Chapter Thirty Three - The Cliche Ending
"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
-When Harry Met Sally
Ten Months Later
"The fact that you're staying in a hotel is beyond ridiculous," Madison said to me as we walked through Central Park together, a Magnolia Bakery box in her hand, cupcake in another. "There's plenty of space in my parent's house."
"God, I can barely even make it," I said as I scrolled through my e-mails. "I have to present at the next Young Artists Competition the week I get back, and I have three paintings to do by the end of this month..." I trailed off as I kept reading, and made a mental note that I had to pay the rent for my painting space in Midtown. I shook my head after a moment, realizing I had to forget all of that, since I was with Madison. I locked my phone and put it in my bag. "Anyway, yes. I'm acting like an out-of-town snob, but Jake and I are treating the reunion as our anniversary. He got us a room at Riverside. It's where we had prom, remember?"
"How could I forget? Maybe I'll join you for a dance in the ballroom," she said to me.
"Best date ever," I said, holding my cupcake up so she could cheers hers with mine. I looked at the cupcake in her hand and the open box, noticing the amount. "Is that your fourth already? I thought your limit was two."
"Yeah, I skipped lunch, so I'm super hungry."
"Oh, okay," I said as I took a bite of mine and we walked in silence.
"That's a lie," Madison said, stopping me.
I gave her a look as I faced her. "O-kay?"
Madison took a deep breath. "I'm pregnant."
A loud squeal came out of me so fast I wasn't sure where it came from. I covered my mouth with my hands after the cupcake fell out of it. "Oh my god!" I screamed. "Are you serious?" Madison nodded with her eyes squeezed shut and I pulled her into a tight hug. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"It's only two months old! I haven't told anyone yet. Not even Paul."
I pulled away and held her at arm's length. "Oh my god. When did you find out?"
"Earlier today," Madison said as she squeezed her eyes shut and held her head in her hands. "I am so scared."
"Scared?" I said out loud, but then realized why wouldn't she be, the whole delivery process scared the shit out of me, too. I looked around for my fallen cupcake to throw out.
"In seven months I'm going to be a mother. Of a child. Paul and I live in a one bedroom walk-up! We're not physically or emotionally ready for this."
I took a deep breath as I looked at her, and Madison followed my lead. "You have plenty of time to figure out the physical stuff. As for the emotional stuff, your baby can pop out right now and you're gonna be fine. I know that because you're the best friend ever. You're reliable, kind, smart, and you know how to roll with the punches. That is gonna make you an amazing mother."
Madison smiled at me, a tear forming in her eye. She pulled me into a hug. "Thanks, Bev."
"Ah, look at those hormones at work," I joked, and she flicked me on the head and I squeezed her tighter as I laughed. My best friend was pregnant. I was going to be an aunt.
"I love hotel rooms," I said after I dove onto our king-sized bed in the Riverside. "It reminds me of traveling with my dad and going to all these new places." I looked over at him hovering by the bureau that held the television. "Don't you?"
Jake made a noncommittal groan, a slight look of disgust on his face. "I just can't stop thinking about all the other people who have stayed here before us."
I gave him a look. "They clean the room, Jake."
"I've heard horror stories-"
"Nope," I said cutting him off. "You're not gonna gross me out before I've even gone under the sheets."
Jake smiled. "Sorry. Yes, it's a great hotel, I'm sure they're not that gross."
I laughed. "If I had it my way, we would be staying in my childhood home," I said as I sat on the bed cross-legged.
Jake sat on the bed next to me, and I noticed his hesitation. "Why didn't we?"
"My dad sold it after Sean graduated college. Figured it didn't have much use after he moved to Connecticut, and my dad is all over the place anyway." Speaking of Sean, I had to call him and give him my measurements for a bridesmaid's dress for his unnecessary wedding. "Madison even suggested we stay with her, but I think this is much more romantic," I said as I sat next to him and wrapped my arms around his neck.
Jake scrunched his nose. "What's romantic about soiled sheets?"
I rolled my eyes playfully and laughed. "If we have sex on them, would you forget about the problems with these goddamn sheets?"
"It'll definitely help."
A few hours later, as I ate the dinner (and dessert) we ordered from room service, I contemplated never leaving this room. I closed my eyes and savored the flavor from Jake's sorbet that he fed to me. Jake's qualms aside, this place was awesome.
"Let me take a gander of that," Jake said, motioning to the perfection I had ordered for dessert.
