Various clothing items are being tossed out of a closet; sweaters, jeans, scarves, and missing socks. 26-year-old Jennifer walks out of the closet, visibly out of breath. The extra pounds she now carries being a couple of months pregnant is now taking a toll on the normally petite woman. She sits on the bed and retraces her steps until she hears music being played in the living room. She gets up and walks out of the bedroom door to see what’s happening in the other room.
She walks out and spots her boyfriend, Milo, dancing along to the music as he puts on his tie near the mirror. She watches him from afar, smiling at the sight. She reflects back on the year she’s had. Today marks her 26th birthday, and for her birthday last year, she spent it in North Carolina with her ex-fiancee, taking care of him as he grew sicker from his chronic illness. She loved her ex-fiancee, and she did everything she could while he was still here. Now a year later she’s back in NYC, living with her boyfriend who happens to be her best friend of 22 years, now expecting her first child with him. Time truly is a crazy thing.
Her train of thought comes to an end when she realizes Milo is dancing towards her, singing along to the 90’s R&B music playing on the speakers. She laughs as he takes her hand and spins her around to dance.
Milo: *hugs Jennifer* Whatcha doing out here watching my dance moves?
Jennifer: *smiles* I just had to see if you’re coming for my career, Mi. Gotta say, you need some more improvement.
Milo: Oh? You’re offering lessons, Miss Castro?
Jennifer: Hmph, call me back in 6 months, you’ll be the first on my list.
Milo: Aren’t I the lucky one?
They kiss and release each other from their embrace.
Milo: But enough about me; are you almost ready to…
He realizes that Jennifer is still in her sweatpants.
Milo: … I thought you were getting ready, Pep?
They both walk to the bedroom together, and Milo notices the explosion near the closet.
Milo: I guess that answers my question.
Jennifer: I can’t find a decent pair of shoes that will go with this dress. I know I have some flats in there somewhere…
Jennifer walks back into the closet to try to find a decent pair of shoes to wear. Milo walks behind her and sees her digging through the closet. He isn’t upset about the view.
Jennifer: *while digging in the closet* Hey, Milo?
Jennifer: We’d be out this place faster if you’d help me find something to wear instead of staring at–
Milo clears his throat and goes into the closet behind Jennifer. He reaches towards the top shelf to a box of shoes, opens them up and shows Jennifer. She looks at them and takes the box and walks out of the room. Milo pulls the string to turn off the closet light.
Later into the night:
The ambiance of the restaurant is romantic, lightly-dimmed, and fancy; the restaurant is packed with couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. Milo is in a black suit, his dreadlocks are tied back so that his face is clean and exposed. Jennifer is wearing a blush pink maternity dress, her red curly hair is tied back into a bun with a couple of curly red strands framing her face. She barely has makeup on, but instead has that natural glow and color on her face.
Milo can’t stop staring at the woman sitting across from him.
He remembers spending last year’s Valentine’s Day at home, eating the box of candy he bought for him and his 8-year old son. His son is asleep on the loveseat after watching cartoons for most of the night, so Milo picks his son up from the sofa and places his son in his bedroom for the night. Once he’s put into bed, Milo pours himself a glass of wine and hits at the tiny kitchen table. Besides having to go to work earlier that day, this day, in particular, was just like the other days, but in the back of his mind, he knew it was Jennifer’s birthday. He takes out his phone and starts writing out a message to send to Jennifer: “Happy Birthday, Pep. I hope everything is well with you and Cullen.” After thinking about it, he erases the message and doesn’t say anything.
In the present day, Jennifer notices Milo in some sort of trance. She tries to snap him out of it.
Jennifer: Everything okay, Mi?
Milo: *snaps out of it* Yeah, I’m… great, actually.
He smiles at her and she smiles back at him. They are looking at the menu, when Milo starts fidgeting in his seat, trying to get comfortable.
Milo: Wow, it’s like they have the heat on in this place or something.
Jennifer: Well, it is the middle of the winter, babe. *laughs*
Milo: *nervously laughs* True, very true.
Milo takes a sip from his water glass and clears his throat. He needs to get the spotlight off of himself.
Milo: How are you feeling though? Still feeling as sick as before?
Jennifer: I mean, it was the first day where I didn’t wake up this morning puking the dinner from the night before. Maybe this is the baby’s birthday gift to me or something.
“The baby”. Milo’s stomach flutters with butterflies. He still can’t believe that the person he’s forever been in love with is now having his child. He embraces the excitement this time around; he was only 15-years-old when his then-girlfriend told him she was pregnant with his first child, and instead of celebrating, the anxiety and nervousness were the only things on his mind.
Milo: Hey, maybe she’s finally listening to me to give you a break every now and then.
Jennifer: And what makes you so sure it’s a girl?
Milo: I don’t know, it was just something about that night and the way we–
Jennifer chokes on her water in laugher, putting one finger on her lips to tell Milo to keep quiet. Milo laughs along with her, and gives her his napkin so she could wipe her face.
Milo: In all seriousness though, Happy Birthday, babe. I’m so glad to be one spending your birthday with you this year.
Jennifer: Thank you, Mi. I wouldn’t spend it with anyone else, in all honesty. Remember that one year when we were kids, you knocked my face into the birthday cake?
