It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
An electronic melody toodled in the other room. Like a mob of meerkats, eight heads spun in unison toward the source of the sound. At any other time, the chiming phone would have been disregarded. But at 1:45 a.m., it could only be one of two things: an emergency or a booty call.
Conditioned to react solely to the tune of my own phone, I remained seated while others rose to investigate. I assumed it was just one of Jenice’s random infatuations, like the guy she chatted up while getting her tattoo the day before or the girl she chased that night at the Casbah. Either way, it wasn’t worth relinquishing my prime spot on the couch, where I planned to sleep.
I only get to see Stephanie — my bestest of besties — a few days each year, when she visits from her current home in Southampton, England. It’s become a tradition when Steph’s in town for her mother to host a barbecue at her home in Chula Vista. This time, Steph called before the party and asked if I’d stay the night along with a few other friends who were in town from Texas and Northern California. “It’ll be great,” she said, “like a real slumber party, just us girls.” After a moment of awkward silence, Steph continued, “It’s okay, it’s just an idea, don’t feel obligated.”
“No, no, I’d love to,” I said. It’s just that…well, you know how I am. When you said ‘slumber party,’ I was thinking about what I’d have to bring, where I’d sleep, how comfortable it would be. I don’t even own pajamas, so I’d have to figure out what to wear…” I trailed off as it occurred to me I might be sharing too much, even with someone who’d heard it before.
I could hear the familiar smile in her voice when Steph said, “Just think about it. If you end up staying here, great, and if not, no worries.”
It’s just one night, I thought. How often do I get to spend time with my BFF? I couldn’t remember the last time I crashed on a couch — it could be an adventure. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more easygoing, less uptight about stuff; this could be good for me. As I continued to rationalize reasons to say yes, my concerns slipped away.
“You know what? Forget about all that,” I said. “I’m in.”
I packed my pillow, toothbrush, something to sleep in, and a sleeping pill (in case I found it impossible to doze without David’s soothing presence beside me). By midnight, most of the people who weren’t staying the night had gone home, and, like the gooey center of a chocolate lava cake, a richer, more intimate party emerged. Things had started to wind down for a second time when the phone rang.
“Do you think it’s a booty call?” Cami asked. She sat at the opposite end of the same couch. For a moment, I suspected her of deliberately sparking my curiosity about the call in a bid to get me to move so that she could then spread out and claim the sofa. I didn’t get up but craned my neck to see over the counter where Stephanie, Holly, and Steph’s mother Carole were standing.
“It’s a text,” Steph announced.
“Give it to me,” Carole said, snatching the phone from her daughter.
“Who is it?” Steph asked.
“No one you know,” Carole said, triggering a chorus of ooooohs. Smirks were shared all around. Someone shrieked, “It is a booty call!” We’d regressed to giggling schoolgirls who’d busted into their parents’ liquor cabinets to get all woozy and slaphappy. Despite our jokes and teasing, the general consensus was that, since the middle-of-the-night call had been for Carole, it must be innocent. She was the mother, the one who was supposed to shush us when we were too hopped up on sugary snacks.
Carole ran into the other room, with Stephanie and Holly hot on her heels. When I heard loud thumping noises and felt the floor tremble, I shot Cami a warning look and followed the ruckus.
I rounded the corner to find the women piled on top of each other, faces red from the struggle. Holly had pinned Carole to the carpet, and Stephanie was trying to wrench the phone from her mother’s death grip. Eventually, Steph succeeded and jumped up with a triumphant “Ha!”
Carole ordered her daughter to return the phone. “No,” Steph said, and ran to the kitchen. Carole chased her and clawed at the air for the phone, but Steph was able to fight her off as she checked the text. “Oh, my GOD,” Steph said, bursting into laughter while allowing Carole to grab the phone from her hands. “Who is ‘Dip’?” Steph asked.
We demanded to know what it said, and Steph was quick to oblige, the words blasting out of her mouth in a guffaw before she succumbed to another fit of laughter: “Lonely and hard!”
The matriarch was not amused. The rest of us broke out in hysterics. “There’s no misunderstanding that,” I said.
“You go, girl,” said Jenice. Cami seconded. “Wish it were me,” said Holly.
When she noticed her mother’s fallen face, Steph rushed to comfort her. “I don’t know why you’re so embarrassed,” she said. “It’s not a big deal. Who is he, anyway?” Carole remained tight-lipped. It was only later, after another handful of people had gone and just we girls were left that she relaxed and spoke about her friend openly.
“I think it’s awesome that of all the naughty girls in this room, the one to get a booty call was Steph’s mom,” I said. Heads nodded in agreement. “And, by the way, I call the couch,” I added.
It was 4 a.m. when we finally settled down and made up our beds. Cami and Jenice shared the ancient pullout in the office. They giggled and gossiped about reality stars until I insisted they take a pill and get to sleep. I settled onto the couch, and Stephanie — ever the selfless friend — sacrificed her comfort for mine and slept on the floor beside me.