Since the few weekends following the whole...play fiasco, the group decided to have a Friday night where they all gathered in Jeremy’s basement and talked.
Rich had started it all, explaining what had happened his freshman year, what he took the summer before sophomore year and why. It explained why he had acted the way he did, and while holding back tears he uttered apologies to everyone for the way he acted.
Chloe went next, no she hadn’t taken a SQUIP until unwillingly doing so, but she wasn’t innocent either. She admitted all her insecurities and her struggles in school, and how she lashed out on those who hadn’t deserved it: she had begun to see a therapist and it was helping a lot. She apologised to everyone, mainly Brooke, Jeremy and Jenna. She had hurt Brooke by what she did to Jere, and had all but...gone too far with him. And Jenna? God how had she allowed herself to act like that to her childhood best friend?
Jenna began to say her sorries for all the rumors and gossip she allowed to pass her lips, the drama and fighting it started. She lamented on her insecurities, and how no one ever knew her name unless she was being talked to for the latest news. She knew she hadn’t done as much as the others, but she hadn’t tried to stop anyone or help the others. She was as guilty as the others.
Jake apologised to Jeremy and Christine most, he had been a dick to him solely because of his crush on Christine, which all went to waste that Halloween night. He hadn’t been horrible, but he wasn’t good either. He was a B-list douchebag junior year, and had no real thing to blame it on. Part of him knew he should see a therapist, and as if reading his mind Chloe had later slipped him the number of the office her therapist worked at.
Brooke and Chloe had a personal talk after the entire group hang out, she had been both too timid and anxious to speak up in front of everybody, the anxiety clamping her mouth shut. She managed to call all the others one by one with Chloe there holding her hand to apologise for what she had done, or what she hadn’t done when she should have.
Michael’s turn came about and he had felt a bit awkward, not entirely doing things to the others but more so Jeremy. He had told Rich it was no sweat, and with good time he believed they would be able to work things out. Him and Jake were sort of bros before it all, the only two people in their biology class who were both constantly confused and in the back (which was not good for their eyesight). Him and Brooke had never fully had a falling out, though they weren’t really friends before it all. Though during their session she had made an old movie reference and he swears his heart leapt at how excited he got.
Jeremy was last to go, after Christine had said she was sorry for her attention being on something like play rehearsal and not the other’s feelings- which they had told her she was okay, her excitement wasn’t something, but they would do their best to help her remember her adderall when she forgot. Jeremy’s apology seemed to last both longer and shorter, feeling bad over what he had done to Brooke, how he treated Michael, the way he feels he was pushy with Christine.
After everyone had spoken their turn the silence hung thick in the air. Jeremy began to pick at his arm, Rich fidgeting in his seat, everyone’s ticks slowly coming into play. It was broken by Brooke’s happy squeal as her eyes landed on something as she studied the basement.
“You have Sorry? I used to play that all the time when I was a kid!” She moved to go grab the box, freezing upon sitting back down and seeing everyone’s eyes on her, “Sorry...it was my favorite game. I haven’t played it in years.”
Rich snorted, “My brother and I used to play...I kicked his ass every time.”
“You sure he didn’t just allow you to win?” Michael asked with an eye roll.
He gasped, “How dare you Mell! I am the Sorry champion.”
Chloe butt in, “I’ve seen Brooke play and she gets extremely competitive. But far second isn’t bad Rich.”
“Do I smell a challenge?” Christine asked, scooting closer.
Everyone exchanged glances, small grins on their faces. They split up into teams, Brooke and Chloe, Rich and Jeremy, Michael and Christine, Jake and Jenna. They took turns playing and added tallies, laughter echoing from the room. Mr. Heere had snuck out and bought some sodas and snacks, bringing them down to the teens. The smiles on their faces was one to warm his heart as he went back up to work.
Thus started their biweekly tradition, a game/movie night on Friday. They rotated positions, whose house it was, who brought snacks, who brought drinks, who chose the movie. It was a happy time, as they all began to come out of their shells together.
Jenna and Jeremy bonded, sharing insecurities and anxieties, helping each other calm down and work through them. Rich had been their Jeremy’s senior year, helping him through his sexuality panic when Jeremy realized he liked guys (more in specific, a guy). He was there when Jeremy ranted, when he needed advice, etc. Brooke and Michael formed a friendship, full of puns, movie references and outdated and discontinued 90s foods and drinks.
This tradition lasted years, as senior year stresses and anxieties weighed them down, their squad night was a night that calmed them a reassured them. Saw to them as they graduated, and Jake cried the hardest while Chloe held him, rolling her eyes lovingly. On the two year anniversary of their first game night Michael and Jeremy announced they were dating, to which everyone feigned surprise. A few weeks later Jenna and Christine had to leave early for their first date (it went very well). Next, naturally, Brooke and Chloe arrived wearing Mickey “hers” and “hers” shirts. (Chloe got Michael and Jeremy matching “his” and “his” ones per Jere’s request). And low and behold, it took Jake and Rich much longer to realize they liked each other.
