The Wedding of the Century
Rebecca wiped the vomit from the corner of her mouth and looked at herself once more in the bathroom mirror. Yes, she realized quickly, she would have to redo her makeup and possibly her hair. She was supposed to have gone to the beauty salon with her sister this morning, but she made an excuse promising to meet her at the church instead.
This was Rebecca’s second excuse to her sister in as many days (missing the disaster she was sure her bachelorette party of Friday night would be, disappearing quickly after the rehearsal). She was certain she would hear about it later from Karen, or worse their mother, by the end of the day. But now, looking at herself in the mirror, feeling how uncomfortable her ugly dress was (her sister claiming yellow represented spring and rebirth) she didn’t care.
No, she didn’t care about any of it.
…All Rebecca cared about was the little white stick resting on the bathroom sink next to her, and the slowly emerging blue positive sign.
Personal Writing Journal
Dear Jennifer Gane,
This is the last entry I will be making in my writing journal and it seems fit and proper that I make it to me.
For we have been through a lot over the last few months, haven’t we Jenn? And here we now stand, looking over the cliff edge at our ruin below, our destroyed dreams of what could have been. Literary greatness lost in the shambles of wasted scribbled pages.
It is over.
Our book is done, finished, and is lost. All that remains is the stink of failure that will follow it and me for years to come. No amount of my grandmother’s perfume could hide it from me, smelling now like the flowers of a funeral not of a wedding.
I have failed.
It was on Friday that my book slipped from my fingers… faltered… and died….
It is Saturday as I write, and since that morning disaster on Friday I have been up trying, trying!, to find some options to save my lost child, my unfinished novel. My book without an end or meaning.
Of course, I couldn’t help but blame myself, questioning every decision I made over the attempted (and failed) creation of it.
- Could I have gotten to know Anna sooner, spent more time with her in the beginning?
- Should I have set up some observation material for Steve’s apartment? I had always planned to do that, talking in these journal entries numerous times about possible cameras. But access to his e-mail, the occasional audio and video recordings, and conversations always felt like more than enough. How was I to know what I would miss? What I would have lost?
- Or maybe I allowed myself to get too close. I did break my own rules. I broke them numerous times. Friday’s meeting surely showed that I failed in that regards, more than enough to throw into question the entire enterprise.
Pointless. Pointless. Pointless.
Whatever the case, it is over.
The Webbing will never be complete.
And the entire time on that damned Friday morning as I witnessed my novel dissolve around me I kept remembering sections of the first chapter; like an audiobook on repeat. A torture devised in the darkest recesses of Hell would not have been more painful to an artist of my caliber.
I have failed.
Chapter 1: The Discovery
Steve was a man who lived by his truths.
That is not to say that Steve was close-minded or lived off of some aged-old faiths. No, these were things he accepted in his reality and in doing so, was able to move on; happy in the knowledge that one more piece of the universe was properly in place. Organized. Right where it should be…
I looked over the wreckage of my apartment, my home.
Every drawer was open. Every item I owned seemed to be scattered on the floor or thrown around. I had even piled object after object on my couch like a tower made by a madman (me) almost reaching six inches above my height. The couch was pushed up against a wall, a leg of it now broken (I did that with a kick at around 6 AM).
“It has to be here, someplace, it has to be.” My new mantra repeating frantically again and again in my mind. “It has to be.”
I drank from what was my third cup of strong coffee. It was not surprising that I was on my third because I had been out of bed since 4 AM. To only say my brain was filled with conflicting thoughts and ideas, was to not give the sheer desperation that I was feeling respect.
- I wanted to get in my car, drive and drive.
- I wanted to hide in my apartment and never leave.
- I wanted to die.
- I wanted to start over my life, forget all of this.
- I wanted to get drunk.
- I wanted caffeine.
The only decision I made was around the last one, the caffeine. And it was during that second drink that I knew the first thing that I had to do (after the caffeine, of course). “I have to find that letter,” I mumbled to myself.
See, if that letter Anna mentioned was ever found by me at another time, at a dark hour, who knows what it would have inspired in me. I needed to find it now, read it, and destroy it. It couldn’t add anything to what I was feeling; especially since I knew the letter didn’t include the final truth. No, I collected that golden nugget last night. Now I was just picking up the pieces, like a puzzle scattered on a floor, and that letter was the biggest remaining piece to find.
Strangely, and not to my surprise, Jenn knocked on my door at almost exactly 8 AM. I opened the door for her quickly and went back to my searching. (Could it have fallen behind the TV? Or under it?)
“What’s going on, Steve?” Jenn asked in that clipped and emotionless way of hers, she walked past Anna’s butterfly net, only giving it a sideways glance. She then looked me up and down. “What is this mess? It looks like you’ve been robbed. And why are you in your pajamas still? Don’t you need to go to work? I thought I’d give you a lift.”
“Nah,” I grunted heavily, picking up the television by myself and almost dropping it too hard by my feet (No letter). “I’m done with that. I plan to call later and give Mr. Bradbury the news. All I am deciding right now is which swear words to use. Fuck is the more powerful one, but it is so overused by people. It has less umph than it once did. Shit is… Shit is just disgusting. I can never separate it from the poo. Maybe a dirty body feature or action? Yeah, I think I might lean towards that. Unless you know some great literary swear words I can borrow. What would Shakespeare use?”
