Nora took a sip of the chilled mimosa on the vanity and regarded at herself in the mirror. There were still curlers in her dark red hair, and her blue eyes were alight. Her ivory complexion, that she usually hated, was flawless with makeup. With another healthy sip, she decided she wouldn’t let Scottie ruin today. Today was her day, despite the fact, which Nora often hated, that Scottie had introduced her to Cory, her future husband, all those years ago. Well, as far as Nora was concerned, Scottie ceased being part of them when she disappeared to Los Angeles. They built what they had on their own. They probably would have met without her anyway. That was how fate worked.
And then, as if the gods themselves were having a good fucking chuckle up there, Scottie stumbled into the room. AND, just to make matters worse, the door was huge and old, and stuck to the frame so hard that she had to lean into it with all of her weight. When finally budged she fell into the room, only just barely catching herself with her NYC grime-covered foot.
Nora bristled when she realized who it was, and she bristled even more when she saw how thin Scottie was. Nora was supposed to be the thinner of the two. She was smaller and more petite. But no, of course, on her day, Scottie had to ruin it with being late and being fucking model tall and fucking model thin.
All the chatter turned to a cold silence, icing over. A shiver ran through Scottie as she straightened up. Champagne ceased to be sipped. One girl whispered “Oh my God, Carly” to the pallid girl, who Scottie assumed was Carly, next to her. Someone dropped something that clattered all over the tile in the bathroom.
But Scottie smiled through it.
“Someone tell me we’re doing hair and makeup? There is some serious work to do on this face,” she said with fake confidence that flapped under the scrutiny. She laughed at her own joke that, as it turns out, no one else found all that funny. Nora swallowed, and her lips became a tight line as Scottie made eye contact. One girl coughed, and she immediately regretted it.
“Scottie,” Nora started, “these are the bridesmaids. I believe you know some of them. You know my sister, Maura.” Nora gestured to her sister who was leaning against the doorframe, halfway in the bedroom and halfway in the bathroom with scowl set on her face that looked so natural Scottie wagered it was permanent. Scottie nodded like she’d just been chastised.
“That is Carly, Jaclyn, and Eve, my friends from high school,” Nora continued, watching Scottie follow her finger. “And this is Justine – you remember her from college, right? She lived in Fife North our senior year.” Scottie nodded with a weak smile and wave, her hand falling limply at her side.
“Oh, and that is Kate and Kaitlyn, from my office. We’ve all had drinks.” Scottie greeted them with her eyes. No one said anything for a moment.
“And this,” Nora addressed the room, “is Scottie, my best friend in the world, and my maid of honor. Can’t think of having it any other way.” Nora smiled tightly. There was venom in her deadly calm voice. She was sitting in a striking cream silk slip with exquisite lace detailing near the top and down at the hem. Her red locks were half pulled back into an elegant knot at the nape of her neck and half still in curlers. And her face was glowing despite the angry twitch at the corner of her mouth. Scottie felt like the incredibly ugly step-sister, and she realized, acutely, how much she had let my best friend down. She instinctively reached into her purse and fingered the other airplane bottle of gin, wondering how she could slip away to down it.
“I’m sorry,” Scottie mouthed silently. Nora looked at her hard for a long moment, then stood up sharply, pulling a matching silk robe over her slip.
“Can I talk to you in the hall?” she asked without really asking. Scottie nodded as Nora pushed past her in bare feet. They had that in common, minus the flawless pink pedicure. Scottie turned on her heel and almost bumped into Nora’s friend Eve. She was tiny and had red hair as well, but it was dull, heat damaged, and not nearly as pretty as Nora’s color, and, according to Nora’s drunken ramblings, she had the reputation of being annoying as fuck. The one thing Scottie did appreciate, however, was the fact that Eve was holding a full glass of champagne in her hands, which Scottie thought looked a bit too big for the rest of her body.
“Can I get a sip of that?” Scottie asked, mimicking Nora’s tone, and not really asking. She took it from Eve’s man hands and threw it back before Eve could speak.
“Sure,” Eve said, timid as a mouse, as Scottie handed the empty glass back to her and strode past into the hall, closing the door behind her.
Nora was standing there, silhouetted against the sunlight streaming in through the window, looking down to the first floor from the balcony. There was a beautiful ballroom, sitting, waiting quietly, for the night to begin.
“Nora,” Scottie began, but Nora held up her hand to stop her. Scottie bit her tongue, lightly enough to hurt, but not hard enough to draw blood. Nora took a full thirty seconds before she spoke, her bottom lip quivering like insect wings. When she did finally speak, it came out in a rigid cement voice.
“I don’t want to know,” she said flatly. Scottie closed her mouth and swallowed her protests. She felt hot shame roll over her. She was lousy with it. “I just don’t want to know why you’re two hours late to my fucking wedding. The wedding in which you are the maid of honor.” Nora’s voice cracked at the end, emotion seeping into the silence. Scottie took a cautious breath.
