The Widow led us into the big house, and I was reminded of why it was such a good place for holding social functions. It was a really big house! It was the unofficial social hall for the community. Christmas parties and fund raising dinners were held here. Once, I attended a party for the local 4H club; those kids were so excited about going to a conference. I heard that a few weddings had taken place on the ranch. Well, I could understand why. It was a very beautiful rustic setting.
Widow introduced us to some people who where sitting and drinking in the living room. Then she took us to the kitchen, the hub of activity, with people cooking, making drinks, and laughing. We met a few more people and Widow told us to help ourselves to some drinks and snacks. The rehearsal dinner would take place outside in a short while. Teacher grabbed a glass of wine while I took a bottle of water. We went out back to the yard where the rehearsal dinner would take place.
The back yard was huge and there were plenty of tables and chairs set up outside, arranged in rows. I could see strings of decorations and lights that hung between trees and over the tables. The rows of trees provided ample shade from the sun. Beyond the field was the red barn, magnificent against the blue skies and the green grass. It would be a few more hours til the sun set, but the air was cool and dry, a sure sign that autumn was here. The atmosphere was perfect.
Some people were sitting at unmarked tables. I recognized a few of them, so Teacher and I went over to say hello and chit chat for a bit. Then I excused myself to walk over to where several men were huddled around the grill. I knew a few of them as workers on the ranch and we exchanged pleasantries. The rehearsal dinner was done in true Texas style BBQ.
In this part of Texas, BBQ is seasoned meat that's been slow cooked and smoked with mesquite over hours, using indirect heat, causing the meat to be tender and juicy and full of flavor. You don't use any BBQ sauce. I knew that the BBQ meat and ribs were done--I smelled that sweet mesquite scent in the kitchen as the cooks were slicing and dicing that tender meat goodness. My mouth was watering while I was in the kitchen, but I resisted sampling a piece of the meat, preferring to wait til the actual dinner.
Grilling is different from BBQ. Grilling is cooking food like hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken legs and sausages directly over high heat. It was funny listening to the fellas exchange recipes and tips on how to grill, about using a dry rub or marinade; whether to start with the meat's fat side down or up on the grill; how to use beer as flavoring; how long to keep the meat on the grill before turning it. All the while, the griller just nodded and did what he wanted; everyone else just grunted their approval when the griller turned the meat. Grilling is a manly, bonding experience; trust me. It reached back to a time when the cavemen first discovered fire and learned how to cook meat over it; huddled together to share in the bounty of their hunt; trying to survive in a cold, harsh world.
I spent some time chatting with the fellas before I turned back to the table where Teacher and I sat. She was looking at her phone, excluding herself from the group's conversation. She was probably texting Boytoy, again. I sighed and headed back to the table, trying to think of a way to get Teacher to hang up that stupid phone and stop making a fool of herself. She was pouting when I got there, and I really didn't feel like opening up a whole can of worms, especially here. I asked her quietly if she was all right. She said yes. I told her that she didn't look all right. That got her to say that she was texting Boytoy but he hadn't responded. So I told her not to text him anymore; I'm sure he would text back when he got the chance. That got her to pout even more, and she totally tuned me out, turning away from the table and going back to her phone. I was getting irritated by this. For a smart woman, she sure was acting stupid.
I ignored her and joined the group conversation at the table. It was small talk about what was going on the community--some gossip and some local events. I asked them what they could tell me about the Groom, since I didn't know who he was. Before they could answer, someone squeezed my shoulder from behind and surprised me. To my excitement, that someone was a friend of mine! I call him Fix, because he's an engineer. I hadn't seen Fix since he attended Rancher's funeral. Most of our college friends who could make it showed up to support our friend in her time of loss. We've kept in touch with the odd email and phone call over the years.
