How she did most of the wedding planning for Lacey and didn’t know we were taking pictures here seems odd. I’ve known for months that JJ wanted to come to take pictures in the tree at PO park. I can see her mind turning and I wonder if it’s the same memories threatening to overtake my mind. This is a special place for us and I haven’t been here in years. She looks at me as I stop the car but nothing is going on inside that head of hers, I can tell she’s just lost in thought. Finally, as other cars start to surround us I place my hand over hers, “We’re here Luce,” she snaps to quickly and she staring at me again.
“How did I not know about this?” she asks a little blush creeping into her cheeks.
“I knew, I assumed you did too,” I say as she pulls her hand from mine and it feels like the temperature drops ten degrees.
“I’m going to need another swig of that, Jack,” she says holding out that hand expectantly.
I hand it over and then reach back for my crutches, careful not to whack her with them before I get out of the car. This isn’t new terrain for me, I’ve come out to practice a few times but the fear of landing on my face doesn’t escape me as I make my way around the car to open her door. She sets the flask on the dash and climbs out, her body close to mine and I can feel the electricity of her closeness. Leaning back for just a second and then quickly she closes the gap between us locking her lips to mine. I have to grab the car at her sudden boldness but I won’t stop her, I won’t stop kissing her until she pulls away.
My mind is racing, wondering if this is just the hooch or if this is real until I don’t feel her lips on mine anymore and when I open my eyes she ten steps away from me like nothing happened. It takes me a few moments to compose myself and then Logan is right beside me with a quiet whisper in my ear.
“Nice…” he continues.
“Hey, wait, walk with me?” I ask, knowing he won’t let me fall.
“That was quick,” he snaps.
“I didn’t, she just, it wasn’t…” I am finding it hard to respond.
“Listen, I know you gave her the hooch, works every time!” he jokes, “You two haven’t even been on the same planet as the rest of us for hours, I see it. And ya know Jack, she sees it, she sees you.”
I consider his words as we join the others already laughing and climbing into the tree as Lacey’s photographer snaps away and gives direction. Lucy is doing her best to avoid me at this point and I think how quickly that changed from just a few moments ago. I can almost hear the resistance in her breathing as the photographer tells us where to pose but like the good sister, she is it only takes a moment for her to lean next to me on one of the old branches. I’m handing off my crutches to the photographers assistant when I start to lose my balance, Lucy’s hands find my waist quickly enough to keep me upright though and the crisis is averted. Finishing up without further incidence we trek back to the cars and she doesn’t wait for me to get in, she just starts swigging the hooch.
“You sure about that?” I ask as I situate myself inside.
“Yep,” she says before putting the flask to her mouth again.
“Okay,” I say as we start following the others cars out, “I mean you may not want to be drunk for your date…”
Before I finish the sentence I regret it. Somehow the filter between my brain and my mouth shorted out and let that slip and I hunker down waiting for her response. Funny thing about being in a car with your ex-wife, who you want to still be your wife is this, you know what you should and shouldn’t say, and you know what to expect when you open your stupid mouth.
“First off, who are you to tell me what to do? Ex-husband Jack. You don’t get to do that anymore. Secondly, how do you figure into Lacey’s big get them back together plan? Thirdly, why didn’t I see this sooner?” she says with a huff.
I grapple with answering her before I let myself speak because I don’t want to piss her off any more than she already is, “I could be your friend Luce, and no I was not a part of this, whatever it is, and I don’t know why you didn’t see it…” I finish noticing she’s holding her head in her hands.
Finally, she speaks as we pull back into the boat club, “I was done you know, I was ready to give you up…” and with that, she exits the car.
Was. Not am ready or I’ve given up. I sit for a few moments before I get out trying to let that sink in. I may have a chance to fully change her mind I think as I trail behind the others for more pictures. My mind is reeling at the thought that I still have an opportunity here but I have to remind myself that she’s got someone coming tonight and I’m going to have to watch that and let it happen without reacting. It is going to be one of the most difficult things to go through but it is necessary. Watching her and Logan getting a photo together I’m in awe of just how perfect she looks, it’s not like I’ve seen her this made up too many times but the person did an excellent job of highlighting her features. Her cute little nose scrunches up when she busts me watching her and I don’t care I continue to watch her anyways until I’m being called over.
