Read Never a Bride: A Short Story Online

Authors: Traci Hall

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Short Stories

Never a Bride: A Short Story (5 page)

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
5.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Just saying Jared’s name sucked the air from the room.

What were the guys doing? Was Jared confessing to Mike that he’d made a colossal mistake, and slept with his ex? That he was moving to an igloo in Alaska with his Eskimo girlfriend and raise sled dogs?

Damn it. The problem with making love to Jared last night was that she remembered exactly how much she’d loved him. Why she loved him. That nasty little Hope monster had woken from its deep coma, only to have Jared leave before Sheena could come to terms with her newly awakened feelings. Misery on top of betrayal. Whoever coined the phrase “love hurts” was not joking around.

Sheena refused to give him that much power. Forcing a smile on her face, she put on a music station from their high school days and started dancing. “I hope you got a good DJ, Lisa. I’m in the mood to bring down the house.”

The make-up girl arrived ten minutes early, saving Sheena from twisting on the end table to keep Lisa in good spirits. On her heels was Mrs. Connor, loaded down with snacks and bags of tissue, tulle and gunmetal colored ribbon.

“I just got off the phone with the florist, honey,” Mrs. Connor said with a wave to Sheena and a kiss for Lisa. “Before the make-up, I know!” She wiped her dark purple lipstick from Lisa’s cheek.

“What’s the matter?” Lisa’s voice trilled in panic. “With the flowers?”

“Nothing is wrong! They called to say the tulips opened beautifully, just how you’d hoped.” She gave Lisa another quick peck.

Sheena bit her lip. A few months ago, her mother had been crying with her as they all wondered what happened with Jared. As her dad sent people home. As Lisa tucked her, broken-hearted and drunk, into bed.

Mrs. Conner helped get Lisa seated at the make-up table, then turned to Sheena with a smile. “Help me get the gown from the car?”

“Sure.” Sheena nodded and followed Lisa’s mom from the room. The instant the door closed behind them, Mrs. Conner grabbed Sheena by the shoulder. “Where in the hell is Jared?”

Brow furrowed, Sheena wondered if she’d heard right. “Excuse me?”

Mrs. Conner’s mouth was an unattractive prune color and pursed like a raisin. “That young man has done a Houdini. I’ve been on the phone with the Langleys all morning. I haven’t wanted to worry Lisa, but Jared is gone.”

Sheena couldn’t speak, worse, she couldn’t breathe. Had Jared deserted his brother to get away from her? Or his own emotions? Had he assumed that just because they’d slept together she’d want his sorry ass back and now he was worried he’d get snared into a relationship? “Did they check his hotel?”

“Of course, although why he couldn’t stay with his family, I don’t understand…” She trailed off as if personally affronted on behalf of Jared’s parents. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard from him?”

Swallowing over the lump in her throat, Sheena managed to say, “No. Huh uh.”

No way was she telling Mrs. Conner that she’d slept with him and that she was probably the reason Jared had ran for the hills. Or in this case, the snowy peaks of Alaska.

“He’s not answering his phone?” Getting angrier by the second, Sheena added, “That’s par for the course with Jared. I can’t believe he didn’t even bother with a text this time.”
How could he?

Mrs. Conner patted Sheena’s shoulder. “There is something very wrong with that young man.”

 

* * *

 

Jared gripped the arm rests of the plane as it hit turbulence. Sank, then bobbed upward, listing left and right before starting the process all over again. If he died now, he thought, he’d leave behind a lot of pissed off people.

The memory of last night with Sheena, how she’d shared her body, her heart, so generous in her love, kept him hoping the damn plane wouldn’t crash. She hadn’t forgiven him – he’d seen the look in her eyes and knew she didn’t understand the depth of his regret, or his intense sorrow at causing her pain as he’d gotten lost in himself.

When they’d first met she hadn’t given him a chance, judging him too quickly. Self-absorbed, she’d assumed without even talking to him. “Guess you were right, Sheena.” He had to make it up to her.

“Are you okay?” The flight attendant, strapped in across from him, asked. “This is some rough wind, but we’ll be fine.”

The plane dipped, and kept on going down. The flight attendant’s mouth pursed.

His dad liked to say that what goes around comes around, and Jared wondered if this was his, coming back around.

He’d taken a chance on making it all come out right but it was too little, too late.

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Sheena and Mrs. Conner decided not to tell Lisa about Jared, and they presented a united front as they walked inside the dressing room, Lisa’s gown protected in a garment bag. “Got the shoes?”

