“Suddenly 40 is looking far more promising.”
“Anything for your birthday, Carly. After all, this is a really big one.”
Caroline punched her in the arm. “Screw you, baby dyke. It isn’t looking that promising.”
Kate laughed and ran her finger around the edge of the bowl in front of them, licking the last of the guacamole off her finger.
“The drinks are dry and the guac is gone. I think it’s time for us to move on.”
Outside of Maya, Kate hailed a cab, and the women piled in. Kate gave the driver an address on 18th.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re headed over to Tacy’s place to pick her up. Then I thought we’d all hang out in Delores Park for a while before we go dancing. It’s such a beautiful, warm night. It seems a shame to waste it inside.” The cab stopped and Kate climbed out, offering a hand to Caroline. Tacy was waiting for them on the curb.
She hugged Kate and clapped her on the back, then held out her arms to Caroline. “Happy birthday, baby girl.”
“Thanks, Tacy. I’m glad you could join us.”
Tacy winked at her. “Believe me, the pleasure is all mine.” She handed Caroline a folded quilt. “Would you mind carrying this?” Then she slung a backpack over her shoulder and nudged a large cooler with her foot. “Kate, give me a hand with this, will you?”
“Holy Mother of God, Tacy. What’s in this thing?” Kate grunted as she lifted her end.
“Just some supplies for an evening in park. Maybe you’d better hit the gym sometime soon.”
“At least we’re only going a couple of blocks,” Kate said.
In the park, the women found a grassy spot off the path, near one of the iron lamp posts.
“This looks perfect.” Caroline spread out the quilt and sat down, stretching out her legs.
Tacy busied herself unpacking her backpack. She pulled out a bottle of Patron tequila, tied with a bright pink ribbon and put it down by Caroline’s thigh. “A present for you… well, for us.”
“Thank you,” Caroline said. “But I’m still feeling a little high from the margarita I had with dinner.”
“Maybe this will be dessert, then,” Tacy said, playfully.
Kate began to unfold the portable speakers for her iPod, and soon Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” was weaving through the evening air. “Our gift,” said Kate, placing a wrapped package on the quilt.
“I thought your gift was our dinner,” Caroline said, suspiciously. “And Tacy’s was this evening in the park.” She poked the lumpy package with her finger and it made a clanking sound.
“Tacy and I did a little shopping. Just something special for our favorite friend.”
“Can I unwrap it now?” Tacy and Kate looked at each other. Tacy shrugged. “Okay. Have at it.” She unpacked a plastic bag of lime wedges and a plastic container of bar salt.
Caroline tore at the wrapping. “What the…?” And then she began to laugh. “Oh, you guys shouldn’t have,” she said, holding up a set of steel handcuffs. “Really.”
“We though you could find a good use for them,” Tacy said.
“I’ll wear them tonight when we go out dancing. Or I’ll wear one of them. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a hot girl and chain her to my wrist with the other one.”
“That’s the spirit,” Kate said.
Caroline closed the cuff around her wrist. “How’s it look?”
“You know you can wear anything, and it’ll always look good on you,” Tacy said.
“Come here and dance with me.” She pulled Caroline up to her feet and they began a slow dance in the darkening park. Tacy held her tightly with her palm pressed into the small of Caroline’s back. “Sort of romantic here under the streetlight, isn’t it?”
“Mmm,” Caroline agreed, resting her head on Tacy’s shoulder.
Tacy backed her up against the lightpost and looked into her eyes. She took her by the hands. “Carly, would it be improper of me to ask for the privilege of a birthday kiss?” she asked.
“I think that would be nice,” Caroline said.
Tacy began to kiss her, pressing her warm lips against her friend’s and leaning her back again the light post. As their kiss grew more passionate Caroline became aware than Tacy was stretching her arms back behind her. She realized a moment too late where this was going. She heard a “click” as the other cuff closed around her wrist, fastening her to the post.
“Hey!” she said. “That’s not funny.”
Behind her, Kate began to whisper “Happy Birthday” in her ear, her warm breath brushing the back of Caroline’s neck.
“Nice job,” Tacy said.
“Thanks,” Kate returned. “You pulled off your part beautifully.” They exchanged a high five.
“You guys planned this?” Caroline started to laugh. “Oh, you’re so funny. Now unlock me.”
Kate kissed her lightly on the lips. “Hang on, I’ve know I’ve got the key here somewhere. Tacy, come here and help me find it.”
