He made his way through the throng of women, cups in both hands and teeth. His focus was evident as he bobbed and weaved, intent on not spilling a drop or interrupting any of the excited conversations around him.
When he reached the group, he was barely acknowledged. Two of Miranda’s friends reached up without missing a beat while the other two reached eagerly for the free alcohol. Only Miranda showed any sign of thanks. She looked at him and gave him a weak smile. He could tell the day was dragging and she was getting tired. Even when she was tired, though, she radiated warmth that made it hard to let her leave. Kevin, having known her his entire life, realized she needed to be saved. He made a motion to interject but was cut off, as if on cue.
"So Kevin… you must be a wreck," Katy drunkenly slurred in his direction. The question was awkward, no doubt, but he was prepared for it.
"Ah, no of course not. I’ve never seen Miranda happier than she is when she’s with Brad. I couldn’t be more excited for her."
It was a bullshit line, but there was a hint of truth to it. The complications and feelings that swirled around the two could hardly be described in passing at a party. Most of all, he was happy that she was happy. He knew Miranda was as pragmatic as she was beautiful. The decision to marry Brad wasn’t an impulse, he was sure of it.
Katy wasn’t giving up that easy.
"Bullllshit. You two have been swimming in sexual tension for as long as I can remember." The rest of the girls giggled and Miranda started to blush a little. Kevin decided to steer the conversation into a more predictable direction.
"Anyone need another drink?"
Katy was insistent.
"You just got us dri…."
"I’ll take one."
"Me too." The rest of the girls nodded as well. Katy was sour, but she realized the battle had been lost.
"Fine, one for me too." Kevin smiled.
"Miranda, can you give me a hand? I forgot where the ice is." She smiled and started walking with him. Behind them, Katy threw one final barb toward him.
"It’s in the icebox, douchebag."
The kitchen was empty, finally giving Miranda a chance to breathe. Kevin closed the door and leaned against the counter. They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Seriously, ‘I forgot where the ice is?’" Miranda was shaking her head.
"To be fair, I’ve had a bit to drink tonight. I’ve also had to maneuver around people I thought I’d never have to drink with again. Thanks, again, for that."
Miranda laughed and curtsied.
"I never thought I’d see the day where drunk girls would get me out of an awkward situation," Kevin joked as he poured more drinks. Miranda’s expression softened a bit.
"Is this awkward for you? I’m sorry if I’m putting you in a weird spot." Kevin waved his hand dismissively.
"If you think I was going to miss you’re wedding, you’re fucking nuts." Miranda cocked her head slightly.
"I was talking about the party…"
Kevin stopped for a second before pouring another drink.
"Oh…of course, yeah. Well, it was either going to be uncomfortable here with Solo cups in jeans or uncomfortable in a tux with champagne. My tux doesn’t really fit so…no worries."
He knew he was starting to talk himself into a corner. Flushed, he looked at Miranda to gauge her reaction. She was staring back at him, studying him without a hint of judgement. In fact, he didn’t think he’d ever seen this expression before. The silence needed to be broken.
"Speaking of Solo cups, I think having them at a wedding shower is a sign that you are too young to be getting married."
They both broke into laughter.
"This is NOT a wedding shower! I just wanted one last night at the beach, like the old days."
"I will drink to that."
They touched glasses and headed back into the living room.
* * * * * * * * *
Some time and several beers later, Kevin was standing on the edge of a debate whose sides he couldn’t name. He was in his world, scanning the house where he and so many others here had grown up. He looked at the balcony, where he and several others had held their very first game of truth or dare. Miranda was standing there, alone and surveying the sea and stars.
Intrigued and fueled by both the moment and alcohol, he darted into the kitchen. He threw open the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of champagne. Armed with 2 cups and the bottle, he made his way outside. He slipped under the balcony and looked up to see Miranda’s face. The expression was the same as the foreign one he’d seen earlier in the kitchen.
"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!" Miranda was startled, but laughed.
"Very smooth, but I think Juliet is a couple of balconies down."
"Fancy a walk?"
"With champagne? You’re about 10 years late with that, I think."
"I’m just trying to get a little more drunk and this was the only thing I could find. What, you don’t want to help me find Juliet? Stop hogging all the happiness."
"Fine, give me a sec."