But there was no time to let himself derail, not when Jodie depended on him to keep everything on the track. Arin, the Lagoon Goon, beckoned him over to check out their buffet spread, while also taking the opportunity to sneak in several apologies about the botch that resulted in his injury. Mitch reassured them that there was no bad blood whatsoever. However, he barely got the sentiment across before someone else needed him, so he pulled them into a quick sidehug before rushing over to put out another fire, one that involved the balloons.
“Maaan,” Mitch grimaced. The majority of the balloons floated up to the ceiling, which stood about 20′ high. A few people on the balcony catwalk that tried their luck at grabbing any ribbons that drifted nearby, but to no avail. “C’mon guys, be careful,” he shouted, but was mostly ignored.
“Oof, those aren’t coming down, huh?” came a now increasingly familiar voice from Mitch’s right side, but not so familiar that it didn’t startle him. He jumped a little, then turned his head and stared wide-eyed at Avi, who definitely wasn’t supposed to be there yet. “Sorry man, didn’t mean to scare you!” He offered an apologetic smile.
“Uh, it’s…it’s cool,” Mitch nodded fervently, biting back the urge to admonish him for arriving early. “So what brings you here?”
“The party for Victor,” Avi half-laughed, which, duh, fine, that tracked. “I’m kind of a ‘if I don’t get there 20 minutes early, I’m late’ guy. And-” his eyes flickered up at the banner above, which had (and welcome Avi) scrawled in permanent marker under the word ‘Birthday’ (Jodie added that final touch the night before, proud of herself for remembering). He looked back at Mitch, and his mouth now formed a hard line. “I’m guessing that I’m not supposed to be here, huh?”
“No, but I think that if you left now and returned in a few minutes, then act surprised, it’ll be fine. Maybe just pull your car around back?”
“Sure,” agreed Avi, his body coiled and ready to sprint off. “Should I wait for a specific time or signal or something?”
“I can text you when they’re here,” Mitch suggested.
“Oh! That’s good. What’s your number?” Avi pulled his phone out and typed while Mitch recited the numbers. Seconds later, he felt a buzz in his pocket. “I sent you a text so that you have mine. Alright, I’m off!”
“See you in a bit,” Mitch waved him away, barely paying attention while he checked to see if it was indeed Avi’s text, and not another string of curses from Jodie. His lock screen lit up, and sure enough, a number that he didn’t recognize had sent him a smiley face, and along with that a ‘hey it’s avi’, followed by some flashing ellipses and then a ‘lemme know if u have any particular emojis u want me to use for ur name’.
“The fuck?” Mitch muttered under his breath, then quietly chuckled at the absurdity.