“Nora” she said slowly. Nora didn’t stop her but dared her to keep going—if looks could kill. Scottie steadied herself and continued. “Nora, look, I’m not trying to make excuses.” Scottie pushed it out before she could be interrupted.
“There is no excuse,” Nora snapped, jerking her head in a way that made her whole red bun wobble precariously. Her hands shot up to steady it and she shot Scottie a piercing stare that told her she was lucky it was still intact. Scottie heard Nora take a deep breath because unlike Scottie, Nora wasn’t quick to anger. She put up with a lot. But once you crossed her, or disappointed her one too many times, she went off—a pot boiling over, spilling scalding water, caution to the wind. Scottie had seen this nasty callous side of Nora before, but never directed at her. To be fair though, Scottie felt like she thoroughly deserved it.
“I know there isn’t,” Scottie replied softly, wringing her hands out in front of her. Nora turned around to face her, leaning back against the bannister. Nora was small, 5’1”—a full 8 inches shorter than Scottie. Both women were self-conscious of their height, wishing to be somewhere in the middle, like 5’6”. It has been a bonding experience and a point of contention, each jealous of the other. In that moment, Nora looked like a tiny child in a nightgown and Scottie had to push the image out of her head. She could hear the men laughing downstairs and was drawn to it like a fly to light. She needed to get out of this. She needed things to be lighter. Focus, Scottie. Focus, she thought, concentrating hard, reciting words that she’d heard one of Sara’s therapists say a long time ago—you’re here right now.
“Look, Nora, there is nothing I can say to you that is going to make this okay. And I know that. I did everything in power to be here on time, and sometimes things go awry and your phone is dead because you forgot to plug it in and you can’t call your best friend to let her know that you are in progress of ruining the most important day, in potentially, her life, and you’re pretty confident that you’re a shitty friend and a shitty person and you start thinking about all the fuck ups you’ve made in the last year and you hate yourself just a little bit more than you already do.” Scottie was breathing heavily, and the champagne swirled treacherously in her head. Betrayal, she thought bitterly, from something that was supposed to be an ally. Her eyes were wobbling between dry and wet, and she willed the tears to fuck off. But, they fell heavy down her face and onto her bare feet. She wiped them aggressively, irritated they were there in the first place, and looked up at Nora. Her face was blank and beautiful and there was a whisper of softness in her expression.
“If you didn’t make it you wouldn’t have ruined it,” she said sharply. “This isn’t about you, Scottie.” Scottie nodded vigorously in agreement. She didn’t want this to be about her, but she knew that Scottie taking attention away from her was something Nora was sensitive about so she didn’t press her.
“I know that, trust me I –“ but she didn’t get to finish her sentence because Nora closed the gap between them in two swift steps like some kind of beautiful apparition, wrapping her arms tightly around Scottie.
“Ow!” Nora shouted and recoiled. “What was that?”
“Oh,” Scottie replied, blushing a little and laughing in spite of herself. “Well,” she continued, smile feeding off the small one forming on Nora’s lips. “I think this dress might not exactly be my size.” Nora opened her mouth to something, and Scottie frantically cut her off. “Which isn’t your fault or the dress place’s fault! It’s mine for being irresponsible about fattening up, so, I had to pin myself into it.” She stared at Scottie, smirking slightly. Then she snorted, which is something that Nora only did when she thought something was really funny—like really funny. Her whole face scrunched up and Scottie’s arms and legs felt like Jell-O with relief. Nora leaned in again and put her arms around her, this time above the top of the dress. Scottie relaxed into her grip, leaning over so Nora didn’t have to reach too high.
“You’re a raging bitch,” she whispered.
“I know,” Scottie whispered back.
“But your dress doesn’t look like it’s pinned on, just don’t let anyone else hug you.”
“Right,” she nodded, pressing her chin into her shoulder.
“And fuck you for missing the rehearsal,” she cracked, huffing into her hair.
“I don’t want to talk about this now, it isn’t the time, but J.J., he left me.” It was odd. She only felt this kind of blind rage. She couldn’t conjure up sadness. The well was dry.
“What?” Nora barked, pulling away from her and holding her at arms-length.
“Nora,” Scottie admonished her, “I told you, I don’t want to talk about it. It’s not important. But I wanted you to know that I didn’t blow you off last night for no reason. This is about you. Let’s talk about it tomorrow, or when you’re back from your honeymoon, or never.”
“But, Scottie,” she pressed, red brows rising dangerously into her hairline.
“No.” There was a heavy pause and Nora sighed and shook her head, pulling Scottie back in for a hug.
“I was worried about you,” Nora mumbles.
“I know,” Scottie said, “I’m so sorry.”
