The Invitation

The invitation could not have arrived at a worse time, or a better time, depending on how you looked at it. It marked one year since she’d left a nearly ten-year relationship, with a mound of debt (now paid off in full with the exception of her car payment), turned thirty, and moved in with her parents (how else could she have paid off a mound of debt in a year?). In the meantime, she’d made absolutely no progress on buying a house, and no progress on finding a new mate. Receiving an invitation to a wedding was a kick in the teeth, an invite to a destination wedding meant it was slightly less-so.

It was odd to receive the invitation at all. Since they’d been roommates in college, the ladies hadn’t connected more than once in real life and rarely spoke on social media or via text or email. At first she felt it was a pretty clear case of being invited to ensure another item on the registry was purchased. The more she thought about it though, the more she decided that perhaps this was her feeling sorry for herself and not the truth of the matter which is that they had been relatively close in college, they had tried to keep in touch, and they’d been close during a pretty traumatic event which tends to breed a closeness that otherwise wouldn’t exist. She took the invitation in hand, re-read it, and decided to sleep on it.

The next morning she woke to the sound of water rushing through the pipes in the wall: her parents were awake. The reminder that she was once again living with her parents was all she needed to pick up the invitation and check the yes box. If nothing else it would be a weekend away from her life in a state she’d never been to and maybe she’d even get laid (that happened at weddings, right?). She dropped the accepted invitation in the mail on her way to work and bought a gift online during her lunch break, that night after work she went online and arranged her flight and her hotel room. Then she settled in to wait the four months until the wedding.

When she arrived at the airport four months later there was a shuttle waiting to take her to the hotel. She collected her bag and enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous scenery along the ride. She’d never been out east in the fall and the foliage was astounding. She’d seen pictures of course all the reds and yellows and oranges, but in person it was just breathtaking. When she arrived at the hotel she checked in, put her bag in her room, grabbed the wedding itinerary from the desk top, and went right back outside again to continue marveling at the mountains and the leaves.

After about twenty minutes in the chilly air she was ready to return inside. She found the bar, ordered a beer, and began perusing the itinerary. There were all sorts of moments where she was expected to assist the bride in this or that task, and it was only then that she realized she had no idea how to do any of it. For example, assist the bride in getting ready for brunch…what in the world did that mean? Was she no longer able to dress herself? Had something happened that she was unaware of, something that prevented her friend, the bride, from performing her own dressing or grooming functions? There was a moment of panic as she read just how many of these moments there were over the next 36 hours.

“Hey, you made it!” said a familiar voice behind her as she felt a hand come down on her shoulder.

“Hi! It’s so good to see you, it’s been so long. You look great! Still doing stand-up?” she asked as they came out of the obligatory hug. It was the bride’s brother, Jordan, and you couldn’t ask for a man more adorable, kind, or talented.

“Yup, sure am. I’m getting to where I’m booking some pretty big places with it, too, which feels nice. I’m not saying I’ll be getting my own HBO Special anytime soon, but it’s getting big and that feels good.”

“I’m so happy for you, you deserve it,” she said smiling and thinking about nothing but his smile and also how good he smelled and also how there was absolutely no way anything was ever going to happen between them and how that made it both sad and safe.

“How about you? I heard you were buying a house?”

“Yeah, well, trying to. Ha! That’s been an ordeal. There’s a lot out there, but not that I can afford or can afford to fix, so” she laughed and took a deep breath, “still living with my parents,” she finished sighing.

“I hear ya, I had to move back in with mine, too. It’s not the greatest. But, it’s also not forever and totally worth it in the long run. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself,” he laughed. “So, Tracy is going to be crazy busy all weekend and I’m not really sure how much of her you’ll get to see, but the rest of the bridal party really wants to meet you and we’re hoping you’ll spend your free time with us?”

“Oh, wow, the bridal party? I hadn’t expected,” she began before realizing that she didn’t actually have any plans except the wedding itself, “sure, that’d be great,” she said.

“Want to come now? We’re all supposed to be getting together for dinner and drinks in about five minutes in the lobby.”

“Great,” she said, “I’m all paid up here,” she finished her beer, and left a couple bucks on the bar under the bottle, then followed him out to the lobby.

She met the entire wedding party, minus the bride and groom. Some of them she’d actually met once before at an event they’d all attended, one of Jordan’s first stand-up gigs if she remembered correctly, but the rest were all brand new faces and not exactly friendly. She was introduced all around and did her best to remembers the names that went with the faces, but that had never been her strong suit. She was grateful when they all determined it was time to head over to eat and the attention shifted away from her arrival.

At dinner she mostly sat quietly listening to everyone else banter. It was clear this group was pretty close. She laughed here and there but mostly she just listened, and in listening realized, she did not like these people. They were shallow, self-absorbed, and had way too much money. How had they all become Tara’s friends? Or Jordan’s for that matter. He seemed to be getting along just fine, not finding any of it awkward or distasteful. She realized they were all looking at her and that she’d been too busy in her own head to notice what had just been aimed at her.

“I’m sorry, I was in my head for a moment, could you repeat that?” she asked with a slight abashed smile.

“I was wondering why you came when it was an out-of-town wedding and you haven’t seen the bride in years,” said the woman with the indescribably long black hair, perfect figure, and cat eyes that were as much due to her snarky nature as her make-up talent.

“Tara invited me,” she stammered, shocked at being asked something so rude, and surprised that everyone at the table appeared to be waiting for an answer rather than looking in their laps or away or feigning any sort of understanding about just how rude the question had been. She looked to Jordan and saw that he too was looking at her, although he had the grace to look down when she caught his eye.

“I think what Tammy means is that it costs a lot of money to go to a destination wedding, and you and Tara aren’t really as close as you used to be,” Jordan said starting out sounding like he was defending her but mumbling by the end as he realized he was just stoking Tammy’s fire.

“Clearly this is a small, intimate wedding for the closest family and friends, and it just seems odd that you came,” Tammy said, “I’m not trying to be mean, I’m trying to understand why you said you’d come.”

Not trying to be mean my ass, she thought, “I just thought Tara wanted me here, hence the invitation. If that’s not the case I had no way of knowing that and it’s a little late for me to change my RSVP,” she said, as she picked her napkin up out of her lap, “at any rate,” she continued, “I think I’ll head back now. Thank you for a lovely meal.” She grabbed her purse, opened it and took out forty dollars, leaving it on the table by her plate and walking out.

She was mortified. And livid. And reminded once again that she had no place. She didn’t belong at home with her parents. She didn’t belong at this wedding. She didn’t have a home of her own, or a lover, or a pet, or a child. She was just herself, unmoored.

Why did Tara invite me, she wondered. Was she hoping I’d say I couldn’t come and send a gift? Why risk that I’d say yes, which I did, and now here we are. Had she counted on the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in so long, had she banked on it? If that’s the case she should have been too embarrassed to send me an invite. If you don’t want to risk me attending you shouldn’t risk inviting me. It made no sense.

She figured things would be better the next day, the day of the wedding. By then she’d see the bride, actually get to see Tara, and she was confident that in seeing her she’d understand everything. All would be revealed. She returned to the hotel and her bed and slept with the conviction that tomorrow would be better.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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