The doorbell chimed and I jogged towards the door, swinging it open.
“Welcome to the party- Ew, it’s you,” I fake-grimaced as I saw the Mellows. They were the first ones- like always- to show up for the Fourth of July party. Bru rolled his eyes and came inside, closely followed by a five-year-old son and daughter duo. They ran off once they got inside and Bru just laughed. Whisper was carrying a picnic basket but Bru took it from her, and she glared at him.
“I could have gotten it,” she scowled playfully.
“Aww, did little Red Riding Hood come bearing sweet treats?” I snickered. Whisper stuck her tongue out at me.
“You really some want sweet treats?” He raised his eyebrow and shot me a seductive look. I smirked, pulling him into a headlock.
“Shut your face, Mellow.” Bru grunted and dropped the basket, trying to get out of my grip.
Galeio and Pourpre started giggling. “Take him down, Uncle Shi!” they cheered on. I pretended to punch him in the gut and he played along. The twins were laughing wildly. Whisper chuckled, picking up the picnic basket and putting it on the table while I noogied Bru.
“Alright, boys, behave.”
I chuckled, letting go of Bru and walk over to his wife. Taking her hand in mine, I planted a kiss on the top of it and wiggled my eyebrows suggestively.
She stuck her tongue out at me and pushed me away, laughing. “Don’t wiggle those caterpillars at me.”
“Hey, I take offense to that!” I grinned as she set the picnic basket on the table. Galeio was rummaging through the fridge and the chip bags, and Pourpre was sitting on the couch as her parents joined her. I sat opposite them, reclining and crossing my arms.
“When was the last time you even waxed those suckers?” Bru laughed. I scoffed, dramatically flipping my hair.
“NEVER. They are my pride and joy!”
“Whatever,” he snickered. I couldn’t help but notice Whisper’s belly was sticking out a little further than usual; seeing as they were health nuts, the Mellows were always in top physical condition. Whatever. I shrugged it off, asking Pourpre about her school.
Everyone started showing up about an hour later. Xanthi and Dad couldn’t come because they were going to one of Pansy’s niece’s parties instead; Carmine didn’t like celebrating the Fourth, and Flare was out with his fiancee. So just my friends were coming. Which was nice; I never really liked huge social gatherings.
Lakian, Sandwisp, Carino and his girlfriend- who also happened to be Sandwisp’s sister- Cherimoya were also there. I had brought in the foosball table from storage a while ago; my grandpa Maroon owned it for the longest time, but when he and Grandma passed the table was put into a garage and forgotten. Besides, who doesn’t like foosball?
“YEAH! In your face, Thorne!” Cherimoya exclaimed. Carino grunted.
“It’s two against one, this is so not fair!”
In our group of friends, nothing was ever the same after a game of foosball.
Bru, Lakian and I were talking about our jobs. More specifically, we were talking about my knee and how it affected the football team. Lately, it had been getting easier to move around- I could actually bend it and not fall flat on my face. A lot could happen in a couple of weeks.
“Yeah, man. I mean, I won’t be in this season, but as long as I keep going to therapy and all that, Coach said I should be able to play next season.”
“That’s sweet, dude!”
“It’s gonna be a horrible season without you,” Bru sighed. I raised an eyebrow.
“Well, obviously,” I snickered. “Dude, but no. You’re the best player on that team. Me being gone just gives you more of an opportunity to be a star,” I said, saying the last word sarcastically. Bru stuck out his tongue.
“You two really like football, don’t you?” Lakian mused, seeming admiring. Bru and I smiled and answered at the same time.
Galeio, Pourpre and Bermuda ran outside, one after another, leaving the front door wide open. A warm breeze drifted in and I smiled.
Sandwisp walked over and cleared her throat. “Move, Noir.”
I looked at her indignantly. “Or what?”
She punched my shoulder and laughed and I stood up, bowing. “After you, milady.”