…His education was just enough and in time it would lead to the career he hoped to have. He could count on that, he was certain. There was enough proof out there that he was on the right path to making it as an architect. Didn’t all of the modern greats start off as an intern? Making coffee?
Of course, how many did it for a few years is probably the debatable part Steve didn’t want to consider…
Jenn didn’t answer my question. With only the swiftest of glances, I could see Jenn had changed herself again. Her hair was no longer white, being blonde now, but she was still wearing dresses. This new dress was brightly colored, and it immediately made me think of someone else. That realization made me first feel uncomfortable. “You’re quitting?” Jenn asked, she sounded both concerned and a little intrigued.
“Yes, I said that.” I had no patience for anyone as I scanned around me, my fingers nervously fidgeting at my sides, wondering where I should search next; what there was next to destroy, tear apart, lose.
She put her hand on my arm. “Take a breath, Steve. What are you doing?” She tried to sound calming. From her, it sounded fake.
I answered her question, but didn’t take that requested breath. “I’m looking for a letter from Anna.”
Jenn actually looked surprised by that. “A letter? She wrote you a letter?”
“That’s what she said,” I replied and turned back to the TV stand, planning to move it now, wondering if the letter might be behind it. I could safely lift that, right? In the worst, I would have to get a new one if it became broken (it had always been wobbly, being second-hand). I stopped before I attempted the move and turned back to Jenn almost too quickly thanks to the caffeine in my blood. “It doesn’t make sense. She had to have left it for me the day she moved out, so you think it would’ve been in an obvious location, but I can’t find it anywhere. Why can’t I fucking find it?”
“Anna was here?” How Jenn asked the question felt very unnatural to me. Was it… Was it really a question?
That was an odd thing to consider… Yet…
I ran with my gut and asked, “That wasn’t a question, was it? You already know she had been here, don’t you?”
…But Steve’s greatest truth, the one he held the most dear—the one that would help him fall asleep at night like a teddy bear with a child and rise in the morning to sing like a dove—revolved around the angel he called Anna.
Oh, his precious and far too-perfect Anna.
The dream girl that was pulled into his life, by a happy piece of happenstance. Definitely not the simple relationship started at a college kegger, no matter how true that piece of history was. No, a piece of destiny was there in their meeting. Yes, destiny can go to college. It was his first (and possibly only) proof of fate…
Jenn’s face was pale, so strangely pale, and she, one of the most straight forward and strongest personalities I have ever known, actually fumbled for her words. For the first time, she fumbled. “I can… smell her perfume.”
“How do you know her perfume?” I asked quickly.
The phone rang. Jenn moved to get it (being so near to it), but stopped when she saw my hand fly up. “Don’t answer that. It’ll stop ringing in time. You’ll get used to it.”
It rang for three times as we both waited patiently. We were silent, like people hiding from an unwanted salesman at the door. We didn’t have to be quiet for the caller, but we chose to be, it feeling like the right and proper thing to do. Odd…
Finally, the phone stopped. “Steve,” Jenn sighed, a new determination crossing her face. “Stop giving me the third degree, I want to help you. Are you okay? She was here, okay, so what did she say?”
I didn’t answer her question. Something was out of sorts, but I couldn’t put my finger on it… I brushed it off, but how could I not be suspicious of everyone right now after last night? I was not myself, I was definitely not myself. This is just Jenn, I thought and continued, not hiding an ounce of my growing anger at the world. “Yes, Jenn and she’s gone again. Do you want to help me find that letter now or not?”
Jenn asked the question again (Did she think I didn’t hear it the first time?). “What did she say, Steve?”
I paused, I was not surprised at her insistence around this matter. I would have had the same fucking question if it is one of my friends… but no… This is one I would never share. It was my ghost. I counted to three and stated so very slowly and patiently like a parent to a child, “Jenn, I like our friendship. You’ve been a great friend, seriously. But that’s private.”
“Come on, Steve,” Jenn almost seemed to beg. “Just tell me.”
The phone began to ring again.
…Their love story was not one for the ages.
No, it did not deserve to stand with the fated lovers of Shakespeare and the controlled passionates of Austen’s little villages. Their love, Steve would argue if provoked, was real, it breathed in our world, our reality. And the truth of that, the honest perfection of that was more than enough for Steve…
I pretended to not notice the phone ringing as I threw the collected junk of my past off of my couch (how the tower fell around me), deciding to look under the cushions one more time. Nothing, nothing, nothing! I looked to the small trash bin nearby it, wondering again if I could have thrown it away with the unopened mail that comes in each day. But that was fucking months ago! It would be long gone now.
The phone stopped ringing. Jenn did not move an inch and I could feel her eyes on me, unblinking, taking everything in. “You won’t tell me?” She asked almost quietly.
“Jenn. Fuck.” I moaned.
To my surprise, Jenn grabbed my arm and spun me around. How did she get to me so fast? The desperate look on her face astonished me. She spoke passionately. “Steve, you can’t keep this in. You’ve got to tell someone. Let me be that someone. I can keep the secret, I promise. I’ll make sure no one knows, just you and me. Why did she dump you? Was it for Darien?”
I shook my head, startled, almost not realizing what I was doing as I answered, “No, it wasn’t for him.” I pulled her hand off of my arm. “Why do you need to know?”