When the photographer declares we are finished the wedding party mingles for a little while before it is time for us to join the rest of the wedding guests. Lacey and JJ enter to cheers and the clinking of glasses as we take our seats and for the first time in two days I take my eyes off of Lucy. The happy couple twirls around a few times before taking their seats and finally, we eat. It won’t be long before I’m giving my toast and the nerves are starting to hit. Public speaker I’m not but I can make a crowd laugh, Lucy will probably make them cry. She’s a writer deep down and I can’t wait to hear her words, can’t wait to listen to her shaky voice as she delivers those words.
“I’m not going to bore you with the normal, oh they were meant to be, stuff so here goes…”
By the time I’m finished JJ is beat red and Lacey is surprisingly laughing, one of those hearty full gut laughs and I’ve done my job. I sit back down and wait for Lucy to toss back a huge gulp of champagne before she stands. Her hand shakes as she takes the microphone in one hand and a crinkled piece of paper in the other. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath she starts her speech, “I never imagined I’d be giving a speech for these two. I had my doubts at the beginning but after some advice from JJ’s best friend, I learned to let go and give up trying to control the situation. I couldn’t believe when they worked so well. I mean we all know just how high maintenance Lacey is and JJ is the complete opposite of that but maybe that’s what works so well for them, they ground each other. They continue to impress me with their love everyday…” she says.
As she continues I realize she isn’t reading the speech at all, she’s making this up as she goes and it shocks me. Her hand is still and her nervousness from just a few minutes ago is gone, replaced by this tenacity I didn’t know she had. Part of me is sad that she’s had to be so tough these last few years and I caused that but another part of me is so enthralled that this part of her exists now. She’s changed and it’s because of choices I made without her and while I thought it was a terrible thing for her maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. All I want is to get to know this Luce, relearn her and these new parts of her. Every part of her. I can barely keep myself from wanting to jump her right here as she speaks so eloquently and so candidly.
“To the happy couple, I wish you all the love and luck in the world…” she says with a thousand-watt smile as she raises her glass for the toast.
When I look away from her I see him. Tall, muscular and leaning against the entryway watching her with amazement. This has to be her date because he’s watching her the same way I am. His eyes are trained on her and a rage like I’ve never known bubbles up inside me along with a strong desire to punch his lights out. This is going to be hard to watch. I try to will myself to relax, to remain calm, reminding myself that this is just a part of what I’ve created. Without sitting back down she shimmies her way out of the head table and heads for him and he takes her hand and twirls her around before pulling her in close without hesitation. Her brief moment of hesitation when he does it catches my eye but as quick as it was it’s over and she smiles. Her features relax as she takes his hand and leads him into the room to introduce him to her parents. Maryanne looks enamored with him instantly before her head whips around to me, she is looking for my reaction and I offer none, I sit blank-faced before I turn to JJ.
“I’m going to be right back, how long do we have until the dancing?” I ask.
“Don’t be long, Jack, don’t disappear okay?” he asks, but I can see in his eyes he knows I need a minute.
“Jack, where are you going?” Lacey asks as I clumsily walk behind her.
“I’ll be right back, bathroom,” I say quickly before concentrating on what I’m doing.
Not realizing that I’m going to have to pass them on the way head down I’m surprised when I feel her arm on mine as I pass them, “Oliver, this is Jack, Jack, Oliver…” she says.
“Nice to meet you, Jack,” he says.
“You too,” I say as I’m already walking away.
I have to keep going or I may say something I’ll regret, something that could hurt whatever small chance I have with her. Logan is quick on my tail but I don’t stop, I can’t until I’m clear of anyone else.
“Not obvious or anything Jack,” he says.
“Well, I figured now was as good a time as any to hit the head bud,” respond cooly.
“He’s not her type,” he says quickly from outside the stall.
“Yeah I know, but she’s comfortable with him Logan…” I finally answer as I’m washing my hands, “And that means something.”
“It’s not you though. That means something too…” he says with a twinge of hope in his voice.
I don’t say anything because I don’t want to create any false hope and I’m not sure who I’m trying to protect, Logan or myself at this point. I don’t want her with anyone else regardless of what I need to portray over the next few hours. Doesn’t mean it’s not going to eat away at me every single second though as the thoughts start creeping in.