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CHAPTER ONE

The Jilting

On perhaps the most fateful Saturday morning of my entire life, I sat in a cramped toilet stall in the Ladies Room of Macy’s. My wedding dress was bunched up over my knees to prevent any curious stares from neighboring stall dwellers. I leaned my expensive hairdo against the metal wall and heaved a sigh, shutting my eyes.

A mere fifteen minutes earlier, I had fled from the church where my “wedding” was being held because my fiancé Marcus (ex fiancé now) decided that he just couldn’t marry me. I had managed to sneak out the back entrance of the church, ducking behind parked cars in stellar action movie fashion. I knew that Macy’s was only three blocks away, so once I cleared the visual perimeter of the church, I walked as casually as I could to the store, heading in through the side entrance and sneaking into the Ladies Room.

No one paid too much attention to me as I embarked on my little getaway mission. I hardly looked like a runaway bride as my wedding dress was simple, so I just looked like a bitter woman in a very nice white dress. For the moment, it seemed, I was safe and I could digest the whole messy situation on my own.

“Oh, Adrian.”

I stiffened as I heard the voice of my best friend, Liz. I winced, looking down at my give away white strappy heels. Guess I wasn’t so incognito after all. Damn.

“The Macy’s bathroom? I thought you’d go somewhere more dramatic. Aren’t runaway brides supposed to have more exotic locations to flee to? The arms of another man? Fiji?”

My stall door swung open, and I yelped. In my anger and despair I hadn’t even bothered to slide the latch. Liz stood there, looking down at me with concern. She was decked out in her sexy maid-of-honor dress, a black halter number that I’d picked out especially for her. I managed to recover from my surprise and glared at her, trying to look appalled at her invasion of my privacy.

“Adrian,” she continued, unfazed by my ticked off expression. “A woman who lives across the street from the church said she saw a phantom figure in a white dress, doing all types of crazy moves just to get across the street. She was so freaked out she was going to call the cops.”

I avoided Liz’s penetrating gaze, opting to remain dead silent. Even though I adored Liz, I didn’t want to talk. To anyone. Mostly because I was still in a state of shock. Even if I did know exactly what to say at that point in time, I was so dazed that I didn’t know how I would put my words into any form of coherence. Liz, as always, seemed to read my mind.

“I don’t need to hear any long speeches or explanations. Not until you’re ready. I was assigned to make sure you’re all right.”

“Fine,” I managed to croak. Good. A word.

“Just fine?” Liz persisted.

“Yes. Fine,” I mumbled, avoiding her perceptive gaze.

“So you run away from the church just minutes before marrying Marcus to hide out in a toilet stall, and everything’s hunky dory.”

I shut my eyes as images of the church, all of our guests, and Marcus flooded my brain. But I couldn’t think about Marcus or anything to do with the “wedding” at that moment. Not without feeling a tidal wave of grief and anger.

“Are people still in the church?” I asked.

“No. Marcus officially called it off. His Best Man had to make what I’m sure was quite an awkward speech to the guests.”

I kept my eyes closed. Liz squeezed in, closing the door behind her. I could only imagine the curiosity of my neighboring stall dweller.

“Adrian. It’s OK. You don’t have to be so tough. It’s me. If you couldn’t go through with it, I completely understand.”

“I could,” I whispered.

“What?”

“I could have gone through with it. He couldn’t.”

“Oh, no,” Liz said, her voice filling with compassion. She kneeled down in front of me, squeezing my hands. “We’ll talk about it more whenever you’re ready. But…can we please get out of this toilet stall?”

* * *

After every breakup there’s a grieving period, one of the painful but necessary steps one must endure in order to successfully move on. I decided to stay at Liz’s place for a spell after my “wedding” to go through my personal grieving period. It was also necessary for me to stay with Liz as Marcus and I lived together, and I had no desire to face him any time soon.

