So I look away. I go back to my table alone. Vince isn’t there anymore, and I need him to be. I need him. Not for anything healthy, anything conscionable, but because Meg is still watching me, and I can still feel Mateo’s lips on my knuckles, and I want to die.
Meg is my best friend. My best friend. His fiancée. The fiancée of the man who just told me, while dancing with me in front of her, that he still wants me.
I don’t need Vince.
I need a priest.
Mateo has put up a wall around me tonight. Vince eventually returns, but he barely speaks to me. I can’t blame him. I don’t blame him. He left the ballroom so he didn’t have to watch me in Mateo’s arms, and now I don’t even feel right about asking him to dance with me. I’d like to, but now I feel too guilty.
Meg, though, it’s Meg I feel the worst about. Because prior to Mateo dancing with me, I figured I would go over to their table. I figured I would visit with her. I figured it would be like it always is between us.
But now I can’t approach her. I have no idea how I ever will again.
And then a Sinatra song comes on, and I have to sit here beside Vince, who won’t speak to me, and watch Mateo lead Meg out onto the dance floor. She smiles at him as her hands come to rest on his shoulders; he smiles at her and catches her around the waist. They’re happy. Somehow nothing has changed, and yet it feels like everything should have. Shouldn’t she be mad at him? Shouldn’t he be distant? Shouldn’t she sense something is wrong?
Shouldn’t he look less enthralled with her, if he still wants me? How in the hell does he hold her closer than he held me and laugh at something she says when he knows I’m watching?
This is legitimate torture.
“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Vince says.
Pulling my gaze from the dance floor, feeling dead empty, I reach for my champagne glass. I already drained the damn thing, so I put it right back down. “Everything hurts.”
“How can you fucking want him?” Vince asks, viciousness seeping out of the wounds I’ve ripped open tonight. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
I know he’s hurt. I know he needs to lash out. I even know he has every right to. But I’m worn down right now, stripped too bare, and I just can’t deal with it right now.
My stomach is already a vat of acid. “Not now, Vince. Please. I can’t.”
“No,” he says, aggressively leaning across the table. “I really want to know. Apparently it’s not bad enough all the shit he’s done to us, but he’s not even available this time. He’s out there right now dancing with the woman he’s going to marry, the woman whose wedding you will be dancing at—”
I can’t. I can’t listen. I don’t care if I’m obvious. I don’t care if anyone notices. I don’t care if it hurts Vince, this confirmation of his accusations. I shove back my chair, grabbing my small purse, and flee the ballroom.
There are tears in my eyes, tracking down my cheeks, when I make it to the well-lit hotel corridor.
Vince is right. He isn’t wrong. It wasn’t kind to say it to me, but he isn’t wrong. Now my heart hurts and my head is swimming with the visions he planted there of Meg marrying Mateo, her in a big white gown, him in his handsome tux, dancing to Sinatra all goddamn night long.
I fucking hate Sinatra.
I jump when a hand brushes my shoulder. My heart plummets as I turn around, somehow expecting to see Mateo.
But it’s Mark.
He’s frowning, a look of concern on his face.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he says.
I sniffle, turning away again, not wanting him to see me being an idiot. God, this is embarrassing.
“I just… I saw you run out. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine,” I assure him.
He should accept that and leave. He did the polite thing, the right thing, the chivalrous thing. Now he’s free to go.
But he doesn’t. He puts a hand on my shoulder and spins me back around, a knowing look on his face. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t make a callous joke, even though he undoubtedly knows why I’m upset. He doesn’t rag on me. He crooks his finger, indicating I should come closer, then tugs me into his arms and envelopes me in a warm hug.
I didn’t know it was what I needed, but it is. I secure my arms around his torso, burrowing into his chest. “I’m gonna ruin your shirt,” I tell him.
“How will I ever survive?” he returns lightly.
“You’ve gotta stop saving me,” I tell him.