“Damnit, I wanted to marry Brendan!” My best friend Chloe announced to the tense room. We were all gathered and waiting for the signal to begin the procession into Brendan Sheddam’s wedding. He was marrying our childhood friend, Olivia Pagliacci, and we were her bridesmaids. There was a split second of stunned silence and confusion before the wave of laughter started with Olivia all the way through to Chloe’s girlfriend, Amy. Good old Chloe, always knowing how to cut the tension when necessary.
Next it was Brendan’s mom turn to help. She said to Olivia, “Don’t worry about the rain, honey. Rain is not a bad sign. It rained on my wed–”
Luckily, she was interrupted just as she remembered that she and Brendan’s father had divorced after their rainy wedding. Olivia’s dad was knocking at the door to tell us that the rain had let up, and they were ready to begin. I threw back my hair heavy with hairspray and held my head up high. It was time to do this.
I lead the bridal party slowly down the glistening rocky steps. I slowly placed one gold flat in front of the other, trying to remember to hold my bouquet high for the pictures. I didn’t care how stocky I looked in my dress, I was glad I’d decided against high heels. I could not embarrass myself in front of this crowd by taking a flip and causing a scene at this wedding. No way.
Once I reached the flat path, I passed by the other four groomsmen and Brendan, all smiling at me. At the front of their line was my partner, Brian, with the long hair. He stuck out his left arm, and I linked onto him confidently, to mask the nervousness I felt. The guests had started to notice us now, twisting back in their seats to see, and I felt the unyielding burn of scrutiny. I didn’t dare to look anywhere other than forward until we reached our destination. We walked up the two gazebo steps together and parted ways to stand across from each other. A few seconds later, Chloe was standing by my side and then shortly thereafter Amy stood next to her.
From beneath my shelter, I peeked out into the crowd. I spotted my boyfriend Anthony first. He was sitting at the end of a row faithfully taking pictures, as instructed. A few seats down from him was my exboyfriend Paul. I tried to appreciate the irony. Of course they were seated in the same row. I couldn’t help but notice then that Paul’s new girlfriend Rosy had her smoky professionally done eyes fixed right on me. If looks could kill, I would not have made it to the rest of the wedding. I smiled wider now, remembering that my face in this moment would be forever frozen in a wedding album somewhere. She didn’t scare me.
Olivia was last to join us, accompanied by her mom and dad. She looked absolutely radiant. Nobody has ever been more excited to be getting married than Brendan was that afternoon. Olivia matched his enthusiasm as they linked hands and stood before the officiant. Both their eyes were alight with happy tears, as they ignored the light rain around us and pledged to love each other for the rest of their lives. It was beautiful.
The reception was set to begin immediately after the ceremony. Since they only wanted the maids of honour and best men in their receiving line, Chloe, Amy, the other groomsmen and I had first glance at the hall. To my horror, I realized that Paul and Rosy would be sitting at the table directly behind ours. Of course they would be. I would just have to sit and mingle and be civil. I could do that for Olivia. I had to. I just needed some alcohol to help me through it. Luckily, we also got first dibs at the bar too.
I was about three drinks in before we went outside to take bridal party pictures. When we got back I drank two more. I needed today to go well. I needed to interact with Paul, in order to make everything better. Chloe wanted to too. She wanted to do a shot with him. Her situation was different from mine. All she ever did to Paul to be exhiled from his life was be best friends with me. No, it wasn’t about Chloe. I was the villain here, and I had to make it better.
As the party started, I couldn’t stop thinking about Paul and Rosy and how badly I wanted them to like me. I hadn’t done anything directly bad to Paul and especially not to Rosy, but it was adamantly clear they hated me. Granted, I’d broken up with Paul, moved out of his house, and turned his life upside-down. I completely broke his heart, but I wished I never did. Because he was my best friend. And I miss the friendship I had with him so much. I glumly glanced over my shoulder at them as they laughed at something someone at their table had said. I took another sip of my drink. I was glad he was happy, it was nice to see him smiling.
