For the rest of the week I didn’t have time to worry about Michael and his cool façade antics. I don’t know why certain people get under my skin so much—especially complete strangers whom I have no particular relation to—but some just do. And they do it well. I think it’s the fact that they think they know me so well and have me all figured out that annoys me. Get a grip, this isn’t a classroom and I ain’t your student.
Well, anyway, the reason why I didn’t have to time think about anything else was because Janet’s wedding was this weekend! Janet picked out an amazing dress for all of us. Her favourite colour is purple so our dresses were a strapless lilac with ribboned ties around the waist, the bow at the back tailing right down to the bottom along the hem of the dress where it subtly flared in and out like petals.
“This is too tight for my legs,” Jodie grunted.
“You had the fitting ages ago,” Chloe reminded her.
“Well I guess she didn’t want me moving properly,” Jodie said.
“What are you going to do? Long jump?” Chloe laughed. I joined her. “You look amazing, stop complaining.”
“My ass looks huge,” Jodie whined.
Chloe slapped her on her ass. “And all the wolves are going to have their eyes on it, believe me.”
“It’s true,” I nodded.
“Yeah, well, I kind of want the bitches,” Jodie chuckled.
I laughed with her as Chloe howled animatedly, sticking out her tongue and panting. I moved to the closed door where just on the other side, Janet was putting on her wedding dress.
I knocked. “Janet, baby, how are you going? Want me to bring in some champagne?”
“Before the bottle runs out between the three of us!” Chloe yelled.
I laughed, but heard no response from inside. I knocked again, worried. “Janet?”
I opened the door and to my pleasant surprise found Janet sitting in front of her vanity with her luxurious dress on. A tulle bottom, lace off the shoulder top with floral laser cut detailing, and a veil to complete it all.
“Hey—” I smiled, swinging the champagne bottle as I waddled my way to her— “do you need anything? Everything o—oh…”
Janet’s teary eyed, streaked makeup caught me off-guard. She sniffed, her brows in a wavy concoction of grandiose proportions only Poseidon could’ve had any hand in.
“What the fuck am I doing, Anna?”
“What?” I asked gently, kneeling down. Yes, the dress is that roomy. I’m telling you, my girl knows how to do.
I smiled to try and soften the mood. “The guy you’ve been in love with for years?”
“It’s not Stanley,” she shook her head, beginning to ball again, her entire face scrunching up into an unconfident person I didn’t know.
My heart drummed for a few seconds when the possibility of someone else entered my mind, but it slowed once I reminded myself that I believe Janet could never do something like that.
“Okay, what is it then?”
“Marriage? Fucking marriage, Anna. This isn’t me. I don’t get married,” she put her hands up in the air and shimmied her shoulders rigidly on the last word. Like it was the most preposterous concept she’d ever heard.
“We’ve never gotten married,” I confusedly reminded her.
“That’s it!—” she clawed a grip around my ivory arms— “what if it doesn’t work out? I only plan on getting married once? What if he wakes up one day and finds out that all the things he did love about me turned out to be things he doesn’t like about me? What if my quirks start to annoy him? What if we become one of those couples that kill each other instead of divorce? He’ll bury my body in my favourite rose bushes! I’m too fucking young to die, Anna!” she shook me and let go when I nearly fell.
“Okay, fucking chill,” I said. “You need to breathe. Come on, breathe in…and out.”
My words pushed through the frantic mush in her mind and she did as I advised. From then on, I had no idea what the hell I was going to say. There are times where I’m good at encouragement and empathy, and there are other times where I just draw a complete blank. The latter is one of those times. There needs to be a self-help book for this type of shit, for real.
Janet sighed. “You and Daniel were supposed to be together and you’re not.” She turned to me, now mellow and deflated. “What if Stanley and I aren’t meant to be—”
“Hey,” I cut her off, “no. That’s not true. If anyone deserves a chance at love it’s you and Stanley. You guys couldn’t be more right for each other in all the right ways. And you guys couldn’t be more wrong for each other in all the right ways, either.” She chuckled, finally, we have lift off! I laughed with her. “Do you know what I mean?”
