"I'm starving, but it hurts to move," Joey said, sinking farther into the brown suede couch. Joyce, Joey, Cayden, and I had abandoned the half-emptied boxes for the soft, suede couches almost an hour before and we hadn't moved since.
I rolled my shoulders and tightened my abs but I couldn't feel any results from the morning's workout. There was no chance I'd get to complain about being sore. So instead I just had to sit there and feel guilty about everyone else being sore from a hard day's work.
"I just want a shower," Cayden said. "But I can't bring myself to take a freezing cold one."
Since I couldn't complain or empathize, I decided to problem solve instead.
"OK, here's the plan. We'll pull ourselves up off the couch and go eat dinner somewhere where we can look like crap and not be judged. Somewhere with tequila. The tequila will soothe your muscles," I was making it up. I just wanted a margarita. "Then we'll stop by Rae's apartment and bum off her shower before our party. Deal?"
Everyone looked around at each other and nodded. It's not like anyone was going to disagree with food, liquor, and a hot shower. Based on our restaurant criteria, Joyce and I knew exactly where we were going to eat. We made eye contact and nodded at each other, each of us knowing the others' nod meant "Chili's."
Twenty minutes later we were seated at a booth at Chilis devouring a heaping platter of chips and salsa in just a way that you'd think we hadn't eaten for a week. Cayden and I sipped on Presidente margaritas, Joey paired his chips and salsa with a Rum Runner, and Joyce opted for water only.
"Why aren't you drinking?" I asked. "It's freakin New Years!"
"I know. I'm just so out of it," she said, staring into her water and jabbing the ice with her straw.
She needed food. Or a shot. Or food and a shot and a shower. Either way, I wouldn't let her funk get me down. I looked over at Cayden and smiled. He'd been such a trooper that day. He'd packed my whole apartment, loaded two apartments worth of things into the U-Haul, unloaded at our new place. We'd almost unpacked all of the boxes, we just had a few things left to hang on the walls.
I don't know how we would have done it without Cayden and Joey. They set up the 55-inch flatscreen 3-D LCD TV. They carried the couches (we had three), the tables, the washer and dryer, while Joyce and I broke a sweat carrying boxes of DVDs and board games. Terry had the right idea by hiring movers. They had her things unloaded in five minutes flat.
"Thanks for all of your help today," I said to Cayden, squeezing his leg under the table. Then I turned to Joey. "You, too. Yall are our heros."
I leaned closer to Cayden and whispered in his ear. "You deserve a [insert word for third base here]." I slid my hand up his thigh until he squirmed.
I loved being inappropriate at restaurants. Not like Wedding Crashers jerk-him-off-under-the-table-in-front-of-his-family inappropriate. But not far from that.
The waitress startled me when she came by to drop off our food. I slammed my wrist against the bottom of the table in an attempt to look innocent. Way to play it cool. Joyce gave me a knowing look.
We inhaled our food as quickly as we'd inhaled the chips and salsa. I tried not to devour my whole plate because it's hard to feel sexy after a plate of Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers with fries and corn on the cob. But it was just so damn good.
Cayden was halfway through his bacon cheeseburger when he announced, "Whataburger is much better."
The kid was addicted to Whataburger. And he hadn't even tried dipping the fries in the gravy at 3 am after a long night of drinking. That's usually what turns people into Whataburger fanatics.
"So who all is coming to our party tonight?" Joyce asked.
"Well, Dawn will be here in an hour or so. Rae and Chaz are coming a little later, after they go to the gay bar with Rick. Carson and Kathryn are coming. Other than that, I think it's just us," I said. "So, not really a party, per se, but a small gathering of our closest friends to kick in the new year."
I was just excited to get my first meaningful New Year's kiss. Before then, the most memorable one was from five years ago, when Perry (Yes, the same Perry wearing the offending Longhorn shirt in the picture from Christmas) kissed me at my friend Kris' house. I don't think there was a girl in my whole high school who didn't think Perry was drop-dead beautiful. He was a hockey player with shaggy brown hair and sparking baby blue eyes. Oh, and his body....
Anyway, I was sure a kiss from Cayden would top the kiss from Perry. I'd already gotten one New Year's kiss from Cayden. When the clock his 6:00 we kissed because it was midnight in London. But that was in the hallway by the kitchen while we were still unpacking. It would be even better at midnight while we were wearing our party hats, our mouths tingling from the champagne.
After a stop off at the liquor store and Walmart for party goods and a stop at Rae's apartment for showers, we were back home feeling like a million bucks. It's amazing how much a shower and a Presidente margarita can improve your day.
Dawn showed up a little after we got home and I wrapped her in a bear hug. We weren't really the hugging type, but we were best friends and it had been nearly a year since I'd seen her last. But as soon as she let go of me she turned right to Cayden.
"You must be the Cayden I've read so much about," she said, shaking his hand. Dawn had been in a long-distance relationship as well, but her Prince Charming turned out to be a Prince D-Bag, so she was flying solo.
"I've heard some pretty interesting stories from your college years with Whitney," Cayden said. "And I'm sure they're all true."
"Oh, they are," I cut in.
Dawn and I had been best friends since our first day in college. We had interesting tales about frat parties, cruises, lake trips, and a situation we'll call Naked Kyle.
I'd been dying for her to meet Cayden, so I was glad it was finally happening. If only we could have gotten our other best friend and college roommate, Ann, to come up from Austin to ring in the new year.
Carson and Kathryn showed up and I welcomed them with New Years top hats and tiaras from the New-Years-In-A-Box party kit I'd taken from the magazine office before I left. It also included noise makers, balloons, and cardboard gold stars. Our "party" couldn't get any cheesier.
By the time Rae and Chaz showed up, Rae was slurring and red-faced.
"We just went to the DRUNK BAR!" She said loudly in my ear, then ran to the bathroom. Four seconds later she came back out.
"Oh my god, did I say the drunk bar?? I meant the gay bar! Silly me!" Then she went back to the bathroom to finish what she'd forgotten to start.
Chaz laughed and shook his head. He was obviously the designated driver.
We gave tours of the new house and everyone ooooed and aahhhed about how pretty it was, how big the TV was, and how we had a wet bar separating the two living rooms.
At 11:00 we watched a ball drop with Snooki inside. Oh, to be tiny and wasted and enclosed in a ball.
And at midnight, I got the New Year's kiss I'd been waiting for. The one I'd hoped for every year, but had only once gotten close to one. The one that makes your head float and your insides shiver. The one that truly makes you believe it will be a happy new year after all.