Chapter 10 – Julian
You’re damn right that I’m not finished groveling yet. If anyone thinks I’m not going into overdrive making sure Alyssa Pendleton knows that I love the fucking ground she walks on, then they’re not paying attention to who I am and what I’ve been saying for weeks now!
I’m so close. I can taste a true reunion with her on the tip of my tongue. But I’m not counting these damned chickens until I’m in Aruba with her, enjoying our first real vacation together. I did promise her that I would take her somewhere before school starts again, didn’t I?
As soon as we rejoin the reception, cleaned up and cleaned up, I broadcast to the room that I’m back in Alyssa’s good graces by putting a firm arm around her waist and directing her to my empty +1 seat at the head table. The moment they see us, Ted scoffs in great amusement and his new husband leans in to whisper something to everyone else at the table. Good-natured laughter erupts as soon as Alyssa and I are within earshot again.
“We were wondering where you had run off to,” Jordan says to my girlfriend. “Awful shame seeing this bachelor pollute my nice wedding with his brooding.”
“As long as it’s handsome brooding,” Alyssa says without missing a beat. She sits down in the chair I pull out for her. “But I have it on good authority that both Marcus brothers are fairly handsome.”
“Fairly, she says,” Ted mutters. “Did she go to the same school of subtle shade as our mother, Jules?”
That same mother is at the far end of the table pretending she doesn’t see Alyssa. My father slings his arm along the back of my girlfriend’s chair and holds up a fresh glass of champagne. Alyssa spares him a cordial smile before turning back toward my brother. “Forgive me, but if I fawn over you too much, your brother will get jealous.”
“He’s always been jealous of me.” That smug smile wants me to punch it off his face, doesn’t it? “Bless my baby brother’s heart.”
“Please,” Jordan says. “No inciting fraternal bloodshed at our wedding.”
“But other kinds are fine?”
“It would be a boring wedding, otherwise. I hear Ethan Cole had a fist fight at his wedding a year ago. I’m sure there’s some way we could raise the stakes here.”
An approaching guest helps change the subject, which helps me focus on Alyssa again. I practically wait on her hand and foot. Whatever she wants, I procure. Wine? Cranberry juice? Finger food from one of the most revered chefs in the PNW? Cake? I’ll have her favorite food truck ported down here if it makes her smile. All I know is that she’s not getting up unless she absolutely wants to. She’s going to see that her darling boyfriend and potential father of her children isn’t afraid to lift fingers for her – instead of merely shoving them into her, mind you. One day, she’s going to have all the servants she requires. I don’t care if it means she goes soft around the middle. If it makes her happy to be waited on, then I’ll make sure it happens!
But this isn’t the end of my groveling, either. After making sure that sniveling lawyer lad gets the idea that she’s with me, I return to the banquet table to discover that speeches are being made. As one of the grooms’ best men, I’m the first up.
Let’s see. How do I stroke my brother’s ridiculously bloated ego while making this speech all about Alyssa and how I’ll make sure we’re the next to get married – and soon?
“When Ted told me that he was getting married and that I was destined to be his best man,” I begin, the mic far from trembling in my hand, “I thought he was full of shit. Because I don’t believe in destiny.”
A tenuous laugh ripples through the captivated audience. My mother rolls her eyes because of my swearing, although I doubt she cares much about her image anymore. Jordan stifles another laugh. Ted throws his hand up in the air as if I’m the uncontrollable baby brother he never asked for. Alyssa, meanwhile, politely sits without a smile or a frown. Even I can barely tell what she’s thinking.
“Suppose that makes me sound like a Scrooge at a wedding, but it’s the truth. Or at least, I didn’t used to believe in fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it. I’m a man who believes in setting goals and doing everything to achieve them. So, as far as I was concerned, Ted had set out to make me his best man simply to spite me.”
More laughter from the people who know us the best. Others tentatively glance between us, gauging Ted’s reactions.
“I was the last person on Earth surprised to find out that my brother was marrying a man. Even so, I was shocked to find out it was Jordan. Because he’s way too good for my brother. Take it from me, Jordan, you have your damn work cut out for you.”
