Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda takes a sip of the champagne, her nose wrinkling at the bubbles that tickle the back of her throat. The brilliant glow of the setting sun sweeps over the venue through the windows, and the shutters swing lightly in the breeze that passes by. She breathes in the floral perfume of the bouquets that sit in the centre of every table, bright petals like beacons in the room.

It’s been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. She can’t be any happier for her best friend.

Ellie and Christopher have been planning their wedding for nearly two years, juggling work and schooling and everything that comes with an impending ceremony. Veda is just thankful to be able to have come. She wasn’t sure she would have had the chance, but here she is to support the woman who has been by her side since they were sixteen.

Elizabeth had come into Veda’s life like a hurricane, and each passing day has only strengthened the quick bond created in their sophomore year of high school. Distance hasn’t been enough to sever that connection, and that alone is the most comforting bit.

“Ready for the speech?”

Veda turns from the window to see Mrs Hargrove approaching. “Absolutely. Ready to see your daughter cry off all her pretty makeup?”

“Honey, if you can make that girl cry, I will pay you a thousand dollars.”

“I’ll take that bet,” Veda laughs before setting off for the head table.

Ellie is already there, sat next to her now-husband, and the man talking to the couple gives Veda an impatient look but moves away without another word. She stares after him with a frown then takes her seat next to the bride.

“I see your uncle still doesn’t like me.”

Ellie giggles. “In his defence, you did key his car when he decided to be a racist pig against Marissa’s boyfriend.”

“He doesn’t like me, either,” Chris reassures Veda in an undertone, leaning across his wife to speak quietly enough that he can’t be overheard. “And I’ve married into the family.”

Veda smiles and accepts what Chris is saying. Ellie gasps quietly when Veda taps her fork against the champagne flute. The noise manages to cut through the low buzz of conversation, and the guests fall silent as she rises to her feet again. Drawing in a steadying breath, Veda grins down at her best friend.

“What can I say about Elizabeth Mariette Hargrove? Besides the fact that she’s absolutely stunning, she is the best person I have ever met. Really. I know loads of people tend to be a bit… hyperbolic about their friends, but I will never meet anyone as selfless, kind, and generous as El. She’s so much more than that, though. For those who don’t know, we met one fateful day in high school. I was at my locker, getting out my - what was it El?”

“Chemistry,” she supplies in a watery voice, but her eyes remain dry despite the way they glimmer in the gentle lighting.

Veda nods sharply at the reminder, turns back to the guest. “Right. My Chemistry book. Fucking Chemistry, man. I hated that class. I digress! Sorry. But definitely remember what class I was heading to.”

She continues on, telling everyone in the room about the fist time she saw Elizabeth. Ellie had the quarterback of the football team cornered against the bay of lockers and was shouting herself hoarse at him, for whatever crime he had committed. Veda had found the other girl to be a beautiful, vengeful sort of angel. Of course, a teacher had come to break up the fight, but Ellie could be heard from across the courtyard long after the bystanders scattered.

Halfway through class, the girl had come in, dropped into the seat next to Veda, and that was it. They’d talked as if they had known each other their entire lives. It didn’t matter that Veda already had a lab partner who was only out sick for the day. Ellie came into her life and refused to leave.

“Chemistry is a weird thing. I may have hated the class, but I can’t deny that we’ve had chemistry from the very beginning. She was my kind of weird. My kind of crazy. She made me more outspoken, and I kept her from unleashing righteous fury on people. Well, I tried,” Veda amends, and the guests laugh along with her as she reaches for Ellie’s hand. “Without her, I definitely wouldn’t have made it to graduation as relatively unscathed as I did.”

Ellie’s tears finally spill over as Veda recounts the time Ellie had called after a terrible date she’d gone on, how Veda had done what any best friend would do - commiserated, assured Ellie that she would never have another date as awful as that one, and offered to fly all the way to Stanford to eat their weight in ice cream. Ellie had laughed and said she was okay, she was going out again with him the following weekend.

Veda chokes on her own giggles as she tells everyone how gobsmacked she’d been that Ellie would want to put herself through the torture of another date when the first one was so horrendous. Her amusement fades away, and she stares between Ellie and Chris, smiling slightly.

“I knew why. That’s just El. So willing to give second chances where most people wouldn’t. And I’m glad she did. Chris is such an amazing, wonderful partner. He’s been there for her when I couldn’t. Normally, I’d be jealous that someone is taking my place as the sane one in our dynamic duo, but… it’s Chris. He keeps her grounded. He loves her almost as much as I do, though in decidedly different ways.

“My point with all this rambling is that Elizabeth is the best woman I have ever known. She deserves everything that’s great in this world, and well, Chris is pretty much the greatest thing to happen to her. Besides me, of course.

“I’m thankful that Ellie gave him a second chance to wow her, because their love gives me hope that one day I might just have an awful, no-good, horrible date of my own. And maybe, just maybe, I might have someone who makes my life - and myself - better.