Lakian and Sandwisp looked at each other and nodded. A smile spread across Lakian’s face and he clapped his hands together. “Alright, we wanted to tell you guys before Malibu got here, because she’s got a lot on her plate and she tends to worry about Wisp-”
“We’re having a baby!” Sandwisp cut him off. A chorus of oh my Berry’s and REALLY?!s ensued and we all congratulated them. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. Cherimoya, Rouge, Whisper and Sandwisp all giggled about all the baby stuff and Lakian just kind of watched them, a huge smile on his face. Carino bear hugged him and he, Bru, and Lakian started talking about being a dad.
Getting up from the couch, I closed the door after Galeio, Pourpre and Bermuda and let my shoulders sink. Where was she? I was starting to doubt she was going to even come. Sighing, I turned. But just as I was about to shut the living room door, there was a few short taps on the front door. Smirking to myself, I spun back around opened the door.
“I was starting to think you weren’t going to show.”
“And miss seeing you- er, and fireworks? Pff, no!” Malibu chirped, hugging me.
“No way, dude, you got a foosball table?!”
“Sort of,” I smiled, turning toward it. Her face lit up and she ran towards it, gripping the side as she watched Galeio battle Pourpre. Carino looked up from Bru and Lakian, smiling.
“Hey, guys, little Blue is here!”
“Heyy, lil Blue!”
“Malibu!” Bermuda squealed as he jumped up from the floor and ran toward Malibu. He grabbed onto her legs.
“Hey, ‘Muda!” Malibu laughed. “Hey guys. Sorry I’m running late.”
“No, you’re just in time! Come on! Sit down!”
Bermuda stopped clinging to Malibu and started playing foosball with the twins, and we sat on the couch.
“Oh, hey, this is Whisper. Bru’s wife,” I clarified as Malibu looked confused. She smiled with recognition and turned and shook Whis’s hand.
“Nice to meet you! Shi never mentioned Brulee having a wife.”
“That’s kind of how it is with us,” Whisper said sourly as she glared at me. I smirked, shrugging. “It would have been nice to know he had a girlfriend, though.”
“Oh, we’re uh, not dating.” Malibu laughed and looked at me, shaking her head. I added a comment in my head but smiled, laughing along with her. Whisper just huffed.
“I’ll have you know, Malibu, that Shiloh is quite the catch.”
My eyebrows raised at Whisper- where was she was going with this? She smirked. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to date one of Twizzlerbrook High’s biggest whores?” she continued, sending me a sweet smile. I rolled my eyes and waved her off, laughing.
“You are a whore, Shi,” Bru added. “I mean, I could tell a couple of stories…”
“Yeah, I could tell a few stories about you, too,” I smirked, turning back to his wife. “Hey Whis, I ever tell you about what happened when Bru and I had our first NFL game?”
Bru pursed his lips. “Oh no.”
This was going to be good. “Yeah, Coach almost told him to pack his things and go home. So Brulee over here decides to get piss-drunk and start streaking across the hotel room. He ends up getting out on the balcony and gets up n the banister, shouting that he’s the king of the world and all the fair maidens should bow down to his penis!” I was laughing along with everyone else when I finish talking. Whisper was hysterical, leaning on Bru for support so she didn’t fall on the ground. She was laughing that hard.
“I’ll bow down to it, king,” she giggled. Bru looked so red! I laughed even more. Bru smiled sadistically, looking over at me.
“At least that wasn’t as bad as your heated make-out session with Lakian.”
“Hey!” Lakian exclaimed. “I take offense to that!”
“What?!” Sandwisp gasped, bursting out into laughter. I blushed as Malibu’s eyes locked on me, her lips tightly squeezed together in an attempt to keep in her laughter. She turned to look at her friend.
“Lake, you’re such a manwhore. You stealing my man?”
He made a clicking noise. “What can I say? I’m irresistible.” He winked at me and I rolled my eyes.