“First last night and then when you didn’t show up this morning I panicked. Well,” she hesitated, “I tried not to panic because you’re constantly late but of course, you know me, I panicked.”
“I’m sorry,” Scottie repeated.
“You can’t do that to me,” she pleaded, “my nerves are shot.”
“I know,” Scottie reassured her.
“And for the record,” Nora said firmly, pulling out of the hug, “you wouldn’t have ruined the day, but you would have ruined the even number of bride’s maids and groomsmen, and you know how particular I am about symmetry.” Scottie laughed and pulled her back into a hug. Nora wasn’t wrong. In college, she went crazy if her class notes took up more than an even number of pages in her notebook, or if a bartender gave her and I different pours of red wine, or if they gave her an odd number of chicken nuggets when we would drunk eat together. Even drunk she couldn’t let it go. It was the undercurrent of everything she did—everything was dizzyingly balanced.
“I know,” Scottie whispered, hugging her tighter. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered again, for good measure.
“Yeah well,” Nora replied, pulling away and taking a good at her best friend. She had to let it go. She had to walk down the aisle in a few hours to marry the love of her goddamn life. She couldn’t be mad.
“You will be sorry if we don’t get you into hair and makeup. You look like a train wreck,” she joked, but she wasn’t kidding, and they both knew that. Scottie nodded and turned to go back into the room, but Nora grabbed her hand, the ferocity of it shooting an electric current through her.
“What?” Scottie asked, alarmed. Nora’s face had paled in a matter of seconds.
“I just,” she said, “oh, never mind.” She was shaking her head and forcing a pathetic smile. “I’m being silly,” she whispered, mostly to herself.
“What’s going on?” Scottie asked, squeezing her friend’s hand in encouragement. Nora bit her lower lip and cast her gaze down to her perfectly painted toes.
“Last month,” she started after a long stretch of silence. Then she stopped as her whole body tensed, tiny muscles contracting in her little limbs. They always joked that she had Avian Bone Syndrome like Phoebe from 30 Rock. It never got old.
“Nora,” Scottie cooed, reaching for her arm and gently rubbing up and down. The hair on stood straight up.
“I’m being gentle because of your bones,” Scottie said wryly. Nora looked up at her, a thankful face, breathing a sigh of relief. The momentary reprieve of a familiar joke.
“Last month,” she started again, voice quivering, “Cory didn’t come home. He had a client dinner, and then his phone went off. And he just didn’t come home.” Scottie swallowed and nodded, processing the information.
“Does he ever do that?” she asked seriously.
“No,” Nora snapped defensively. Scottie could tell this was pulling her friend apart. The fierce loyalty to Cory to hide his shame, the sense of betrayal sharing this secret suspicion with her, the desperate need for someone to simply hear her, the hope against hope that she was wrong, the soul crushing possibility of being alone when you thought you’d never be again.
“You know I travel a lot, but I’ve never wondered what he does when I’m gone – until last month.” Nora sighed and put her face in her hands her a second. She raised it to look at Scottie with an eye roll and a groan. “I’m being so stupid.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Scottie asked, already knowing the answer was complicated. She shrugged.
“I was embarrassed, you were hard to get in touch with, I didn’t want you to tell him I’d asked,” she said. A slew of complicated reasons, all valid. Unsure of whom Scottie would have been loyal to, also uncomfortably valid.
“What was his explanation?” Scottie asked, biting her lower lip, holding her breath for the kind of answer she could spin.
“Drunk,” Nora said dismissively, “He says he slept on Will and Pete’s couch.” Scottie registered that she must be referring to Cory’s childhood best friends—twin brothers— who she’d heard about but never met. She barely knew anything about Will. Pete had come up more regularly.
"They both live in New York now?" Scottie asked.
"Yes, Will moved down from Boston two years ago, and Pete moved here last year from San Francisco." Scottie nodded, feeling slightly odd that she never met two of the most important people in Cory's life.
“Have you checked with them?” Scottie pressed. Nora looked up with the kind of fear that Scottie had only seen on her friend in desperation. The kind of fear that consumed her when she begged her ex to take her back their junior year in college, wailing in the parking lot outside the Commons. Scottie and Max had had to carry her home, shaking and sobbing. “Have you?” Scottie pushed, already knowing the answer.
“No,” she replied finally, swift and firm.
“Isn’t Pete the best man? Will’s in the wedding party, too,” Scottie asked, “why don’t you talk to them?”
“No, Pete was called out to London for work and he couldn’t get back here in time. Cory is right pissed about it, but, as my mother always said, the play must go on, so Will is filling in,” Nora answered miserably, rolling her eyes. Scottie chuckled at the phrase that Nora’s mom always messed up. “I’m not going to talk to Will about this, especially not on my wedding day. Plus he’s a dick.”
“Is he?” Scottie asked, knowing Nora’s proclivity to exaggeration.
