“Are you on the prowl tonight?” Asked the beautiful, blond, mother of two boys assigned to do my makeup. She was rubbing cream on my face.

“Yes,” I began to reply automatically. It was a bad habit, my intensive need to always be agreeable often trumps my listening skills. I corrected myself immediately when I realized what she’d asked. “I mean, no.”

“Are you sure?” She teased. “You started to say yes!”

“No, no, I have a boyfriend,” I said trying to play it cool. I fucking hated small talk. In the chair in front of me I watched my best friend Chloe being subjected to a similar type of torture. I gave her a fake pained expression as our makeup artists mixed our colours with their backs to us.

“Okay, honey,” mine said, attacking my large cheeks with an even larger brush.

And then there was that awkward silence.

I actually preferred awkward silence to small talk, but I was overly aware that other people didn’t. It was my cue. I had to make conversation. I had to attempt to sound interesting. “But my exboyfriend is going to be at the wedding.”

“Your exboyfriend?!” She repeated, her blue eyes lighting up under her thick black mascara. I instantly regretted saying it. I don’t even know where it came from.  “You shouldn’t have told me that. Now I’m on a mission. Now I have to make you look unbelievably hot.”

I liked the sound of that. I always wondered what it would feel like to look unbelievably hot. I was instantly compelled to egg her on. “With his new girlfriend. Who hates me.”

“Alright. That’s it. We’re doing lashes.” She announced suddenly raising her voice, to my horror. She turned to Chloe’s makeup artist and announced, “Shannon, her exboyfriend is going to be at the wedding. What kind of lashes should I do? A full or half set?”

“Your exboyfriend?” Shannon asked turning to look at me. “You shouldn’t have told her that! Now she’s going to go all out.”

“With his new girlfriend,” my makeup artist added the fuel to the fire. She wondered, “how’d he even get invited to this wedding?”

“We all went to highschool together,” I replied quickly. I really wished she’d keep her voice down.

Olivia, the bride, hadn’t even told me that he was invited to the wedding herself. I had heard it through Chloe. Olivia had decided to stay friends with him after our breakup, but almost never mentioned it to me. It made me feel unimportant. Like maybe my feelings about it were invalid because I was the one who broke his heart.

In the past week leading up to the wedding, I was having all sorts of terrible anxiety about it. I could feel myself walking down the aisle, his new girlfriend scrutinizing my every flaw. As if I didn’t do enough of that myself. I didn’t want to go through that. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough. I didn’t want to see them. Especially not with my new boyfriend. But I knew I couldn’t say anything about it.

The truth was, even if Olivia had told me, I would have faked a smile and said it was fine. It was fine. Then, at least, I would have felt I had a little dignity. A little control over the situation. But it wasn’t about me.

“How long were you together?” She asked as she started showing Shannon lashes, and asking which would look best on me. They decided on the full set, for a dramatic smoky eye. They fit my eyes better. Shannon commented, “you’re lucky you have such a pretty face” before going back to work on Chloe’s makeup.

“Two years,” I said although I wasn’t entirely certain that was true. Truth was, he had started counting before I had, and I had never really been sure of when our anniversary even was. I think it was in November 2012. We broke up in February 2015, that much I know. It was right after the car crash. I had to leave.

“We even–” I started talking absentmindedly. I stopped myself suddenly. I didn’t know this lady, why did I feel the need to tell her my life story? I secretly eavesdropped on Shannon telling Chloe a story about her ex showing up at a Superbowl Party that she attended last year with her new boyfriend. Her ex’s new girlfriend had totally freaked out. So much drama.

“You even what?” My make-up artist asked, as she applied a clear substance to the rim of the fake eyelashes. I’d never had fake eyelashes put on before, and somehow, I had failed to realize that it was done with actual glue. Glue near my eyes! The gloopiness made my stomach churn. She pressed it to my eyelid and I decided to talk to distract myself from the uneasiness I was feeling about gluing something onto my eye. “We even lived together.”

That was much simpler than the long tale I had almost started to tell. I had almost mentioned that he was going to ask me to prom back in grade 12, but he had chickened out. That I would have said yes, but only as friends, because he was moving to a college 9 hours away in September. I was also crushing hard on someone else at the time. I ended up going stag and felt like such a loser.

It seemed irrelevant to explain that after high school, we’d lost touch for a few years, until I randomly decided to message him on facebook. That he’d  moved to Manitoba for a few months before moving back to Bridgewood, back to his parents’ place.