I accidentally made eye contact with Rosy and whipped my head back to my own table. I had tried smiling politely at her as they’d entered the hall, but she had purposely looked away. Fine. But to be fair, Paul had forgiven me for the break up! He said he understood why our relationship ended. We’d stayed friends for a year after we broke up, until he started dating Rosy. And I get that maybe that weirded Rosy out. I wouldn’t want to be friends with my boyfriend’s ex either. All of that was valid. But the ostracization that occurred so suddenly, and not just to me, but to Chloe and Amy too just didn’t make sense. Why couldn’t we just be civil?! Just fake smile at each other and talk shit afterwards like normal people would?! If anything, Paul and Rosy should have been praising me, for eliminating myself from the equation and allowing them to find each other! I was tired of being the evil person that can’t be spoken to, or about. I’m not a bad person.
“I’m not a bad person,” I accidentally mumbled under my breath as I finished my drink.
“What was that, Lex?” Anthony asked from beside me. I shook my head back to reality. I needed another drink. Or maybe I needed to slow down because my head was spinning to places I didn’t want it to go right now. I was on obsessive mode. Why did they hate me? What did I do? I poured myself another glass of wine to drown out the thoughts.
Between the next course, Chloe suddenly nudged at my arm. She pointed out that Paul was alone at the bar and Rosy had gone to the bathroom. This was our chance to swarm! I knew she wanted to talk to him as much as I did. So we got up and marched to the bar, well equipped with liquid courage.
“Paulyyy! I miss you!” Chloe told him earnestly. She grabbed his cheeks between his right hand, shook his head with old familiarity and declared, “I miss this face!”
“I miss your face too!” Paul replied, and I knew instantly he was being honest. It was stupid that he’d cut out Chloe because she was my best friend. It wasn’t her. It was all my fault. Maybe I could fix it.
“Hi Paul!” I greeted him brightly. I suddenly remembered I had a very important question to ask him. “How’s Zart?”
“Zart’s good. He got really fat.” Paul smiled. Oh good. He hadn’t given Zart away. Zart’s absence on Paul’s Instagram had me a bit alarmed. My heart ached for my old menace of a cat. Paul continued, “He’s afraid of my dog.”
“You got a dog?” I feigned surprise. Of course, I was well aware that he’d adopted a rescue husky from a reserve up north. Her name was Moska, and she was a bit thin for her stature but seemed to be gaining weight at Paul’s. She had one light and one dark eye, like Paul’s ex-ex-girlfriend Maureen. I wondered if Rosy knew about Maureen. Probably. The internet is a scary place.
“Yeah, a husky.” Paul confirmed my research. He’d always wanted a husky. “Zart just hides upstairs all day.”
“I find that so hard to believe!” I laughed, remembering how vengeful Zart could be if you even looked at him the wrong way. “I wouldn’t expect him to be afraid of anyone.”
“Me neither,” Paul agreed. “I was shocked at how he reacted. It’s been months now.”
“We got a cat,” I started to tell Paul before I realized Paul probably wasn’t as updated on my life as I was on his. Or maybe he was. I purposely left all my social media public. Regardless, I turned around to find Anthony who was chatting with Brendan in the line-up for the bar and pulled him over to meet Paul. This didn’t have to be awkward. It wouldn’t be. “This is my boyfriend Anthony.”
Anthony and Paul shook hands and I beamed with pride. I sure knew how to pick them. They were both calm, kind and level-headed guys who didn’t have to make this weird. We could all be civil and get along, I was sure of it. I actually think Paul and Anthony would really like each other because despite being quite different personality wise, both of them are easy to like.
“Anyway, so Ant and I adopted this little tiny kitten,” I repeated. I longed to show him pictures of our cat Red on my phone, but I’d left it at the table. “And Ant’s biggest fear is that he will grow up to be like Zart. He’s heard all the stories.”
“Zart’s not a bad cat!” Paul instantly defended him.
