From the very first moment that I understood that there was a different kind of love—love different than the love given to me by my parents or my brother—I knew that I wanted it. From that day on, I was a hopeless romantic, pretending to marry my friend Simon in our parent's backyard while our other friends, Kayleen and Kate watched on. Our mothers often laughed at that and told Simon to take good care of me since he was my husband, after all. Simon's mother—a beautiful Korean woman who didn't look a day over her early twenties even though she was approaching her late thirties—laughing implored me to make sure he didn't get into anything stupid.
"Make sure he keeps a good head on his shoulders, Yvonne," she'd said to me, patting my head indulgently as she laughed.
All throughout my life, I knew what I wanted. A love to rival the ages and a family to come from that love. It was somewhere during my teen years that I realized the world didn't share my idealism. It seemed like I was the only person in the world who wanted a love that was unselfish. I didn't merely want to be loved, I wanted to love someone back. But in this world, I grew to realize that everyone wanted to be loved, but they made it seem like the idea of loving someone back was a complete chore. That became especially true during college when my boyfriend of two years dumped me for a woman who "measured up to his family's standards" better than I could.
Apparently, bringing home a woman who hadn't graduated from Harvard Law would hurt his father's campaign for mayor.
I remember that I cried a lot the night he broke up with me. It had been my first real breakup, after all. During that time, I couldn't imagine that I would ever fall in love with anyone ever again. All of my friends had done their very best to comfort me. Levi—one of my very best friends—had taken me to every party on campus and had introduced me to every straight guy he knew. He'd said the best way to get over my heartbreak was to get under someone else. Kayleen baked for me every day for a month; there was a saying among all of us that Kayleen's cookies could cure the most severe of heartbreaks. They didn't necessarily cure my heartbreak, but they did soften the blow. Her sister—and my best friend in the entire universe—Kate did the only thing she could, she stayed beside me. She stood at my side and she didn't leave. She had been the first person to make me laugh during that time. It felt like Kate was always going to be the only person who ever truly understood me. Her slender arms were always around my shoulders, comforting me and holding me up.
And Simon, well, he and I had gotten close during that time. Even though we were virtually penniless college students, he took me out to my favorite restaurant every week to help improve my mood. He didn't do anything that anyone would consider particularly special, he just listened. He let me cry on his shoulder, he let me complain about how bad the sex had been, anyway. He told me that my ex had been stupid to dump me over something so small. If you loved someone, why should something like someone else's political career matter? Shouldn't you fight for that person? Somewhere during that time—during crying over a guy who I knew was never going to love me again—I started to see Simon through new eyes.
He was hot.
I'd never noticed it before because he was my friend. We had been friends since we were both fresh out of the womb. Before, the most I had noticed was that he must have inherited his skin from his mother because it was unblemished. I'd noticed that he got his hair—blond and lustrous—from his father. But after that incident, after he was there for me, I found myself noticing other things. He had a nice jawline and when he smiled, his dimples really drew attention, giving him a dash of cuteness. He had K-Pop star good looks, I realized. He had taken all the good parts of his Korean mother and his All-American boy father and combined them. His body wasn't underwear model sexy, but it had a charm of its own. He was slender and sinewy with hard pecks and defined arms and a six-pack that was just barely coming in since he had started seriously working out a few months prior.
I grew to like him much more than a friend.
And, to my surprise, he grew to like me, too.
We started dating about two years after my crush on him began to bloom. At first, I worried that Kate, Kayleen, and Levi would think it was weird that we were together. I worried that our group's friendship would get awkward because of our relationship. It didn't, though. Everyone just kind of...accepted it, like it was something they had kind of expected all along. My college years were blissful. I had my old friends who I loved more than anything, I made a new friend during my internship for Grover—which was a high maintenance company of wardrobe consultants that helped the one percent look their best. More than anything, though, I had Simon and that in and of itself was everything to me.
How is it possible to love someone so much? That was the thought that came into my mind every time I woke up to find him lying beside me.
