If Pope Francis himself had presided over the wedding ceremony, Kylie never would have known. Her every attention, her every bit of concentration had been focused on not passing out, not throwing up, not pushing past Dan and Stacy to leap into the arms of the man who had broken her heart and left her with nothing. It took every ounce of willpower she possessed to stand politely beside him in the receiving line, to smile pleasantly for endless photographs, to not beat him to a bloody mess with the pointy end of her high heel shoe, to remember how to breathe.
The moment the wedding party trolley parked in front of Gimp’s and the reception guests cheered the arrival of the kissing newlyweds, Kylie bolted for the restroom, unable to keep it together a moment longer. Aria followed two steps behind her as she slammed into the room and locked herself into the last stall, finally releasing the volatile emotions she had been pushing back.
“Are you okay?” Aria asked, softly knocking on the stall door.
Unable to stop the tears, Kylie cried hard, her heart breaking in painful sobs. Another wave of nausea hit, and she leaned over the toilet again.
“Let me in, sweetie.”
Kylie closed her eyes tight and silently prayed to be anywhere in the world besides where she was. She begged, she pleaded, but no matter what she promised to God, she remained wedged in a cramped stall, kneeling on the gritty floor, feeling like a goddamn fool.
“Kylie?” Aria tapped on the door again.
She hated herself for loving him. She hated herself for craving him. She hated herself for being so goddamn stupid for believing in him.
Choking back a sob, her mind replayed her son flying into his arms, the love in his eyes, the joy in his voice, his world set right, his heartache instantly forgotten.
“Kylie, open the door.”
She had to get them out. She had to keep Brayden away from Jimmy forever. If she didn’t, Jimmy would destroy him.
She would make it through the evening because she had promised Stacy she would, she would give Brayden and Jimmy a chance to say a real goodbye, one that would give her son closure, and then she would hop the first morning flight to California and erase Jimmy from her life, and Brayden’s, forever.
Her son would heal. He would forget. He would survive. She would survive. Together, they would pull through, and they would begin life anew, stronger than ever before.
“Yeah, hang on.” Kylie drew in a shaky but confident breath, straightened her dress. She could do this. She had to. She had no choice. She unlocked the stall door, stepped outside.
“Are you okay?” Aria worried.
“I’m fine,” she answered with more confidence than she felt. She crossed the room toward the sink, her knees threatening to buckle at any moment. “I could use a toothbrush, though.”
“I might have some gum in my purse,” Aria said, automatically reaching for a purse she was not carrying. “Shoot.”
Kylie made do with rinsing her mouth. “I’m sorry about all this.”
“Oh, no, I’m the one who should be sorry! If I had known it would be this hard, I never would have… I’m so sorry, Ky. I should have warned you Dan asked Jimmy to be his best man. I honestly didn’t know for sure if he would do it, but still, I shouldn’t have let you believe… I wasn’t thinking—”
Nessa charged into the restroom, interrupting Aria’s babble.
“Are you okay?” Nessa clamped tight onto Kylie’s arms and whipped her around, firing questions in rapid succession, “That was Jimmy? Holy heck, Ky! I don’t remember him looking like that in your pictures on Facebook. He’s flippin’ hot—Wait! No! He’s not. Not hot, at all. He’s gross. Super gross. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Ness. Just forget about it,” Kylie dismissed, trying to make light of her burning emotions before they exploded again. She pulled away from Nessa and paced toward the stall, feeling as though she may need it as her stomach churned in earnest.
“I think you should talk to him,” Aria suggested. “From what Brent’s been saying lately, I don’t think it happened quite the way we thought.”
“Brent’s the brother, right?” Nessa asked.
“How else could it be, Aria?”
“Brent said he never actually had sex with her.”
“Her who?” Nessa asked, her head whipping from Aria to Kylie and back again. “His ex?”
“He told me he did, Aria,” Kylie cried, the tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “Why would he tell me he did if he didn’t?”
“I don’t know, honey,” Aria said, rubbing Kylie’s back. “He won’t talk about it, not to me or to Brent. I think Dan might know what’s going through Jimmy’s head, but he’s keeping a tight lid on it, even to Stacy.”
Nessa placed a gentle hand on Kylie’s shoulder and spoke carefully, “Ky, girl, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but there’s still something crazy-real going on between the two of you. It’s so heavy I could feel it from the pews.”
“All that’s left between us is hate—pure unadulterated hate. That’s what you were feeling.” Kylie turned to the mirror, catching the reflection of her red face and puffy eyes, and dabbed angrily at her running mascara. “God, I’m such a fool.”
“No, you’re not—”
“Yes, I am,” Kylie insisted. She ripped a handful of paper towels from the dispenser and wiped away what remained of her tear-streaked make-up. “Let’s go get this stupid night over with so I can get the hell out of here and go home.”
“Ky, I think—”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think, Aria!”
Aria flinched as though she had been slapped, and Kylie burst into tears.
“Oh, Ky.” Nessa and Aria both wrapped her up in their arms and held her until she ran out of tears. Aria stepped into the stall returned with a handful of toilet paper. She handed it to Kylie with a weak smile.
Nessa gave her a weak smile. “At least the reception has one thing going for it that the wedding ceremony certainly did not.”
“What?” Kylie asked through her sniffles, drying her eyes.