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Authors: Glynis Astie

Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Comedy

French Twist

BOOK: French Twist
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French
Twist

 

Glynis Astie

 

Copyright © 2013 by Glynis Astie

Cover design by Megan Eisen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address Tikinou LLC at [email protected]

ISBN:
0615874045

ISBN-13:
978-0615874043

 

To my husband, Sebastien, for inspiring me to share our story.

 

And to my sister, Megan, for believing that I could do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Repeat the mantra, Sydney.  Breathe.  “Good enough is not nearly as wonderful as perfect, but it is good enough.”  How often had my mother said those words to me?  Countless times.  She would always look at me with her warm brown eyes, smile reassuringly and squeeze my hand.  During a particularly traumatic period in high school, she went as far as framing the words for me and asked me to read them (and take them to heart) at least once a day. Though I believed in the truth of these words, on this day as I had on every other day, one thought kept occurring to me.  Shouldn’t your wedding day be the one day where perfection is expected?

I had tried to stay calm, but things kept going wrong and I REALLY don’t like it when things go wrong.  I’m definitely not a “roll with it” type of person.  From a very early age, any divergence from the plan I had formulated in my head was enough to send me into a tailspin.  I thought if anything happened outside of what I had planned for, I would lose control.  And losing control was not something I enjoyed.  I therefore planned for every possible scenario and worried obsessively that I had not planned enough.  My father had always told me if worrying were a sport, I would be the champion of the world.

But, I digress.  Let’s get back to the problem at hand.  It all began with my wedding party.  In my infinite wisdom, I had asked six women to be my bridesmaids.  My older sister and best friend, Kate; my sister-in-law, Zoe, and four of my closest friends.  All six had gladly accepted the role, but a week before the wedding all hell broke loose.  First, my friend Maya came down with mono.  Who has SHE
been kissing lately?  I saw her every day and the identity of the infector was a complete mystery to me. Three days before the wedding, my friend Amanda got the chicken pox.  I’m sorry, but who didn’t get it as a kid?  The parents in the neighborhood where I grew up actually took their kids to “parties” to make sure they had the chicken pox when they were young.

Then the day before the wedding, my friend Holly broke her leg in four places and had to be immobilized for an unforeseen amount of time.  She has yet to tell me exactly what she was doing when she broke her leg, but I get the feeling it was highly embarrassing.  Seriously???  THREE bridesmaids down?  Was this a bad omen for anyone involved in our wedding party?  Focus, Sydney.  No problem; Kate and I would reformat the ceremony along with the new bridesmaid/groomsmen ratio.

Then the breathtakingly beautiful gown I had planned to get married in was MISPLACED two days before the wedding.  The fitted bodice was intricately beaded and the full tulle skirt hung perfectly. When I wore it, I felt like a princess, as every woman should on her wedding day.  The hotel manager told me how sorry he was that my dress had been misplaced (um….lost!) and would be happy to put in a good word for me at the costume rental shop down the street.  He felt the Juliet gown would give “an exciting period feel” to our “incredibly lackluster” wedding.  I informed him, as my fiancé held my arms back, he would have a much better idea of what sorry was once I was through with him.  He seemed to be completely nonplussed, leading me to assume he had dealt with many a bride in his time.  I sat in the hotel lobby in a state of shock for an hour before I was able to move.  I closed my eyes and tried to slow my breathing, but my mind wouldn’t stop racing.  Was this actually happening to me?  What had I done to deserve this?  And most importantly, what the hell was I going to wear?

As usual Kate came to the rescue.  She pulled her exquisite wedding dress out of its protective cocoon and offered it to me.  I felt incredibly relieved and incredibly guilty at the same time, as Kate was constantly coming to my rescue.  Older and wiser was an understatement when it came to her; she was perfection personified.  I both loved and hated her for it.  How I could I ever live up to the standard she had set?  It felt like an impossible task.