I seductively fed him a piece of chocolate cake and giggled. "Look at us, so domestic."
Jake smiled at me and got up as he chewed it. "That is amazing."
I tried it for myself, and I briefly died and went to heaven. "That's it, I'm never leaving." I was in a terrycloth robe eating the best food ever with the best man ever. Screw the reunion. Everything was perfect right here.
Jake came back and sat across from me then, and produced a small velvet box which made my eyes widen and my heart stop. Holy shit. "Jake," I said in a warning tone.
He took a deep breath and opened it. Shit. A diamond ring was in there. Jake grabbed my hand. "Just hear me out." Hearing was about all I could do, since thinking and speaking wasn't really happening. "I know the whole marriage thing freaks you out. And you don't have to say or do anything, I just had an impulse and I went with it." Jake took a deep breath. "I love you so much and I want to spend the rest of my life with you., Bevin. I can't imagine my life without you in it, and I just wanted you to know that this is where I stand," he said, sliding the ring towards me.
I tried not to look at it, treating it as if making direct eye contact would make me turn to stone. Which I felt like, since I could still no longer speak or move. "Jake," I repeated, since it was all I could manage.
"Say something else. Anything else."
A million thoughts started to run through my head as I tried to process everything and respond before Jake thought I was having an aneurysm. So he was proposing. Okay. But it was more of a proposal if I accepted, an idea if I didn't.
I hadn't thought about marriage much, but with Jake, I knew it was inevitable. Jake wanted to marry the person he loved. I was going to be twenty-eight, and Jake had just turned thirty. And along with becoming the head of Randolph Publishing, his parents were starting to wonder when he was going to put a ring on it.
A ring on me. One I still hadn't looked at. I needed more time. "Shower," I blurted out. "I'm gonna take a shower," I said, and sprinted up and into the bathroom before he could respond. I closed the door behind me and ripped off the robe and turned on the water. I felt bad leaving him there without an answer, but he knew how I was. I just needed this time to sort out my thoughts.
Okay. So Jake proposed. Said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I absolutely felt the same way, and if my life could be even a millionth of how amazing the past year was, commitment was my new best friend.
But it hadn't been for so long, which is why I was alone in the bathroom and not jumping for joy, shrieking at my fiancé. Fiancé. Holy shit, Jake would be my fiancé. I smiled slightly at that. It wasn't 'boyfriend,' and it wasn't quite 'husband,' but somewhere in between. I could be Jake's fiancé.
Then I would eventually become his wife. A little over a year ago, being someone's girlfriend gave me the creeps. Now I was on track to being someone's wife? I mean, I didn't have to say yes. He gave me an out. I didn't have to wear the ring or say yes. We could pretend like it never happened, and revisit this at a later time.
But the thought of Jake putting the ring in a lockbox, feeling rejected broke my heart. He took a happy moment between the two of us and wanted to make it into a memorable one. And I had to appreciate him for that.
I could be his fiancé. I could. And I felt as if I wanted to. In time, I knew I would be okay being his wife. At its least romantic, it meant signing a paper, wearing a ring, and entrusting each other with our lives. At its most romantic, it meant being together in a way that he, our families, and I would eventually love.
I smiled to myself. I could be his fiancé. I turned off the water, quickly dried myself, and got back into my robe. When I came outside, I saw him laying on the bed, not facing me. I wondered if he fell asleep. I walked towards the table quietly, and turned the ring in the box, still open, to face me.
If I knew anything about diamond rings, I would notice its cut or its carats. But I knew nothing, except that it was absolutely beautiful. I took the ring out of the box and slipped it onto my left ring finger. I saw Jake jump slightly and look over at me. He smiled widely at me, wider than I had ever seen him smile before.
I took a deep breath. "I could be your fiancé."
Jake bit his lip to contain his smile. "So that's a yes?"
I smiled back at him, his enthusiasm rubbing off on me. "It's a yes."
The next morning, I woke up, immediately aware of the extra weight on my left hand. I held up my hand and stared at the ring, taking it off to see it better as I turned on my side and brought it to where the sunlight was shining in through the window. I noticed the setting was intricate, and upon examining it further, it occurred to me that this ring wasn't new. The Randolph family had enough money to afford traditions. And an heirloom seemed like one of them.
"Having second thoughts?" Jake's voice suddenly said sleepily, jolting me out of my thoughts. He wrapped his arm around me.
"Is this ring new?"
Jake paused as he sat up and rested his chin on my arm. "Define new."
