N-Day on V-DaybyYDB95©
"So," Matt proclaimed, as he polished off the last of his meat loaf. "After dinner, we hit Buzzy's. I hear they have a two-for-one promotion on bloody marys for V-day. We get loaded there -- if the drinks here don't do the trick first -- and then the club ought to be hopping by the time we're ready for it. Fuck around all night there if we want, or we can hit the bowling alley for the finale. See if we can push through to morning, and then waffles at the diner out by the freeway if we're still up. And Fuck Valentine's Day. What do you all think?" He set down his beer and looked around the table at his friends.
"Sure, man," said Gary, echoed quickly by Dave and Len as usual. "Anything to forget it's Valentine's Day, after all."
"I'm in," added Sarah, who as usual had parked herself next to Matt. "Who needs romance when you've got the guys, after all? Right, Maggie?"
Across the table, Maggie sipped her beer and tried to think of a nice way to let her friends down. "Thanks, guys," she finally said after a leisurely swallow. "But Danny and I are going home after this." She squeezed her husband's hand under the table and turned to smile at him.
Neither of them was surprised when Matt replied with a loud groan, or when Sarah and the boys followed his lead. "Christ, guys, you're not an old married couple yet, only a married one!" Matt argued. "You shouldn't give in to the boring life just yet!"
Maggie didn't feel like arguing with her on-again-off-again best friend. Poor old Matt had been on his I-hate-Valentine's-Day kick for weeks, and Maggie figured the irony of it all was lost on him. Five years before, he had spurned her affections and broken her heart. Now, he was carefully evading any and all awareness of Sarah's obvious interest in him. Some guys deserved their angst.
But Matt wasn't about to sulk in silence. "Danny," he demanded when he saw he wouldn't get through to Maggie. "Aren't you overdue for a night out with the boys?"
"A night out in this town?!" Danny asked. "You just went through literally every nightlife option in the county, remember?"
"Our point exactly," Dave piped up. "There's so little to do here, we ought to take full advantage of it on a night like this when there's so much drippy romantic crap out there."
"I agree!" Sarah added.
"Do you really?" Maggie asked her, with a meaningful look that was not acknowledged.
"Sure!" Sarah said. "Don't you remember how much you hated this holiday back in high school? All the cheerleaders with their flowers and teddy bears and chocolates, and what did girls like us ever get? We got to hang out with the guys because they couldn't stand it either! I'd say we got the better half of the deal!"
"Doesn't mean we have to go out and get wasted, though," Maggie said. "We're not college kids anymore, and really I didn't even like that sort of thing much when I was one."
"Me neither," Danny confirmed.
"But the point isn't getting wasted," Sarah said. "It's letting us forget about Valentine's Day because we hate it."
"Is that why you're dressed for it, Sarah?" Maggie couldn't help asking. Usually-tomboyish Sarah was wearing a red floral print dress, while the rest of the gang was in jeans and plain sweaters against the mountain chill outside.
"I'm dressed like this because it was the Valentine's party at school today!" Sarah insisted. "Danny told you about that, didn't he?"
"She's right," Danny confirmed. He and Sarah taught fourth and second grade respectively at the tiny local school, while Maggie and Matt had both taken jobs with the park service. Maggie, Danny and Matt had chosen to move together to the Rocky Mountain hamlet after college in California; Sarah was a similarly voluntary transplant from back East somewhere. Dave, Len and Gary were townies whom they had befriended along the way despite -- or perhaps because of -- their cosmopolitan out-of-state style. As usual, this Friday evening found them together for dinner at Sally's Bar and Grill, in the heart of their two-block downtown, and the room was just starting to fill up with the usual Friday night suspects. "I guess I should have worn something red for the big day too," Danny added. He was wearing Maggie's favorite of his sweaters, but it was blue rather than red. "But my kids didn't mind. It was kind of sad, really, the way you could tell the boys all wanted to act so tough and unromantic, and really you could see they were delighted to get all the valentines they did."
"What makes you think they were only acting tough?" Matt demanded. "They're boys, they don't need to be gentled down, even on a day like this! Especially on a day like this, come to think of it!"
"Matt!" Maggie was now getting truly annoyed at her friend. "That's a terrible thing to say! They're children!"
