Chapter 1: The Aftermath of a Wedding

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"Here I go!" That was the shrill and annoying voice of my new cousin-in-law (my cousin's new wife). Alright, so Lauren (the bride's name) wasn't really that annoying, but she was just frustrating to get along with. She was the anti-thesis of me: she was a model turned fashion designer and had all the right equipment for the fancy clothes she wore. She was a good person, she really was, but now that we were somehow related, she had made it her life long mission to "change" me.

Change meaning giving me new clothes and a new appearance.

Basically, she hated the way that I looked. I dressed for comfort, not for style. I also had nothing to really dress for. Nor was I the type to date…

Shaking my head, I focused my attention on what was happening in front of me. A bunch of ladies were gathered around Lauren's back as she carefully touched her hair. "Ready?" she called out.

"Almost!" A few people shouted.

Ah, it was the bouquet toss. That meant that everyone would be focusing on the toss that I could quickly make my escape. I began looking around, when my mother spotted me.

"Maribeth!" She called out, using my full name. I cringed. My mother was the only one that still called me by my full name. Everyone else used Mabe, my nickname since forever.

Turning respectfully towards my mother, I gave her a small smile. I really love my mother. There's no doubt about that. But now, since her son (my brother) had a fiancé in line, she had turned and focused all of her attention on me. That meant lecturing from her about finding myself a man.

"Why don't you go and stand in the crowd over there?" Mother suggested.

I pretended to look at the massive crowd of females and pretended to give it a thought. Then, "How about no? I have no attention of developing claustrophobia."
"You're being silly! It should be fun to stand there!"

"Mother! I don't want to."
"Come on!"

Before I could insert another comment, Mother dragged me into the crowd. I managed to break her grip and went to the furthest edge of the crowd. Mother tried dragging me, but it was too late. Lauren had already thrown the bouquet.

Now, I normally consider myself a fast-reflex type of person. That is, only when I'm not being lectured by my mother. Therefore, I was completely unaware of the flight that the bouquet had taken until someone had the decency to call out, "Watch out!"

That forced me to look up, and unfortunately, that little warning was too late. That bouquet fell onto my face!

So, flowers themselves aren't that scary (unless of course, one's allergic). However, the plastic handle that kept the flowers together was quite dangerous! In fact, my eyes were almost gorged out! And who would have expected flowers to attack! Okay, so this was a wedding. But I had no intention on catching the darn bouquet.
Before I could complain though, Lauren saw my catch and announced it to the whole world. Mother smiled and clapped her hands for joy. Into a microphone, she announced, "Look! My new cousin Mabe caught the bouquet! Can you imagine our wittle Mabe getting married?"

That was supposed to be a joke. I guess it was funny to some people because there was a titter of laughter. Others laughed nervously, not quite sure of why they were laughing.

I rolled my eyes, and stuffed the bouquet into my mother's arms. "Here. Keep it."

Mother refused. "Sweetie, I'm already married. You take it."

"Fine. But I'll burn it."

Mother rolled her eyes. "I thought you out grew that pyromaniac stage years ago."

"I guess I never did outgrow that stage," I snickered back.

"Anyways, I can't wait to see what kind of luck that bouquet brings!"

I groaned. I hated it when people talked about my love life, or more correctly, my lack of.

After twenty-four years of living on this earth, I had never dated. Well, I did date once, but that was out of pity for the poor guy's soul. Otherwise, nada. Quite pathetic too.

And it seemed like I wasn't about to date anytime soon either. I was too much of a tomboy, the gal that all the guys loved. I wore no skirts or dresses, nor did I wear make-up. Like I said, I had no intention on plastering chemicals onto my face. It just wasn't me.

Plus, it wasn't required of my job. I graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as an architect and I was quite happy. I had a great job for a great firm, and I had no reason to need a man. Plus, I'm a feminist, so I had no intention on making myself depend on some man.

Well, these were all the reasons that I gave to people as to why I never dated.

The real reason was, my heart was already taken. It had been taken for quite a long time too. Since I was what, seventeen. Seven long years. Almost a decade. Thing it, I probably loved him longer than that, but I had no clue about it then.

So, who was this mysterious man?

Jerrod Jamson, my boss, one of my best friends, and best friends to my older brother, Phillip. He was five years my senior, and always treated me like his little sister (since he was the only child). Even now, I'm treated like a sister. He's also my boss, being the founder of the architect firm, and always considered me as his best architect.

Direct quote from him, "Can't have Mabe leave! Can't lose our best architect can we?"

Pity too that he never has and never will see me as anything more. He was such a great guy after all the pain he had received in his life. And he was nice for the eyes. Tall, standing at six feet one, chocolate brown eyes, and silky brown hair that begged me to run my fingers through.