Liz was one of the blessed few Manhattan inhabitants whose apartment was larger than a closet. She lived in a rather spacious two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side that she’d inherited from her great aunt. When we arrived at Liz’s apartment, I shut myself into the security of the bathroom as I changed into Liz’s old NYU sweatshirt and pants.

As I changed, I tried my hardest not to think. Not thinking was a difficult thing to do, especially mere hours after being jilted at my own wedding. Subjects I was trying to avoid—Marcus. Marcus. Marcus. My parents, especially my mother. The price of the wedding. Unused honeymoon tickets to Greece. The wedding guests. Marcus. Oh, and Marcus.

“You all right in there?” Liz asked, poking her head into the bathroom.

“You have a bad habit of barging in on me while I’m in the bathroom.”

“Well, these aren’t exactly normal circumstances. I mean, have you thought about what you’re going to say to your parents? What about the guests? And the reception?”

“Arrgghbhurbarjoyaconclaus!” I shrieked.

“What?” she asked, looking both stunned and worried.

I just shook my head. My outburst of incoherence was a shield from hearing the dreaded subjects, subjects I promised myself I would not think about. For the time being.

“I don’t want to think about all that right now.”

“Adrian. Come on.”

“I know that I’m going to have to. I haven’t even spoken to . . . him.”

“Marcus?”

“Blah blah blah!” I screeched. “Yes. Him. He Who Shall Not Be Named from now on. I just don’t want to deal with any of it right now. And I know I have to at some point. Some point really soon. But for now, I really don’t want to. Can’t.”

Liz hesitated for a moment. Finally, she nodded and left the bathroom. As soon as she left, I leaned my forehead against the mirror. I shut my eyes tight as a wave of tears swelled behind my lids.

A few hours later Liz and I were sprawled out on her couch in front of the television, several pizza boxes and beers in front of us. Liz had my cell phone in hand, answering every call that came in. It had become her job to field my calls. She was my temporary spokesperson. I only heard her side of the calls. They went something like this:

“Yes. No, she—what? Of course not. No, we have not run off together. God. No. Fine.”

“Yes. I know. She’s fine. She did not sprint from the church like a madwoman, she was walking briskly. I don’t care what people are saying. No, she’s in New York. My apartment. Now? Oh, um, she’s asleep. What? Oh. Ha ha.”

“Adrian’s sleeping. Will you please stop screaming into my ear? No, I didn’t talk her into it. I just went after her, remember? And for the record, it’s Marcus who—Mrs. Lexley. Mrs. Lexley. Mrs. Lexley! I WILL HAVE ADRIAN GIVE YOU A CALL!”

I pretended not to notice that Marcus didn’t call. Why would he? It was probably better that he didn’t. Besides, he was a subject that I shouldn’t be thinking about. I forced myself to keep my thoughts trained on the bland sitcom that played on the television in a futile effort to avoid all thoughts of Marcus. He Who Shall Not Be Named.

When my cell phone calmed down, Liz was able to take the first call of the evening on her own cell phone from her boyfriend, Stewart. Liz murmured to Stewart that I was doing “just fine”, but she was keeping a close eye on me. I tried not to roll my eyes at this. Did everyone think that I was a flight risk? Marcus was the one at fault here, not me. I was considering telling Liz to let Stewart know exactly who did the jilting when Liz snapped her phone shut and gave me a long, probing look.

“Just one thing, Adrian,” she said. “And don’t take this the wrong way . . .”

I braced myself. Statements that began with the following: “Don’t take this the wrong way,” or “Don’t take this personally,” or “No offense, but” always ended with a veiled slight. It was a polite way to insult someone. For example, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but did you ask her to cut your hair like that?” Or, “No offense, but have you put on weight?” Needless to say, I knew I wasn’t going to like the remainder of the sentence.

“Are you sure you wanted to marry Marcus?” Liz asked. I expelled a small breath. That wasn’t so bad.

“Of course I did. He’s the one who didn’t want to marry me,” I said, feeling another rush of tears. Liz looked regretful, handing me a beer and another slice of pizza.

