“You have to listen to me!” Veronica sobs.
I climb out of the car and slam the door behind me before running up the stairs and into my apartment.
I walked so slowly up that aisle, but even with all my doubts, I never imagined how fast I could run back down it.
I grabbed Veronica’s purse from the tent because she’s the one who drove me here. I climbed into her car and started for home. She chased after me and jumped into the passenger seat of the moving car. I should have shoved her right back out the door, but I had to think of my unborn niece or nephew.
The drive between the park and my apartment is less than five minutes, but it felt more like an hour, and as we sat next to each other in silence, I felt like my whole life was washing away under my feet.
“Nicole!” She chases up the stairs after me, and I think about slamming the door shut, but I’m too busy trying to unzip this damn dress. I just want out of this lace. It itches, and I can’t breathe.
How long have I known and not let myself know? How long have I suspected and not let myself suspect?
Every time he left the room for a phone call. Every time he pulled away from my touch. Every time he insisted that our wedding night would be better if we waited.
But with my sister? No, even with all my shit luck in love, even with all my insecurities and anxieties, that I couldn’t have imagined.
“I can’t get the stupid zipper!” I spin in a circle as if the momentum might give my hand a better grip on its target.
“Will you please quit flailing around like a crazy woman and listen to me?”
“Unzip my dress!” Maybe it’s a ridiculous request. Maybe I shouldn’t speak to her at all. But she unzips my dress, and when it falls from my shoulders, it’s the sweetest kind of relief.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen,” she says, her voice cracking. “It was an accident.”
“An accident?” My words are slower now. Calmer. I’m too tired for this fight—or maybe I just know this is one I can’t win. “Do you expect me to believe that?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Actually, I don’t. I don’t understand how you accidentally sleep with your sister’s fiancé.”
“He hasn’t always been your fiancé.”
What’s that supposed to mean? Marcus and I have been engaged for six months. We’d been dating for two when he proposed. We wanted to be married by now, but the pastor insisted we have at least a six-month engagement, given how short our courtship was. I look at my sister’s still-flat stomach before meeting her eyes again. “How long have you been sleeping with Marcus?”
She puts her hand over her mouth. “I’m gonna be sick again.”
I laugh, but the sound comes out crazed. “I haven’t even slept with him. Is that why you encouraged me to wait? So you’d have him in your bed longer?” I step out of the dress that’s pooled around my feet, sweep it off the floor, and throw it at her, but it’s so heavy that it barely brushes her chest before slinking back to the floor. “Take it!” I scream. Oh, look. My crazy’s back. “It’s yours. He’s yours. You want my life? You think it’s so perfect? Take it!” It’s like I’m out of myself, watching this crazy woman in my body lose her mind.
“I didn’t mean to,” Veronica says. “I’m in love with him!”
“You think I’m not?”
“I know.” She sobs. “I know.” She shakes her head. “That’s why I got the job in Michigan. That’s why I’m leaving. I never meant to ruin your marriage.”
“Well, it’s too late for that.” She’s having his baby. I was supposed to have his baby.
“I’ll go.” Her face is wet with tears, and I vaguely wonder what’s wrong with me that she’s the one who’s crying and I can’t feel . . . anything. “I’ll get out of your life. You’ll never have to see me again. Just let me fix this. Let me leave. It’s the best and only solution.”
“Don’t.” My moment of crazy has slipped away. I sound so calm. Now that my dress isn’t trying to eat me, I feel calm. “Leaving won’t fix this.”
She puts a hand on her stomach. “Then tell me what will.”
“Veronica!” Marcus roars from the front door. “Veronica!”
I close my eyes. If any part of me believed we could salvage this, the fact that he came here looking for her and not me has killed it. “Nothing. You can’t make something like this better.” She’s having his baby.
I peel off my pristine white bridal underwear—I was supposed to spend my wedding night wearing this, and now I want nothing to do with it. I dress quickly, pulling on a black bra and panty set to replace the virginal white that seems to taunt me. I top it with a flannel shirt, a jean skirt, and a pair of cowboy boots.