That brings us to now. Their squap nights have gone on for years, moving about as Michael and Jeremy moved into a studio apartment together, though some nights for nostalgia they went to see Mr. Heere and include him in their game and movie night extravaganza. Once all of them were 21 those times were hilarious. Jenna and Christine moved into a small one bedroom apartment, luckily the really close neighbors had hearing problems so when the group got too loud or rambunxious, no one could send in noise complaints. Jake and Rich got an apartment together, a smaller one with weird neighbors- and they loved it. Brooke and Chloe, to no one’s surprise, were the first to get a house together and it was the cutest (Michael would never admit it though).
Seven o’clock was coming up, and Jake was the last to show up to Christine and Jenna’s apartment. He had been in charge of getting pizza and them got stuck in traffic, and he was slightly buzzing with annoyance. He entered the apartment, nearly being tackled by a bob headed blonde as she took the pizza from him.
“Glad to know what I’m used for!” He yelled, rolling his eyes playfully.
Rich had come up, kissing his cheek softly. “Please, we’ve always known we loved you for your pizza supplies.”
“Anytime.” He smiled and walked back to the couch, plopping down half on Jeremy who let out a small squawk. “Hey tall ass.”
“Hey short ass.”
“Fuck you Heere.”
He snorted, heading to the kitchen where Chloe was pulling out some drinks. “Hey Valentino.”
She looked up and grinned, “Sup. You ready for tonight?”
He nodded, feeling a small body run into him. He side hugged Christine, “Never been more ready.”
Chris was practically bouncing, “You know ten years ago was our first ever squad hang out right?”
“You’re the best with dates Chris, not us.” He kissed the top of her head, “Need any help in here?”
“If you could carry in the cups, Chris and I have the drinks.” He nodded, helping move everything to the coffee table.
Rich was laid out across Jeremy and Michael’s laps, having a deep conversation with something with Brooke (they were debating who the best horror villain is), Jenna was cracking the windows open to let the cool night air in. “Ready fuckers?!”
“Let’s get this done!”
“I’m gonna kick all of your asses.”
Chloe chuckled, setting down the beers as Christine put the sodas down. “Okay so my mom got me this pack, and since there’s eight of us we got a few more packs but whatever. Watch Ya Mouth. Got I hate that name. Anyway, we have a few categories, and in those include like, notecards of sayings or words.”
Michael grabbed a beer, “So who’s going first?”
“I figured couple v couple v couple v couple? So I guess Chris and Jenna could go first. Their apartment and everything.”
“Aren’t you so sweet Brooke.” Jenna tousled the blonde’s hair.
Christine put the piece in her mouth, grabbing a theme labeled ‘Movies’.
Reading the first card she nodded, “Emherher Stike Hack.”
“Emherher?” Jenna started giggling.
“Emherher! Emherehr Stike Hack!”
“I’m sorry- say it again?” Everyone was sober yet the difficulty of holding in their laughter had begun, Jenna’s giggling and Chris’ determination setting everyone off.
“Emherher. Stike. Hack.”
“Emherher...oh Emperor! Emperor Strikes Back!”
Chris nodded happily, moving to the second card. “Ih.”
“It.” She nodded.
“Hey that’s no fair that’s a one word movie!” Rich complained, shoving popcorn in his mouth.
“I didn’t write them!” Jenna defended, laughing as her girlfriend wiped away any drool coming from not being able to shut her mouth.
“Dad made these, leave him alone.” Jeremy nudged Rich, “He’s just now accepting some of the newer movies. Be proud.”
Rich rolled his eyes and settled in Jake’s chest, “Good for him.”
The game continued, Jenna and Christine being quite in sync as they got all four cards correct. Jeremy and Michael were up next, and surprise surprise, got video games. The first one was FortNite, and Michael had bitterly gotten it correct. Next was PacMan, then Missile Command.
“H un e un!” Jeremy’s face was red, going on for five minutes with this card.
“What the fuck are you saying?!”
Everyone was in peels of laughter at the two, the struggle between this last card evident on their faces, yet they couldn’t help but crack up themselves.
“H un e un!”
“Jeremy I don’t speak your God damn scaly language!”
“Huck ew! H un e un! H! H!”
“He?” Jeremy shook his head, “H?”
He nodded, “Un. Un!”
“H One- oh fuck you Heere. H1Z1.” Jeremy threw the card at Michael, taking the plastic out of his mouth and laughing, tears coming from his eyes as he struggled to breath.
“That took you- so- so fucking long!”
