The Hating Game Page 69

“You’re being so rude.” I smile at everyone we pass and try to dig my heels in a little.

His fingers smooth down the inside of my arm and he sighs. “Front row.”

He tows me up the aisle. I’m a little cloud in the slipstream of a fighter jet. The organist is making some tentative practice chords and it’s probably Josh’s expression that causes her to press several keys in a foghorn of fright. We approach the front pew. Josh’s hand is now a vise on mine.

“Hi.” He sounds so bored I think he’s worthy of an Oscar. “We’re here.”

“Josh!” His mother, presumably, springs to her feet for a hug. His hand falls away from mine and I watch his forearms link behind her. You’ve got to hand it to Josh. For a prickly pear, he commits completely to a hug.

“Hi,” he tells her, kissing her cheek. “You look nice.”

“Cutting it a bit close,” the seated man on the pew comments, but I don’t think Josh notices.

Josh’s mom is a little lady, fair hair, with a soft cheek-dimple that I’ve always wished for. Her pale gray eyes are misty when she pulls back to look up at her huge, gorgeous son.

“Oh! Well!” She beams at his compliment and she glances to me. “Is this . . . ?”

“Yes. This is Lucy Hutton. Lucy, this is my mother, Dr. Elaine Templeman.”

“Pleased to meet you, Dr. Templeman.” She’s roping me in for a hug before I can blink.

“Elaine, please. It’s Lucy at last!” she says into my hair. She pulls back and studies me. “Josh, she’s gorgeous!”

“Very gorgeous.”

“Well, I’m going to keep you forever,” she tells me, and I can’t help but break into a dorky grin. The look Josh shoots me is like, see. He wipes his palms on his suit pants and almost has a crazy look in his eye. Maybe he has Churchphobia.

“I’m going to keep her in my pocket. What a doll! Come and sit up front with us here. This is Josh’s father. Anthony, look at this little thing. Anthony, this is Lucy.”

“Nice to meet you,” he replies gravely, and I blink in shock. It’s Joshua on time delay. Still ridiculously handsome, he’s a stately silver fox, gravely upholstered in heavy tailoring. We’re the same height and he’s seated, so he must be an absolute giant when standing. Elaine puts her hand on the side of his neck, and when he looks up at her the faintest smile catches at his lips.

Then he swings his terrifying laser-eyes to me. Genetics never cease to astonish me.

“Nice to meet you,” I return. We stare at each other. Perhaps I should try to charm him. It’s an ancient reflex and I press pause on it. I examine it. Then I decide against it.

“Hello, Joshua,” he says, redirecting his lasers. “Been a while.”

“Hi,” Josh says, and snags me by my wrist, pulling me in to sit between himself and his mother. A buffer. I remind myself to admonish him for it later.

Elaine steps between Anthony’s feet and strokes his hair into a neater formation. Beauty tamed this particular Beast. She sits down and I turn to her.

“You must be so excited. I met Patrick once, under less than pleasant circumstances.”

“Oh, yes, Patrick told me on one of our Sunday phone calls. You were quite unwell, he said. Food poisoning.”

“I think it was a virus,” Josh says, taking my hand and stroking it like an obsessive sorcerer. “And he shouldn’t discuss her symptoms with other people.”

His mother watches him, looks at our joined hands, and smiles.

“Well, whatever it was, I was completely steamrolled by it. He probably won’t even recognize me today. I hope. I was grateful to your sons for getting me through it.”

Elaine glances at Anthony. I’ve brought Josh too close to the big elephant in the room; his lack of a stethoscope.

“The flowers are lovely.” I point to the huge masses of pink lilies on the end of each pew.

Elaine drops her voice to a whisper. “Thank you for coming with him. This is hard for him.” She shoots Josh a worried look.

As mother of the groom, Elaine soon excuses herself to greet Mindy’s parents, and help several terrifyingly old people into their seats. The church is filling up; delighted cries of surprise and laughter filling the air as family and friends reunite.

Frankly, I don’t see what is so difficult about this situation. Everything seems fine. I can’t see anything amiss. Anthony nods to people. Elaine kisses and hugs and lights up everyone she speaks to.

I’m just a little lonely book in between two brooding bookends. Anthony is not the sort of man to appreciate small talk.

I let father and son sit in silence on a polished plank of wood, and I hold Josh’s hand and I have no idea if I’m being remotely useful until he catches my eye.

“Thanks for being here,” he says into my ear. “It’s already easier.”

I mull this over as Elaine takes her seat, and the music starts to play.

Patrick takes his place at the altar, casting a wry glance at his brother, his eyes skating over me as though assessing my recovery. He smiles at his parents and huffs out a breath.

We all stand when Mindy arrives in a big pink marshmallow dress. It’s insanely over the top, but she looks so happy as she walks down the aisle, simultaneously grinning and weeping like a lunatic, so I love it too.

She takes her place in front of Patrick, and I get a good look at her. Holy moly. This woman is stunning. Go, Patrick.

Weddings always end up doing something weird to me. I feel myself getting emotional when their friends read special poems, and the minister reflects on their commitment. I get choked up during their vows. I take the Kleenex offered by Elaine and dab at the corners of my eyes. I watch with suspense as the ring is slid onto each finger, and sigh with relief when they fit perfectly and go on with ease.

And when the magic words you may now kiss the bride are uttered I let out a happy sigh like I’ve seen THE END scrolled over the top of this perfect movie freeze-frame.

I look at Elaine and we both let out identical delighted laughs and begin clapping. The men on either side of us sigh indulgently.

They walk out down the aisle wearing their brand-new gold rings, and everyone stands up, talking and exclaiming until the strains of the ancient organ are almost drowned out. For the first time, I notice some speculative glances at Josh. What gives?

Prev Next