Four-star manger

We tiptoed out, the three of us, on the wrong side of midnight, between the last of the party conversations and the beginning of the out-of-town guests settling in for an abbreviated night's sleep.

Ever tried to climb naked into an unfamiliar hot tub in the dark while mistakenly attempting to preserve some semblance of modesty? Let me reassure you: it's just as difficult as you might think. Still, darkness sometimes breeds bravery, and I tumbled in with the words, "Well, I have two of everything I'm supposed to have two of, and one of everything else, so … screw it."

* * * * *

Every house should have a set of stairs, even if they're decorative, just so that the quiet folk have a secluded spot to retreat to during even the loudest of parties.

This hadn't been the loudest of parties, but I was the New Person, and after a few hours of it I was ready to retreat to some place a little quieter and let my thoughts woolgather themselves into a semblance of order. I found my way to the stairs, where Wes sat a few steps up, sitting quietly and thinking. He gestured toward the dining room and living room with his orange soda and smiled.

"I love this house. It's big enough that we can have lots of people over and they can break off into their own conversations." I tucked myself sideways against one of the stairs, my back against the far wall, my feet braced against the stair railing, and nodded. I could hear conversations flowing in various rooms of the house, but the stairs and the walls near us offered a vague sense of privacy and quiet.

We talked, and I marveled at how some people could be in my life for years without deep or meaningful interaction, but that some people simply walk into my life and make themselves right at home … as if they had always been there, or were always meant to be there.

Lately, we've been doing a lot of talking, in varying permutations of Wes | his spouse Mary | my spouse | me. Mix-and-match conversations, liberally doused with fresh tea and paella, have been the staple of my weeknights since getting introduced to Mary and Wes via Brian and Suzan.

Somewhere along the conversation, between med school stories and the wishing goodnight of guests, it was decided that it was time to retreat to the hot tub. As what seems to be the way when Wes is involved, things were decided and no evidence to the contrary would be allowed.

So what if my swimsuit was at home. "It's dark. We have an extra robe. You'll be fine."

You know what was even funnier? He was right.

* * * * *

The realization of the enormity of change comes mostly in silent, quiet moments; this one came amidst laughter and jets of hot water. When had I finally stopped being the woman who dressed to hide her body and become a woman able to acknowledge her fears without allowing them free rein?

I didn't know, and I didn't care.

Some time later, Wes stood up with a stretch and declared, "I feel bad for leaving a hot tub with two women in it, but I'm sleepy." He toddled off, leaving Mary and I to gossip for what I assumed would be a few more minutes.

I didn't expect that we'd stay in there, soaking and gossiping, until well past two in the morning. We alternated between dunking ourselves in the water and rising out to cool off, talking about everything from spouses ("Men!") to mutual friends ("Men!").

When we finally trudged back upstairs in soaked robes, Mary insisted I stay the night. There were no beds left, but there was a quiet piece of floor in the basement - the computer room, which had no windows to let in light and a door that would close, thus enabling guests to sleep without hearing me snore.

I bedded down with blankets on the floor and thought, "Hmm. Four-star manger. Sweet."

* * * * *

We'll be back over there tomorrow night, for the Wednesday night dinner that's rapidly becoming a tradition. Wes will take over cooking, and I'll try to shoehorn in until I'm swatted away. Mary will make tea, and she and Jeff will practice music while Wes and I undoubtedly trade smartass comments while sitting on some random couch.

(Yes, Matthew, he really is that much like you. It terrifies me a little, but I'm coping.)

Never mind the fact that I'm learning to read bedtime stories to six-year-olds. Between that and the hot tubbing, I'm starting to think I might be growing as a person.

Don't hold your breath, though.