Jill was my best friend. We grew up together. We used to like the same books, movies and boys. And when the boy we liked at a particular time liked one of us more, there were not hard feelings. We were happy for each other. So, when she met and fell in love with Greg, I was happy for her, even though secretly, I was in love with him too.
He and I got along extremely well. It took a lot out of me to hide my feelings from him, though. I tried to distract myself with my studies and then my job after I graduated from university. I dated other guys but always at the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about Greg and wishing that I didn’t love him. Eventually, I stopped dating altogether and just focused on my career.
When Jill told me that he asked her to marry him, I tried very hard to be happy and excited for her. I put a big smile on my face as I congratulated her but as we hugged, my heart ached and the tears that glistened in my eyes were not tears of joy but of pain. She asked me to be her maid of honor and I readily accepted. When I saw Greg, I congratulated him. He smiled and before I could react, he was hugging me. I closed my eyes and hugged him back. It felt so good being in his arms. I wished the hug would last and then I felt guilty for wishing that. I pulled away and I turned my back to him so that he couldn’t see the expression on my face. We were alone in the living-room. Jill was out on the patio talking to her parents. I excused myself and joined them. I had to leave because I was afraid that I would give myself away.
I promised myself that after the wedding, I would pack up and move to Seattle where my sister and her family lived. I could start a new life there. I didn’t say anything to Jill because I didn’t want to spoil her happiness. Besides, she was busy planning her wedding which was less than a year away. I went with her, her mother, sister and Greg’s mother to find a dress.
It was bittersweet watching her try on the different gowns. It touched my heart to see how happy and excited she was but I was also cut up about the upcoming nuptials. I had no idea how I was going to get through the wedding. For the first time since I have known her, I wished that Jill and I didn’t have the same taste in men.
A couple of weeks before the wedding, I ran into Greg’s mother and a man I had never met before. I was on my way to grab lunch when I saw them. Greg’s mother was very happy to see me. After we hugged, she introduced me to her companion. He was Luke, Greg’s half-brother by her first marriage. He was very attractive. When he shook my hand, I felt a jolt of electricity surge through my body, startling me and for a moment, I was nonplussed. He had the most incredible eyes and the way he looked at me made my heart pound wildly and my pulse race but my mind was resistant. How could I be feeling like this about this perfect stranger when I was in love with Greg? Was it really possible to be attracted to one man while in love in another?
As I stood there, trying to make sense of what was happening to me, Greg’s mother invited me to join them for lunch. I wanted to refuse but it would have seem rude and besides, I was hungry. We went to an upscale French restaurant. I sat opposite Luke while Greg’s mother sat on my right. Several times his eyes and mine met which really unnerved me. After we ordered, Greg’s mother talked about the wedding and then, she mentioned how happy she was that Luke was going to be there. He had just returned from South Africa where he had worked for a few months working on a story. He was a photojournalist. It explained his swarthy complexion.
I noticed that he wasn’t wearing a ring which meant that he wasn’t married but it didn’t mean that he wasn’t romantically involved with someone. I found myself wondering what type of women he was attracted to and chided myself for it. I tried not to look at him unless I had to. Greg’s mother didn’t seem to notice anything. She was prattling on about different things. Then, she said to me, “I heard that the bachelorette party was a huge success. Lucy couldn’t stop raving about it.” Lucy was Greg’s younger sister and one of the bridesmaids.
I was pleased to hear that. It was hard trying to figure out what to do for the party. As a Christian, I wasn’t into hiring a male exotic dancer or going to a male strip club. Then, I went on Google for clean bachelorette party ideas. I came up with a few which turned out to be a hit with the ladies. It was worth the stress that came with planning the event to see them, especially, the bride-to-be, enjoying themselves. “Yes, it was and I’m happy to hear that Lucy had a great time.”
We talked about other things. Luke didn’t say much. The food was delicious although I felt self-conscious because I could feel him staring at me. When we were finished, I followed them out of the restaurant and as we stood outside, I thanked Greg’s mother for inviting me to lunch and we hugged. I turned to Luke and held out my hand. “It was nice meeting you,” I said.
He took my hand and his eyes met mine in a steady gaze as he replied, “Likewise. I’m looking forward to seeing you again.”
Again I felt that curious sensation and I withdrew my hand. I bade them farewell and walked briskly away. The next time I saw them would be on the day of the wedding.
Finally, the big day arrived and everything went very smoothly as far as venues go. It was going to be bittersweet watching Greg and Jill get married. When I walked down the aisle, my eyes went immediately to the bridegroom. He smiled at me and then, his eyes shifted to the rest of the procession. Luke was staring at me, though. He looked very handsome in his wedding suit. I tried to ignore my reaction to him as I stood there.
It was painful hearing Greg and Jill read their own vows. The words were beautiful and there was no question that they were crazy about each other. I fought back the tears all the while wishing that I was somewhere else. When the ceremony was over, I was relieved although I managed to hide it well. Soon we were at the banquet hall where the reception was to be held. Then, it was time for the speeches and I was very nervous.