And as sweet as the offer of her dress was, if I wore it I would have the impossible task of wearing a long-sleeved satin gown in the sweltering July heat.  Kate’s decision to get married in December meant I had the choice of sweating in her perfect dress or sweating in Juliet’s velvet monstrosity.  I thanked my sister profusely and suggested padding the dress with lots of tissues.  I took a deep breath and started to relax.  Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, my relief was short lived.  During the course of our rehearsal dinner, my mother and my aunt decided to have the biggest fight of their fifty-seven year relationship.  My aunt began talking about her daughter’s wedding and drawing somewhat harsh comparisons to my wedding.  My mother, of course, took great offense to my aunt’s statements that her daughter’s wedding was smaller, more tasteful and thankfully had far fewer “foreign” people.  My aunt then exclaimed how glad she was that I had finally found someone who would marry me (even if he was a foreigner) as she thought I was going to be an old maid.  That’s right, an old maid at the ripe old age of twenty-seven!  Her daughter, Cynthia, she reminded us, was married at the age of twenty-two; a far more appropriate age for women to capitalize on their childbearing years. 

After a few glasses of wine, the conversation then degenerated into an argument over who chose the tiger lily china pattern first for their wedding registry, a bitter pill my aunt has never gotten over since my mother got married six months before she did.  I knew this wasn’t going to end well. That was when the shrieking and hair pulling started.  My older brother, Charlie, and Kate’s perfect husband, Nick, had to separate them as any “discussions” they had accompanied by liquor usually ended up getting rather physical.  What a great impression my family was making on my fiancé’s relatives!

My father, of course, was no help at all.  He sat there, taking it all in, and laughed until he cried.  My fiancé assured me passion of any kind was appreciated by his family, but I think he was just trying to keep his bride from the edge of hysteria the night before her wedding.  He stroked my hair gently and reminded me that in two days we would be on a plane to Paris.  Focusing on taking a trip I’ve dreamt about for my entire life with the man I’ve dreamt about for my entire life allowed me to obtain a modicum of sanity.  I should have known it wouldn’t last long.

As I was preparing to leave my hotel room the next day, already sweating profusely in my borrowed wedding dress, I was handed a bouquet of bright green carnations.  You heard me.  Bright green.  Not, let’s say, a shade lighter than a jaunty Kelly green. We are talking BRIGHT green.  My heart stopped.  What happened to my orchids and roses? I chose such beautiful shades of….something, but not green!  Why couldn’t I remember?  I ran out to the balcony to check on the flowers at the wedding site below.  They were all the same scary shade of green.  The terrace resembled an exceptionally bad St. Patrick’s Day hangover.  My hands began to shake and I noticed green dye dripping down the front of my dress.  Kate was going to kill me!  I closed my eyes and tried to will the panic out of my body. Could this day get any worse? Crap!  My father told me NEVER to ask that question, because things can always get worse.  I wish I had listened…

As my mother and I approached the top of the staircase from which we would descend to the ceremony, the heel of my shoe broke.  Fortunately, I didn’t fall and make an absolutely unforgettable trip down the aisle. 
Unfortunately
, all those in attendance of our wedding (as well as the wedding on the lower terrace) heard me swear at this occurrence.  I guess this final detail was the last straw for my strained wedding day psyche.  The only thing which made me smile was the cackle my father let out following my outburst as he waited for my mother and me at the bottom of the stairs.

So there I was, standing at the top of the staircase with my mother, wondering if all these occurrences were a sign.  How could my wedding day be this far from perfect?  Was “good enough” really good enough on your wedding day?  Was it actually possible for this many things to go wrong in one day?  My disjointed thoughts began to spiral at a fevered pitch.  Did my aunt and her daughter hatch a plan to ruin my wedding?  Was Maya in on it?  Why didn’t I recognize most of my wedding guests?  Where had I met my foreign fiancé?  I was starting to hyperventilate.  Was this really the man I was meant to marry? Why was I having trouble remembering his name or what he looked like?