"Was it purchased in the last twenty years?"
I bit my lip, going for the kill. "Hundred?"
Jake paused again. "No."
"Oh my god," I said as I sat up and threw him off of me. "How the fuck was your family okay with giving me this ring? We've only been together for a year!"
"Because it was the only time I asked."
I turned around to face him. "But you were engaged before."
Jake got up with me and shrugged. "Hilary thought heirlooms were stupid and stuffy."
"I could think that."
Jake smiled at me. "So what's the problem?"
"What if I get mugged? Or lose it?"
"Then you lose it. Seriously, what is the problem?"
I let a breath out. "I don't know. But I feel like there should be one with giving me this ring."
"Well there isn't," Jake said as he took the ring and slipped it back on my finger. "It's yours."
I took a deep breath and smiled at him as he kissed my hand. I settled back down and Jake put his arm around me again. "Now all I have to worry about is seeing Mindy today," I said, mentioning the other elephant in the room.
"Ah," Jake said as he kissed my shoulder. "Is that what this is about?"
"No," I said honestly. "It's insane I have a ring worth more than my entire life on my finger." His laugh vibrated on my skin. "But I haven't really thought about it."
"Are you sure she'll even be there?"
"Definitely. She was talking about it a year ago. No way she'd miss it."
"Just about seeing her. After that, it's over. I'm just worried about the initial shock. And god, this ring is gonna blind her across the room." Jake laughed again. "And oh my god, Madison too. I have to call her!" I exclaimed as I got up from the bed. I immediately stopped when I realized Madison had her own big news to deal with, which she was gonna tell Paul about over the weekend. I turned back around towards Jake, the phone in my hand. He was staring at me, probably wondering why I was acting so insane. "Madison's pregnant," I offered as an explanation.
Jake's eyebrows rose. "Yeah?" he said as he sat up on the bed. "Wow. You're gonna be an aunt. And I'm gonna be an uncle!"
I held my hand up. "Slow down, cowboy. It's gotta turn into a fetus first. So do I call her? Does baby trump heirloom in this situation?"
"Baby will always trump heirloom. God, I can't wait until you're pregnant." I froze in place and widened my eyes at him. "Too soon?" he said sheepishly.
"Like I said, slow down cowboy. One milestone at a time."
A couple of hours later, when we met for lunch at our usual hangout spot in high school, Madison squealed as if she wasn't even growing a human inside of her as she held my hand, noticing the ring right away. I wondered if Paul knew, and I swore Jake to secrecy just in case Madison didn't tell him. It was impossible for me to gauge if he did. "Oh my god, this ring is beautiful!"
I shared a smile with Jake. Guess I had to tell people about its origins. "Its, uh, an heirloom."
"Oh, wow. A Randolph engagement ring. How old is it?"
"Old," Jake said, and I laughed at that.
"Kicks my engagement ring's ass. No fair," Madison joked, a pout on her face. "Well, I'm still pregnant, so I've got that on you," she said with a wink.
"You told him?" I said, feeling as if a weight had been lifted.
"You knew?" Paul asked, amused.
I didn't know if it was wrong that the best friend knew before the father, so I quickly made something up. "Guessed it. She ate more cupcakes than usual, so I figured she was eating for two."
Madison laughed and gave me a grateful look. "Bev always knows."
"So how are you guys feeling?" Jake said, jumping in.
"Overwhelmed," Madison said.
"Excited," Paul added after. "We have a lot to do, but we're so happy," Paul said, kissing Madison on her cheek.
"If you're looking for a new place, a buddy of mine from college is a realtor. Can get you a good deal on a house in the five boroughs," Jake said.
"Oh, right. Zach?" I asked, remembering one of his friends from the birthday celebration I had for Jake - a paid weekend in Ithaca for Jake and his college friends with a couple of games thrown in. I remembered one of them saying they worked in real estate.
"Yeah, Zach. He'll help you out, I'll give you his card when we're back in the city."
"That sounds great, Jake, thanks," Madison said with a smile. "We should've made rich friends earlier," she joked to Paul.
Jake laughed. "So have you thought of names?" God, Jake knew the right things to say and ask.
Madison and Paul looked at each other. "Don't worry," I jumped in. "We won't steal them, this oven isn't cooking for a long time," I said, motioning to my stomach.
"You never know," Jake said, rubbing my stomach and I swatted his hand away.