"I think he's right," Sarah said. "Boys should be boys and all that."
"Hear hear, and go get me a beer," Len piped up joyously, drawing a laugh from everyone except Maggie and Danny. For a moment, Maggie was afraid Sarah would indeed go fetch Len another pint, but to her credit she remained seated.
"Do you really believe that, Sarah?" Maggie probed.
"Course I do," Sarah shot back, now also sounding a bit irritated and, Maggie thought, defensive. She turned back to Matt and said, "Come on, guys, Matt's right. Come out with us and live a little!"
"Thanks, guys, but it's Friday night and it's cold," Danny said, waving to the waitress for the check. "Definitely a night to stay in and relax."
Matt sighed in resignation. "Guess it's true what they say about marriage: you might as well die."
Maggie was set to scream at him, but Danny grabbed her hand under the table. "N-day?" he whispered at her under his breath.
"Oh, that's perfect!" Maggie concurred.
"If you guys decide you don't want to spend the weekend like a couple of monks," Sarah needled, "You know where we'll be." She got her share of the money out of her purse and handed it to Danny. "I really hope you will come out. Just because you're married doesn't mean you're dead, you know."
"Thank you, Sarah. We'll keep it in mind." Maggie's resentment was gone in the wake of Danny's lovely suggestion. Why hadn't she thought of an N-day before now? What better day than the beginning of Valentine's Day weekend? "Hope you all have a great night in the meantime."
"It'd be even better if we weren't feeling sorry for you for missing it," Matt chirped, and the other guys laughed the way they always did at his nastier comments.
Outside, the sun had long-since set on Sally's front parking lot and the country road beyond, but the streetlamps gave off a tantalizing hint of the beautiful mountain view that had inspired Maggie and her friends to come to town. If the back-of-beyond rural location got a bit stultifying now and then, Maggie and Danny had never regretted the move. Neither, as far as they could tell, had Matt, though his attitude made it hard for even Maggie to ever be sure what he was really feeling. She'd had her doubts about him joining her and Danny on their move out here, but for all their mismatched past, they were still the best of friends. And so it was that Maggie let her irritation with him slide when he kissed her on the cheek just before unlocking his car. "'Night, Mags, for now."
"Good night, Matt," she said, and she took Danny's hand in hers for the five minute walk across the town square to their second-floor apartment.
The couple walked in silence across the snow-covered green. Neither one felt the need to comment on their friends' lousy attitudes or the hurtful things they had said; Maggie and Danny had been through all that a number of times before. Two years before, when they had announced their engagement, Maggie had heard every warning under the sun about getting married straight out of college. Her mother had stuck with "You're just too young, honey," her father had talked of opportunities to see the world on her own before settling down, while her friends had offered up saltier warnings like "What if the sex is no good?" That last point had given Maggie some pause, as she had made it to college with enough leftover Catholic guilt to keep things out of bed with Danny but enough curiosity to wonder if he'd be suitable as her only partner ever. But she had stuck to her guns on the matter, and Danny had never argued the point -- one reason why she had always loved him so completely. As her and Danny's final semester had dawned two years before, both retained their virginity and neither one was willing to stand the prospect of going their separate ways after graduation.
And so, having dated off and on since sophomore year, they had tied the knot at the rock garden on campus just an hour or so after commencement while still in the same clothes they'd worn under their robes. Their parents and friends -- including Matt -- had held off on their objections for that afternoon, at least.
In the months and weeks before, though, no friend had offered up more dire warnings than Matt: "Do you really want to miss out on being on your own in the big city somewhere? Don't you know how high the divorce rate is among people who get married in their twenties? Danny's an okay guy, but he's kind of immature, isn't he?" Some of his comments, especially that last one, had been downright offensive to Maggie. But Matt had been among her closest friends since freshman year, and so she had taken his outrage in stride. One reason for her high tolerance for his protests, of course, was that Matt was the one and only person who probably could have made her reconsider about marrying Danny. But he had never said the magic words that would have accomplished that: "But Maggie, I love you too." Freshman year, not a day had gone by that Maggie hadn't desperately hoped to hear him say it. Every one of their coffee dates or their long walks through town had been delightfully intimate, the two scared freshlings getting to know one another and sharing their feelings on life on their own for the first time and their dreams for the future, and they had always ended in a warm hug outside one or the other of their dorms...but nothing more, ever.
