Gretchen sat outside drinking a glass of champagne. She was going to need to go back in soon and give her toast. She was the "Best Maid" after all. She still wasn't thrilled with the title but what were you going to do? She wasn't Maid of Honor, that was the bride's best friend. And even though she was the groom's best friend Best Man didn't quite work. And Best Woman sounded just as bad as Best Maid. So Best Maid it became.
Always the Best Maid, never the bride. Always the best friend never the girl friend. That was the truth of it.
If this was a movie this would be the moment. As she sat on the steps looking at her glass of champagne Teddy would walk out and sit next to her and say...
"Hey, what's up? The party's inside."
Gretch jumped and then laughed, "Hey, Pete. I'm just thinking about my toast. I have one tonight and then another tomorrow to do. Why a rehearsal dinner and wedding toast? Who ever came up with the idea of multiple toasts anyway?"
She laughed, "Probably true." she took a sip of her drink and then held it up to watch the bubbles crawl along the glass to the top.
Pete watched her for a second, "You okay?"
She gave him a small smile and shrugged her shoulders, "This is really it, you know? After all of these years, this is it."
"You were still holding out hope?"
"No, not really. Well, maybe. I thought I was over it, you know? I really did. But I guess maybe part of me is still 12 and still waiting."
"Spin the bottle at Janine's birthday party."
She laughed again, "Yes, that moment. When the bottle landed on me and he kissed me and I thought everything changed."
"And it did."
"For me. Sure. From there it lead to my 16th birthday where I thought, this is the time he notices me. This is where it changes. Instead he got together with Cathy Downing. Then junior prom, the first time he saw me in my dress with the hair and the makeup and I knew that would be the moment the music would swell and he would see that I was perfect for him. Instead he and Cathy were Junior Prom King and Queen.
Senior year Homecoming, he and Cathy had broken up over the summer so this was going to be the time. He and I were going as friends but I was sure he would change his mind. He did. He and Cathy got back together and I ended up needing a ride home because he forgot about me. Thanks, by the way, it was very gallant of you to come to my rescue. I remember cramming in to the back seat of your Mazda. Yards of tulle, I looked like a sad birthday cake. Who was your date again?"
"Yes! Lynette! She just wanted to go to Jamie's party and was not happy with the detour to take me home first. I can remember her stage whispering to you about a cab!"
"Yeah, that was my last date with Lynette. She hooked up with George Gorston at that party and that was it for me."
"She wasn't good enough for you anyway. Mean little thing."
Pete laughed, "Maybe. She never liked playing side kick to The Three Musketeers anyway."
"Is that what she called us?"
"Among other things, yeah."
Gretchen sighed, "I spent my entire teenage years waiting to act out my John Hughes movie moment. And it never came. He never saw me as anything more than his best friend. And I really thought I was over all of that and fine. Right up until he called to tell me he needed to see me that he had realized something really important and he had to talk to me about it. I knew he was engaged to Shelly. The wedding was being planned. I had the save the date card and registry information. It had been years since I had even thought about those moments. But that call..."
"Yes, I remember we had lunch the day you were going to get drinks. You couldn't concentrate on anything on your plate. Too nervous about seeing him that night. I knew what he was going to tell you and you kept trying to get it out of me. You were playful and teasing and just wanted to know what the big surprise was. I should have told you. When you called that night so mad, I wished that I had warned you. But I didn't think..."
"You didn't know what I was thinking. How could you? Why would a rational person think he was going to tell me that he realized that I was the one instead of the one he wanted to be his Best Maid? And honestly after all of these years why would I even want him to say something like that? You know? In the movies you see the moment where the star crossed lovers finally end up together. She leaves her betrothed at the altar or he does and the happy couple rides off in to the sunset together. But what sort of people do that? I mean, Shelly is awesome. If he could leave someone as wonderful as that why would I want him? And why would he want someone who wished to break someone else's heart like that? Movies never talk about the details. That happily ever after only means for a few minutes until the reality of what they've done sets in."
"That's why they are movies. Real life is messy."
"True. And I am happy for him. I really am. And I do love Shelly, she's great. And they are going to have beautiful babies and a perfect life and I will be Auntie Gretch and you will be Uncle Pete and everyone really will live happily ever after. Right? But for now I just need to give up that one last John Hughes wish and go inside and make a toast to the happy couple. The Best Maid's work is never done."
With that Gretchen stood up and started inside, "You coming?"
"Just a minute, I need to check my messages."
Pete watched her straighten her shoulders and walk back inside. Prepared to give her toast to the boy who held her heart since 6th grade. Spin the bottle wasn't the only game they played at Janine's birthday party. There was also 7 Minutes in Heaven. That time it was Pete and Gretchen that had been paired. And they spent 7 minutes in a dark closet while Pete wondered if she would ever stop talking about Teddy long enough that he could kiss her.
He'd spent the last 15 years playing that game. Maybe tonight would be the night she would notice.