THE NEW YEAR
At this very moment, I was living every bride's worst nightmare: my groom had just decided that he won't be marrying me after all - three minutes before the actual ceremony. That would explain why I'm inside the bridal car wearing a three-thousand-dollar wedding dress that is sadly crushed, with my five-hundred dollar hair and make-up ruined and crying on the phone to Jared Myles – the runaway groom. My parents were knocking furiously on the windows of the bridal car but I ignored them.
" Where the hell are you, Jared? Why are you doing this to me?" I cried.
"Andrea, honey, I'm so sorry, but I didn't know how to tell you – "
"Where are you? Can't you at least see me, talk to me, explain in person? Tell me what, Jared? Please talk to me. Please. I don't understand – " My voice is rising and I'm well aware that only cats could hear me now.
"It wouldn't be wise at the moment," Jared said. "You're hysterical and you wouldn't understand anything in that state – "
"Well of course I'm hysterical!" I yelled. He's probably holding his cell away from his ears and wincing at my tone. "You left me here to face a hundred and fifty guests who probably know by now that there isn't going to be a wedding! How could you do this to me, Jared?"
"Pumpkin, I – "
I saw red when he used that irritating pet name. "Don't you pumpkin me, Jared Myles," I hissed, and I could picture in my mind how he was probably trembling in his shoes. He hates it when I speak like that. "You are a complete and total monster to put me through this. I swear I will skin you alive when I see you on Monday at the restaurant. And don't you dare be absent, because I swear I will tell your mother exactly what kind of man you've been to me all these years." With that, I flipped my cell shut and felt a wave of anger wash over me. I feel better already. Better anger than despair on the most heartbreakingly embarrassing day of my life.
My dad must have known what I was thinking because he stepped away from the door to let me out of the car. As soon as I was out, my mother grabbed my arm and asked, "Where is he? Where's Jared? Oh, we'll be humiliated, completely, absolutely humiliated. My daughter has been jilted – "
"Oh mother," I said in an icy voice, "Your concern for me is touching."
But my hostility is lost on her and she continued in the same vein until my dad took her and told me, "You go in and talk to Jared's mother."
"My thoughts exactly," I replied, not even bothering to fix myself a bit. Let the people see what Jared had done to me. So I marched into the church, pointedly ignoring the uproar my entrance had caused as the guests whispered madly amongst themselves. I walked right over to Mrs. Myles, who was standing near the altar wringing her hands. Her beady eyes were fixed on me and I could tell she was very embarrassed.
I know how I must look - the exact opposite of how every bride wants to look on her special day. But since this is the wedding day from hell, I didn't care and I wanted Erika Myles to know what sort of man she had raised: her sweet, darling Jared Myles, the guy who was the perfect gentleman, the knight in shining armor, was actually a cad whose armor was made of cheap plastic.
I licked my lips as I looked straight into the eyes of the woman who gave birth to the most horrible man alive. "Mrs. Myles, I was on the phone with Jared," I began in my frostiest voice. "He decided to leave me stranded at the altar, fine man that he is. Now, I will walk out the church doors and leave you to do the explaining, since your son has seen fit to humiliate me and my family. If I explain, whatever I have to say would not put you and your son in a good light. So please, do it for me."
I could see the tears forming in her eyes and indeed Mrs. Myles began to cry. "I am so sorry, Andrea, I never thought – "
I nodded and put a hand on her arm. In truth, the woman was kind and incapable of being spiteful, which would prevent her from speaking against me and my family. I would have loved to have her as my mother-in-law. "It's alright, Mrs. Myles. Please just take care of the guests for me."
I walked out of the church only dimly aware of the chaos that erupted behind me. I heard my best friend and maid of honor Alicia Penham calling my name but I walked on, got inside the bridal car and drove straight to my flat where I finally let the tears of humiliation, pain and frustration run their course until my eyes were ready to fall off their sockets. Then I slept, wishing that I would never wake up.
As much as I wanted to curl up and die, I knew I couldn't. Actually, I was surprised that I was reacting this way, because I've never been the one who thrived on unnecessary drama (that's reserved for my mother and my older sister Kathryn, who's married and lives in England). But then, I think I deserve to overreact in this instance. I mean, I've just been dumped in the most humiliating manner, so cut me some slack.
