“Do you think this is the one?” My best friend Terrel twirled around in front of the mirror, admiring her reflection.
“Yes!” I exclaimed with glee. My troubles temporarily forgotten. “You look absolutely gorgeous!” The dress was an ivory vintage, v-neck mermaid, with a long train. It was a perfect fit and accentuated her amber eyes and smooth caramel skin. Her long, black hair was twisted into an elegant bun and she was the epitome of sophistication. She had climbed the ranks and was now a sort after top model and had graced magazine covers, billboards, and catwalks all over the world.
“Can you see me walking down the aisle in this dress?” she smiled, seeking affirmation.
“Definitely!” I gushed. “Justin is going to go nuts-like literally!” She was marrying her high school sweetheart and Corbyn’s best friend, Justin. Obviously, I was the maid of honor and Corbyn would be the best man. It was a sticky situation but I had to soldier through for Terrel’s sake. It had been several months and we hadn’t bumped into each other yet, but it was inevitable, with the wedding drawing closer. I had flown down to San Francisco to help Terrel pick out a dress and then would be leaving the following morning.
“That’s exactly what I’m angling for,” she replied, a naughty smile on her face. We held hands and burst into a fit of giggles like we used to do in high school.
“You’re on the right track dear friend,” I winked.
The sales assistant came over and we concluded our business. “Are you free for lunch?” she asked.
“We don’t have to talk about or mention the C-word,” she smiled knowingly. “Not if you don’t want to.”
“I actually do.”
“Good,” she flashed a smile of triumph. “Then let’s get going. We have a lot of ground to cover.”
“As long as you allow me to pay this time,” I grumbled, joining her arm with mine as we walked out of the boutique.
“No can do, Miss Rivers,” she rebuffed my suggestion. “You always pick up the bill. It’s on me this time,” she said firmly. “I can afford it you know?”
I told my driver and bodyguards to tail Terrel’s car to our favorite restaurant. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t leave home without them, ever since I shot to stardom. I never envisioned that my music career would take off so soon and that I’d be this successful. It still felt like a dream sometimes. I had three number one hits and my album was still topping the charts. I had performed at sell-out concerts-not as a supporting act but as the main event. It got me every time I stood on a stage in front of thousands of people-that the crowd was there to see me.
We were seated at a corner table which was close to the entrance and we could see everyone that walked in and out. When the drinks and starters were served Terrel couldn’t contain herself any longer.
“Okay Rivers, spill,” she demanded impatiently leaning closer. “From your sappy face, I can tell that the green-eyed beauty turned down your ridiculous proposal.”
My lips twitched and my brow quirked. “Did you just call him a beauty?”
“Corby Coleman cannot be called handsome. That would be an understatement,” she leaned back and took a sip of her drink. “He’s beautiful,” she let out a dreamy sigh. “With that sweet smile, those soft eyes and choir boy looks,” she smiled. “I bet he’s a good kisser?” she looked at me, waiting for confirmation. “Is he?”
“He is,” I sighed, hating my friend for forcing that on my memory. “Did I make a mistake, Terry?”
“Yes,” she answered truthfully. “You made a major boo-boo girl,” she glanced at me with pity. “I hope when you come back to your senses it’s not too late. If I wasn’t getting hitched I would have been standing in line to get a piece of that man-candy,” she teased.
“I just thought it would be a better solution for both of us,” I tried explaining again. “If we don’t have expectations then we don’t risk getting hurt.”
“Uh-huh,” she let out a snort. “If it helps you sleep at night, Rivers.”
“I don’t think I’m ready for a commitment,” I chewed my bottom lip and toyed with my food.
“So you think the one is still out there do you?”
“Not exactly…to be honest, I think Corbyn is the one,” I let on. “I think he’s my soul mate.”
“But..?” she prompted, then her eyes suddenly widened. “Don’t look now- but your ex just walked in with Zara Wilson.”
There was no way I couldn’t look after that. I had to see for myself. My heart sank and my lungs grappled for air as I watched him walk through the doors, hand-in-hand with his now current girlfriend. I had read about it, heard about-but nothing compared to seeing it in real life. I felt like the air had been knocked out of me and my heart clenched in my chest. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them and it wasn’t through lack of trying. Why did it hurt so much to see him with someone else? This is what I’d wanted right? I wanted him to move on, to be happy. But as I sat there, I realized that I wanted to be the one in Zara’s place. That should be me. I’m the one he should be holding the chair out for and eating with. The one he should be smiling at like I was the center of his universe. It should be me.
He curled a hair behind her ear and whispered something that made her blush. He hadn’t let go of her hand and kept dropping soft kisses on her knuckles, looking at her like she was everything… the very air that he breathed. She cupped a hand on his jaw and gazed at him with open adoration, the love she had for him reflected in her eyes. It was too painful to watch and yet I just couldn’t bring myself to look away. I was finding it difficult to breathe. I needed him. No, I needed to get out of here before I made a fool of myself.
“Hey,” Terrel placed her hand over mine. “Let’s settle the bill and get out of here. Is that okay?”
I nodded, numb with pain. Blinking rapidly as I tried to keep the tears at bay. A lump was forming in my throat and I was afraid I was going to cry.
What had I done?