Patrick yelled across the small coffee table trying desperately to communicate the logic which only he seemed to piece together in his head.
“Stop, Nat! He was lying. When he said he had no choice to pass that law, he was lying.” Patrick took an exasperated breath before continuing, “The round before, Sam used the exact same lie when I gave him a choice between passing a liberal law or a fascist one. Sam is the secret Hitler or a fascist at a minimum.”
Natalie smiled as her face flushed under the pressure. A folksy playlist croaked out a tune from the entertainment center in her apartment, while the various pieces of the game, Secret Hitler, were strewn across the small table scrunched between the couch, armchair, and table chairs that had been pulled up for the evening. Natalie let out a strained sigh while Sam offered his denial, not making eye contact with Patrick but instead speaking with the other five in their group of friends who were drinking heavily as usual for their semi-regular game night.
“Look, you know how much I love playing a villain, but I’m not Hitler! I would be having way more fun if I was. Patty is just trying to rile you up because he’s so fucking competitive and loves to screw with us in these secret role games.”
Sam picked up his vodka soda, taking a sip while Patrick made an effort to calm his voice.
“If we elect Hitler as chancellor then the game is over and the good guys lose. That’s it. If we’re not one-hundred percent sure then why don’t we just fail the election?”
Sarah leaned in a little closer from the couch where she, Sam, and Danielle were sitting. She took a good look at the board of the laws they had passed during the game and piped up, her long brown hair swaying slightly as she pointed to the board.
“But if we fail the election then you become President and if a fascist law is passed, you get to kill one of us. What if you’re a fascist?”
“I’m not a fascist!” Patrick yelled, the blood beginning to pulse in his ears, “If I was then I would just be an idiot sitting there like Sam, waiting for you all to make the wrong decision.”
Sam tried to laugh it off while Jenny warned from the kitchen, “Hey!” She walked into the living room, her wine glass full, and said, “I think we should vote before Patty kills somebody. Put your votes in on whether or not Sam should be chancellor.”
Everyone chose a voting tile, either affirmative or not, and flipped them at the same time.
Six votes yes.
One vote no.
Jenny, taking command, said, “Ok, Sam is elected chancellor. Are you Hitler?”
He grinned wickedly before opening his small envelope which held his assumed identity. He threw down the card as he stood up and announced, “I am Hitler!”
Everyone but Jenny groaned while Patrick’s wails of self-righteousness went uncelebrated. Danielle left the couch to top off her wine, while Patrick began the post-mortem.
“So who were the other two fascists?”
Jason, who had been sitting quietly in the armchair for most of the game, raised his hand. Patrick silently chastised himself that he didn’t realize why Jason had been so quiet. He’s always been an awful liar.
Before he could ask who else had been a fascist, Jenny sat on Patrick’s lap, placing her arm around his neck, and leaned in close to say, “Sorry, Patty.”
Patrick groaned, “Of course you were. That’s why you forced that vote.”
“You know I can’t resist bossing you around.”
She kissed him lightly on the cheek, taking with her all the tension his body had sewn meticulously in him through each round of the game. Although the two had never actually dated, it was always clear the attraction would never go away. They satisfied themselves when they needed to, and Patrick was beginning to see that Jenny might want some private time with him later tonight.
Danielle was coming back from the kitchen when Sam asked her to bring some taquitos back with her. She turned around and called from the kitchen, “Anybody need anything else?”
“No, thanks Dani” Natalie responded before asking everyone, “What do you want to play next?”
“Anything but another role game. What about Monopoly?” Danielle offered, returning from the kitchen and handing the plate of taquitos to Sam.
Sam replied, “Why the fuck would I want to pay imaginary rent when I can barely pay my actual rent?”
“Well have you offered the manager Monopoly money? Maybe that’s what you’re doing wrong.” Jenny got off of Patrick’s lap and took a seat on the couch between Sam and Sarah.
“It would be better than paying them in dollar bills like you have too,” Sam joked back.
“Awwww,” she put her drink-free hand to her chest, “you think people would pay me to strip? You’re so sweet.”
Sarah suggested her go-to game, “Scrabble?”
