The door opens constantly the night of the New Years Eve party two years before the blind date that seemingly set Dave and Kyra into motion. The sun sets with a particularly purple tinge in the early evening hours of winter, but the many attendees of the party scarcely notice as they are entertained by their perpetually spirited hostess, Kyra. Tonight, interesting yet typical events transpire as they often do when friends get together. On special occasions such as this one, they all dress up to impress each other and drinks flow faster than usual from Kyra’s never-ending supply behind the bar.
It’s been six months since Kyra and her ex Jim mutually ended their relationship. In the spirit of friendship she has invited him to the party. In the spirit of lingering conflicting feelings, however, everyone else she could possibly think of has been invited, as well, in order to diffuse the tension. Kyra watches Jim out of the corner of one eye as she pours the various drinks requested by her guests, smiling and nodding to the conversations she begins and then halfheartedly continues.
Shell stands a few feet away from the temporary bar Kyra has constructed for the party. As lifelong best friends often do, she attempts to walk the fine line between protecting her friend from another heartbreak and allowing Kyra to make her own mistakes in love. Since the breakup, Shell has collected the tears, the pieces and the anger like shrapnel from the bursting of the bubble Kyra used to call the “perfect,” relationship.
It had been difficult to be objective over the years as Shell’s been married to Jim’s best friend Kent since college. She had seen the differences in the way Jim treated Kyra from the way Kent treated her, but she made sure not to form too strong an opinion knowing that all relationships were different. From her view next to the bar, Shell can already see the glint of inebriation she knows well glowing in Kyra’s smiling eyes as she pretends to be the life of the party to the guests.
Jim watches Kent and Shell from across the room with wondering eyes. As usual, they are stowed away in the corner of the room talking to guests as they are approached and spending the rest of the evening so comfortable, yet so in love with each other at the same time. He realizes painfully that he and Kyra had never felt that way. Most of the time, Jim wondered what really went on in Kyra’s head. They spent time together and they shared their feelings openly, but they never had that longing for each other like Kent and Shell appeared to have.
Kyra is great on paper. She supported him through med school and was a fabulous cook, but something about her always screamed that she wanted so much out of life. Why couldn’t she have just been content with the here and now? Instead, it seemed she was always hoping and wishing for the next big project or the next trip to some new place she wanted to go. Jim knew that she wanted more than he could ever give her and that feeling weighed him down more each day until he felt his head sinking below water.
When they moved into together, before he started med school and she started work, he has given her a promise ring in hopes that they would marry once he was established, but over their years together Jim had slowly felt a feeling of regret over making a promise he would never fulfill.
With mixed feelings he walks over to where his old friend and another one of his typically attractive blond ornaments stands. Jim thinks that Dave has done particularly well tonight as he approaches them. The blond ornament is far more stunning than the past dates Dave has brought along to various parties. In fact she’s particularly stunning in that red strapless dress.
Dave watches Jim approach with that wolfish look he gets when he wants something. On most occasions he would be furious that Jim’s about to wrangle his date from his arm, but this date has little going for her and lately he’s been looking for more than a flimsy piece of decoration to accompany hims to parties.
Tonight he hoped to finally ask Jim for permission to ask Kyra on a date. For years he had listened to Jim disparagingly describe Kyra and her silly endeavors. Despite Jim’s descriptions, Dave had come to realize that his friend had absolutely no idea how lucky he was.
Living across the country while finishing up grad school, he had yet to meet Kyra. Jim’s descriptions hardly did her justice. Dave watches her bustle around the house pulling out more food than the guests can eat, generously pouring drinks and excitedly starting conversations in a royal blue dress that stands out against her olive skin and her long dark hair. He wonders if she’s over Jim and the fact that she steals a glance at his friend when no one’s looking affirms that perhaps it’s too soon to ask her out.
After ‘Auld Lang Syne’ half-remembered and sung in slurring verses and into the wee hours of the new year, the stream of people in and out of the house slowly dies down. Dave walks down the hallway looking for a quiet room to escape the unlikely pairs of people engaging in drunken flirtations. Upon opening one door he happened upon his date who had stolen away with Jim to one of the rooms earlier and she offered a lukewarm apology as Dave hastily shut the door. Jim had certainly moved quick. Cautiously, he opened the only other door in the hallway and he sees Kyra face-down on the what must be her bed.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you. You must be exhausted from hosting this thing,” Dave says quickly as he attempts to close the door quietly.
Kyra offers a muffled, inebriated reply just loud enough for Dave to hear through the pillow her face is stuffed into,”No, no, join the pity party at your own risk. I believe I have taken enough tequila shots for a year. I’m hiding from the party in order to avoid having drunk-Kyra ruin it for everyone, so you should probably leave.” She’s still wearing her cocktail dress and vintage costume jewelry as her mascara smears into the pillow stained with tears from earlier when she realized Jim had not even spoken to her once tonight. She faces the fact that they are really over now.