My name, which I probably forgot to mention because I was too busy getting dumped on my wedding day, is Andrea Nichols. I'm twenty-six years old and I spent five years of my life being Jared Myles' girlfriend. We met when I was finishing my double-degree course on Literature and Business Management in college and he was finishing his on Hotel and Restaurant Management. We started dating two weeks later.
When he opened his fine dining Italian restaurant Al Dente on the trendier side of town, I took over the Managerial aspect while he went on to open three more branches. His family's loaded, so money has never been a problem. Anyway, when we decided to get married he decided that he wanted to give me Al Dente as a wedding gift. He said I was the one who built it up into what it is today: a restaurant that celebrities and their friends flew in for from everywhere just so they could have a plate of whatever it is they're salivating for that came only from our kitchen.
So I said yes. I loved Jared and I loved working in the restaurant, so what more could I ask for? I started making plans for the things I would change in the restaurant once I became Mrs. Jared Myles. Maybe I became too absorbed in planning the wedding and changing the restaurant that I didn't notice my groom was getting cold feet. Well, he could damn well explain himself the next time we meet again.
I managed to come up with enough anger to face Jared when Monday came around. I put on a white polo and slacks and pulled my straight black hair back in a ponytail. I didn't bother to put on make-up because I won't be in the restaurant for long. I'm handing in my resignation letter, effective immediately. Nope, it's not a two weeks' notice, and after what he did, he wouldn't dare ask me to stay for that long anyway.
I was very much aware that when I entered the restaurant that morning, all the staff who were there fell silent. They were pretending that they weren't talking about me just seconds before I actually entered the place. I ignored them and headed straight for Jared's office and opened the door, slamming it behind me. There stood Jared, shuffling the papers on his desk in a way that told me he wasn't really reading them. He looked up at my entrance.
"A-Andrea," he said nervously. "I was expecting you."
I nodded wordlessly and walked towards the table. I didn't wait for his invitation to sit and just took one of the chairs in front of his table. I figured I could be rude to the King of Rudeness, who didn't even bother to show up on our wedding day. As he sat on his chair, I looked him straight in the eye and felt anger rising in me. I fought to keep it down before I totally forgot myself.
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I was staring at him coldly while he kept his head bowed. I took in how handsome he still looked despite being very uncomfortable, with his blond hair tousled in a stylish manner and his blue eyes that refused to meet my green ones.
"Well?" I asked, breaking the silence. My tone was harsh and it made him flinch, as if I had physically closed the distance between us and slapped him on the face, which was probably what he deserved anyway. But I'm not like that.
He raised his eyes to look at me for the first time since we sat down and turned away again. "Jesus, Andrea. Stop looking at me like that."
"Stop looking at you like what?" I asked. "Like I want to tear you limb from limb, taking absolute pleasure in watching you bleed to death? Because I want to, you know. I'm just waiting for you to explain yourself before I actually do it."
"Andrea, I know there's nothing I can say that will make you understand why I did what I did," Jared began, but I cut him off.
"Get to the point, Jared," I said. "There's no need to sugarcoat what you have say. After all, you already left me at the altar. Nothing you say now will hurt me more than what you've done."
He seemed to squirm at that. "Alright. It's like this, Andrea: I don't love you anymore."
I must have paled considerably because Jared was off his chair in an instant and was standing beside me, his face full of concern. "Andrea, you did want to hear it without the sugarcoating."
It took me a full minute to recover, partly because my mind was racing. Finally, I looked at him and swallowed the lump in my throat. When I spoke again, my voice shook slightly. "I guess… I already knew that."
His breath came out in a whoosh and he stepped away from me, putting his hands in his pockets. "Andy, we've been through so much. God knows I was crazy about you. But I just don't feel that way anymore."
But my brain was racing beyond that to another thought that made my anger turn dangerously close to rage. "Yes, I understand," I said carefully, my voice shaking with anger this time. "I get that. What I don't understand, Jared, is why you waited until two minutes before the actual wedding to tell me this!"
