By: Elizabeth G Walzel
Paige Snow stood near the entrance of the crowded little bar that looked out onto the Corpus Christi Bay. She was nervously peeking outside, while mentally wringing her hands with dread, attempting to spy a glimpse of the man she was waiting to meet. She was in no way ready for this, although to her way of thinking, she would never be ready to leap this far out of her limited comfort zone.
“Ugh, Jules what were you thinking? This is the last time that I ever let you talk me into anything, and I mean it this time, the very last!”
She was ranting under her breath, through clinched teeth, as though her best friend, Jules, could hear her biting words all of the way to her apartment which was several miles away. Even though Jules was her very oldest and dearest friend in the world, Paige couldn’t help but hate her a little for putting her in this distress. Her heart thrummed loudly; rapidly pounding throughout her entire body, and increased in speed as the meeting time ticked closer and closer.
A beautiful and soft-spoken artist, Paige was shy and very much a deep, introspective thinker. Not a new thing for her, but in the past year or so, she had been experiencing a higher level of social anxiety that had become almost crippling to her. Adding to that was the fact that she was just so exhausted. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she had enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Tossing and turning at night had become a common occurrence. She had tried everything from the latest and greatest pillows, to the best Egyptian cotton sheets. She had even purchased a copper infused eye pillow that was guaranteed to not only help her get a good nights sleep, but also boasted anti-aging components to help prevent wrinkles, which at 33, she had just begun noticing around her eyes. And all of this, the sleepless nights, the increased social anxiety and probably even the wrinkles were his fault. Paige blamed “The Idiot”, the name Jules had dubbed him. He had jilted her at the altar and he was to blame for all of her troubles.
John was Paige’s ex-fiancé. He had been the one man that she trusted with her whole heart; counting on him to be her “forever”. What a hard, disappointing blow it had been when he left. Quite literally, it had knocked her feet right out from under her. Seriously, when she was told that John had left the church, she became confused and breathless, gasping for air. She was experiencing loud pounding vibrations in her ears that made all of the surrounding voices sound muffled and very far away. Her temperature rose at an alarming rate, causing her cheeks to flush and beads of sweat to prickle around her hairline, across her forehead, and down the back of her neck. She felt weak and unsteady, and when the color finally washed out of her face, her eyes rolled back into her head and Paige fainted right on the spot.
To top it all off, his timing could not have been worse. Oh no, it would have been asking too much for him to break their engagement, say, the week before, or perhaps, even the day before the ceremony was to take place. No, no. He had to wait until she had spent hours in Fredrico’s stylist chair, who had meticulously applied her makeup for the big day. And until she had her dark, wavy hair combed and fashioned into a perfectly braided chignon that was to be her crowning glory.
Everyone said so. Well, okay, Fredrico said so…but still…her crowning glory!
No, John had to wait until Paige was dressed in her beautiful, white Vera Wang with the lavender sash that was perfectly tied into a bow, around her tiny waist, with all of the layers upon layers of white tulle that lead to the oh-so-long train that gracefully trailed behind her; you know, the one that she had seen in the wedding boutique and just knew, at first sight, that it was “the one”. He had to wait until all of her bridesmaids were dressed in their gorgeous pastel blue, pink, green and yellow gowns; after the photographer had taken hundreds of pictures, and until her father began to approach her to take her arm to escort her down the isle, and the music began to play! Yes, of course, that is when he did it…and he didn’t even have the courage to do it himself. Instead, The Idiot sent his best man, Drew, to do his dirty work.
Drew rushed toward her, out of breath, and with a wild look of dread and compassion in his eyes.
Paige seemed oblivious to the desperation of his approach.
“Drew, what are you doing here?”
She responded with a big smile in her lilting sing-song voice as she delicately smoothed her dress with her perfectly manicured hands.
“You’re supposed to be with John at the front of the church.”
“Paige, could I have a moment please?”