I didn’t think it was appropriate to tell her that it seemed like great timing, when we came back into contact. That I’d caught him in a really dark period in his life. He had just been (mis)diagnosed bipolar and was robbed of his dream of becoming a pilot. He was on antipsychotic meds, sleeping pills, and he was cutting himself. I was able to help him through that, while battling my own, insignificant by comparison, family and boy drama.

I didn’t want to bring up how, when someone else broke my heart, he’d been there for me to pick up the pieces, but eventually wanted me to date him, long before I was ready to get into a new relationship. But I’d tried for him, because we had such a strong friendship. In retrospect, it was probably one of the worst decisions I ever made because it resulted in losing one of my best friends.

I didn’t want to go into the fact that moving in together was probably super irresponsible, but at the time I needed him, and he needed me. And for a while, it actually seemed to work.

“So why did you guys break up?” She asked before instructing me to open my eyes. I tried and I couldn’t open them fully. They were kind of stuck to my water line. I began to panic. My stomach felt queasy. What on earth was this lady doing to my eyes?! She began to repeat the process on the second eye. Shortly thereafter the stinging began. I wondered if I’d go blind.

“It was a lifestyle thing,” I heard myself respond. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. It was getting weird. It almost felt as if I was no longer in charge of what I was saying. I’d never described the breakup as a “lifestyle thing” before. But it was partly true. “He lived in Tolbon, and I worked in Leafton and I couldn’t stand the commute. It was like 3 hours in the winter, and he didn’t want to move to the city.”

I wasn’t lying. Just carefully omitting the other stuff. Like the fact that I would pull into the driveway and cry because I felt so trapped. That I knew in my core, he was ready to settle down and commit to a life of marriage in suburbia, but I still needed time to experiment and find myself. I also didn’t mention the fact that I irresponsibly started talking to my crush again from 12th grade, who just so happened to be the same guy that broke my heart before I got together with the ex in question. But I needed closure with that guy first. All in all, I had to leave. It wasn’t fair to him.

“So what happens if you see him at the wedding, and you realize you still have feelings for him?” She asked before instructing me to pry open my eyes again. Between the black curtains of lash, I could see the sticky white glue. It was making me sick. What if my eyes were going to stick together throughout the whole wedding? What if my eyelashes fell off? How stupid would I look then? I started to feel dizzy.

“Well, that’s not going to happen for sure,” I explained confidently. “I broke up with him. We were always better as friends. I wanted to stay friends, bu–”

“You couldn’t stay friends.” She told me matter-of-factly. It felt like a slap in the face. “You know that. Everyone knows that. Exes can’t be friends.”

“But we were friends.” I argued indignantly. I could feel a protruding pain in my lower back now. “We were friends for an entire year after the break up. We’d all hang out and stuff, and it was totally fine. Until he started dating this new girl, that made him cut me out of his life. She even made him cut out Chloe and her girlfriend only because they’re my best friends. Only Olivia was able to keep in touch with him. It was awful.”

“Well, I can kind of see where she’s coming from,” the makeup artist said. The worst part was, so could I. “She’s insecure. But we’ll make you look great.”

“Mmhmm,” I murmured, beginning to feel nauseous. The pain in my back increased. Maybe it was from the backless stool I was sitting on. She was up close, doing my eyeliner now. I could smell the cherry candy she was sucking on, probably to mask the cigarette undertones in her breath. I started to feel waves of heat ripple throughout my whole body. I wondered if I was going to throw up. I couldn’t. I had to be cool. I had to let her finish. But there was still so much to go. She was only working on my eyes. They were watering and burning. The rest of my face was bare. My neck felt stiff. I started to worry I might pass out. There was no way I’d be able to hold myself up on this stool much longer.

“Umm, would it be okay, if I just went to the bathroom for a minute?”

“You want to look at your makeup?” She asked.

“No!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t care less about my makeup right now. “I’m just not feeling well.”

“Do you need to poo?” She asked. My stomach flip flopped.

“Maybe,” I shrugged. I hoped it would be that easy. But I was starting to feel my heart speed up. It was like I couldn’t breathe. Was it a panic attack?

I got up and quickly rushed to the bathroom, all eyes on me; Chloe, Olivia, her mom and sisters. That was the last thing I wanted. I didn’t want to cause a scene at the wedding. But I had to get away.

2017

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