© 2018 by Becky Monson

 

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Thirty-Three Going on Girlfriend

CHAPTER 1

 

 

I can’t believe I am here.

 

I can’t believe I’m standing here, gazing lovingly at Jared, surrounded by our friends and family,

on this amazing beach with this marvelous sunset, as we make these vows—these incredible,

sure-to-make-you-cry vows—to each other.

 

The colors are all muted, antique tones of pink, yellow, gold. My bouquet is practically bursting with soft pink roses.

 

My makeup is not whorish, as my sister, Anna, would have preferred, and my hair is done in perfect, long curls, half pulled up with a small, antique jeweled clip. Simple. Understated. Exactly what I wanted.

 

And then there’s my dress. My dress is spectacular. It’s timeless, really, just slightly off-white, an off-the-shoulder bodice with details of stunning Chantilly lace and a sweeping train. I heart it. I heart it all. Especially Jared. In his classic suit—none of that penguin stuff for him—he looks like something out of a style magazine. His pants and jacket are perfectly tailored, and he wears the antique pink tie just because I want him to.

 

I glance over at my bridesmaids—my baby sister Anna and my dearest friend, Betsy Brown—gazing at us with bright smiles. Anna’s has an ever-so-slight look of jealousy, but I beam at them. This is the perfect day. My perfect day with Jared.

 

“Do you, Jared Nathan Moody, take Julia Warner Dorning to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, until death do you part?” the officiant, dressed in white, asks Jared.

 

“I do,” he says simply.

 

“And do you, Julia Warner Dorning, take Jared Nathan Moody to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, until death do you part?” the priest asks.

 

“I do,” I say as I stare into Jared’s eyes. His are filling up with tears, and I begin to well up too.

 

“Then by the power that is vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wi—”

 

“JULIA! What the hell? What are you doing in my dress?” Anna’s screeching pulls me out of my fantasy. “Geez, I leave you alone in here for ten minutes, and you think it’s okay to put my wedding dress on? Mom! Tell her to take my dress off!” Anna stomps her foot in a ridiculous, childlike manner.

 

My mom comes in the room just after Anna and puts her hand to her mouth. “Oh, Julia dear, what are you doing?”

 

“Nothing! Geez, I was just seeing how it felt, that’s all. Stop pouting like you’re ten,” I say to Anna, who is practically throwing an adult version of a temper tantrum.

 

What’s the big deal? Anna and my mom left the room to go check out veils, and I was left in the room with her wedding dress, just sitting there. All alone. What woman wouldn’t want to try it on? Especially a woman who’s in her thirties, with no promises of marriage on the horizon.

 

I can’t believe Anna is getting married. My baby sister. My sister, who’s ten years my junior, is getting married. It was a whirlwind kind of thing too. She met Jonathon at my dad’s law firm where she’s currently working. Jonathon is a junior partner at the firm. I once made the mistake of calling him “Jon,” and that is apparently not acceptable to Jonathon. To say he’s stuffy and pretentious is an understatement.

 

My brother, Lennon, and I both have our suspicions about Jonathon. Well, not actual suspicions, more like a mutual dislike for the guy. We haven’t tried to like him, to be honest, but there’s only so much blather about Ivy League Schools (he went to Stanford), and amazing accomplishments (made junior partner in his first year), that we can take. Plus, the guy does nothing to help with the wedding. Not one thing. That’s weird, right?

 

They’ve been together for just under six months, and now they are getting married. My boyfriend, Jared, (I still have a hard time calling him that) and I have been together for a little over nine months and not a peep about marriage. We don’t even say “I love you” yet. I’ve wanted to say it. I feel like I could have said it from the beginning, actually. Call me old-fashioned, but I feel like he should say it first. Okay, I mostly want him to say it first because if I said it first, I’m afraid his reply might be the dreaded “thank you.”

 

That’s the insecure voice in my mind that creeps in every now and then. Okay, practically all of the time. I don’t want to be that girl, but I can’t help myself. This is my first real relationship in, well, ever.

 

Anyway, this is not about Jared and me, this is about Anna and Jonathon. I should not compare. In with the good thoughts, out with the I-hate-my-sister thoughts.

