Date Night

Date night is the best night. Max, dressed in a black suit, approached Roxanne's door.

Bobby, dressed no differently than usual, walked up to wait for Stacey.

Busy. They're always busy.

Max knocked on the door. Roxanne's brutish dad answered the door. Max cowered slightly, until Roxanne showed up to tell him to go back inside. She was beautiful, wearing a green dress that really worked against her hair.

Stacey was still fumbling with her make-up. She did not usually doll herself up so much, but it was a date, so she felt like she should. Bobby paced around the door.

It's not that bad. I'm not really alone. They're just distracted. I can't blame them.

"Hey, Roxanne!" Max said awkwardly. "Are you, uh, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling back at him. The two shared a quick kiss and went on to their destination.

Bobby continued to pace. He asked himself aloud, "Oh, come on! How long does it take to get dressed anyway?"

Stacey heard this and shouted down from the window, "Just a few more minutes, Bobby!"

Ironic, huh? I'll "never end up in the gutter". It seems like I'm in the gutters more often than anyone else. Yuck. Disgusting, horrible dirty jobs, forced on me because my dad's too cheap to pay a professional and too lazy to do it himself. I'll be free soon enough. One can hope. I need a break. I need a vacation. Dad says I just got one. Funny, I don't remember it.

Roxanne and Max arrived at their destination, a beautiful Italian restaurant. Max asked for a table for two, and the maitre d' put them in a secluded corner of the restaurant. Max pulled out Roxanne's chair and let her sit down, before sitting down himself.

Stacey finally came out of her house. She noticed the way Bobby was dressed, and gave him a peeved glare. Bobby shrugged. He didn't see the problem. Stacey sighed, and decided to take Bobby to their new destination—the park.

I don't have a right to complain. I shouldn't be sad. My best friend is happy. And that should make me happy. I don't have a right to complain. My life isn't that bad. No. It's not. Stop whining. Seriously, suck it up, me. So what if your dad makes you do a few chores? Every kid has to do chores. I'm just so lonely. Stop whining. Seriously, suck it up. Be happy for Max. Max would be happy for you.

Roxanne perused her menu. "Hmm… what do you think I should have, Max?"

"I think that you should have what you want," Max answered.

"Yeah," Roxanne said, "I don't know what I want. That's why I asked you."

"But I don't want to control your choices, honey," Max said sweetly.

"Oh," Roxanne said, "I have an idea. How about we get two orders of the sampler platter to share?"

"Actually, that's not a bad idea," Max said. "And if we don't eat all of it, we can give the leftovers to PJ."

Roxanne giggled at this statement. Max laughed briefly, and then he thought, Oh crap.

Once Stacey and Bobby reached the park, they found a park bench to sit on.

"Isn't the starry lake beautiful?" Stacey asked. "I mean, just think, without the light from stars and water, life could not exist at all."

"Wow," Bobby said, "That's pretty deep, man."

"Not really," Stacey said. "It's just science."

"Science is pretty deep, man," Bobby said. "But can science explain why cheese is so good straight out of the can?"

"Stop that stupid whiny music!" Pete called. "And for all the times you listened to Boys Don't Cry, you sure don't take it seriously!" He so misses the point. Whatever. PJ shut it off. Times like this are why God invented ice cream anyway. Otherwise it's just a foul temptation (though irresistible). Dad is okay with me eating ice cream in large quantities, but he'd rather believe I'm not eating it straight from the tub because that's "unmanly". PJ ate the ice cream straight from the tub, slightly nervous of getting caught.

"Roxanne," Max said. "I have to go."

"But, Max, we're still on…" Roxanne said.

"I know, Roxanne…" Max sighed, "But we've had date nights so frequently over the past three weeks that I've been… neglecting another relationship. A really important one. And I didn't notice until this evening that I haven't talked to him at all since we got back from our trip, except to tell him I was too busy to hang out the last three times he asked me to…"

"Max," Roxanne said, sadly. "I understand. I really do. How about this, Max? We finish our dinner here, and then you can deliver him the leftovers in person."

"Yeah," Max said. "That sounds like a plan."

"You know," Bobby said, "I'm so glad I'm on a date with you instead of hanging out with my desperate clingy friend. Bleh."

