“A Conch Wedding, Part Deux” by Brittany Durk

"A Conch Wedding," because Jen was marrying Nick, and we were all in Atlanta for a week of partying; "Conch" because that's what the girls and I called ourselves, due to a spring break spent in Key West, otherwise known as the Conch Republic; Part Deux because I had been the first Conch to bite the big one. Truth be told, I was missing my divorce hearing for the wedding; a Circle of Life, I'd say. So far this trip had been filled with drunken hilariousness, but there was an underlying tone of despair. Not only were we sad that our once wild and carefree Jen was settling down, but we weren't too sure about the guy she was marrying. Apparently he had a small drug problem, and we hadn't seen much affection between the two of them, so we were more than a little wary. Jen hadn't been too forthcoming with us in regards to Nick's shortcomings, either. Whatever the case, no matter if she had shared with us or not, you can't change fate. She was going to marry Nick anyhow and all we could do was be there for her and try our best to like him.

Soon the Day of Reckoning was upon us. The pictures of us standing at the altar were priceless: Megan, picture perfect as usual, the eternal actress; Linda, looking as if she wanted to throw down with the groom (which I know she did); me, dazed and confused; Lisa, making eyes at her boyfriend; Jen's sister–in-law Kristi, also looking as though she wanted to punch the groom; and last but not least, Anna, the groom's sister, strangely hopeful. Was she thinking that perhaps Jen could save Nick from himself? Who knew; maybe she could.

The wedding reception consisted of dancing, more drinking, and me trying to get with one of the groomsmen. I thought I was going to be victorious, when all of a sudden he disappeared without a trace. Dammit. Another one bites the dust, I suppose. At least I was adequately lubricated to deal with the heartache. No one had seen Nick all night, including Jen, and I was trying to steer clear of that drama as well.

"Oh, it's you! Did you find a place for us to go?" I asked, resigned to the fact that the rest of my night would include Daniel (Nick's brother) drunkenly following me around, me being depressed over Chris and, of course, more alcohol. One of Daniel's friends joined us for the plan making. I recognized him as the guy who'd drunkenly invited me to after bar while I was talking with Chris earlier. I think I called him Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger or something. Chris had laughed, telling me that at least I had plans for later that night, if all else fell through. Little did I know he would be the thing to fall through and I would be stuck with this fucking freak, the drunkest man alive.

After much debate, we decided to head back to the hotel bar. When it was my turn to crawl into the shuttle, the only seat left was next to Daniel, and his loser friend. The loser friend had managed to sneak a double of scotch for the ride. I muttered something about Southern men and their scotch. Daniel heard me and took that as an invitation to start talking again. He asked if I liked wine; I told him I did, I enjoyed Italian wines. He told me he had been to Italy. I imagined him in his polo shirt and khaki shorts, loafers with no socks, drinking wine from a carafe in Tuscany. Somehow it didn't all fit together. I giggled to myself, his Southern drawl in a sea of Italian accents. My thoughts were interrupted by his friend, whose name I found out was Peter, screaming at the driver to play some "mother fucking Widespread Panic." "Didn't he know they were from Georgia?" "Where was the mother fucking Widespread Panic?" I giggled until Daniel made the mistake of touching my leg, full palm. I wiped his hand off of my knee and told him I didn't think he needed to drink anymore.

Once at the hotel, the bartender was closing up and wouldn't let us order glasses of wine anymore, so Peter (aka Ralph Lauren, Widespread Panic) bought a few bottles. I was a little surprised that Daniel hadn't offered to buy, but he was so drunk at that point it was a miracle he could stand.

Speaking of Daniel, I finally called him on his weird staring habit. "What?"

"What, Brittany?" he asked back with that glazed look on his face.

I sighed; this could go on all night. I decided to attempt conversation. "So what's a day like in the life of Daniel?"

He laughed drunkenly, then stared blankly into space. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. "Well," he said after a very pregnant pause,"work, golf, family, that's really it."

He wasn't giving me much to go off of, although I can't imagine what else I thought he might say. Daniel was the type of guy who would run for President someday; reminded me of a young Bill Clinton, only not as smooth. I was about to excuse myself to the ladies room when David (Nick's dad) slid a hand around my waist and laid a sloppy kiss on my cheek. I caught his wife's eye in the distance, playing warden, although I couldn't blame her. David asked me for the twentieth time if I was having a good time. After assuring him that I was, I escaped to the bathroom to stare at myself in the mirror, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me that a nice guy like Chris would run away from me, but guys like David and Daniel couldn't seem to get enough of me. I felt like Marilyn Monroe, always attracting the wrong type of man. Maybe I had a sign on my forehead that read "damaged" or "easy" or some other warning that made available men run out of my path.

When I sat back down at the bar, Peter swooped in. Make that available men who weren't ass holes. "Hey, baby, gimme a cigarette," he whined, stroking my arm with his forefinger.

I grimaced and slapped his hand away. "I don't have any."

"I can see them in your purse!" He pointed out, indignant.

"Well, the one that I would have given you is gone, so you're out of luck. Ask someone else," I muttered back and took a sip (gulp) of wine.

He checked out the people at the bar, calculating who else might give him one. "Baby, ask that gay guy if I can bum a smoke."

He hadn't even tried to be quiet, and the guy was sitting two bar stools away. "Stop calling me baby! And you don't know if that guy is gay or not, you can't say things like that! I hope you get your ass kicked," I whispered furiously in his ear.

"What? That asshole is totally gay! Look at him," he pointed. I grabbed his finger as he smiled slyly at me, like a damn fifth grader.

"Well, you can ask him yourself."

