I’m standing behind my best friend in the entire world, my brother from another mother, as he marries the woman of his dreams. Literally. Brooke had been the one for Evan since they were like ten, if you listen to their accounts. It’s too bad Kendra and that fuckwit Zack, who is weirdly Evan’s half-brother, got in the way of them being together sooner. So many wasted years.
Speaking of wasted years, look how many I wasted on Kendra! Too fucking many. Thirteen years I spent with that manipulative witch and I didn’t even realize what kind of person she was until Brooke caught Kendra and Zack, who was my best friend when Evan wasn’t around, fucking at my house when they were all visiting during Brooke and Evan’s honeymoon.
All the most important people in my life were in my house at the same time in way too fucking long and that’s when I find out the woman I was going to spend my life with had been fucking around with Zack nearly the entire time we’d been dating.
For thirteen solid years, they’d been carrying on an affair right under my dumbass nose. How had I not seen it? They’d been best friends since they were in diapers, and I was the dipshit that trusted them both. Kendra was only with me for my money and status. I was supposed to take over my father’s company as the firstborn Whittier son. She wanted the fortune and the status that Zack could never afford her. Well, her dad wants her to have that status. I don’t actually know what Kendra wants. Even though Zack is Richard Van Holsten’s son, he’s never been claimed. He won’t be the heir and now that Dick’s in jail, his mother probably won’t be receiving any more money.
Kendra sunk her fucking claws into me just as we were going into ninth grade and never let go. What a fucking idiot I am. Kristie, the other of my three best friends, knew what kind of snake Kendra was from the beginning. I’d heard all her comments but never listened to them. I thought Kristie was just being Kristie.
Kristie’s a lot like me. She’s got a potty mouth to rival that of a sailor. She’s wild and free and no one can reign her in unless she wants to be. She always tells the truth, no matter how much it might fucking hurt. And it does hurt when you’re on the receiving end of her truth bombs. I respect the hell out of that and her.
For a minute there, I was genuinely pissed at Evan, Kristie, and Allie for not telling me about Kendra’s toxic behavior, but I know why they didn’t. Besides the fact that they didn’t know how bad it truly was, I wouldn’t have listened. I had blinders on where she was concerned, and it took Brooke seeing the infidelity to get me to acknowledge the truth because Brooke is honest and she doesn’t lie.
So, I’m standing here as the best man for my best friend, watching him find the absolute happiness I’ve always wanted and never really had. I’m smiling for him. I’m genuinely happy for him, but I’m not happy. I’m hurt and pissed still, even though it’s been nine months.
Thirteen years with someone is too long to not still be sad after nine months. I’m not so much sad that our relationship is over. I’m fucking thrilled to be rid of someone so awful, but I’m sad for the end of my relationship. I’m sad I don’t have someone to come home to anymore, no matter how unpleasant and high maintenance she was.
Most of all, I’m lonely. I’ve spent most of my adolescent and adult life always with someone, whether that was Kendra, my friends, or family, and now I’m alone. Like truly alone for the first time in… ever. I don’t even live in the same city as my parents and little brother anymore.
After Kendra tore my fucking heart out of my chest and threw it into oncoming traffic, I was just done. I don’t want to take over my dad’s company. I never really wanted to, so I didn’t. I noped the fuck out of that expectation, and my little brother was more than happy to take my place.
Of course, my dad threatened to cut me off if I left, but whatever, I made it work. I got a job producing music, which is something I always wanted to do but never pursued because of my responsibility to my family. The minute I inked myself up and refused to wear a suit, he knew the company life wasn’t for me. My dad did indeed cut me off, but it’s fine. I don’t want anything from them, anyway. I’ll make my own way. Dad knew I was a lost cause long before this, anyway.
I moved several hours away from them, and now I rarely talk to my family at all. I just need some distance from that life. I am finally on my own for the first time and though it’s ridiculously lonely, it’s also freeing as hell to have no expectations except for my own.
I came back to New York for Brooke and Evan’s real wedding five months after I was here to spend the holidays with them. It’s great since I wasn’t invited to the first. I stand here and try to look as happy as I should feel, but I see Allie and Kristie’s penetrating stares. I know they’ll call me on my bullshit the minute there’s time.
That time comes during the reception. We’re sitting together as plates of food are placed in front of us. I try to dig in without meeting the stares of my other best friends, but it doesn’t work.
“Noah, talk to us,” Allie says, soft-spoken as always. She’s the sweetest person in our group of friends.
