"You shouldn't have gone over there." Kevin reached for the towel draped over the handlebars of his Spin bike and wiped his brow.
"That's not what I asked," I panted, the wheels beneath me gliding to a stop. Flywheel graciously offered to comp my membership, and I lured Kevin to a class with a link to the headshot of the instructor who's a dead ringer for Channing Tatum. "I asked what I should do now. It's been three days, and I haven't heard from him."
Kevin wiggled his foot free of the pedal grips. When I texted him that morning ("SOS boy drama. Need a guy's take.") he'd written back, "What did you do this time?" "You haven't tried to contact him, right?"
"No." I winced as I stretched out my legs. "Why, do you think I should?"
I gave him a look like, care to elaborate?
"I don't know Richard that well," Kevin said. "But you don't have to be the fucking Long Island Medium to see he's got some walls up. You come at a guy that private, and he's only going to quadruple lock his doors. You can't get him to open up. He has to do it on his own terms."
I peeled back the soggy label on my water bottle. "I wasn't trying to ambush him. I just don't get how he went from, like, contrite almost, and promising he would explain everything to me, to shutting me out." I caught my foot in my hand, stretching out my tortured quads. "It's like he had time to think about whatever it is he needs to explain to me and then freaked out and felt like he couldn't do it. But that's part of being in a relationship—communicating, even the ugly stuff. I know that's hard for him for whatever reason. I think his family situation has something to do with it. I just want him to know he can tell me. Whatever it is."
"Well, you made it clear" Kevin said. "So now you just have to be patient and let him come to you."
"Here's the thing though." I scrunched up my face, embarrassed. "It's my birthday this weekend and I was just kind of hoping"—
"Birthday sex?" Kevin grinned and I swatted him with my sweaty towel.
"Shut up. I was just hoping to spend it with him. I don't even think he realizes it's coming up."
"You're turning twenty-seven"—
"Whatever, it doesn't matter after twenty-five." Kevin dodged my sweaty towel again. "My point is it's not your fucking sweet sixteen. If Richard's important to you, just let him be. If he needs a week then you celebrate it a week late."
I felt a lot better about things until I went home, showered and met Nina and Ashley for a drink.
"So, um, slight problem," Ashley said, after she'd made a significant dent in her wine.
I glanced at Nina. She studied her nails intensely, refusing to look at me. "Slight problem with what?"
"Um, so Nina and I had this idea," Ashley said, "to throw you a surprise party on Friday. Kind of a combination birthday and congratulations on your new job party."
I stuck out my lower lip. "You guys!"
"But we fucked up," Nina said.
Pinot Noir bubbled in my stomach. "Tell me."
"We sent out an email invitation last week," Ashley said. "Before your fight with Richard. I thought it was weird, how he didn't write back or anything, ask if there was anything he could do or whatever, so I went back and looked, to make sure I didn't somehow forget to include him."
I was practically falling out of my seat. "And?"
Nina cut in before Ashley could continue. "And Richard and Peter have really similar last names so when Ashley started to type in Richard's last name Peter's email popped up and the invitation went to him by accident, not Richard."
It was like the walls were closing in on me. I put my head in my hands and groaned. "Ashley!"
"I know," Ashley groaned back, "I'm such an idiot."
"Did you at least re-send the invitation to Richard?"
Ashley nodded emphatically, like this made up for inviting my ex-boyfriend who I hadn't spoken to in months to my birthday party.
"Did he write back to say he was coming or anything?"
Now Ashley studied her nails. "Sorry, Jos. He didn't."
"But that doesn't mean anything," Nina added, quickly.
"I didn't think he even knew my birthday was coming up," I said. "I figured if he did, he'd at least call me or something, try and make peace." I sighed. "I don't think things are looking very good for us."
One side of Nina's mouth bunched up. "Don't say that. Richard's an odd duck. He just needs time."
"Putting the Richard thing aside for the moment," I said, "there's also the issue of Peter thinking I had you guys invite him to my birthday party." I laughed, bitterly. "My God that's embarrassing."
"You could text him," Ashley suggested, "just explain the mistake."
"And then say what? So just so you know you're not actually invited?"
"No!" Ashley rolled her eyes. "Tell him of course he's invited but you just wanted to explain how and why he got this invitation to your birthday party out of the blue."
I swished my wine around in my glass. "You think?"
"I would," Nina said. "Wouldn't you want an explanation if the roles were reversed?"
I sighed and pulled my phone out of my purse. I sat still for a few moments, thinking of what to say. Finally I settled on something. "Hey! Long time, no talk. I just wanted to text you because my Bozo friends just told me how they accidentally included you on the invite list to my birthday party. You are of course welcome to come—would be great to see you—but I just didn't want you to feel obligated or think I've been walking around these last few months pining over you." I added a wink-y face and hit send.
I didn't expect Peter to write back right away, but ten minutes later, he did. "Ha. Yeah, did think that was a little weird TBH. I have another birthday party Friday night, but I'd love to swing by for like one drink. Cool if I bring someone?"
My thumbs hovered over the keyboard for a moment. I decided to just ask. "Like a date?"
"Like a date," Peter wrote back. "Sorry. That weird?"
"This whole thing is weird," I wrote. "Just bring her."
"Haha," he wrote, "Happy almost birthday."
I stared at the text until my phone went dark. What the hell, 26? I thought you were gonna be my year.