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Better than Cake
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Who gets ditched at a wedding? Stephanie paused and took a deep breath before walking into her friend’s reception. Something like this could only happen to her.
Ditched wasn’t a strong enough description. “Maybe we should try separating.” Johnny’s words echoed in her mind, lashing her psyche raw with repetition.
Separating! She closed her eyes. Unthinkable.
It’s okay. You can do this. Stick it out for a couple of hours and then you can deal with the mess.
How would she explain her husband’s sudden absence? He was at the ceremony, but wouldn’t be at the reception. What would be a reasonable explanation? They were spending the weekend here in Cape Cod so it would be tough to feign a work or family excuse.
Illness. Yes, something about seafood. That would be plausible at a seaside resort. Food poisoning. She had an excuse—but it didn’t make her feel any better about the situation.
Beyond the Sea wafted out from the ballroom, appropriate for this Cape Cod seaside resort. She glanced up at the imposing exterior of the multi-level hotel. Her hand trembled so she clutched her silver purse tighter. She raised her chin to steel herself and entered the hotel.
Stephanie scanned the place settings to find hers. Mr. and Mrs. John Silvio. Table nineteen. She dropped her purse to her side, but her fingers still clenched it. The last place she wanted to be after a killer argument with her husband was a wedding. She forced herself to enter the reception area, squeezing through all those decked in suits and evening gowns. Searching the table numbers for nineteen, she followed them to the back of the room. She guessed she’d be furthest from the head table, since she was neither family nor close friend, but an old college roommate of the bride. She made her way to the back of the room, braved a smile, and introduced herself to the couples already seated.
“Hi. I’m Stephanie.”
“Elaine,” a heavyset woman with puffy blond hair said. “You’re alone?”
Great. Just fantastic. Starting right with the topic she wanted to avoid. “Yes. My husband couldn’t make it tonight. Something he ate earlier,” she babbled. “Probably the shellfish.” She shrugged.
The others introduced themselves as she sat down and peppered her with questions about where they bought the seafood. A few shared their stories of food poisoning.
It was going to be a long night.
Once the attention was off her, she replayed the fight for what had to be the fortieth time since it happened. After a ripple of snide comments evolved into a tsunami of a fight, she stormed away from Johnny and ended up talking to herself like a crazy person as she pounded through the surf.
“Separating? Why does he take a small argument and blow it up into something like this? How could he do this to me at my friend’s wedding? What the fuck!”
A couple of miles later, she had calmed down. It wasn’t all his doing. She was the one who’d dragged them here when he had other plans. Her fury decreased as the sun sank lower in the sky, replaced by a cloak of sadness.
She didn’t want to split up.
Her eyes began to water. How the heck would she make it through the night without breaking down? Her marriage could be over. How long could she sport a brave face before it dropped?
“Excuse me,” she said and hurried into the ladies room. She barely made it through the door before her eyes pooled with tears.
She grabbed tissues and blotted them, fixing her smudged makeup the best she could.
“You can do this,” she told her reflection in the mirror.
As much as she dreaded being at a wedding while her own marriage hung in jeopardy, she had to put her feelings aside for the sake of Caryn. She’d only get married once.
* * * * *
Johnny caught glimpses of the ocean from the cab and couldn’t help but brood on what he had said to Stephanie down the beach this afternoon. A cold black cloak had surrounded him since, fastened with shackles of regret. The same question echoed in his head ever since.
Why had he freaked out the way he had? Said the things he had? The day had started out great. They woke up at the bed and breakfast and had the morning free before the ceremony. They’d rented bikes on the Cape Cod Rail Trail and had ridden past sand dunes and shacks, cranberry bogs and duck-filled ponds, villages and pine forests, and even a couple of lighthouses. The scenery was one thing, his beautiful wife riding alongside him something else. He could barely keep his eyes off her lithe body and on the trail.
When they’d stopped to buy sandwiches from one of the beachside shacks and had a picnic lunch on the beach, things were still good. It wasn’t until after the seaside wedding ceremony this afternoon that he’d opened his mouth and all kinds of stupid fell out. And for what? Something trivial, not something to throw away a marriage over.
Their argument had stirred weeks before. He resented her for dragging him to a wedding when he’d already had plans for his monthly camping trip with his buddies, He had stormed about it for days, but downright exploded on the beach earlier. Telling her she was too controlling, she shouldn’t speak for him and make him cancel his plans to do something she wanted. How his outdoor trips were how he decompressed from work and if she didn’t get it by now, she didn’t get him. She’d countered, saying he used the same justification for his softball games, and sometimes he had to suck it up and act like an adult. Snide comments had escalated into verbal jabs. Past grievances were drudged up as their defenses rose. Accusations flew, growing uglier, and digging up past perceived injustices, until finally, he had suggested a trial separation.
He still wasn’t sure why he’d said it. A heat of the moment incident, blurting out something to end the fight with something he didn’t even mean.
Her shocked expression had turned to one of hurt as she blinked back tears. Then she’d lashed back at him. “If you’re so shallow and selfish that you consider a weekend away from your buddies such brutality, then yeah, maybe we should.”
When she had stormed away from him across the beach, he had turned away thinking to hell with her and pounded through the sand in the opposite direction. It wasn’t until he had turned back several minutes later to see she was gone that he realized he might have made the biggest mistake of his life.