Allie’s the one I lean on the most. She the opposite of me in almost every way. She’s average size for a woman, but shorter than everyone else. Her perfect skin isn’t marred by any tattoos or piercings other than one hole in her lobes. She’s laid back where I’m loud. Somehow, she’s the perfect friend to me. She calms me and makes me smile in a way the others don’t.
“Don’t be sad over that bitch you dumped. It’s been nine months and we know for damn sure she’s moved on. She was all up for marrying Evan,” Kristie chimes in.
I groan. She’s talking about the fact that when Evan’s dad found out the marriage between Brooke and Evan wasn’t legal, he wanted to get rid of Brooke. He arranged for Evan to marry Kendra instead because Mr. Van Holsten thought Kendra would be a better puppet.
The reminder stings, but it is what it is. Brooke, Kristie, and Allie were able to stop the wedding before it finished while also getting Evan’s dad arrested for all the illegal shit he’d done over the years. I kinda wish Kris didn’t bring it up because it fucked me up real bad when I heard that Evan would be marrying her.
“Kristie, don’t. He’s allowed to be sad,” Allie chastises with a stern look. She doesn’t get mad often, but Allie can be just as formidable as Kristie, just in her own way.
“Sorry. I know you’re hurting Noah, but you’re a wonderful guy. There’s someone out there perfect for you. She’s just waiting for you to find her,” Kristie says with a kind smile.
“Whoa there Kristie, you almost sounded like Sweets being all genuine and shit,” I joke because what else can I do? This is who I am. The jokester, the easy-go-lucky guy that always has a smile for everyone.
Kristie scowls at my teasing, but it quickly morphs into a satisfied smile. She nudges my shoulder as we eat our dinner.
“It will get better,” Allie whispers and grabs my hand. She gives it a reassuring squeeze and I can’t help but feel comforted in their presence. I’ll be sad when they go back to L.A. tomorrow and I go back to Florida. I always feel at home wherever they are.
I dance with Allie throughout the night. Kristie’s the only one with a date. She’s been seeing Brooke’s best friend, Willa, on and off when they’re in the same city. Allie’s my date tonight, and that’s perfect. Maybe this is all I need right now. My own company and the company of my best friends in the entire world. I know them well and I love them dearly.
Evan and Brooke come dancing up to me and Allie sometime during the night. I smile at the happy couple and it’s not even forced. I wonder if they’ve noticed the difference. It’s getting easier as the night goes on. Kendra’s been texting me nonstop and every time she does, I take a drink or a shot.
“Sorry, I haven’t been able to chill with you guys. Weddings are a little crazy, and this is the second one we’ve had in the last year,” Evan apologizes.
“At least this one is significantly smaller and less public than our last one,” Brooke says with a twinkling laugh.
“So where’s the honeymoon this time?” I ask.
“No honeymoon this time around, but I think we’ll take a family vacation in a few months after school’s ended, and the adoption is finalized. Summer’s never been to Disney World, and I have fond memories of the place. We’ll come see you when we go,” Evan replies with a smile.
“Sure. I’d love to see my niece. Speaking of which, where’s my little princess?” I ask, looking around.
Summer comes bounding out of nowhere and jumps into my free arms. She’s wearing a white dress that comes to her knees, and her blonde hair has escaped whatever was holding it together. If no one knew better, they would think Summer is Evan and Brooke’s biological child, but she’s not. They’re getting ready to adopt her after Brooke found her wandering the streets alone. They couldn’t find her family and Brooke couldn’t stand the thought of the little four-year-old going into the foster care system, so she and Evan took her in. It was love at first sight in a way no one had experienced before. Trying to become foster parents and eventually adoptive parents to Summer was how they found out they weren’t actually married, as they had thought. There was a bunch of other drama with Evan’s dad, which is what led to Evan’s brief engagement to Kendra.
Summer is still kind of afraid of strangers, but when we met for the first time back in December for her fifth birthday party, we were instant friends. I guess my height and tattoos didn’t scare this little girl. She’s my favorite person in the world now.
I poke Summer in the ribs, and she giggles as she nuzzles into my neck. I can feel her yawn.
“Is someone tired?” I ask, poking her again.
“Not tired,” Summer sighs, but then her breathing evens out and I know she’s down.
“Sorry, Noah. I can take her,” Brooke says, tearing herself away from Evan.
I gently shift Summer to her waiting arms and as soon as she’s there, a content smile crosses Brooke’s face. She looks so happy and an unexpected pang of jealousy hits me. I tamp it down because their gain is not my loss and I refuse to be anything but happy for them today.
“Summer really loves you,” Evan comments as we walk over to the bar for another drink.