As I tried to slow my heart rate, I heard a faint beeping in the distance.  What the hell was that?  I started to seethe with rage as I realized the fire alarm was going off inside the hotel lobby.  In a moment, all the hotel guests were going to be evacuated into the middle of my wedding.  I starting shaking my head.  I can’t do this!!!  I threw down my soggy bouquet and began to sob.  My mother grabbed my arm and started shaking me, gently at first, but then more urgently.  I kept trying to break her hold, but she appeared to be freakishly strong for a woman in her sixties.   I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

I woke with a start and sat bolt upright in my bed.  I quickly assessed the situation and discerned I was coated in sweat and my roommate, Jess, was standing over me with an extremely annoyed look on her face.  THANK GOD!  It was just a bad dream. I sighed with relief and flopped back onto my pillows.

Jess regarded me with disgust.  “Syd, your alarm was going off for, like,
ten
minutes!”

I frowned.  Well, that explains the beeping.

She rolled her eyes at me.  “I had to shake you for, like, another
five
minutes before you finally woke up.” 

And that explains the shaking.  I knew my mother would never commit such unladylike behavior as shaking me.  Particularly on my wedding day.

“Get it together, woman!”  Jess stormed out of my room and slammed the door.

I closed my eyes and searched for the will to get out of bed.  My first order of business would be to find Jess and apologize.  She had a very important presentation to give today and I had a sneaking suspicion my alarm had gone off before she had gotten her requisite nine hours of sleep.  Crap. This was an excellent start to the day.

I opened my eyes and reluctantly swung my legs over the edge of the bed.  I was still trying to defuse the anxiety lurking in my system from this crazy dream.  It felt so…real.  I smiled and shook my head.  I should have known I was dreaming considering: a) I didn’t have a boyfriend, let alone a fiancé and b) I was NEVER getting married.

I certainly didn’t buy into my aunt’s feeling that I was an old maid at the age of twenty-seven.  (This part of the dream was disturbingly true.)  But I did whole heartedly believe I was only capable of dating horrible men.  This was simply a personality defect I had come to terms with.  What was the point in getting married when I knew I was going to be miserable?  My seemingly endless pursuit of the perfect man, which had later been downgraded to the pursuit of a decent man, had been fruitless.

Though I believe I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself.  I cannot expect you to understand my tenuous mental state on the subject of marriage without a little bit of background.  As you’ve probably surmised by now, perfection was something I had pursued for my entire life.  The perfect grades, the perfect schools, the perfect clothes, the perfect job…you see where this is going.  And it all began with my perfect sister, Kate.

I had spent the majority of my life striving to fulfill the image of perfection which I felt she embodied.  From her beautiful blue eyes and golden hair, to her amazing intellect and kindness, Kate was the girl who made everything look easy.  She was able to do anything she set her mind to and was able to talk to anyone, and I do mean
anyone
with ease.  (She once set a large, scary looking man in our subway car straight on his choice of cologne.  And he thanked her!  If I hadn’t witnessed it, I wouldn’t have believed it.)  She was involved in a ton of activities in high school, graduated in the top of her class and was accepted to an amazing college. 

Of course, it would stand to reason, attracting men had also come very easily to Kate, since everything else did.  She had two boyfriends in high school, one of which was an extremely gorgeous Spanish exchange student, both of which she let down easily and is in contact with to this day.  She then met her husband at the age of eighteen as a freshman at Stanford.  He approached her in the campus bookstore during her second day on campus and that was it.  Nick was a year older than she and swept her off her feet immediately.  It was like they were made for each other.  How could you
not
be happy for them?

I, on the other hand, was totally awkward around men in whom I had any sort of romantic interest.  It was as though my brain disengaged from any normal thought processes and I started spouting absolute nonsense.  I also had this nasty habit of blushing bright red when I was embarrassed, which was often when you sounded like a complete and total moron.  Thankfully, I had other assets, so I managed to attract a few men my way.  I just had to remember not to speak...

Kate had always told me how gorgeous I was, but she’s my sister; she had to tell me that.  You will have to decide for yourself.  I’m five feet seven inches tall and have pale, but luminous skin.  My mom always describes it as alabaster, but in my mind I look like a ghost.
My long, dark hair falls in glossy waves down my back (after an hour with styling products and a blow dryer) and my dark brown eyes, I’ve been told, sparkle beautifully when I smile.  I was also blessed with an amazingly fast metabolism, allowing me to eat whatever I want and still fit into a size two.  Growing up, exercise was something I did for fun with my friends, most of whom hated me for only doing it recreationally and having such a trim figure.