She asked the next questions quickly, her voice getting faster and faster, not giving up. “Was she sleeping with him behind your back? Were there others?”
“No, now let it go, Jenn. I need to find that letter.”
“Was it something you did?” Jenn demanded, not backing down. She grabbed my arm again, this time tighter. “Did she think you cheated on her?”
“Cheated? Seriously? No. I didn’t do anything. Jesus, Jenn, can’t you see I’m busy and I don’t want to talk about it.” I said almost too loudly, trying to get her hand off of me again; I was even starting to feel her nails against my skin. What is wrong with her?
“Did she just fall out of love? Was she bored? What was it?” She was looking at me more intensely than I had ever seen her before. She almost looked like a child, her eyes were so wide, so begging. “You need to tell me, Steve. Please, Steve, I beg you, please.”
I leaned over towards her and said as somberly as I could. “Jenn, I’m not going to tell anyone that, ever. If you want to stay my friend, you need to stop asking.” I was able to force her hand off of me then. I turned to the kitchen, wondering if I should try in there again. “I need to find that fucking letter.”
…Yes, this great love of his started over warm beer at a social gathering. One that neither enjoyed, drawn to each other’s quiet and shy souls like moths to a bulb, finding that one other place of light, hope, and even heat.
How Steve relished that simple meeting, playing it out again and again; even after they were living together and he was busy debating what kind of a ring would look best on her oh-so-perfect finger…
Suddenly, Jenn shouted at me at the top of her lungs, all of her emotions exposed and raw. “Steve, you need to tell me!”
I swung around on my way to the kitchen, now truly shocked. “Jenn, what is this?”
The phone began to ring again… and it did again and again as Jenn was taking fast breaths, her hands were clenched into fists at her sides, and she looked like she was stiff, like a tree or a board, all of her focus on me, her eyes melting me. “You need to, Steve… you need to…” Seeing her like that, so pale, so distressed I… I actually pitied her, worried about her.
The phone stopped ringing, and the silence of its absence actually made me feel a little calm. “Jenn,” I motioned her to the chair of my table (which was covered with the remnants of three different emptied drawers from my kitchen). “Take a seat at the table, please.”
“Steve, you don’t understand,” she gasped out.
“Do you need a glass of water?”
“I don’t need a fucking glass of water!” Jenn screamed back at me.
…Steve was not an isolated young man. No, he had his friends, they were just carefully chosen, over years of investigating and consideration. The people he felt he could trust, and the friends he selected he held close, confident; more props in his collection of truths.
Fighting for them, the perfect dog never once questioning going against its master. Yes, he held the people in his life that dear, never once doubting that they felt the same about him…
I tried a different tact. “Jenn, look, I know I opened up to you a lot about what happened with Anna over the last few months, but what she said was so, so very private… Just, as a friend, be assured that I’m okay. Well, as okay as I can expect to be (looking around the room and its mad mess). At least I am for now, as long as I find that letter…”
Suddenly, Jenn asked quickly, “Are you going to kill yourself?” Why did it feel almost like she was excited by the idea?
I was alarmed. “I… why do you think I’d do that?”
“She has left you, she’s gone.” Jenn replied matter-of-factly. “You said it, it’s over. Your great love’s no more.” Was Jenn trying to make me depressed?
I shook my head and debated whether to continue once again into the kitchen (and maybe get Jenn that glass of water that she claimed she didn’t need along the way). No, try to end this conversation. “Jenn, Anna has been gone for quite a while. It’s done, and I’m actually moving on. This is a good thing, right? I’m no longer where I once was emotionally. Yeah, I’m angry and I’m going through stuff. (Like the destruction around us, I thought.) Which is why I’ll probably be swearing at my idiot boss later killing any hope of a recommendation from him; but I’m better, just take comfort in that.”
I then paused, a new thought sneaking into my mind. “Jenn, what’s going on here?”
“I…” Jenn looked disappointed with herself as she finished her thought, fumbling once again. “I can’t say. I… I care about you.”
I walked away from the kitchen door towards her. This was new. “You care about me? What do you mean? Do you like me?”
Jenn shook her head quickly, almost too quickly, “I’m worried about you. I’m interested in you, that’s all.”
“You care? Interested?” I paused.
The phone began to ring again, and as we both quietly listened to it, a new thought I had never considered slipped its way into my mind. (It couldn’t be, could it? But what else could it be?)
When the phone stopped, I spoke again, “Of course, you do. I should’ve seen it. All the visits, all the pizza. I was so much in my own head I never put it together.” I smiled, noticing for the first time, that Jenn in the right light could look like… No, no, no… but… “You actually dressed up to see me and you dyed your hair the same color as Anna’s today. Was that to catch my attention?”
Jenn quickly glanced at her hair in the mirror by the door and then looked back at me. She was nervous. “No, I just didn’t like the white anymore, too many jokes. Even Marty was joking about it and blonde felt more like summer. It had nothing to do with Anna.”
I didn’t believe a word of her excuses, what else explained the last few months? “And the dress? You were all goth when we first met.” I moved towards her. “That is not the dress of a goth.”
Jenn took a step back but there were few places she could go, as her legs bumped against my couch. “I felt like wearing a dress, why is that a big deal? I can wear a dress.”