Beginning to grasp that something might be out of place, she nervously laughed, looking around at her bridal party as though they could make sense of this uninvited delay. Seeing that her friends were gaping at Drew with a bit of alarm in their eyes, she lowered her head slightly and under her breath she responded.
“Drew, can we do this later? How about at the reception? There really isn’t time right now, the music is beginning to play.”
“No, sweetheart, I think we need to make the time right now. Please.”
His eyes were fiercely making contact with hers now, and his tone was abrupt, sounding more emphatic. Everyone in the room hushed and turned their attention toward him to listen.
“Paige! I really must insist.”
He stepped in front of her, taking her hand and not giving her any choice but to listen to what he had to say.
It was horrible. Drew went on to tell her, adding sympathetic words like “jerk”, “rat”, and “he’s not good enough for you”, that John had changed his mind and had decided that he just couldn’t go through with the wedding. He lowered his head to whisper in Paige’s ear,
“Sweetheart, he doesn’t deserve you.”
Shock, disbelief and denial were the emotions that buzzed throughout Paige’s entire body. Her bridesmaids swarmed, surrounding the pair in this tragic time of need. Panic and adrenaline washed through her body from head to toe. Paige was overwhelmed with confusion. She desperately searched around the room, essentially asking for an explanation, or some sense of understanding the words that Drew had just spoken. Bewilderedly, she began muttering nonsensically out loud, and to no one in particular except perhaps herself.
“This must be a dream…a nightmare. Is this real? Is it happening?”
Her own words echoed as if reverberating in a tunnel. Looking down at her feet, she began to slightly rock her head back and forth as if answering her own questions. No!
Paige’s father, Miller, stepped toward her. His facial expression was clearly mixed with the protective grief of a father for the heartbreak his only daughter must be feeling, and the absolute hostility he felt toward the man responsible. He thought about going for Drew, but realizing that he was only the messenger, he extended his hand to Paige, who simply waved him off, signaling for him to stop. She seemed to be mentally withdrawing into herself trying to ingest the information for clarity. But there was simply no sense in it to be had.
“I mean, John has been acting a bit strangely.”
She was definitely confused as she continued rambling in a baffled small voice. Recently, and on more than one occasion, Paige had found John in her condo, seeming agitated. She had even caught him talking to someone named Carl, or was it Carla? She wasn’t sure.
“I can’t believe that I didn’t even asked him who they were. And he was alone in the room! I mean, now that I really think about it – it was bizarre. He just kept arguing, and arguing, as though this Carl or Carla were right there with him, telling them to keep quiet and stop nagging. Who in the world were they anyway?”
She said all of this more to herself than anyone else.
“I mean, you would think that after all of this time, I would have thought to ask.”
But, as she often did, Paige had made excuses for him and disregarded any concerns she might have had, deciding he was just being silly, and thinking out loud. Bemused, she looked up into Drew’s eyes, seeing his concerned expression; and that is when it happened. Alarm erupted in the room at the sight of Paige as she collapsed into a billowing mass of white lace.
JOHN HAD BECOME THE RUN-AWAY GROOM!
Drew could hardly believe his eyes when Paige went down. Still holding her hand, he caught her wilting body, pulling her into his open arms and onto his lap. He had received training in emergency care when he was in the military and went into rescue mode when he saw her beautiful blue eyes begin to roll back into her head. The truth of the matter was that he never understood what Paige had ever seen in John in the first place. Having only actually met her on a few occasions, Drew felt that John was way out of his league with Paige. She was gorgeous, intelligent, successful, and hmmm, did he say gorgeous? He hated to see her suffer, but Drew had big, broad, strong shoulders and if Paige Snow needed them to fold around her so that she could seek comfort, she could cry on his any time she felt like it.