When it was my turn, I said a quick prayer before I stood up. I had written a little speech on a cue card but I decided to speak from the heart. I could tell that it went well because I could see Jill dabbing her eyes and smiling at the same time. As I sat down, she blew me kisses. While Luke gave his speech, I watched him, thinking how relaxed he looked and what an eloquent speaker he was. The room was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop except when people erupted in laughter at his jokes. I couldn’t take my eyes off him which confused me.
After dinner, it was time for dancing. Luke came over to me and asked me to dance. I couldn’t refuse. As the maid of honor it was my duty to have a great time and spend a lot of time on the dance floor. So, to kick things off, it was the tradition for the maid of honor to dance with the best man the song immediately following the first dance. Heart beating like crazy, I got up and followed him to the dance floor. As I stepped into his arms, I couldn’t help thinking how good he smelled and what a terrific dancer he was. His movements were fluid and graceful. We danced several dances and then returned to the table. While he went to dance with his mother, I went over to Greg and Jill. After Jill and I hugged, I kissed Greg on the cheek. He looked so handsome in his suit and so happy.
When Greg left the table to dance with his sister, Jill said to me, “I saw Luke and you dancing earlier.”
My heart skipped a beat at the mention of his name. “Yes, it’s customary for the best man and maid of honor to dance with each other.”
“I think Luke likes you.”
“Why do you think so?” I asked, trying to sound indifferent.
“I’ve seen the way he keeps looking at you. He’s a very handsome man, Keziah. And he’s single too.”
“I’m not interested in him, Jill.”
“Really?” she exclaimed. “Why not?”
“He’s not my type.”
“You and I always liked the same type of guy. If I weren’t crazy about Greg, I would have gone for Luke.”
I found myself thinking the same thing. If I weren’t in love with Greg too, I could see myself with Luke. Just then, Greg rejoined us and I excused myself. I mingled with other guests, make sure that everyone was having a good time. Then, it was time for the cake cutting ceremony which meant that the party was at the half-point. Afterwards, it was time for the newlyweds to take photos with their guests. I was relieved when the party was over. I was tired and wanted to crawl into my bed and sleep in very, very late. After saying goodbye to the newlyweds who were off to their honeymoon, I made sure that everything was fine before I left.
Luke offered to give me a ride home and I accepted. We didn’t say much in the car but when he walked me to my door, he asked, “When can I see you again?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.” I hadn’t planned on seeing him again. Right now, all I wanted to do was to go to bed. I didn’t want to think about the wedding or about Greg on his honeymoon.
“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”
“I can’t. I have other plans.” That was true. I was going to a concert with my sister.
“What about Monday night?”
“I don’t usually go out on a week night because of work.”
“All right, how about Friday night?”
He was very persistent. “All right,” I said. I gave him my number. “Thanks for giving me a ride home.”
“Good night, Keziah.” He reached over and kissed me on the cheek, making me catch my breath. The area on my skin tingled. I unlocked my door and went inside. I waved at him before closing and locking it behind me.
I stripped, changed into my sleepwear and went straight to bed. I fell asleep immediately. Not wanting to think about Greg who was probably having great time in Aruba with his new bride, I buried myself in my work. The days went by very quickly and Friday was here. I felt nervous about going to dinner with Luke and was tempted to call it off. I told myself that I would go out with him just this once and flatly turn him down if he were to ask me out again.
He took me to a Spanish restaurant where the atmosphere was warm and friendly and the food one of the best I have ever had. There was live entertainment. At first, I didn’t say much but then he began asking me about myself.
“So, does Greg know?” he asked suddenly, startling me.
“Know what?” I asked.
“That you’re in love with him?”
“I’m not in love with him.”
“I think you are. I saw the way you looked at him at the wedding.”
“I don’t know what you think you saw.”
“I’m going to make you fall out of love with him and fall in love with me.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I informed him tightly.
He shrugged. “All right. I’ll drop it–for now.”
“Tell me about your job.”
“As you know, I’m a photojournalist. I work independently with different television networks. It’s an exciting and risky job.” He told me about the different assignments he had undertaken and some of the risks. It sounded very thrilling and I could see why he loved it. He was ambitious and a wanderlust. I envied him. It must be nice to travel to different places and meet different people while capturing stories through photos. My job as a Graphics Designer sounded so boring in comparison.
We talked about other things. Then, it was time for him to take me home. On the ride over, he brought up the subject of us dating each other. I tried to put him off but he was very persistent. By the time he walked me to my flat, we had another date.
Luke and I began seeing each other regularly. I didn’t mention it to Jill right away but when I did finally get around to it, she was thrilled. “I knew it!” she exclaimed. “I knew that you weren’t being honest with me when you said that he wasn’t your type.”