Before I could respond about how these pregnancy references needed to stop as soon as fucking possible, two figures approached our booth. "Hey, guys," I looked up to see Johnny with a beautiful woman, who I presumed was the fiancé that he mentioned during our brunch.
"Johnny!" I exclaimed with a smile. "What are you doing here?"
"Had to show my wife my high school hangout," Johnny said, smiling over at her. I guess they had gotten married in the time between now and then.
"Hello, I'm Bevin," I said and gave her a wave. "This is Jake, Madison, and Paul."
"Catherine, nice to meet you all."
"Would you like to sit?" Jake offered.
Johnny shrugged when Catherine looked over at him. "Sure," he said, and took a seat across from her and next to me.
"Just to be clear," Madison started, "this was our hangout," she said, motioning to the both of us. "The cool kids hung out at Gigi's, not here."
"We went there for lunch yesterday," Catherine said with a smile. "Don't worry, I'm getting caught up."
We all laughed at that. "I'm glad you all decided to come," Johnny said to us.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," I joked.
"Woah," Johnny said, looking over at my hand. With what I now realized was a very obvious ring. "Congratulations."
I smiled over at him. "Thanks. Same to you both, last time we saw Johnny, he was engaged."
"Thank you," Catherine said with a wide smile. "Your ring is stunning."
"It's an heirloom," Madison said, and this time I gave her a grateful look. I would be saying those three words forever, so it was nice to get a little reprieve.
"Yes, thank you so much," I said with a smile. "Look at us. Who would've thought we'd be married, engaged, and pregnant ten years later."
"Who's pregnant?" Johnny asked, looking over at me. I widened my eyes and shook my head, pointing over at Madison. "Congratulations. How far along are you?"
"Nine weeks," Madison said, sharing a look with Paul. I looked around at the six of us, and my words really started to sink in. We had all moved on from whatever happened in high school and grown up. Johnny and Catherine hung around for a couple minutes before leaving us. Madison gave me a humorous look as soon as they were out of earshot. "If it weren't for Mindy, that could've been you."
We walked towards the decorated library later that night. Apparently decking out the gym was too infantile for us mature adults. I remember the library always being beautiful, and it had gotten even bigger and even more so. They cleared out the big tables and inserted smaller, higher ones along with decorations, and people handing out food and champagne. There was a cash bar, but it was yet to be determined if that would be necessary.
"Found us!" Madison exclaimed, handing Jake and me a name tag.
"Thanks," Jake and I said in unison. We all walked inside, and it was then that I spotted the Welcome, Class of 2004 banner. Damn. I was old.
"Does anyone else feel old?"
"I was just thinking that!" I exclaimed. "How has it been ten years?"
Madison shook her head slowly as she surveyed the crowd. "I have no idea."
"I graduated in 2002, so quit your whining," Jake said.
"Yeah, same man. Let's get these youngings some drinks," Paul said. "But just juice for you," he said to Madison, kissing her cheek and grazing her stomach. She blushed at that.
I looked over at Madison. "Remind me why we decided to do this?"
"To show off my handsome husband and your loaded fiancé?" she offered.
I giggled. "Right, yes."
"Kind of upset I can't get drunk at this like you can. So you know what you must do?"
"Stay sober in solidarity?" I said, wincing at the idea. I spotted Larissa Gomez across the hall, former cheerleader, and the thought of talking to her while stone-cold sober stung. But she did have a husband with a beer belly by her side, so maybe it would be tolerable.
"No! You must get drunk enough for the both of us!"
I put my arm around her. "This is why I love you."
"Oh my god! Madison and Bevin! Still stuck at the hip as always! How have you been?" we heard an unfamiliar male voice say, and we turned to see Harold Carson, former head of the band geeks, looking the same as he did ten years ago, and I could tell just how drunk Madison wanted to get.
"This kinda blows," I said to Jake an hour later as we sat back and watched the room. "Sorry you had to come to this."
Jake shrugged. "I don't mind. Plus watching you cringe at everyone who recognizes you is more than worth it."
I laughed. "Do I?"
"Every person," Jake said with a nod. "And when they mention Mindy, forget it." Who I hadn't seen yet. But I knew she was here, people kept mentioning they had seen her and how great she looked.
"I guess I came because she hyped it up so much. Made me think that it was practically obligatory. It is fun, though. See what people look like. What they're up to."
"And a lot of them recognize you for your art."
I smiled over at him. "You know, you were my first fan."
"Yeah?" he asked, brows raised.