“I’m willing to take the risk. Are you ok? Is there anything I can get you, maybe a water?” Dave asks, unsure of how to approach this situation.
“Sadly, this is not the first time in the past couple of months that I have engaged in a tequila party for one. Exhibit A is on my dresser,” she points with her head still nestled in the pillow to a supply of various water bottles half-empty and scattered capsules of ibuprofen on the dresser.
Dave sits on the edge of the bed opposite to where Kyra lay. Around the dimly lit room, Dave sees for himself the photography that Jim had described as Kyra’s “little side project.” More than impressed, he’s awed at how it appears that Kyra’s pasted her soul around the room. Each wall is lined with various photographs she had taken. Dave has no idea if they are any good, but they seem to be so real, so tangible, to him.
“I love your work,” Dave says without even really meaning to say it out loud.
“Can you tell me that again sometime when I’ll remember? No one ever sees these. Well, no one except Jim who pretty much hated them,” Kyra remembers Jim asking her to take them off the living room walls so they could put more appropriate art up for when his parents came over for dinner.
Dave decides it’s probably better not to mention his relationship to Jim. “Well, I’m not quite sure how to go about talking to someone who’s not going to remember anything,”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m not quite sure how to listen to someone I don’t know that I’m going to forget,” Kyra replies sarcastically.
“Your’e right. We’ve never met, but I’ll tell you that I know you through friends and I think you deserve better than “tequila pity parties” over some guy. I have since the first time they described you to me. You seem to be an amazing person. When the time is right, I mean to tell you this when you’ll remember,” Dave gushes under the guise of mutual intoxication while simultaneously hoping to God she isn’t kidding when she says she won’t remember.
“Wow. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me,” for a few precious seconds Kyra relishes the fact that even face-down, fully dressed and intoxicated someone still seems to think she’s amazing until the facts she believes to be true smack her back into reality. “Thank you. I don’t know if I would appreciate it under different circumstances, though. Lately, I’ve been a little unlovable. I promise you I’m nothing quite so great as you’ve described,” Kyra sniffs away the last of her tears and curls into a ball facing the other direction. If this guy is for real she doesn’t want him to see her like this, all weepy over some ex.
“Well then I will personally see to it that someday you feel differently. I’m sure you’re tired, can I at least get you a blanket or something before I go?”
“Thanks, I’ll be alright, though. Get home safe,” Kyra says out of the fog of exhausting swiftly forcing her eyelids shut and Dave quietly shuts the door.
He curses himself for not just covering her with a blanket anyway. In the living room he runs into Shell and while grabbing his jacket and keys he asks, “Hey, it’s Shell right?”
“Yes,” Shell answers abruptly. She had seen Dave arrive with his arm-candy and then later , when she had walked down the hall to get more champagne from the guest room where Kyra hides her last reserve stash, she had walked in on what she assumed was Dave and his date inappropriately canoodling in Kyra’s guest room where she and Kent were meant to stay tonight.
“It’s so nice to meet you. I met Kent earlier and I was hoping you, Kent, Kyra and I could get together one of these days? You all remind me of my friends back home. I’m new to town and could really use some help getting acclimated.”
“Will you be bringing your little blonde friend with you?”
“Oh no, she’s really nice, but I think this will be our last date. I think she actually already found a ride home,” Dave explained wondering why Shell cared at all about his date.
“If that’s how you treat women than I’d rather we didn’t get together and I’d rather you never met Kyra either if that’s what you were really after,”
“Wow, I’m so sorry. I meant what I said and I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone at the party. My date was really nice. I even offered her a ride home earlier, but she got a ride with my friend. I just didn’t see us going anywhere,”
“No, I’m sorry that you feel it’s ok to bring a random date to this party and then to go into someone else’s room like that. You don’t even know the hostess,” Shell wasn’t one to make assumptions, but it was late and she had imbibed one too many martinis. She especially disliked people taking advantage of Kyra and her house when she had hosted such a nice party.
“Shell, I’m so sorry. Please tell Kyra I apologize,” and with that Dave left confused. He hadn’t meant to be rude, but Kyra had invited him into the room. Maybe, he had overstepped his bounds.
The next morning as Kyra nurses her coffee under the spell of a splitting headache, Shell relays the facts that some random guy hooked up with some random girl in her guest room to which Kyra nodded uncaring, and that she thought had overheard Jim telling Kyra in her room that, “She deserved so much more,” to which Kyra laughed and said to Shell,
“Well, we’ll see if he calls and tells me that when he’s sober.”
It wouldn’t be until days before Valentines Day a couple of years later that Shell would realize she was mistaken in her assumptions…