Fresh out of hot yoga class, Alex and Ellie were waiting in line to buy overpriced popcorn and coke. Looking behind her yoga mat, Ellie noticed that there weren’t that many people at the movie theater for a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s literally just 1pm. I doubt anyone else is even out of their houses,” remarked Alex. It was finally their turn to order, “Can I have a large popcorn - no butter please? And 1 large coke.”
“Throw in a bag of skittles too please,” Ellie smiled at the staff. “This is why we go to hot yoga even though we find it pretentious.”
They made their way to the condiment table and sprinkled ketchup powder atop the popcorn.
“How was your evening, after you ditched me?” Ellie grabbed a handful of popcorn.
“Oh you know, the usual. Attempting to make dinner, feed the child, clean up half of the dinner that is now on the floor, put child to bed, open bottle of wine and drink. Fall asleep after 10 minutes of watching… You know, I don’t even remember what we put on. Yours? You look quite fresh today actually.”
They had entered the theater and were now standing at the bottom of the stairs, both scanning the room and pointing at empty seats, while nodding or shaking their heads. There were only 2 other people in the movie theater. So they did the socially accepted thing and picked their seats two rows away from the other couple.
“It was actually not that different from yours really. Jason left me a gift - a bottle that we bought for our third anniversary.” She paused her thought as she put down her yoga mat and bag on the seat next to her. “Or was it for valentine’s day that 3rd year? Doesn’t really matter - really nice bottle. Only had it that one time.”
“How nice of him. I’m sure you really did want that memory.”
“Oh yes, yes. It was quite enjoyable you know. Drinking a glass while bathing. I did the whole shebang - lighted scented candles in the bathroom, put on some relaxing music. I came up with 50 different ways to ruin his upcoming wedding.”
“All of which you will not attempt,” Alex said matter-of-factly.
“Definitely. Will not attempt.” Elena took a sip of the coke and put it back in the holder between the two of them. Alex was not convinced.
“Elena, look at me.” She grabbed her friend’s face and forced her to lock eyes with her. “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
The first movie trailer had started rolling: it advertised Lion.
“I want to watch the trailers Alex.” But her friend only squished her face even harder. “Okay, okay, nothing stupid. What could I do anyway? It’s none of my business. He can get married if he wants to; this movie looks a crying fest.”
Alex had finally settled back into her seat. “I really want to watch it.” The bag of skittles made annoying noises as she tried to pull it open.
“Me too. I totally have a crush on Dev Patel.”
With a pock, the bag opened and skittles spread all over Alex’s thighs. Ellie looked over. With no comment, she took a handful and started eating the candies. They had gone through all of the skittles and half of the popcorn bag by the time Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children started.
Adelina had joined them as soon as the movie had ended; now, all three of them were at their favourite Korean restaurant waiting for Ellie’s other friends. During the evening, Ellie had texted them desperate messages about Jason and her life in general. Faced with those messages Ellie only had a vague memory of sending, they had no other choice but to meet with her. As she waited for them, and Adelina and Alex were catching up, Elena looked around herself.
The small restaurant was cozy, the wooden picnic-like tables close to each other, complimenting nicely the brick walls. Some of the tables had matching wooden benches which she loved. Small paper lanterns hung around the half of the room that was up a couple of stairs; light trees and candles bordered the windows and the sides of the rooms. It was both romantic and casual.
Erica greeted her with, “You’re so dramatic, seriously. Like, I get it. I feel you.”
“But do you really?” asked Elena. Not so subtly Ellie stared at the ring on her left hand, before pointing at it.
“No, you don’t get to point that out, okay? Sometimes I feel like I’m forcing the husband to have sex. Fairly sure it should be the other way around, so count your blessings.”
“Are we already talking about sex?” Kayla had popped in at the right moment. She sat next to Erica, “Sorry about Jason, Ellie. How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay. Why did you send me a picture of a cat?”
“I thought the cuteness would cheer you up. Wasn’t it cute?”
“Sure,” Adelina handed everyone menus. Ellie continued after barely glancing at the menu, “I just don’t get it. Don’t they say you’re supposed to go through every season to get over a break-up? What did he do, hop each continent and hemisphere to go through them in a month’s time? How do you get engaged within a year of breaking off a four-year relationship? Whatever.”
The girls remained silent as they all shared the same thought. Adelina broke it: “Sometimes it’s just about the timing and meeting the right person.”
Ellie played with her chopsticks. “How do you know when you’ve met the right one then? He walks in, you lock eyes, then BAM!”
The waiter came by to get their orders just then. Ellie smiled at him, “Hey Joon, how are you?”
“Good, glad to see you again Ellie. How are you?”
