There is something important I need to discuss with you. If you could give me a call as soon as possible, I’d appreciate it.
There. That’s a perfectly worded email to an ex-girlfriend.
“Select ‘sincerely,’” I say. The word lights up on the screen. “Thanks, comma.”
I stare at the words on the screen. I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours trying to figure out what to say to Isabelle. I spent half an hour composing that two-sentence email, and not because I’m using a shitty dictation program. This is a delicate topic.
Moreover, when Isabelle calls, what will I say? Hey, Isabelle, FYI, your fiancé is cheating on you. Yeah, I’m sure she’ll believe that. I’m sure she won’t chalk it up to the fact that I’m bitter over our breakup. I’m sure she’ll call off her engagement post haste.
No, this isn’t the kind of thing I can tell her over the phone. I need to say it to her face. I need to look into the blue eyes I used to know so well and tell her the truth about Parker. And not just the truth about Parker, but the truth about everything, including the fact that I know how bad I fucked up with her. How every day, I wish I could take it back.
Except Isabelle is in London right now. She told me she was going to be there until the time of the wedding. I’m not flying out to London, that’s for damn sure. I don’t even have a valid passport anymore. And… well, I’m just not going to London. That would be crazy.
But Las Vegas… well, that’s closer. It’s a lot less scary than an entirely different country. And Doug will be going there anyway.
I stare at the computer screen. Am I actually considering this? Am I really contemplating going on a plane to Las Vegas to try to stop the woman I used to love from making the biggest mistake of her life?
All I know is that I can’t let Isabelle marry that asshole. I can’t.
I instruct Dragon to select my entire email and delete it. And then I start over:
I thought about it, and I’d love to attend your wedding. Can you add me to the guest list?
And then, before my prefrontal cortex can take over and tell me I’m an idiot, I send the email. I watch it fly off into cyberspace, traveling warp speed to Isabelle’s inbox.
Holy shit. Did I just do that? Did I just ask my ex-girlfriend if I could come to her wedding?
This could be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Chief Douchebag is glaring at me with murder in his eyes. I’m not exaggerating. If this were caveman times, he’d be clubbing me right now. If he were a mobster, I’d be sleeping with the fishes. You get the idea.
“Just keep your hands to yourself from now on,” I tell him.
“You’re a crazy bitch!” the chief spits at me. “You know that?”
And just like that, my boss Tim materializes at my side. I can never find Tim when I’m looking for him, but now that I just enraged a customer, here he is. And I know from past experience that Tim will not take my side on this one. It’s also a bad sign that he’s got his arms folded across his chest and a frown on his lips.
I’m in big trouble.
“What happened here?” Tim asks.
Chief Douchebag rises to his full height, which is a little taller than I thought he’d be. I take a step back. “Your waitress just intentionally dumped beer on my head!”
“You touched my breast!”
“It was an accident!” He looks at my boss and gives him that conspiratorial “bitches be crazy” look. “I brushed against you by accident! You’re out of your mind!”
“I’m so sorry, sir,” Tim says to him. “Please send us the dry cleaning bill for your shirt, and I promise you, we will take care of it. And your meal is on us tonight.”
“It damn well better!”
He means I will pay his dry cleaning bill. And I will pay for the meal. And God knows what it costs to clean an expensive shirt like that. I’ll probably have to take on a third job to pay it.
“Nellie.” Tim gives me a look that makes my stomach flip-flop. “Come with me, please.”
Chief Douchebag gives me a self-satisfied smirk. I wish I could pour another drink on his head right now. I’m tempted to do it. That would be epic, wouldn’t it? I mean, I’m probably going to get fired no matter what. Maybe as well go out on something that might go viral on YouTube. But the opportunity passes me by, and I’m following Tim through the bar to his back office.
Even though I’d love an office of my own, it’s not clear Tim’s office is better than no office. It’s roughly the size of my bathroom at home, and that’s saying a lot because I can barely turn around in my bathroom. He’s got a folding chair in front of his desk, and I just barely have enough room to squeeze my knees between the chair and the desk.
The expression on Tim’s face is making me nervous. He’s still frowning and looking me over. Wait a minute… is he looking at my tits?
He is! He fucking is!
Oh my God, this shirt is ridiculous.
