The Party by Elaine Reardon

It was a virtual birthday party. The group of friends had gathered each September to celebrate their mutual Libra birthdays. They’d go out, have drinks, dinner, and enjoy an almost carefree night off from responsibility. This year was different. Anna was turning 50, the first of them to make the half-century mark. Before Covid hit, she and her husband Conner had separated, him going off on a vacation tour of Croatia, her to deal with the repercussions and anger with their not-so-young children. And while he’d been prancing about off the coast of Croatia, the borders began closing, one by one.

She’d held on to half-time work. She heard from him once. A guilt postcard. She finally sorted through what Conner left. His out-of-season clothes were all packed in trash bags in the attic. She tossed out his favorite stupid biscuits, old socks, and trice-read paperback novels.
Anna replaced his battered bookcase with a sleek table with shelves underneath, from Ikea. She put a tray on the top and had her bottle of wine with a couple glasses at the ready. When covid cocooning ended, she’d imagined herself pouring drinks from this new perch, herself feeling like quite the new woman when that time arrived.

Thus far, she’d made a couple pots of jasmine tea when her daughter Maura visited. Maura was just into her first apartment with her best friend and would come home to visit once a week. Anna tried to put on a good face for the first few months, but Maura wasn’t fooled. Mom was devastated. Dad? Well, he’d better not show his face. The bastard! Off in Bolivia, it turned out, with a woman, not Croatia at all!

And so the group of birthday friends, together since school, wanted to be together for this journey into the fifties, amid all the confusion of cocooning and covid.
They planned well. Everyone had a good bottle of something they had hung onto for a special event. They’d have a virtual party on Zoom. They all opened said bottles, kept enough for themselves to drink, and delivered the bottle with its remains ( at least 2/3 full) to Anna’s front door. She had a special bin set out for deliveries.

Anna ended up with several bottles of wine, one of whiskey, a cognac, and some handmade vodka. On the night of the virtual party, Anna set up the bar with all her bottles and washed her best glasses. The glass gleamed in the candlelight. They all dressed for the occasion even though it was Zoom. Anna went Spanish for the occasion and made tapas. She sautéed Padron peppers, sliced chorizo, cheese, and set out olives. Then She set up small plates for her friends, almost like an altar offering.

It cut her to the quick to not be able to sit and feel her friends press into her with birthday hugs, to tell her being together was better than the fiftieth birthday holiday she had planned with Conner. When she thought of Conner, doing God knows what in Bolivia—well, her heart fell into her feet still. So she closed her mind to that for tonight.

At 7:30 the Zoom began. There was a quiet hush as the group took in Amy’s new living room, all signs of Conner gone. One by one they toasted the birthday girl, pouring their classes full. They all nibbled a bit and began to recite remembrances, their first dates, leaving school together, and their first holidays after they all began to work. Enough years had passed since then so the three of them now had grown kids. Without noticing they had transitioned from being on the cusp of new adventures to watching their children arrive in that place.

They raised their glasses, their eyes met over Zoom, and there were no words needed. There was love. Just love.



  1. Fiona

    Excellent could be the start of something after covid when Conner gets back

  2. Tina Irving

    Excellent. Let’s hope the git never comes back.

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