So even though I refer to Janet and Stanley as husband and wife, they’re not actually married yet. Yet, being the operative word.
“October is right around the corner!” Janet bubbled.
“I’m so excited!” I exclaimed.
“Are you, really?” she reached for my forearm. Did I mention she was a little tipsy? We’d been sneaking in pre-drinks before we hit the club. Strip club, I mean.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
“I know!” she clapped her hands and snickered. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Finally! I keep telling everyone you guys are husband and wife,” I scrunched my nose. A knock on the door turned my head. “It’s open!”
“Are we ready to see some hot naked guys or what?” Chloe said, Jodie following behind her.
“I sure am,” Jodie said. We all stared at her. Even Janet stopped swaying. “What?” she shrugged then rolled her eyes. “Just because I bat for the other team doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the others’ sportsmanship.”
We all laughed. “Alright,” I clapped my hands. I got up and hopped into the kitchen to make us all a drink before we headed out, “cheers,” the girls surrounded the kitchen, “to a great friend—a sister—I know you’re going to be getting a lot more toasts on the day, but for now, I want to be the first to wish you nothing but happiness for you and Stanley.”
The girls lifted their glasses. “Here, here!”
“Why did she have to pick this strip club?” I whined to Jodie. “Of all the clubs in L.A.”
“Shhh,” Jodie hissed. “Is this you’re big day, or hers?”
“But…Eric works here.”
“Ohhhh, right, Eric.” She paused for a moment. “That is weird,” she chuckled.
“It’s not funny,” I smacked her, unable to contain myself.
She put her hands up in surrender. “Alright. You have to admit, though, it’s pretty funny.”
“It’s pretty weird.”
We got a table all the way in the front, and the entire time sitting there, waiting for the music to change and the guys to come out, I was hoping Eric couldn’t see me front row and centre. He’ll legit think I’m stalking him. I’m all for investigating digital footprints, but when it comes to seeing someone everywhere they go, that’s creepy.
“He’ll totally think I’m already obsessing with him or something,” I feared.
Jodie rolled her eyes. “If he thinks that then his jewels would’ve shrivelled into sun-dried tomatoes.”
I scrunched my nose. “Huh?”
“Then he has no balls,” she clarified before taking a sip of her martini.
“Oh,” I laughed. I need a drink.
Thankfully, the night began painlessly. When the music changed and the guys came out, Eric barely spotted me and the girls and I were having the time of our lives. That was until the announcer asked if there were any soon-to-be-marrieds in the audience and of course Janet sprung up from her chair like a meerkat bobbing upwards to check out the scenery. She got called on stage and guys started gyrating on her. Eric was on the side, but for one fleeting, discrete moment, he gazed into the audience and we locked eyes. He turned away without neither of us having any time to either elongate or shorten our smiles. It was awkward. Should I be acting like I didn’t know him? Not like he said anything to me. And not like this is fucking Coyote Ugly; rule number one: appear to be single!
“Woohoooo!” Janet squealed once she met back with us. A second round of drinks hit our table. “That was fun!”
“I want him,” Chloe pointed as the men walked off stage, “and him, and him, oh, and him…”
“You know, it’s so brave of you to be coming to the wedding,” Janet said.
I smiled. “Oh, my mother. Right.”
She doesn’t even know I’m living in L.A now. She doesn’t even know Daniel and I broke up. She doesn’t even know. And I don’t even know when or how to tell her. One thing’s for sure, I didn’t want to tell her at Janet’s wedding.
“Noooooo, no, no,” Janet furrowed her brows, shaking her head. “I mean Daniel.”
I tilted my head. “Daniel?”
“Janet,” Jodie hissed, shooting her a death stare.
Janet brushed her off and returned to me. “Yeah, well, of course he’s coming to the wedding. He’s Stanley’s best friend.”
I rolled my eyes and shifted in my seat. Chloe and Jodie seemed to relax next to me, dropping their shoulders. “Yeah, I knew that.”
“I just didn’t think he’d already be bringing a date,” Janet added.
“Janet!” Chloe cawed.
“He’s…” I smiled, looking down— “he’s…bringing someone? A…girl?”
Janet stared at me wide, bleary-eyed. “I thought you knew…”
“Oh,” I pushed a smile, “of course I knew. I was just making sure…you guys…knew.”
And they did, didn’t they? Chloe and Jodie were quick to shut Janet up, but the news has been leaked. It’s all out in the open. Why would they keep something like that from me? Shouldn’t I be the first one to know, considering?
“I’m going to get us top ups,” I interjected Jodie. “Anyone need any more?”
“You haven’t even finished yours,” Chloe noted.
I grabbed my drink and gobbled up the last of the haze before I jumped to my feet, wiping my mouth like a thirsty tiger. “Anyone want another?” I panted.
Janet was halfway putting her hand up when Chloe gripped it and placed it down. It was funny, but I didn’t have the energy to laugh.
I was tapping my fingertips in a wave up on the bar when I felt a presence hover near me. I turned and found Eric.
I smiled. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know something was on your mind and you were intensely thinking about it.” He held an index finger up when the bartender looked his way. “Hey, Ricky. Can I get whatever she’s having?”
“Another tequila shot and straight-up vodka coming right up,” Ricky iterated my order.
I sighed. Thanks Ricky!
Eric cornered his mouth upwards and sucked in a sharp breath. “Ohhhh, bad day at work?”
“You know, it’s not a big deal. Besides, a lot of people order those types of drinks. Not just me.”
“And snippy, too,” Eric grinned. “Do you want to talk about it or should I guess?”
“You know, I’m here for my girlfriend.” If anything, I could change the subject and throw him of my tracks.
“Yeah, I noticed. She getting married?” I nodded. Eric nodded with me and turned his back to lean on the countertop. “Strange. She’s so young. Your age, right?”
“It’s not that young,” I mumbled.
“Well, here’s hoping there’s open bar at the reception,” Eric said, raising the tequila shot in hand before sucking it down.
That sparked an idea. “Would you like to come?”
Before you say anything, this isn’t petty. I just didn’t want to be the only one there without a date, so back off!
Eric laughed. “Weddings. Hmmm…”
“Just, you know,” I shrugged, “as my date.” When he didn’t say anything, I tempted him with, “There’s going to be open bar.”
He chuckled, before looking at me in all seriousness with a hint of a smile, just to keep the mood light. “You know, I don’t want you to be getting the wrong idea about us.”
“The wrong idea?”
“I like you, Anna. A lot. But I’m not looking for anything serious. Coming as a date to a wedding where close friends and possibly relatives of said date and close friends will make this relationship between you and I seem like more than it is, when it’s not.”
“Oh,” I breathed. “Well, I wasn’t thinking of it like that. You won’t have to meet my parents, I promise,” I chuckled, shakily.
He laughed humourlessly with me. “Just the same. Wedding aren’t my scene. Sorry.”
“No, no, no, sorry I invited you—” I gasped and looked up, shaking my head— “that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean it like that, I meant—”
He laughed, sincerely now. “It’s alright. I get it.”
“Okay,” I smiled. My vodka mocking me on the countertop, proclaiming how much of a logical option it was to drown myself with at this point.
“I better get back to work,” he finally said.
I nodded. “Yeah. Go. I’ll see you.”
“I’ll call you, okay?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
As soon as he left, I began to wonder if, after that speech he gave me, he would really call me.