"Gin makes me brilliant."
"No, Joy, you just think gin makes you brilliant. Gin makes you sotted. Chocolate makes you brilliant."
I looked at the reflection in the French door of the dark-haired woman sitting next to me in a circle of lit candles, and shook my head with a solemnity that I hoped belied the aforementioned sottedness. My reflection shook her head as if to warn me. I decided to heed the warning, and carefully set down my glass. "Chocolate has many powers, most notably in the area of adding heft to my hips, but gin, in fact, makes me brilliant."
Our companion drifted around the room lighting more scented candles, pausing to raise her eyebrows at the sight of our mutual friend snorting with laughter into her vodka martini.
"No more libations of a vodka nature for you, Roxanne," Miranda warned before lighting one last candle and dropping down onto a taupe and green leaf print rug across from us. "The Goddess doesn't grant her blessings upon those who are soused. Joy, what is it you are being brilliant about?"
I plucked the lime wedge from my gin and tonic and sucked the gin-soaked meaty pulp from it, mentally bemoaning my Amazonian stature, as Miranda, with the grace of a gazelle who had been taking ballet lessons since birth, pulled her long, slender legs into a lotus position. I gave a moment over to damning the Viking genes that left me towering over most women, and many men. "This plan of Roxy's to find us a pair of dishy guys. I've decided, after much due consideration and many, many brilliant gin-inspired thoughts, to allow you to make my case before your Goddess. If she'd like to point me in the direction of a guy who is the perfect embodiment of everything manly and good, well then, it behooves me to listen. There, in a nutshell, is my brilliance."
Roxanne snorted into her drink again. "In other words, you've broken up with Bradley again."
I shrugged. My on-again, off-again boyfriend had lots of good points, qualities like faithfulness, devotion, patience, and a sunny, optimistic nature. "The problem with Bradley is that he's just not the one—the man who makes my heart race just by being near him, the man who makes me believe in wonderful things like falling in love at first sight. He's just… Bradley."
"That's just my point, Joy! You're so stuck in your ways that you can't even be bothered to look for a man you deserve, not old stick-in-the-mud Bradley Barlow, who wouldn't know excitement if it bit him dead center on the ass."
I couldn't help but bristle at the judgmental tone in her voice. I've known Roxy since we were in kindergarten, but that didn't mean she could get away with every snide comment she felt like launching in my direction. "You should speak, Miss Still a Virgin at Twenty-four. What you know about relationships with men could be written on the head of a vibrator."
She spewed martini out her nose.
"Can't take you anywhere, can I?" I said, mopping up the spewed vodka. It had sprayed out all over her jeans and the lovely hardwood floor we were sitting on.
"Geez Louise," she gasped, hacking and wheezing and blowing her nose. She took the cloth Miranda silently offered, mopping up her T-shirt before glaring at me with red-rimmed eyes. "Don't do that to me again!"
"Sorry. It was the gin talking. Told you it makes me brilliant."
"So that's what you call it?"
I stuck my tongue out at her.
She turned her glare up a notch. "As for what I was saying when you so rudely brought up the subject of sexual aids—which, just for the record, I don't have, need, or ever expect to use, unlike some people I could mention. Anyway, I'd like to point out that with regards to men, I have the good taste to save myself for someone really meaningful." She paused to blow her nose again. "I hope you notice the contrast between my actions—responsible yet hopeful realism regarding the man destined to be my future husband—and yourself, who has settled for a guy who can't give you anything more than a good fu—"
"Ladies!" Miranda shrieked, cutting Roxy off cold. We both looked at her. She glared back at us. "I refuse to help you if you argue with each other. Honestly, how you two can call each other best friend is beyond me, but regardless of that, I won't have dissension in my house. The Goddess is not in charity with feelings of pettiness and ill will, Roxanne, and since you asked for the Goddess's help, you should be prepared to approach her in a penitential manner with a pure heart and unblemished soul."
I directed a smug smile at Roxy. She ignored me and fought to wipe the stubborn-as-a-mule look from her face. "Sorry," she mumbled, clasping her hands and staring down at them in a close approximation of demureness and penitence.