She nodded. “I do.” Then, she gasped, covering her mouth. “Is it bad luck to say ‘I do’ before you’re supposed to say it?”
I shrugged. “I never got that far.”
Her bulging eyes softened. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I didn’t mean to bring…him into this.”
I forced a smile, and it hurt like hell. “It’s okay.”
In the lull all we could hear were Chloe and Jodie bickering. I hope they weren’t getting drunk before Janet even had a chance to walk down the aisle.
“I need a bouquet,” Janet finally said.
“They forgot to deliver my bouquet.”
“Well, honey—” a pushed her strand of black hair back, away from her dry tears— “if that’s all the problems you’ve got today then you’re one lucky bride.”
“Oh my God…”
“What?” I asked when I stood.
“I’m a bride!” she grinned widely. That’s my girl. She turned to her reflection in the mirror. “I’m going to be a wife and Stanley’s going to be my husband.”
“He’s one lucky guy.”
“Eww,” she grumbled, wiping her face, “not like this he ain’t.”
I laughed and rolled my eyes. “I’m going to look for your bouquet. Sit tight.” I ran out to find Chloe and Jodie laughing their asses off. “Shh shh shh!” I quickly hissed. They both quieted quickly. “Janet had a mini-meltdown in there.”
“What?” Jodie looked passed me.
“Is she okay?” Chloe asked.
“Yeah, yeah, she’s fine now,” I waved my hands. “I just need you guys to fix her makeup while I go looking for Yvette.”
“Who?” Jodie wondered.
“Yvette, the wedding planner?”
“Like JLo,” Chloe added to Jodie.
“No, unlike JLo,” I said. “She’s older and Russian and orders everyone around except Janet.”
“Vladimir Pussy,” Jodie joked. We burst out laughing. I can’t deal.
“Shh shh shh,” I said again, trying to calm us down. “Okay, I have to go. You guys deal with her and make sure her glass is always full.”
“Already ahead of you,” Jodie said, grabbing a champagne flute and filling the glass.
I was just about to leave when I noticed Jodie filled the glass up to the brim. “Jodie…”
“Don’t get her drunk,” I said it like it was an obvious aspect of the wedding.
“Would I ever?”
I tilted my head like, ‘girl, please’.
“Okay, okay, but this time I won’t.”
I lifted a brow.
Jodie glance at the glass and took a sip. “Hmm?” she asked, holding up the glass.
About half of it was gone. “How ‘bout now?”
I nodded. “There we go. See you soon!”
“How many times do I have to tell you John? The centrepieces go there,” Yvette pointed. “I’m starting to regret the day you were born, darling. Make sure it doesn’t happen again, da?”
Sweaty John nodded. “Da.”
Yvette pirouetted into me and when she staggered back she steadied her dangling earing and eyed me viciously. I could feel her burrowing her way into my soul and I was slowly dying inside. “You better have a good reason for that, bridesmaid number one.”
I narrowed my eyes and tilted my head, for s split second unsure of how I feel about the label. “Umm, I’m looking for—” I caught sight of my mother coming in with her date— “someone.”
“Someone?” she hissed.
“No, no,” I shook my head, focusing. “Uhh, Janet’s bouquet.”
“Bouquet?” she repeated confusedly, putting a hand on her hip.
“She doesn’t have it.”
“She doesn’t have it?” She dropped her hand from her hip and straightened up, almost threateningly.
I gulped. I’m starting to regret the day; this woman is good. “Just need to find it.”
She pointed at me. “Search everywhere. Top to bottom. First, check the floral truck outside, that should be the most obvious place. I don’t want you back until you find it. Understood?”
I nodded, hesitantly. “Understood. Hey, if all else fails, we can use one of the centrepieces,” I chuckled, shakily.