“Nellie,” he says. “I’m sorry, but this is the last straw. I’m going to have to let you go.”
Even though I knew it was coming, until this second, I had a thread of hope maybe I’d just get a sound scolding. But that was naïve. It was so obvious I was going to be fired. Unless I can convince him otherwise. “Tim…”
He holds up his hand. “You poured drinks on Parker Ashmont’s head. Do you know who Parker Ashmont is?”
Parker Ashmont. If there was ever a douchebag name, there it is. I’ve always been suspicious of men with two last names. Parker Ashmont sounds like the name of the obnoxious rich kid in every John Hughes movie from the eighties. I didn’t think it was possible to hate the guy any more than I already did, but there it is.
“No. Should I?”
“He’s a real big shot at Goldman-Sachs.” Tim shakes his head at me. “He’s in here all the time. You really don’t know this, Nellie?”
I shrug. “He grabbed my boob, Tim. What was I supposed to do?”
“Not pour a drink over his head.” He sighs loudly. “And then there was that incident last week where that guy complained you cursed at him.”
“He was an ass.”
“And you refused to serve that guy on Tuesday…”
“He lifted my skirt up!”
Tim shakes his head at me. “Nellie, we’re in walking distance from Wall Street. Guys come in here to unwind and flirt with waitresses. If you can’t handle a little flirting…”
“A little flirting! Tim, he grabbed me!”
“That’s not what he claimed.” He shrugs. “I’m just saying, we’re not going to get any business anymore if our waitresses are crying sexual harassment every time a guy cracks a joke. All the other girls roll with it. But you obviously can’t.”
“I’ll do better,” I promise. “Please, give me another chance…”
“I’m afraid not.”
I sit there, the reality of the situation sinking in. I just lost my job. What the hell am I going to do? “Can I at least finish out the week?”
“I’m sorry, Nellie.”
I’m steaming mad. No, beyond mad. I’m at that stage where I’m just one failed lab experiment away from turning green and morphing into the Incredible Hulk. Nellie smash! I suspect there’s a sexual harassment claim in all of this, but it doesn’t matter since I have zero funds to hire a lawyer. And I’m sure if it ever went to court, that Wall Street dirtbag’s friends would undoubtedly support him. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was just playing around, and I’m the psycho bitch who dumped a drink on his head.
No, I’ve got to move on and find another job. Fast.
Why did I send that email? What’s wrong with me?
I don’t want to go to Isabelle’s wedding. I don’t want to parade around in front of my old friends from Goldman in my sip and puff wheelchair. I don’t want everyone giving me sympathetic looks because Isabelle’s getting married and I’m alone, probably forever. I don’t want Isabelle to know I lied about having a girlfriend. (Christ, how fucking embarrassing.) I don’t want to fly out to Vegas. I don’t want to see my ex making kissy faces with her husband-to-be. I do not want to go to this wedding.
But even more than that, I don’t want Isabelle to marry Parker.
I look at the phone attached to the armrest of my chair. It’s just inches from my fingers—within grabbing distance if I were capable of grabbing anything. “Call Doug,” I instruct the phone.
The phone rings several times before I hear my brother’s voice on the other line. It’s a relief that there’s quiet in the background. I was worried I was interrupting him on a date, considering it’s eight o’clock at night. Dating is what most single people are doing at this time. I used to, that’s for sure.
“Hey,” I say. “Uh, I’m not bothering you, am I?”
“No, it’s fine,” Doug says. “I just had an interesting night out at this sports bar—remind me to tell you about it later—and then I met up with Alyssa. So… she’s here.”
“Oh,” I say. I’m not sure if I want to talk to him about all this in front of his new girlfriend. It’s humiliating enough without an audience.
“Everything okay, Alex?” Doug asks.
“I just…” I look at the computer screen, to confirm I truly was stupid enough to ask my ex-girlfriend for an invitation to her wedding. Yep. “I did something dumb.”
“What did you do?”
“I told Isabelle I wanted to go to her wedding.”
There’s rustling in the background. Distant voices, and it sounds like Doug is cupping the phone while he talks to Alyssa. Damn, I hope he wasn’t having sex. Then again, he wouldn’t have picked up the phone if he was having sex, would he?