It was almost strange how much I was enjoying this revelation. Was I actually interested? Or was this something more animalistic for me? More primal?
Did I simply want something and Jenn could give that to me… Was this, could this become, the “r” word?
You hear about them all the time, people finding someone to physically help them get over a love. I had never had a need for a rebound relationship before. That didn’t feel like me. Of course, I was also before not the type of person to destroy his entire apartment like a rock star in a hotel room. This was all new territory and I was beginning to feel like a part of my body was giving its vote in the matter.
Could this happen?
…The end came for Steve and Anna in the Fall, the symbolism of the name of the season lost on both of their ears. It was Anna’s doing, Steve with his truths firmly in place, not seeing the changes happening around him.
How could he? He had no reason to question.
His life was where it was meant to be. Anna would be there in his mornings and his evenings, and a life was to be forged between them.
Perfection like that doesn’t come easily. Or does it? Steve couldn’t remember. It felt right, it all felt right. A bliss? An ignorance?
Whatever the case, for Anna it was not enough…
Jenn was standing near my bedroom now. She was looking angry, frustrated. She paused considering the room, something inside that darkened and messy bedroom shocked her. She turned back to me. “Her perfume is all over the bedroom! She was in the bedroom? Did the two of you sleep together?” I could tell Jenn’s mind was racing with thoughts.
Yes, this was something for her, I had no doubts now. What else could explain her interest? Her excitement? I smiled and it was an evil smile, I knew it was. “I can’t believe I never saw this before. You’re jealous! Oh, Jenn…” I shook my head. “I didn’t lead you on, did I? I didn’t know…”
“I’m not jealous,” Jenn interrupted almost angrily, but her face was blushing. “Did the two of you…” She waved to the bedroom.
“It’s over, Jenn,” I said, stepping even closer towards her, a new sense of daring crossing over me. At this point, after last night, I really didn’t care about anything anymore. Everything was possible… and this… this could make me feel human again. And right then I wanted nothing more than to feel normal and wanted.
“Why, Steve?” she whispered to me, pleading. “Why? Why can’t you just answer my questions?”
I stopped so near to her, certain I had never been that close before. I reached over to touch her hair; all the changes she makes to it giving it almost an unreal manufactured feeling to the touch. “Why the get up? Why the attention? Why the constant concern? It’s still early morning and you’re here all set for the day with plans in place. Who does that Jenn? And why?”
“I… I just wanted to know what happened.” Jenn replied, horror crossing her face. “I didn’t know she was in the bedroom…”
I laughed a little, another realization crossing my mind. “You were outside my apartment, weren’t you? You were watching. Jenn? You knew she was here, just not in there. I can’t believe how blind I’ve been. That’s why you came here first thing this morning, you couldn’t wait for the news. You’re obsessed with me. You’re stalking me! My own personal stalker. I’m becoming Vince!” Was Jenn wearing perfume as well? She had never done that before. She smelled like flowers. I didn’t mind it one bit. I liked flowers.
Jenn pushed my hand away from her hair, but I didn’t give up, moving both of my hands onto her shoulders, rubbing them down her arms, slowly. I could feel her body stiffening under my touch, taking it as a good sign. “I was going to visit last night and I saw her car and the light on in your apartment,” She answered quickly as an excuse.
“How did you know her car?” That point took me by surprise.
“I knew the both of you before she left, remember?” She whispered, almost frantically.
“Whatever,” I said and boldly and aggressively kissed her.
…When Steve dared to think back on the escape of his love on that Fall day—the day his reality crumbled—it always seemed like a movie, Opened suitcases scattering the floor, piles of clothes thrown in haphazardly one after another. Books tossed into the trunk and back seat of her car. A moment like that deserved a soundtrack.
It would be a fast-paced number, with a lot of quick visual edits, as one thing after another is taken from her life with Steve, saved for the new one she planned ahead. Soon all that would remain would be Steve and his uncertainty of what anything or what everything meant anymore.
All possibilities for one and nothing at all for the other…
The phone began to ring, interrupting.
“No!” Jenn screamed and pushed away from me. “What are you doing? You’re ruining everything, Steve!” She pushed passed me towards the couch. She was so angry, even angrier than when she shouted at me a bit ago.
“I thought this is what you wanted?” I asked confused. “All that attention you’ve been giving me…”
Jenn looked like she wanted to slap me. “How can you just move on so quickly? You aren’t acting like yourself! What did she tell you? What could she say that could change you so completely?” Jenn demanded. “You need to tell me!”
“No,” I said shaking my head. My interest in her sexually draining away. It would have been a bad idea, she… no, it was just a bad idea, I could see that now… No. “Forget it, just fucking forget it. If you want to help me, just help me find my letter or you can go. Seriously, I don’t need any more mind games. Help or go.”
The phone stopped ringing as I began to search again (tearing apart my bookshelf, scattering the books to the floor, my copy of The Awakening landing first), this time more angry (and a little frustrated and embarrassed); I could see out of the corner of my eye that Jenn was chewing on her lower lip quickly. “If you tell me,” she said ever so carefully and quietly, “I’ll give you the letter.”
It took me a few seconds to register, truly register, what she was saying as I turned to face her once again. “You know where the letter is?”
