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The confetti was strewn about the floor, chairs and tables. Spiraled ribbons hung from the ceiling attached to balloons that matched the confetti dots, pink, orange and white. Marcella already regretted her promise to Pam, her best friend, “I’ll have someone help you, please until I get back?” she all but offered to pay her.

Reluctantly Marcella agreed, “Okay, but I’ll need help and you better hurry back,” she made her condition and was going to hold her to it.

Pam had been planning her 40th birthday for six months. She booked the recreation room of her building, but part of the rules for using the room were, All parties are to be over at midnight and cleaned before 10am the following morning. Initially Pam, her sister Jenny and Marcella were going to clean right after the party; because no way were they going to get up early to clean by 10am. Jenny was way too intoxicated to help. They would have ended up cleaning vomit off the floor. Pam had a new ‘love interest’ every month and this month’s chosen one asked a favor of Pam as soon as he arrived to the party. He needed a ride to the airport; he was taking a red-eye to New York. Pam should have said, take an Uber, but she wanted to be the “one” he depended on and she agreed. “Marcella, the airport is like 20 minutes away, I’ll be back within the hour. Just please start tidying up and I’ll be back.”

It was hard to say no to Pam. The two friends met in high school and from the very beginning of their relationship, it was clear Pam was the alpha-female. She got invited to all the parties, she had a license and a car, and her parents believed in the liassez-faire method of parenting. In other words, her parents did not interfere in her life, all they asked was she go to school and be in the door be midnight, every night. Marcella had to have answers if she was 10 minutes late coming home from school. Her mother questioned everything she did, wanted to know who all her friends were, who she sat with at lunch and all the details of her day. Her mother had tricky ways of edging her way into her daughter’s life. She wouldn’t say, “how was your day?” Because she knew the only answer she would get is, “fine” or “okay”. Her questions were more detailed, something like, “who did you walk home with today?” or “Can you tell me what you’re reading in English class?” Her questions were not vague and yes or no answers would not be accepted. Pam could leave a condom sitting on her desk, and her parents would never ask about it. Marcella’s mother might be considered a helicopter mom, but she hovered over her daughter tactfully and with as much respect and care that she could muster.

Marcella peered through the window and watched Pam drive off with her newest interest, she glanced at the clock, 12:15am. She’d better be back by 1:15am, or I stop working and whatever is left will be for her to clean.

“I’m not sure how she talked me into helping, but I guess we’re the cleaning crew,” Marcella heard a voice from the other side of the room. It was hard to see the face, due to the balloons and the lack of light in that part of the room. She did notice it was a male voice.

“Who’s there?” she quickly walked to the door to find the light switch. When the lights overhead washed over the room, everything was visible, but what was the most visible was a lanky young man. He was dressed casually, jeans, a button-up short sleeved powder blue shirt and his hair was made up of thick curls, the color of dark brown sugar. He wore glasses, wide rimmed, some may call them college frames, black, they made him look intelligent. I suppose that’s the way glasses work, make anyone, no matter what your I.Q., look gifted.

Marcella remembered that Pam asked someone to help her clean. She probably mentioned the person’s name, but she was too irritated to listen. “What’s your name?” Marcella asked.

“Brian. We met a few months ago. I was dating Clara,” he reminded her.

“Oh, yeah,” she remembered that night it was at the Bowlerama, “I was at the bowling alley with Sean,” she thinks about her ex and wonders how he is. “You said, “was” dating?” she remembers he used the past tense.

“Yeah, ‘was’,” he answers her clearly, as if enunciating the word ‘was’ would make their break up more final. “Should we pop all these balloons?” he tries to change the current topic.

“I never like popping balloons. It’s like those biscuits that come in a can-type thing and you have to pop it on the edge of a counter… it always makes me want to jump out of my skin,” she makes a disapproving look.

“Okay, I’ll pop them,” he finds a pair of scissors and starts popping. Soon the whole room is echoing with the sounds of air seeping out of rubber. The squeaky sound the air makes as it tries to escape through the rubber latex balloons reminds Marcella of her brothers. They love to expel gas after a particularly good dinner.

“Was Clara here? I don’t remember seeing her,” she wonders if this subject was wise. Probably not, soon he’ll bring up Sean, she thinks.

“There’s a lot of empty bottles of booze back here,” Brian says pointing behind a counter and obviously trying to change the subject, again. “I hope everyone got home okay,” he adds as he holds up several bottles of tequila and wine.