“Yes,” she barked.
“Okay,” Scottie said delicately.
They stared at each other for a long time. Dust shone in the light beams coming from the various windows and the only sound wafting upstairs was the guys laughing. Scottie could hear Cory’s laugh distinctively in the cacophony and cringed at the bad timing. Nora visibly stiffened.
“Do you think,” she wondered, her voice incredibly small. “Do you think he would,” she started again, taking a breath. “Do you think he would cheat on me?” she finally asked. Scottie knew what she was going to ask and could have answered her before she finished the question, but her tongue turned to lead in her mouth. Once the words were out she felt her windpipe tighten. The champagne was acid in her stomach, roiling. She swallowed hard and grabbed both of Nora’s shoulders.
“No,” Scottie said with a finality that had a kind of confidence she didn’t feel. Nora responded to the authority instantaneously.
“Okay,” she agreed.
“Okay.” Scottie assured her. Nora squeezed Scottie’s hand, trying to mask the shaking with false confidence, and led her back into the room. Scottie poured another glass of champagne from the bottle on the entry table and tipped it back, taking it down in two gulps. Her dishonestly felt white-hot.
What’s one more glass? Or lie?
Scottie looked at herself in the antique mirror of the downstairs bathroom and couldn’t believe the transformation. It looked like she was wearing a calm and beautiful mask that was starkly at odds with her screaming thoughts. She needed a moment to gather herself and compartmentalize everything. She had the urge to splash cold water on her face but knew she couldn’t with all the makeup.
Her thick mane of wild dark curls had been tamed and twisted into a braided knot similar to Nora’s. The raccoon eyes were miraculously gone. Poof. Her green irises looked radiant under the makeup that Chrissy, the makeup magician, had applied to her eyelids, and her face had a subtle glow with a dusting of pink on her cheeks that made the freckles she usually hated look oddly like an asset. She made a mental note to hire this wizard for her own wedding if there was ever such a thing.
Nora had put her in charge of making sure the best man’s black eye was covered. Scottie had agreed immediately, wanting to pay her penance like a good solider.
“Black eye?” she’d asked dumbly.
“Oh,” Nora practically shouted, “yep. Will showed up today with a fucking black fucking eye. Can you fucking believe the nerve? The best man? With a black eye? Plus its him so he's already going to stand out? But with a black eye? Come the fuck on,” Scottie had laughed without meaning to, but quickly squelched it at the look on Nora’s face. She didn't press her to further elaborate on Will. He felt like a hot button issue, and Scottie, narrowly avoiding becoming a hot button issue herself, wanted to keep the peace.
“Chrissy wouldn’t be better?” she had asked.
“I am sure Chrissy would be better, but she’s busy. I’m not wasting her time on that.” Scottie nodded once and reached into Chrissy’s makeup kit, pulling out a few bottles of foundation.
“What color is his skin?” Scottie asked, holding up a few different bottles to the light.
“I don’t know," Nora said and shrugged absently, examining her lips one in from the mirror. “Dark white or something.”
“Dark white or something,” Scottie repeated smirking. “Got it.” She’d ended up padding down the staircase with four bottles across the “white or something” spectrum just in case.
But standing there, in the dim lighting—since she hadn’t bothered to flip on the light— she felt an enormous wave of emotion roll over her. It weighed a thousand pounds and her knees threatened to buckle under her. Tears slid down her cheeks, streaking the previously perfect makeup. She felt so awful for so many things, she couldn’t even peel them apart. Her chest shook as she tried to regain her composure, but the water just kept coming, furious, hot, and makeup ruining.
Self-centered felt like an unfair way to describe her. It robbed her of the complicated reasons why she couldn’t manage to pull herself out of her own shit. But maybe, it occurred to her as she scrutinized herself in the mirror, she was going too easy on herself. Maybe she needed to get a fucking grip and take responsibility for herself and her selfish actions. But despite herself and her potential enlightening realizations about her twisted motivations, she reached into her purse and pulled out the second airplane bottle of gin and dumped it back.
What’s one more?
“Fuck,” she whispered to herself. Then, louder, “Fuck,” and, like she’d seen J.J. do the last time they fought before she caught him, she punched the wall. “Fuck,” she yelled, her breath shortening as she held her right fist in her left hand. It throbbed, and she crouched down on the floor, and pressed her wrist to her forehead. Her nose was running, and she didn’t want to move for a tissue. She sniffled loudly and said it again. “Fuck.”
Then there were two knocks on the door. She didn’t answer right away, thinking that if she held her breath they would just go away.
“Hey,” came a man’s voice—textured and rich—she didn’t recognize, along with another light knock. “Are you okay?” he asked. Her throat pinched as she tried to answer. No sound came out.
“Fine,” she finally mumbled miserably.
“Just heard some yelling,” he said lightly, chuckling to himself. Scottie rolled her eyes.
