Choosing Henley(3)

By: Anne Jolin

“The potatoes?” I laugh. “The ones that so urgently needed mashing?”

She looks over her shoulder and rolls her eyes at me. “Oh please. Don’t even. I already did them. But you looked like you were going to pass out and crack your head open on my hardwood floors, so voila, potatoes were your out.” She turns back around and continues to search in the cabinet.

“Oh, thanks,” I reply quietly. I should have known she could read it all over my face. Hannah is incredibly perceptive.

She finally finds what she’s looking for—a serving platter of some kind—and turns around to look at me. “Listen, I’m sorry. I would have warned you, but I didn’t know she’d be here.” Her eyes look sympathetic and I’m confused.

“You didn’t know who’d be here?” I question just as Beth comes bouncing into the kitchen. I say bouncing because what she does cannot be called just walking.

“I can’t believe you two left me alone with that bimbo,” she says almost a little too loudly, and Hannah peeks out into the living room to make sure no one heard her. “Not cool, buttheads.”

“Inside voice, Beth,” Hannah hisses back to her sister. “You’re about as subtle as a freight train. Jesus.”

They both turn to look at me, but I’m at a loss. “Yeah, hello… I still have no idea what you two lunatics are going on about.” I cross my arms over my chest and stare at them.

“I’m guessing you haven’t done a head count in the living room, have you?” my best friend asks and exchanges a glance with her sister.

“Uhm, no,” I say. “I was too busy trying not to fall and bleed all over your floor, remember?” I start to move to peek out into the living room when Hannah stops me. I turn to look at her but before I can answer, a whirl of bleach-blond hair almost knocks me on my ass.

Twice in one night. I knew I should have stayed home.

“Oh my gawd. I’m so sorry,” the Malibu Barbie purrs at me, clasping a manicured hand over her mouth. Her nails are bright pink and shaped into points. You know, the kind girls get that almost look like claws? Yeah, they look like that.

“What can I get you, hun?” Hannah coos.

I smirk to myself because, even though her voice is like honey, it’s faker than Barbie’s boobs.

When the timer on the oven goes off, I turn around to check on the roast while Hannah plays hostess. I hear Barbie giggle as I put on the oven mitt and roll my eyes. I go to pull the oven door open but stop halfway when she starts to talk.

“I just wanted to get Jamison another beer.” Her voice is high pitched and whiny.

I feel my grip on the oven tighten and I clench my jaw together involuntarily. He hates to be called Jamison. My blood is running hot. I hear the fridge open and close and someone pop the top of a beer bottle before she speaks again.

“You’re the bestest!” she squeals before I hear her leave the room.

I’m still bent at the waist with the over door half open when Beth starts to whine. “Her voice makes me want to stuff cotton balls in my ears.”

Hannah’s small hand lands on my shoulder. “Are you okay, Len? I’m sorry. That’s what I was trying to warn you about before. I didn’t know he was bringing…a new one…” she trails off.

I nod my head, closing the oven, and turn to look at her. “I’m fine. It doesn’t bother me. That’s great that he’s happy,” I say a little too enthusiastically with a smile that doesn’t reach my eyes.

Han gives me a look that says I’m full of shit, but it’s Beth who actually says something. “Well it’s a good thing you aren’t a lawyer because that statement would never hold up in court.” She giggles and slides off the counter. Beth has no filter to start with, but tipsy Beth just downright calls it like she sees it.

I’m saved from having to answer when the second timer goes off and dinner is ready. The girls and I, sans Barbie, put the food on the table and call everyone to sit. Greyson sits at the head of the table, Hannah to his left, and me to his right. Beside me is Jay, Beth is next to him, and across from them are Jami and his Barbie doll. Everyone starts to dig in and I take the time to study her. I didn’t pay that much attention to her when she came into the kitchen earlier, but now, I can’t take my eyes off her.

She’s a little shorter than I am, maybe five foot six, and she absolutely looks like a real-life Malibu Barbie. She has bleach-blond hair—not professionally done, I note—and her fake tan makes her look like she was gang-banged by a bag of Doritos chips.

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