Maggie had waited and hoped for him to take the next step, and when he still hadn't by spring break, she had finally taken the bull by the horns and asked him out herself. "But we already are going out Friday, aren't we? Pizza, right?"
"I was hoping for something a bit more elaborate for once, Matt."
"Matt! Can't you see what I'm getting at? We've been avoiding it all year!"
"Avoiding what? Oh, Maggie, you didn't think you and I..."
"Haven't you ever thought of it?!"
"Well...no, Maggie. I love you as a friend and all, but to me you're one of the guys."
The conversation had devolved into a full-blown argument, ending in tears for Maggie, and they had barely spoken for the rest of the semester. A summer of lifeguarding at the pool back home had given Maggie plenty of opportunity to lust after other guys, not to mention coming to terms with her still-emerging sexuality even though she never acted upon those urges, and the spell was finally broken. Though she and Matt had patched up their friendship when they got back on campus that fall, neither of them had ever mentioned romance again.
Then, of course, she had met Danny. Quiet and shy, but smart as a whip and a wonderful listener, he had never made Maggie feel like just "one of the guys". They could talk about anything, including sex, and it always left her feeling wonderfully content and secure -- and beautifully feminine, as Danny was more genuinely interested in her female perspective than any other guy she had ever known. Even a conversation about perfectly mundane topics could leave Maggie feeling randy when she got back to her room, and she found herself imagining them in bed together well before their first official date. Danny was Matt without the macho act (which Maggie knew was an act, as she'd been able to dig under it all enough times), unafraid to let his guard down just like all her girlfriends did. He had always made her feel safe and content in a way she had only told herself Matt did. So for all her family and friends' warnings that there were so very many other fish in the sea, Maggie had never seen any cause to wait for one of those other fish when she had made such a wonderful catch on her second try. Besides, the memory of pining for Matt was enough for her to never want to date again in any case.
And yet, if Matt had ever had come around to feeling the way she did, Maggie couldn't be sure she'd have called off the wedding. But he hadn't -- instead he had encouraged her to go off into the wide world alone -- and two years later, she was ever so glad she had stuck with her Danny.
With that thought, she squeezed Danny's gloved hand tighter. "I love you, Danny," she said as they came upon their house and she led the way onto the outdoor stairs to their apartment.
"I love you too," Danny said. "I hope Matt didn't hurt you back there."
"I hope we didn't hurt him," Maggie replied. "Or then again, maybe I do."
"Well, of course we hurt him," Danny quipped. "He's not in for an N-day with anyone, is he?"
At the top of the stairs, Maggie burst into nervous laughter. She turned around and put her arms around Danny in the dark outdoor chill. "I'm really glad you're okay with him and me still being friends, Danny. I'm not sure if I'd be as trusting as you are."
"What's not to trust?" Danny asked. "He had his chance with you and he didn't take it. His loss!"
Maggie's heart was glowing -- she was sure of that -- as she unlocked the door and stepped into their kitchen, flipping the light on along the way. "So. N-day?"
Danny turned on the thermostat, and turned it up with a grin. "I guess we'd better. It's going to get pretty hot in here pretty soon."
Buzzy's was buzzing, all right, with lots of jeans-clad men and women getting off to an early start on the weekend festivities. Sarah did notice a few sad-looking women at the bar, dressed like herself, out on the hunt for a Valentine's Day date and, by the looks of it, having no more luck than she was having with Matt. As the guys laid their claim to a table in the corner with the last party's not-quite-empty beer bottles and popcorn still littered all around, she gave serious thought to heading for the bar to join the other women. Quickly remembering how intimidating that could be for guys, she thought better of it and considered looking around for a cute guy she could ask to dance -- maybe that would make Matt sit up and take notice. But Matt's directive to the barmaid -- "Five beers -- five big beers!" -- made her conclude she wasn't drunk enough yet to bother with dancing.
And so Sarah took her seat alongside Matt once again, and watched as the barmaid cleaned the table. "How long do you guys think it'll be before Maggie and Danny come crawling back to us?" she asked, forcing a smile.