Paige was a lovely person, inside and out. Brilliantly book-smart; having graduated from Texas A&M University, with a degree in Accounting, having earned her diploma with honors, to then acquire her MS in English Literature. She became a CPA within the first three years of her graduation, and earned an almost perfect score on her qualifying exams. While her writing had begun as a hobby, it wasn’t long before her artistic passion would dominate, and she would begin to have several short fictional stories published. At 28, she was contacted by a boutique publishing house, and began writing under the pseudo name, Paige Turner, to protect her anonymity. Since then, she’d had two books to add to her credit, with the third under contract and due for submission within the year. In addition, she had begun to write a blog for readers and writers to come together to participate in the encouragement and development of their collective artistic expression. She was thrilled to see it gain in popularity with both new and seasoned writers along with many reading fans throughout practically every known fictional genre.
If you asked Paige, she would be the first to admit to being a bit clumsy and socially awkward. Her natural inclination was to be somewhat reticent, although, despite her own discomfort, she had an uncanny ability to make everyone around her feel special. To strangers, she was always kind, offering a smile to anyone who crossed her path, making each feel valued and important. To her friends, Paige was an absolute treasure; considerate and loving, trustworthy and loyal, delighting each in her high regard. She was very much loved.
When John left her at the altar, it nearly broke her fragile demeanor. She was just now beginning to recover, focusing daily on getting her feet back under her; taking one step at a time to get through each day. Paige had trusted John, and despite his peculiarities, she always believed the best about him. But, he had humiliated her, burning her to her very core. Deep down she knew that this wasn’t the end of the world, or anything. Truthfully, the most disturbing part of the entire ordeal had been the fact that her faith in her own judgment, had been severely shaken, which caused her to retreat back into her shell. Now, nearly a year later, she had just found the strength to discuss “the wedding from hell” without succumbing to a bout of vertigo. It was only recently that she had truly begun to move forward with her life in every aspect except one. Suffering from lingering abandonment issues, her interest in meeting men was a big fat zero. That is when her oldest and dearest friend, Jules stepped in and decided to set her up.
Yup, you heard it right. Paige Snow was waiting for A BLIND DATE!
You would have to know Jules to understand that she always operated with the best of intentions, whether you agreed with those intentions or not. She was the best kind of friend, through thick or thin. She was there to lend support no matter what came their way. The two had been inseparable since pre-school, having grown up together, sharing an apartment all the way throughout college and even now, remaining neighbors in the beautiful “Sparkling City by the Sea”, Corpus Christi, Texas. More like sisters than friends, they were as thick-as-thieves, sharing a bond that would last a lifetime. Paige was the sweet, harmless kitten, while Jules was the bulldog with a bone that tasted just too delicious to ever let go; especially when she had an idea about how to “fix” someone. And since Paige’s heart had been broken exactly 10 months, nine days and five hours ago, she had found herself to be the new number one on Jules’ infamous “fix-it” list.
“Paige, sweetie, you have wallowed in your little pity party way too long, and I take partial responsibility for that, because I’ve let you do it.”
Jules lectured Paige in her prosecuting attorney’s voice.
“It is time to get back out there and have some fun.”
She gestured with her hand toward the outdoors.
“I’m not suggesting that you fall in love, but you know the old saying about “falling off the horse”, don’t you?”
She was on a roll now,
“Are you listening to me Paige?”
She was becoming more indignant, standing with arms akimbo, like when a mother scolds her small child, bending down, hands on hips and saying, “Because I said so!”
“As your best friend, who loves you, even more than a sister, you have just got to trust me when I tell you – GIRL, YOU NEEEED THIS.”
She emphasized each word in staccato and drew the word “need” out into four syllables instead of one. It was then, at that moment, that Jules dive bombed her, telling her about the blind date that she had already set into motion for Paige. Her lip was visibly beginning to curl in a snarl of disbelief toward her longtime friend.
“Don’t you give me that look.”
Jules reprimanded while waiving her finger back and forth, in the universal signing of ‘no.’
“Honey, you need to open your mind a little. Would I ever steer you wrong?”