“Yes ma’am,” Sheena said, lifting the box so Mrs. Conner could see for herself.

Lisa, crying, stood by the window, cell phone in hand. “I’m not going to need shoes. How can Mike get married without Jared here?”

The make-up lady looked at Sheena, understanding in her black-lined eyes. “I’ll go grab a smoke. Back in ten minutes?”

“Take fifteen,” Sheena answered. “We’ll pay for your time.”

She escaped, no doubt used to bridal melt downs, and Sheena put the box on the table before walking to Lisa. Mrs. Connor hung up the dress, tears thickening her voice. “Now honey,” she said.

“No, Mom!” Lisa shook the phone, then tossed it to the chair. “Don’t start. It’s unreasonable to expect Mike to get married when he’s worried about his brother.”

Sheena took a deep breath. “Are you saying this? Or is Mike saying this?”

Lisa sniffed, a giant tear cresting down her cheek. “Mike thinks we need to go ahead with the ceremony. His dad offered to step in as best man.”

Exhaling, and encouraging Lisa to do the same, Sheena nodded. “I think that’s the right thing to do, Lis. I mean, I hate to say it, but Jared’s done this before.”

Saying the words felt wrong. Sheena just couldn’t imagine him leaving his own brother without a word, not after the family had welcomed him back with open arms after the last fiasco. He loved Mike. Hell, she believed he loved her, too. Maybe for Jared it just wasn’t enough.

“I know, I know.” Lisa brought her knuckle to her lower lip as if to stop it from trembling. “I don’t understand. How could he do this? Maybe sleeping with you,”

Mrs. Conner gasped.

Lisa winced. “Sorry. Forget you heard that, Mom. But maybe he’s out driving around thinking about what a schmuck he is. He doesn’t know what to say to you, so he can’t confront you.”

“Since when am I that intimidating? I’m the girl next door type, not a ball-breaking Lolita. Besides, I just don’t think he’d let you and Mike down without a word. He seemed so sincere in his apologies – to everyone, not only me.”

“You are the last person in the world I’d ever dream would come to his defense,” Mrs. Connor said with disbelief.

“I am not defending him!” Sheena paced the small room. “He’s a jerk of insurmountable proportions. To put this kind of strain on his family puts him to a whole new jack ass level. But,” Sheena made a slicing motion with her hand, “hear me out, Lisa, I believe he will be here in time for the wedding.”
What if there was an accident?

Lisa stopped crying and hiccupped. “Really?”

Sheena stopped her circuit of the room and faced her best friend. “Really. So, let’s get you made-up, then dressed. You’ve got some vows to say and it’s my job to make sure you don’t fuck it up.”

Mrs. Connor gasped again and Lisa laughed. “This is why, Sheena, nobody but you could be my maid of honor.” She scrubbed at her red cheeks. “All this crying can’t be good for the baby.”

“Baby?”

Lisa and Sheena turned to face Mrs. Conner, who sank to the stool by the vanity table. “Uh, could you pretend not to have heard that, Mom?”

 

* * *

 

Jared, having survived the commercial flight to Anchorage by a hair’s breadth, hired a private plane to bring him back to Seattle. It was the only way he’d make his brother’s wedding by two. He’d been in such a rush, he’d forgotten his cell phone charger in the motel room and his battery was dead, dead, dead. “Wait here,” he told the taxi driver, rushing up to his condo.

He was going to owe big time for the angst he was putting his family through. He could only imagine the curses being rained down on his head. His laptop was in Seattle, and he had no landline in the condo to let his family know where he was at. His dad’s words about a love worth fighting for echoed through his head as he grabbed the shoe box beneath his bed. At the last minute, he unlocked the safe, taking out the contents and shoving another box in his pocket as he raced back out the door.

“Hurry back to the airport, man, and there’s a fifty dollar tip. Any chance I can use your cell phone?”

 

* * *

 

Sheena was relieved when the other two bridesmaids arrived and she was able to sneak away and try to call Jared. Of course she knew his number by heart despite the permanent deletion of the actual digits. It went straight to voice mail. A part of her started to really worry. Where was he? Why hadn’t he sent at least a text or an email? She’d swear on her life that he knew how bad he’d hurt them all by disappearing before and that he’d never do it again.

He’d told her he was staying at the Best Western half a mile down the road. If she hurried, she could be back in ten minutes. Fifteen, tops.

Dressed in a strapless gunmetal gray organza mini dress and matching heels, hair done and make-up on, Sheena told herself she owed it to Lisa, as the maid of honor, to at least see for herself if Jared was passed out on the floor of his hotel room. She was stopped by Jared and Mike’s cousins in the foyer of the chapel and never made it to the parking lot.