I was trying to lighten the mood with my joke but Yvette just eyed me, unblinking. I raised my hands in surrender and backed away. When she turned around, I picked up momentum and ran outside. It was a crowd of people flocking in and I was pushing through like a salmon trying swim upstream.
“Excuse me, sorry,” I muttered as I bumped and shimmied my way around the bend of rocks and other piranhas, “excuse me…” I kept up a smile, trying to ignore all the people staring at bridesmaid number one.
“Anna?” I heard a voice call.
My eyes were glued to the floor, so when I peered up, I was searching for the source of the voice.
“Anna, over here,” he called again. And I knew who it was the second time. Why did I have to stop? I could’ve just kept going. I was almost there.
Daniel popped into sight and smiled that gorgeous smile. We neared each other, and it was only then that I noticed the peach, chiffon-wearing princess beside him. Salmon suffocate if they stopped swimming, and, despite my being outside, I was finding it hard to breathe.
“Hey,” he breathed, smiling politely, almost as if we were acquaintances. I can’t lie, it pained me.
I flickered my eyes over to princess and then back at him before pushing out a wonky greeting of my own. “I have to go,” I added, before turning around and bolting in 4” white, open toe slingbacks.
I discovered I could run pretty fast when I had the ghost of my failed relationship chase me. Who knew?
“Hey!” I shouted to a man inside the truck, checking boxes and floral arrangements. He looked up, surprised. “Do you have a bouquet of flowers in there?” I panted.
He spread his arms out and smiled through his moustache, looking around pointedly. “Obviously, signorina.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, for the bride. There should be a bouquet with a lilac ribbon wrapped around it.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Lilac ribbon, around the stem,” I mimed with my hands what appeared to be a tornado.
He smiled and copied me. “I know…what you mean!” His hands dramatically flew up in the air. He laughed. “Un momento, signorina.”
He shuffled to the back of the truck as I stood, tapping my heels with my arms crossed over my chest. Getting more frustrated by the second. Seeing my mother and Daniel and being alone here was just all building and building, and I was trying so hard to not explode.
“A-ha!” he called out, walking forward with a bunch of purple and white roses in his hand. “Beautiful, no?”
I snatched the bouquet from his hand. “No, not beautiful. It’s all wrecked.”
He furrowed his brows. “Signorina?”
“Look, the ribbon is all crinkled and the petals are…misplaced…” I sighed, my voice becoming wobbly, the tears (thank God) having not yet emerged from the deep abyss.
“They’re just flowers, signorina.”
“No, they’re not. It’s a bouquet, for a bride, for her wedding day. Which is very, very important.”
“Si, it’s very important,” he nodded.
“It’s not like this was the third or fourth charm you know,” I rambled. “They never broke up and got back together a million times, and everything just ran smoothly, and openly, and it was all easy. All of it! I tried you know. I tried very hard…”
The man tilted his head, wide-eyed. “Signorina, you need a tissue or something?”
“No,” I mumbled, like a child. I couldn’t even cry. I think I used it all up. “Thanks for the flowers.”
He shrugged. “Nessun problema.”
“So I sort of wanted to tell you something at the wedding instead of before so you wouldn’t freak out,” Janet started.
I narrowed my eyes. “Okay…that doesn’t guarantee I won’t freak out by the way.”
“True. But at least I know you want bounce after you hear this.”
“Janet…” I whined. I do not need this right now.
“You’re walking down the aisle with Daniel.”
I laughed uncontrollably. Pretty sure Janet was confused by that reaction. “You’re legit killing me right now.”
“I know, I’m sorry, but this was before you guys broke up.”
“Why can’t Chloe walk with him? Isn’t it supposed to be best man and maid of honour together?”
“Daniel had to bow out, even though he’s still the unofficial best man. Which leaves the current best man with Chloe, and Jodie with the tallest groomsman there.”
“But Daniel? Really?”
She held my arms. “Do this for me? Please?”
“How much of a choice do I have?”
“Sort of none. But I’ll buy you a drink?” she grinned.