She looked so angry with herself, but continued forward. “Yes, I can’t…”
“Who has it?” I shouted, interrupting, my anger now rising higher than it had ever been that day; even higher than hers earlier.
“I…” She was stuttering.
I ran to her and grabbed her arms tightly. “Who has my letter?” I demanded, I almost wanted to shake her.
The phone began to ring, and before the first ring had ended, I had grabbed it and wrenched it out of the wall, throwing it across the room where it shattered.
Jenn looked scared. “Vince.” She replied quickly. “Vince has it.”
That surprised me. “Vince… Why would Vince take the letter? I… ” I moved away from her, sitting on the arm of my couch, my emotions falling, falling… I would never have expected this response. Not in a million years.
“He’s thinking about using it in a painting,” Anna said speedily, she was moving back to near the door. She definitely looked so very nervous. Was my erratic behavior actually scaring her? How could it not? I had gone from trying to seduce her to threatening her in only a matter of minutes. “He’s just distracted, you know how he can be all over the place. But it’s in his plans. I’ve seen sketches, your sadness in a landscape.”
“Vince…” I began to put that dreaded day together. “He was there the moment I came home and Anna was gone. I mean, I can’t imagine Anna hiding it, it had to be obvious, easy to find. Who else could have taken it?”
“And it was definitely not you or me,” Anna sounded braver.
“I just can’t believe it,” I said shaking my head. “I can’t believe it… Vince?”
…Vince was Steve’s greatest and oldest friend, and he was with him on the day when Anna made her escape. It was not planned or coordinated, but it could have been; the movie that Vince and Steve attended taking up just enough time for Anna to plan, pack, and then rush out the door, almost forgetting to lock it in her haste.
She was escaping all of it, her past life falling away from her as the possibility of a different prospect lay in front, all she would have to do is reach out.
There was only one thing that she did before leaving that gave her pause. The letter, the final letter. The goodbye letter.
Where was she to put it so he would not miss it?…
“He’s going to cut it up, and put it in a work. People would have to put the letter back together, figure it out while they are looking at it,” Jenn explained. “A word here, a word there. Some random letters. A mystery in a painting.”
Spectacle and mystery… “My letter in art? Who turns a personal thing like that into art?” I felt lost, confused. I even felt dizzy. I hadn’t eaten anything yet that morning, and all that coffee… That couldn’t be helping me right now. Vince?
“That’s Vince for you. Great art justifies everything, he claims now.” She walked towards me, one step, then another… slowly. “Steve…”
“What?” I said, so lost in my thoughts that I was almost surprised by how close she was and then there was the expression on her face. Was she trying to look seductive now? “Jenn?”
“Steve,” she almost moaned, moving up to my lips. “If I sleep with you, will you tell me?”
It almost made me want to laugh. “I think you need to leave Jenn.”
“Isn’t that what you want?” Jenn said, she moved away from me, startled. “You wanted me before?”
“You knew there was a letter!” I shouted at her, feeling my emotions jump again. “All that time, you kept that a secret from me! Who does that? All those days? All those depressed nights? And you could’ve saved me, taken an ounce of the pain away from me. Just leave Jenn. Go. Just… go.”
“Steve? That wasn’t me. I’m innocent. That was Vince.” She was almost stuttering.
“And I’ll talk to Vince when I see him on Memorial Day after my stupid brother’s wedding, but you knew Jenn.” I almost felt like crying, maybe I was; I couldn’t tell now. “You knew all of this, Jenn. You could’ve helped me. Made this easier, and you didn’t.”
“Just fucking leave!” I shouted and Jenn left quickly, the door slamming behind her. In a matter of minutes, we had gone from yelling at each other, to almost seducing each other, all at different times. I covered my face in my hands, holding back the loudest scream of my life.
…“Vince,” Steve begged, pleaded as he ran around the apartment, looking for some kind of a clue. “Where did she go? Do you know? Where did she go?”
Neither of the men happened to notice the letter falling behind the bookshelf…
I truly believe that when the world ends, it will not be with a bang or an explosion, but it will be with a sigh, as the last breath of nature is stealing away.
After seeing Steve, I tried to find Anna, but she didn’t go into work. I drove around that city trying to locate her, looking in all of the coffee shops and restaurants of where we had met before, but I couldn’t spot her car anywhere. I went back to her job and tried to bribe the people there to give me her phone number but they wouldn’t. I then considered visiting Darien’s office and following his car, but when the office finally did close, I lost him in the exiting mass, a minor character slipping away in the crowd never to be heard from again…
When I arrived home after that waste of an afternoon, I then logged into Steve’s e-mail hoping to find an old e-mail address for Anna, but no luck. He having already deleted all communication with her before I thought about it.
He had moved on. Really moved on.
What could have been said to have turned him so completely, made him move on so utterly?
But that desperate search of Friday, that was all a waste though wasn’t it, Jenn?
You don’t need me to tell you that.
After the kiss, after the attempted prostituting of myself for information, I had crossed a line. The artistically choreographed subtly I had hoped for, dreamed about, for my new literary movement was gone, lost. Completely lost.
And no amount of lies could have hidden the truth of what I had been willing to do for my story. A story I was firmly and unfortunately a major player in now.
The monster, my beautiful and immortal creation, had departed; leaving me, the creator, behind with nothing but my questions for company in the cold… taking his story, his truths, with him.