“I’m okay,” she said, finally, standing up and fluffing out her dress. She turned to look in the mirror. Her makeup had run a bit, but it wasn’t as bad as it should have been. Thank you, Chrissy. Now if only some of her magic had rubbed off on Scottie for this black eye situation.
“No rush to come out,” the voice said, then hesitated. “I just heard someone upset, that’s all.” His voice was kind, and Scottie felt her mood lighten at the sound of it. She looked at herself once more in the mirror and turned to unlock the door, only to discover that whoever it had been was gone, and it was just an empty hallway. She felt oddly disappointed, like he’d abandoned her. Her whole body went cold as the two full glasses of champagne and two bottles of gin threatened to pitch back up her throat.
Standing in the hallway with the soundtrack of the groomsmen dicking around in the next room, the pop of a champagne bottle almost dragging her in, she vowed to try and let go of some of the weight holding her down—to cut the anchors loose. She vowed for the second time in 24 hours, that moving back to New York had to be a new start, because if it wasn’t, she was doomed—defined by her past, paralyzed by her present, and throwing away her future like it was something disgusting she couldn’t bear to look at. Setting her jaw, she didn’t think she would be able to do it, but she knew that she owed it to her self-centered self to try—at the very, very least.
“Okay,” she said loudly as she burst through the double doors, the luxe scene smacking her in the face. She felt her mouth go dry as she took in the fabulous tuxedos, the smoking cigars, the tall glasses of cold beer, the plethora of champagne, and the old-fashioned couches they all had draped themselves over. “Okay,” she said again, this time her voice had softened. “We get it, this is the goddamned 1920’s.”
“Indeed it is,” one of the men, said as he straightened his bowtie in the mirror above the fireplace.
“What the fuck is this?” she lobbed the question at Cory like a football, as casually as she could, a laugh cracking through her stern exterior. To her own ears she sounded outlandish and strained.
“The bridesmaid’s room doesn’t quite look like this?” he rallied smartly. She rolled her eyes.
“It does not,” she replied smirking, hoping her words were coming out smoother than her brain thought they were.
Scottie was taken by how handsome each of the groomsmen was, and she could barely hide her shock. She had seen enough of the world to know, quite certainly in fact, that most rooms full of men were not this attractive. She’d unknowingly walked into an 8+ room, and she wasn’t quite prepared for it. Mustering her confidence, she tried desperately to forget she was pinned into a shiny purple crepe paper dress. Having never had an issue talking with guys, flirting, batting her eyelashes, taking free drinks, and disappearing before anything real had to happen, Scottie reassured herself she could handle this. Despite the dress. Despite the minor breakdown. Despite Cory.
“My apologies for just, well barging in, gentlemen,” she said, smiling that same shrewd smile she knew men had loved and would continue to love. Max wolf whistled, and she blushed darky. Meanwhile, across the room, Will couldn’t take his eyes off her—she was magnetic. He'd felt that way since he saw her stumble out of the cab through the bay windows.
“Yes, well,” she continued, “I know what you’re all thinking. There is indeed a miracle worker upstairs who has found it in her heart to save all of you from having to see my real face in the wedding photos. Apologies, Max, that you couldn’t be spared.”
Cory, laughing warmly, came over and gave her a hug. It was chaste with barely any contact, like he didn’t want to show any affection on his wedding day to another woman, especially this particular woman. Scottie pulled away from his uncomfortable touch and it sent a shiver down her back. She tried to shake it off, but it lingered sickly, like smoke.
“This is supposed to be the boy’s club, Scottie,” Cory said teasingly, taking a small sip of his champagne.
“I know, I know,” she replied, waving her hands in front of her face, “I’m here on a mission though.”
“Okay,” Cory said, waiting with bated breath for her to fill him in.
“First,” she began, “I’d love to get a glass of champagne.” Everyone laughed, and Scottie felt very pleased with herself—very pleased indeed. Despite being in the middle of a life overhaul, and on the verge of a minor mental breakdown, she could still turn it on for a crowd. Max walked over to the large round table at the end of the room and poured her a generous glass. Placing the crystal flute lovingly in her hands, he squeezed them both. Scottie brought the champagne up to her lips. The bitterness made her pucker, but she sipped it anyway, savoring the sharp bubbles in her mouth, the earlier roiling of her stomach a distant, perhaps fictitious, memory.
“And second?” Cory asked, tilting his head.
“I’m looking for the best man. Which one of you is Will Nash?”
