“You’re the most beautiful bride that I’ve ever seen.”
“You have to say that; you’re my mom.” I smiled.
I stared at my white A-line strapless dress, embellished with rhinestone flowers that cascaded asymmetrically over the bodice as I ran my hands down my sides. I turned my head to make sure my cathedral bridal veil was placed perfectly amongst my elegant curly updo.
“I can’t believe you’re finally getting married!” Giselle smiled.
“You’re picture-perfect, Lily Gilmore,” Gretchen said as she snapped a picture with her phone.
I was so nervous; my hands were beginning to sweat. I couldn’t believe this day had finally arrived. The past year of planning the perfect wedding was torturous, but exciting. Hunter stood by my side and had agreed with everything that I liked. I think he just wanted to keep the peace, or he just didn’t care. He didn’t want a big wedding; he wanted to run off to Vegas and get married at one of those drive-by chapels. I’ve always dreamed of a big wedding, and he understood, so he nixed the idea of Vegas. Plus, my mother would have killed us both if we eloped.
People were gathered in the church, waiting for the ceremony to begin.
“Lily, where’s your sister?”
“I’m not sure, mom. She said she had to go get something and that she’d be right back.”
“She’s your maid of honor, and she needs to be here; the ceremony’s about to start.”
I sighed and headed out of the dressing room. I walked down the long hallway that connected to a small kitchen. I figured she probably went out behind the church to have a cigarette, so I proceeded through the kitchen and stopped when I heard a noise coming from one of the rooms off to the side. I put my hand on the knob and slowly turned it as I pushed opened the door. Nothing had prepared me for what I saw.
I pulled the door shut, and I ran out of the church. My heart was racing, and my stomach felt sick. I heard my mother’s voice following me from behind. I stopped when she asked me to. I put my hand on my head and paced in circles, not believing what I just saw. My breathing was rapid as I looked up and saw Hunter standing there, looking at me, and my sister standing behind him. Tears began to stream down my face as he slowly started walking towards me. I put my right hand up before he took three steps.
“Don’t you dare come near me, you bastard!” I screamed.
“Lily, Hunter, what the hell is going on?” my mother asked.
I stood there, pointing my finger. “Why don’t you ask that cheating bastard over there and his dirty whore standing behind him?!” I spat.
My mother turned her head and looked at my sister, Brynn. She stood there, shaking her head; then looked at Hunter. By this time, a crowd of people had emerged from the church and were gathered around to see what all the commotion was. The way my mother was looking at Brynn and Hunter gave me the feeling that she knew what was going on between them.
“Lily, please let me—”Hunter started to say.
“Don’t you ever say a f**king word to me again!” I screamed, cutting him off.
I stood there, feeling about as small as an ant, and raised my arms up in the air. “Well, it looks like there isn’t going to be a wedding today, folks! Unless, my whore of a sister over there wants to marry this cheating bastard!” I yelled as I pointed to Hunter.
“Lily! That’s enough!” my mother commanded.
I looked at her with disgrace and slowly walked towards her. “You knew, didn’t you? You knew they were screwing behind my back!”
She stared at me with a look of guilt. She didn’t have to say a word; her reaction said it all. I shook my head as I looked at my sister who was standing on the steps, crying. “Why are you crying? Isn’t this what you wanted? You can have him, baby sister, because the two of you were made for each other!”
I ripped off my veil and threw it on the ground as I turned on my heels and stomped away. Giselle and Gretchen followed behind, and we took the limo back to their hotel room.
We stepped into the hotel room, and I immediately sat on the edge of the bed. I was still in my wedding dress. The only tears that fell were the ones outside the church. I was still in shock until Giselle sat down next to me and told me that it was ok to cry. I broke down as she held me. Gretchen walked over and sat on the other side as all three of us hugged each other.
“It’s going to be ok, Lily,” Gretchen whispered.
“How could he do this to me?” I sobbed.
“He’s an asshole, and it’s better that you found out now,” Giselle said.
“She’s right, honey, it’s better now than five years from now,” Gretchen spoke.
I sniffled as Giselle handed me some tissues. “What are you going to do now?” Gretchen asked.
“Gretchen!” Giselle scolded.
“It’s ok. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t go back home, and I can’t face my family. I can’t believe my mother knew about Hunter and Brynn. How could she do that to me after what my father did to her?”
“I don’t know, sweetie, it’s pretty f**ked up that she knew, and your sister, my god, why would she do that to you?”
“I feel like I’m going to be sick,” I said as I sprang from the bed and into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me.
I stayed in the hotel room for an entire week. I didn’t get out of bed except to use the bathroom. I kept my phone off and gave strict instructions to Giselle and Gretchen not to let anyone know where I was staying. They went out and bought me a new cell phone so that we could keep in touch, because they needed to get back to California for their jobs. I ordered room service when I felt like it, but I mostly stared at the ceiling, thinking about how much my life sucked. I cried until it felt like my eyes were going to fall out, and I didn’t understand why Hunter would do that to me. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because he’s a man, and that’s what men do. They’re cheating, lying bastards who can’t commit to one woman. Are all men like that? I’m starting to believe they are. Then, there was my sister.