Michael rolled his eyes, “Fuck off. Get your slobber away from me,” He flicked the piece away, “Who’s next?”
“The real champs. Move your ass!” Chloe scooted them away and he shoo’ed her right back, relenting as she began poking his sides.
Their theme was ‘Musicals’. Christine was a mix of excitement and disappointment at her not getting that, but she had been teaching Chloe well. She was ready to watch. It took a total of twenty five minutes for Brooke to guess all four correct, and Chloe attempting to sing some of the lines, the key word being attempting.
Last in round one was Rich and Jake, Jake offering to be the first to guess the phrases. Rich readied himself, sitting in front of his boyfriend.
“Your theme is, aw, love.”
He wrinkled his nose. “That’s pretty gay.”
“You’re pretty gay.”
“Aw you hitting on me Michael?”
Jake flicked his nose playfully, and Rich got the first card ready, placing the piece in his mouth. ‘Anniversary’. Pretty easy.
“Annherherhuhe.” Never mind.
“What in the fuck.” Jake laughed, leaning back some.
“God Jenna made this look easy…Ann...Anniversary!” His voice cracked as he yelled the last bit out, and Rich laughed, nodding before moving to the next one.
“Hi huh ew.”
“Aw I love you too baby.” Rich flicked him off, reminding himself to tell Jake where to shove the card after they were done.
‘Call Me By Your Name’. Rich snorted. This would be a fun one.
“Har he hi her han.” Jake sat, mouth agape as he stared at his freckle faced boyfriend.
“Har he hi her han! Har!”
“Repeating yourself louder doesn’t help me not be dumb!” Rich started cackling, tears filling his eyes.
Ten minutes passed and they Jake was still unable to guess correctly, Rich felt like he grew new abs from how hard he was laughing, Jake’s frustration was too funny. After catching her breath Christine asked if Jake wanted to forfeit that card. He agreed, and pouted after he learned what it was.
“You could have said it better.”
Rich’s hands flew up in questioning, eyes wide but laughing. Last one. They were already losing round one. ‘Will You Marry Me?’ Why was he getting all the long ones?
“Hill ew hay he.”
“Why did everyone else get one worded shit?” Jake demanded, laughing as he turned back to Rich.
“Hill ew hay he.”
“Will?” Rich nodded.
“Ew hay he.”
“Ew hey he. Will ew hey he.”
“Hill. Ew. Hey. He!” Rich repeated, slowing his words.
“Hey he? Will you...oh! Will you marry me?”
Rich nodded happily, “Will you marry me!” At least they were only down one point. Next round they would be able to catch up. Hopefully.
Jake moved from his seat, and Rich sat the cards in the discard pile, turning back and stopping. Jake was down on one knee in front of him.
Rich’s smart reply was, “Huh?”
“Will you marry me?” Jake repeated, and Rich quickly removed the plastic piece, hand coming up slowly to cover his mouth. “...what?”
“Richard Goranski. Since sophomore year you were always there beside me, through the good and the bad. Especially through the bad,” He let out a watery laugh, and Rich glanced at his friends, seeing Chloe holding her phone and the others watching with big smiles, “And junior year was hard on...all of us. But I have had a crush on you since sophomore year, and it scared me. Then after everything happened, after you came out, after Chloe talked some sense into me, I realized how much I liked you. Our first date was six and a half years ago, and I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m wearing the same...God awful outfit.”
Rich let out a choked laugh, he was wearing that stupid outfit. Oh God he was crying. Who cares?
“And our first date, I took you to a carnival because you had been gushing about the date from Love, Simon and I wanted to recreate it. And then after I spent at least $20 trying to win you the stupid giant Eevee stuffie, you won in one go and got two small Eevees, and you told me they could be boyfriends. I remember looking at you and knowing you were the boy I wanted to marry. So Rich, the love of my life, will you marry me?”
Rich wiped his eyes, nodding. “Yes,” He found his voice, “Yes, oh my God yes.” Jake stood up and Rich threw his arms around his middle, hugging him close. He was crying into Jake’s stupid yellow hoodie, who gives a shit.
He pulled back from the hug, allowing Jake to place the engagement ring on his finger. “Oh my God,” He laughed again, kissing Jake softly.
“Wait- you fuckers knew!” He turned, wiping his eyes as his friends laughed softly, “You fuckers! That means you cheated! The game was rigged!”
“No no no!” Brooke defended, pointer finger upwards, “That was the only card we knew what it said. Your fiance got the other one wrong because of him.”
Jake pouted, “It was a long title!”
“I got How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying right!”
The duo got hugged and congratulated, all with huge smiles on their faces.
Rich and Jake Dillinger-Goranski. A mouthful, but so far overdue.
“You know we have to tell everyone’s parents now right?”