"I was afraid, okay!" he yelled. "I didn't want to hurt you. I told myself that I was just thinking of ways to tell you but by then it was too late!"
"Damn straight it was too late!" I shouted back. "I was in that church waiting for you, Jared. Did you forget that months before the actual wedding date we were together almost every minute of every day? No, you weren't trying to find a way to tell me that you wanted out. You were too scared to tell me at all! That's just what I expected from you, Jared. You are such a coward!"
"I'm not!" he protested. "I knew you would be like this. I just knew it!"
"Yes, you did," I said in a low voice. "I bet you knew, didn't you? And you were scared. So you just did what cowards do and left me high and dry, looking like a complete fool. And you know what? You're still being a coward by not admitting that you are one."
He looked angry, but I stood my ground and he relented. "I guess I am… But Andy, you'll realize that what I did was for your own good."
My eyebrows rose to great heights. "How? How is being dumped in a three-thousand-dollar wedding dress on my wedding day going to help me? Please tell me because I would so love to know."
"It frees you from marrying a man who doesn't love you," he said simply.
At that exact moment, I felt many things. I wanted to hit him with the vase that was a showpiece on one corner of the office. I wanted to yank all his hairs out with tweezers (all, and I mean all). I wanted to grab the fire extinguisher on the hall outside the office and beat him senseless. I just wanted to physically hurt him because I figured I couldn't hurt him in a deep, emotional way. Not if he didn't love me anymore.
But I also thought that facing a lawsuit after getting dumped at the altar by the same man who filed that lawsuit would be too much to handle right now, so I just settled for throwing insults. I sighed and stood up, glaring murderously at him.
"I don't know why I expected a meaningful answer from you," I said, clutching my purse and preparing to leave. "It would be too much too expect anything sensible from you."
He bristled visibly at that barb. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"What I mean is that you're full of crap, Jared," I said. "You would say anything to get yourself out of an uncomfortable position. But it doesn't matter, Jared Myles, because I'm done with you. I'm done with dealing with your crap and your stupid ways."
"I thought we were done the moment I left you stranded in that church," he retaliated, and for a moment I thought that a lawsuit would be worth pounding him with that fire extinguisher after all.
"Yes, make no mistake," I hissed. "And you'll be getting the bills for our very expensive break up. The bills for the clothes, the church and the reception for the wedding that never happened, thanks to you. If you don't take it, I'll let your mother take it on your behalf, seeing as how everything is your fault."
"Fine," he snapped. He strode back behind the desk and looked at me questioningly. "I suppose you want to go back to work?"
I laughed mirthlessly at that. "What makes you think I came here to work?"
He looked thoroughly confused. "Well, we're done talking, so you should go to work in the dining hall or something."
I glared at him with all the hate I could muster. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, Jared, but I quit." I slammed my resignation letter on the desk before him. "I hope you understand," I said sarcastically.
He grabbed the letter and pulled it out of its envelope while I stalked out of his office. I heard him calling me, and I was just debating whether to actually come back and yell at him some more when he grabbed my arm and forced me to face him. The other employees who were at the hall quickly made their exits when they saw Jared grab me.
"Wait, Andy," he said. "Please, let's talk about this."
"There's nothing to talk about," I said tersely. "We both know that my work here is related to the relationship that died two days ago, so we both know I have to go."
"That's not true, Andy," Jared said, refusing to let my go when I tried to jerk it free. "I want you to stay."
"Yeah? Well I wanted you to be there last Saturday," I yelled. "We all know what happened to that wish of mine."
"Andy please. You're mad. You're angry. You're hurt. You can't be serious – you love this place!"
"No, Jared," I said, exasperated. "I don't love this place. I loved you. I worked here, I tried hard to build this place into what it is because I loved you. I knew it mattered to you so I helped you. Now that we're over, there's no need for me to care about this place."
"Let me go, Jared."
He dropped my arm and I stepped away from him. I took a deep breath and smiled tremulously. "Thank you for everything, Mr. Miles. It has been a pleasure working with you."
I didn't wait for an answer. I walked out of the restaurant before my legs gave in completely.