I left the reception hall after my best man’s speech, needing to take a breath. Dear God, did I need more than a breath of air!
Odd… Odd… Odd… It was such an odd moment, there was no better word for it, and it rattled its way back and forth against the walls of my brain. Odd.
After the visit and truth from Anna on Thursday and the strange conversation with Jenn on Friday (Did she really offer to sleep with me just to hear what Anna said?), that on Saturday there I would be; lying through my teeth to a crowd of onlookers (from friends to family to librarians to strippers) about the power of true love.
Let me tell you the story of the lonely librarian and the stripper with dreams…
(Of course, I didn’t say that, but it would’ve made the speech more interesting.)
I leaned against the wall of the hall, not sure whether I wanted to leave or reenter the fray. If it wasn’t for the fact that people would notice (I was the best man, after all), I would have been gone. Like a character in a cartoon with nothing but a puff of smoke showing where I once had been.
I closed my eyes, imagining the joy of escape, of solitude… Of course, at some point I would have to decide what to do next. That was the problem. It was all such a clean slate in front of me I almost felt overawed by the immensity of it… Also, I couldn’t be certain I actually had the chalk for the slate. Everything in my life was in flux and nothing was certain anymore.
“Are you okay, Steve?” It was Clark. He quietly shut the door behind him and leaned against the wall by me.
I opened my eyes and tried to smile, showing how cool everything is. “Yeah, why? I’m perfectly all right.”
Clark didn’t believe a word of it. “You were crying during your toast.”
“I was not,” I said quickly, adding a very fake laugh.
“Touch your face, Steve,” Clark said putting his hands in his pockets. He almost seemed bored.
I did and realized it was wet, almost as if I had just washed my face. “Shit.” I touched my collar; yeah, even some of my shirt was wet from it.
“Yeah, shit,” Clark said with a small smirk. “But it was a good toast. The tears helped the performance. Completely sold the love part.”
“I bet,” I agreed sarcastically, and searched in my pocket for a handkerchief. The one I found was not a clean one but it would have to do.
“No, it was,” Clark said, and patted me on the shoulder. “Lois and her friends know all about performance. I think they were impressed.”
I impressed strippers without showing a single bill. That had to mean something, right? “Good,” only a hint of sarcasm in my tone that time.
“Yeah,” Clark said, “The problem is that all of the guys are worried about drugs and drink, of course.”
“Of course,” I replied, and knew then that if I went back into the wedding hall there would be a few questions. Nothing was ever simple, no matter how much I dreamed it would be great if it was.
Clark paused, deep in thought; he then looked to the door leading back into the rented hall and then back at me. “Okay, Steve, I can give my brother five minutes even on my wedding day. But only five.” He took off his old watch and set the timer on it. “Are you ready… Go.”
I took a breath and began quickly. “Yesterday, I told my boss I quit over the phone. Actually, I told him where he can stick his job and it’s not be an easy place to stick anything. I also saw Anna on Thursday night and she told me the truth about why she left me and…”
Clark interrupted with a wave of his hand. “You saw Anna? You really saw her?” His voice uncharacteristically seemed to go up an entire octave with the question. After I nodded my head slowly, Clark turned off his watch and put it back on his wrist. “What did she say?”
I shook my head, for the second time in two days I was denying this to someone close to me. “I can’t tell you.”
“You can’t tell me?!” Clark shouted out in response, throwing my words back at me. Why did everyone react like this when I said that? First, Jenn now Clark (Hopefully, he won’t offer to sleep with me too, I jokingly thought).
To both of our surprise before I could reply, a drunk bride near another rented hall down from us shouted, “Hey, do you mind!? We’re having an important talk here!”
The drunk bride, to emphasize her point, then waved at the woman in the yellow dress next to her. That woman (who looked like a sunflower in the hideous dress) appeared very embarrassed; of course, she had every reason to be in my opinion.
“Well, we are to!” Clark shouted back.
“It’s my wedding day!” the drunk bride replied even louder. Her face was almost red, standing out so much above a white dress.
“Same here,” Clark responded, not giving an inch, and then added sarcastically: “Do you think I wear a tuxedo everywhere I go?” (Yeah, I thought to myself with a smile, Clark Kent is Superman, not the Penguin.)
“I’m a bride!” The bride then shouted in victory.
Clark and I exchanged glances. “She’s got you there,” I said with a shrug to Clark.
Clark agreed but still gave the bride the finger before whispering to me, “Just tell me, Steve, what did Anna say?”
“I really can’t,” I said, I heard my voice crack, the emotions still too near the surface. “You have to trust me. I can’t.”
Clark studied my face for a few seconds and then nodded, deciding to move on (I could not have been more grateful). “And how are you?”
“It was awful to hear, but… I’m not going to be looking for her, if that’s what you’re worried about. It’s done. I’m done with the past, I’m…” I couldn’t finish the thought, not sure what exactly to say or what I was exactly, really.
Clark continued, “And your job?”
“They were using me, Clark. Don’t ask me about that either, I can’t tell you. But they were using me, and it’s caused a mess.”