“I’m a bitch. I shouldn’t have asked. Is that beer not strong enough? Want some vodka? Gin?” Liz asked, like a fretful but twisted soccer mom. I waved off her offer, downing a swig of beer.

“You know, Marcus should have just talked to you before the—” Liz began.

“Blahwargabble!” I shouted.

“Sorry. Please stop that,” Liz said with a weary sigh.

* * *

Allow yourself time to grieve. This is what I whispered to myself as I laid above the covers in Liz’s spare bedroom. I turned onto my side, catching a glimpse of my wedding dress, which was now stashed away in the closet. What was I going to do with it? The thought of returning it to the boutique where I’d giddily purchased it three months before was mortifying. I could only imagine the sympathetic whispers from the boutique staff. But I knew that I would have to do something about the wedding dress. It gleamed in the light from the street lamp outside the window, mocking me with its beauty. Its three-thousand-dollar beauty.

Now I could recall Marcus looking at me in that dress, tears in his eyes, right before he told me that he couldn’t marry me. But I made myself stop the thought, determined not to dwell on that painful moment. Instead, I allowed myself to recall the engagement. A little less painful.

It was Marcus’ annual Christmas party last year. We had been together for a year-and-a-half up to that point. Marcus was a software engineer at a fancy technical engineering firm downtown. His office was filled with these incredibly smart yet geeky guys who didn’t get out much. Needless to say, their party skills weren’t that refined. So Marcus and I were spending the majority of the time huddled together in a corner with our beers, talking only to each other, not making any effort to mingle. We were interrupted by Megan, his company’s receptionist.

“Marcus,” Megan said, giving Marcus an odd look. “Do you want to help me in the kitchen?”

In retrospect, I should have noticed that something was up. First of all, there was no kitchen. Just a minuscule break room with a coffee maker. And Megan’s eyebrows were suspiciously high. But at the time, I thought nothing of it.

Marcus pecked my cheek and left my side to trail Megan into the “kitchen”. As soon as they disappeared, the lights went out. I grasped the wall and let out a childish shriek.

The lights came back up again, and everyone had miraculously gathered at the opposite side of the room. I was the lone person standing across from them. I had no idea how they pulled this off. They were all well coordinated, in a semicircle surrounding Marcus, who had reappeared out of nowhere, approaching me with a solemn expression. For a terrified second, I wondered if he was trying to induct me into some type of software geek cult.

“Um, Marcus?”

Ignoring my nervous inquiry, Marcus just kneeled down in front of me. At this point, I suppose I should have figured out what was going on.

“Marcus?” I pressed.

“Adrian,” he whispered, taking my hand in his. I flushed, acutely aware of all the eyes on us.

“Get up.” I hissed at him, completely embarrassed.

“Adrian,” he repeated, lifting something up. A small velvet box.

It was only then that I realized his intention. And I remember being frozen to the spot with absolute panic.

“I love you, Adrian. I want you to be a part of my life. Today, tomorrow. For all my days. Will you marry me?”

There were excited aaahs and gasps from the Peanut Gallery across the room even though they had to have known what Marcus was planning. I, however, was still in pure panic mode. The fight or flight response. I was trembling, and I guess everyone took that for pure, instantaneous joy, because they all (including Marcus) smiled. In my panicked haze, I was annoyed with Marcus for his inadvertent blackmail, because how could he ask me such a question in front of all these people when the only answer I could possibly provide was yes. Otherwise, I would have come off as a complete and total bitch. I must have said yes or something that sounded like yes, because a ring I never got to really look at was on my finger and there was adulation and hugs and applause.

But when everything calmed down, of course I was thrilled. I lifted my hand, examining the diamond solitaire engagement ring that I hadn’t been able to take off, glittering even in the darkness of the room. Like the wedding dress, it mocked me now.

As I tried to fall asleep, I had the overwhelming urge to call Marcus and give him a piece of my mind. I had a healthy buzz going due to the two vodka gimlets I drank earlier that evening. (Actually, I had four vodka gimlets. But I rationalized that it was OK to drink so much since I’d just been jilted at the altar.)