I actually met the Bride through Fix during college. Fix was in the Greek system and I met him through another friend who was in a fraternity. We often hung out at my place or at parties or the beach. Fix and I took a Statistics class and during a group project, he asked one of the girls to join us. That girl was the Bride. Fix and Bride were actually cousins. They shared the same fun, easy going personality that endeared them both to me. We spent a lot of time hanging out in college and going on road trips and having fun wherever we happened to end up. They grew up in this area, but were now living other cities. But I guess this part of the country was still home to them. Fix and I took some time to catch up with each other. Fix was fun to hang out with, because he was down for anything, and he had this mischievous glint in his eyes. Even Teacher came out of her sulky mood to greet Fix.
Fix proceeded to tell me a little about Groom. Groom worked as sous chef in one of the local restaurants. He and Bride met through mutual friends at a bowling party over a year and a half ago, and they've been together since. Fix said that Groom was a nice guy, but I couldn't help but have a small doubt about that. I guess I was just protective when it came to my friends. I mean, I haven't met the guy yet, so I suppose I'll make up my mind when I meet him.
I didn't have to wait long though, because I heard a commotion at the back door. The wedding party had arrived, and leading the pack was Bride. We got up and went to greet her. She looked so happy and excited to see us. She looked fantastic. And it felt good to hug her and share in her joy. I told her that she looked great, and she laughed and thanked me. She leaned in and whispered that she had some news she needed to tell me. I raised my eyebrow as she took my arm and led me a short distance away to whisper,"Don't be get mad, but Deceiver is invited to the wedding."
I felt a flare of anger at the mention of that cursed name! Well, her name wasn't actually Deceiver. I just call her that because she was a big fat liar and a backstabbing biatch! I had the urge to leave immediately before I lost my damn mind, but Bride had a firm grip on my arm.
She continued, "My mother said it would be just awful to not invite her, seeing as how we grew up together and used to be friends."
"Used to be friend is the operative phrase," I grumbled. But I took a deep breath and reeled my emotions in. I told Bride, "Don't worry, I won't throw a tantrum."
Bride laughed, "I know that! Throwing tantrums is Deceiver's thing."
And I laughed with her, because that was true. But I was worried about that and Bride noticed, "Don't worry. She won't act up. Not unless she wants to be completely ostracized. And I've made sure you two are on opposite ends of the seating arrangement."
I felt a little guilty that Bride would make arrangements based on my comfort level. This was her day, and she shouldn't have to worry about petty fights and drama on her wedding day. So I told her, "Thank you. But you didn't have to do that, ya know. I wouldn't have caused any problems, ya know?"
"I know," she said,"Just wanted to give you a heads up." Still holding my arm, she led me back to the main group and introduced me to the Groom.
I caught the surprised and wary look in the Groom's eyes as he gave a fleeting glance to Bride's arm wrapped around mine. He recovered quickly, smiled cautiously and reached out to shake hands and greet me. I returned his smile and we both did a quick body check of each other. We shook hands, a little too tightly, and exchanged, Howdys. I was taller than him by an inch and half, but that didn't stop him from straightening his back and pulling back his shoulders, trying to add to his height. I was still taller, and I tried not to smirk.
Bride had moved on to greet the other guests. Groom said that he's heard so much about me, and he was really glad to finally meet me. The slight uncertainty in his tone made me question the sincerity of his statement. But I was unfazed and replied that I was glad to meet him as well. Then I added, I wanted to meet the lucky man who was making Bride so happy these days. I could tell there was moment where he was probably pondering the truthfulness of my words. But he let it go and introduced me to his best man.
His best man was a tall, skinny, scruffy guy whose hair was unkempt and his eyes were bloodshot red. His clothes looked rumpled with some noticeable stains, some old and some new. He was loud and kept cussing. He liberally used muthf*ckin this and f*ckin that in his sentences. Now, I don't mind people cussing when the situation warrants it. But I find it uncouth in mixed company and in the presence of ladies, especially older ones at a social function. And in the corner of my eyes, I noticed the disapproving looks from some of the elderly ladies standing on the veranda.
