"This is a terrible place for a first date," Arthur says, looking around TGIF's as disdainfully as, well, as disdainfully as Arthur at an overcrowded, overloud restaurant.
"Says the man who never took me on a first date," I say.
"That can't possibly be true," Arthur says.
"Oh, but it is," Cora says, suddenly appearing and sliding into the booth next to me. She flings an arm around me. "I even took Howie on a first date."
I shudder. "That wasn't a date. That was a . . . a mauling."
"Reddy took me on the best first date!" Kristy says, as she sits down next to Arthur. She lets out a happy sigh. "He brought me flowers and gave me the last bite of his dessert. Do you think Mitch brought Amber flowers?"
"I highly doubt it," Arthur said. "And what are you doing here?"
Cora grins. "Amber said we better make sure Howie doesn't ruin her date."
"But we're here to make sure Mitch doesn't ruin it!" I say.
Mitch had called me up a week ago, panicked because he'd finally asked Amber on a date and she said yes. "Like, there have been moments, dude, but this is like for real!" And then he begged me to tag along on their date. Like, sit at the same table with them. Uh, no. But I agreed to keep an eye on them.
That's me. Mr. Cupid. Bringing my best friends together.
"I'm just here to keep Howie out of trouble," Arthur says.
Okay, so not everyone thinks so.
"I think it's sweet," Kristy says.
"If Mitch really cared about Amber, he wouldn't have taken her here," Arthur says, staring at the menu in dismay. "Does he want to kill her?"
"Yes," Cora said. "He's pined after her for months and month, and is now luring her to death by calories."
"Shh!" Kristy says. "They're here!"
And so we all turn to stare at the door. Amber has her hair down, all shiny and pretty, and Mitch is wearing a clean shirt. Yeah, this is serious. She's looking up at him, all smile-y, and he has his hand on her elbow, and it makes me feel, I don't know, all warm and glowy.
Even though I'm still not sure I one hundred percent approve of this whole deal.
Kristy sighs happily. "They're so adorable. I can't wait to go on triple dates with them."
And then she gives me and Arthur a menacing glance. (Or, you know, as menacing as Kristy gets. Mostly, she looks like a cute little bunny who isn't getting enough carrots.) "It will happen."
Cora smirks. "I'm so glad I'm single."
Meanwhile, Mitch and Amber are walking to their table. He still has his hand on her arm, only releasing it when they get to their seats.
"Don't take off her coat," I mumble.
"What?" Arthur asks.
"Amber hates that," I say. "Says she can take off her own damn coat."
"He didn't!" Kristy reports. And then frowns. "Do you think it's bad Reddy takes off my coat for me?"
"Do you think it's bad I don't take off your coat?" I ask Arthur.
"I'm going to kick you all," Cora says.
Just then, a waiter appears and asks us if we're ready to order.
Kristy has her eyes trained on Mitch and Amy. "They're holding hands!"
"Do you have anything that anyone, perhaps even in a fit of delusion, might term healthy?" Arthur asks.
The waiter scratches his head. "Salad?"
Arthur sighs. "Fine, that will do. No fat dressing, if you can manage it."
"I will take the greasiest, most unhealthy meal you have," I declare. Arthur looks at me sadly. "Fine. Salad. But with fat-full dressing!"
The things we do for love.
Kristy is still staring at the table across the room from us. "Does anyone know how to lip read?"
The waiter looks at the rest of us helplessly.
"She'll have a turkey burger," Cora says. "I'll take an All-American Stacked Burger."
"I trust All-American means something disgusting," Arthur says, after the waiter leaves.
"You really need to teach him to live a little," Cora says to me.
"I'll steal some of your fries," Arthur says, and then looks panicked.
Cora rubs her hands together and laughs menacingly. Which turns out to be a thing. "I'm going to hold you to that."
Arthur sinks down in his seat.
"They're not doing anything," Kristy says. "They're just talking."
"We should probably make sure Mitch isn't saying anything stupid," I say. I move to get out of the booth, but Cora blocks me.
"Mitch doesn't need your help ruining this," she says.
"He's not going to ruin it!" Kristy says.
"True," Cora said. "She could always ruin it instead."
"It's not ruinable!" Kristy says. "It's true love! You can't ruin true love!"
Arthur puts his head in his hands. "I have a headache."
One hour later, Arthur has eaten three french fries, and my neck hurts from craning around to stare at Mitch and Amber. Who seem to be having a very pleasant, non-ruined time. And, okay, like, I don't want to be a third wheel or anything, but we're a trio! Shouldn't they have, like, a pang of missing me? Instead, they're all laughing and smiling and touching the whole time.
Cora throws her straw wrapper at me. "You're happy for them, remember?"
"I am! Very happy! Happy as a clam!"
Which is a very weird expression. Are clams happy? I don't think I'd be happy as a clam. They're all slimy and gross and probably never get to make out with each other.
"They're getting up!" Kristy reports. "Aw, they're holding hands."
"They're coming this way," Arthur says.
"Hi guys," Mitch says, when they get to us. "What a crazy-random coincidence to meet you here!"
"I know you told Howie to come here," Amber said.
"You do?" Mitch looks scared for a moment.
"It's okay," Amber says. "I had Cora and Kristy keep their eyes on him."
"He behaved very well," Cora says. "And how did Mitch do?"
Amber looks up at him, and I really don't want to describe the look her face, but, well, Dennis missed out. That's all I'm saying.
But all she says is, "He'll do."
"That's my sweetheart," Mitch says.
"Can we please go?" Arthur says.
"Maybe I better go with you," I say to Mitch and Amber. "Make sure nothing goes wrong."
"Uh, pretty sure I can take it from here," Mitch says.
Amber giggles. Giggles! That's it. She's lost to me forever.
And then they're gone, out the door to do who knows what. (No suggestions from the peanut gallery, please.)
Kristy smiles. "And they all lived happily ever after."
"Really," Arthur says. "Can we please go?"