Maid of Honor
"Jimmy, you're not nervous?" Sheen asked as he rolled up the sleeves on his hoodie, exposing his tattoo-covered arms.
"Nervous?" Jimmy chuckled, pushing back the long hair he usually wore in a ponytail. "Why would I be nervous? I'm just marrying Cindy. I know she was an annoying little girl at one time, but things are different now. She's kind, sweet, and not verbally abusive to me any more."
"Yeah, she takes it all out on us," a taller, wider Carl piped in.
Jimmy had just returned to Retroville for the summer, so he and Cindy could get married in front of their family and friends. He decided to stay at the apartment Sheen and Carl shared in downtown Retroville instead of at his parents' house. The boys sat around a table playing poker, just two days before Jimmy and Cindy's wedding.
"You won't see me throwing my life away on some dumb girl," Sheen said as he began dealing a stack of playing cards. He was in his mid-twenties and tall and lanky as ever. Sheen had a pierced lip, eyebrow and lots of different sized rings running down the sides of each ear.
"Somebody's bitter," Carl sang under his breath.
"Dammit Carl, shut your hole!" Sheen yelled.
He had broken up with Libby over five years ago and had missed her every day since. Sheen had spent the last few years kicking around Retroville. He had gotten into some trouble in his late teens, but nothing Jimmy and Carl couldn't bail him out of. He was now a part-time student at the community college and hopped from minimum wage job to minimum-wage job. Most of the time he could barely pay his half of the rent. Sheen had let Libby go because he knew he couldn't give her the future she deserved and she'd be better off without him.
It was a week before their senior prom when Sheen told Libby they were through. He did it the fastest and most painless way he could think of; which was over the telephone. It was the hardest thing he ever did.
Jimmy cleared his throat. "That
reminds me, Libby just came in from
"I...I don't think so," Jimmy stuttered. "Cindy said she's in her third year at UNLV."
"Oh," was Sheen's only response. Apparently Libby was doing fine without him. His heart sank. All the energy was suddenly gone from the room and it was filled with awkward silence as the boys looked at the cards they had been dealt.
"Okay guys, here's the deal," Jimmy said, trying to get the conversation going again. "Since I can't decide which of you to pick as my best man, I'm going to split the duties between you two. Carl, you can handle all the things that go on at the ceremony."
Carl timidly raised his hand. "I won't have to say 'I have the ring' will I? I've been traumatized enough as it is."
"Of course not Carl," Jimmy said reassuringly. "And Sheen--I know I'm gonna regret this--but I want you to give the speech at the reception."
Girl, I've been your best friend for how long? And you make me wear this?" Libby said as she looked at herself in the mirror at the dress shop and smoothed out her lilac satin bridesmaid gown. She fussed with her long, loose black curls. "Least my hair looks good."
"I think it looks cute on you," Cindy replied as she pushed Libby to the side in order to get a look at herself in the mirror. She wore a strapless white dress and had her blond hair down for once. "But it is a bridesmaid's dress, you're not supposed to like it."
"I'm so excited for you and Jimmy," Libby said as she sat down and rested her elbows on her knees. "We all knew this was gonna happen someday."
"Actually I always thought you'd be doing this before me," Cindy blurted out thoughtlessly while adjusting her dress; regretting it the instant she said it. She looked down at Libby and saw the pain in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
"It's okay," she replied, wiping her eyes to prevent her mascara from running. "Me and Sheen are history. Everybody knows it."
"Don't cry," Cindy said as she sat down next to Libby, who was trying desperately to hold back her tears. "He's so not worth it. You're bright and gorgeous. He never deserved you to begin with."
"I know I should be over him," she said, lightly wiping her eyes. "But why does it still hurt so bad after all these years?"
Work, school and being hundreds of miles away had only dulled the pain. Libby had gone out with quite a few guys on and off campus, but none of them made her as happy as Sheen had.
The ceremony was held on a clear Saturday morning in the park. Cindy adjusted her veil and tiara while Libby carefully looked her over from head to toe, making sure everything was perfect.
"I almost forgot," Cindy said, pulling a necklace from her jewelry case. "Something old."
"It's beautiful," Libby whispered in awe as she helped Cindy put on her diamond necklace with a single, very special pearl in the center.
"Hey Cindy!" Jimmy shouted from a distance.
Cindy jumped behind Libby and tried to stay hidden. "It's bad luck for Jimmy to see me before the ceremony," she hissed.
Libby squinted across the clearing where rows of chairs had been set up for the ceremony. She saw Jimmy, Carl and Sheen all looking a bit tired as they made their way across the park in their tuxedos. As the boys got closer, Libby could see all of Sheen's piercings and a tattoo on his neck that his white collared shirt didn't cover. With all the electric shocks Sheen had received as a kid, none of his body art surprised her. He had always been into pain.