There was no denying that I was attracted to Luke. He made me feel things Greg never did. All it took was a look or a touch to make me weak in the knees. I didn’t want to feel like this about him, not when I was supposed to be in love with his half-brother. Yet, lately, it wasn’t Greg who occupied my thoughts. And when I was hanging out with Jill and him, I found myself thinking about Luke and how dangerously close I had come to sleeping with him that night when he took me home after we went to the theatre.
In the foyer of my flat, he pulled me into his arms and kissed me. At first, I was too stunned to do anything and then, my arms were around his neck and I was kissing him back wildly. The kiss lasted for a while and then, I pulled away from him. I told him that I couldn’t invite him in because of what would happen and explained that I wanted to wait until I was married to have sex. He respected my wishes and after we made plans to see each other the next day, he left. We made sure that we didn’t spend any time at his place or mine.
It was Sunday evening and we were having dinner at Jill’s and Greg’s place. We talked and laughed. After I helped Jill to clean up, we played Charades and other fun games. At one point I was alone in the living-room while the others were downstairs in the basement watching a movie. I had come upstairs to use the washroom but before heading back down, I went into the living-room and was looking at the framed photos on top of the mantle-piece.
I took down the one of Greg and Jill and smiled as I looked at it. It was taken on their wedding day. They looked so happy. I put it back and took down the one of Greg alone. I remember when it was taken. It was on his thirtieth birthday which was a few years ago. I was the one who took it. I remember thinking how lucky Jill was. Now, I’m simply happy for her. Greg and she were meant to be together.
I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t hear when Luke came into the room. When he came and stood in front of me, I almost dropped the photo. “You startled me,” I told him as I placed it back on the mantle-piece.
“I called you but you didn’t hear me. You were too busy staring at that photo.”
“I was looking at the other photos too,” I replied defensively.
“I know how you feel about Greg. I saw the way you looked at him at the wedding.”
“I think we should join him and Jill.” I started to move away when he caught my arm. I stared up in his face, my heart beat accelerating.
“How long are you going to carry a torch for him?” he demanded, his eyes flashing with anger and jealousy. “How long are you going to love a man who doesn’t love you and reject the man who does?”
I gulped, my eyes wide as they met his. “You-you love me?”
“Yes! Isn’t it obvious?”
“I–I didn’t know.”
“Well, now you do.”
He released my arm and moved away. “I’ll see you around.”
Alarmed, I asked, “Where are you going?”
“What do you care?”
“But, what do I tell Jill and Greg?”
“Tell them whatever you like.” And he strode out of the living-room. Minutes later, I heard his car drive away.
I stood there, shaking. When Jill came into the living-room to find out what was taking us so long, I burst into tears. I told her everything. She took me over to the sofa and when we were sitting, she put her arms around me.
“I always knew how you felt about Greg,” she said when my sobs had subsided. She handed me a bunch of tissues. “He never suspected. I knew how hard it was for you to see someone you love marry someone else, even if that someone else is your best friend. I also knew that in time your feelings for him would change and they have. It isn’t Greg that’s making you cry like this, it’s Luke. You’re in love with him, Keziah.”
She was right. I was in love with Luke. The realization hit me the moment he stormed out of the living-room and out of my life. “What am I going to do?” I wailed. “He thinks that I still love Greg.”
“Well, go and tell him that he’s wrong.”
“But, what if he doesn’t believe me.”
“Well, it’s up to you to make sure that he does.”
I stood up. “All right. I’ll go over to his place. Hopefully, he’s there.”
“And if he isn’t, wait.”
“I’ll call a cab and–”
“Oh, no, you don’t. I’ll take you.”
After she went and told Greg that she was going out for a while, she hustled me out of the house and soon we were heading over to Luke’s place. She offered to wait with me but I insisted that she go home to her husband. I promised that I would call her the next day. As soon as she left, I took the elevators up to Luke’s penthouse. I rang the bell but there wasn’t any answer. I rang again and then I heard the latch being drawn back and then I was staring up into Luke’s face. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“I need to speak to you,” I said. “May I come in?”
He opened the door wider and stepped aside so that I could go inside. After he closed the door, he turned to face me. He leaned against it with his arms folded. “So, what do you want to speak to me about?”
I took a deep breath. “You’re wrong about my feelings for Greg,” I informed him.
He didn’t answer but from the expression on his face, I could tell that he didn’t believe me.
“I’m not in love with him, Luke. I’m–I’m in love with you.”
His eyes darkened. “I want to believe you but, the way you were looking at his photo…”
“I was looking at it and thinking that Jill and he belonged together. I admit that I was in love with Greg but when I met you and I was instantly attracted to you, I was confused. I couldn’t understand how I could be in love with Greg and feel the way I did about you. I tried to put you off when you first asked me to go out with you because I was afraid of getting hurt.”
He reached out and pulled me against him. “I would never hurt you, Keziah,” he muttered thickly. “All I wanted and still want is to have a future with you.”
My response was to put my arms around his neck and kiss him.
“If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second” – Johnny Depp