“Checkmate.” Jess rolled his eyes as Elliot dramatically knocked his king figure off of the board.
“And this is why I don’t play you.”
Elliot smiled. “And this is why I keep you around. So I can win at things.”
Jess took a swig of his beer, got up from the kitchen table, and began rooting around in his fridge. “Ceil?” he yelled. “Did you eat the rest of that pizza?”
His girlfriend’s voice pierced through the walls of the apartment. “No, babe!”
“She definitely ate it.” Jess said offhandedly to his friend.
Jess’s apartment building was built in the 70s, and his kitchen was complete with flowery yellow wallpaper and chipped off-white cabinets. Elliot was ninety percent sure that the fridge was the only appliance ever used in that kitchen.
“You wanna order pizza?” Jess looked at him expectantly. Whenever Jess asked a question like that, it meant Elliot was going to be the one paying for it. Elliot shrugged. “I had pizza yesterday.” He remembered waking up at 11 PM from his familiar spot on the couch, flipping on Friends, and devouring a pizza and a half after two days of hungover starvation.
“What’s up with you?” Jess hardly ever looked legitimately concerned, but he stood with one hand on his hip, staring intently at Elliot.
“Stop standing like that, Celia will think you’re gay.”
Jess shot him a glare and then chuckled, sitting back down at the rickety table. “But seriously. You wouldn’t drink a beer with me, and now you don’t want pizza?”
“Sorry, I’m just not hungry.”
“Okay honestly, I kinda passed out for two days.”
“Hangover?” Jess asked the question, but already knew the answer.
“Yeah. Doesn’t really look appetizing right now.”
“Is it because of that girl?”
“Her name’s Amy.” Elliot said sharply. He’d seen her short auburn hair for the first time a few weeks before at a coffee shop, and taken her out once — she had accepted, to his complete surprise. She loved playing the card game War with herself, and always ordered hot chocolate at coffee shops (as she proudly relayed to him). She was a quirky, lovely goddess. She gave him her number, but now she wouldn’t call back. He didn’t understand. The pit of his stomach told him she wasn’t interested.
“Yeah, I know.” Jess gave him an incredulous look.
“Yeah, kinda. It’s stupid, though. We hung out one time.”
Jess started to tap his knuckles on the table to some sort of drumbeat apparently in his head. “That doesn’t mean anything though. You must really like her.”
“Yeah. How are you and Celia?”
“Good.” Jess had been dating his girlfriend for four years, and they’d been living together for two and half. Celia’s landlord had kicked her out, so she’d had nowhere to go and was forced to move in with her boyfriend. Elliot was still convinced it was all a scheme.
“You’ve been ‘good’ for four years.”
“What does that mean?” Jess looked defensive.
“I mean, are you ever planning on marrying her?”
“You’re blunt today.”
“I mean, yeah.” Elliot stirred his glass of water water with his middle finger.
“I’ve been thinking about proposing.”
Elliot was surprised. “Really? I was joking.”
“You’re right though, we’ve been dating for four years. She’s lived in my apartment for almost as long as I have. And she eats my pizza.”
“Fair enough. So you’re serious this time?” Elliot was fairly certain he’d had this conversation with his best friend at least five other times. “Is she the one?” He said it sarcastically, but Jess usually didn’t pick up on that.
Jess looked unsure. “I think -- Ceil!”
Celia strutted into the kitchen, frizzy black hair piled on top of her head, hot pink lipstick obstructing her face. “I didn’t eat the pizza.” She opened the fridge, sticking out her hip, and then immediately slammed it shut. “Why is there no food? Jesus!”
Jess gave her a look but didn’t say anything.
“Babe! I didn’t eat the pizza! You don’t believe me.” She shot him a pouty look. Elliot tried to act invisible.
“I believe you, Ceil.” Jess looked like a cornered mouse.
“I’m going out.” Her stilettos clacked loudly as she waddled over, kissed him on the cheek, and walked out. Elliot raised his eyebrows and smirked at the ground. He always tried not to be vocal about his opinions of Ceila. “She definitely ate the pizza.”
Jess nodded. “I’m gonna buy my ice cream truck someday soon. Then you and I can just take off!”
“I thought you were going to marry Celia?”
“Yeah, after that.”
“So you’re going to marry her and then we’ll take a tour of the country in an ice cream truck?”
Jess’s face fell.
“Come on, man. You’ve been planning the trip for years and years.” Elliot was just making fun of him now. They’d been planning the trip since high school, back when Jess was the star basketball player and Elliot was the loser who stayed in the art room after school. Yet somehow, they’d become the best of friends.
Jess ignored him, picked up the phone, and dialed a number. “Yes, hi. I’d like a delivery please.”
Elliot looked down at his phone. It was seven. No texts from Amy. She said she’d call at five. But he didn’t care, right?
“Don’t worry, I’ll eat the pizza by myself.” Jess said, laying the phone down on the table.
“You know, I am kinda hungry, now that I think about it.”
“Elliot!” Jess rolled his eyes and picked up the phone again.
Jess’s voice blurred to meaningless noise in Elliot’s ears as he scanned his last few conversations with Amy. He’d been kinda rude, he guessed. Was their next conversation going to be awkward? His phone buzzed. “Hey! We still on for tonight?” His heart leapt a little inside of his chest. “Yes! When are you free?” “I’m free now, if you are?”
“Hey man, I gotta go.” Elliot stood up quickly and pushed the chair back under the table. Jess was still on the phone with the pizza place. “What? You just said you wanted pizza!” He mouthed. Elliot shrugged and backed out of the room, pointing at his phone and whispering, “Amy!” Jess rolled his eyes as Elliot ran out of the apartment.