Throughout high school and college, I was far too intimidated by any of the men I found attractive to attempt any kind of intelligent conversation.  The only way I could talk to them was with a little “liquid courage” and it simply wasn’t possible to be tipsy and/or drunk all the time.  Can you imagine?  My sober self was not able to form coherent thoughts and the result was a series of meaningless hookups (drunk self) and a few unbearable first dates (sober self.)

I just couldn’t understand it. I had tons of friends.  People liked me!  I was easy to talk to!  Why did I become such an idiot once romantic interest raised its head?  Kate often tried to give me pointers, but I was never able to carry out her instructions properly.  After the latest debrief of yet another dating disaster, she would shake her head at me, laugh and tell me to relax.  She would then tell me the right man for me was waiting just around the bend, out of sight.  She said he would come along when I least expected it and I simply had to be patient.  I appreciated her optimism, but after the parade of challenging men I’m about to describe to you (and those I will leave out) I believed her theory did not apply to me.  Some of us were meant to be alone.

I get the feeling you don’t believe me.  I promise I’m not being overly dramatic.  I have more than a few interesting stories to illustrate my point.  Are you ready? You’re about to feel
much
better about your own romantic history.  Here we go...

After I graduated from college, I moved out to California.  I had always dreamed of living in a warm climate and the Bay Area was my idea of perfection.  Twenty-two years of New York winters were more than enough for me.  Kate and I shared the same “California” dream, which included living in the same town as each other.  She and Nick remained in Palo Alto after they graduated from Stanford, much to the chagrin of the rest of our family who are all die hard New Yorkers.  I; however, heartily approved of their choice.  With this fresh start, I felt some of Kate’s trademark optimism and thought maybe things would be different.

My odds were greatly increased by the arrival of my good friend Maya, another escapee from the east coast.  We met during our freshman year at Northwestern and had commiserated over our shared hatred of winter.  (She’s from New Jersey, but I’ve forgiven her.)  Maya was beyond excited for all the opportunities California had to offer.  She had her own dating scars and was determined to change her luck.  Once we moved, she threw herself into singles clubs, chat rooms and alumni associations.  The only problem was she didn’t want to go alone, so she threw me in too.  Kicking and screaming, I might add.  I wanted to be able to meet men a little more naturally; to let fate take its course.  Maya believed even fate needed a little push. 

After six months and ten awful first dates, I came to the conclusion that either all the bad men had followed me to California or good men were a seriously endangered species. Whatever the reason, I no longer felt the need to look for one of the good ones.  Despite Kate’s best efforts, my optimism was nowhere to be found.

A few months later, Maya set me up with a friend of her brother’s.  And when I say set me up, I mean she literally SET ME UP.  After my series of disastrous blind dates in the past year, I was not a willing participant in the dating process.  So my good friend, Maya, invited me to her apartment, introduced me to Mark, my date, and then raced out for an “emergency” bikini waxing.  As she ran out the door, she informed me I wasn’t the only one who would be getting lucky.  “Mark”, she whispered to me, “is a sure thing.”  She left me with a crimson face and butterflies in the pit of my stomach.

Mark was nice and easy going, but he had the strangest sense of humor I had ever come across.  I never got his jokes, which revolved around hunting ‘gators, but I laughed anyway. I think I was ecstatic to have someone semi-normal take me out on a second date, I overlooked a lot.  And I do mean, a lot!  He was twenty-seven years old and still lived with his mother, had spent his life savings on a pick-up truck and thought a romantic date was free hot dog night at the monster truck rally.  I was so desperate to be “in love” like everyone else I knew, I moved in with him after six months of dating and hoped for the best. 