"Let's have a pool," Dave suggested. "Winner doesn't have to buy any rounds."
"I love it!" Matt said. "I say half an hour."
"Half an hour?!" Sarah said incredulously. "They'd have to just turn around and come here as soon as they get home!"
"They totally will, though!" Matt said. "Think about it, they'll get home and their place will be cold and dark and they'll take one look around and realize we were right!"
"No, man, you saw how they weren't convinced," Len argued. "They'll come join us, but it'll take longer than that. I say two hours at least."
"I get one hour," Dave piped up.
"Hour and a half," Gary said.
All eyes were now on Sarah. "Well, geez, I don't know!" she ejaculated. "You guys took up all the plausible times. What's left for me, over two hours?"
"Guess so," Matt said. "Look on the bright side, that gives you all night to be right once we hit two hours."
"She probably expects us to pay her share anyway," Gary said. "Girls always do."
"Aw, fuck you, Gary!" Sarah said.
"Just so I get to fuck someone tonight," Gary shot back.
"Amen to that," Matt said, eyeing the women at the bar whom Sarah had noticed earlier. "Well, they all look like they're in the market, don't they? One for each of us and then some, boys."
Sarah punched Matt on the arm. "What about me?!" she demanded.
"Look around, it's a sausage fest in here!" Dave said. "In that dress, you can have anyone you want, you know that!"
"He's right, Sarah," Matt said. "Everybody knows how it works: a man goes to a party wondering if he'll get lucky, a woman goes to a party knowing whether or not she will."
"So will you, or not?" Gary asked with a grin.
Sarah was saved from the vulgar response she felt like spitting out by the arrival of the first round of pints. Taking advantage of ladies-first, she took a huge swig of hers before the barmaid had even served any of the guys. She was going to need a lot of this tonight, she now saw.
"We never did decide just what the N stood for, did we?" Danny asked as he followed Maggie into the living room, where they turned on the lamp in the corner for mood lighting and drew the curtains.
"I guess not," Maggie agreed, pulling her coat off to hang in the closet; Danny followed her lead. "Nude? Naked? Natural?"
"Could've been any of those," Danny said as he hung his coat alongside hers. "But I knew what you meant the first time you said it all the same."
"You said it first, silly!" Maggie said. "Just after the wedding when my mom handed you our hotel room key, don't you remember? We were so nervous!"
Danny slipped his arms around Maggie and held her tightly. "Of course I remember that," he said. "I remember thinking, heavens, this is awkward, isn't it? Both of us knowing that night was coming and here we had our parents helping us along, of all people!"
Maggie was laughing. "I know! I was so shy! God, I remember thinking it would take so much courage just to strip down to my bra!"
"Which I wouldn't have known how to undo anyway," Danny added, joining in on her laugh.
"You were so adorable just watching me take it off that first time," Maggie recalled as she pulled Danny's t-shirt gently out from his jeans and pushed it and his sweater upwards in one go. Danny drew back to let her do it. "Was that before or after we decided on N-day?"
"After, I think," Danny said. "Remember when we were finally alone in the hotel for the first time, both of us feeling so awkward and nervous and not even knowing where to begin..."
"Right," Maggie said. "So then -- it was you, wasn't it? -- who said, let's just undress and leave it at that for now, get used to being naked together. Do whatever we would normally do this time of day, but do it naked."
"And then you were the one who called it N-day," Danny said. "The idea was mine, the name was yours." Now it was his turn to liberate Maggie from her top; she stood back and happily watched him unbutton it.
"That's it!" Maggie said. "Yes, and those first few minutes were so...delicious! Embarrassing, but fun, you know?"
"My thoughts exactly," Danny said as he tossed her blouse on the couch and then reached around to undo her bra -- a skill at which he was now quite adept. "Remember how we just kept catching each other gazing at each other no matter what else we were trying to do?"
"And before I knew it, I felt perfectly comfortable," Maggie said, now undoing Danny's belt-buckle. "Danny, I love how comfortable we are with one another now, but I have to admit I miss just how thrilling that was the first time."
"Yeah, but we're so much better at sex now, aren't we?" Danny replied, also busy with the zipper on Maggie's jeans by then.