“To Ellie and Chris. May you have the rest of your lives together for terrible dates.”

Veda sips from her glass as everyone echoes the sentiments. Ellie stands, giving Veda no warning before hugging her tightly. Veda kisses Ellie’s cheek and swallows back the dark that rises up. She can’t let her tears get to her. Today is all about Elizabeth and Christopher. It’s not a prime-time showing of the Veda Mitchell Show.

Conversations resume, and the staff serves the dinner. Veda’s appetite is nonexistent right now, but she forces herself to take at least a few bites. The caterers worked hard to ready the meal, and she doesn’t want to worry anyone. Someone clinks a fork against their glass. Ellie giggles but dutifully leans over to kiss her new husband.

Thankfully, dinner doesn’t last long. Everyone is far too distracted with talking and congratulating the newlyweds, so within the hour, Chris is leading Ellie to the middle of the room. Thank You for Loving Me starts up. Veda watches her best friend sway slowly with her husband to the familiar raspy quality of Bon Jovi’s voice.

The pocket of Veda’s dress starts vibrating just as the music swells, and she nearly falls out of her seat with surprise. She checks that the guests’ attention is purely on the dancing couple then ducks out of the room.

“What happened?” she says once the call connects.

A sigh crackles down the line, and she chews on her lower lip while she waits for Patrice to respond. The taste of her lipstick floods her mouth. After a long moment, the in-home nurse speaks.

“You need to come home.”

“What. Happened?”

“Nothing happened, but, Veda… It isn’t looking good right now. I don’t think it’ll be long.”

“Can, can I speak to him?”

Patrice exhales sharply, though she doesn’t argue. Veda swallows thickly and waits for the nurse to pass the phone over. Rustling comes along the connection, the grumpy rumbles of a man being awoken. She can’t stop the tears when she hears his voice clearly.

“Percy? That you?”

Her throat tightens, and she has to cough slightly before she can speak. “Hey, Granddad. It’s me, yeah. How you feeling?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Pat’s just worryin’ for nothing. I’m fine. Now stay and enjoy the party, okay? Tell El and her husband I said congratulations, and I’ll see you when you get home.”

“Granddad -”

“Be a kid, sweetheart.”

“I’m twenty-five, not five.” She sniffles and scrubs at her cheeks, tears coming no matter how hard she tries to keep them at bay. “I’ll be home soon. I love you.”

“I love you, too, honey.”

Veda hangs up, breathes in as deeply as possible. Her lungs are too small, and her throat aches with all of the emotions she’s been struggling with since this nightmare started. She leans against the wall behind her. Staff goes in and out of the ballroom, but none spare her a second glance. She’s oddly grateful for that - if anyone speaks to her right now, she may just shatter to pieces.

Fighting to get herself back under control again, she waits another beat before heading back through the doors. Ellie evidently noticed her missing, because she is immediately at Veda’s side without bothering to excuse herself from the relatives with whom she was talking. Chris, ever attentive, follows closely behind, though he does say something to his in-laws first.


“I, uh, I have to go.”

“Is he -?”

“He says he’s fine, but Patrice…”

“Oh, honey, go. Call me as soon as you make it home, all right?”

“I will. Thank you so much, Ellie.”

“No, thank you. I wouldn’t have been upset if you hadn’t come, but it means everything that you did.”

Ellie embraces Veda with surprising strength then runs her fingertips under Veda’s eyes gently. Chris passes over his handkerchief, and Ellie wipes off the mascara and eyeliner with a thankful smile. Turning back to Veda, her eyes darken with concern.

“Let me know if I can help in any way.”

“Enjoy your honeymoon. Chris? Keep loving her. I won’t be there to pull her ass out of the fire any more, so that job is on your shoulders now. She’s a handful.”

Chris laughs quietly, kisses Veda’s cheek. “You’ve done a terrible job at that, but I’ll do my best.”

Veda pulls them both in for one final hug then heads to the table to gulp down the rest of her champagne. Waving at the couple over her shoulder, she hurries from the ballroom and down the corridor. The lift is already waiting, and she darts inside, thumbing at the button for the top floor.

Veda pulls her room key out of her clutch as the lift rises. It dings at every floor it passes, and her breath hitches when it comes to a juddering stop. The doors slide open with a soft chiming noise.

Packing her belongings take very little time. She doesn’t bother changing out of the 50s-style swing dress that Ellie chose for her, or to take off her makeup. She just shoves her toiletries and pyjamas into her carry-on. She does slide of her heels and toss them in, exchanging them for the flip-flops she brought with her.

She stops by the wedding suite and slides her room key under the doors, hopes that it’s good enough. Just to be certain, she sends a quick text to Chris’s brother, informing him of the key’s location.

Hold on, Granddad, I’m on my way.