Luckily, Fix stepped in and introduced me to various other wedding party members and guests. Then we joined the line to get our food and drinks and returned to our table. I found Teacher sitting there, sulking again at her phone. She didn't get herself a plate, so I told her that I'd get her one. I went back up to the line and got another plate for her. Fix and I started talking with the other people at our table. We met two new people, Bride's friends from work. Fix and I exchanged a quick look, and it was like we were back in college. I knew that look, and I was trying really hard to suppress a wicked smile. Fix used his left hand to rub his chin really quick. I got the message: He wanted the blond girl sitting on the left, the one facing him. That meant I would be go for the brunette on the right, sitting across from me. And so the game began.
We started by telling little jokes and getting the girls to relax. It helped that we had access to alcohol. We made small talk to find out bits of information about the girls--their interests, their hobbies, places they've traveled. And once we gleamed a little of that info, we used it to build each other up to our prospects. The Blond said she recently went to a music concert. So I told her that Fix was big music lover and goes to a lot of concerts. They started talking about their musical tastes and which artists had real talent and which were just hype. That progressed into a discussion of upcoming concerts and tentative plans to see those concerts together. It wasn't really about going to the concerts. Nope. The whole point of the exercise was to establish a rapport and build upon that. If she could envision going to concerts with Fix, then she was comfortable enough to receive his attentions.
The same thing with the Brunette when she mentioned she loved traveling. Fix told her that I had recently traveled to Europe. So the Brunette and I started comparing and contrasting our experiences with Europe, laughing over things that we found unexpected. We discussed food and wines and eateries. We kept laughing and talking and I made sure there was enough alcohol to keep the mood light and enjoyable. Things were progressing very nicely. It was only a matter of time before Fix and I would make a play for a win to end the game.
Our conversation was only stopped for a short while when the Bride and Groom stood up to say thank you to the members of the wedding party and gave them gifts. They also said how happy they were to have us share this joyous occasion with them. Then the parents of the engaged couple took turns speaking, telling little stories about their own marriages and how they were so happy for the engaged couple. A few people took the opportunity to tell their own little tales about what they knew about the engaged couple. Some were funny and heartwarming stories. Others were just light teasing. It was so cheesy and fuzzy but in good fun.
Then things took a wrong turn when the best man told the story of how he and Groom used to cut class so they could get high. Then he talked about the time he picked up Groom in his truck and went to the lake to get drunk. On the way back, he drove into a ditch and Groom got dirty while pushing the truck so they could get out of the ditch. He said they were lucky the cops weren't around since he could not keep the truck from going over the lines, even though he was driving very slowly. Everybody looked uncomfortable then. Groom had this WhatTheF*? look on his face; his parents looked stunned. I thought, Good gawd! That was a terrible story! Why the hell would you bring that stuff up now? Underage drinking, drugs, and drunk driving? What was wrong with him? That's the kind of secret that you take to the grave! That dude is the worst best man ever!
Groom's expression changed into embarrassment. Bride had put her hand over his, being supportive I suppose. There was an awkward tension in the air as the mood had changed from happy to uncomfortable. This was bad. I hadn't planned on speaking, but I couldn't leave things as they were. So I stood up and marched over to the head table where the wedding party was seated. I had no idea what I wanted to say. So I said the first thing that came to mind. I said that Bride has always been a wonderful friend, ready to lend a hand, whether it was to pull me up when I've fallen down or smack some sense into me when I was being an idiot. Smart, beautiful, funny, always kind and forgiving. In all the years that I've known Bride, she's spent a lot time making other people happy. So it's quite an honor and joy for me to see that this time, someone was making her happy. And any man who was truly lucky enough to make Bride happy is an honorable one, most worthy of sharing her love and happiness. I congratulated them both and wished them much joy and good fortune for a long and wonderful union. I said, Cheers! And the guests echoed my sentiments.
Bride hugged me and I shook Groom's hand; whatever silly issue we had between us was gone. The important thing was, the celebratory mood had returned. I went back to my table to find cheers and admiration from the group. Fix patted me on the shoulder and the Brunette was smiling at me. Things were heading in a very promising direction. By now the sun was setting and the strings of white light were turned on. The DJ started playing some music and some people started dancing. It added a wonderful ambiance to the yard. People were breaking up into groups, mingling, laughing, dancing, wandering from table to table.