“The ink isn’t dry on the marriage license yet, Jules,” my brother shouts over my mic. “Could you wait until it’s filed, at least?”
“And now he’s got a baby on the way?” I look to their surrogate, who is going on bed rest as soon as this reception is over. Until then, she’ll waddle around the reception sipping flavored water and impressing the other guests with her party tricks. Typical Ted. Throws money at a woman to make her do all the gestating work for him. “I feel sorry for that kid. He doesn’t even get Jordan’s good looks.” The whole hall erupts into laughter. While it was never made public knowledge, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the kid is genetically a Marcus. My father wouldn’t have let the kid into the will otherwise. At least the surrogate is drop-dead gorgeous, with natural blond hair and the clearest skin a model could ask for. Pretty sure she is a retired model that Ted dated when he was in college.
She shrugs at this announcement. Alyssa gives me a look that implies I should change subjects.
“But the more I look at these two,” warning, a lot of incoming corniness, “the more I wonder if fate isn’t a real thing after all. I know that seeing my big brother in genuine love helped me recognize love in my own life.”
Boom. Look to Alyssa and focus the whole room’s attention on her.
She was in the middle of drinking some iced water. Now half of it is in her handkerchief.
“If it weren’t for Ted, I wouldn’t have realized how much I love my own girlfriend, Alyssa.”
Somewhere in the midst of all these guests, Preston has ordered another Bloody Mary. Pretty sure my mother has cleared the bar out of tomato juice, however. Because those aren’t tears of joy spilling down her cheeks. (The professional photographs will make sure they look like that, though.)
Alyssa blushes at my public profession. Ted rolls his eyes. Jordan claps. These three actions sum up the personalities of the people around me.
As always, I only really have eyes for Alyssa. My beautiful, sweet Alyssa, whom I do not in any way deserve.
You know it’s fate when you also know that your overrated ass doesn’t deserve anyone. But you’ll take it anyway.
Until the end of the reception, Alyssa and I dance, eat, and flirt until the whole table tells us to get a room. (Little do they know…) I can’t keep my hand off her knee or wrapped in her own soft hand. It feels completely natural when she leans in and cracks jokes about my family and the other guests at this extravagant party. When she offhandedly suggests she wants her wedding completely outdoors, I start coming up with lists of every possible venue. I’m thinking destination wedding. Hawaii, to keep the legalities simple.
We kiss more than the newlyweds do. She stays close by when we’re called for wedding party photos, and for the last one my brother insists that she pose with me. The lavender of her dress matches our sapphire blue cummerbunds and the violet blue roses tucked into our front pockets.
It’s like we never broke up. Over time, the carefully constructed façade she built around her comes down, one kiss, one laugh at a time.
I know this isn’t the end of my groveling. I’m going to be groveling for years. Not because I have to, but because I want to. This woman makes me want to act like an utter fool. I want to take out ads declaring my love for her. I want to marry her every single year she’ll put up with my foolishness. I want to have all the kids we can, because I can’t imagine getting sick of bringing life into the world with her. I want to pay for the best education for her. If she wants to work with my going forward? She can run her own subsidiary for all I care. Suck it, Preston.
“Did you mean what you said earlier about fate?” she asks me while we enjoy the final dance of the evening. “Because that was sweet.”
“I do. You know I’m a no-nonsense kind of guy. Until you, I never entertained fairy-tales.”
She averts her bashful gaze. “You’re too much.”
As I mentioned before, protocol is sometimes thrown out the window at bashes like my brother’s. There’s no throwing of the bouquet or tossing of the garter in the end. Instead, the newlyweds give a short parting speech before heading out to the limo waiting to take them back to their honeymoon suite in Portland. But as the birdseed flies outdoors and it seems that this is the last I have to put up with my brother until his kid is born, Jordan breaks away from his new husband and approaches us as we stand on the sidelines.
“Thanks for coming.” He plucks the violet blue rose from his pocket and gently places it in Alyssa’s hand. “For you.” Just like that, he’s gone again, a wink thrown in our direction.
People start talking about what happened. Photographers take candid shots of my girlfriend holding one of the grooms’ flowers. There may have been no bouquet, but the intent was clear.