Jason replied, “I’m not in the mood for math and spelling.” He looked over at Natalie, the host for the evening, and asked, “Can I hijack the speakers?” She nodded while taking a swig of her seltzer.
“Oooooh!” Danielle interjected, “What about sardines?”
“Sardines?” both Patrick and Sam asked laughingly.
“Yea! I haven’t played since I was a kid, but it would be so much fun. As long as Nat’s ok with it.”
“I don’t know what the fuck sardines are, but if it involves fish, then no. I am not ok with it.”
“No! It’s like a fun version of hide-and-seek.”
The music changed to a more upbeat and poppy song that filtered through the group much more easily than the hard twang of the previous tune.
Patrick said, “C’mon, we’re not kids bored on summer vacation.”
“No,” Danielle sat up straighter, energized by her idea, “but we’re not soulless adults either. We are still in our twenties. Not to mention, I think we’ve played every single board game in existence.”
“Nat, would you and your roommate be ok with us playing hide and seek in your apartment?” Jenny asked.
“Well, she’s literally never here thanks to her new job and work-bae, and I don’t have any skeletons in the closet.”
Sam joked, “You’ve cleaned them all out, huh?”
“Well, I only like to murder hot, young men, and there just don’t seem to be any in this area.” She wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out.
“So how do you play sardines?” Sarah asked.
Danielle explained that the game is played just like hide-and-seek except when someone is found they join the seeker to find everyone else. Danielle offered to be the seeker before Sarah interrupted, “Don’t you think we should pair up since obviously, the apartment’s just not as big as a house?”
Everyone agreed and grabbed the person they were closest too. Jenny teamed up with Sarah, Natalie with Jason, while Patrick was left with Sam. Patrick wasn’t very excited to partner up with Sam, considering his emotions were still running high from their game before.
Once Danielle covered her face and began counting, a short burst of adrenaline coursed through them as if they were all six years old again with the whole world in front of them. Patrick and Sam headed pretty quickly towards Natalie’s room so the others couldn’t use it. They closed the door behind them and split up to find a good spot.
“All I can see is the closet, but that will probably be the first place she goes,” Patrick whispered to Sam, who was laying on the floor checking the space underneath the bed frame.
“I don’t think we could both squeeze under here…but look at what I found.” Sam reached his arm under the bed and stood up, a small, black, bound notebook in his hands.
“Does Nat have a diary?” Patrick asked.
“Let’s find out.”
“No,” Patrick whispered, “That’s her private life. You can’t read it.”
“C’mon, we’re all friends. Besides, she definitely wouldn’t have left it so easy to find if she didn’t want it to be read” Sam chuckled softly.
“Oh sure, and the way women dress means they’re asking for it. Put it back, Sam. Don’t be a dick.”
“It’s fine. Nat doesn’t have any skeletons in her closet. She’s as perfect as anyone I know.”
“But what if—“ Patrick was interrupted by a loud call for “Ready or not, here I come” from the other room. They hurried into the closet sliding the door closed as quickly and quietly as possible.
Silky dresses and countless pairs of jeans enveloped the two of them while they held their breath, even while the fabrics around them absorbed the sound.
Certain that they would be found immediately, Sam thumbed through the diary while they waited. He used the thin waves of light slipping through the slats of the closet door to make out the neat, handwritten words.
“Not surprised. She’s had a sex dream about me,” Sam said.
“C’mon man, you’re being an asshole. You can’t read it,” Patrick replied in a hushed voice.
“Don’t worry, Patty. She’s had a sex dream about you too.”
“Just put it—wait, really?”
“Yea, I don’t see anything about Jason yet.” Sam flipped through a few pages before stopping on one and pausing much longer than he had before.
They heard someone yell, “Gotcha!” in the other room, but Sam was unaffected as his eyes grew wide and his mouth opened slightly.
“What is it?” Patrick asked, “Did you find a skeleton?”
“What? No,” Sam quickly said, “It’s nothing.” He tried to close the diary but Patrick snatched it from his hands.
“Don’t Patty. Stop.” Sam’s voice was no longer hushed.