We were done eating, and I offered to take away the plates from the table. After dropping off the plates, I turned to find Bride taking my hand and we danced for a little bit. It was good to see her smile.
I saw Groom talking to his best man at the table. Bride just rolled her eyes and I laughed and told her,"That dude is the worst best man ever! In fact, I'm calling him the Worstman!"
Bride laughed and told me, "He really is the worst best man ever. He didn't even set up a bachelor party for Groom, which is awful considering, when he got married, Groom set him up a bachelor party."
I couldn't believe it!, "That dude is married? Good gawd! What woman needed a green card that bad? And why the hell is the best man? It's the best man's job to set up the Groom's bachelor party! Seriously, why is he the best man?"
Bride laughed, "He's divorced now. But Groom was best man at his wedding, so now he's returning the honor. And they really do go back a long ways. I just think that he's a lazy, inconsiderate idiot. And it pisses me off that Groom has done so much for him, and he hasn't even thought about doing anything nice in return."
I could hear the disappointment in Bride's voice, and I felt bad for Groom, being stuck with an idiot and ingrate for a best man. Seriously, that dude needs to get new friends! When I walked back towards the table, I met a cheerful Teacher. That made me suspicious. Something sketchy was going on. She told me that Boytoy had finally responded with several messages after she sent him a pic. She seemed to gloat. She had sent him a picture of me on the bed and told him that we were sharing that bed. I was flabbergasted! She basically used me and misrepresented the situation in order to make Boytoy jealous! I was not happy about that. And it wasn't because I didn't like being used by a girl to make someone else jealous; hell, I've done that a few times with my friends when they wanted get someone's attention.
My problem was Boytoy! I was pissed at him for taking advantage of Teacher, but I was also getting ticked off at Teacher for being so stupid. She was just a booty call and that's the sad truth. That boy was not going to leave his girlfriend for her! And when we got back to the table, Teacher said that she wanted to go back to the hotel. It was only 8 p.m.! I wasn't ready to go to bed yet! I knew that she just wanted to back to the room so she could text and talk to Boytoy without so many people around. Oh, hell no! Then she wrapped her arm around mine, totally ruining my game with the Brunette, who was now giving me the raised eyebrow and not the coy smile! Even the Blond sensed the change in our dynamic and was starting to pull away from Fix, just so her friend wouldn't get left out. Sigh. So much for a winning play. Teacher's antics were getting on my nerves!
I looked out across the field and saw Groom sitting on the veranda, talking to his parents--I'm pretty sure it was an uncomfortable conversation, given how Worstman had revealed some of his youthful indiscretions. I felt really bad for the guy. I turned to Fix and asked him if he knew that Groom didn't have a bachelor party. Fix said that sucks, and I agreed. Then I thought, what the hell, I'm sure we can do something for him. Maybe go to a bar or something. I suddenly remembered what Fix told me about Groom meeting Bride that first time at a bowling alley. And I recalled that there was a bowling alley with cheap drinks and good food about a 40 minute drive from here. So I told Fix my idea, and he liked it. I told him that since he knew these guys better, maybe he could just tell a few of them to join us with Groom and go bowling. Keep it quiet and don't tell Groom. We agreed to tell them that we were all going to pay for ourselves and for Groom. I wasn't sure whether we should invite Worstman, but Fix laughed and said, well, we should since he is the best man. I grudgingly agreed and we set our plan in motion.
I told Teacher that I had to be somewhere and that I could drop her off at the hotel. I'd probably be back at the hotel late. Then I sought out Bride and told her that I wanted to take her husband out for a drink, but I needed her help. She told Groom that one of her relatives drove down for the wedding but was having car trouble. She asked him to go with me in my car to pick up that relative. Groom agreed. I went and talked to Fix, who said that he and few guys were leaving now, and they would arrive a few minutes before Groom and I did at the bowling alley. Fix laughed and told me that Worstman had wanted us to hire a stripper, but Fix shot him down. I was like, If that jackass wanted to hire strippers, he should've done that weeks ago! It is way too late in the game to be hiring strippers! You can't just call one out of the blue this late! You're likely to get ripped off! It's a very shady business full of shifty characters. If these were responsible and reputable people, they wouldn't be strippers in the first place!
