BY CORRIE ADAMS
Copyright is held by the author.
“YOU SURE you’ll be okay, Jen?”
“Of course. Go. I’ll be fine,” I reply. I smile my biggest smile to show how fine I can be. “I love weddings; they put everyone in a friendly sort of mood. Don’t worry about me.”
Chris catches my chin and tips my face up so that he can gaze into my eyes. Satisfied with whatever he sees there, he nods and plants a quick kiss on my freshly glossed lips.
“Okay. It’s just dinner. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can.”
I playfully push him towards the head table. “Go,” I instruct. “You’ve got a job to do, Mr. Best Man. Aren’t you supposed to be keeping the groom somewhat sober?”
“At least until the first dance,” Chris says. “I better go…”
I watch him as he crosses the room, truly enjoying the view. I’ve never seen him in anything dressier than jeans without holes in the knees, and that’s a far cry from the tuxedo he’s decked out in tonight. That boy sure does clean up well.
But I can’t stand here staring at my date’s ass all night. It’s time to play girlfriend, and make nice with his family. I take a deep breath and turn my back on my beloved. Table three, here I come. I think, and with my head held high, I march towards my seat.
Sensing a few sets of appreciative eyes upon me, I decide to dial it up a notch. I clean up pretty well too, if I do say so myself. With a swish to my hips, and a toss of my hair, I feel a little like a supermodel as I strut my stuff across the room.
But damn these high heels. As I pitch forward, suddenly unsteady on my feet, I remember why I usually stick to running shoes — I’m clumsy as hell.
Instinctively, I throw my arms up in front of me, an awkward attempt to break my fall. Unfortunately, I’m not quick enough, and I pay for my lack of grace with a pair of skinned knees. The sting of fresh carpet burn is nothing compared to my wounded pride, though.
Several people rush to help me up. I contemplate crawling off under nearby table five (the floor length tablecloth and seating for 12 make for a tempting hiding place), but instead, face flaming, I allow myself to be hauled back to my feet.
A darting glance to the head table is enough to tell me my spill has not gone unnoticed. The bride is delicately dabbing at the tears of mirth that have sprung to her eyes, careful not to ruin her mascara, while the groom is providing a re-enactment of my undignified sprawl for the amusement of the snickering bridesmaids. At least Chris appears to be concerned, but as it’s not clear whether it is for my well-being or his reputation, I quickly look away.
Still blushing, I slide into my seat. This was not the way I wanted to start off. This was not the first impression that I wanted to make on Chris’s family. I mumble greetings to the left and right, but don’t make eye contact. I dig in my purse for an imaginary, but much-needed, something and pray for my flush to fade and my palms to stop sweating — or failing that, the appearance of a giant sinkhole, right beneath my chair.
The waiter comes around and pours the wine. I grab on to the glass with both hands and hold tight. This is my life-preserver in very choppy water. I take a healthy swig of the Merlot, and then I take another. My breathing slows, my blush recedes. When I peek out from beneath my lashes, nobody is looking in my direction. Phew.
Feeling somewhat restored, I put down the almost-empty wine glass and take note of my dining companions. To my left is an older gentleman with a serious dandruff problem and a suit that strains to contain his bulk. He introduces himself as “Uncle Leo”, and tells me that I should forget about Chris and run away with him, instead. The line feels a little tired, but he winks at me and pats my thigh as he delivers it, the old devil. Thank goodness the waiter has refilled my glass because I’m going to need it. This is shaping up to be a very long meal.
When the soup arrives, Uncle Leo forgets all about me. He tucks his napkin into his shirt collar, hefts his spoon, and slurps for all he’s worth. I take the opportunity to introduce myself to the couple to my right, David and Beth.
“Oh, you’re Chris’s girlfriend,” David says, with a knowing look.
“Umm, well, yes,” I reply, and bury my face in my wine glass to hide my confusion.
“I’m surprised they didn’t make you maid of honour,” he says. Beth snorts and nods her head in agreement.
“Sorry?” I say.
“Yeah, I’ll just bet you are,” David replies. I find his bitter sarcasm confusing, and it isn’t until the empty soup bowls are whisked away and the main course has been served that I figure out why he’s being such a jerk: he is the only cousin not included in the bridal party, and he’s majorly pissed off about it.
I sip my wine, and nod from time to time as David complains about the slight to him, his family, and his unborn children. Well, okay, maybe not the part about the unborn children. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s thinking it. I excuse myself and turn back to Uncle Leo.
Uncle Leo, it appears, knows a lot of jokes. Well, a lot of variations on one joke, anyway.
“What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs that’s lying on your porch?”
I blink, not sure how to respond. Luckily, I don’t have to, because Leo answers himself right away. “Matt. What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs that’s buried in a pile of leaves? Russell.”
I shouldn’t laugh. I mean, it’s not very PC to joke about double amputees, right? But there’s something about his deadpan delivery that gets to me and, despite my better judgement, a little giggle escapes. That giggle quickly grows into a guffaw, and before I know it, tears of laughter are streaming down my face. Uncle Leo, encouraged by my reaction, continues.
“What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the middle of a lake? Bob.”
The waiter tries to offer coffee with dessert, but I hold out my wine glass instead. I notice Chris is frowning in my direction. I smile and wave, but he doesn’t wave back. Uncle Leo pats me on the thigh. I raise my glass and wink at him.
I love weddings. They put everyone in a friendly sort of mood. Well, almost everyone. Chris doesn’t look like he’s feeling too friendly at the moment.
“I’d like to buy the handsome gentleman over there a drink,” I tell the waiter, the next time he passes by.
“It’s an open bar, miss,” he says.
“Well, I know that,” I reply. “But Mr. Fussypants doesn’t seem to be taking advantage of the fact. Here…let me.”
I pluck the wine bottle from the waiter’s hands and then slip out of my high heeled shoes. This time when I cross the room, I hardly stumble at all. So why does Chris look so upset?