“I can’t say I’m surprised they didn’t show,” Kyler said as he pulled a third piece of pizza out of the box.
“I am!” Lauren replied emphatically. “Who turns down free pizza?”
“People who don’t want to do group work?”
“It’s even pizza from off campus. It’s not the union pizza that’s good when it’s blazing hot but turns into a ball of plastic cheese when it sits for five seconds.”
“You should really be a campus ambassador,” Kyler said. “I know that when I was choosing a college, nothing would have sold me quite like plastic pizza.”
Lauren laughed and went back to researching their project on her computer. Kyler took another bite of his pizza, then snuck a quick look at his phone. The lock read just after 4:30 pm.
“I’m going to finish this then head out,” he said. “You want to meet up again Monday evening?”
“Is it that late already?”
“I need to head back and shower before I pick up Sloane.”
“That’s right!” Lauren said. “It’s date night or whatever you’re calling it.”
“Yep. That’s part of why I ate so much pizza,” Kyler replied. “Lets me buy a cheaper meal for me on the date.”
“Are you really that concerned about your money that you’re trying to save a couple of bucks on date night by eating pizza I bought for you?”
“Yes. I don’t understand. Wouldn’t you do the same thing?”
“I’d just ask for the date to be at the pizza place,” Lauren replied. “Then I get to have pizza twice.”
“I like the way you think,” said Kyler. “We’re going to some sushi place and a movie.”
“Didn’t you just say you’d rather have pizza.”
“I didn’t know sushi was a choice,” Lauren said. “Hey, if you two get done with your date early enough, you should swing by our party. And bring me sushi.”
“Something tells me Sloane isn’t going to be on board with that,” Kyler said. “Not because she wouldn’t want to party. But it’s a costume party. And I don’t think she’s going to want to wear a costume on our date.”
“I’m willing to exempt the two of you from the costume rule if you bring me sushi. That’s just fair.”
“So kind of you.”
Kyler packed up his stuff and headed back to the apartment. As he was showering, he heard his phone start to ring in the bedroom. He quickly toweled off, though the phone had stopped ringing before he’d even finished getting dry. By the time he made it back to his bedroom, there was a message waiting for him on his phone.
“Driving to TOL. Cant make date night. Another time?”
Kyler sighed. If nothing else, Sloane was becoming consistent in her flaking out. He understood that she was enjoying her internship and that it’d be good for her resume after college. But it felt like he was the one constantly being blown off for it. Maybe it’d change soon. The semester, and therefore her internship, was half over, after all.
As he started to get dressed, he heard the front door shut.
“Dude!” shouted Troy. “Have you left yet?”
“We’re not going,” Kyler yelled back. “She’s going back to Toledo for the weekend.”
“That sucks man, I’m sorry. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t really have a plan other than this.”
“Anyone having a party you know of? All I know of is the Chi Delts and I really don’t want to go there.”
“Didn’t you try to pledge there freshman year?” Kyler asked.
“We do not speak of the dark times,” Troy said.
He began to stare into the distance, a haunted daze filling his eyes. Kyler waited paitently for Troy to cease the nonsensical staring exercise that occurred every time anyone mentioned his attempt to pledge to a frat his freshman year. It felt like the staring got longer every time it happened, though eventually he’d snap out of it if you waited long enough.
After several more seconds of Troy staring straight ahead without blinking, Kyler clapped loudly. Troy refocused his eyesight, blinking several times before turning to Kyler.
“Sorry,” Troy said. “There were helicopters everywhere. We lost a lot of good men out there.”
“You were drunk, not in war,” Kyler replied.
“I watched a lot of M*A*S*H* reruns after I stumbled back. It all blended together after a while.”
Kyler threw a shirt on, then took his towel back to the bathroom.
“You don’t know of any parties going on?” Troy yelled after him. “I’m going to get you out of this apartment so you’re not stuck here moping about Sloane if kills me.”
“There is one party I know about,” Kyler said. “It’s technically a costume party, but I’ve been told if I bring sushi, I don’t have to wear a costume.”
“Sushi for everyone or sushi for the host?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“These are the kind of things you need to figure out before committing to a party,” Troy said. “Whose party is it?”
“A girl in my history class,” said Kyler.
“What’s her name?”
“Then you call Lauren and figure out when the party is and how much sushi we need to bring,” Troy explained. “Then we’ll figure out if we need to go buy food, go to Goodwill to get some makeshift costumes, or both.”
“Wait, why both?” asked Kyler.
“Just because you can choose to opt out of a costume doesn’t mean you should.”