After we graduated college, all of us got our first real jobs. Martia and I turned our internship into a full-time job with Grover, Levi got a job as a journalist—he had a real knack for sniffing out the truth and it was the only job he could think of to satisfy his thirst for "tea"—Kayleen got a job at a bakery, and Kate ended up working for Hawke Enterprises. She mostly worked for William Hawke, the CEO of Hawke Enterprises. She was his assistant for the most part and she'd told me he was grooming his son, Liam, to be the next CEO. He was only eighteen at the time. I envied him a little for knowing what he was going to do already; when I was eighteen, I could barely keep myself fed. Simon got a position working as a hacker for hire for Hawke Enterprises. It was a position many people who were hack-savvy coveted but very few received.
The years passed by quickly and, finally, two days before my twenty-eighth birthday, Simon proposed. It would be a complete understatement to say that I was happy. I was ecstatic. Elated. Over the fucking moon. The two years of our engagement were spent with a warm, happy glow. We couldn't get married right away since we were both in serious parts in our careers, so we decided to wait two years. Besides, what was two years when it was the person you loved.
Finally, though, the awaited day had come. I stood in the mirror, staring at myself in the dress Daniel Grover—the head of Grover and my boss—had given me. It was a custom-made Vera Wang wedding dress that had been designed to fit me perfectly. It was made with a sweetheart neckline that coiled its way securely around my body and gave me curves like you wouldn't believe. Stretching down from the neckline was filmy white tulle that swept the floor gracefully. Martia, Kate, Kayleen and my mother were all in the room with me. They had all helped me step into the dress and now Kayleen was helping me place the veil over my carefully done up-do.
Mom was sitting in one of the chairs in the corner of the room, staring at me and dabbing at her eyes. I had told her not to cry and she promised that she wouldn't, but she had been crying all day.
"Yvonne, honey, you look so beautiful." She choked on a sob. "Doesn't she look beautiful?"
"Yup," Martia said from her spot across the room, she was fiddling with the bouquet and making sure all the flowers were perfectly in place. "She one bad ass bitch." She grinned at me.
Kate walked up to me and looked at me for a long moment. It was actually a very weird look. Less like she was in awe and more like she knew some kind of secret that I didn't. Something about that look made me feel very uncomfortable. But she smiled, touched my veil and said, "You really do look beautiful, Vonnie. I hope you remember today for the rest of your life."
As she was smiling at me, I smiled back and convinced myself that I imagined it. I must have imagined the look on her face just then and the odd tone of her voice. She was smiling at me the same way she'd always been smiling, so nothing was wrong. And if something was wrong, we would talk about it after the wedding. Today had to go off without a hitch.
"Dude, what the hell are you doing, why are you dressed?" I heard Martia exclaim, a deep annoyance—and something that sounded like she was close to ending up on an episode of Snapped—was very prevalent in her voice.
I turned to see what she was talking about and lo and behold, Simon was standing there. Martia was right, he wasn't dressed. He was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and some old running shoes.
Kayleen went to throw herself over me to shield me from her view at the same time I shrieked, "Simon, what the hell are you doing here? You're not supposed to see me before the ceremony."
Simon looked around at everyone in the room and said, "Can I speak to Yvonne alone, please?"
The room was silent for a couple of seconds and Martia narrowed her eyes, looking very distrustful.
"What could you possibly have to say thirty minutes before the ceremony, Simon?" she asked.
"You guys, it's okay," I told them even though my heart was beating a mile a minute. Something didn't feel right. Simon wasn't meeting my eyes and when Martia had asked him that question, he hadn't met her eyes either. Dread curled in my stomach as I forced a laugh. "Go wait in the hall."
Mom was the first one to rise from her spot on the chair in the corner and make her way towards the door. Kayleen followed suit soon after and dragged Martia, who was staring at Simon like she was thinking of fifty different ways to murder him. Kate lingered behind, looking back and forth between Simon and me with a look on her face my mind was too preoccupied to translate. Worried, I decided. She must be worried.
"It's okay, Kate," I said, managing the shakiest of smiles. "You can go."
