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The One With the Engagement Party

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Peter Levine stands in front of the small crowd of people gathered at the Shepherd estate for Duncan and Gigi’s engagement party and struggles to keep himself together. Holding back his tears, he sucks in a breath forgets to release it. His face turns an alarming shade of red before Annette calls out a reminder to exhale.

“Peter, it’s okay,” she laughs softy at her old friend.

Peter sets his trembling jaw and holds his champagne flute higher. “Gigi and Duncan,” he starts, voice low and congested, “are perfect for each other, in every way...”

Duncan leans toward Gigi and whispers, “is he doing some kind of British accent right now?”

Gigi keeps her eyes glued to her father’s face and squeezes Duncan's leg warningly under the table. “Shhh. He’s emoting. Stop being a bastard and witness him,” she hisses.

Peter sucks in his bottom lip and continues, slightly more strained, “...and I feel great about it.” Locking his eyes on them, he grits, “and I love you.” The words are so forced that they sound angry. “I love you so much.”   

Gigi coos and nods her head in confirmation. “I love you too,” she tells him.

Peter breaks down then with a high-pitched sob. Embarrassed, he turns his face away from the other guests and waves a dismissive hand when they mumble with concern. 

“Alright, that’s enough talking,” Annette says. She comes to stand at Peter’s side and shoos him back to his chair. It’s her turn to speak anyways.

Annette takes a fortifying gulp of her third glass of wine and annunciates very slowly, “are you ready for this?” 

Duncan’s taken aback by the vehemence in his mother’s tone. He’d thought that she was on board with the wedding. She’d cried happy tears when they told her about their engagement months ago.

Letting her rhetorical question hang in the air for a moment. Annette narrows her eyes and asks, “do you know how many children you want? Where you're going to live? Who’s going to look after them while you’re at work?

Ah, okay, Duncan thinks. There it is. 

“Mom,” Duncan asks, “are we really going to do this right now?”

Annette ignores him. “You see the tendency when one is young is to think that you have all the time in the world to start a family and that everything will turn out alright. But you know, family won’t be around forever. Duncan turned out alright, but generally you can’t just give a child to a nanny and expect them to be a functional human being. Grandparents are an important part of children’s lives.”

Duncan rolls his eyes. Jesus Christ. Lay it on a little thicker why don’t you.

Cupping his hands around his mouth he yells, “boo. Put your granny boner away. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

Annette scoffs as if she has a right to be offended and pushes her sunglasses up the bridge of her nose. When Duncan had asked her about them earlier, she’d claimed that the sun was too bright (it’s 5pm). 

Gigi glares at him and digs a sharp elbow into his ribs. ‘What,’ he mouths at her, and then, ‘she started it.’ 

Gigi clears her throat and raises her glass to Annette in a toast. “Excellent advice, Ma,” she says. “We’ll keep it under advisement.” Her face turns very serious, “you’ll be the first one to know if I put a baby in Duncan.”

Duncan inhales his champagne and coughs violently as the liquid burns in his lungs and nose. Gigi smirks smugly and pats him on the back, pleased with her retaliation. 

When Annette seats herself, Gigi takes her place in front of the dining table. Coco and Kai come around the corner of the house then, carrying a projector and a screen. Coco sets the projector in the middle of the long table and darts over to help Kai fold out the legs on the collapsable screen. 

They find their seats as Gigi takes a deep breath. Tugging at her skirt bashfully, she smiles and says, “as some of you may know, Duncan and I are each other’s best man/maid of honour in addition to being the bride and groom. Accordingly, I’ve prepared a bit of a multimedia presentation.”

Mischievous brown eyes meet blue. Duncan holds Gigi’s puckish gaze and swallows nervously. That look has never boded well for him. 

“Duncan,” Gigi starts, voice earnest, “I’ve known you for a long time. You’re my best friend and the love of my life. I want to take this moment to celebrate our commitment to each other and our future as a couple, but not without first exploring your past.” 

Duncan’s feels his face start to fall. What fresh hell is this? Yearbook photos? Evidence of that time he got the flu and shit his pants?

Gigi slips a microphone headset over her ear, pushes a button on the small remote in her hand and says, “here we go, motherfuckers.”

The opening strains of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ starts to play. A graphic of a heart overlaid with ‘Duncan’s Past Lovers’ typed in bold font appears on the screen. 

Duncan throws back the rest of his drink.

Bopping with the beat of the music, Gigi starts clicking through her slides and sings, “Richard Hoffmeier, Anna K., Jenna Simmons, Lizzie Grey...”

Oh, Jesus fuck. She’s collected Facebook photos of every person who’s ever fucked Duncan or given him a drunken bathroom blowjob.

“…burly dude with an Irish accent, Dana Gilbert, Emma Wolsack…” 

Annette stabs a finger at the screen and says, “I remember that one.”

“…and Lizzie Gray again. Jill McCarthy, Simon Newport, Evelina Cabrera, Camila Valero and a random dude from the bar again…”

Duncan slaps a hand over his face. Someone’s kind enough to hand him a scotch.

“…Ingrid Cho and my ex, even though they claim no sex. Rock and roll and cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!”

Peeking through his fingers, Duncan sees that the screen has stopped flashing with the faces of people he’d like to forget. Currently, it’s showing one of their engagement photos.

He smiles involuntarily.

He can’t help it. In the photo Gigi's chosen, he’s giving her a piggyback ride and there’s a flower crown perched crookedly on the top of her head. For her slideshow, she's added a speech bubble near his mouth that says, ‘she’s perfect!’

Refocusing on his lover, Duncan hears Gigi sing, “I didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, but I got the ring on. I wasn’t his first lover. As it turns ouuuut, he fucked some others—”

“I think—babe, I think that’s enough," he calls out, cutting her off. 

Gigi hits a button to turn off the music and blinks at him in confusion. God she's cute. Evil, but cute.

Pushing to his feet, Duncan comes to stand beside her and takes the microphone Peter passes to him over the table. 

Gigi looks alarmed. It’s Duncan's turn to smirk. “Gigi, my love, my sunshine," he says, "it just so happens that I’ve also prepared a presentation.”

At his signal, the three-piece band he’s hired slips out the back doors of his mother’s house and settles into position on the deck. From their position on the back lawn, they have a great view of the musicians' gleaming stand-up bass, cello and acoustic guitar.

Duncan grabs one of Gigi’s hands and holds it tightly in his own. “In honour of our years of oblivious pining, I’ve prepared a song from one of the first cassette tapes I ever made you. We were twelve and you'd just had your heart broken by Brandon Kowalski. He broke your favourite yo-yo and I’ve never hated a kid so much.”

Gigi chuckles lowly and squeezes his hand. 

Nodding to the band, Duncan waits anxiously for his mark as the dulcet tones of Cucurrucucu Paloma float through the backyard. Inhaling a shaky breath, he raises the microphone to his mouth and starts to sing, “dicen que por las noches. Nomás se le iba en puro llorar…”

He doesn’t get to finish the song. As the last syllable of the verse leaves his tongue, Gigi launches herself at him and tackles him to the ground.

There’s kissing then. Kissing hot and wet and deep enough to give a man ideas not fit for polite company.  

Duncan groans and wraps Gigi in his arms, squeezing her too hard because she holds all of his joy.

The band plays on.