“I love her too,” I say.
“How are you?” Evan asks. I think about giving him the same old answer I always give, which is that I’m fine. Instead, I decide to give him a more genuine answer.
“Better than before. I’m lonely and I’m sad, but also I feel free for the first time and I’m going to explore that feeling,” I respond.
“Good, good. It’s only a matter of time before all the girls in Florida realize you’re single and are knocking down your door,” Evan says with a laugh. I laugh with him, but it’s not my normal laugh. I don’t want the girls who would knock down my door the second they hear Noah Whittier is single for the first time.
“Or maybe I’ll take a stab at being single for a little while longer,” I say because I don’t think I’m ready to be dating anyone. Evan shrugs.
“Everything will be waiting for you when you’re ready,” he says and claps my shoulder.
“Thanks, Ev,” I reply.
Despite all the words of encouragement from my friends, I’m still sad enough that Kendra’s barrage causes me to drink way too fucking much. There’s an open bar at the wedding and I’ve been taking double shots of whiskey all night. By midnight, I’m wrecked. The good news is the alcohol did what it was meant to do. It made me forget why I’m sad and that I’m even sad in the first place. The bad news? As soon as the car comes to pick me up, I do exactly what drunk ass people do. I call my fucking ex. Kendra’s all too happy to answer when I call.
“Noah? To what do I owe this pleasure?” she purrs into my ear like she hasn’t been texting me all night.
“I’m staying at my dad’s hotel on fifth avenue. Come see me,” I reply. I’m actually staying at Evan’s place, but I won’t bring Kendra there. I wonder if she understands. Even I can hear the slurring of my speech.
“Sure, baby. I’ll be right there,” she answers, then hangs up the phone.
I’m sure somewhere in the back of my mind, I know this is a shitty fucking idea. And somewhere I’m asking myself where the fuck Zack’s at tonight, but the drunk part doesn’t give two single fucks about the answers to either of those questions. I’m lonely and I’m sad. Kendra will make it better… or worse. Probably worse, but I’m too fucking drunk to care.
When I stumble out of my car to the front doors of the hotel, I see Kendra in a tan trench coat standing by the reception desk. I stalk over there and before I can think about what I’m doing; I grab her around the waist and pull her close to me. I crash my lips down to hers and she moans into my mouth, spurring me on.
I pull her to the elevator and smash the button for the penthouse suite. I didn’t actually check-in, but the penthouse is always open to me since my dad owns the place. I continue to devour her mouth and neck with mine and I’m rewarded when I finally push her into the room and she slowly takes off the trench coat until it pools at her feet.
Underneath she’s wearing a lacy black bra, a matching thong, and some sort of garter holding up black thigh-high tight things. She’s wearing hooker heels and I can barely contain myself as I launch at her. The last thing I remember is pushing her onto the bed and the echoes of her giggles. Then everything goes black.
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Three Months Later
Tom, my first and only friend I’ve made since moving away from my parents, stomps into my office at the music producing studio I work at.
“What’s up?” I ask when he shuts the door behind him.
“I have a proposition for you,” he says, sitting down in the chair across from me.
“Okay,” I respond suspiciously.
“So, I know you just got out of a terrible relationship, but I’ve watched you mope around for like almost a year and I can tell you’re lonely. My girlfriend has a roommate who got out of a bad relationship and has been moping around, same as you. We thought maybe you guys could go on a date. You know, get back out there,” Tom says.
I stare at the guy. Is he fucking insane? I’m not ready for that kind of thing. Especially not with some chick who’s probably still pining for the jack-off that dumped her.
“No,” I say.
“Dude, come on. Her name is Avery, and she’s cute,” Tom says, holding out his phone for me to see.
I don’t really care what she looks like. She could be a perfect ten, and it wouldn’t change how I feel about dating right now. I look at the picture anyway and I see three girls. I recognize one as Holly, Tom’s sometimes girlfriend. The other two I don’t recognize.
“Which one’s Avery?” I ask because though all three girls are beautiful, the one with black hair and pale green eyes catches my eye.
There’s something alluring about her. I don’t know if it’s because she kinda reminds me of Kristie with her eyes or if it’s because her smile is sweet like Allie’s. She’s got a sparkle in her eye like she’s happy. I could use a little happiness in my life.
Tom points out of black-haired beauty I was hoping it would be. I shrug when he pulls his phone back.
“Okay,” I say. Tom stares at me wide-eyed. He didn’t expect me to say yes.
“You’ll go?” he asks.
“Yeah, I’ll go. How bad could one night out be?”