It was Wednesday, so I knew my mother would be at her charity meeting and that my sister would be having lunch with her friends. It was something they did every Wednesday. As the cab pulled up to the house, I stared at it for a minute through the window.
“Miss, are you getting out?” the driver asked.
I looked at him, and it took my brain a minute to register what he asked. “Yeah, I’m sorry.” I paid him the cab fare, got out of the cab, and stood in front of the long winding driveway that led to the only house that I’ve known my entire life. I slowly entered the house, making sure no one was home. I couldn’t face my family; not after what they’ve done to me. I went upstairs to my room, quickly grabbed my suitcases from the closet, and began throwing only the necessities inside. I needed to do this quick before someone came home. I grabbed a handful of clothes from my closet, my makeup, bras, underwear, and shoes. I had two suitcases packed and ready to go. I opened the top drawer of my desk, pulled out my bank book, and I stood in the doorway, looking at my room. I headed down the stairs with my suitcases. As I was approaching the front door, it opened, and my mother walked in. She froze when she saw me, and tears started to fill her eyes.
“Lily, my baby, I was so worried about you. Where have you been?”
I looked at her with a stern look, and I instantly felt sick to my stomach. “It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. The only thing that matters is I’m gone and out of this family forever. What you did to me, by not telling me about Brynn and Hunter, is unforgivable. You helped me plan my wedding, knowing he was f**king my little sister. You were going to let me marry a cheater and a liar. What kind of mother are you?!” I started to cry.
“Lily, please, you have to understand that I was trying to protect you, and he promised me that it was over,” she said as she walked towards me with her arms out.
“Don’t you dare take another step!” I snapped. “I’m nothing like you, and I won’t live my life like you either.”
I walked out the front door, stopped, and turned around, staring at my mother as she stood there, crying. “This family is dead to me. Tell my little sister that I hope both her and Hunter live happily ever after. Have a nice life, mother.” I threw my suitcases in the back of my Explorer, got in, and started the truck as my mother came running out of the house after me.
“Please, Lily, I’m sorry; don’t do this to us. You’re going to regret it.”
“The only thing I regret is ever being a part of this lying, cheating family!” I spat as I peeled out of the driveway and headed as far away from this place as I could. The only thing I knew was that I couldn’t stay in Seattle anymore. It was time for me to disappear and start a new life.
I drove for about three hours until my gas light came on. I had reached Portland, Oregon. I pulled into a gas station and opened my purse to get my credit card; then I froze when I saw the two tickets to Aruba, which was supposed to be my honeymoon. We were supposed to leave tomorrow because Hunter couldn’t get two weeks off the day after the wedding. I filled up the Explorer with gas and drove down the road to a mini outdoor mall. I took out my camera and decided I was going to take pictures of every place I stopped. I wanted to make a scrapbook of the journey to my new life. I took pictures of the shops, the signs, and the people all around. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day, and I noticed a café with tables that sat outside. I wasn’t really hungry, but it had been several hours since I last ate. I took a seat at an open table and then placed my order with the waitress. I was looking around, taking in the fresh air, when I noticed a couple sitting a few tables over from me. They were holding hands, and laughing. The guy was hot; there was no doubt about that, and his girlfriend was very pretty. There was something about his smile that struck me in more places than one. They looked happy, and from what I could see, they were very much in love. I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture of them.
I ate lunch, had a couple glasses of iced tea, and reached for my purse to pay the bill. The tickets fell out and onto the cement floor. I reached down, picked them up, and held them in my hand, staring at them. I left some money on the table and walked over to the happy couple that I’d been watching since I sat down.
“Hi, I know this is weird, but I have two airline tickets to Aruba. The flight leaves tomorrow, and I want you to have them.”
They both looked at me like I was crazy.
“You aren’t going?” the woman asked in confusion.
“No, actually, something came up, so my fiancé and I aren’t able to go. I don’t want them to go to waste, and you two look like you would enjoy Aruba together.”
She looked at him, and they both looked at me. “Let me pay you for the tickets,” the guy said as he reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet.
“No, please, just take them. I don’t want your money. Just promise me that you’ll have a good time,” I said as I put the tickets on the table and started to walk away.
“Wait!” the girl yelled. “Thank you.” She smiled.
“Consider it a gift, and just pay it forward someday.” I smiled as I walked back to my Explorer.
One Year Later…
I inserted the key into the lock and unlocked the door. I slowly turned the handle and lightly pushed the door open as I stepped inside my new apartment. I set my suitcases down and took a deep breath. I flipped the light switch on the wall next to the door and looked around. The furniture that I ordered online had arrived, and it was scattered all over the room. I rented this apartment based off the pictures showcased on the internet. I walked around and inspected the place. The light gray walls and white moldings gave the place a classic look. The eggplant color couch and loveseat I bought matched perfectly, as did the glass coffee table and end tables. I walked down the hall and into my bedroom. I flipped the light switch and stared at the empty space. The bedroom set was being delivered tomorrow. It was late, and I was exhausted as I drove fourteen hours straight from Portland to Santa Monica. My Explorer was filled with boxes, but they would have to wait until the morning. At that moment, I just wanted to feel the comfort of my new couch.