It was a shame that such a tall, dark, and handsome man had to mar his striking appearance with a scowl. I hoped he would lose it before he tried to make the toast to the bride and groom with his sparkling cider. That might be the only thing that sparkled.
Jase actually put on a happy face, did gallantly, then sank back into his iceberg. I did not do nearly as well melting with tears and hardly getting a word out before my knees gave out and I fell back onto the white plastic folding chair. It was not my zenith moment.
How could a loving bride and groom have picked a maid of honor and best man of such polar opposites? Hopefully, it would not be an omen of mismatched lovers later. They certainly appeared to be head over heels in love making me feel a smidge of jealousy. Well, maybe a little more than a smidge. I sighed as I wiped a smudge of mascara from under my eye where a tear still attempted to escape. It now blackened the newlyweds initials on the napkin I had used. Grumpy looked over at me with an arched eyebrow. I had not meant to let such a heavy sigh be overheard to be judged by the likes of him. I shot a cold stare straight back; only for a second our eyes locked before he looked away.
I was the last to be single of all my girlfriends making me a misfit, a freak of unmarried nature. What was wrong with me? Were my standards too high? Too low? Was I somehow not alluring? It had been a couple of months since anyone had even acted interested enough to hint at something as simple as getting a cup of coffee, dutch of course. Maybe I needed to fish in a bigger pond. This one was fished out. I regretted spending so many of my college years wasted upon Mr.-I-Dumped-Him-First-Before-He-Could-Dump-Me. Three years down the drain. Now I've graduated, have seen my last girlfriend trip happily down the rose petal strewn pathway while I was headed home to my old bedroom at my parents.
I grr-ed under my breath, but was evidently overheard by the groom's bff sitting next to me who once again arched an eyebrow at me, but this time with a smirk.
"Not having a good time, eh?"
"Everything is divine," I lied.
"The toasts are over, the cake is next, then the obligatory dances, then you're home free."
"There's the clean-up. We are supposed to help the family with that, you know. We'll be the last to leave, or did you plan on ducking out?"
"Oh, I wouldn't think of it."
"What do you plan on doing to the going away car?"
"Nothing. I'm loaning him my sports car and have a friend guarding it in case anybody has ideas about doing anything to it that might mar the paint job."
"Oh." I could not think of another thing to say to the man, nasty or nice, so I looked out over the reception party. There wasn't a single man there who I would wish to dance with. Not one. All the good ones have gotten away, and I have officially begun the game of Old Maid.
Now my chin was beginning to quiver. How stupid! I jumped up to escape but bumped into the chest of my nemesis Mr. Frosty in a tux as he was getting up as well.
I turned away, but he stopped me, put his finger under my chin and lifted my face to see the rivulets of feeling-sorry-for-myself tears. I kept my eyes closed so I would not have to face him.
"Hey, this is a wedding. It's supposed to be a happy time. I promise to bury the hatchet for this one night if you will."
I could not talk, but I nodded and opened my eyes to see his searching mine. His thumb wiped away the tears on one cheek while I wiped the other side with the back of my hand. Then I was free to go. I made a beeline to a bathroom and locked myself in a booth. I had counted to 100 backwards and forwards twice until I made sure I would not fall apart again, until my heart went back to a normal beat. After doing what I could to repair my makeup damage, I went out to face the music.
The dancing had begun. I missed her dance with her father, but now the bride and groom were dancing and more people were entering the dance floor. His back was to me almost blocking my view. He turned when he noticed me and checked me out as if for damage.
I still could not speak to him, but let him lead me out where the other couples were being happy.
I tried to look down, but whenever I glanced up, he was staring at me. Finally, he said, "I can't remember, can you?"
"Why we can't stand each other?"
"No, but I'm sure it was for a good reason."
Then a rumble began down low then escaped into a deep laugh that made him stop dancing for a moment. "I think I remember now. Did it have something to do with you getting caught flirting with me as a freshmen when you worked in the student book store, and your supervisor wasn't very happy with you?"
"You flirted with me and got me in trouble. I almost lost my job because of you. I remember now."