But alas, all of that would never happen. He would never look at me in a way a man would look at a woman. Just the way that a brother would look at his sister, with love and affection, but not that type.

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"So, my darling Maribeth caught the bouquet!" Mother said happily in the car on the way home.

Unfortunately, in order to save gas money, I had decided to carpool with my parents to the wedding. That meant having to listen to my mother speak of upcoming nuptials that she already saw in her mind. Damn, I really should have hitched a ride from Phillip and his fiancée, Brooke.

"Isn't that great news?" Mother asked my father who sat stoically driving.

"Sure…" Dad replied.

I laughed. Dad could care less about silly traditions.

Mother pouted. "Fine. You don't seem interested…" She sighed, when she realized that I too had zoned out (a great indication was that I had stuck in earplugs into my ears, thank goodness for my mp3 player!).

After a few songs, I saw Dad mouthing something at me from the front mirror. I raised an eyebrow, and then pulled out my earplugs. "Yes Dad?"

"How's that job of yours?" He repeated.

"It's going good. We recently finished designing some houses."

"Good, good. Still helping out at that marital arts place."

"Yeah. Good exercise for me."

"Does Jer still go?"

"Occasionally."

Mother decided to enter the conversation. "How's Jerrod?" My mother loved Jerrod like another son. After all, he pretty much grew up with Phillip and me.

"He's fine."

"Has he gone on any dates?"

"Yeah." That hurt. Knowing that Jerrod dated women.

"Any plans in his future for settling down?"

"Nah. I don't think so."

"Hm… you know, he should meet this friend of my mine's daughter. She's a cutie…"

I rolled my eyes. Dad laughed.

"And Jerrod is such a handsome man, don't you think so dear?" Mother asked Dad.

Dad made a gagging noise.

Mother hit his shoulders. "Honestly!"

I couldn't help but smile by their antics. After many decades of marriage, my parents were still very much in love with each other.

"I prefer not to discuss these things. They tend to bore me."

With that any more discussion about Jerrod and my own dates were ended.

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"Maribeth. Maribeth, sweetie, wake up."

"Wah?" I opened one eye and saw Mother hovering over my face.

"Come on. Let's get you inside. You're staying the night."

I yawned. "No… it's okay. What time is it?"

"Quarter past midnight. Why are you so tired by the way?"

"I woke up early… I had to. I didn't have a dress."

"You bought your dress today?"

"Yeah. Don't you like?" I asked sarcastically. By that time, I was outside and quickly modeled my dress.

Mother rolled her eyes. "That is a terrible dress! Dear, your style is just…"

"Never mind. I don't wanna hear it. Can I go home?"

"No. You're sleeping here. I don't wanna hear on the news about a woman who died from falling asleep on her steering wheel."

"Fine. Then let me into the house. I wanna go to sleep so I can get my ass out of here early in the morning."

"Why? To go home to an empty apartment? There's nothing for you waiting there." Damn, Mother had a point. "Besides, I wanna feed someone. It's been a while…"

"Dad…"

"He's boring to cook for. I want some excitement."

"Fine whatever."

"Yay! I can make you something really good."

"Are you bribing me?" I asked Mother.

Mother smiled at me like that cat in Alice in Wonderland. "Of course not."

Uh oh. I didn't like that smile. "What's going on?"

"Nothing…" Mother began hurrying her way into the house. I followed closely behind.

"What is it?" I repeated.

"Nothing…." I gave Mother a pointed look. "Okay. There's this young man that I want you to---"

I immediately covered my ears. "I can't hear you! La la la la la la!" I sang at the top of my lungs.

Dad poked his head from the hallway and stared at us. "Sweetie, don't do that. And come to bed."

Mother blushed. "Let me get Mabe settled into bed first."

With that, Mother went off to find me some shorts and a t-shirt.

In the meantime, I went to my old bedroom and sat down on my bed. I pulled out my cell phone and placed it onto the table near my bed. Then, I scooted towards a nearby window and watched the night sky.

I did this often when I was younger. It was a nice way to think and muse over my life. When I was younger, I would pout near the window from the antics of Phillip and Jer. As I grew older, I would sit by my window to think over my feelings about Jer.

And now, here I was.

A wave of nostalgia hit me as I realized that almost one decade has gone by of musing over Jer. I just needed a wake-up call to get me to move on.

Mother interrupted my thoughts by entering the room. In her hands, she held a pair of shorts (her own), and a big t-shirt (one of my dad's). She gave them to me, and gave me a small kiss on the top of my head.

"Good night sweetheart."

"Good night Mom."

Mother turned to leave. Just as she reached the door, she paused and warned, "I suggest closing this door tonight. You might be hearing sounds you don't want too…" She then giggled at my horrified face before skipping out of my room.

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