Unfortunately, three months later, I found him in bed with Tiffany and Tammy, the ticket takers at the monster truck rally.  Evidently, they all had a lot in common and the girls moved in to my beautifully decorated apartment two days later.  (I had high tailed it out of the apartment that night with nothing but my clothes, books and pictures.  I had no desire for any of the furniture or linens as I had no idea what kind of...residue...might remain from their activities.)  A year later I heard they started a matchmaking service for threesomes.  Who knew there was a market for such a thing?  Shortly after this bizarre news, I received a muffin basket with a thank you note from the “wonder threesome” as I now refer to them, stating they owed me a debt of gratitude for being so undesirable. 
Ouch
.  That was going to leave a scar.

Fresh out of my “relationship” with Mark, I met James, a much younger man.  He was my roommate in a very hastily found rental following the discovery of the wonder threesome.  I actually had five, no six, roommates.  I had almost forgotten how one of the girls smuggled her boyfriend in every evening, apparently to both satisfy her needs and to eat the contents of our fridge.  Alone and scared, I enjoyed the attention from this eager young college student and eventually gave in to his advances.  It was fun sneaking him into my room late at night for some very satisfying alone time.

A short while later, I realized our conversations consisted of the latest Survivor contestants and his deep and abiding love for Bob Marley.  What the hell was I doing?  After a group of sorority girls came over one night and gave me extensive advice on how to make myself over to be a suitable date for James’ upcoming fraternity formal, I was done.  Honestly, what twenty-four year old professional woman wouldn’t be?  I told James it wasn’t him, it was me, packed up my meager belongings and found an apartment for adults.  That’s right!  I moved in with two professional women.  Jess and Maggie were Stanford graduates and were very active in the local alumni association.  Jackpot!  I would definitely meet a much higher caliber of men hanging out with these two.  I was full of hope for the future.

For the first few months, things were looking good.  My new roommates had wine and cheese parties and invited over many interesting young men.  Then I started to notice the men I was interested in always seemed to be escorted by their brilliant girlfriends.  The single men were...well, let’s just say they were single for a reason.  I don’t like to think of myself as a shallow person, but isn’t it possible for men to be intellectually stimulating as well as moderately attractive?  I don’t need gorgeous, but there has to be some kind of spark.

Was I being too picky?  Kate was always telling me my standards were too high. That was rich coming from someone who was married to the most seemingly perfect man on earth.  She told me he had a series of flaws, but I had yet to see them.  I think she made it up to make me feel better - and possibly to convince herself she was normal.  As if!

I had nearly given up hope, when one evening, Maggie introduced me to her former coworker, Alex.  He was attractive, funny and incredibly smart.  He seemed....
too
perfect.  Seriously, what was wrong with me?  I decided to turn my brain off and enjoy dating Alex.  We had a great time whenever we went out, but I couldn’t bury the feeling something simply wasn’t right.  We had many a romantic evening in front of the fireplace of his condo (No roommates!) and he took me to the nicest restaurants in town.  He gave me a beautiful necklace for Christmas and told me he loved spending time with me.  I finally started to relax.  Maybe this was the real thing! 

Shortly after Christmas, Alex told me he had planned the perfect New Year’s Eve for us.  A few of his fraternity brothers had rented a suite at a fancy hotel in San Francisco and were hosting an elegant dinner to ring in the New Year.  Alex was in full party mode that night.  I had never seen him drunk before.  It was actually kind of cute, right up until the moment he asked me to give him my favorite bra and panty set and to call him Alicia.  I didn’t sleep much and was desperately hoping we would laugh about it the morning.  Instead, Alex told me he had been working up the courage to tell me about his lifestyle and hoped I would be a part of it.  Had I ever thought about dressing up as a man?  OK.  That was it.  I was officially done.

Fine.  I was never going to meet the perfect man, but did the men I met have to have this many flaws?  I mean,
come on
, give me something I can work with.  Was it just me?  My friends seemed to meet decent guys.  In fact, more than half of them were already married.  Why was I always behind?  What did I have to do to find someone reasonable?  Was I destined to be an old maid?  Was I going to be the crazy old lady who lives with her sixteen cats and tells stories about them like they were her children?  I
do
love cats (they’re great listeners), but they’re hardly suitable companions to parties.

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