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Author: M.E. Carter

The Early Years



“When I get married, it’s forever.” This announcement comes from my best friend Janine. “Seriously, you guys—one and done. Divorce will not be an option.”

I roll my eyes and pull back the top on the white pizza box, wielding the sharp metal cutter. “Famous last words.”

Call me cynical, but her declaration makes me cringe every time she makes it. And she’s been making it a lot lately. Janine is crazy if she thinks her relationship is going to be perfect. No one’s is. Take my parents for example: both of them married and divorced no less than five times between them, and each of them proclaiming “this is the one” with every trip down the aisle. Or beach. Or Vegas chapel. Or courthouse.

“I’m just saying, Becky,” Janine continues, talking and chewing at the same time. She always does this and it drives me freaking nuts. So gross. “When I get married, it will be for forever. No divorce. People don’t make enough effort to keep their marriages together. They just bail at the first hint of trouble. I know couples who’ve been married three or four times!”

She clamps her mouth shut so fast I can actually hear her teeth knock together, and shoots me an apologetic expression. I know she just remembered my parents’ multiple marriages.

“The system makes it too easy to get divorced,” I intone, letting her off the hook. I slide two huge slices of pepperoni onto my paper plate. Two huge slices of the best pizza in town, possibly on this side of the Mississippi, and watch as a long, gooey trail of cheese hangs on to the slice by a thread when I lift it to my watering mouth.

I close my eyes and groan out loud.

It’s cheesy.

It’s greasy.

It’s thin crust.

It’s pizza night.

Pizza night… the sole night of the week we’re free to stay in, order out, and spend some quality time with each other—preferably in our pajamas, sans make-up, no men allowed.

As juniors in college, we have very demanding academic schedules and a catalog rotation of nightly socials. Janine and I came up with the general breakdown our freshman year to stay organized:

Wednesday: The Escape Club for dancing. The EC has the greatest DJs, the best dancing, and some of the best jams from the seventies. Janine considers Wednesday night her time to shine, and her one night of weekly cardio. Basically, whooping it up until she sweats is the only exercising she’s willing to do. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard my bestie belt out “Summer Nights” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Janine loves Grease. We have it on VHS and have seen it no less than a hundred times. So she is a stickler for authenticity. She never fails to get pissed when a drunken co-ed sings a verse wrong, or out of tune.

Thursday: Midnight Rodeo night. Another night of dancing, but the two-stepping variety, which involved more muscle and less cardio. While it’s not my favorite, we get to leave our bib overalls at home. Janine thoroughly enjoys the view of a cowboy in tight jeans. Midnight Rodeo night is the perfect excuse to break out my cowboy boots, cowgirl hat, and Daisy Dukes, because let’s face it, we won’t have these size two asses forever.

Friday: On-or-off-campus parties. Where there’s a house party, there’s Becky and Janine. Just last week, Janine won a Quarters tournament at an on-campus dorm party, and the prize was two pub-crawl tee shirts. Score!

Saturday: Greek night. Specifically reserved for whatever fraternity or sorority party is going on. Janine loves any excuse to tie on a toga. Last weekend, her mission was to get me drunk on “trashcan punch.” She succeeded, and we left the frat house with Greek letters written in Sharpie pen across our boobs. Fortunately, we sobered up before we made it to the tattoo parlor and permanently etched the letters into our skin. It seemed like a good idea at the time because that night was awesome.

Sunday: Good Samaritan Day. If you count helping our fraternity friends finish off their kegs before they’re needed back at the liquor store as being Good Samaritans, then we’re guilty as charged! No one wants them to lose their deposits if the kegs are late, so really, we’re helping to promote fiscal responsibility.

Monday: “Recuperation Night.” Sleep. All. Day. Well, obviously not if we have class, but I’m not sure any of us stay awake past eight o’clock on Monday nights. Not after five straight days of partying…

See? Demanding.

Which leaves us tonight: Tuesday pizza night with the girls.

I filter Janine’s voice over the sound of my own chewing and tune in to hear her say,

“I mean, if I’m going to marry the love of my life, I owe it to him to see past his mistakes and try to work it out.”

She gives her crimped, dark brown hair a flip, and her giant neon hoop earrings sway.

I crinkle my nose as I look at her in disbelief. “What. Ever. If my husband ever steps out on me, his ass is mine. It’s like TLC says, don’t go chasing waterfalls. If he wants to stray, he needs to go.”

Our friend Jennifer Stiltner grimaces. “Okay, first of all, that analogy made no sense. Secondly, no man is ever going to cheat on us.”

Janine nods her agreement. “And how do you plan on making sure that never happens? You’re not Posh Spice. You can’t just make men bend to your will.”

“The plan is easy,” I say, licking the grease dripping down my thumb. “I’m going to make it a point to stay a sex kitten in the bedroom. A man won’t stray if his needs are being met.”

Janine bobs her head in agreement. “That, my friend, is a solid plan. We should all do that.”

Both my friends nod.

“I know, right?” Plopping myself down in the rickety kitchen chair, I prop my feet up and lace my hands together behind my head, lecturing with an air of authority. “None of this boring, complacent stuff for my marriage. My mom says hot sex a few times a week will keep his eyes from wandering. Visit a porn shop every once in a while to keep it interesting.”

Stiltner cackles, pulling on the straps of her green corduroy Gap overalls. “Um, yeah. I don’t need a porn shop. I have Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to give me good vibrations.” Everyone laughs. Everyone except Janine, who frowns at her pizza.

“But what about when you have kids?” she asks quietly. “Do you seriously think you can still get it on several times a week? Don’t they bang on your bedroom door in the morning and want, like, breakfast and stuff? Won’t that kill a healthy sex life?”

I roll my eyes, scoffing. “Look at me! Young, popular with the guys. I’m a whiz at my new word processor…”

Stiltner stares, dumbfounded. “You’re using a word processor? Dude, get a computer.”

“I would, but it’s so big it won’t fit on my desk. Dammit, Stiltner, not everyone can afford a three-thousand-dollar computer.” I scoff then redirect my attention to Janine, who’s hanging on my every word. “Where was I? Oh yeah—kids. Who even wants kids? I mean, maybe one or two, eventually. But I’m selfish. I want my sexy husband all to myself for as long as possible. Travel to Europe. Take cruises.”

Janine smiles. “Oh, he’s sexy, too, is he?”

“Hell yes, he’s sexy!” I say with a smile. “If I’m going to stay in shape and keep myself together, so can he. That’s not asking too much. I’ll let him buy a Bowflex.”

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