“So you can read whatever you like, and I can’t?”
“Seriously, we shouldn’t have read it at all. You were right.”
Patrick found the page that Sam had been looking at and began reading.
I never really expected Jenny to be that type of girl. I mean, she can go after whatever she wants, but it always seemed like her and Patty had something. As a matter of fact, I know they had something two nights ago because Jenny always starts cuddling up to Patty the night before she pounces, and the poor boy can’t resist. But it’s not smart to start sleeping with guys in our group. That’s just bound to cause drama. And the fact that she felt the need to tell me how many times it’s happened shows you she knows that it’s not cool.
I guess I can’t blame her too much since Sam is hot, and we all get drunk and do stupid things.
Patrick glanced towards Sam’s guilt-stricken face. Sam then tried to laugh it off with a joke, “Well, I guess Nat thinks I’m hot.”
When Patrick’s mouth didn’t budge in reaction, Sam became uncharacteristically ashamed of this turn of events. After all, he didn’t seek out Jenny. She came to him with her own needs, and he provided for them, getting what he wanted along the way. They were consenting adults and didn’t need anyone’s permission to have sex.
“You and Jenny?”
Sam took a breath.
“Only a few times. Once was when you were at your parents for that week.”
“And the others?”
“I dunno man…” Sam’s voice fell off.
“No, you’re right. It’s fine. It’s not like we’re dating. We all fuck around. It’s fine.”
Patrick’s voice punched through each sentence forcing them to be true. He put the diary down on a nearby pair of shoes, as they heard the door to Natalie’s room open and the shuffle of a handful of shoes against the high pile of the carpet.
The door to the closet slid open while all the others yelled, “Got you!” When the pair climbed out of the closet, they feigned smiles and joined the rest of them taking seats back in the living room. Drinks were remade, more than a few stronger than the ones before, and everyone but Patrick and Sam were laughing and talking about their various hiding strategies.
“I always knew that Natalie was keeping a few boys in her closet, and I’m happy that we finally found them tonight” Jenny joked while she ran into the kitchen to grab some pita chips.
Patrick forced a laugh while Natalie asked if they wanted to play again.
“Actually, I think I’m gonna go home,” Patrick said, groans rippled from most of them.
“Why? We basically all just got here,” Sarah asked.
“I just…I don’t feel good, and I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
Jenny came back from the kitchen and sidled up to Patrick’s lap.
“Come on, Patty. I bet you’ll feel better if you stay,” she said while placing her arm gently on his knee.
“No I fucking won’t,” he responded forcefully standing up out of the chair. Jenny had to catch herself from falling over.
Everyone stopped what they were doing, while Natalie was the first to ask, “Patty, are you ok?”
He looked at everyone staring at him in shock at his sudden mood change.
“Actually I’m really fucking not.”
Sam stood up and tried to step towards Patrick.
“Hey Patrick, why don’t we just go take a walk and maybe—“
Patrick interrupted, “Shut up, Sam. I don’t want to go anywhere with you.”
Jenny and Sam locked eyes, her eyes widened.
“What is going on?” Sarah asked.
“Why don’t you ask Jenny?” Patrick responded. Everyone looked at Jenny expectantly.
“Patty, I think you were right. I’m gonna go home too.”
“No, I don’t think you are. I think you should tell everyone how you’ve been fucking me and Sam and god knows who else.”
Jason, Danielle, and Sarah all sat astonished on the couch while Jenny yelled, “Hey!”
“Well, you didn’t care when you told Nat! Why shouldn’t everyone know?”
Jenny looked at Natalie in shock.
“You told him?”
“I didn’t tell him anything,” she responded confidently.
“But she did write about it in her diary,” Patrick added.
Natalie stared at him incredulously and said, “Ok, that’s fucked up.”
“Don’t worry Nat. That’s the only thing I read. Sam read most of it though, and he thinks that you would’ve hidden it better if you didn’t want people to read it. So I guess it’s your fault.”
Everyone’s eyes now shifted to Sam.
Sarah spoke up this time, “You’re all assholes.”
Jason and Danielle nodded in agreement, while Jenny said, “You really are.”