They greeted her with concerned smiles. “Hi,” Sheena said. “Have you guys seen Jared?”

“We’ve called the hospitals, the police, and checked for accidents,” the oldest cousin reported. “We’re staying at the same hotel. He’s not answering his door. We had the clerk check to make sure he wasn’t dead or something, you know?”

Jared had wanted her forgiveness and she’d withheld it, despite his sincere apology. Had she pushed him too far? She rubbed her nose. Did she want him back? Was she willing to give up everything, and live, without a piece of paper, with the man her heart recognized as hers? How much of a fool was she that her heart said yes?

“He wasn’t there, of course. He left his laptop, though, so he must have been in a hurry.”

“Wherever he went, he’s planning on coming back.” Panic rose up Sheena’s throat. Was his rental car in a ditch somewhere? Was he out buying a last minute groom gift? Champagne? Jared knew how to make magic happen…nobody knew that better than she did. “He’ll be here.”

The cousins gave her empathetic looks, probably recalling her aborted wedding a few months ago, then went inside to find a seat.

“Guess I’m a fool,” she whispered aloud and went in search of Mike. She found he and Lisa, sitting thigh to thigh and holding hands in the men’s changing room.

“Hey,” she said, her throat constricting at how right they looked together. “I don’t think you two are supposed to see each other until after the formal “I do” part.”

“We’re married already, where it counts,” Lisa said with a dismissive wave. “This is so we’ll have an awesome wedding album to show our kids.” She rested her head against Mike’s shoulder, calmer than she’d been all day.

Mike grinned at Sheena. “There are worse reasons to get married.” His smile faded. “How are you?”

Sheena stiffened, realizing that he knew about her and Jared’s night. “I didn’t mean to scare your brother off.”

“You didn’t. Jared had some stuff to figure out, that’s all. He loves you, Sheena.”

Moisture gathered at the corner of her eyes. “Yeah. I sort of wish he’d stuck around to talk about it.”

Mrs. Connor barged into the room, followed by Mrs. Langley. “Oh, thank God. Here you are, Lisa. The photographer said you bolted? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Mom. I just needed a minute to remember why this was all so important.” Lisa looked up at Mike, who kissed her nose. “Turns out we need pictures for our kids. They’re going to have to see for themselves how cool their parents looked. We are icons of style.”

“Wait ‘til they see the one of us in tights. It’s important to think about these things,” Mike said, sparing a quick glance for his mother. “Since we’re adding to the family.”

Mrs. Langley’s eyes widened as she looked to Lisa’s waistline. “Oh.” She broke into happy tears and ran forward to hug them both. “Well, then, let’s get married, shall we?”

Sheena blinked. “I’ll get the flowers. Should we wait a few minutes, just in case? You know…” Jared shows up.

Mike and Lisa exchanged a look filled with love and understanding. “Fifteen minutes? I can have the pianist play something to fill in time.”

“Whatever you think, Mike,” Lisa conceded. “It won’t hurt anything. We can pass out the candied almonds if you think people are getting restless. Or break into the bubbles.”

“It’s just now two,” Mrs. Conner said. “If you really think we should wait…”

“I would like to,” Mrs. Langley said, giving Sheena an apologetic look. “I have a good feeling that everything will be all right.”

Sheena bit her cheek and left the room. This wedding was beautiful and would happen without a hitch. But things were definitely not all right.
Where are you, Jared
?

At two fifteen, the pianist started the march. Jared was nowhere in sight, but Lisa and Mike didn’t seem to mind – wrapped up in one another, as they should be.

It was surreal, walking down the aisle, arms linked with Mr. Langley. He wore a slightly amused expression, and Sheena wondered if he’d just found out he was going to be a grandpa.

Dressed in gunmetal gray mini dresses, the two bridesmaids stood on the stairs of the slightly raised platform in the chapel, opposite the two groomsmen. The men wore the same color;
the tuxes relieved with orange rose boutonnieres the same shade as their cummerbunds. The ladies held orange rose and tulip bouquets, wrapped in gunmetal gray silk ribbon. Lisa had defied bridal tradition and found attractive gowns for her bridesmaids.

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
5.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Say Forever by Tara West
Bringing the Boy Home by N. A. Nelson
Gucci Gucci Coo by Sue Margolis
Strange Bedfellow by Janet Dailey
Little Bits of Baby by Patrick Gale
The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer
The Healer's Legacy by Sharon Skinner