“Who the fuck invited him?” Matt, the bridegroom, asked, loosening his necktie, and then clenching both fists. Alan could tell — he was far from welcome.
Alan stood in the doorway with his hands shoved in his pockets. He hadn’t shaved in days, but gel styled his thick black hair in place. Janice, Matt’s sister, put her body directly in front of Matt and pressed her palm against Matt’s chest. “Don’t be rude,” she whispered.
Alan held his hands in front of his body. “Look, if I’m not welcome here, I’ll leave.” Alan still hasn’t gotten over Beth (his high school sweetheart). Alan couldn’t’t let Beth get married without telling her how much he needed her; how much he wanted her; how much he’d stop at nothing to get her back.
“You’re her ex-boyfriend!” Matt said. “What makes you think—”
“Stop,” Janice said, moving across the room. “Any friend of Beth’s is a friend of ours. She’d love to have you see her get married.”
Matt pulled his shoulders back, straightening his spine, then stroked his chin—his narrow eyes turned to crinkled slits. Alan could feel Matt’s eyes burn his skin with stares.
Alan dug in his jean pocket. “I just wanted to give her this”—he held up a wrapped gift—“and I’ll be on my way.”
“Not staying for the wedding?” Janice said.
“I got somewhere to be,” Alan said, pointing to the door behind him. Alan had no where to be besides right here–right now.
“It’s odd to see her ex-boyfriend at her wedding. Don’t you think?” Matt said.
“I’m a childhood friend” Alan reminded. “I’ve known Beth since elementary school. I used to put gum in her hair.”
Janice covered a giggle. It was as if Janice understood why Alan was there. It’s as if Janice admired Alan’s love for his friend. Alana didn’t have to say it for her to know why he was really there.
Matt sucked in a deep breath and blew out a sharp sigh and held his wrist to his eyes. “We get married in two hours.” Alan’s eyes darted, noticing the wedding band and a cake and a preacher, holding a Bible.
“Alan, Beth is in the barn—converted into a wedding hall—finishing putting on her dress,” Janice said.
“I won’t take long. Thank you, and congratulations, Matt.” Alan reached to shake his hand, but Matt stood stoic, giving him an I got the girl smile.
“Come with me,” Janice said. “I’ll show you to the barn.”
Alan chomps the inside of his cheek and his heart thumps his chest. The sliding glass door slides open and closes easier than Alan’s, and the creek in the distance rushes over dense rocks. The acres of green grass fade into the forest. What the fuck am I doing here, Alan thought. Janice hugged Alan’s straightened arm. Her ankles wobbled in heels as she scurried across the way to the barn, the walk lengthy.
“Still love her, don’t you?” Janice asked.
Ben turned to her gaze. “Where’s this coming from?” Of course, I still love her, Alan thought.
“What are you really doing here?” Janice asked.
“Why the hostile attitude?”
“Matt doesn’t know you like I do.”
“I just wanna give her a wedding gift,” Alan said. “Is that so bad?”
Janice placed her body in front of him, placing her palm on his chest. “If you love her, now’s the time.”
“What about Matt?” Ben raised a sly brow.
“Come on, Alan. You still love her. I can see it in your eyes.”
A single tear spreads Alan’s cheek. His heart, his being, his soul wouldn’t let go of her memory, and he had to have her future.
“Matt doesn’t love her. He wants a trophy wife. But you…you love her.”
“What do we tell Matt?”
“Matt’s been cheating on Beth.”
“And she knows?”
“She loved you. I am sure of it.”
Matt leaned against the wall, drinking wine from the bottle. He sees Janice and Ben’s lips moving, but can hear no words.
“I got it from here,” Alan said, glancing over his shoulder.
“Now’s the time,” Janice said as she took off her heels to jog back to the house.
“Thanks, Janice.” Ben cleared his throat and straightened his collar.
“Come in,” Beth said of the knocking.
“Matt, how does this… Alan.” Beth dropped her hairbrush. “Are you tryin’ to get yourself killed?”
“What do you want, Alan?”
“Fine, I wasn’t the best boyfriend, and I should have….”
Beth scurried to him, kissing him on the lips. “That’s all I ever wanted. An apology.”
Alan wrapped his arms around her. “I got this for your special day,” Alan said, handing her the neatly wrapped box.
She shook the box. “What is it?” she said, giggling like a little schoolgirl.
Alan motioned with his eyes. “Open it.” What if she says no and tells me that she never loved me and how I’m ruining her big day? What if I’d made a joke out of myself. I’d saved for four months to buy this ring. If she didn’t want it, I could return it and put a down on that new F-150, Alan thought.
She tore the wrapping paper off and lifted the lid. “It’s a ring?”
“Like I said, I got it for your special day.” Alan dropped to one knee. “What do ya say? You and me against the world.”
“I say, of fucking course, I’ll marry you!”
(© 2020 Andrew Cyr)