When she did and Simon and I were all alone, I tried to force down the panic that was clawing its way up my throat. I tried to tell my heart to stop pounding. I had no reason to feel this way. Simon was my best friend, the love of my life. He wouldn't do anything to hurt me.
He would never hurt me.
"Yvonne, I..." he trailed off, cupping the back of his hand with his neck and looking at the ceiling. "You know I've always really cared about you. Since we were kids. Back then, I didn't think a cooler girl existed. Hell, I still don't. But it's just...I just..." he trailed off again and closed his eyes like he didn't want to be here right now. "I just don't think that...we should get married."
I heard the sound of something shattering and, with detached surprise, I realized it was me. I was shattering, breaking. What's a word to describe how I felt right then as the love of my life told me he didn't want to marry me? Cold? Hollow? Scared? Panicked? Desperate? All of the above? Or some unnamed emotion that no one could ever put into words?
I think it was the latter.
"Of course, I'll pay for everything," Simon continued on, looking at his shoes. "I know that we were planning to split the costs but since I've decided that we shouldn't..." He tapered off, taking a deep breath. "I'll pay for all of it. You can have the apartment. I'm...staying somewhere else now."
I snapped to reality when he said that. Some kind of ugly emotion boiling in my chest.
"Where?" I asked.
He looked up at me. "What?"
"Where are you staying, Simon? Because, as far as I know, you haven't been searching for any new apartments. Also, if you're paying for the entire wedding, you're not going to be able to afford to live on your own for a bit. So where are you staying? Or rather, who are you staying with?"
His eyes became guarded. "Yvonne—"
"Who is she?" I asked, my voice coming out calm even though I felt anything but. "Who is she, Simon? Who have you been screwing behind my back? Tell me." I looked him right in the eye. "Don't you think I deserve to know."
We looked at each other for an unfathomable amount of time. Idly, I wonder how I must look right now, standing here in front of him in this useless white dress and veil, trying to hold it together. I must look fucking stupid.
Finally, Simon sighed and said, "I don't want you to blame her, Yvonne, it's something that happened mutually between the two of us. She didn't coerce me into any—"
"Who is she?" I interrupted him.
He stared at me for another long minute before he closed his eyes and said, "Kate. I've been seeing Kate."
If being dumped by the love of my life on my wedding day had shattered me, finding out he was sleeping with my best friend in the whole entire world took those shattered pieces and crumbled them into nothing. I had thought I wouldn't be able to feel when he told me we shouldn't get married, I had assumed him not wanting to marry me was the worst of it. I was wrong. It hit me like a ton of bricks, like a train or a piano falling from a window. It crushed me and suffocated me.
"Kate?" I breathed out. It sounded like some kind of soundless howl because it hurt to speak and it hurt to force that name out.
"It just happened, Yvonne. We started spending time together and I..." he stopped talking.
"And you what, Simon?"
"I fell in love with her, Yvonne. Shit, why do you want me to tell you this? I didn't want to hurt you. I care about you, I really do. I can't help that I—"
"Get the fuck out!" I screamed, reaching for the vase on the table beside me and tossing it at him. When he I saw him still standing there, I picked up the table itself and right as I chucked it at him, he opened the door and ran out.
I saw Martia, Kayleen and my mom standing there, all three of them watching in surprise as Simon darted out of the room. My eyes went immediately to Kate, though. She was staring at me with the same look she had been wearing when Simon walked in. Back then, I hadn't been able to interpret it correctly because I had been so swallowed up by the bad feeling swirling inside of me, but now I could interpret it well.
She saw my pain and she was relishing in it like a cat lounging in the warm sun. She liked it. She wanted this.
She walked away and all I could do was stare after her. Maybe I should have launched myself across the room, closed the distance between her and drag her up and down every corner of this venue where my wedding was supposed to take place but I didn't. I couldn't. All I could feel was the hurt that had torn a hole in my chest and the emptiness the two of them had left in their wake.
I fell to my knees and sank forward, feeling my cheek press against the cold, hardwood floors as I wondered how this could have happened. Had I done something to warrant Kate hating me?
My eyes filled with tears and I let myself just lay there, all of my childish ideas about love? They washed right down the drain.