"That's a four year old grudge. Wow. But I can't remember why I don't like you."
"It's probably because you asked me to help you cheat on a quiz in biology, and I refused to let you see my answer."
He laughed. "I think you are right. I'm glad to know I do have a good reason to despise you."
I tried not to laugh, but couldn't stop it. "It didn't end there. You made fun of me in front of all my friends every chance you got. You called me mean names."
"What's so mean about calling you Miss Goody Two Shoes?"
"I used to avoid you even if I had to go the long way around and be late for class."
"That must have been tough for Miss Perfect."
"There you go again, calling me names."
"A name? I thought you'd wear that as a badge of honor. Weren't you perfect all the way through school, except for that jerk you wasted your time with for three years, but who's counting?"
"I don't know how to answer that" She looked up at him bewildered. Finally, she said, "Yes, he was a jerk, I did waste three years of my life with him, and so you could say that I'm not a candidate for the Miss Perfect title for that, if for no other reason. But I'm surprised you noticed."
"I noticed alright. I was mad at you every day of every month for three years that you couldn't see through his sham. It took everything I had not to beat the pulp out of him whenever he opened his mouth about you. He really was not a nice guy. You wouldn't want to know some of the things he said."
"You're right, I don't want to know. I feel like I ate the poisoned apple from him. It took me too long to wake up."
"What made you wake up?"
"I don't really want to talk about it. How about you? Are you still with what's her name Pretty-Face? How come she's not here?"
"No, pretty is as pretty does, and we aren't together any more."
"Good. She wasn't a very nice person either. I was always surprised you did not see through her."
"I was in love with a shell until the hermit crab climbed out with the claws clicking."
I laughed. "I visualize that perfectly."
Neither one of us realized that we had talked clear through three slow dances while everyone else was jamming. Then someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was one of the ones I wouldn't be caught dead dancing with. After all, wasn't it the prerogative of an old maid to turn down who she wanted to.
"I'm sorry, but my feet are killing me, and I just want to sit down now."
The Best Man guided me, the Maid of Honor back to our seats where I kicked off my shoes.
"Was that a little white lie that Miss Perfect just told?"
"No, I mean, my feet do hurt. I'm not used to wearing heels. But, I'm not about to dance with him. He gives me the creeps."
"And I don't any more?"
He was bending over leaning on his elbows on his thighs to look into her face.
"Good." He leaned back in his seat with his legs stretched out in front of him with a crooked smile on his face.
"Don't look so smug."
"What? Are we still fighting? Did you just remember another one of the top ten reasons you hate me?"
"No, it's just that you look like a cat that wants to eat the canary, but she's safe in her cage, thank you very much."
"Oh really?" He smiled wider.
Suddenly, I wasn't so sure any more.
Just then the bride and groom came up arm in arm and spied them. "Oh, good, you are finally getting along." I hugged the bride in a goodbye to girlhood sort of way while the guys wacked each other on the back.
"Are you ready to see us off? Got the keys for me, bro?"
"Sure you don't want me to chauffer you?" he winked.
"No, I think I can handle it from here."
"Just be careful with the merchandise. And be careful with the car too."
The guys laughed while the bride giggled nervously. I found myself fighting back tears again.
In a blink of an eye, they were off and a friendship was changed forever. I felt very alone all of a sudden. An arm slipped around my waist and a warm breath was in my ear, "And so they've left us. Whatever shall we do?"
"And after that?"
I looked up at him shocked.
"The night will still be young, and I'm still hungry. All the fancy food did not fill me up. I want a steak. Are you game?"
"Sure. But he just took off in your car."
"I guess you'll be driving. Just kidding. He gave me his keys. Wait a minute." He patted himself down. "The dirty dog forgot. What could he have been thinking?" He winked and said, "So I guess you really are driving."
The bride had a huge family and so it did not take long to clean up the reception hall. Soon he was staring at me holding my shoes in his hands that I had left under the table. "I'm starving. Let's go."
I was so nervous that I almost ran a red light and had to slam on the brakes. He did not say a word, just cocked that eyebrow at me again. I was glad to finally turn off the keys in the steakhouse parking lot. He grabbed my hand as we went in. I had no idea why I did not pull away.