"Desperate clingy friend?" Stacey asked.

"Yeah, PJ's been so annoying over these past three weeks. He called me on the phone three times to ask me to hang out because 'Max was busy'," Bobby answered.

"PJ is who?" Stacey asked.

"You know that fat guy that always hangs out with Max?" Bobby asked.

"Yeah," Stacey said. "And he's been trying to get someone's attention and failing to for three weeks?"

"I know. Talk about desperate, right?" Bobby asked.

"Bobby," Stacey said. "That is not the way to treat a friend. Go fix this. Now."

"But I want to stay on a date with you…" he whined.

"Now, Bobby!" Stacey said, pushing him away.

I accept it. Max doesn't like me anymore. Neither does Bobby. Because the only thing I'm good for is giving friends to outcasts. Making them feel like they fit in more compared to me. What's wrong with me? Everything. Everything is wrong with me. Now that Max and Bobby both have girlfriends, they don't need me anymore. PJ buried his head in the bed and lied on his stomach, groaning. "Shut up!" Pete yelled from the bottom of the stairs. I'll try.

Max knocks on the door. Pete answers.

"Hey," Max said, "Delivery for PJ."

"PJ's being a whiny baby right now," Pete said. "You'll have to come back later."

"No," Max said. "I think that's why I need to come right now."

Bobby arrived. He noticed Max was already there, said, "Well, my work here is done," and left.

Max? No, it can't be. Max is here? But he said he had a date. Don't get your hopes up, PJ. It could just be someone else who sounds like Max. PJ rushed quickly down.

Smiling widely, PJ exclaimed, "Max!" and gave him a hug.

Max handed PJ the leftovers saying, "Here, these are for you."

"Thank you," PJ said quietly. "But… what are you doing here?"

"I came to tell you I'm sorry," Max said. "I've just gotten so caught up with Roxanne that I forgot about you. I hope you're okay…"

"I am now," PJ responded, smiling. He said, "Max, look, if Friday's a bad night for you we could always…"

"Meet on Thursdays," Max answered. "Unless your dad vetoes it."

"My dad…" PJ said. "If he vetoes every day, I'll still hang out with you."

"Just like old times, huh?" Max asked.

"Yeah," PJ said. "How's Roxanne?"

"Well," Max said, "She's great. Such an understanding person. She let me go after you, at least."

"Give her my regards," PJ said. "And I hope you two last as long as your lives."

"Yeah," Max said, "Like that's gonna happen."

"Sheesh, Max," PJ said, "I thought I was the killjoy."

"I guess over the last several years we rubbed off on each other a little," Max responded. The two of them started laughing.

"Say, Max," PJ said, "If Roxanne still has time tonight, you can go back to her. I… I'm happy now."

"'Not ridiculously depressed' happy or 'happy' happy?" Max asked.

"Well, I still have to live with Dad," PJ responded, shrugging.

Max gave an uneasy uncomfortable chuckle. "Well, I guess it's better than nothing," he said. "Take care of yourself, okay? And don't be afraid to confront me if I'm an ass to you again."

"But Max, you never listen to me when I confront you about being an ass to me," PJ said.

"I… I need to get better at that," Max admitted. "Anyway, see you next week! Thursday afternoon!" He waved, smiling at PJ, and walked away.

He still likes me. PJ went upstairs to see the half-eaten, half-melted ice cream, put the lid back on the tub, and carried the tub and his spoon, as well as the scoop and bowl he had taken to throw Pete off the scent, back into the kitchen.

Max found Roxanne standing nearby. "Have you been waiting for me this whole time?"

"Yeah," Roxanne said. "I expected PJ to let you come back. He's a nice guy."

"The nicest," Max answered. "I just wish I could be as nice as he is."

"Max," Roxanne said, "You did go out of your way to help a friend in need. I think that's pretty nice. Besides, you're adorable." Roxanne gave Max a kiss.

"Yeah," Max said, laughing.

Bobby had dashed back to the park. He was out of breath. He put his hands on his knees and hunched over, breathing heavily. "Stacey?" he asked, when he realized that his date was gone. "Huh," he said, shrugging, and then he walked home.