The two women dug around in the cooler and came up with a couple of beers. They opened them and toasted each other before taking a healthy draw. Caroline couldn’t hear what they were saying.
“Uh, guys… remember me? The one you’ve locked to a post?”
Tacy came closer with a shot glass. “You ready for a drink now?”
“How about a key?” Caroline said. She could see Kate searching her pockets. “Oh hell. Maybe I’d better.”
Tacy held up her finger with some salt on it. “Lick.” Caroline licked. She tipped the shot up to her lips. “Drink.” Caroline swallowed it down. “Now bite.” Tacy held out a lime wedge.
Caroline gasped a little. “Wow. That’s good. Now where’s the key?”
“You’re a little perseverative. You know that?” Tacy said. “
Here it is!” Kate called out.
She walked over to the two women and waved it in front of Caroline. “What’ll you give me for it, baby?” She wiggled her eyebrows wickedly and placed the little silver key between her teeth. But as she leaned in to kiss Caroline, she teasingly sucked it back into her mouth and pulled away.
“You brat,” Caroline said.
Kate laughed and took a swig of her beer. Suddenly her eyes widened and she coughed a little and reached for her throat.
“Tell me you didn’t…” Tacy said.
“I did,” Kate sputtered.
“Did what?” Caroline asked.
“I just swallowed the key… Wow. I didn’t plan that,” Kate said.
“Kate!” Caroline yelled. “You can’t just leave me locked up here!”
Kate grabbed Tacy by the arm and pulled her away for a moment. The two appeared to confer and nodded their heads in agreement. Kate went back to the ice chest as Tacy walked back over to Caroline.
“Kate and I talked it over, Carly, and well… um… yeah, we can.”
“Can leave you locked to the post for a while. If we call a locksmith now, it will just be a buzz kill. After all, we’re having a good time. We’ve got music and drinks. It’s a nice warm night… Let’s just hang out and enjoy it.” She walked back over the ice chest.
In disbelief, Caroline watched her walk away.
Kate came closer. “I’m sorry I swallowed the key.”
“Well at least you brought me another shot,” Caroline said.
“Actually, this one’s for me.” Kate leaned into Carly and kissed her lightly on the lips. She then kissed her her friend on the neck and began to work her way lower.
“Hey!” Caroline protested.
“Shhh.” Kate put a lime wedge in her mouth. “Hold this for me.”
She began to unbutton Caroline’s shirt, untucking it as she went. Caroline made noises of protest, but didn’t drop the lime.
“Look at the black bra under this starched white shirt. You bad girl,” Kate said. She ran her tongue across the lacy edge of Caroline’s bra and began to sprinkle the tops of her breasts with the coarse salt.
Caroline’s nipples hardened in response to the cold air and the attention. Kate stood back to admire her handiwork.
“Keep holding on to that lime,” she said to Caroline.
“Tacy, come here and see this!”
Tacy took her time walking over. She surveyed the scene in the pool of light under the lamp post.
“Nice,” she said, nodding approvingly. “Looking good, Carly. Like I said, everything looks good on you.”
Caroline rolled her eyes.
Kate poured herself a shot of tequila and moved in close, slowly licking the salt off of her friend’s breasts. Then she tossed back the shot and crushed her mouth against Caroline’s, biting and sucking at the lime wedge there.
She stepped back with a wicked smile. “Happy Birthday, baby.”
Caroline tried to catch her breath.
“Holy shit,” she said.
“My turn.” Tacy reached for the bottle of tequila, but voices murmured in the dark, drawing closer.
“Hey, hey!” Caroline hissed. “You need to button up my shirt and find a way to get me unlocked. Come on, you guys.” Her voice was a little frantic. Tacy pushed a lime wedge into mouth, quieting her protests.
A trio of women stepped into the lamplight.
“Tacy, Kate, what’s up?” The girl in the middle with the buzz cut spoke first.
Hugs were exchanged all around.
“Looking good, Caroline. Happy birthday,” one of them said. “Let me get a picture of this.” Her phone flashed.
“We brought you some cupcakes.” The third girl held out a pink bakery box tied with white string.
Caroline was speechless, the lime wedge still between her teeth.
Tacy spread her arms wide in hospitality, like she was standing in the doorway of her manor house. “We’re glad you could make it. It’s turning out to be quite a party on this beautiful night. We’ve got good music, good friends, and best of all,” she said, gesturing toward her friend locked to the lamp post, “the drinks are on Caroline.”