"Sweet bachelor party Jim," Carl said, as he tried to keep up with his friends.
"Thanks Carl," Jimmy replied.
"Dang!" Sheen said loudly as he rubbed his eyes. "Jimmy, I thought you would've invented the cure for a freakin' hangover by now!"
The guys made their way to where Libby was standing with Cindy leaning behind her.
"Great to see you again Libby," Jimmy said with a smile.
"Congratulations Jimmy," she replied just as she made eye contact with the person standing behind him. "Carl!" she squealed.
"Hi Libby," he said softly right before she jumped up and hugged him, causing Cindy to tumble to the ground
"Sheen," Libby replied, sounding just as frigid.
It hurt Libby to look at Sheen. He was even more good-looking than she remembered. The spastic little kid with the cute accent was now a smooth rebel with a cute accent. Sheen spent the whole morning pretending Libby wasn't there, even though she watched her from the corner of his eye every chance he had.
Sheen lit a cigarette and sat on a park bench next to Carl. "Look at her over there," Sheen said, pointing to a group of women from the bridal party huddled around Cindy. "Just as sexy as I remember her."
"Yeah, Jimmy's mom still looks good for her age," Carl happily sighed.
"For crying out loud, not her!" Sheen shouted. "Libby!"
"She's pretty too I guess," Carl mumbled.
"I woke up next to a lot of girls these past few years," he said, blowing smoke in Carl's face, "but she was all I could ever think about."
"Then tell her that," Carl replied. "Okay, well maybe not the part about waking up next to a lot of girls, but you could tell Libby you still like her."
"No way," he said, angrily flicking the butt of his lit cigarette on the path. "I'm not any more worthy of her now than I was before," he sighed.
The guests started arriving shortly after and the ceremony went on without a problem, aside from Carl accidentally swallowing the ring and Sheen desperately trying to get him to cough it up. During the vows they wrote themselves, Jimmy promised never to lock himself up in his lab and ignore Cindy; while she promised never to call him "Nerdtron" again.
After the ceremony everyone gathered at the reception hall. There were pink and white flowers everywhere and tiny pairs of holographic doves fluttered around the room. Libby rushed over to a large group of girls she and Cindy had gone to school with and talked with them excitedly for a while. Sheen made his way over to the bar and ordered what would be the first of many drinks.
Libby was glad the ceremony was over. It was nice seeing all her old friends from school and there were so many people at the reception, she would be able to avoid Sheen all evening. She was finally enjoying herself after a rough day--until she began chatting with Jimmy's mom.
"Libby, it's so nice to see you again," Judy Neutron said cheerfully, holding a glass of white wine in her hand and Jimmy's dad on her arm. "What have you been up to?"
"I've been going to school in
"Oh," Judy replied; a look of disappointment and disgust spread across her face.
"But I'm not a..." before she could finish speaking Judy and Hugh had turned their backs and walked away.
"Can you believe it?" Judy whispered to Hugh, just loud enough for Libby to hear. "Our new daughter-in-law's best friends with an exotic dancer."
Libby collapsed on a nearby chair and watched Jimmy and Cindy chatting with their guests. She saw Judy glance over at her nervously and whisper something to Mrs. Vortex that caused her to peer over at Libby. Hugh, standing up against a wall, mumbled something to the now retired Principal Willoughby that was overheard by an elderly Ms. Fowl. Her former teacher glimpsed at Libby sadly and shook her head.
Sometime later, a nervous Carl tapped her on the shoulder. "Dance with me Libby?" he asked, extending his hand to her. "I mean I know you like to dance, and I don't have anyone to dance with. So will you?"
"Of course," she replied sweetly.
Carl led her out to the dance floor, where Cindy and Jimmy clung to each other during a slow song. Libby put her arm around the burly Carl. She rested her head on his chest. It felt so comforting to be held by an old friend. She had started a new life in another state, but she had never felt so alone since she came back to Retroville.
Libby began weeping into his lapel. "You okay?" Carl whispered as they continued slow dancing.
"First of all," Libby said with a sniffle. "Just about everyone in this room thinks I'm a stripper, but I'm not and no one will let me explain myself. Yeah, I dance in a show, but I keep my clothes on."
"Just about everyone in this room thinks I'm a little on the queer-side, but I don't let it get to me." Carl said, holding Libby closer. "I know I'm not. Who cares what they think, right? But that can't be all that's bothering you. Is it?"
"You're his roommate and one of his best friends," Libby said, wanting to burst into tears, but trying to keep her composure. "I know I should just let it go, but why did Sheen break up with me?"