“There’s your guy,” Rahil, a good friend of Cory’s from college, hollered, gesturing to a fucking New York 9—anywhere else he might be a 10, but that’s always the case—sitting on the other side of the round table, a glass of champagne poised in his hand, a crooked perfect smirk on his lips. Scottie felt her stomach clench at the sight of him. Sure she’d seen him when she’d surveyed the room initially, but focusing in on him made her breath hitch in her throat. He was lean, like Cory, but he was much more built, with wiry muscles she could see even though he was wearing a tuxedo. Cory was a good-looking guy. He had runner’s body, tall and sinewy, with dirty blonde hair and dark eyes, pale creamy skin and that ability to sweet talk any woman into going home with him. Scottie didn’t know Will, but she immediately felt like she did. He had the same kind of effect as Cory, but there seemed to be much more to unpack. He had these kind eyes that were wide, pale blue, and thoughtful, crinkled in the corners, as if he’d laughed too much. One of them was encircled softly by a large purplish bruise, a wholly undignified frame for his dignified face. His hair was a dark rich brown, almost black, like hers, but with a soft wave to it rather than wild curls. It was short, but gently framed his chiseled face and his olive complexion was lightly tanned. He had shaved, she guessed that morning, but she could tell his face held a five o’clock shadow well. Her mouth went dry and she took a gulp of champagne to keep things steady.
“Hi,” she said as she sauntered over to the table, feeling the champagne in her legs and the confidence in her cheeks.
“Hi,” he said simply, holding out his hand. Scottie shook it, appreciating that it was a good handshake. His hands were strong and callused, and he didn’t break eye contact once.
“So, what’s the deal with this?” she asked sardonically, gesturing to her own left eye. He smiled wryly and rolled his.
“Oh this?” he countered, angling his head slightly and pushing back a bit from the edge of the table. Will knew what she was getting at, obviously, but he wasn’t ready to give in yet.
“Yes,” she pushed, “the ladies had some choice words for, well, your face.” Cory came up behind her and squeezed her shoulder, needling his thumb into the pocket between her bones. It felt like she’d been shocked.
“Ow,” she snapped, turning sharply toward him. He nodded his head toward the door.
“I assume this is about Nora?” he asked.
“Yes,” Scottie assured him with a dry smile, “it is most definitely about Nora.”
“She has a problem with the eye?” he questioned, furrowing his brow.
“She has a problem with the eye,” she repeated, “but you knew that, didn’t you?” Cory grinned knowingly and looked down at his feet.
“And you?” Will chimed.
“Me?” Scottie asked innocently. “Well, Mr. Nash, that’s entirely irrelevant since it’s not my wedding.” Will laughed and shook his head, running his hand through his hair and squeezing the skin on the back of his neck. He felt uncomfortable, but he was used to feeling uncomfortable. A decade of unsolicited stares will do that to a guy. Scottie turned to look at him and noticed he was biting his lower lip with dark eyebrows raised.
“Look,” Will offered, trying to phrase it the best way possible. “It wasn’t on purpose.”
“What?” she asked, perplexed. “Your black eye, two days before your best friend’s wedding, wasn’t on purpose?” Will liked how her mouth was turned up slightly—like she might laugh at any moment.
“I would wager that Nora doesn’t quite buy that,” Will answered, shrugging and shifting his weight slightly. Scottie gave into the smile tugging at her lips and shook her head.
“Alright,” Will conceded, “I know why you’re here. Let’s just get it over with. Do your worst.”
“You’re going to put makeup on my best man?” Cory interjected hastily pressing himself in between Scottie and Will.
“I’m telling you, Cory—she is not going to budge on this. Nora doesn’t want some tough guy thug hulking in the background of her wedding pictures,” Scottie pushed, dreading the conversation to come. She’d already disappointed Nora so much, and Nora didn’t even know the half of it. She didn’t want to return to the stifling bedroom upstairs with bad news.
Then the room she was seemed to inflate a bit. Could it be the champagne? A bunch of guys were looking around and then back at her, laughing and covering their mouths.
“What?” she asked, doing a slight spin, putting her hands on her face and wiping her cheeks. “Is there something on my face?” Crisscrossing the room, her eyes came to rest on Will. His brilliant eyes were doing that adorable crinkle thing and he had a stupid grin on that said he knew something she didn’t. He also had one dimple. And at seeing that, Scottie was struck with the absurdity of it all—of course the New York 9 has a goddamn dimple, and it seemed to be too much for her to handle.
Sure, she could handle J.J. cheating on her, bursting into the bedroom they shared, unknowingly, naively happy, humming to herself under her breath only to be faced with his pale ass sticking up in the air on top of someone she not only knew, but knew well. She could handle almost missing her flight, careening through LAX. She could handle hitting her head on the underside of the kitchen table when she’d dropped a shoe and it skittered across the linoleum, cursing under her breath, working her hands over the spot to ease the throbbing as she ran down West 4th Street. She could handle coming to this wedding when her heart ached so much it threatened to rip her chest in two. She could even handle being pinned into what she would argue was one of the ugliest dresses she had ever seen, stumbling into aforementioned wedding a bigger mess than she herself had even realized. But this moment, being laughed at by all these stunningly handsome men in tuxedos, and the man she already couldn’t take her eyes off having a fucking dimple. That, darling, might have been simply too much for her to handle.