“It’s open bar,” I noted.
“Some ice-cream then.”
“It’s your day,” I sighed, closing my eyes, realising how selfish it was for me to not do as she asks and instead kick up a stink. Like, really Anna? Really? “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Of course I will.”
“Thank you,” she smiled, relieved.
I smiled back. “Absolutely.”
Luckily, the walk was going to be short; unluckily, Daniel and I were the last ones before Janet did her two-step. A shiver ran throughout my body when I hooked my arm through Daniel’s. We kept our smiles up and wide as we started to walk. We almost made it to the altar when, ever so slightly and subtly, he stroked the back of my hand with his middle finger, back and forth. I clenched my teeth, trying to concentrate on the aesthetic of my approach to the altar. Keep my smile up, my back straight, a grip on my bouquet…but his strokes kept distracting me. In a good way. And in a bad way. A yearning way. A feeling no one wants to feel but only in heartbreak, when it hurts a lot more but at least it was a part love that left a ghostly taint tailing before evanescing.
We parted to our points on the side and faced the entrance. Everyone stood and I cheated a glance at Daniel before Janet made her big entrance. Stanley held out his hand and guided her before him. Unveiling her and kissing her on the cheek, he whispered something in her ear, to which Janet giggled, and then they both faced the officiator.
“Dearly beloved…” he began, and the rest faded out of hearing.
Daniel and I gazed at each other as the officiator spoke, and I couldn’t help but think that this was supposed to be us.
“Anna, sweetie!” my mother calls, nothing but love on her face, it was hard to ignore.
“Hey, mom,” I stood and wrapped my arms around her. She squeezed me so tightly that I felt like my tongue was going to pop out like a cuckoo clock.
“I’ve wanted to talk to you for so long,” she said, tearing up.
Jim, my mother’s boyfriend (who, need I remind you, is my age) was trailing behind her. “Hey, Anna,” he said.
I nodded. “Hey.”
My mother looked different in her flowing, floral dress but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. “I’m sorry I never called. I should have,” I said. “I have no excuse.”
“Pfff please,” she huffed. “I love you no matter what. And I have to admit, I deserved the freeze.”
“No, you didn’t,” I shook my head, “I didn’t handle the situation better—”
“I didn’t. He was your father after all.”
I gulped at that sentiment. All the feelings of having missed my father’s passing and my mother hiding it from me came rushing back in a monsoon of memories I was trying to forget. All I could think of now was his gravesite. Oh good, how quaint…this is a non-traditional wedding after all.
Jim left us alone to talk for a good chunk of the reception and I realised I had her miss so much. Which is not cool; I totally did the same thing she did to me, the details were just different. So I filled her in. and yay, I had to fill her in on the whole Daniel situation too, leaving out the fact that we were engaged for a split second before we broke up.
“Such a shame,” she said.
I nodded. “Yup.”
“You guys were so good together.”
I nodded again, this time releasing strained air from my mouth. “Yup. So, anything new with you?”
She stared at me, apprehensive. “Well, there is something…”
Uh-oh. If she tells me she’s getting married, I’ma move to Ecuador. That’s it! “Yeah…?”
She peered down and began to rub her stomach, then back at me, with a proud smile on her face.
I lifted my brows, my breaths shortening. “What?”
She nodded happily. “You’re going to be a step-sister!”
“Oh my God,” I shook my head, burst out laughing.
My mother laughed with me. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re happy. I was so nervous to tell you.”
Jim came out of nowhere, his hands on her shoulders. “Did you tell her?”
“I told her,” she squeezed his hand.
“Aww I’m so happy for you, mom,” I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, pushing Jim’s hands off as I hugged her. “So happy.”
My blood was rushing on crack-speed, my heart pounded into my head. This was all too surreal. Jim Same-Age-As-Me was going to be my step-dad. Isn’t this wonderful? The circle of life, people!
“Thank you, honey,” she said. “Oh, aren’t you going to congratulate Jim?”