Sarah then looked at Jenny furiously, “I’m talking about you too, Jenny.”
“What did I do?”
“As long as we are spilling all of our secrets, you knew that I liked Sam because we have talked about it constantly.”
Sarah glared at Jenny without breaking eye contact. Sam looked slightly uncomfortable as if it was not the first time he’d heard about this.
“First of all, you cannot blame me for you not acting on your crush in literally any way imaginable. I had to be the one to tell Sam right before he fucked me, and guess what? He didn’t care. Because you did absolutely nothing except complain to me about how cute and adorable he was and how it drove you crazy.
“And secondly,” Jenny turned, newfound confidence keeping her back straight and her drink clasped firmly in one hand while the other pointed at Patrick, “you do not get to suddenly make something more out of our relationship than what it was. We were friends who had sex. If you wanted more, you should have grown a pair and said so. I’m not going to stand here and be shamed because I was horny and wanted sex.”
Jason slowly took a sip of his drink which had been soured by the palpable tension in the apartment.
“Why did you feel bad then?” Patrick asked quietly, unmoved by her speech.
“What? I didn’t feel bad.”
“You felt bad enough to tell Natalie about it. You don’t feel guilt unless you’re guilty.”
“Fuck you. Only a self-righteous dick would say such bullshit. I did not feel guilty about anything. I told Nat because I was satisfied.” She said the last word with particular malice.
Patrick scowled and stomped his way back down the hallway, disappearing for a minute, returning with the diary in his hand.
“Read it then if you’re so confident.”
“Hey, that’s mine! You don’t get to just read what you want,” Natalie protested.
Jenny grabbed the diary out of his hand, and flipped through the pages, ignoring Natalie’s objections.
All you could hear was the scratching of the thick pages fighting their binding as they were turned until finally, Danielle broke the silence. “Guys, I really don’t think you should be reading Nat’s stuff if she doesn’t want us to.”
Jenny stopped on a page, her eyes flicking across it rapidly. She glanced at Natalie, her mouth slightly open before she looked at Danielle with a slight smile on her face. “I can see why you might not want us to read it.”
Danielle looked shocked, leaning forward on the couch to respond. “Wait, what does it say?”
Jenny turned the page and looked a little sheepish. “It’s nothing you can’t tell us in your own time.”
Danielle turned to Jason sitting next to her. “You fucking told her?!”
Jason stuttered, “What?…No…I mean…we were ch-chatting.”
“How fucking dare you!”
Natalie put her head in her hands and mumbled, “Obviously I’m never journaling again.” She stood up and grabbed the diary out of Jenny’s hands. “Especially as long as I have assholes like you in my life,” she yelled holding the small bound book close to her chest.
Sarah asked loudly, “What was in the diary about Dani?”
“I can’t believe you,” Danielle said to Jason through gritted teeth as she stood up and rushed to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
“It’s nothing,” Natalie replied.
“Clearly, it’s not.” Sarah got up and went to the bathroom door as muffled crying escaped the loose door jamb.
“Why did you have to say anything, Jenny? Jesus,” Natalie said as she walked past her into the kitchen, setting down her drained glass on the counter.
“What did you do, Jason?” Sam asked, secretly happy some of the attention had been diverted from the drama minutes before.
“I fucked up.”
“What did you fuck up?” Patrick added.
“I told Nat something that I probably shouldn’t have told her. Or at least Dani should have told her first.” He picked up his nearly empty bottle of craft beer, the heavy foam clinging to the inside of the bottle. He raised his voice slightly, emboldened by the latest swig of alcohol. “But if I’m being honest, we were drunk and it’s not that big of a deal. She is making it out like it is much bigger than it is.”
Natalie came back from the kitchen, her drink full again.
“Jace, you shouldn’t have told me. You know that.”
“I forced her into this century. It’s not the 1900’s anymore, and she’s acting like it matters.”
The bathroom door opened and Danielle walked out, the tear stains on her cheek reflected the anger pouring out of her after she had clearly heard what Jason said.
