Lainey entered the wedding reception with high expectations. She was overdue. The year had brought her enough angst to fuel a college kegger. Tonight, she had a babysitter, a hotel room, dancing shoes, and little doubt she would even the score.
She found her name place card in the most delightful of places: at the children’s table. A perfect place to be at a child-free party.
And so it was that the youngest generation in attendance, all now in their 30s and 40s, would reap the benefits of becoming the children’s table, their kids tucked in for the night and out of sight, their parents on the far side of the room, their hotel within walking distance.
Lainey tasted the promise in her glass of champagne. She sat with Nick to her right and her sister-in-law Jen and cousin Christi and their handsome men to the left. The trio of women had a history of allegiance and, when they saw the lay of the land, they moved the men to one side of the table and themselves to the other. Lainey needed this night, one of solidarity with her sisterhood.
They ate each of the six courses in a polite and normal manner whenever their parents or the bride and groom approached the table. Otherwise, they spent the meal plotting.
The night wore on slowly at first, the girls growing more and more fidgety in their finery. Lainey wanted to drink more and dance sooner. The line was long at the bar and her patience was short. The music, while on offer, was slow and sedate for mingling.
Lainey wanted to fast-forward things and lose her head a little. Was that too much to ask? she begged the girls, bending her head to theirs at the table.
This was all that Jen needed to hear. After the groomsmen’s toasts and the couple’s first dance, she hatched the escape plan.
“There’s a bar and restaurant downstairs in this building,” she said, pointing to the floor between her sparkly heels. “We’ll go for shots. It will move things along.”
Lainey raised an eyebrow in question to the other guests.
“No husbands, no parents,” Jen said.
She did not hesitate. This covert operation was to be Lainey, Jen and Christi alone.
“Meet at the elevator in 15 minutes,” Jen’s eyes mapped the shortest route for them. “Now spread out.”
“Wait. What shall we tell any inquisitors?” Christi asked, her mother’s eyes burning holes in the back of her head.
“It’s a supply run, for, you know, girl things,” Lainey said.
“Whose time of the month is it?” Jen asked.
“His,” Lainey said, pointing to a groomsman who had mysteriously appeared, ready to lead the runaway trio, his credit card in hand.
At 10:15 p.m., they were at the elevator as planned and, just as importantly, with no one chaperoning them.
Their first shot was tequila, which Lainey had never done.
“Never?” Jen accused.
“Ever?” Christi screeched.
“Never.” Lainey looked at them dead on.
“Us either,” they said. “We’ll ask the bartender for a little how-to.”
The salt and the lime and the tequila went down as instructed and the girls giggled and congratulated each other and paid their buyer a fair amount of attention. This too, Lainey had never done. So this is what it feels like, she thought. Not bad.
Back at the reception, Nick looked at her and smiled. He had done some quicker figuring than his mother and, while unsure of the exact goings on, appeared to approve.
“So, who’s not getting lucky tonight?” It was an aunt, back to cross-reference their story.
“Nick,” the women said in unison. It was as if the tequila had synced them. Also, they had decided in the elevator that, if pressed, this would be their answer.
The aunt finally wandered away but only after the three women made a careful study of boredom and tried not to speak, breathe or even appear alive in the next several minutes. Once the aunt was back to her own table and distracted by Great-Grandma, they all raced to the dance floor, scooping up their men or someone else’s en route.
“Round Two in 15 minutes!” The underground message wove through the dance floor in seconds.
By 10:45, they had another buyer waiting by the elevator and they remained undetected by the older generation. They felt like teenagers again.
“If only we’d get carded,” lamented Christi, double the legal age, as she did a shot of vodka.
The bartender was happy to see them back and happier yet that their crowd had grown in size by the third escape. It seemed unlikely that they would find another groomsman to throw down $60 for round three, but they, in fact, did.
This time it was Southern Comfort. Whiskey was another first for Lainey. But she didn’t admit it this time, because this time she didn’t care. The shots and champagne from before were doing their thing.
By the time they made their way back to the reception, the supply runs were being deemed innovative, historic even. In the elevator they named themselves after the last shot and became the “Dirty Girl Scouts.”
Back upstairs, their manly buyers were enjoying the show and the dance floor was hopping. Their husbands, it seemed, were content with watching from afar and awaiting the result of the escapes, all in due time.
Lainey tried to restrain herself but found she had to jump on her brother-in-law and get a piggyback ride around the dance floor after the third shot. This was met with rousing approval from the Girl Scouts.
By the fourth round with Jäger, the mothers and aunts were completely perplexed, the husbands were apprised of the scheme and all parties on the inside were happy.
There was a second piggyback involved and a photo booth moment that, in the light of day, would be evidence used to disprove the story that any “supplies” were needed by any one of the girls.
By the time the DJ announced “last song,” Lainey was happy, her hair was a mess and Nick was holding her up. She liked the warm air that met them as they spilled out into the streets of downtown Grand Rapids with her sister-in-law, her cousins and their buyers in tow. And she knew that while morning would not be pretty, tonight was.
It was a night that she needed, when there was nothing more in the world than new dresses and bare shoulders, friends pressed one against the other, squeezing into a full elevator or through a door two at a time.
Going anywhere and nowhere, for no reason at all. None. Except to see what would happen next, together.