I decided to stay away from the club that night. I wasn’t ready to see them, especially Caleb, after what happened. I deserved an apology. Jackson texted and called me, but I ignored him each time.
Besides, as Greer’s maid-of-honor, I had a lot going on at the moment.
The morning of the wedding was chaotic, but in a good way. I felt like a chicken with its head cut off, running around to make sure everything was going smoothly.
I was excited to see Greer’s cousin Terri in the hallway of the church and gave her a huge hug. We hadn’t seen each other in ages. She stood there with her husband Joe and her young daughter Hayley.
I had befriended Terri and her older brother Max when I went to visit her during the summers while we were in college. We’d all hit it off and remained friends.
I decided to take a little breather and chat with them for a minute.
“Is Max coming?” I asked.
“He couldn’t make it,” Terrie said sadly. “He got called into work this morning.” Max was a firefighter.
“Oh no!” I replied. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Terri said. “All I know is that the fire is pretty big.”
I hoped everyone was okay.
Talking for just another minute or two, I had to dash off, promising to catch up with them during the reception.
Finally, it was time.
The music started and we took turns walking down the aisle. When it was Greer’s turn, I smiled widely, so damned happy for my friend. Glancing over at John, I saw he had tears in his eyes, not caring who saw him cry. And why should he? This was the happiest day of his life and he’d been looking forward to marrying Greer for a long time.
Once Greer made it to the front of the church, I happened to look to the back and saw Jackson and Caleb slink in, taking a seat in the back pew. I felt my temper rise.
Were they for real? They had no business crashing the wedding.
I tried to ignore them for the rest of the ceremony and planned to tell them to go just as soon as I could.
But I didn’t get the chance to talk to them until the reception when Jackson cut in as I danced with Joe.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, giving him a stern look. “You shouldn’t have come.”
Thankfully, Jackson didn’t try to give me one of those smiles of his and looked serious for once. “We needed to see you,” he said. “You ignored my texts.”
“Then you should have taken the hint and given me some space.”
I didn’t talk to him again and when the song ended, Caleb cut it.
“Seriously?” I asked him.
Shame registered on his face. “I’m sorry that we crashed the wedding,” he said. “I’m also sorry for how I reacted the other night.”
I felt myself soften. Grabbing his hand, I led him out of the reception hall and to a quiet corner.
“Will you speak to me calmly now?” I asked pointedly.
“Okay. The other night I was just trying to help and it hurt when you told me to ‘get the fuck out,’” I quoted.
He winced. “It was shitty of me. I was upset and reacted poorly.”
“Thank you for acknowledging that,” I said. Laying my hand on the side of his face, I asked, “Do you have nightmares often?”
He nodded. “At least a few times a week. I dream of back when I was in Afghanistan and all the awful shit I saw there. I dream of when I almost died.”
I probably shouldn’t have been, but I still felt stunned. It hurt to think Caleb had almost been taken out of this world.
“I’ve been in therapy for a long time, but it’s still hard to come to terms with everything.”
“That’s understandable,” I told him. “The other night, was that one of the worst nightmares you’ve had?”
Caleb shook his head. “No, that one was actually pretty mild. Sometimes, I wake after such terrible nightmares, I think about ending it all.”
Pain shot through my chest. I couldn’t deal with this, not again.
Tears filled my eyes, and I let them run down my cheeks.
“My dad took his life,” I said, choking on a sob. “I won’t see you do it too.”
Caleb looked stricken. “Erin,” he said, laying a hand on my shoulder.
“No,” I said firmly. “No. We can’t do this anymore. It’s done.”
It hurt so fucking much to walk away from Caleb, but I did. I had to.
It felt like the world was ending. The ache was so much that I felt it in my body too. Fatigue filled my limbs, making it hurt to move.
I blew it. I ruined everything. I wasn’t able to keep it together and destroyed my one chance with Erin. Our one chance with Erin because, like the worthless waste of space I was, I ruined things for Jackson too. I was a horrible friend.