Title: Misplaced Affection.
Description / blurb:
Two best friends, one huge secret, and a wedding that stands in the way.
Flynn Brewer has a secret, (two secrets)—he’s gay and he’s in love with the boy next door. Flynn’s known for years how he felt, but he’s kept his secret because he’s convinced that telling his best friend, Jack, could destroy their relationship. And then, when Flynn finally works up the nerve to tell him, Bronwyn and her sister enter the picture and mess up everything. Flynn couldn’t say the words now. Not when “I love you” sounds like a lame attempt at hiding his jealousy over Bronwyn. Besides… so cliché.
Jackson Mitchell was every girl’s heartthrob and every boy’s wet dream. Quarterback from high school turned horticulturalist, Jack had a personality that could sell anything, do anything, or be anything. Except, he couldn’t sell the truth—to himself. He’d been living a lie ever since his best friend Nate, Flynn’s brother, died ten years prior. And just when he thinks he’s ready to talk about it, and tell Flynn how he feels, he meets a girl and gets swept away.
Years later, both friends stand ready at a wedding neither one wants to go through with. The best man, dying on the inside as the only man he’s ever loved commits himself in marriage—to a woman; and the groom, going through the motions of what is expected of him, even though, in his heart, he’d rather be saying “I do” to someone else. At this point, only God could intervene to avert disaster.
She loves him. I could see it in her eyes—that deep sense of longing—as she peered over her shoulder toward the ushers, family members, and friends who gathered to prepare for the day’s festivities. As workers from the cottage set chairs in rows on the grass and hung strings of white lights in the trees, “Ophelia”, as Jack called her because she looked like she had stepped out of a painting by that title, wandered farther away picking flowers and occasionally wiping the tip of her nose. Why had I noticed? Why would I care? Because I felt the same disconnect as she wore in her expression. Only, my reaction wasn’t to pick flowers it was to sit on a folding chair on the edge of the activity and sulk.
It was no surprise to me that Amelia is in love with Jackson Mitchell; after all, he has the kind of smile that lights up a room and personality enough to power a city. Jack is vivacious and charismatic and able to draw people in with a glance. Everyone loves Jack, so I couldn’t blame her for falling hard. The only trouble I foresaw rested on her assigned position as Maid of Honor. How would the sweet “Ophelia” handle walking down the aisle on “Prince Hamlet’s” wedding day only to step to the left, and allow room for his bride to join him at the altar? I didn’t know.
I could imagine how hard this was for her. I had been there at the restaurant last July, expecting wings and an exchange of college stories, when out of the blue our annual birthday dinner turned into an engagement party. I certainly hadn’t expected it. I distinctly remembered Amelia’s squeal of delight because it pierced my ears and caused me to promptly cup them, but her high-pitched cry and enthusiastic joy had been immediately followed by vain attempts to hide her tears. I had had my own issues that day, my own internal debates and misgivings, but I would never forget the look in Amelia’s eyes as she caught me watching her. Her joy had been as bittersweet as mine.
Luckily, Bronwyn mistook her sister’s sadness and jealousy for happiness and hugged her until she smiled again. Poor girl. She should have said something. I should have said something. But the words got stuck in my throat as I watched the happy couple, Jackson and Bronwyn, hugging and toasting. Bronwyn asked her sister to stand beside her at the alter two second before Jackson turned his charm my way. Keith kicked me under the table as I helplessly agreed to be his best man. I had never been able to refuse Jackson any request in the past, so it stood to reason that I wouldn’t have been able to change the course of history now. Of course I accepted.
Acceptance—fuck—look where it got us nine months later; an outdoor wedding straight out of a Shakespearian play complete with strolling minstrels, flutes, mandolins, Victorian gowns, puffy shirts, and poet hats. Stupid hats, they messed up my hair. I didn’t want to be here. My only solace was that Amelia was as unhappy as I was.
As I watched her stroll along the opposite edge of the wooded garden, picking flowers and sampling wild raspberries, I thought to myself how beautiful she was. Her luminescent auburn locks tumbled down her back, tendrils lifting in the slight breeze, and beckoning those around her, including me, to touch, caress and become lost in the alluring tresses. She had tucked flowers in her flowing mane as a weaver might include jewels among his threads, which made her even more stunning. She looked remarkable in her billowing white gown, and I knew without asking that she longed for Jack to notice. But he wouldn’t. Jack’s eyes were set on the fiery redhead who waited beyond the willow tree for the minstrels to start their strumming.
Our “Ophelia” would never garner “Hamlet’s” attention as she did in the Shakespearian play, which was why she chose to pick flowers instead of attending to her sister, the bride-to-be, Bronwyn Pierce. Amelia gathered her skirts and created a basket in her arms and filled it as she went with red poppies, white daisies, and blue cornflowers. Oh, to be so carefree and peaceful at a time like this. She looked so serene, but on the inside I knew she was falling apart. Amelia was a casualty of war in a sense, mourning the loss of her heart with the impending words “I do”. So as she stepped barefoot through the grass weeping in silence and collecting flowers like a child, I watched and shed my own tears, mirroring her sorrow, empathizing with her pain, and dying inside because the same woeful revelation suffocated me—I was in love with Jackson as well.
Fuck! The revelation hit me like a truck on a highway. Keith had been right all along.
I curled forward over my legs and cradled my face in my hands. What a mess. Less than two hours to go before this stupid wedding and I realize I’m in love with the groom, Amelia’s in love with the groom, and the poor bride is obliviously readying for, possibly, the world’s most clichéd wedding, and the worst part, if it could get any worse, was the unsettled notion I had that Jackson was actually gay.
What was I supposed to do with that?
I sat back and scanned the scene again after rubbing the weariness from my eyes cheeks. Most people seemed joyous. My dad was talking and laughing with Jackson’s aunt—one good by-product of this event. But those of our core group, seemed to feel the tension. Kelly and Grace weren’t laughing; they were texting. Keith, my ex, was sitting on the opposite side of the chaired area near them but not with them, arms folded, scowl firmly affixed to his face. I wasn’t even sure why he’d come today except that maybe Grace had threatened him.
Tom and Greg were most likely with Jackson, my best friend, where I should be since I was supposed to be his best man. But how could I look Jack in the face after what had happened after the bachelor party last night?
Oh God. “I’m probably going to hell,” I whispered, thinking about what we had done. As a tear forced its way from the corner of my eye I thought out loud, “How did things get so fucked up?”