“You motherfucker!” She rushed towards Jason who stood up quickly, his face flushing. “You don’t get to decide what is a big deal to me! Just because you came out when you were twelve and you have the only parents in the world who were happy to have the bi boy on the block, does not mean that it is easy for me, a twenty-four-year-old woman to say I’m…” Her voice cracked, a fresh stream of tears following the ones before it.
The beat of the song playing through the speakers thankfully came to an end, and before another one came on, all that was heard were the sniffles coming from Danielle until Jason finally whispered, “I’m sorry,” his own tears beginning to pool at the corners.
“You,” she pointed her finger at him again, “you shouldn’t have decided. And now I never will have the chance.”
“I know. I’m so sorry.” His tears fell freely now as he looked directly at Danielle, seeing the hurt living there.
Jenny and Sarah both were dabbing at their eyes while Natalie, Patrick, and Sam stood speechless. Their group had never really fought like this before. They were known to argue, especially over a simple board game, but the tension could always be broken by a stupid joke or fresh tray of salty snacks. Now, all they could do was wait to see what would happen next.
Danielle lowered her finger, her face softening from anger to sadness. “Why did you tell her, of all people?”
“I was drunk, and it slipped out. I’ve always been an awful liar. I just wasn’t thinking. I’m a shitbag.”
She looked over at Natalie, barely able to meet her eyes as she said, “I’m sorry, Nat.”
“It’s really fine,” Natalie replied, “I was flattered honestly. And you know I’ll love you no matter what. Just not exactly the same.”
“I know.” Danielle looked down as she collapsed down onto the couch again. “It was just a crush. You were one of my first friends when I came to college, and I think that’s why it’s always been there. When I left home, I thought I was supposed to be more free. But I was still scared and never could say it.”
Sarah spoke tenderly, “Do you want to say it now?”
“Sarah!” Jenny scolded the impulsive question.
“No pressure or anything! But you know we love you. And you don’t have to be anything—.”
The words fell out of Danielle’s mouth so quickly that everyone barely registered that it had happened. Jason tentatively reached a hand out to her own laying on the couch. She opened her hand up and grasped his, blinking a fresh wave of tears away.
Natalie was the first to say, “We love you!” while the others quickly repeated it as they moved together surrounding Danielle in a big hug. Her laughter as she was squeezed by her six closest friends broke the tension that had attempted to be a permanent fixture in the apartment.
When Danielle asked to breathe again, they all separated and Patrick followed Jenny into the kitchen.
“I’m sorry. You were right. I had no reason to—“
“I’m sorry too. I did feel guilty because I knew that you felt differently then I did.”
“Really it’s fine,” Patrick admitted, “I think the cheap wine hit me harder tonight than I was expecting. I was pretty dramatic, and I’m kind of embarrassed.”
“Don’t be embarrassed. We should’ve talked about it before tonight. You know I’ll always love you, but I like being single right now.”
Patrick chuckled, “I’m sure you do. You get to fuck around with incredibly sexy men like Sam and me.”
Jenny laughed while Natalie returned to her room to replace that little black book which had so severely affected their usually uneventful game night.
“Hey, Nat?” Sam’s voice carried from the doorway of her room while she put the diary on the table next to her bed for all to see. No point in hiding it anymore.
“Sam,” she replied coolly.
He closed the door behind him, leaving them alone in the small bedroom. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for messing around with the diary. I should have left it there, but I’m a small child when I drink and I screwed up and I made a giant mess of tonight.”
“Yea you did screw up,” Natalie said before her voice softened and she stepped a little closer to him, her eyes growing a mischievous glint in the corner. “But I heard the opposite. I heard that you actually become quite the big man when you drink.”
His eyes flashed wide as the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “I dunno if we should—“ but Natalie interrupted, “Why should Jenny get to have all the fun?”
Their lips crushed against each other, wet with the alcohol that had passed over them all evening and encouraged by its compounding effects. In the living room, comedy replaced the drama of fifteen minutes ago as Danielle and Sarah laughed on the couch while Patrick and Jenny threw more taquitos in the oven. Jason stood at a bookshelf covered in boxes and board games haphazardly stacked on top of each other.
He shouted out to the apartment, “What do you want to play next?”