"I hope you are as hungry as I am because their house special is worth devouring."
"I don't think I really ate much of the food at the reception, so I am ready for a steak after all."
It was delicious, but I hardly remember eating the meal at all. The two of us talked with a voracious appetite making up for the lost time of our college years of not speaking.
"Remember the last chapel speaker sermon on I Samuel about David's life. If you don't mind me saying so, I feel like David who finally had chance to win Saul's daughter's hand, Michal. I would have killed a lot of Philistines if I thought I could have gotten you to notice."
"I'd rather not think of the bride price Saul put on David. I don't know. Michal wasn't so nice. She certainly wasn't worth it."
"In what way?"
"She really loved David even before she married him; helped him escape from Saul, but had an idol handy to put in the bed to stall Saul's henchmen. She told them that it was David sick in bed. I think I know why she had a household idol. I've had one. It was called False Security. My idol was my boyfriend. Even though I knew my worship was misplaced, I kept him around afraid to let him go. In the meanwhile, I let the true king escape out the window when I allowed the idol into my bed..." Her eyes became round as saucers and she covered her mouth. "I can't believe I just said that to you...I wasn't speaking literally."
"Okay." He felt her shrinking away from him but did not let her, taking her hand that was trembling.
"I had a couple of misplaced loves in my life too. Like the speaker said, David had a few too many love stories. I guess going to a Christian college does not mean you graduate with a diploma of smarts. Sometimes we earn one of stupid mistakes as well, one degree or another. But didn't David get Michal back after all?"
"Yes, but she despised him in his pure worship. She was childless until she died, meaning he spurned her as well since he had plenty of other wives."
"Yeah, you're right. The two of them are not the perfect examples to follow when it comes to love. It makes you think again like what if she had escaped out the window with David. She preferred obviously to be comfortable with the household idol and palace living. Would David have sought love with so many other wives or could they have had one of those admirable marriages of biblical proportions? Yet, after all David's failures, he kept coming back to God, a heart after God."
They were looking at each other while he held her hand rubbing his thumb gently over her fingers.
Finally she sighed.
"What's the sigh for? You did that at the table tonight at the wedding, and then it turned to tears."
"Doesn't it bother you to be still single when everyone else has paired off and flown away?"
"Let's get out of here. I think they're closing down anyway." He walked her to the car, but put his hand out for the keys. "You scared me on the way here. Let me drive us back."
When Carrie handed them over, she found herself enveloped in his arms. She sighed again.
"There you go sighing again. I hope it was a good sigh." He tipped her face up. "Do you think we would have a chance? The bookstore supervisor is not looking over your shoulder, you know. You're not a freshman anymore."
This brought a grin with a dimple instead of tear. "Do ya think? I don't know how you can even speak to me after how I've treated you."
He kissed her gently. Then kissed her some more that awakened something she'd never quite felt before. Her other relationship vanished in the rear view mirror.
Finally, he pulled away. "We'd better go," but he did not move. "I think I finally remember why I hated you."
"Really? Why?" She kept her arms around his neck looking up into the twinkle in his eyes.
"Because you let that other stupid guy take up with you instead of me. I've wanted you ever since I laid eyes on you in the bookstore when we were freshmen. I tried a couple of consolation prizes, but they really didn't satisfy. They weren't you."
"Yeah, it's always been about you."
"I think I was a real idiot."
"No, I scared you away. It was my idiocy. I'd like to start all over and pretend the last four years had not happened."
"Hello," she offered her hand. "My name is Carrie. What's yours?"
"Jase. Are you busy this weekend."
"No. I just have to clean out my room and throw away a few idols."
"Good. Maybe we can make a bonfire and turn the past mistakes into ashes."
"I'd like that very much. Just so you know, if you dance before God, I'll be clapping from my window."
"Do you mind if I call you Miss Perfect for Me?"
She sighed. "I'd like that, Mr. Just Right."
Having just gone through an elaborate ceremony with their friends, they chose a simple small wedding: it's usually best after a whirlwind courtship, after all. It was more than just right. It was perfect.