“No, no,” Will said wryly, “Your face is great. It’s wonderful.” She felt her cheeks heat up. Now, technically, she had something to cover up. Cory burst out laughing behind her and patted her on the back.
“Well,” she replied, exasperated, pulling out the chair in front of her and throwing herself into it, tossing her head back dramatically. “I give up then.” She sighed and the guys continue to laugh in the background.
“Scottie,” Cory said, gesturing to Will. She lifted her head and opened one eye suspiciously. Will scooted back from the table even more, and Scottie realized, hotly, exactly what everyone was laughing at the whole time.
“Oh,” she said, “I see now.” Starting to smile wider she continued, gesturing to Will.
“Come the fuck on, you guys.” She turned to look at Cory and he gave her finger guns, something that she’d hated about him since they first met seven years ago. He had so many good qualities, but even the best of qualities could be shot dead with a round of finger guns.
“Alright, alright, alright,” she said, putting her hands in the air like she was about to be arrested.
“I’m Scottie,” she said, shaking her head and offering a hand. Wanting to eat the thug comment right up out of the air.
“I’m Will,” he said, offering his own.
“Fuck,” she whispered, putting her face in her hands before taking his. Will, laughing even harder now, put his hand on her knee.
“It’s really fine,” he assured her, bending down to try to see her through her fingers. Will thought she was pretty damn endearing when she was absolutely mortified. “I don’t look like a thug, but I definitely think people are underestimating me.”
Scottie laughed in spite of herself as she straightened up and shook his hand again. Will let go of it after a minute, but his eyes lingered.
“So, you’re the Will I’ve heard about all these years?” Scottie asked, even though Cory barely mentioned him. He always mentioned Pete. Will was always an afterthought. She wondered, in the background, why Cory never mentioned that Will was in a wheelchair. Had it happened recently? Or was it so normal to them it didn’t merit mentioning? It didn't seem temporary. She filed it away to bring up later, but oddly knew she never would.
“To the best man and maid of honor, Scottie and Will,” Cory bellowed, “and makeup.” He poured two overflowing glasses of champagne. Scottie swore she saw Will grimace for a split second, but he had a smile back on his face as Cory stepped toward him and winked at her.
“To makeup,” she replied weakly, remembering her face in the rearview mirror of the cab.
“Dude,” Will said, looking up and turning to the side to avoid the bubbly Cory was spilling all over his head.
“Sorry, sorry!” Cory replied, handing a glass to him and a glass to Scottie. Everyone raised their glasses and shouted, “To Scottie and Will!”
“To Will,” Scottie murmured quietly enough so only he could hear her. There was something kinetic between them and it left her feeling more buzzed than the alcohol already in her system.
“To Scottie,” he answered, clinking her flute. They downed them easily and slammed them on the table at the same time to raucous applause.
What’s one more?
“Cory!!” Nora’s voice rang through the house, pumping screeching brakes on the whole affair. Cory and Scottie looked at each other and made fake scared faces, teeth clenched, and lips pulled down. It was something they had done behind Nora’s back right when Cory and she had first started dating—the days when Scottie didn’t think they would last more than a few months. It came back so automatically—like muscle memory—and Scottie felt a stitch of guilt for how easy it was. And now here they were, on their wedding day.
Cory’s gaze lingered on Scottie a second too long, in Will’s opinion, considering she was, in fact, not the bride. He cleared his throat and snapped them back to the shrill voice ringing through the old house.
“This would be your jurisdiction,” Scottie nagged, presenting the bottles of foundation she’d stuffed in the liquor store paper bag from upstairs. “I’ve got my hands full.” She nudged her head toward Will and he laughed.
“Apologies,” he offered as Cory groaned. “Hey, you’re about to marry the woman. Least you could do is see what the fuss is about.”
“Aren’t you not supposed to see the bride before she walks down the aisle?” Cory asked dumbly. Will shrugged.
“Doesn’t seem to matter much at this point,” Scottie tendered. “And you,” she said playfully to Will, “let’s go on the porch. I’m gonna need better light to tackle this.” She stood and turned toward the double doors, with Will silently obliging behind her, gliding swiftly across the hardwood, his arms working so smoothly that Scottie couldn’t help but admire his finesse. It was a sporty chair, all black and gunmetal grey with a seat back that barely brushed his lower back. It looked as if it was made for him, fitted like a custom piece of sporting equipment, a sleek extension of his upper body. There was something oddly sexy about the way he moved. She held the door open for him and took a seat in one of the oversized rocking chairs that dotted the porch.
“I’m no expert,” Scottie warned, holding up a few of the different colors to Will’s face as he came to a stop in front of her, their knees almost touching.