I sat up as an alcohol fueled righteous anger overcame me. I mean, who the hell did he think he was? How can you dump someone moments before you’re supposed to vow to spend an eternity with them?

I got out of bed, bumping into the nightstand. Ignoring the searing pain in my leg, I stumbled towards my cell phone and dialed his number. On the fourth ring, Marcus’ sleep slurred voice answer. Interesting to know that he could sleep so soundly after trampling on my heart.

“Hello?”

At the sound of his voice, I was paralyzed with fear. Icy, icy fear. All of my anger vanished. There were a million things I wanted to say. To yell. To scream. To cry. But the words were dead in my throat.

Hello?” Marcus repeated. This second hello was clearer and more focused, as if he’d realized that it was me.

I struggled to find one word to say. But I couldn’t. Instead, all the damn alcohol I had consumed did the talking for me. Before I could stop it, a loud belch escaped from my throat. Mortified, I froze.

“Adrian? Adrian, I’m so—”

I hung up abruptly. Damn, damn, damn. Of course he would conveniently recognize my belch. He had once called my alcohol fueled belches the cutest ones he’d ever heard. And now he knew I called him at (I squinted at the clock) 2 a.m., clearly drunk and unable to sleep. Damn, damn, damn. Drunk dialing an ex was never a good idea.

I wiped away angry tears and crawled back into bed, trying to analyze the tone of his voice. Sympathetic? Regretful? Loving? But I came up empty, and after more tossing and turning, I finally managed to fall asleep.

CHAPTER TWO

Relationship Headquarters

The best thing about waking up in an unknown bed was the blissful momentary amnesia. Forgetting what happened to lead me there. Forgetting where I was. Who I was.

The worst part was the moment when it all came back. And it all came back to me in a rush. The wedding dress. The bathroom stall. Not being able to speak to Marcus when I called him. The belch heard round the world. Marcus. I called him. Oh. My. God.

I glanced over at the doorway and shrieked. Liz was hovering by the doorway, watching me with concern. She looked disgustingly put together for (again, I squinted at the clock) seven in the morning. She had always been a Morning Person.

“How are you?” she asked.

I burst into tears.

* * *

Thirty minutes later I was in a cab on the way back to my apartment. Our apartment. I was only partially composed after my morning breakdown, but I was determined to get the next grueling step of my breakup over with, which was to remove myself from Relationship Headquarters. Relationship Headquarters being the apartment Marcus and I shared prior to the breakup.

I knew that removing myself from Relationship Headquarters was an absolutely essential step to take in order to move on. All of our major relationship moments took place there. Fights, make out sessions, passionate sex, movie nights, romantic dinner nights. It was just a physical reminder of our dead relationship.

Marcus and I lived in an old railroad building on the edge of Chelsea. I entered the familiar building and trudged up the stairs. As I got closer to the apartment, I had the overwhelming urge to turn and flee. What if Marcus was inside? I certainly wasn’t ready to face him yet.

When I reached our apartment, I hesitated outside the door. I pressed my ear against the door, listening for any sounds within. The apartment was silent. Taking a breath, I unlocked the door and entered Relationship Headquarters.

As I entered, I looked around our small one-bedroom apartment. It looked exactly the way it did before everything had fallen apart. There were the funky sculptures we had purchased at a flea market in Chinatown. The African paintings we picked up in SoHo. The collection of photographs I had taken of us at various vacations, tacked haphazardly to a bulletin board. I had the strongest urge for everything else to be just the way it was before the “wedding” and the ultimately purposeless engagement.

I couldn’t help but look at the photographs, all of which reflected snapshots of our happiness. Marcus and I at our favorite bar. Marcus and I in the back of a taxi, engaged in a passionate lip lock. Marcus and I listening to an orchestra play classical music in Central Park. I carefully studied our faces in each photo. We looked so happy. Back before the engagement made things so complicated. When Marcus and I were just two people in love, not two people with titles. Fiancé and fiancée. Husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Whatever. Just Marcus and Adrian.

