Short Story: Party For One

She had the brownest eyes. Was that possible, eyes that were the “brownest”? Well, Tony decided then and there, it was a thing and hers were definitely the brownest eyes he had ever seen. They were beautiful. They were round and she had a tendency to make them go rounder when she said something harmlessly sarcastic. When she laughed, they became infinitely smaller with crinkles forming at their corners.

Her mouth was large…which is different than if Tony were to think, “she has a big mouth”. Her lips were big and when she laughed, really laughed her mouth took the form of an endless cave, swallowing up the world. A beautiful endless cave, of course. When she smiled, it was much more of a timid affair. Teeth never made an appearance. Instead, her lips stayed barely closed with the ends of her mouth turning upwards. It was a natural smile, always appearing genuine and warm.

With hair almost as dark as her eyes, Tony oftentimes found himself getting lost in the endless twists and turns of the hair that spilled down her head, past hear shoulders, settling halfway down her back, perfectly nestled between her shoulder blades.

These were the things that first caught his eye. What held his attention were the words that came out of her mouth. Each one was carefully crafted although they gave the impression of ease. Some words were witty, some dripped with sarcasm, others were caring, all had a purpose. She never wasted a syllable.

They didn’t work together often, but when they did Tony would think of all the things he could talk to her about. Sure, he didn’t spend much time talking. He mostly asked questions in order to hear her talk, hear that voice. In the midst of yearning for the melody of her words, he found himself falling for her. She lived quite the interesting life. They liked a lot of the same things. Without realizing it, she inspired him to be better. The best.

Of course she would never know this because declaring his feelings for her wasn’t on Tony’s immediate list of things to do.

His friends teased him about it. Every time she told him about a date she went on, he felt a stab of regret. And the teasing from his friends intensified.

“Why don’t you ask her out?” was their favorite question.

He usually shrugged them off.

“What if she finds me completely boring?” he’d ask himself, along with other questions:

“What if she isn’t as great as I’ve built her up to be?”

“What if I’m not enough?”

The silliness of each question was not lost on him. Tony knew that she was incapable of defining the man he was or his worth and yet he longed for her approval. He couldn’t remember feeling this way about anyone. Ever. It made him nervous and excited at the same time.

Tony couldn’t get up the nerve to ask her out but he thought he might have a better shot of inviting her to a party at his house. He never threw parties and rarely had people over, but the thought of being able to interact with her outside of work was enough to keep his social anxiety at bay. He invited everyone he knew, bought snacks and drinks to last for long past the party, and he spent every free moment putting together the perfect playlist.

He had the night mapped out musically. Each song chosen served a purpose. There was a song to get him to talk to her (Wallet by Regina Spektor), a song to alert him to tell her how he felt (Diamonds by Johnnyswim), and finally the song they’d dance to (Lake House by Of Monsters and Men). All of the artists were favorites they shared, each song they’d discussed before. Yes, the night was planned perfectly.

On the Friday of the party, Tony’s friend came up to him at work to finalize plans.

“8 o’clock, right?” he asked.

“8 o’clock,” Tony responded with confidence. He felt different. He felt like he could be brave for the first time since he met her.

“What time is she coming over?” his friend asked.

And with that question, Tony’s bravery crumbled.

“I forgot to ask her.” Tony realized.

“You what?!” his friend asked, shocked, knowing the point behind the party. “She’s still here, go and ask her before she leaves.”

Without needing further prodding, Tony ran in the direction of their break room, she stood there gathering her things to go. He was out of breath by the time he made his way to her. She looked surprised but waited for him to collect himself.

“Sorry,” he wheezed. “I’m having a party tonight and I was wondering if you wanted to come by?”

Those eyes lost their width.

“I wish I could, really. I have plans tonight, though. I’m so sorry, Tony.”

He offered her a smile, “No worries, it’s just this little thing I threw together last minute. Have fun tonight. I’ll see you on Monday. Ok. Bye.” Tony ran back out of the break room not wanting to face those eyes. He didn’t want her to see his embarrassment.

The party he worked so hard to make perfect was unimportant now. People arrived, they drank, they ate, and they enjoyed the perfectly crafted playlist. Tony wandered from room to room. He made small talk but mostly he stayed on the perimeter of a good time. He was a wallflower at his own party.

When Wallet began to play, Tony rolled his eyes and tried to get as far away from the music as possible. He couldn’t, though, because he set up speakers in every room so that no matter he was with her, they’d be able to hear their songs. Great plan.

He endured when Diamonds came on, cursing himself for not removing the songs, for not having a back up. He had been much too optimistic about the party. It was completely unlike him. He usually had a back up plan for everything. Not for this night, though. As the song finished, he made his way to the empty front porch where he sat on his patio love seat.

Tony could still hear the music but maybe from out here, he could tune out the last song. The one he looked forward to the most.

“Is this seat taken?” a familiar voice asked.

She stood before him with that smile and those eyes dressed in a black dress that was missing sleeves and flared at the waist. He nodded, having lost his voice.

With ease, she took her place beside him. She stared out, looking past the lawn.

“Shouldn’t you be inside, enjoying your party?” she asked sweetly.

“I’ve never been one for large gatherings,” he admitted.

“I know.” She said with a comfortable confidence.

“I thought you had plans tonight?” he asked.

“I did,” she responded. “It felt like I needed to be here.” With that she turned to him and looked into his eyes.

Tony could hear Lake House beginning to play. Her response inspired so many questions within him but there was only one he wanted to ask in that moment.

“Would you like to dance?”

The brownest of eyes went wider than he had ever experienced, her natural smile reached higher than he had ever seen. Her lips parted, revealing pearly whites.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

They danced.

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