I leaned back against the wall, I almost felt like I could relax and I loosened the knot on my bow tie. Doctor Who always claims they’re cool, for me they are just uncomfortable. “I have a choice in front of me right now Clark. I can see it. Either I fall into a rut, or I can find what I really want to do with my life, make a fresh start. I’m like a diver standing on the side of the cliff. Either I enter the water with a perfect splash or I break my neck. Whatever the case, I need to make the jump now.”
“You make it sound like a life-and-death situation,” he awkwardly smiled.
“In a way,” I replied honestly.
Clark looked angry. “I was joking.”
“Clark, I’ve been dead for six months. How else do you describe my life since Anna left?”
“Well, from what Lois tells me, you lost quite a bit of money at her club, so you couldn’t have been that dead.”
I laughed, it actually felt so very good to laugh. “I went to talk to Lois twice since the time I met her. Twice!”
Clark chuckled. “Four times. She told me four times. And, genius, if you really only wanted to talk to her you could have called her!”
“I didn’t have her number.”
“I would’ve given it to you.”
“Oh…” I paused and then laughed louder. “Yeah, you’re right! And she never gave me a dance, I want you to know that.”
“I know, I know,” Clark said, he patted me on the back.
It felt so good to laugh, was that the first time I had really laughed since… I couldn’t even remember the last time. Maybe at Vince’s apartment? But that felt like ages ago. Almost a different lifetime ago, I thought.
I hit his arm playfully. “And you can’t tell anyone that. I didn’t tell anyone about those visits. I like Lois and she’s a good listener. Of course, I had to pay twenty each time I started talking. You need to get her out of there, for at least the sake of my pocket-book. I’m unemployed now.”
“Don’t worry, she’s quitting too, a family of quitters, it seems,” Clark said, and smiled again. “She’ll fit right in. And, Steve, please, if you need anything, you just have to ask.”
“Seriously?” I inquired, and leaned forward, feeling better, more confident.
“Yes,” he replied, a touch of nervousness in his voice. “What are you thinking?”
“Which of Lois’ bridesmaids is the easiest?” I asked in a whisper. Rebound…
I began to laugh again, but Clark didn’t as he replied very seriously and quickly, “Without your job, you couldn’t afford them.”
I laughed harder at that but Clark still didn’t. His silence startled me. “Oh, that wasn’t a joke?”
“No, they’re too expensive for you, Steve,” Clark said, patting my back, “Also, some are into bondage stuff. You don’t need that. Trust me.”
I shook my head, trying to understand what he was saying. “Trust you? Are you telling me you have done…”
“Let’s go back to the party, I need to get back,” Clark interrupted, guiding me back to the doors, “I can at least give you some drinks. Open bar and all.”
“What world are you marrying into, Clark?” I asked almost innocently as the hall door shut behind us.
“Lies, lies, lies,” Rebecca repeated to herself, as she leaned against the wall of the hallway outside the wedding reception hall. She needed a breath and some privacy, just having given the maid of honor speech; and, as she reminded herself again and again since escaping the hall, “it was all lies.” She was beginning to wonder if she had any truth left in her… Oh, wait, there was one, she bitterly reminded herself: Bob knew the truth now.
To have talked about destiny and love after everything with Bob right there in the hall, looking up at her.
She couldn’t even look him straight in the eyes back, as she spoke. Yet, she knew he was staring at her the entire time, she could feel the gaze with every fiber of her being, reaching into what she had left of a soul. She just didn’t have the strength to look back.
Bob and Rebecca had not spoken since Thursday (he having disappeared since the session), and since she was sitting with the wedding party and him stuck on a side table, it was easy for her to avoid him. Avoid. That’s all she seemed to do, avoid problems. It had been her answer for months.
What am I going to do? She wondered, knowing that when she entered the hall again, now that the toasts were done and the dancing was set to begin, she would have absolutely no choice but to speak to him. Did she invite him home? Does she even dance with him… Oh, that last one she had no choice over. She would have to dance with him, probably more than once. The thought made her as uncomfortable as a thirteen-year old at their first junior high dance. It would take more guts than she felt she had ever had.
Rebecca looked down at her right hand, surprised that she still had a half-full glass of champagne there. She never even drank a sip of it from the toast.
She immediately downed it like a shot… and then remembering the test of that morning, spit it up and onto the carpet, gagging. She couldn’t drink now! What was she thinking? As much as Bob had to be dealt with, he was no longer the biggest problem to figure out. No, the biggest problem was ironically, scale-wise, the littlest and newest one.
“Becky!” Her sister suddenly shouted, entering the hallway. slamming the door behind her with a loud “whomp” noise. “What was that!?”
This was the last thing Rebecca wanted. No, not Karen, not now. She immediately began to turn the conversation around towards her sister, get her away. “Shouldn’t you be back in there. It’s your wedding. They will all…”
Oh, don’t worry about that,” Karen interrupted with an overly exaggerated wave of her arm, “they all know I’m here to check on you. I told everyone I was going to check on you.”
“When you say, everyone…”
“I used the microphone, yes,” Karen explained quickly with a little hiccup. “You were crying so much. What was up with that?”
“I was crying?” Rebecca asked and then touched her cheek. “Wow,” she quietly exclaimed to herself. How did she not feel the tears?
“It was a great speech though. You must really love us to cry like that.” She then paused and then demanded, “And why did you skip out on me last night?”