“Sure. You’re not even that good at kissing,” I smirked.
“Psssh.” Lakian waved me off, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head. “You’re not even that god at it, either. You agree with me on that one, Bru? You kissed Shi.” Bru and I looked at each other, eyes widened. He scratched the back of his head. I looked away, really embarrassed.
“God, I’m gonna pass out from all the gay in the air,” Malibu laughed as she put the back of her hand against her forehead and leaned back dramatically. I rolled my eyes, nudging her shoulder. She laughed and leaned on my shoulder, resting her chin on it.
“Spin the bottle and drunk men never ends well.”
“Why don’t we play it again?” Lakian said whimsically, reaching for a stray ketchup bottle that was sitting on the coffee table. He tossed it back and forth between his hands.
“I don’t think so.”
“I wanna play!” Galeio chimed in from behind the couch. We all laughed, and Lakian raised his eyebrows, still serious about it.
“We’ve got women and we’re sober. I call for a round two.”
“You’re an idiot,” I laughed, shaking my head.
“Hey, maybe you could get lucky and get a chance to kiss little Blue over there,” he mused. I stopped laughing suddenly and pursed my lips.
Malibu looked up at me immediately through her bangs, biting her lip. I ran my fingers through my hair, feeling heat rise into my cheeks. “Uh, I.. Well, um..”
“You want me to shut him up, Mally?” Sandwisp asked playfully. She smiled, turning her head slightly.
“Wha-” Sandwisp crawled over and straddled him against the couch, wrapping her arms around his neck. Lakian looked uncomfortable.
“I’m the better kisser, you dick.” She kissed him suddenly, and we all started laughing. I shook my head, chuckling quietly. Berry, those two were definitely something.
Bru and Whisper started talking to each other again, and Pourpre ran up, asking excitedly if she could do something. Rouge had gone into the bathroom to change one of the babies- how she was able to just ignore social activity totally beat me- and all the kids were chattering excitedly.
I suddenly felt Malibu tug on my arm. I looked down again, her deep blue eyes piercing into mine. “Are we gonna go see the fireworks soon?” she murmured as her eyes twinkled lightly.
“Of course,” I smiled.
We got to Peppermint Pier at about nine o’ clock. It was a beautiful night; a waxing crescent moon was out, all the lights at the pier had been dimmed for the purpose of viewing the fireworks. Everywhere around us, we heard the booming of random people setting off their own fireworks. Chatter filled the air and you could just sense the happiness in the night.
Pourpre, Galeio and Bermuda ran off to play tag or whatever they did down by the water. There was surprisingly not many people here; most of the time, firework shows were held across the lake, where you could see them even better. It was just a lot easier to keep everyone together in a group at Peppermint Pier; not to mention, it was a really pretty place to be on the Fourth.
“I haven’t been to the fireworks in years,” Malibu breathed excitedly, nearly skipping up to the wall. She leaned forward, her chin resting on her hands.
“Really?” I laughed slightly. “I used to go to them with my mom and brothers all the time.”
“Once I left Apple Plains, I just kind of stopped,” she said absentmindedly. A white light shot through the sky and burst, raining down with little snapping sounds. Malibu squealed and I stood next to her, leaning my back against the wall.
“How long has it been since you went to a show?”
“Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe eleven, twelve years?”
I whistled. “Damn.”
“But I’m no firework virgin, don’t worry,” she snickered. I let out a sudden laugh.
“Firework virgin, huh? I guess that’s one way to put it.”
“I don’t know what kind of parent wouldn’t take their kid to see fireworks, though,” she mused. I cleared my throat and pointedly looked at Bru. He scoffed.
“That’ll be the first thing I do with mine. Even if-”
“SHH! They’re starting!” Malibu squealed as she smacked my chest. I smiled and watched as her face filled with awe. A slow smile spread across her face and she let out a little squeak when one of the fireworks made a smiley face shape. I laughed and looked up at the sky. A flaring yellow light popped, followed by a great bunch of green and pink ones.
