Sequel: Good Enough
Status: Finished: The sequel is up! Read this, then go read that! (That's how sequels work) <3

Strong Enough

Can't Believe

“Places, everyone!” Oh that voice was getting on my last nerve. Lee and Alex’s wedding planner Diana had the hyper, upbeat voice of a happy wedding planner. Unfortunately I was not in a hyper upbeat mood. In fact I was exactly the opposite because my arm was currently tucked into the arm of the man I’d been trying to hate for the last 5 years.

“And the music starts.” A soft melody began flowing from the speakers. “And couple number one.”

As Diana, affectionately nicknamed Diabo in my brain, recited her instructions for the third time, I tried to forget where I was. Emma and Rylan walked down the aisle, followed by Tommy and Mia and finally Bryden and me. We walked down the plush white carpet over the cobblestone, and I could feel Bryden’s eyes on me. Mine remained stubbornly on the worn smile of my brother, who was standing a little too stiffly next to the minister. Upon reaching the end of the aisle, I made a stupid face at my brother to get him to smile a little more believably.

“And the bride enters with Dad.” Oh Diablo, I want so badly to punch you right now. Leeana appeared, escorted by her father, and made her way down to where my brother stood. “Words are spoken, vows are shared. Kiss, kiss. And we walk out.”

The order reversed and I watched Alex lead Lee down the aisle and off to the side.

“Exceptional. This ceremony will be beautiful!”

I removed my arm from Bryden’s as quickly as Diablo would allow. I swear if she says let’s do it again, I’m going to throw a rock at her head and bury her where no one would find the body.

“Fantastic. The ceremony begins at 3 pm sharp tomorrow afternoon. I will see you all bright and early.” A collective sigh was heard from the group as Diana waved and strutted away.

In less than ten minutes, we were all gathered in a large room at the Olive Garden, talking and laughing like we hadn’t spent the last hour and a half listening to the devil incarnate screech at us.

Lunch seemed to pass by as any other meal with this group of people. My parents sat on the end with Lee’s parents talking about who knows what while the rest of us chattered on about this that and the other thing. The boys talked about sports. The girls talked about the boys. Overall, no one who looked at the group would think anything was strange.

But, I could feel the tension in the room.

I knew this situation wasn’t normal.

I knew because sitting on the other side of the table was my ex.

I knew because every time I looked his way, his eyes were glue to my face.

I knew because while the conversation flowed and neither of us put on that we weren’t completely invested in it, we were both splitting out attention between the group of friends and each other.

I fought it as much as I could. I didn’t want to look at him. I scolded myself and concentrated of the joke Tommy was telling, but heard nothing. I could feel those eyes boring into me.

I watched as my friends interacted, Mia fitting right into the crowd she’d only just joined. Even Emma was lively and playful with everyone. I was jealous. These were people I’d known all my life and here I was, struggling to keep my focus. It was only a minute later, as Rylan made fun of Tommy for a stupid comment he’d made, that I stood and quietly excused myself to the bathroom.

It was difficult keeping a slow pace as I moved away from everyone. All I wanted to do was run. I wanted to escape as fast as I could. But, I kept my footsteps even and eventually made it to the safety of the bathroom.

Leaning against the door, my hair fell around my face as I tried to even out my breathing. I wasn’t going to cry. This wasn’t something to cry over. I was stronger than that.

My feet took me over to the sink, where I looked up to the mirror and scowled at my reflected face. I was starting to lose the battle with myself. The battle I’d been fighting for five years.

My face dropped and I began tracing the lines in the marble sink with my eyes. I started counting the specks. I sang an old song. Anything to keep myself from giving in.

My body stiffened as I heard the door open. Soon after, a pair of blue heels came into my view as I stubbornly kept my eyes on the sink in front of me.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” A hand rested on my shoulder; a gesture that was meant to be comforting. “Alex told me what happened and he begged me not to tell you he was in the wedding. He didn’t want to risk you not coming.”

“You should have told me anyway.” I shot away from the sink, looking right at her, my movements clearly catching her off guard. “You’re my best friend. You know how I was that first year of college. And, apparently, now you know why. You’re my best friend and he’s my brother. Of course I was going to be at your wedding. But, a little warning would have been nice.”

“I know and I’m sorry. Maybe this is a good thing. You can get closure. You can move on.”

“I’ve already moved on. I have a great fucking life. I’m successful and I have friends and I love being who I am.”

“Maybe. But maybe you’re just hiding. You haven’t been in a relationship in five years, Jaqui!” Her voice softened as she moved toward me and sighed. Her hands raised to rest on my upper arms as she spoke softly. “Look, it’s your life. I can’t tell you how to live it. But, it’s pretty obvious that you haven’t moved on. Maybe you should try a different approach than burying everything under sarcasm and a dazzling smile.”

When I didn’t respond, she removed her hands from me and slowly made her exit. My back hit the wall opposite the door and I slid to the ground, my head in my hands. I wouldn’t admit it out loud, but I knew she was right. I hadn’t moved on. And I wasn’t fooling anyone.

After a few minutes on the ground, I gradually made my way back to my feet, checking to be sure I didn’t look like a wreck and headed for the door. Once outside I was met with a pair of eyes I couldn’t seem to escape as of late.

“Can I help you?” I tried to pass him, but he moved into my path, his solid chest effectively blocking my exit route.

“Jax, I know you don’t want to talk right now. It’s not a good time anyway with where we are and the wedding and everything. But please just know that I’m sorry. It doesn’t make up for anything, I know, but maybe it’ll make this wedding a bit easier for you to get through.”

He shuffled around me into the men’s restroom, leaving me in the hallway alone.

Easier? Really? How would it make it easier? He should be fucking sorry. He should be begging for forgiveness and be tormented by his stupidity and lack of decency.

I took a deep breath to refocus before quietly journeying back to the room where my lunch was waiting. I ate quietly, occasionally adding my two cents to the conversation and glaring at Bryden every chance I got.

If he wasn’t sorry now, he sure as hell would be after tomorrow night.
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It's a bit shorter than usual, but not much.
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