Groom and I dropped Teacher off at the hotel, making sure she went past the lobby before I drove off. During the 40 minute drive, Groom and I made small talk--about childhood homes and schools and sports teams, a little bit about Bride. And when we turned into the bowling alley parking lot, a few people were waiting for us. Groom looked at me and I told him, Well, this is your bachelor party dude. I hear you like bowling. Groom looked surprised. The he laughed and we got out of the car.
We headed into the bowling alley and I paid for Groom's shoe rental. They were playing a mix of top 40 and rock hits in the bowling alley along with some one hit wonders, which put us in an upbeat mood. We got ourselves a lane and took turns buying rounds of cheap--but good--beer. I stuck with water. I don't bowl often, and I'm a sucky bowler, but I had a blast. I bowled a few gutter balls, but the funny thing was, I got three strikes when those gutter balls bounced back on the lane and knocked those pins down. I don't know how I did it, but it was fantastic! Groom was really good, even when he got tipsy towards the end. Some of the other guys were really good, too. We laughed and bantered and bowled. It was fun, and it was a lot less expensive than a bar. We stayed for hours, drinking and even snacking on the cheesy, delicious enchiladas and nachos til the place closed after midnight. By the time I dropped Groom off at his place, we'd become chummy with each other. He seemed really happy (could've been the alcohol), but he thanked me for a great time before entering his house.
It was almost 2:30 in the morning when I got back to the hotel. I just wanted to shower and then fall asleep til noon. The wedding wouldn't take place til four in the afternoon, plenty of time for me sleep and for Groom to sober up. But when I opened the door, I was surprised to find Teacher still awake, flipping through tv channels. I said a quick hello, but she didn't reply. I grabbed some stuff from my bag, hopped in the shower, and let that hot water wash over me. It felt so good and relaxing. And when I came out of the bathroom, I wore boxers and a T shirt--a lot more than what I usually wear to bed. I made my way to the unoccupied side of the bed and got under the covers. Teacher was still watching tv and just as I was about to fall asleep, she suddenly asked, "Where have you been?"
She sounded angry, so I rolled over and sure enough, she looked pissed, except she wasn't looking at me, just at the tv. I said, "Just went out with the guys."
She just hmph. I didn't know why she was so upset, so I asked her, "What wrong?"
She snapped back, "What do you think is wrong?"
Okay, that just made me irritated so I said,"I can't read minds so either tell me now or forget about it, because I'm tired and I'm going to sleep."
"You left me alone!," she accused,"and you didn't tell me how long you were going to be gone!"
"What?", now I was confused,"You wanted to come back early to the hotel and I told you that I was going out and I was coming back late."
She replied,"I just feel like you're not here for me."
That made me mad, so I told her, "You know what, I'm here for Bride's wedding, and I sure as hell have always been here for you!"
The conversation that I had been dreading was now taking place. But at this point, I was too pissed off and too tired to think of the right words, so I just told her, "I'm worried about you, because you're in a very bad situation. I don't want to see you get hurt. And when the sh*t hits the fan and all hell breaks loose, you better remember that no one, no one, ever sides with the other woman. They always sympathize with the wife or girlfriend. People will blame you! If that boy wanted to leave his girlfriend, he'd have done it a long time ago! That boy is playing the both of y'all. You're the puppet and he's pulling all the strings. You need to be careful. These things always end up badly, especially for the other woman. I would hate to see you get burned in all of this."
With my rant over, I suddenly felt so much lighter. The troubling thoughts that weighed heavily on my mind were gone, now that I had spoken them out loud. I took off my shirt and snuggled under the covers. I needed to be comfortable if I was ever going to get any sleep. I left Teacher to her thoughts. Maybe I had been too harsh with her, but at the moment, I didn't care. She needed to hear the truth. I was just tired--tired of her antics, tired of dealing with jackasses, and just tired from all the day's and night's activities. And in a few hours, I'd have to deal with so much more. I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep. And soon enough, I did.