"I'm just sayin', from a strictly moral standpoint, you probably shouldn't have--"
"And for the last time," Shorty interrupted me (for the fourteenth--and certainly not last--"last time"), "just because a guy hits on me does NOT automatically make him my boyfriend!"
"Shorty has a boyfriend?" Betsy asked, walking into the room at the exact right moment.
I said "Several," at the same time Shorty said "NO," but once again she was laughing too hard to be coherent.
Betsy took it in stride and threw a pillow at me. "I'm hungry. Wanna go eat?"
I whacked Shorty with the pillow. "Always. What's in the caf?"
"Nothing good," Mary muttered under her breath from the other end of the living room (where she was playing one of the Zelda games).
"Let's go to Dairy Queen!" Rachel proposed.
"Hmm...yeah, I think I have enough money for that," Shorty said thoughtfully.
"What, you can't get one of your boyfriends to pay for it for you?" I teased her.
"RADAR!" Shorty wrested the pillow from me and tried to whack me with it. I relocated to more friendly climates--specifically, right behind Betsy.
"I'm torn between being flattered that you think I can protect you and being annoyed that you're using me as a shield," Betsy remarked.
"Go with flattered," I suggested.
Shorty tossed the pillow to Rachel, who threw it at me and scored a direct hit while I was distracted by Betsy. "YOU HAVE BEEN AVENGED. Seriously, guys, is that a yes on DQ?"
"I'm the only guy in here," I pointed out. "Hey, does that make me an honorary member of Suite Q?"
"No," Shorty responded immediately. "And yes, let's go get DQ."
"Hold on...lemme...yes!" Mary finished whatever game quest thing she was doing, saved her progress, and tossed the controller onto the couch.
"Suite Q getting DQ," I chuckled and got promptly clobbered by that blasted pillow again.
We had to make a slight detour on the drive out--Atchison was bisected by a railroad that was guaranteed to have a train on it at the most annoying of times. When we got there, I offered to let the others go first (both as a show of courtesy and partly because I had no idea what I wanted). I also offered to spot anyone who needed it. I was quickly turned down by Shorty, who said something that included the words "not" and "again," but she was giggling too hard for me to actually make it out.
Suite Q ordered their food pretty quickly and wandered off to find a table. I would've followed sooner, but I got a little hung up on the blizzard choices (TOO MANY TYPES). Once I settled on a compromise (mixing half of the options into one, to the the bemusement of the cashier), I grabbed my drink and headed off to find the girls.
It wasn't hard. I just followed the uproarious laughter.
They'd managed to snag the corner booth. I mentally applauded. Then, I noticed something odd--Betsy, Shorty, and Mary were intently studying the center menu thingy that listed all the cakes.
"Thinking about more dessert?" I asked.
They ignored me, but some suppressed smiles told me something was up. Oh, geez, was it someone's birthday or something? Rachel looked like she was going to start snickering, but patted the seat next to her. "You can sit next to me," she suggested.
"Thanks." I plopped my drink on the table and my kiester in the offered spot before looking askance at the others. "Seriously, what's going on?"
They lost it completely.
"Shorty, I told you--you should have been the one to do it!" Betsy complained through her giggle fit.
Shorty whacked her with the menu. "He does NOT need the encouragement! He embarrasses me enough, don't you think?"
"I thought Rachel did a wonderful job," Mary said, grinning.
"I just thought of Richard," Rachel laughed.
"If I may interject a moment..." I raised my hand. The others took one look at my evident confusion and broke down laughing again. I sighed. "Someone want to explain what's going on?"
"We were trying to mess with you," Betsy explained, not very helpfully.
"I got that," I muttered. "How, exactly?"
"Well, we were pretending that we didn't know you," Mary explained, indicating herself, Shorty, and Betsy. "Rachel was pretending to flirt with you."
"You can sit here," Shorty mimicked Rachel dramatically. "You missed it completely, didn't you?"
"Well...yeah..." I said, frowning. "That was flirting?"
"Definitely," Rachel said, shaking her head. "You're hopeless."
"Was that how you got Richard's attention?" Betsy asked her, referencing Rachel's boyfriend.
"Of course not!"
"Y'all are nuts," I declared.
Mary reached around Betsy to poke Shorty. "You should have been the one to do it. You had the perfect pickup line and everything!"
She squeaked. "Absolutely not!"
"I'm curious," I said, raising an eyebrow. "What constitutes the perfect pickup line?"
Shorty shook her head. "NO. Not telling."
I looked at Betsy. "Can you tell me?"
She hesitated, then shook her head. "No, it's way funnier coming from Shorty." She turned to her and gave her puppy-dog eyes. "Pleeeeeeeeze?"
Shorty shook her head.
"Imagine his face," Rachel suggested.
She caved. "Okay, one sec."
"Go for it," I suggested.
Shorty composed herself. "For the record, if you ever mention this again, I'll..."
"Kick my shins?" I guessed.
"Oh, shut up."
"No getting distracted by short jokes!" Betsy ordered.
"And do it the way you did earlier!" Mary pleaded. "It was perfect!"
Shorty groaned. "I'm trying!"
"Clearly," I said, going for my root beer. "Everyone, shush! Shorty's concentrating!"
Suite Q collectively snickered. Shorty gave me an I'm-gonna-kill-you look before smiling sweetly at me. "Hey, a friend of mine always jokes about me having five boyfriends. Wanna make it a sixth?"
Definitely lost most of that drink out my nose.