“This changes nothing…”
Her words slam into me before she turns and walks calmly from the room. I wasn’t planning to kiss her, I wasn’t planning on dropping my apology bomb on her just yet but there it was loud and clear. The moment began to slip away and I panicked. Before I even have time to think JJ is in the room talking to me and I’m not listening. He’s followed by Logan and Matt, sent to gather what Luce has left in here.
“Jack?” Logan is looking at me.
I can’t respond. I can barely breathe the weight of her statement still sitting in the air around me like a dense fog.
“We have to go, Lacey isn’t going to wait anymore…” JJ says from behind me.
“Jack, what the hell?” he asks again, after a minute, sounding more frustrated this time.
“Sorry. I… I’ll be right back,” I finally respond looking up at him to find confusion.
“Seriously you have three minutes. Lacey is freaking out because she can’t find Lucy, and now you’re damn near catatonic, please don’t fuck this up, Jack,” he says, his voice trailing off as I get further away from him.
I knew this was a possibility and while I had thought I was prepared for it, Jesus it hurts to hear it. Those three words. The finality of how she said it. How am I going to get through the rest of this wedding, I think to myself as I aimlessly wander down hallways before I catch her voice in one of the rooms.
“Did you know?” she is asking.
“If you think for one minute I had any idea and didn’t tell you, you can think again. I would have liked to have known Lucy. I mean this is going to change plans if this is what he plans on doing tomorrow. I purposely picked spots around here that were accessible, that he could get to, I’ve talked to the photographer and everything…” Lacey answers quickly flipping it around to make it be about her.
“I don’t know what he plans on doing Lacey, maybe ask JJ, apparently he’s known about this for a while,” Luce says, outing JJ.
I don’t even think before I burst through the door, “Yes, JJ has known since I started this journey and I’m sorry if I wasn’t thinking of you Lacey when I was trying to get some semblance of myself back. Maybe I was sick of being the cause for so many issues, like what you just gave us as an example…” I say angrily.
The expression on Lacey’s face is priceless. I haven’t put Lacey in her place very often but this was ridiculous. Who did she think she was? What gave her the right to be a bitch instead of the sister Luce needs in this moment.
“You should just wait with the guys Jack,” Luce says with her all-business voice.
“No, someone needed to stand up for you, needed to step in when you just won’t do it for yourself with her. You needed a sister in this moment and she’s being a bitch…” flies from my lips before I can stop it.
“Jack,” I hear JJ behind me and he’s pissed.
“Yeah, I said it JJ, she’s a bitch to Luce. Today isn’t an exception,” I whip around and spit at him.
“What gives you the right to stand up for her, or sling accusations around, Jack, she isn’t your wife anymore,” he says through gritted teeth, for the first time calling me out.
I look around at them all, and the look Luce has on her face is utter confusion like she doesn’t even know what to say or do. I don’t know where my need to butt into this came from but it’s fleeting fast and now it’s too late. I’ve caused damage here, a damage that I don’t know that I’ll be able to undo in a matter of minutes.
“I’m sorry… Lacey, I’m sorry…” I mutter out, even though it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“I don’t know if that’s enough,” JJ says looking like he wants to go a few rounds with me.
“It’s enough…” Lacey says, surprising the hell out of me as she watches Luce.
I’m not sure what happened but when my eyes find Luce through my rage I’m stunned. She’s gorgeous and it’s like I’m seeing her for the first time all over again, except this time she’s looking at me with such contempt I feel like she might burn a hole through me. When I look to Lacey I see it, some strange look of contentment and it scares me. Luce is exuding confidence unlike I’ve ever seen and it strikes me that she’s different. I created this. I broke her enough to change her and deep down I know it.
“Lacey, are you sure, I mean that wasn’t called for…” JJ starts before she puts her hand up.
“Heat of the moment J, it’s fine. Everyone’s emotions are running high right now with these new developments…” she says in this sugary sweet way that turns my stomach.