I smiled widely. I was just teasing him. No matter how many bites and scratches Zart had given us, Paul and I would always defend that evil cat ferociously. Because he was actually a really great cat. I agreed, “I know! If Red turns out anything like Zart, we’ll be lucky!”
Chloe made it to the front of the bar then, and waved me over to her to organize who wanted what shot. I started to call out options and count heads. The second time I turned around Rosy was standing right behind me. The colour drained from my face. Oh shit. Had she seen me having a pleasant conversation with Paul? Was she ready to do what her eyes couldn’t?
“Do you want to do a shot?” I offered, flashing her my friendliest smile.
“Sure,” she shrugged, accepting my olive branch. Oh thank God. She was cool. I was shocked. It was like she was a normal person, who did not hate me. Maybe it had all been in my head, after all. Maybe they were over it. She agreed to do a shot with me! Hallelujah, we could all get along harmoniously! Nobody hated anybody. The big group of us cheersed for Olivia and Brendan and downed our booze in synchrony. It was beautiful.
From that point forward, the rest of the wedding went well. We ate delicious food, drank lots of drinks, danced to some of our favourite songs. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer obsessed with whatever Paul and Rosy were doing, or what they thought of me. The most important part was clear; they did not hate me. They were willing to do a shot with me. We were all friends through association. Sure, we still wouldn’t be invited to hot tub parties in Paul’s backyard anytime soon, but I could totally understand that. The important thing was that they weren’t spitting at the mention of my name anymore. They recognized that I wasn’t a villain here. That meant the world to me.
But then it happened. It was near the end of the night, and I was doing what must have been my 8th shot with Brendan at the bar. Paul and Rosy walked over to us and tapped him on the shoulder. Even over the loud music, I was close enough to hear that they were heading home for the night. It made sense, they had a long drive. I nervously patted down my hair and rehearsed the words I would use to say goodbye and that it was nice seeing them again. It was really nice. I felt great about it.
I opened my mouth to speak as they hugged Brendan goodbye, but to my shock and horror, they just turned around and left! What?! Maybe it was a mistake? Maybe they hadn’t seen me? But how couldn’t they? I was standing right there. They weren’t going to say goodbye to me?! With one minute left at this wedding, in my presence, they were choosing to ignore my existence?
My anxiety went into overdrive as I watched them walk across the dance floor right by Chloe and Amy. At least they’d say goodbye to them, right? No. They walked right by them too, completely ignoring them, regardless of the fact that this could very well be the last time they ever see each other! No, no, no, no, no! Didn’t they want to say goodbye?! How could they not?! My heart pounded viciously in my throat as they made it to their table to collect their things. NO! They couldn’t be leaving like this! I’d fixed it!
I ran over to Chloe and Amy who were still on the dance floor. I asked Chloe if Paul had said goodbye to them and maybe I’d missed it, but she confirmed they hadn’t. I watched them put on their coats, and I asked Chloe if she wanted to go say goodbye with me. She just shook her head. “They walked right by us and didn’t say anything. If that’s how they want to be, then fuck them. Who cares. It’s over.”
My eyes widened! No! I’d fixed it! We’d done a shot, I’d fixed it! It wasn’t supposed to be like this! I dragged my feet back over to our table where Ant was happily enjoying his second helping of cake. They had completely left the hall now. Ant smiled at me sweetly, “hey kid, what’s up?”
I couldn’t speak. Ant was so nice. Ant didn’t hate me. Why did they hate me? Everything felt like it was falling apart. My world started to spiral. I had fixed it, but somehow it had broken again. I tried to think rationally, but the vodka played devil’s advocate so well.
If I had not been next to Brendan in that exact moment, and they had left, I obviously wouldn’t be offended. I would never expect them to seek me out particularly to say goodbye. So why did it matter?
Because I had been there. I had been standing right fucking there and Chloe and Amy had been right in front of them on the dance floor and they didn’t say bye to any of us! Because they hated me. I was still the villain. But I’d fixed it! I’d tried so hard to fix it! But maybe, I realized slowly, some things can’t ever be fixed.
That’s when I started irrationally drunk crying at my friend’s wedding.