"You were the first person who recognized my name and connected it to my cartoons in The New Yorker," I said, missing simpler times for a moment when my biggest concern was a web design or a cartoon. My life was infinitely more awesome, and I often felt like no one deserved to have everything they wanted the way I did ever since the Young Artist's Competition, so I willed that feeling away.
"I'm sure I won't be the last."
I kissed him on the cheek. "Honestly, I feel like I'm done, though. We can head out whenever."
"Are you sure?" Jake asked. "I don't mind staying."
"Nah, Madison texted me saying she felt tired anyway. I actually think she left. Said we should do breakfast tomorrow," I checked my phone. "Yeah, she's gone."
"How about I grab us a couple of glasses of champagne and a plate full of food and then we ditch this place?"
"Why I love you," I said, and he smiled and kissed me before leaving. Problem was, now I was alone. Free for anyone to approach me. I glanced at my phone, ignoring all my reminders about work and just decided to join Jake on his quest. It meant two more hands to hold drinks and food anyway. I grabbed my purse from the table I was leaning on and turned to join him, only to come face-to-face with Mindy, who looked like she meant to come to me.
"Hi," she said to me hesitantly. She didn't look as thin as she had when I left her, but rather a little heavier, which was a normal person's skinny, which made her look even better. Her hair was shorter and highlighted, and she was wearing a black dress that accentuated her curves in a classy way. I know she planned every detail of her look. And she looked awesome.
"Hey," I said, then downed my current flute of champagne. Crass, but necessary.
"Wow," she said, gazing at my left hand as I put the glass down on a table. "So you're engaged to him."
I nodded. "Yeah, it uh, happened last night."
"Congratulations," she said with a slight smile, and I felt like she meant it.
"Thanks. Um, how have you been?"
"Good, good. Got a new job, a new apartment."
"That's awesome, congrats. You look really good."
"You too, Bevin."
"Are you here with anyone?" I asked, cause of course she had to be.
Mindy shook her head. "Nope. Going solo." That was surprising. "I've been single for a while, actually. Getting to know myself and all that."
I smiled at that. "That's great. Good for you." We had a moment of awkward silence, where apparently neither of us could muster up any more small talk.
"Listen, Bevin, I've been doing a lot of thinking since the last time we spoke. I don't wanna get into it now, cause god knows Harold Carson is gonna find me again, but I think I finally get what you meant."
I furrowed my brows. "Get what I meant?"
Mindy nodded. "Yes. I get that for so long, our friendship operated in a certain way that benefitted me but was so shitty for you, and I'm truly sorry for that."
"You got that?" I said, perplexed, unable to do anything else but repeat after her. Was this actually happening?
"Yes. It took me some time, and truthfully some therapy, but I finally understand where you were coming from. God, you were such an amazing friend to me, Bevin. And all I did was mess all of it up."
I just stared at her blankly, processing everything she just said. Did these months of separation have her see light in a way ten years of friendship didn't? And did I even want to get into it? "Um…" I said, but trailed off. Too many surprises in the past day left me even more speechless than before.
"You said you could never trust me again, and I totally get that. I don't deserve anything else from you. But do you maybe think you wanna have a drink right now?"
I looked at her, and remembered the last time I spoke to her. She was so broken, so little, but this wasn't the Mindy I was looking at now. As I had boasted to Jake and others so many times, I noticed things. And maybe it was me being naive, but she did seem different. Single with a new job? Seeking therapy? Telling me she appreciated me? What else could I ask from someone - who I almost literally shook to get the point - who finally got the fucking point? Who finally realized everything I had wanted her to realize? Maybe I couldn't trust her ten months ago, but goddamn a part of me felt like I had to see where this would go. It was only a drink, maybe I would deduce that this still wouldn't work and walk away. But on the other hand, maybe things really were different. Maybe we could finally be adults together.
But then realized that I had a plan to down alcohol and food with Jake. I looked around and found him leaning on a wall, said alcohol and food in hand. He smiled widely at me. Go, he mouthed.
I rose my eyebrows at him. You sure? I mouthed back. Jake nodded at me, still smiling, with a knowing look as if he had predicted this. Damn him for knowing me so well. I love you.
I know, he mouthed at me with a laugh.
I smiled widely at him and looked back at Mindy, oblivious to our exchange. "Yeah, a drink sounds great," I said, and she led us to the bar.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who read this story! Hope you enjoyed it! Also posted the first chapter of my new story, check it out if you'd like! :)