I’d always heard the view from Top of the Mark was exceptional. When San Francisco Life listed the top ten places to view the skyline at night, Top of the Mark was ranked number three, so when the invitation to Harrison’s wedding arrived, I finally had an excuse to take in the view for myself.
Stupid, stupid me. I should have taken a cab up the steep hills to 999 California Street, hopped on the elevator to the nineteenth floor, and looked out the windows. I could have come with or without makeup, and I could have worn jeans and a t-shirt. If I’d brought Mia or Aleena with me, we could have had a nice dinner or dessert. If I’d brought Angus, we could have had both. Since Top of the Mark was built at the crest of Nob Hill, I could have snapped a jaw-dropping photo or two with my iPhone and made the sparkling skyline my screen saver.
But no. I had to come see it on the night my old boyfriend was marrying a 49ers cheerleader named Nicki, who’d had more remodeling than an episode of Property Brothers. She looked like a Who’s Who of Hollywood parts—Scarlett’s nose, Angelina’s lips, and Kim’s cheekbones. Her bias-cut dress clung to her other (ahem) purchased body parts and made me feel very un-girly in comparison.
“Nicki, this is Charlotte.” Harrison looked me level in the eye, and for the first time all evening, I felt an inch of relief that things hadn’t worked out between us. Five-eleven is pretty average for a guy, and Harrison towered over Nicki, even in her stilettos. But the only way he’d ever have been able to look down at me the way he’d looked down at Nicki when they’d exchanged their vows was if he’d stood on a stool. I know it’s not important, and it makes me sound completely shallow, but I read a romance once where the leading man “gazed down at his true love with tender eyes.” Someday, I’d like a guy to gaze down at me with tender eyes. And I’d rather not have to be standing in a hole for that to happen.
“It’s fabulous to finally meet you.” Nicki’s voice was chirpy, and her lips didn’t move quite right. “I want to thank you for breaking his heart”—she puckered up and baby-talked—“so I could put it back together.” She pulled him down by his tuxedo lapel to kiss his cheek, then wiped the red smear away with her acrylic-nailed thumb.
Well, this was awkward. And I wasn’t the only one feeling it. Harrison’s eyes begged me not to set the record straight.
You see, Harrison had broken up with me. “I’m not ready for the whole settling down with one woman thing,” he’d said four short months ago. “You’re ready to get married, and I won’t be ready for that scene for years.”
Maybe he’d meant dog years.
“Congratulations, you two. You make a much better couple than we ever did,” I said, although it stung to admit it.
“Did Will come? I saw Angus a little while ago,” Harrison said. Will is my twin brother. No, his name is not Wilbur, although we’ve been asked if our parents had a thing for Charlotte’s Web more times than I can count. His name is William, and he’s the reason I ended up dating Harrison in the first place.
Our families lived on the same street in Fairfield, but I barely remembered Harrison, who was two years older than us. Nearly a year ago, Will and Harrison had been at the same concert, and Harrison had asked Will if his little sister was still available. Will wasn’t sure if he meant me or McKayla, but since McKayla was already married, he gave Harrison my number. On our first date, Harrison admitted he hadn’t been asking about me, but he was decent enough to say he was glad for the mix-up. And the rest is history.
A short and tragic history, but history nonetheless.
“Will and his wife are in D.C. right now interviewing.” I stepped on my tiptoes and scanned the room over the groom’s head. “I didn’t know Angus was here.”
“I talked to him earlier, but he might have left already,” Harrison said.
I nearly knocked over a waiter as I jumped away from Nicki’s scream. “Look, Kitten. It’s Baxter Kensington. I didn’t think he’d actually come.”
Kitten? Did she really call him that? Harrison’s red face confirmed that yes, she had. “He plays for the 49ers,” he explained, and I nodded.
“I’d better go and make room for the celebrities,” I said, and Harrison grinned. He’d always appreciated my sarcasm, and his cute grin jabbed at my not-quite-healed heart.
“Thanks for coming.” He pulled me into a hug while his bride arranged her dress to best flatter her cleavage and patted the sides of her platinum fauxhawk. “Are things good with us?” he said quietly in my ear.
I pulled away. “Oh sure.”
“I was worried—”
“Nothing to worry about. Go. Be happy.”
I turned away, my eyes stinging, and nearly barreled into one of the most stunning specimens of athleticism I’d ever seen. His pale yellow shirt and silvery gray suit contrasted beautifully with his dark skin. No wonder the bride was swooning about someone other than the groom. Poor Harrison looked like a little boy in comparison.
Ah, one of the hazards of marrying a cheerleader.
Through slightly blurred vision, I saw Harrison put his arm around Nicki. Not too long ago, I’d thought that would be me, though the venue and guest list would have been drastically different.
Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist.
She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.
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