“I’m good. Always excited to be here.”
“Right,” interjected Erica, “can I have the dolsot bibimbap please?” The girls finished ordering. After Joon left, all smiles, Erica grilled Ellie: “you’re always excited to be here?”
She gestured around herself, “the restaurant is really nice. And the food is great.” They all stared at her. “Okay, I also low-key have a huge crush on Joon. But that’s really just a bonus to the entire experience.”
Kayla looked after the waiter, “He is cute. Why don’t you say something to him?”
“Like what? Let me be the red chili pepper to your kimchi?”
“I want to rub you like kimchi paste on cabbage,” Erica mused.
While Kayla stared mouth open at Erica, Ellie sighed, “I wish I had the courage to say something like that.”
Adelina nudged Ellie, “You know, it’s not a bad idea. You should definitely get back on the dating scene. You haven’t been with anyone since Jason.”
“I know, while he’s clearly been having sex left and right.” Ellie tried to look as though she didn’t care, but she could feel the emotions bottling up, so she looked down at the table, then picked up her glass of water and took a long chug.
“Can you really say that when he’s obviously been in a relationship for quite some time?” Erica pointed out. Ellie dropped her glass and pointed at Erica.
“You’re right, maybe she’s pregnant.” Ellie said, hopeful.
Alex shut her down quickly: “Eh, who gets married because of a baby today. She wouldn’t want to not drink on her wedding day. Don’t be cray.”
Erica cleared her throat attracting the attention. She dropped her voice to a whisper, “Okay, I really don’t want to be that person but...” The girl stopped mixing her bibimbap. All the girls stared at her, “Do you think that maybe Jason... was seeing someone else at the same time? And that’s why he’s you know, already engaged now?”
The thought had crossed Ellie’s mind. Silently she blew her spoonful of kimchi jjiggae.
Adelina’s face clearly showed her annoyance at that comment, “No, Jason’s not like that. He wouldn’t.” She squeezed her sister’s arm, “He’s the type to come pick you up at my house in the middle of the night because you had a nightmare.”
While Ellie shoved a massive amount of rice in her mouth, Kayla cooed.
“We promised never to talk about that. And it wasn’t just the nightmare, so don’t give him that much credit.” Ellie went back to blowing her food. “How did my life get here? I was excited Friday night because I went to bed past 10. I fell asleep while watching a rom com. I had ice cream on my PJ’s and not only did I not care, I only noticed when I spilled coffee on the same spot the next morning.”
Kayla interjected “That happens to me all the time.” She tried to grab meat with her chopsticks but it kept falling through. Exasperated, Ellie fed the meat to her.
“I’m serious. I haven’t gone out in forever. If it were winter, my legs would be like a bear. I’d be cast in The Revenant.”
Between mouthfuls of bibimbap and kimchi, Erica said matter-of-factly: “Well for one, no one’s stopping you from looking like Seal anytime. For two, then make a change. Go out more often. Get Tinder and get swiping.”
“That’s a lot of work,” Ellie answered. Her next spoonful of kimchi stew had hit the spot.
“Yeah, and it gets tiring really quickly. Bumble too… Happn… You know, you keep mentioning your cute neighbour, he could totally be on one of those apps. And it’d be so easy,” Kayla enumerated, still struggling with her food.
“Yeah I guess. Keon keeps telling me to get on those apps. But I already have Diego’s number.”
Alex slapped the table so hard Kayla had to hold her glass. “Wait a second, you already have his number? And you’ve never used it?”
Ellie jumped at her friend’s hyperness. “Yeah, we exchanged numbers just in case, like we exchanged spare keys. Neighbourly stuff. I really don’t think dating will change anything though. I just work. I feel like life is passing me by.”
Erica dumped some more red pepper sauce into her meal, “Maybe you just need a break, a vacation. Why don’t we go away for the weekend, rent a chalet somewhere?” For once Adelina nodded at one of Erica’s suggestions.
“Ouh, I’d be so down. One with a spa please! And a guy would at least provide you with an occasion to get out and shave. So text Diego.” Kayla had finally stopped fixating on her food.
“You could also write down your number on the receipt for the waiter. Maybe include some of the lyrics of this song,” Erica added raising her eyebrows and nudging a blushing Kayla.
“I think I’ll pass, I don’t want to be barred from the place.” The more suggestive part of the song made them dance in their seats.
“Then text Diego. Didn’t he mention drinking wine together? Text him. Now.” Alex insisted. Without anyone realising, her sister had already taken hold of her phone; she gave it back to a clueless Ellie. The screen showed the text: “Hey Diego, it’s Ellie. Wanna come over and drink all of my Cabernet?”