Edward and Alice play this game where they rate strangers on how attractive they are, using agreed upon guidelines that include not just physical appeal but also personality. Edward pointed at a woman standing near the lunch line, looking for a place to sit. “What about her?” Instead of a saying a number between one and ten, Alice waved over at the woman and invited her to sit with them. This is how I first met Edward and Alice and many other friends in college, who were sitting at the same table. We were the table, the loud group that people occasionally stared at, that had to move tables and chairs to get most of everybody together, the reason they made the silly signs that say, ‘please don’t move the tables and chairs’. Edward really likes to be around people, so much so that he’d been having trouble getting to the gym because not having a workout buddy killed his motivation. He invited me- I found out he’d invited a lot of people before- and I accepted. He lived close to me and was cool with carpooling to school afterwards- no more two hour bus trips!
I’d been struggling with finding my independence. I dreamed of moving out of my mother’s, but with the economy as it was, I couldn’t even find a job. Edward hired me to babysit so he could take the Ladies out. Plural? Yes. Shortly after I started working out with him, he wanted to introduce me to a friend that he and Alice had made in art class. It was Bailey, who I went to high school with and met at an art contest. At the gym, Edward would tell me about their blossoming relationship. And by ‘their’ relationship, I mean all three of them had a connection. Alice and Bailey were affectionate with each other too, and I thought that was cool. When he told me about it, my responses were those of a dude, so he nicknamed me his dude friend with boobs. To me it was an honorable title. It sounded like ‘that’s right, I chill with the bros’. Spring break Edward wanted to plan a big camping trip with a lot of people. For reasons I ended up being the only one outside of the family that could make it. We drove out to a state park and pitched tents, fished, fired- all the awesome stuff, including a cake baked in the fire to celebrate Bailey’s birthday. For convenience I showered with the ladies, and I was surprised at how comfortable I was being naked in front of them. However, I became less and less comfortable around Edward. I wanted to avoid touching him, I wanted to avoid silent moments, I didn’t even want to be alone with him. The indescribable tension that came with this newfound discomfort built up so much that it finally formed into a thought that could be put into words, and those words had to be shared. One night I tried to get Edward’s attention without the Ladies (a name he gave them) or the kids hearing. “I need to talk to you.”
“Okay.” He waited.
Through gritted teeth I mumbled, “alone.” Yes, I was asking this guy to speak to me alone, away from his wife and girlfriend.
We walked away from the campfire, and when I got the guts to give those words voice, I finally said, “I think I’m supposed to be part of your family.” He was shocked, but remained composed, even used the words “If I marry you,” and then the tension melted. I felt like I was just talking to my best friend again, even though we were talking about the M word. We were just so calm. But he said we had to see how the Ladies felt about it.
“It’s blatantly obvious she’s supposed to be with us.” Bailey was so convinced, like she’d seen it coming for miles. I turned to Alice and asked what she thought.
“I think you know what to do.” She had the voice of a sage. Or a jedi.
I prayed over it. A lot. Then when the time felt right, I told my mom I was leaving, and Edward helped me to move my things I’d had packed and ready to go for months, even before I knew the destination of where they were going. He’d even built me a trunk I’d dreamt to use for this event. It did take the Ladies (*cough* Bailey) a while to adjust, which meant I slept on the couch when I first moved in, but it didn’t take long for me to get promoted to the bed. Yes, we all cram into the same bed. King size is actually not that big, we realized.