“Sorry about that,” Doug says, when he returns. “I just went in the bedroom because I wanted a little privacy to tell you that you’re a moron.”
I wince. “I know.”
“You know? So just tell her you don’t want to go.”
“I…” I chew on my lip. It would be easy enough to send Isabelle a second email to let her know I’ve changed my mind. “The thing is…”
“You don’t really want to go to her wedding, do you?”
“I feel like I need closure,” I lie.
“Closure?” Doug sounds rightfully incredulous.
“I know it sounds dumb…”
“Yeah. It does.”
But not as dumb as telling him I want to see Isabelle again so I can talk her out of marrying Parker.
“Look, you’re going to Vegas anyway, right?” I point out. “Couldn’t I just… tag along?”
Like it will be that easy. Doug knows better than anyone that having me on this trip with him will open up a bottomless pit of responsibilities. We won’t be able to bring a PCA along, so everything will fall on his shoulders. He’d be justified in saying no. I wouldn’t blame him.
“I just don’t understand why you want this,” he says. “I mean, wedding aside, didn’t you say you’d never fly again?”
I did. The one and only trip I’ve taken since my injury was to my grandfather’s funeral in Tucson, Arizona. It would not be an exaggeration to say this was one of the worst experiences of my life. For starters, we decided not to risk taking my power wheelchair on the plane for such a short trip, so I was stuck being pushed around in a manual chair for three days. There was some issue with the Hoyer lift we ordered for our hotel room, but since neither of my parents are strong enough to transfer me without the lift, we had to explain the situation to the hotel staff and enlist a member of the staff to help with my transfers every single goddamn time. I also had to let my mother sponge-bathe me, since getting into the shower wasn’t an option.
It wasn’t fun.
But I’d do things differently on this trip. For one thing, I wouldn’t agree to go without my power chair. And with Doug helping me, I wouldn’t even need a Hoyer lift. He’s strong enough to get me into the bed or into an accessible shower. And maybe it would be good to get away from home for a few days.
“I can’t be afraid to travel,” I say. “Am I going to stay in New York for the rest of my life because I don’t want to fly?”
“I just think it’s a stupid idea.”
“I think we could have fun in Vegas,” I say. “The last time we went together was twelve years ago. Remember, it was when you turned twenty-one? It was awesome.”
I’ll never forget that trip. We flew out to Vegas on the red eye and went straight to the casinos after dropping off our bags in our hotel room. I spent a week instructing Doug on how to get phone numbers from waitresses, and we took turns having them up to our room. Also, we made a bundle on the blackjack table. It was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken.
“It won’t be like that,” Doug says.
No, it won’t. I’m not an idiot. “Were you going to take Alyssa? Is that what this is about?”
“No!” he insists. “This isn’t about Alyssa. It’s about you. I just don’t understand why you want to do this!”
“What’s the difference?”
“I’m just…” Doug is quiet for a moment before letting out a sigh. “I’m worried you want to go because you’re not over Isabelle.”
“I’m over Isabelle.”
Before I can say anything else, a new email pops up on the screen. The “From” box announces Isabelle has replied to my incredibly stupid request.
“She wrote back,” I say numbly.
“What did she say?”
I instruct my computer to open the email. Isabelle’s response fills the screen:
Of course! We would love to have you at the ceremony! Will it just be you or will your girlfriend be coming as well?
Shit. I forgot I told her I was seeing someone.
“What does it say?” Doug presses me.
I sigh. “She said she’d love to have me and asked if my girlfriend would be coming.”
“Why did you tell her you had a girlfriend anyway?”
I don’t dignify that question with an answer. I think it’s fairly obvious why I felt a need to make up that particular lie.
“Look,” I say, “she’s not demanding to meet her or anything. It’s fine.” I hesitate. “I’ll tell her it will just be the two of us. Okay?”
I hear a voice on the other line calling out Doug’s name. Simultaneously, I hear a voice from inside the house calling out mine. Doug’s girlfriend is calling him so they can make out or fuck or whatever. And my mother is calling me so she can help me get undressed for bed.
“Look, I gotta go,” he says. “Let me… I’ll think about it, okay?”
“And you think about it too, Alex.”
That would be stupid. If I think about it, I’ll definitely decide not to go. “Okay,” I say anyway.
To be continued....