Love and Other Words

Page 43

“What?” I say, resisting when she tugs me forward. “No, I —”

“No argument,” she says, marching forward. “I have strict instructions from Mom: you’re family.”

This catches in my throat – a ball of cottony emotion gets trapped in there. Pulling my wrap around my shoulders, I follow her to a seat on the groom’s side, in the very front row.

Alex sits in the third seat in, pulling me down beside her in the fourth. “It’s starting soon,” she says. “Mom told me to go sit so people would make their way over. Are they?”

I look behind her and see that, yes, people are beginning to make their way toward the ushers waiting at the entrance to the aisle. Seats are filling, the sun is setting, and the scene is breathtaking.

“I’ve wanted to meet you for years,” Alex says, staring ahead at the altar – a small wooden arch decorated with flowers so lush I want to reach out and pinch a petal to see if it’s real. “Well – meet again.”

“Me?” She was only three when Elliot and I had our falling-out.


God, what a weird phrase. Other people have a falling-out. What we had felt like a rupture. But really, was it? A breach along the fault line, maybe. A mallet cracked against our weak spot. And fate went in with a jackhammer.

Alex nods, turning to me. She looks so much like Elliot at fourteen that my breath is paralyzed for a second, like I’ve been punched in the solar plexus. Her eyes are hazel, wide behind her glasses. Her hair is thick and dark, barely tamed into submission by the flowers pinned around her oval face. Her neck is long, swanlike, hands delicate and bony. On Alex it looks graceful somehow; probably because she dances and she’s learned to use her slim build to her advantage. Elliot’s body always just seemed a little like a box full of tools: sharp angles, long bones, dangerous when clumsily wielded.

“He loves you so much,” she says. “I swear he didn’t bring a girl home forever.”

My heart slows.

She nods. “Seriously. My parents thought he was gay. They were like, ‘Elliot, you know we love you no matter what. We just want you to be happy…’ and he’d be like, ‘I really appreciate that, guys,’ and then we’d all just stare at him, like, ‘So when are you going to bring your boyfriend home?’”

I laugh a little, not sure what to say. Haltingly, I murmur, “But he did eventually bring someone home. I’m sure they liked her?”

She shrugs. “Rachel was nice.”

My heart slows. Rachel was the first girlfriend he brought home? That was – what, a year ago?

Alex looks back over her shoulder to check the progress of the seating. It’s filled up a bit, so she leans in closer as the guitarist and vocalist begin preparing to play the processional. “Mom called her ‘Macy’ like three times the first time she came for dinner.”

“Oof,” I say, “awkward.” I’m additionally sympathetic now that I’ve met Rachel. A lot more things make sense about that first encounter.

“Anyway,” Alex says, smiling at me, “he eventually admitted to us that he’s been in love with you since high school. I’m glad you’re back in his life.” Quickly she holds up her hands, adding, “Even if you’re just friends. Okay, I’ll shut up now.” She bites her lip and then adds in a rush, “And I’m really sorry about your dad, Macy. I don’t remember him, but Mom said he was a really nice man.”

“Thank you, sweetie.” I reach around her shoulders, pulling her in for a hug. “I missed you all like crazy.”

A hush overtakes the crowd as the guitarist begins, strumming a simple, aching prelude before the vocalist launches gently into Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah.” The first people down the aisle are an older couple, presumably Else’s grandparents. They sit in the section opposite us as Miss Dina and Mr. Nick come down the aisle with Andreas between them. Miss Dina’s smile is so brilliant, it traps my breath in my throat, and I feel the sting of tears across the surface of my eyes. It’s not just that it’s a wedding – though I always cry at weddings. It’s the song, it’s the setting, it’s being back in the arms of the people I love most in the whole world. It’s not feeling alone for the first time in as long as I can remember.

Andreas stands at the head of the aisle, watching in anticipation of his bride. Miss Dina sits beside Alex but reaches over her lap, taking my hand and holding it so tight I feel her love and her confusion and – above it all – her relief in that single, trembling touch.

Next is Nick Jr., with one of the bridesmaids. He’s filled out, barrel-chested like his father, tall like both of his parents. With a full beard, he looks more lumberjack than district attorney. I can’t really imagine him in sharkskin, if I’m being honest.

Then it’s George and Liz, arm in arm, all easy smiles. They’re such a perfect combination of happy faces and confident strides that I catch myself grinning, eyes brimming.

Alex hands me a tissue. “Two criers, on either side of me.”

“Shh,” Miss Dina whispers. “Just wait. It’ll afflict you soon.”

I’m not prepared for it, somehow – I’d forgotten that Elliot would be walking down the aisle – and the sight of him, with the petite blond maid of honor on his arm, his smile calm as he makes eye contact with the gathered guests, is a blow to the emotions wrapped tightly in my gut. Warmth bleeds free.

He looks so good.

Smiling, well over six feet tall now, easy in his skin. He looks at me after he leaves the maid of honor near the altar, and our eyes catch and hold.

It’s been hours since I thought of my ex-fiancé, but seeing Elliot now – at the altar and in his tux – makes me realize how monumentally wrong everything felt with Sean. How wrong it would feel with anyone but Elliot.

Stepping back, he files into position at the head of the groomsmen and manages to pull his eyes away from me as the music changes, and the guitar begins strumming the opening notes to Elvis Costello’s “She.”

The crowd stands. I know I should be looking for the bride, but my head is the only one facing forward, unable to stop staring at Elliot.

He can feel my attention, I’m sure, because he blinks away, turning his head just the slightest bit, meeting my eyes. There’s a question there in his, the playfully obvious What the hell is wrong with you?

I don’t know what else to do, so I simply mouth the word Yes.

Yes, I’m yours.

Yes, I’m ready.

Yes, I love you.


friday, december 8

eleven years ago


od, this book is amazing,” Elliot whispered, turning the page.

Inwardly, I gloated. Finally Mr. Snobby McClassicspants was reading Wally Lamb.

I rolled to my stomach, looking up at him on the futon. “I told you you’d love him.”

“You did,” he said. “And I do.”

We were finally allowed back in the closet together – door open – because it was too cold to send us outside, and Dad didn’t want to listen to us whispering downstairs all day long.

Senior year was already completely insane, and most weekends in November had been spent at home in Berkeley, preparing for college applications, SATs, and honors theses. We were trying to apply to schools in the same cities, if not the exact same colleges, and the intensity in our need to coordinate had us checking in with each other, constantly. This was the first weekend I’d actually been with Elliot in five weeks, and there was a forceful undercurrent, pushing us closer, and closer, and closer together, even with the door open.

“You should worship me,” I told him.

He looked at me over the rims of his glasses, brows raised. “I do.”

I grinned. “Or be my slave.”

“I would.” He closed the book, leaning his elbows on his long thighs. “I am.” I had his full attention now.

“Fan me with palm fronds and feed me tiny succulent grapes.”

It felt like the air stopped moving between us.

“Say that word again,” Elliot asked hoarsely.

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