Foto bij 777. - Lucien

Each time I call in the talents of my event planners, I am convinced they can't top themselves from the year before. Every time, they prove me wrong. They found a venue to perfectly fit my theme; a large castle-like hotel with ballroom, but most of all a gigantic, ancient-looking green house that was open for events just like this one. Despite the short notice I gave them, Matthias and Stella really outdid themselves. Guests are brought in through the hotel, with greener and lights everywhere. 'Insane' doesn't even begin to cover it. Following directions will bring guests into the greenhouse, the main area of the party alongside the ballroom it's directly connected to.
The greenhouse is looking straight out of a book of fairytales. In the middle, there's a large area for guests to mingle, with the bars located there as well. Then, from there on out, dimly lit paths will lead you through the rest of the greenhouse. There's a large basin full of nearly-blooming waterlillies, and in the corner an overgrown winding staircase that will lead you to the top of the greenhouse, where paths close to the roof allow you to spy on guests from above. There's even a stone slide, which makes no sense at all and yet fits perfectly. The curling paths and high plants hide many secrets that guests are invited to explore as they please, and with thousands upon thousands of fairylights twinkling all around us, the whole area just feels magical. Matthias leads me on to the ballroom, which is equally breath-taking in an entirely different way. The mirrored floor looks as if it'll break when I step onto it, especially with the hard soles of my Italian-made shoes, but it seems to carry my weight without any trouble. The open space echoes around every step that I take, trying to take in the magnificence of it all. There's no plants here, just a booth for the music and three bars to make sure everybody can get a drink.
It's absolutely insane. Even for my standards, even for the expectations that my birthday party sets each year, this is insane. And yet it is fitting. This is less of a I'm-trying-to-get-as-drunk-as-possible party, and more of an... experience. Something I want to linger in the minds of my guests, a permanent memory rather than a fleeting evening. Once Matthew and Stella have my complete approval, I join back with my little family. A waitress comes along to give us each a glass of champagne, laced with edible glitter to make it as magical-looking as the rest of the venue. I raise my glass, and everyone follows. They look at me with excited smiles, all equally gorgeous in their outfits fitted to the dresscode of blacktie.
"To... turning thirty." I say, smiling. "To slowly getting old, but doing it in the best way possible. To a year of new questions, new drama, but mostly..." My eyes land on Emma. "new adventures."
We all cheer and laugh, toasting our flutes together before sipping them down. My eye catches Matthew's, and he winks at me with a knowing smirk. I roll my eyes at him, but can't keep myself from smiling. It's a daring secret to have, but an exciting one. While I'm looking forward to the party, to seeing old and new friends, my mind is mostly occupied with what comes after. I'm no longer scared. No matter what, I know Emma will be at my side until the very end.

The area quickly gets crowded; all guests are equally in awe over the venue and it's decoration. As usual, I spend the first hour greeting people that I know but haven't seen in a long time, or good friends that I don't see often enough. Charles and Selene, both looking stunning in tastefully matching outfits. Gwen, who comes as a total surprise for both me and Matthew, which only makes it better. Luca, Jane, Olivia... I barely have time to think as people come up to me, to congratulate me, to wish me well in this new year. Waitresses keep replentishing my champagne, but I'm careful not to drink too quickly because there's a whole evening to follow. I keep an eye out for my family, who are equally as occupied by guests coming up to them for different reasons. I invited all of Emma's girlfriends, and some of Beth's and Eschieve's as well so they wouldn't feel too awkward or alone. Emma joins me from time to time, clinging to me like I might disappear if she lets go. People are delighted to see us together, and unashamedly comment how they were worried we wouln't survive all we went through this year. We just laugh it off, but always give each other reassuring looks afterwards. They don't need to know that we weren't sure either, that we truly made it by the skin of our teeth. All that matters is that we did.
"My, my..." Her voice easily carries over the gentle piano music that plays for the introductory part of the event. My heart skips a beat. "I always knew you'd age like fine wine."
"Liliana!" I breathe, breaking from my original position to hug her tightly. She looks stunning in a pastel pink gown full of glitters, her dark hair done up beautifully and her make-up enhancing all her natural features. She looks nothing like she did when we broke up, and yet exactly the same. "You look stunning."
"As do you. I forgot just how dashing you look in a three-piece." She smiles, picking a flute of sparkly champagne of the tray of a passing waitress. "God, I'm almost jealous of Emma that she gets to parade you around."
I laugh and roll my eyes. "Don't say it too loudly, because she might let you."
"Ay, dio mio!" Another voice suddenly exclaims. Liliana looks surprised, but I just wink at her as Gabriel continues. "Liliana, is that really you?! For God's sake, Lucien, stop hogging her and bring the pretty lady over!"
So I do. Matthew and Gabriel immediately engage her in conversation, having not spoken to her in probably years after our tight-knit friendgroup was so viciously torn apart. I lay an arm over Emma's shoulder and kiss her temple, in what's probably unneeded reassurance.
The party buzzes on around us, and I know it won't be long before my attention is needed elsewhere. But, I realise, this party would have been just as complete with just this handful of people. The people we all love dearest. What else do we really need?

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