Marcus emerged from the bedroom, clutching two suitcases, bringing my reverie to a screeching halt. He froze when he saw me standing in the doorway. I looked back at him, just as frozen. He was of course the same Marcus I knew and loved. Tall and awkwardly lanky with dark curly hair and hazel eyes. But at that moment, he might as well have been a stranger. For nearly a full minute we stood there, staring at each other in shell shocked silence, as if we were two strangers as opposed to two lovers who had spent years together. The almost married couple.

After another uncomfortable thirty seconds, Marcus spoke.

“I was just leaving. I put in my thirty-day notice already. I’ll be clearing out most of my things during the week.”

At his words, I managed to emerge from my mild shock and proceeded to give him a piece of my mind. I curtly told Marcus that he could do whatever he wanted, as long as I didn’t have to be in his presence. Marcus had the gall to look hurt (after what he pulled!) and insisted that what he did was best for the both of us in the long run.

That really set me off. He was trying to justify jilting me at the altar, and I was not going to let him assuage his guilty conscience.

“That’s crap, Marcus! If you had any doubts, you could have just talked to me. Not wait an hour—no, fifteen minutes before we’re supposed to get married—to casually say, ‘Hey, woman who I proposed to, who I’m supposedly in love with, guess what? I don’t want to marry you anymore. Guess I just changed my mind all of a sudden. Nice wedding dress, by the way. Nice three-thousand-dollar wedding dress!’”

“You’re leaving out an important part, Adrian. No, you’re leaving out two very important parts to all this!”

“Really? What? What am I leaving out?”

“First of all, I do love you. You know I always will. I never said that was the reason I couldn’t marry you.”

“Oh, please!”

“Secondly, you didn’t want to marry me! Remember what I asked you? And you couldn’t answer my question.”

“I couldn’t answer a question. That makes sense. It’s my fault because of an unanswered question. Don’t try to turn this around on me just to make yourself feel better for what you did to me!”

“What I did to you? Listen to yourself. You can never take responsibility for what you—” Marcus snapped, stopping himself in mid sentence as he turned away from me in frustration.

“I can’t take responsibility? I made a promise, and I was going to keep it! Unlike you!” I shouted.

“You’re not listening! You know what? I’m not going to do this. We’re just repeating ourselves. I keep trying to explain, but you don’t want to listen. Not here, or back at the church the other day. You don’t want to listen to me or to yourself!” Marcus barked.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

But Marcus moved past me, yanking open the door and heading down the landing. I followed him, blinded by fury.

“Don’t want to listen to myself? That doesn’t even make any sense!”

“I’m done, Adrian,” Marcus said with resignation, struggling down the stairs with his suitcases.

“I know you’re done! You made that clear yesterday. And I don’t want this anymore!” I shouted, yanking off my engagement ring and dashing towards Marcus, aiming for his neck as he clamored down the stairs.

I knew the act of throwing the ring at the man was a huge cliché, but I was furious. My aim was usually terrible, but anger must have been a great motivator, because the ring hit Marcus squarely in the neck.

“OW!” Marcus shouted, just as he reached the bottom of the landing. He managed to catch the ring as it bounced off his neck, stuffing it in his pocket.

“And I don’t want the stupid apartment!”

“Do whatever you want, Adrian,” Marcus growled, heading out the building.

“I will!” I screamed, but Marcus was already out the door.

I headed back to our apartment, slamming the door behind me. I slumped against the door, fighting back angry tears. Post break up fights were pointless, I noted grimly. As if we didn’t succeed in hurting each other enough the first time around. It was like ripping a band aid off a healing wound and picking at it with a razor blade.

After I calmed down a bit, I tried to pack with as clear a head as possible, even though Marcus’ words rang in my ears. Didn’t want to get married? Would I have been in that wedding dress if I didn’t want to get married? He must have really wanted to clear his conscience by trying to convince himself of that. What a jerk.

