her sister, Nicole, is Meg's age, 23.
"That doesn't matter! Just be Nicole!" I suggested. I was Noelle for two years, one of the benefits of having an older sister.
"But we don't even look alike!"
We all took our our IDs to see who she looked the most like. In the end, we decided she'd use Meg's ID. Besides, it wasn't like Corbin looked much like the 23 year old on his ID either.
"One problem," I said, looking around at the empty beer bottles and almost-empty vodka bottle. "Who's going to drive?"
We all exchanged glances and shrugs. It was going to take two cars to get us there.
"Oh, c'mon, get in the car. I'll drive," Mom said. "I'm not staying, but I'll take you there. But one of you will have to sober up to drive back."
I calculated the number of calories I'd consumed in Leffe alone (800) and decided I didn't need any more beer.
"I'll switch to water when we get there, and I'll drive us home."
Nicole and Ashlea took their car and we piled into Mom's car while Dad followed us in his car.
"Thanks mom!" we all said when we piled out of the car. We felt like we were 13 again and Mom was dropping us off at the mall.
"You're welcome kids."
But before I walked away from the car, Mom stopped me. She handed me five folded $20 bills.
"What's this for? We have money. You're not buying our drinks!" I said, trying to give it back.
"No, keep it. It's for tomorrow."
I'd planned to take Cayden to Five Sixty for our birthday dinner. It's Wolfgang Puck's restaurant that sits on the top of Reunion Tower downtown, and it rotates while you eat so you get a full view of Dallas. Yes, it was a little out of my price range (and by a little, I mean A SHIT TON), but Cayden and I had decided to go halvsies on the bill so neither of us would go broke.
"No, Mom, don't worry. We're going to split it. We'll be fine."
"No, Whitney. it's for your birthdays and you know you can't afford it. Not even half of it."
She was right. The month before she had called me to let me know I had $75 left in my bank account until my next check came two weeks later. Yeah, that was a fun month. And Cayden had just spent nearly $800 in a plane ticket to see me, so I'm sure he'd appreciate the help.
Reluctantly, I zipped the money into my clutch and hugged her.
"Thank you so much!"
"Don't worry about it. Go have fun. And remember... switch to water," she said before tossing the keys to me.