 

“Well, hopefully you didn’t stretch my dress out with your butt. It’s bigger than mine, you know.” And there the I-hate-my-sister thoughts are again. They come and go these days. To say that Anna has been acting like a diva is an understatement.

 

“Yes, you’ve said that more than once. Thank you for the reminder that my butt is bigger than yours.” She helps me get out of the dress and then holds it in her arms like it’s a darling baby, stroking the lace with her fingers. I expect her to start cooing at it. Don’t worry my little sweetie-pie, I won’t let that mean, big-butted lady touch you again. Never, never again. She tenderly hangs it up. I roll my eyes at her as I find my clothes on the floor in the corner and quickly start putting them back on.

 

I’m surprised I could get the dress on, to be honest. I’ve packed on about ten pounds in the last nine months. I work at a bakery. The fact that I haven’t put on more is really a bit of a miracle. My friend Betsy Brown (or just Brown, as her friends call her) says it’s my “I’m in a relationship weight.” Apparently when you’re happy in a relationship, you tend to get comfortable and start putting on a few. She claims to have done the same thing when she first started dating her now fiancé, Matt. I didn’t know Brown then, and all I see is the perfectly put together pageant queen that she is now. I’m inclined not to believe her at all.

 

I did buy one of those ten-minute workout videos. I figured I should be able to fit at least that into my day. If only I could muster up enough energy to put the darn thing in my DVD player.

 

“Did you at least check out the options I picked out for your maid of honor dress?” Anna points over to the corner where a bunch of boring different-colored dresses hang.

 

Since I’m the maid of honor, I get to pick out my dress. Everyone else is wearing the same black dress, and I get to wear the same dress style, but in a color, and she’s letting me pick out the color. I know she has one in mind that she wants me to wear, but for some reason she wants me to pick it out. That way, it looks as if she gave me the option, while keeping control.

 

“I did look at them, I like the purple one.” I say, knowing full well that purple is not the color she wants. Why did she even give it to me as an option in the first place?

 

She scrunches her face at me. “Well, but don’t you think purple will sort of clash?”

 

“Anna, why don’t you just pick the color you want for me? I really don’t mind.” I really freaking don’t mind, is what I want to say.

 

“No! You have to pick. Just not the purple. Anything but the purple.”

 

“Fine.” I point over to the rack of dresses. “I’ll wear the olive one.”

 

“Yes! Perfect. The olive green one will work.” She goes over to the rack, picks it out, and holds it up, contemplating. “Yes, yes. . . ” she trails off, probably picturing the lineup in her mind.

 

I should just start counting down in my head, five, four, three, two . . .

 

“Well, maybe not the olive one.” Yes, I saw that coming. She hangs the dress back on the rack. “Why not the dusty rose one?” She pulls it out and shows it to me. Aha! That’s the one she wanted all along. I should have known.

 

“Sure, whatever,” I say and sit down on the couch in the all-white dressing room that looks as if it were made for a queen. And for the money we are spending in this place, it might as well be.

 

“If you don’t want to be in my wedding, you don’t have to,” Anna says, as she hangs the pink dress back on the rack, an air of frustration in her voice.

 

“What did I say?” I regard her with confusion.

 

“It’s just your attitude, that’s all.” She folds her arms.

 

“My attitude?” I stand up and confront her, ready to spar.

 

“Now girls,” my mother chides. “Stop arguing. Julia. You’ll wear the pink. It will look lovely with your skin.”

“Fine,” I say and sit back down on the couch.

 

My mother and Anna go over to her dress and start talking about something weddingy, and I tune them out. All these wedding plans are so boring. Okay, they wouldn’t be boring if they were my wedding plans. But they are not, and I am totally okay with that. Totally okay.

 

Only I’m not. I want to be okay. Anna and I have bonded over this past year or so, and I love her to death, but I can’t help but feel jealous. Who wouldn’t? I’m the first born in the Dorning family, and I’m already not the first to have children. Lennon and his wife Jenny now have baby Liam (whom I adore, and I’m pretty sure I’m his favorite aunt), and now I will be the last to get married. If I ever do get married. I shouldn’t dwell on it. I should just get over it.

 

And I try. I really do.

 

I remember when Anna came to my condo to tell me she was getting married. She used her own key and waltzed right in without knocking. I’d told her she could do that, but somehow it still got on my nerves.