The way the words drip from her mouth gives me the feeling that she knows something, what that something is I don’t know yet but I’m sure before this is all over I’ll find out. I turn to go because I’m not sure what JJ is going to have to say to me but I’d rather him not do it here in front of Luce.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” her voice follows me before I even realize she’s right behind me.
“Sure,” I say continuing down the hallway.
When I stop and turn around I’m not sure which Luce I’m going to get and I purposely make my face blank. It’s the confident guarded Luce, the one I’m still not used too.
After a few moments she starts, “I wanted to let you know…I have a date coming tomorrow…”
Not what I was expecting, not at all. It takes everything in me to keep my emotions in check so that I can even just muster out a nod of my head. I see the look in her eyes that confident look again and it feels like the walls of the hallway are closing in on me. I took too long.
“I just wanted you to know, so it wasn’t a surprise or anything. I’m really happy for you Jack, with all that…” she says her resolve letting up some before pointing to my legs.
“No big deal, and really it’s okay you have a date… like JJ said, you aren’t mine anymore,” I finally say despite my heart cracking to pieces.
“He won’t be here till the reception starts so we will still have to do all our obligations…” she pauses a look of sadness flickering across her face before she goes right back to confidence, “You aren’t going to do anything to make this weird are you?”
“Such as?” I ask, the asshole in me wanting to come out and play.
“You know what I mean Jack,” she spits back at me before tossing her head to the side.
“I will show up, I will do the photos, give the rings, stand there for my best friend and whatever else is asked of me… that’s the plan,” I answer, coolly.
“Good,” is all she says before footsteps interrupt us.
“I need a minute with Jack, Lucy,” JJ says, his face still scrunched up with anger.
“Sure, see you guys in a little bit…” she says from over her shoulder as she turns to go.
It doesn’t take him long to start but in those few seconds, I know as wrong as I was to call Lacey out, I was right. I look up at him, as is usual these days and it’s been a long time since he’s looked at me like this, too long. His face is red and I can almost hear his fists opening and closing, even though I was right, I crossed the line and on one of the worst days yet.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say anything like that again. Never. She is going to be my wife in less than 24 hours and just because you fucked your marriage up doesn’t mean I would ever follow that path. I know she’s hard to take sometimes and she bullies Lucy, but honestly Jack, it’s not your concern anymore. Hasn’t been for a while now…” he seethes through his clenched teeth.
“I’m sorry,” is all I offer.
“You should be… I’ve never once said anything about Lucy or anyone else you’ve dated, I kept your secret, helped you break her heart and been there to pick up the pieces that you left. You’re like a brother to me and when I heard you say that it took everything in me not to knock you out right there. You don’t have the right to her anymore, you threw that away Jack, and I know this whole plan, this new you is partly because you want her back… you don’t have to tell me for me to figure it out. I’ve known all along and just kept my mouth shut. I had actually hoped she’d find someone else, someone who deserved her because after what you did, it isn’t you. You had everything, and even though you couldn’t see that then, now… now you realize it and it’s too late. She isn’t going to take you back. Your master plan worked and I’m just glad you didn’t drag me down with you. I would have done anything for you and I did, I did it because I felt guilty, because I felt it was because of me that you were even in this mess. What I didn’t realize until just the other day though was that you made the decision to get behind the wheel, you said it yourself, you chose to be an idiot and it isn’t my fault, it never was…” he says, the anger turning to regret.
“I know. Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think that I live with that regret every damn day, JJ? Don’t you think I’ve tried to show you that it wasn’t your fault, over and over? You didn’t want to hear that from me. You’re right though, I did partly do this because I wanted her back and I would do it all over again, the hard work, the pain, in a second if I even thought the chance was there. It wouldn’t matter the outcome and what she chose, it’s because I needed to know that I tried to right that wrong. I had to try…” I say, the weight of her response slamming into me again just thinking about it.
He doesn’t respond so I move to leave but when I’m almost out of earshot I hear, “I know…”