Milo: How could I forget? My mom asked me where I got the big ass bruise on my leg from.
Jennifer: You always knew I could beat you up, yet you always did things to test me.
Milo: *smiles* Our friendship wouldn’t have worked if I didn’t.
Jennifer: *sips her water* Mmph, despite that, you always spent my birthdays with me, even when you were dating Gwen when we were teenagers.
Milo still remembers the confusion on his ex-girlfriends face when he wanted to spend Valentines Day at Jennifer’s house and celebrate her birthday with her. Gwen didn’t understand why her boyfriend, and soon-to-be dad of their child, would want to spend the one romantic day out of the year with another girl. Milo loved Gwen to pieces, but he would’ve hate to break the tradition he had built with Jennifer. He just wanted to still be the one normal thing in her life during the time when her family was changing and going through it.
Milo: Yeah. I mean, it was nothing, really.
The plates of food finally arrive at the table, and they both begin to eat in silence. Once Jennifer realizes the awkward silence between them, she starts up the conversation again.
Jennifer: I don’t know if I ever thank you enough, Mi.
Milo: *looks up from his plate* Thank me for what?
Jennifer: For just always being there, y’know? I know the last year and a half was difficult for the both of us, that we were on different paths and such. And for me to just come back and you with open arms and then just… be where we’re at now. Just, thank you. You didn’t have to.
Milo: I wanted to, Pep. I’ve always been in love with you, and for you to tell me you came back to NYC for me, I think my fate was sealed. You don’t need to thank me. I think I’m the luckier one out of the both of us.
Jennifer smiles and continues to eat. Again, Milo can’t stop staring at Jennifer. They spent the majority of our lives together, and he still feels like it’s not enough. He has the love of his life, his first-born son, and now his second child on the way; what more can a man ask for at the age of 25?
Milo: Hey, Pep, can I ask you a question?
Jennifer: No, I told my mother to bring Milo back to the apartment by 9…
Milo: Huh? No, no, not that.
Jennifer looks up at Milo and gives him her undivided attention. Milo, yet again, is taken back by his girlfriend’s beauty.
Milo: I hope this doesn’t come out too cheesy or anything, but I can’t help but remember your birthday last year. It was the first birthday that we didn’t spend together. No cake, no birthday prank or punches or surprise scares. Yeah, we’re a lot older and our traditions have changed since we were kids, but it still killed me not having to spend your birthday with you last year.
Jennifer is completely immersed in Milo’s words, yet she doesn’t know what to say.
Milo: I spent this day last year at work, came home to Milo, watch some television until he fell asleep, and then I sat in the kitchen with a bottle of wine with nothing but you on my mind. “Is she having a good birthday?” “Is she making new traditions with her fiancee now?” “Is she happy?”
Jennifer’s smile disappears and now she’s in deep thought.
Milo: I know Ihad no right to think those things back then, Pep. I mean, you were getting married and we weren’t on good terms anymore. The horrible things I said about your relationship with Cullen were inexcusable. If anything, I should be thanking you for allowing me back into your life. To even be sitting across from you in this moment. In some sense, it still doesn’t feel real.
Milo reaches out for Jennifer’s hands; the touch made Jennifer’s mind focus on the present, on what’s in front of her.
Milo: I was stupid for letting you go the first time, Jennifer.
He takes back his hands and reaches into his pocket. After realizing what Milo was doing, Jennifer panics.
It’s too late; the box is out of his pocket and Milo is now pulling his seat back to stand up.
Jennifer: *puts her arm out in front of her* Milo, please! Don’t.
Milo stops in his tracks and sits back down in his seat. He doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on.
Jennifer: Milo, I- I’m not ready to get married.
Jennifer: This isn’t what we should be focusing on right now, Mi. *sighs* Milo, there’s no doubt in my mind that I love you, but- everything is going so fast for us.
Milo: *confused* I mean, we’ve known each other for 22 years, Pep. I don’t think it’s that fast…
Jennifer: Yeah, but we were just friends, Mi. We only started dating 5 months ago and it wasn’t until 2 months in when we found out we were having a baby.
Milo’s once-glued smile fades, he looks like his heart is breaking, and Jennifer hates she caused it.
Jennifer: Milo, look at me.
He looks up at Jennifer. She takes a second to gather her thoughts.
Jennifer: I want to get married to you.
Milo is now visibly shocked, but his guard is still up a bit. Jennifer knows this.
Jennifer: But not right now. I was engaged once already, I’m not ready to be engaged again. But I’m also not going anywhere.
She smiles to reassure Milo. The mission is successful once he smiles back at her.
Milo: So, the answer is yes?
Milo: *scrunches his eyebrows* Huh?
Jennifer: No. But ask me again after the baby is born, after we get our lives together, as a couple, and most importantly…
She gestures him to move closer to her. He proceeds to lean across the table.
Jennifer: Ask me in the least grandioso way possible, Mi. You know this isn’t us all the time.
Milo smiles and sits back in his chair. Jennifer takes a sip of her water.
Milo: I’ll remember to ask you when you’re breastfeeding our newborn in a couple of months. Titties all out and everything.
Jennifer chokes on her water again due to her laughter. She throws her napkin at Milo as he lets out the loudest of laughs.
— The End —