There were already quite a lot of people when you arrived, so you had to park your car on the lawn. The sky above you was still thundering, as it had been for a good half hour now, but there was still no rain to accompany it. That was good for Alfred, who was celebrating both Independence Day and his birthday with fireworks.
Your stomach grumbled; all you had had today as some leftover tofu from the previous night and an organic soda, but you highly doubted there would be many vegan options on the menu for tonight. If you were lucky, perhaps there would be baked potato or something.
You hadn’t really wanted to come out to this party, as you had spent the entire summer—while not at working at the crafts store just down the road from your place—shut inside your cozy apartment, where the AC ran on high and your lap top as your constant companion. The outside world was infinitely humid right now, the exact reason you hadn’t wanted to come out, and if it hadn’t been for Circe’s insistence, you would’ve stayed at home. But she had begged and begged that you needed to do something fun this summer, so here you were, at Alfred F. Jones’ mansion outside of town, on the verge of enjoying a beer or two.
Besides, there was someone there you had to see.
You found your way to the back of the manor, following a cute stepping-stone path into the beautiful backyard.
Circe greeted you with a tight hug, and then she showed off the dress she had purchased specifically for this event. You had tried to do something patriotic or whatever and had dug around to find your red shirt with the American flag on it, and you had paired it up with white shorts and blue, sparkly flip-flops you had borrowed from your thirteen-year-old neighbor. You looked a little lame in those shoes, unlike Circe, who looked like a star, but you weren’t about to head out in possible rain wearing any shoes of yours—that you actually liked.
“There are some baked potatoes and several kinds of salads.” She pouted. “I know you don’t eat meat, but celebrations for the fourth of July pretty much always include cookouts, so I’m sorry. But it’s going to be awesome!”
You nodded at her words. “I’ll go find the food.”
“And say happy birthday to Alfred!” she yelled after you before she sauntered off to find her boyfriend.
You quickly located the birthday boy, sliding your arm around the friendly dude and wishing him a good one before quickly leaving his side to go to where all the good was laid out. Some buff German dude was helping cook the hamburger patties and sausages. He was attractive, so you smiled and nodded at him. You took a disposable plate and filled it up with most of the side dishes that were available, since the entrées were all meats. You took a beer too.
As you got closer to the actual house, trying to locate a free table and chair to sit at, you located a quiet blond sitting all by himself, cradling some iced tea in his hands. You smiled a little at the sight, feeling a little sorry for the poor guy for having to endure being outshined by his obnoxious, older brother. You slid down next to him, nudging his arm with your elbow.
He looked at you with surprise, his violet eyes widening.
“Happy fourth,” you told him, using your car key to open your bottle. “Already ate?”
“Y-yeah,” he answered, finishing off his drink. “I think I am the only person in the world depressed during this day.”
“Nuh uh,” you argued, trying the avocado salad. “Arthur gets pretty upset about it too, but everyone knows that it’s because he still in the closet about his affections for Alfred.”
“If only my brother cared more about others.” Matthew buried his face in his arms. “He forgot my birthday again.”
“He starts celebrating his birthday mid-June,” you playfully reminded him. “I can hear the fireworks over at my place. I thought it was gun shots at first.” The made Matthew crack a smile. “Anyway, cheer up, birthday boy.”
“It’s not my birthday anymore.”
“Well, if Alfred can start celebrating half a month before his actual birthday, we’ll celebrate your birthday for the rest of the month, all right?”
“What’ll we do?”
“We can dress up as Captain Canada and destroy all Captain America memorabilia.” Mattie had lived in Canada for most of his life, until his mother and Alfred’s father had gotten back together about two years ago. That was when you had met him, after you had accidentally ran into him on your way to your art class. “And then we can eat poutine and eggless pancakes.”
“You don’t even eat poutine. It has cheese.”
“But you do.” You finished off the avocado salad. “Who made this?”
Mattie blushed at your words. “I was in charge of the side dishes, and since Circe said you were coming, I thought I should make some things you would enjoy. I couldn’t convince Alfred to make tofu burgers though.” You smiled at his words. He was so sweet. “I’m really glad you like it, (name).”
You stood up at that, finishing off your beer and holding out your hand. “Let’s dance, Mr. Williams.”
“I’m not good at that.”
“Neither am I!” Mattie hesitated, but he eventually took your hand, standing up clumsily.
There was a reason Mattie didn’t dance often, and it was because people sometimes forgot he was there, so when you two danced, chaos ensued. Sometimes, someone would bump into him and send him crashing in your direction or the opposite. Sometimes, the crowd would carry him away, and he was kind of weak, so he couldn’t fight the current.
And when you two were finally together, you were both awkward and off beat and laughing at each other. But it was fun.
At around ten, the sound of thunder began to overpower the fireworks, and then the sky finally broke, letting downs gallons of water. The party didn’t stop, masses of bodies pressed against the other, jumping up in time with the beat, screaming out the lyrics. You had had about three beers by this point, and Matthew had had enough iced maple tea that you were surprised he wasn’t running to the bathroom yet.
You two were pressed against the other, singing along to this song you didn’t even know, and you two were chortling.
His arms slid themselves around your waist, and in the middle of the wet crowd, he brought you into a tight hug. You were a little surprised, but you let the hug continue. Mattie was a sweet guy. He was your best friend.
“Can I tell you something?” he tried to yell over the crowd.
“I love you.” His mouth met the side of your face, leaving a timid peck against your cheek. The rain continued to hit your face—and his—as he pulled away, lowering his eyes. His glasses were practically unusable with all the rain. “Thanks for being my best friend, and maybe one day you’ll feel the same way about me that I do for you.”
Your heart palpitated. His words had completely blindsided you. “Mattie…”
“His name is Ludwig, by the way, the guy you kept looking at.”
Ah. He had noticed your growing interest in the hot guy working the grill. Your cheeks grew warm.
Matthew managed to get out of the tight crowd, and you struggled to do the same, chasing after him. He was your best friend…but that didn’t mean you couldn’t give him a chance. He was funny and attractive and smart and so, so sweet. He always helped you out, and he never asked for anything in return.
You finally reached him, just as more fireworks started exploding in the sky. Contrary to popular belief, fireworks did work in the rain, if properly handled. You located his hand, and he turned around, surprised to see you standing there.
“I love you too, Mattie,” you replied as your hair uncomfortably stuck to your neck. “Maybe not the way you love me, but I’m willing to try.” You took another step forward, entwining your fingers with his. “After all, who knows me better than my best friend? Why do you think I came to this party?”
He smiled at your words.
Another firework exploded, the crowd went wild behind you.
Your mouth covered his, your free hand grasping the side of his face. He tasted sweet and warm and nervous, and more importantly, he tasted a bit like home.
Your best friend was your boyfriend now. You weren’t quite sure if you liked the ticklish feeling inside your stomach, but you weren’t going to argue with it right now.
Right now, it just felt good to be with him.
“GODDAMMIT,” Alfred yelled as his firework failed to light. Out of all the days, why did it have to rain today?
He threw down the failed firework and looked up, noticing his brother holding the girl of his dreams. Laughter bubbled up inside of him, especially when Matthew let go of her and ran into the house, probably from drinking way too much iced tea. (Name) was laughing too, but it subsided when someone managed to get another of the fireworks going, lighting the rainy sky with a bright blue.
“Happy belated birthday, little brother,” Alfred murmured to himself before he returned to celebrating the birthday of the greatest person alive.