Laughter and conversation echoed throughout the empty pier. Carino, Cherimoya and their son Robyn were on the other side of the sculpture; from what we could hear, Robyn wasn’t very happy with the loudness of the fireworks. Their laughter kept carrying over and it was making us all laugh. Malibu was talking about what the lights were looking like and I was laughing and agreeing with her, offering my own version of what I thought they were supposed to be. Once in a while, one or two would soar through the air and she would just lose herself in the vivid colors. I couldn’t stop looking at her. Her face just made me really happy.
I felt oddly at ease that night. Something about being there, doing something I loved, was just a really comforting thing. Being with Malibu made it even better. Her presence caused this weird feeling to rise in the pits of my stomach; it was something I hadn’t felt in a long time and it was oddly distracting.
“Dad!” Pourpre gasped as she ran up the steps. “Can we get the blanket from the car?!”
“Yeah, here,” Bru said as he tossed his daughter the keys. She giggled and the three kids raced to the car. Whisper laughed lightly, leaning her head on Bru’s shoulder.
“Remember their first firework show?”
“I’ll never forget it,” Bru smiled. They kissed and I looked away, watching as a firework shot up into the middle of the night sky.
Bermuda was Rouge’s kid, and he was a couple years older than the twins. Rouge trusted him to run around with them, though, and they all seemed to be getting along well enough. The twins came running back from the car, Bermuda carrying the blanket over his shoulder, and sprinted back down toward the piers. The snapping of firecrackers started echoing throughout the empty dock and Bru and Whisper laughed.
“Not too close to the blanket!” he called down. Pourpre’s laugh echoed back up.
Lakian and Sandwisp laughed to each other. Malibu’s attention to the sky was uninterrupted, though, and I turned and smiled at her. Her smile.. I just wished I saw it more often.
“Shiloh! Look!” Malibu slapped my chest and pointed at something in the sky. A pink firework raced a blue one up and they both exploded, bright bursts of light that faded quickly. I smiled and looked the other way.
“Look at that one.”
“Hey, Shi, that one’s you!” Bru called out as he pointed to a white weeping willow. I laughed and gave him a weird look.
“OOH! Look look look!” Malibu exclaimed as her hands climbed all over my face. I laughed, crossing my arms.
“This is so cool!” she squeaked, jumping up and down. I laughed at her enthusiasm.
“You’re like a little kid on Berrymas.”
“Don’t ruin my fun!” she teased, sticking her tongue out. Another laugh escaped my mouth.
“They’re just fireworks!” Sandwisp giggled. “Nothing you’ve never seen before, Mally!”
“Oh, hush up! This is really fun!” Malibu whimpered. We all laughed and turned our attention back to the grand finale of the fireworks.
Boom, boom, boom, boom. Red, white, and blue bursts of light lit up the sky, illuminating everyone’s face. Soon they were everywhere in the black sky, splatters of paint on a midnight canvas. When some would incidentally form shapes, Malibu would tug my arm like a child and point. The huge grin on her face caused my own lips to grow into a smile and I leaned my head back, closing my eyes. Whistling fireworks flew into the night, exploding and causing a deafening roar. When I opened my eyes and the fireworks dissipated, I saw a pink light shoot up and disappear, then showing a huge heart that grew and grew, dissipating into black again. I looked over at Malibu and she was lost in the sky.
In a sudden rush of impulse, I stepped toward her and she turned to me. I grabbed her face and brought it to mine, our lips crushing together. Malibu leaned into my body after a couple of seconds and our lips stayed locked; she tasted sweet like cherry, and her lips just as soft as I had imagined. My heart was pounding when I pulled away, the taste of her mouth on mine still there. She looked into my eyes, but for once I couldn’t tell what was in hers or what I was thinking right at that moment. Neither of us said anything, we just stared; then, she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me back.