“Yup. Sure,” I held up my glass, “Cheers to impregnating my mom, dude. Can’t wait for you to be my dude-bro dad.” I slapped him on the arm before I chugged my champagne and shuffled out.
The air that night had a fine layer of humidity attached to it, but the heat of the day turned cold once the stars began to announce themselves to L.A. Almost everyone was inside, but I found a trail outside that, after a few minutes of clickety-clacking in my heels, led me to a lit, white gazebo with vines anchoring the thin pillars.
I tried shielding myself from the cool breeze by hunching over and wrapping myself in my arms as soon as I sat. It was quiet out here. I liked it. The music was blaring but it was as dim as the twinkle lights that intertwined the vines. Couple of spotlights made the gazebo stand out.
Here is where my thoughts came to say they were sorry. The day was half good, and half bad, but all in all, I survived, and that’s what’s important. Right? Right. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the fact that my mother was pregnant, it was more that I can’t believe it’s actually happening. I don’t know why I’m so shocked, well, in all honesty I do. Pessimistically, I didn’t think they would last; matter fact, I didn’t think they would get this far. Father than…well, you know…
I should be happy, you know. It’s just hard. It’s not that I’m unhappy, I just don’t know how to feel about this. And I’m not waiting for someone to tell me how to feel about this, but it is a helluva shocker, that’s for sure.
“I thought I’d find you here,” a voice sprung me out of my reverie. I recognise that voice well. Maybe this time I’ll act more rational.
Daniel made his way out of the dark light and up into the gazebo. His bow tie was untied and hanging from his neck, a couple of buttons were open exposing the top part of his chest. Damn he looks even sexier as the day merged into night. I just look beat.
He took off his jacket and flung it over me before sitting down. “Thanks,” I said, holding the blazer close.
“You’re welcome,” he smiled. I rolled my eyes at his smugness. It’s still cute. He breathed in through his nose and then out through his mouth. “Damn I miss L.A.”
“You could always move back.” I closed my eyes and bit my tongue soon after the words escaped me. Why, why, why?
He looked at me, wondering if I was serious. “Maybe. Maybe not. I have a big life in New York.”
“A whole other life,” I muttered.
“With a new girlfriend,” I added.
He moaned in disagreement, scrunching his nose. “She isn’t exactly a girlfriend. Just a date.”
“A girl you’re seeing though, right?” he remained quiet. “Could get serious.”
He shook his head after a moment. “I don’t think so.”
I nodded. “Mmkay.”
I lowered my nose onto his blazer, bringing in the scent of him. He still smelled good, fresh. Damn him.
“What about you, are you seeing anyone?” he asked.
I lifted a brow and stretched an awkward half-smile. “This is weird.”
“Yeah, I know,” he chuckled.
“We need more than one drink…each,” I joked.
“Glad to see you happy, Anna.”
“Glad to see you happy, too, Daniel.”
He looked down at the stone floor. “I hate to believe that it took us being apart to be happy.” I gulped as he looked at me in all seriousness. “I never wanted…”
I shook my head, tears welling up. “Me neither…”
“And I love you…so much.” His voice strained.
“Me too,” I whispered, hoping he used the present tense of the word by mistake.
He laughed. “You’re right, I think we did actually need a few drinks in us.”
I laughed with him, scooting closer into his body, into his warmth. “I really do hope you’re happy you know.”
“I am,” he said. “Likewise.”
“I am,” I smiled, gazing up at him, into his eyes, and the pressures of his close proximity took over and I lost it.
I pressed my lips onto his, kissing him feverishly, my hands running through his hair and his around my waist, pulling me in as close as I could get. I really, really, really miss kissing him. I really, really, really miss his touch. But before it consumed me completely, I had to part.
I pushed him off and stood. “I have to go,” I panted, avoiding his line of sight. “I have to go.”
He quickly stood. “Anna—”
“No—” a huffed a humourless chuckle littered with confusion— “I have to go.”