“Luckily that makes two of us.”
“This color should be…fine,” Scottie hesitated as she dumped some of the thick liquid on her fingers.
“Confident. I like it,” he said snickering and leaning toward her. She looked up and was startled at how close he was, the twitch almost imperceivable—but he saw it, interpreted it as disgust, and leaned back in his chair.
“Sorry,” he said awkwardly, his cheeks reddening slightly. The embarrassment in his blue eyes was enough to make Scottie reach out and take his hand. But she restrained herself.
“No, I,” she fumbled awkwardly, trying to weigh telling him she liked his face that close to hers with the fact that they had just met. “What I mean is, you surprised me.” She shrugged lamely.
“Oh,” Will replied softly. “So, you’ll need me closer then?”
“Okay.” Will leaned toward her and inhaled her scent—peppery and fresh, it opened up his nostrils. She reached forward and gently began to apply the makeup, her fingers soft and gentle. He could tell she didn’t want to press too hard for fear of hurting him. The skin was delicate and tender, but ever since losing feeling in half his body, Will relished any touch, even the kind that hurt a little. Or, in the case of the catalyst for the black eye, quite a bit.
“How’d it happen?” Scottie asked, her lips parted slightly and her tongue pressing against her teeth as she concentrated. Will forced himself to take his eyes off those lips, feeling the tug of fantasy as he imagined kissing them, and looked down at his lap. Will smiled to himself. He liked being asked that question when it didn’t pertain to the wheelchair he was sitting in.
“Bar fight,” he mumbled with a slight sliver of pride rising out of the words.
“Tough guy, huh?” she asked, pouring a bit more makeup on her fingers. “Tilt your head back a bit.” Will complied, buzzing at the delicate feel of her index finger on his face.
“Not usually,” he admitted, “I’d had a bit too much to drink.”
“Haven’t we all?” she asked rhetorically. Will chuckled. “Hey, hey, there—hold still, bruiser.”
“You should see the other guy,” he continued.
“Oh yeah?” He could tell she was skeptical, though he’d seen her size him up when she first walked into the room. He knew she knew he had a built upper body. The wheelchair tended to throw people off, though.
“Stomach first, then when he doubled over, got him in the nose.”
“Did you break it?” she asked, pulling back a bit to scrutinize her work. “A touch more on the bottom and then we’re done.”
“Can’t wait to see it.”
“Well, you’re no princess, but it will look fine in pictures,” she smiled warmly, leaning back in to finish the masterpiece.
“I broke it,” he said.
“Broke what?” she asked.
“The nose,” Will replied incredulously.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, “the nose!”
“Not intentionally, but, guy had it coming.”
“And why’s that?”
“He hit on the woman I was with,” Will answered, feeling her visibly deflate as the words came out of his mouth. He wasn’t imagining it was he? No, he couldn’t be.
“Oh,” she muttered. “Well fuck that,” she recovered, forcing a smile.
“Told her she could do better than a cripple.”
“Oh,” Scottie replied, stopping the makeup for a second and holding Will’s gaze. “Well fuck that, too,” she said again, this time with more emphasis.
“I didn’t think he’d actually hit me back though,” he confessed.
“Think again,” Scottie quipped, leaning back to admire her work. “Well, bruiser, I’d say that I did a much better job than anyone expected. You look halfway presentable.”
“Halfway, huh?” he asked, leaning back a bit, disappointed now that he no longer had a reason to be that close to her.
“Halfway,” she agreed, her eyes crinkling at the edges, a smirk tugging at her lips. Then a realization passed over her face, slowly and gracefully, like a cloud shifting to reveal the sun. “It was you? Outside the bathroom earlier?” she asked, looking down at her lap. Will cleared his throat. He hadn’t known it was she on the other side of the door either. He felt embarrassed for some reason, like he’d been privy to something he shouldn’t have.
“It was,” he admitted sheepishly, “Sorry, I just didn’t know if—”
“No,” she replied cutting him off and waving her hands in front of her face. “I’m sorry. Thanks for, you know, checking in. Today is a hard day for me.” She held up her hand to reveal her knuckles—they were beginning to bruise. “I got carried away,” she admonished herself. Will smiled and Scottie swore she’d known him for years.
“I also got carried away,” he agreed, holding up his own bruised fist. Scottie blushed and chuckled, scrunching her eyes closed, loving the closeness of him.
Will patted her knee and leaned forward again, not as close as he had been before, but close enough to smell her skin, a warm breeze fluttering between them. His leg shifted a little and one of his impeccable black dress shoes almost slid off the footplate. He felt her watch him catch his leg, but he couldn’t look her in the eyes as he hooked his hand under the knee and righted his foot on the single footplate. It was suddenly a furnace under his collar as he fought the rising red on his neck—desperate to force the insecurity of his injury back down into the dark hole where he normally kept it.