She asked Paige who was silently thinking, “Hmmm, let me count the ways.”
Jules went on, pacing the room as though she were in court.
“His name is Ben Davis, and he is just a super-sweet guy. I know that you’re going like him.”
She turned to begin her pace into the opposite direction, now with her back to Paige who childishly wanted to stick her tongue out at her. Ignoring the disgruntled look that Paige was giving her, she went on.
“We went to law school together. He’s great.”
Then turning to face Paige again, she smiled,
“Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it to you before, he is tall, dark and very hot!”
Sensing the negative climate of the room and the hunch that Paige wanted to interrupt, she pointed her finger up, signaling for her to wait so that she could make her point. She wanted to be sure to get all of her words out before Paige would had a chance to refuse.
“He’s visiting our office until the end of Spring, so you don’t have to worry about getting involved in a longterm relationship or anything.”
Then, lowering her voice in a soothing tone and placing her hands on her friend’s delicate shoulders, she went on, sympathetically.
“He’s safe, Paige! You know, kind of like a big teddy bear, who will only be in the picture for a few short weeks. This is just what you need to get your feet wet again.”
Lovingly, she pulled Paige into a hug.
“Fun, Paige, you need to get out and have some fun.”
Paige recoiled a bit at the unwelcome (albeit good) advice. She rolled her eyes, turning her head as though she could possibly escape the torture that her best friend was imposing upon her, all the while thinking to herself how annoying it was to hear the truth when denial felt so much better. Backing away from the hug, Paige bent over at the waist, feeling an overwhelming sense of doom, like she was going to be physically sick. She was not going to get out of this. So, as she would have done as a child, she began to whine,
“Jules, you know how awkward and clumsy I am when meeting new people. I am not ready for this. I just can’t possibly…”
Jules interrupted abruptly,
“Don’t give me that old song and dance, Paige. You are much better at it than you have ever given yourself credit.”
“No, I’m not.”
Paige whimpered in her high-pitched, protracted melody as if in pain. Her gaze searched the floor in an attempt not to meet her friend’s eyes.
“I know you can do this. And you know what, someday, you are going to thank me for it.”
Jules went on sounding more like a parent than a best friend.
“What you cannot do is continue to hide out in this little condo for the rest of your life. Don’t give The Idiot any more power over you.”
She continued in a more gentle tone that reflected empathy, and the two friends eyes finally met, understanding passing between them.
“Paige, I know how badly he hurt you, and sweetie, you know how much I hate him for it. But you also know that I am not the first person to tell you that he never appreciated what a prize he had in you. Don’t allow him to win. He has already taken so much from you. You just can’t allow him to take anymore.”
Paige looked toward her dearest friend, and reflected upon the days following the breakup. It was Jules who was there for her, day and night with the Kleenex, magazines, chocolates, and bottles of various expensive wines. She was loving and supportive and had been instrumental in helping her throughout the grieving process of her loss.
Bringing Paige back to the here and now, Jules continued,
“He never deserved you Paige, and you know it!”
Jules crossed to the bar and poured two glasses of Chardonnay. Walking back to Paige with her hand extended to offer one of the glasses.
“You know that I never made it a secret about how I felt about The Idiot. I just never liked him for you. I’m not sure exactly why either. There was just something about him that felt…off.”
She was drawing near her closing argument.
“You know, one bad apple and all…it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of really great guys out there for you. After all, there are still lots of good times to be had, and girl, it’s time. It is time for you to get out there and start living again!””
Her expression was both satisfied and triumphant, because Jules knew when she had won the argument with Paige. The thing too, was that she believed with her whole heart that she was right about this. So, with a mock angelic smile, she leaned into Paige, gently bumping their shoulders together. She looked at her best friend in the world, and concluded in the warm, familiar tone that made both girls smile.
“Paige-y, You don’t have to thank me now, but I’ll expect some major signs of gratitude on Saturday night, when you get home from your date and call me with every single detail.”
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