 

“I have news!” she said, giddily.

 

Anna had been wearing this big, ridiculously puffy white coat because it had been snowing that day in March. While other parts of the world were starting their spring break celebrations, we still had open ski resorts and sub-zero temperatures.

 

I was sitting on the couch, exhausted from my day at the bakery and trying to unwind. I was glad to see her, though. Since she had started dating Jonathon, we hadn’t spent as much time together, and I missed my Anna and me time.

 

“What news?” I looked over to see a silly smile on her face. “What’s with the goofy grin?”

 

“I’m getting married!” she blurted out and held up her left hand. On her ring finger was a giant—and I mean giant—diamond ring.

“What?” was all I could say, while my eyes bugged out of my head.

 

“I’m getting married!” She started jumping up and down like a child on her birthday.

 

“But . . .  but . . . you don’t know Jonathon that well. I mean, you’ve only been dating for, what, like three months?”

 

“Three and a half months,” she snapped back quickly, the giddy jumping ended. “Not you too. Mom and Dad said the same thing. Why does everyone want to crap on my parade?” She sulked over to the couch where I was sitting and slouched down at the other end. Her puffy coat made exhaling sounds as she leaned back on it.

 

“Well, how did you expect us to react? I mean what about your credit card debt?” Anna had racked up a very large amount of debt and had been working at our dad’s law firm to pay it off. I knew she had made a dent in it, but it was still pretty hefty.

 

“Jonathon isn’t worried about all that. Anyway, I’m not counting on him to just pay it off. I plan to keep working at the firm until it’s gone,” she said, and looked down at her hands. I saw a tear escape down her cheek. Anna doesn’t cry often, so I immediately felt bad.

 

“Look, I’m sorry, Anna. Don’t cry,” I said, and I scooted closer to her.

 

“It’s just supposed to be happy news, and everyone should be excited, but it feels like all I’ve been doing is convincing everyone that this is what I want. It really is, Julia . . . what I want.” As even more tears poured from her eyes, I knew I had to get excited, even if it was my best acting job ever.

 

“You’re engaged!” I said brightly, bouncing up and down on the couch. (I was too tired to stand up and do it.)

“Oh, shut up,” she said, pushing me away from her.

 

“No, really. I’m thrilled. Well, okay, I will be thrilled. Now tell me, how did he do it?”

 

“Well, we were at that fancy steakhouse–the new one I was a telling you about the other day.” Her eyes brightened as she told me. “And when they brought the dessert out, it was cheesecake—which is not my favorite—but Jonathon didn’t know that.” She glanced over at me to get my reaction. I’m sure she was hoping that I was not giving her an I-told-you-so smirk, since he didn’t even know her favorite dessert. But I played along.

 

“Anyway, so there, on the top of the cheesecake was my ring. And he got down on one knee and proposed!” Her smile broadened at the memory.

 

“Oh my gosh! That is so romantic!” I grabbed her and hugged her. Anna and I are not huggers, but I wanted her to think that I was extra excited, and that I thought it was so incredibly romantic, but the truth was I was still in shock. Plus, the old ring-in-the-dessert wedding proposal is so overdone. I didn’t want her to get that out of my expression. So hugging it out was my best option.

 

“Julia,” she said as she pulled away from my overbearing hug, “I want you to be my maid of honor.” She smiled slightly at me, almost in a bashful way, like she was embarrassed to even say it.

 

“Really?” I beamed brightly at her, because I was truly flattered that she’d asked me.

 

“Yes. I must have you there by my side on what will probably be the most important day of my life.” She bit her bottom lip and stared down at her ring.

 

“Of course I will be.” I reached for her hand and held it briefly, letting her know how much that meant to me.

 

For the past two months, I’ve put on a brave face during this torture. But today, here in this stuffy dressing room—well, it’s not actually stuffy because it’s ridiculously huge, but it has a stuffy feel to it—I’m just not feeling it.

 

“Julia?” my mom says, a little louder than her normal tone. I look over at her and she and Anna are both staring at me.

 

“Yeah?” I say, realizing I’ve not been paying attention to them at all.

 

“You ready to go?” She comes over to me and stands next to the place where I’m sitting.

 

Oh yes, I am definitely ready to go.

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