"Libby, he only did what he thought was best for you," Carl replied. "He didn't want to hold you back."
The song ended and Carl and Libby let go of each other. Carl pointed to his watch and dashed to the front of the room where Jimmy and Sheen were standing. Libby waved goodbye to Carl, still thinking about what he had just told her. She thought she saw Carl whispering something in Sheen's ear, but Britney had started jumping up and down, trying to get her attention. Libby had seen her earlier, but hadn't gotten a chance to chat with her. She was dying to know how Britney had talked Nick into being her date for tonight.
Sheen stepped up to the microphone with a stack of index cards in his hand, ready to give his speech. He shuffled the cards around, looked at them briefly and then threw them to the floor. "We're here today to celebrate the marriage of Jimmy and Cindy," he began, "and for the free food, booze and pastel after-dinner mints. When Jimmy and Cindy first met, all they ever did was argue and berate each other; and for the most part, very little has changed since then. I, as one of the groom's oldest friends--and someone the bride couldn't care less about--wish them all the best in their marriage. May they be together for as long as they can stand each other. And for the record, Libby's not a stripper!" he finished yelling, slamming his fist down on the podium. "Thank you!"
The room went silent. Almost everyone's jaws had dropped. Sheen surveyed the crowd, during a few moments of stunned silence. Carl broke the hush by clapping his hands slowly. Jimmy and Cindy followed his lead. Libby's cheeks turned pink; all eyes were on her. She looked up at Sheen with both passion and rage. He had made a scene that caused everyone at the reception to stare at her, but he had done it to defend her honor.
Sheen marched away from the microphone and chugged a glass of wine before he stormed out of the reception hall.
"You shouldn't be out here," Libby said as she sat down next to Sheen. "You're one of the best men. You should be in there with your boys."
His hair shot out in every direction and his tie had come undone. He had a lit cigarette in one hand. Libby was looking equally burnt out from Jimmy and Cindy's wedding day. Her lipstick had rubbed off during dinner and her corsage had wilted.
"I was gonna go in and do some shots with Bolbi," Sheen said, avoiding Libby's gaze. "Gotta have some fun tonight and that foreign kid can drink!"
"If you danced with me, that might be fun," Libby said softly as she took Sheen's hand. "I owe you one."
"What for?" he asked, wriggling his hand free from hers.
"Once again you stood up for me," she said, taking his hand again and lacing her fingers between with his. "I met a lot of guys since I left and not one of them would've done for me what you did tonight."
"Carl told me everything. I had to set things straight," Sheen said with a shrug before Libby's last sentence fazed him. He looked at her with an upraised eyebrow. "A lot of guys? Like how many?"
"So what have you been up to these past five years?" Libby asked cheerfully, trying to change the subject. She ran her fingers through his hair.
He looked away from her and took a drag on his cigarette. "Drugs," he said with a small laugh. "Lots of drugs. Baby girl, I was a mess without you. But I don't do that anymore. Man, if you thought I was twitchy as a kid, you should've seen me then."
"We had some fun times when we were kids," Libby sighed with a slight smile on her face. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Remember the first time we made out?"
"Yeah, in the backseat of the rocket while Jimmy and Cindy were arguing and Carl was being sick," Sheen responded, then flicked the butt of his cigarette off in the distance. "Remember that time your mom kicked you out of the house because you wouldn't break up with me like she wanted?" He joked.
Sheen reminding Libby of such a frightening time in her life startled her. She punched him in the arm out of a touch of anger.
"That wasn't funny," She said through clenched teeth. "I was sixteen. I was so scared."
He rubbed his arm. "And where was I?" he snapped, pretending to be insulted. "I was right there by your side the whole time."
"Until you broke up with me," she scoffed. "What about prom night? Where were you then?"
He couldn't reply. Sheen stared down at his shoes. He had always thought Libby was over him; but for the first time in his life, Sheen felt guilty for leaving her.
"I had to go to prom with Carl," she said, with a little laughter returning to her voice as her temper cooled.
"Did he score?" He teased.
"Eww," Libby giggled, nudging Sheen. "No!"
He turned and looked into her dazzling brown eyes and kissed her. It was just as sweet as the first time they had kissed. They were frisky teenagers all over again; not the jaded twenty-somethings they had become. It was like nothing had ever changed between them.
"You got your tongue pierced!" Libby squeaked after they broke apart from their kiss.
Sheen grinned. "You like?"
"I like," she replied with a smile; wrapping her arms around him. "And I still like you."
"Like?" he said as he lifted
her up off the ground and
whirled her around. "Libby, I never stopped loving you.