I took a break a half hour later, flopping down onto our couch. I stared at another picture of Marcus and me on the side table, in which our arms were wrapped around each other as we gazed deeply into each other’s eyes. Gag me.

I grabbed the photo and threw it across the room, watching it shatter against the far wall with morbid satisfaction. I looked around the room, eager to find more photos to destroy. The gentle trilling of my cell phone interrupted me. I answered, only to be greeted by my mother’s screeching voice.

“Do you know what people are asking me?” my mother demanded, without even bothering to greet me.

“Mom, can you please lower your voice?” I asked, rubbing my ear.

“What type of meds is she on? Meds, Adrian! People think you are insane!” Mom shouted.

“Mom, come on.”

“My phone has been ringing off the hook for the past forty-eight hours! Did you know that your Aunt Francine hasn’t been on a plane since 1975? She flew all the way from Wisconsin to see her favorite niece.”

“I’m her only niece.”

“I cannot believe you ran from the church like a crazy person.”

“Marcus broke it off, Mom.”

There was a stunned silence on the other end of the line.

“Oh, sweetheart. What did you do?”

“I’m hanging up.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did. Hanging up.”

“Will you at least meet me for dinner? I’m not in the city that often. And there are some wedding details we need to go over.”

“Fine, fine. Can I invite Dad?”

“I don’t keep your father’s schedule. He may have something planned with that new chippy of his.”

“Chippy? That’s not even a word. And I’ve met her. She’s nice.”

“Oh, really? And how often have you seen her?”

“Mom, I don’t have time for this. Jilted at the altar, remember?”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. If I see Marcus I’m going to give him a piece of my mind. Let’s do dinner tonight. How about that Thai restaurant on University? See you soon.”

“Mom—” I began, but she had already hung up.

I glared at my cell phone. Mom had tricked me into going to dinner with her to discuss a wedding that I was trying not to think about. I sighed, grabbing some more of my clothes from the closet and got the hell out of Relationship Headquarters.

* * *

“Luckily we were able to get a refund from the caterers. The florists were surprisingly stingy. They only gave us back half of the deposit. I asked them what they needed so much money for,” Mom chirped, digging into her salad.

It was later that day, and I was seated at a table in Thai Village Restaurant with my (thankfully) divorced parents and my father’s new girlfriend, Janet. Mom had managed to dominate the conversation with painful, excruciating details of my “wedding”, all the while ignoring Dad and Janet, both of whom seemed to feel my pain. My parents had been divorced for five years and they were hardly friendly exes, but neither parent lived in the city (Dad in New Jersey, Mom in Westchester just north of the city) and everyone had such a discordant schedule that this was the only time slot open for everyone. And so here we were.

“Did you contact the hotel in Greece? And what about your plane tickets?” Mom continued.

“The airline’s given me a free roundtrip ticket for any domestic or international flight in exchange for the canceled tickets,” I muttered, pretending to enjoy my lemongrass chicken. “And the hotel didn’t charge us, I already canceled the reservation. But I really want to thank you for reminding me that I’m supposed to be in Greece on my honeymoon right now. I appreciate it. Gosh, this chicken is great.”

I hoped my biting sarcasm would be sufficient enough to bring Mom’s painful dredging up of all things wedding related to a halt. She had always hated my sarcasm, calling it “mean spirited”, but it was something that had worked since my teen years in getting her to stop lecturing me about certain topics (i.e. premarital sex, my first boyfriend’s nickname of Bruiser, what I should do with my life, the length of my skirts, number of credit cards I acquired, etcetera).

“I’m sorry,” Mom replied, not sounding apologetic at all. “But as painful as all this is, we need to make sure that all the details are ironed out. I mean, there was no ceremony. So most of the reception costs can be refunded.”

“There was no ceremony? Really? Oh, right. I was hiding out in a Macy’s bathroom trying not to cry my eyes out.”

“Adrian, sweetheart. The sooner we get everything cleared up the sooner we never have to talk about any of this again. Now, do you know what you’re going to with your dress?”

