Val's relationship is put under the microscope.
"So," he began, "fill me in on everything I've missed. What's new with you?"
"Where to begin.." I trailed off, that feeling of unease swirling sickeningly in my gut.
"How about with your boyfriend?" He suggested, and I choked on my beer. Now he wouldn't look at me, but there was a small smirk on his face as he glanced around the area.
"Wow, we're jumping right into this then, huh?" I laughed, preparing myself for the inquiry that was sure to follow.
"Well I don't see why not. How did you guys meet?"
"Ah, so he's older."
"How much older?"
"4 years older."
"What's he like?"
"What? I need to know that little Val is being properly taken care of." His tone was playful but the smirk was beginning to falter on his sculpted face.
"I am. He's good to me." I said softly, thinking about Luke.
"So you guys are serious then, huh?" He was struggling to keep up the unbothered facade. Perhaps it was the beer that made me bold, or just the pent up hurt and frustration, but I let his question hang in the air for a moment before I cut back, "what about you? There is quite a lot you have to tell me. Let's hear your story." A smile flickered across his face and he gave me a slightly resentful look.
"My story isn't all it's cracked up to be, my dear." He shook his head. I dove right in, just as he had.
"How's the Mrs.'s?" I was bothered by the fact that even saying this made my stomach queasy. I had vowed not to let it matter to me. I had spent too long letting this stuff matter.
"Who?" He asked, apparently finding something very intriguing about his drink as he stared into it.
"James. Your wife."
"Ah, you mean the soon to be ex." He corrected, tipping his cup towards me as if in a toast.
"What's the story there?" I pressed, settling into my spot and turning to face him. He paused for a moment, and then looked right at me, a smile on his lips but a haunting sadness in his eyes.
"We're here to celebrate a beautiful marriage between two people, not to rehash the failure of a toxic couple. I promise you Val, I'll tell you everything, but I just can't today. Today I just want to be happy." He offered with a heartbroken smile. I decided to drop it.
The day went on with that dream like fluidity. I socialized as Jen had pushed me to, but truthfully, the majority of the afternoon was spent with her and James. I wouldn't say that being around him got easier, because it didn't, but I was at least able to be around and talk to him. Every chance he got, he would bring Luke up, I suppose trying to figure out more about my relationship. His bitterness over my boyfriend was very apparent by the way he refused to refer to Luke by name, instead calling him patronizing petnames. Jen backed me up, sure to mention that Luke was a good guy, and that we seemed very happy together. This conversation quickly got too weird for me, I made my excuses about needing to grab something from the car, and I left.
When I was sure that things had blown over with the "me and Luke" conversation, I made my way back over.
"All of us have changed so much, it's insane." James was saying as I came up.
"Well yeah, it's been 13 years, I would think we've all changed since then." Jen laughed, taking a drag off of her cigarette.
"I know that, but I mean, who knew you would've shrunk like a little old lady so prematurely, Jen?," He teased, and then turned towards me just as I grabbed the cigarette out of my sisters hand, taking a quick pull off of it before tossing it and grounding it out. "And who knew that Val would grow up to be such an amazonian babe." He added, staring right at me.
"You're being just a little biased Jimmy." Jen rolled her eyes with a grin.
"No, I'm serious. She's always been beautiful. But look at her, she's glowing." He said softly, his eyes never leaving me.
"Alright, alright, time for more drinks!" Being nearly only 90 pounds, the 5 or 6 drinks Jen had had were getting to her. She was in a jolly mood, which was unusual for her, but I felt responsible for her, so as the day ended, I rallied her up, and told her it was time to say goodbye. When we tried excusing ourselves, Jenny fervently insisted we all go out for drinks instead. When both Jen's were together, there was no stopping them. So off to the bars we went.