At the Williams Residence – The Groom’s Father’s Home
Ben opened his eyes and then quickly shut them again against the glare of the sun. He couldn’t remember the lady’s name since he and Greg had referred to her as wife number 3 ever since they’d got engaged—seemed like yesterday.
He forced himself to sit up and found himself sitting opposite to the poster girl for any man’s anti-marriage campaign.
“Where’s Greg?” He felt no compulsion to be polite, but he added a smile out of habit when looking at a pretty young woman. Too young. He felt squeamish just then and wondered if it was her or the tequila from last night shaking up his insides.
“Hey best man—you’re up,” Greg said as he pounded down the stairs and jogged into the front parlor.
Ben noticed his friend didn’t even acknowledge his so-called step-mother’s presence.
“Let’s get out of here and go for a run,” he said, jogging in place and dressed in a t-shirt and sneakers.
Ben looked down at his jeans. “Let me go change.”
“Aren’t you boys interested in a little breakfast first—or at least coffee—before you run off,” wife number three said. Ben figured if she wanted to sound like the woman of the house he’d indulge her.
“No thanks, mam.” He emphasized the mam and felt satisfaction at her barely suppressed cringe.
He and Greg left and once he threw on shorts and sneakers from his bag in the guest room, they took off.
“So you never made it up to be last night?”
They jogged down the walk and the sun felt good. Not good enough to dull the dismay that had settled deep inside him ever since his best friend had asked him to be his best man—a backhanded way to announce his engagement and to a woman Ben hadn’t even vetted as suitable for breakfast the morning after let alone ball and chain welded on for who knew how long—and only to be removed by misery and money—loads of money.
“Yeah. Fell asleep where I stopped.”
“Man, it was a great night—thanks. Couldn’t have asked for a better bachelor party.”
“Sure. You left early, Greg. You spent half the night on the phone with your beloved.”
Greg laughed at his pouting and smacked him on the shoulder. “It’s the thought that counts.”
“You sure you want to go through with this?” It was the first time Ben had said anything so direct—or so earnestly. Joking around was one thing, but this time, he’d managed to stop Greg in his tracks.
“What are you saying? Is there something I don’t know?” Greg for the first time, looked less than his 100percent confident self.
Ben almost regretted giving voice to his cynicism. But not quite. He forged forward as they stood on the sidewalk next to a white picket fence bordering a lush green carpet-like lawn surrounding a four-square white American Colonial with black shutters. His best friend was about to plunge into the pristine suburban neighborhood existence and leave him behind. Greg may as well be heading for Mars.
“Look—you’re young. Your family has money—hers doesn’t.” Greg stared at him and his face turned from concerned to a closed steel door. Ben wouldn’t let it go—couldn’t let his friend ruins his life—not yet before he’d even had a chance to really live. “Look at your Dad’s latest wife.”
Greg’s nostrils flared and he said nothing. Ben pushed his hand through his hair. This wasn’t working. Why did he think Greg would ever take his concern seriously.
“Hell—think of all the fun you’ll be missing—I’ll never see you again except maybe at your kid’s birthdays and we both know how I am about kids.” Ben flashed his smile—the chagrinned version and hoped for mercy.
“So that’s it? No big revelations about how horrible Sam really is and how she’s not who I think she is because you saw her starring in a porn flick?” Greg laughed.
“Really—she starred in a porn flick?” Ben pretended to be impressed—but he wished he had that kind of smoking gun to throw a monkey wrench into this speeding train wreck of a wedding about to smash his friends life to smithereens.
“Don’t worry about it. You’re a cynic. I know you don’t believe in marriage. But we’ll be best buds forever.” Greg put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. “You’ll come to the kids parties to rescue me from the ennui of total contentment and we’ll drink shots of tequila and remember when.
“Fine—but don’t tell me I’m coming to those cheesey kids ball games because I know they don’t serve alcohol.”
They both laughed, but Ben’s gut twisted and he wasn’t sure if it was anxiety about his fate or his friend’s. In spite of his tendency to cynicism, something didn’t feel right. He could feel it in his gut and his gut never lied.