“Enough, Marilyn,” Dad said, noticing my miserable expression. “I’m sure Adrian has enough to deal with as it is.”

I gave Dad a grateful look. But Mom tensed as she noticed our silent exchange, pursing her lips.

“I repeat, sooner or later someone has to make sure that everything is taken care of,” she said.

“I already talked to Marcus about most of the wedding details that were still up in the air,” Dad said, waving the waiter over.

“You what? You talked—I can’t—what—you only—” I sputtered, glaring at my previously sainted father in horror. Janet, clearly uncomfortable and stuck in the middle, gave me a sympathetic look.

Dad was infuriatingly calm as he asked the waiter for the check. Mom, I noticed, looked pleased. This was her checkmate in the subtle life long battle of which parent the child favors more.

“He called me after you left the church yesterday. He explained that what happened was his fault. He’ll reimburse us whatever is necessary. That was that.”

“Did he go into detail?” I asked, my shock turning into mortification. Dad and Marcus had always been close, and the thought of them having a heart to heart…

“No. And I wouldn’t let him if he tried. Whatever happened between you two is just that. Between you two.”

“Oh. Whew,” I said, feeling a small sense of relief.

“I hope you at least gave him a piece of your mind,” Mom sniffed. “What Marcus did to Adrian was awful.”

“Again,” Dad rejoined, and I recognized his tone. A tone I heard repeatedly growing up, a tone that always preceded one of my parents’ landmark fights. “What happened between Marcus and Adrian is between them. It’s not my place, or yours, to intervene.”

“You’re her father, Robert. The least you could have done is call him out for what he did to her.”

“The least I could have done? At least I’m not torturing my daughter over minute details of a wedding that never happened.”

“Dad, it’s all right.”

“I wasn’t trying to torture her. I just wanted to clear up all the details. I was being practical. You’re just trying to make me look like the bad guy.”

“Again, you’re making this all about you.”

“Mom. Dad. Will you please stop?” I tried to interject, shooting Janet an apologetic look. I could see that she was getting a taste of how I felt growing up with these two constantly at each other’s throats.

“I just wanted to have a nice dinner with my daughter who I haven’t seen in ages, not to see you with your little girlfriend.”

“Mom, please.”

“Don’t you talk about Janet that way.”

“Robert. It’s fine. It’s OK,” Janet whispered, looking just as mortified as I felt.

“No, it’s not. I’ve been able to move on with my life, Marilyn, but you clearly cannot,” Dad shouted.

“Blawarcapadac!” I bellowed. Mom and Dad turned to look at me with concern.

“Adrian, are you all right?” Mom asked.

“No, I’m not. I wanted to see both of you but obviously you can’t be in the same vicinity without screaming at each other. I’ve had a really rough couple of days, and you two are hardly making it any easier.”

They both had the decency to look shame faced. But I was fed up. I threw my napkin down, getting to my feet.

“Adrian,” Mom began, sounding genuinely apologetic this time, but I shook my head.

“I just need some peace. And I’m obviously not going to get that by being around you two,” I said, grabbing my jacket and turning to head out of the restaurant.

I concluded that having dinner with my bitterly divorced parents and my father’s new girlfriend hadn’t been a good idea. But I knew this situation was minor compared to what I would have to face next: putting on a brave face for the rest of the world after being jilted at the altar.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Lila James grew up in coastal Virginia and now resides in sunny California, where she writes novels about the journey to happily ever after. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and enjoying her very own happily ever after with her husband.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
While I’ve never been jilted at the altar, I’ve been dumped, which is never fun, and I wanted to explore all the (often hilarious) ways we recover from broken hearts.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love laughter and I love love — which makes romantic comedy a perfect fit. The humorous situations characters find themselves in on the way to happily ever after draw me in; the characters and relationships keep me there.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Finishing it! I enjoyed every moment of writing this book and saying goodbye to the characters I’d fallen in love with was really difficult.

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