The two acquaintances continue cleaning in silence. Marcella uses the tablecloths as trash bags as she swoops them up from all the corners, ties them up and tosses them into a nearby trashcan. She finds a broom in the closet located in the back of the room. As she opens it, she prays no one is in there, drunk, having sex, sleeping or something else. No one is in the closet, thank you Lord”, she feels grateful, just mops, brooms, buckets, supplies, the normal stuff. “Thanks for helping Brian,” she off handedly thinks to appreciate him and wonders, how Pam talked him into helping. “How did Pam con you into helping anyway,” her thoughts are now out in the universe for anyone close to hear.

“Oh, I heard her say that she needed help and I had nothing to do or anywhere to go in the morning, so…here I am,” he says as he totes out a bag of empty beer bottles. “It was a nice party, wasn’t it?” he states and then questions.

“Yes, it was, I guess,” Marcella states and questions as well. She’s wiping down the tables now with sponges she found in the closet. “I hope we can use the things in the closet, if not, Pam’s going to have to replace what we’re using,” she concludes. After she cleans and pushes all the chairs in, Marcella looks up and notices the streamers that are taped to the ceiling, “now who did that?” she sounds defeated.

“I’ll get them,” Brian says as he drags a ladder he found in the same closet across the room.

“Wow, that closet is like a miracle room, whatever we need, there it is,” she laughs.

“Yeah, it’s like Batman’s belt,” they both laugh.

Marcella watches Brian as he maneuvers his steps on the tables, jumping from one to another. “I guess you didn’t drink much tonight, not the way you’re balancing yourself on the chairs and tables, “ Marcella feels a little embarrassed because he’s probably wondering why she’s watching him. “I’m only watching in case you trip or something,” she saves herself.

“Where’s Sean, was he here?” he asks Marcella. She’s surprised because she thought they’d decided to abandon this topic. Should I ask again about Clara.

“I don’t know where Sean is. I haven’t seen him in weeks,” she answers hoping that her reply would clear up any other questions he might have about her and Sean.

“I see,” Brian answers, sorry that he asked.

“Glass of wine?” he sets two plastic wine glasses on the counter and finds an unopened bottle of wine. Thankfully, it has a screw top, so no need for a corkscrew.

“I guess, I didn’t drink much tonight. One glass of wine will still allow me to drive home,” she picks up one of the wine glasses and waits for Brian to pour. He then serves himself. The two click their glasses and then both laugh because they’re not sure what to toast to.

“How about to, new friends?” Marcella suggests.

“How about to old acquaintances turning into new friends,” he uses her toast and extends it.

They click again. “Not bad for screw top wine,” Marcella says.

Marcella looks at Brian and notices his eyes, they’re hazel, she’d never really looked past the glasses and he had incredibly thick lashes. “I think you were in my psyche class last year? Professor Stuart?” she asks.

“I was wondering if you’d remember that,” he said feeling embarrassed. “That dumb report, the oral one about our genetics,” his embarrassment is not going away.

As if a something hit her on the head, suddenly, she remembered, “Oh, no! that was you!” they both laugh, “You accidentally told the whole class about all the personal traits in your family,” she remembered as if it was last week.

“Yes, I didn’t know we were supposed to make up a family,” he shakes his head, “well, you know all about me, how about you,” he asks as he looks at her and notices how the thick curls frame her face perfectly.

“Well, I don’t think I’ll tell you as much, but…” she tells him about her brothers, her parents, her job, she finds it natural to talk to Brian, like leaves falling off a tree in the autumn.

Marcella looks at the time and notices its nearing 1:00am, I hope Pam doesn’t pop in right now, she’ll ruin this moment.

“Oh, it’s late,” he spies her looking at the clock. “I think we’re almost finished, I mean, what’s left?” Brian says as he peruses the room.

“Pam lucked out. She’s lucky she had two hardworking friends to help,” just then her phone buzzes, “It’s Pam”, she says out loud and reads the text: Sorry, there’s a lot of traffic, I’m trying to get back. She ends the text with a string of sad emojis. Marcella texts Pam back with mad emoji, then types, jk for just kidding. I guess It wasn’t as bad as I thought, she thinks, obviously not as mad as she was an hour ago. Marcella then sends another text: I made a friend here, Brian. He and I are about finished, we’re going out for coffee.

Pam texts back: I thought you two would hit it off, you’re welcome.

May 14, 2021 07:26

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1 comment

Stacy Borgos
16:27 Aug 16, 2021

Love the matchmaking at the end good job Pam.


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