Later that evening, Troy and Kyler arrived at the front door of Lauren’s apartment. Dressed as $10 versions of Rock-em Sock-em Robots, Kyler held a pair of containers with packaged sushi, while Troy carried a 24-pack of cheap beer. Kyler ran the doorbell, which was quickly answered by Lauren.
“You came!” Lauren shouted as she threw her arms around Kyler. She was dressed as a generic policewoman, albeit with auniform that showed far more skin than would be standard issue.
“I didn’t know you two were close,” Troy said.
“I’m close with anyone who brings me food,” she said as she took the sushi away from Kyler. “John Paul! Your lunch for tomorrow is here!”
A tall, pale boy with shaggy brunette hair darted over to the door, moving far faster than anyone in a suit reasonably should be.
“Gentlemen,” he said. “You are life savers. If it weren’t for this sushi, I’d have to brave the outdoors tomorrow with a hellacious hangover. And no secret agent should ever been seen in such a state of distress.”
“He gets way too into his costumes,” Lauren said. “It’s just a thing.”
“John Paul Newsome, aka Johnny English, at your service,” John Paul said, extending his hand to Kyler.
“Before you say anything, I’m just as surprised as you are that someone actually watched that movie,” Lauren quickly added.
“I take it this is your boyfriend?” Troy said.
Lauren and John Paul shot a quick glance at each other, then burst out laughing.
“He’s my little brother!” Lauren yelled between laughs.
“I can see how you’d be confused,” added John Paul. “With my dashing good looks and magnetic charisma, many women would fall for me.”
“Oh, shut up,” Lauren said.
John Paul continued on, ignoring his sister’s comments.
“We don’t look terribly alike. She has blue eyes, mine are brown. I have a metabolism higher than Snoop Dogg in Willie Nelson’s tour bus, she dyes her hair. Plus this is a wig.”
John Paul pulled the shaggy brunette wig off his head, revealing a black buzzcut.
“You look more like Johnny English without the wig than with it,” said Kyler.
“And that, my good man, is the magic of disguise!” John Paul replied.
As the night wore on, the already small costume party dwindled down to a handful of people. John Paul and Troy were playing cards with Ashleigh and McKenzie, the two girls whose apartment was next door. Kyler sat on the couch behind Ashleigh, helping her play her hand, while Lauren snacked on her sushi.
“I thought that was your lunch for tomorrow,” Kyler said.
“No, John Paul said it was his lunch,” Lauren corrected him. “This is my not wanting to leave for waffles or tacos at 1am food.”
“Fuck,” Troy uttered. “How good do waffles sound right now?”
“Right?” McKenzie replied. “Ash, I need you guys to throw this game so we can get waffles.”
“Why do we have to lose?” asked Ashleigh.
“Because they’re winning 8-2,” John Paul replied. “It’d be quicker for us to lose than for us to come back.
“Fine,” Ashleigh stated. “Spades, alone.”
“Is she going to win?” Lauren whispered to Kyler.
Kyler shook his head and leaned back on the couch. Ashleigh succeeded in playing her hand sufficiently poorly, leading everyone to pack up to make their way to get waffles.
“I’m assuming you’re not coming because you have sushi?” John Paul asked.
“Not a chance,” Lauren replied. “It’s cold out there and I’m not putting on a jacket.”
“You coming with?” Troy asked Kyler.
“I think I’ll head back to the apartment in a few,” said Kyler. “I’ll help clean up first.”
The rest of the group filed out the door, leaving Lauren and Kyler to put Lauren’s aparment back together. While there wasn’t too much out of place, there were empty beer cans and plastic cups everywhere that had to be dealt with.
“I’m sorry she stood you up,” Lauren said.
“It’s really alright,” replied Kyler. “I mean, it’s not. But you didn’t do anything to need to apologize.”
“It’s the point of the thing. If someone’s hurt and frustrated, you do what you can to make them feel better.”
“Like have them bring you sushi?”
“Do you want me to pay for it?” Lauren asked. “I’ll go get money right now.”
“It’s really okay,” Kyler said. “Think of it as a gift from Halloween Santa or something.”
“Huh. I guess there is a Halloween Santa, isn’t there?”
“Look,” said Lauren, “if you just want to hang out some time, feel free to come by. And not just while we’re working on this project that we’re apparently doing by ourselves. It was kind of fun having you around.”
“Kind of?” Kyler asked. “Should I be insulted?”
“Kind of is all you’re getting for tonight.”
Kyler left the apartment, beginning the short walk back to his own apartment. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, worried he’d missed a call or text from Sloane during the party. Instead, all that stared back at him was Sloane’s picture, alone with the time: 1:41am.
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