“I didn’t think you would want me around for the party.” Rebecca shrugged her shoulders, feeling that the excuse was a good one. “After the argument at the church.” Rebecca really wanted a drink, would have killed for one, but they were no longer possible… For what? Eight months now?
Karen interrupted with another hiccup that almost sounded like a burp this time. (She had been drinking a lot, Rebecca reminded herself; remembering her excitement at finding the mini bar in the limousine.) “You’re right. You’re definitely right. I despised you, still do a little. You’re a naughty soul. But you still should’ve been there!” She leaned towards her sister, a wicked gleam in her eye. “Oh, Becky. There were so many different kinds of penises.”
Maybe it was good she didn’t have a drink, Rebecca decided, knowing she would have spat all of it out at that moment. “Karen, what?”
Karen was continuing, not noticing Rebecca’s reaction of horror. “Big ones, bigger ones, circumcised, uncircumcised, different colors.” She leaned forward with a childish giggle. “I even got to touch a few. They put me in this chair on the stage and they all danced around.” Karen did a little (and very ungraceful) swivel with her hips. “It was so great.” Karen paused and then ran her hands through her hair, the sweat on her hands didn’t help her look and her hair was almost sticking straight up from the gesture. “What’s going on, sis?”
No, no, don’t do it… This was a bad idea, every ounce of her was shouting, screaming that it was a bad idea, but Rebecca couldn’t help herself; she really couldn’t, as she said, “It’s big.”
Karen looked confused. “Big? Are you talking about penises too?”
“No, this has nothing to do with penises,” Rebecca said annoyed and then sighed, “Okay, in a way it does, but Karen…”
“Just a second,” Karen interrupted suddenly holding her finger to her sister’s lips for silence. She swung her body around and shouted at two men talking on the other end of the hallway near another rented hall (one of them just loudly exclaiming something). “Hey, do you mind!? We’re having an important talk here!”
Rebecca looked on in embarrassment as her sister got into a shouting match with the people down the hall. As they argued she took this moment to consider what she was about to tell Karen. Did she really want Karen’s opinion? Right now? She had to tell someone, and it couldn’t be Bob, and definitely not Vince. She felt like a person standing on a precipice, a cliff side, and only the slightest breeze would lift her away. She needed something or someone to keep her frame firm and in place.
Stop! She froze, realizing only then for the first time that she would have to tell Vince. She would, wouldn’t she? Vince would have to know… and Bob would have to… and what about her job… and the child… Rebecca felt like she was going to vomit now, but for different reasons than the morning sickness that has been plaguing her for the last few days.
Karen punched her sister in the arm, getting her attention away from her thoughts and back to her. “Okay, you can spill it now. I handled it.”
Karen pointed down the hallway at the two men now talking quieter. “Those douche bags. He gave me the finger, but I don’t care. This is my day. Now what’s your news?”
“Karen, you know how Bob and I can’t have kids,” she began courageously or stupidly.
Karen replied quickly. “You can’t have any of my eggs.”
“I don’t want any of your eggs!” Rebecca took a breath and tried again. “It wasn’t because of me that we couldn’t have children. Bob has a low sperm count. You know this, I told you all of this a few years ago when we were trying.”
“So that is it then.” Now Karen was looking angry, she crossed her arms. Rebecca had no idea what was going on, but felt the threat of the move all around her. “You waited just until Ken and I were married, you couldn’t even wait a day before asking.”
Rebecca was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“You want my husband’s love juice,” Karen said waving her finger angrily at Rebecca.
“Love juice?” Rebecca looked sick. Love juice? Did she just call sperm love juice? “No, I don’t want Ken’s sperm. And who calls it love juice? Karen, that’s sick.”
“You don’t call it that?” Karen asked surprised. “I thought everyone did. I used that term last night at the club, and everyone was laughing.”
“Yeah, I’m sure they were.” Rebecca muttered.
Karen now looked confused. “So if you don’t want Ken’s little troopers, why are you bringing this up?”
“I… I…” Rebecca paused, finally changing her mind, sanity of the moment taking over… No, this was definitely not the right time, and not the right person. Rebecca had too much to consider, to plan. She sighed and looked at her sister, trying her best to fix the situation. “You’re happy today?”
Karen drunkenly smiled, forgetting everything just discussed. “Yeah, I am.”
“And you and Ken are going to be okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Becky,” Karen said with almost a playful moan. “I’m going to be fine. I love him. Oh, I complain and I did touch a few wiffle ball bats…”
“Wiffle ball bats? Karen, who are you hanging out with that talks like this?” Rebecca interjected.
“… last night,” Karen continued, not losing her train of thought. “But Ken… that idiot is my soulmate.”
Rebecca paused, the term sounding so juvenile to her ears. Soulmates? Was such a thing even possible in a world devoid of fairy dust and unicorns? “You’re sure, Karen?”
Rebecca smiled for her sister and took her hand tightly in hers. “Then let’s get back in and see him.”
Rebecca opened the door to the hall, the noise of the crowd inside almost surprising her. “I thought his choir sounded good.”
“They were a little sharp,” Karen said as the door shut behind them. “The bastards,” she whispered, “I plan to edit them out of the video later, but don’t tell Ken.”
If you liked reading the chapter (the earlier chapters can be found on the Permanent Spring Showers page), why not check out some of my published books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!