Peter turned on the charm and the guy gave him a handful of Capris. Must be nice to have been raised Southern, used to getting whatever you want and charming the hell out of people when it's not so easy. We walked outside and sat down on the pavement.

I spotted a golf cart. "Wouldn't it be fun to cruise around the grounds in that?"

Daniel immediately rose from his own spot on the pavement, grabbed me by both hands and dragged me over to the golf cart.

"Daniel, what are you doing?" I cried, as everyone stared on in amazement, except Peter, who was laughing his ass off. Daniel didn't answer, only unzipped the plastic cover on the cart, took a seat inside and started fiddling around.

"Hey man, you might want these. Not going to get very far without them." The shuttle driver had seen Daniel and was waving the cart keys in the air, laughing.

"Get in," Daniel winked at me as the cart started to roll backwards.

"Oh my God, it's moving! Get out of there, you're going to get into trouble!" He wasn't ever going to be President carrying on like he was, that was for sure. Who would have ever thought a conservative Southern void would know how to hotwire a golf cart? Although I suppose if there was anything he would know how to hotwire, a golf cart would be it. He laughed with more than a trace of cockiness and stepped out of the cart. I walked past him to go to the bar for more wine.

After bribing the bartender with a twenty for a glass of wine, I complained to Linda about my unlucky evening. I think she thought I was going to make out with Daniel or something. She and I stepped out again, just as Daniel climbed into a cab. About time. I noticed Peter, though, was not joining him.

"Aren't you leaving, too?" I asked rudely.

He winked at me (damn those Southern men with their winks and their baby's) and drawled," Nah, I'm staying in y'all's room."

"The hell you are!" My southern diva was coming out. "You need to get a cab to take your drunk ass home. No way are you staying in our room!"

Linda laughed and said, "Oh fuck no," while walking away, leaving me to deal with the impending disaster.

"C'mon, I'll sleep on the floor! Let me stay in your room. We can order pizza!" He persuaded suavely.

More words were spoken or yelled, I think I blacked out or Peter cast some sort of spell on me, because suddenly I heard myself saying, "Fine, fine! You can stay in our room, but you're sleeping on the cot. Don't look at us, smell us, touch us, nothing. Dammit, you better not piss me off, I swear to God! I will make you get your own room! And you better order me a pizza!"

We walked up to the front desk to get Peter a blanket, and to find out where we could order a pizza at three in the morning; apparently nowhere. Peter kept cussing at the lady at the front desk; I kept cussing at him for being so rude. He kept calling me baby; I kept freaking out on him. I swear the lady working the desk must have thought we were married or something. Linda had ditched us. She said she was going to keep drinking for a while, but I had had it with the whole night and wanted to sleep. Peter kept whining about how he wanted some drugs and he was going to call Mr. Hathaway.

"Daniel?" I'd asked in shock.

"No, Nicholas," he slurred. "I need some fuckin' coke, baby."

"Leave the man alone, for Chrissake, it's his wedding night," I snapped on him.

"No, no, no you don't! Get your ass up and pull out the cot! Get off my bed right now!" I shrieked as Peter plopped down on the bed, discarding his shoes, sports coat and Ralph Lauren tie.

"Relax, baby," he murmured, eyeing me suggestively.

"Dude, get the fuck up and stop looking at me like that! Order me my pizza, I'm fucking hungry!" I snapped.

He sighed and picked up his phone. After being on hold for awhile, he threw the phone at me. "I'm drunk. You talk." Then he fell back down onto the bed.

I huffed in anger and waited for the options over the phone. It was asking for his account number. I threw the phone back at him. "I'm not your wife. I don't know your credit card number. Who are you calling anyways? Why don't you just call Information?"

"It's my American Express card. They can get you anything, anytime, anywhere, baby. Wait and see." Another wink, and I guess I didn't realize rich people have means poor folks like me don't. I have directory assistance, Peter had concierge service with American Express.

After cussing out three different people at American Express, including one manager, Peter finally got hung up on for requesting a pepperoni pizza, a bottle of red wine and some cocaine. The woman on the line asked him if he also wanted the number to the police station because that was who she planned on calling next. I laughed my ass off; Peter may have been an asshole but he was entertaining. Linda had ordered this weird BLT pizza for lunch that day and I remembered I had three slices left in the hotel fridge. I thought it tasted like a Cousin's sub. I had no desire to finish it, but Peter and I were so drunk and hungry we did anyhow. Guess what he said? "This pizza tastes like a Cousin's sub."

I‘d yelled at Peter so much in our brief time together that night, I think I managed to subdue him, but I didn't want him to pass out on my bed. After more nagging, I realized it was a losing battle and went to change into some comfortable clothes. Of course I couldn't get my dress unzipped so I had to ask him to help, which sucked because he, I'm sure, took it the wrong way. I followed up with a slew of insults to set him straight in any case.

When I came out of the bathroom in a t-shirt and gym shorts, I sat opposite from him on the bed. Good thing it was a king sized; he was sprawled all over the damn place and I was hanging off the edge. I wondered if he could feel my rage from where he was laying. He turned an eye towards me and said, "Hey baby. What are you wearing over there?"

I sighed. My endless attempts at getting him to stop calling me "baby" had failed, so I gave up trying. Maybe it was a Southern thing; maybe they just called everyone "baby." I was being such a jerk to him it would be a wonder if he was truly still hitting on me anyhow. I decided to loosen up and responded, "Pajamas. I couldn't sit around in that dress for one more minute. Check this out."

In an effort to become a little less than enemies, I tried to strike up a conversation about the fun he missed by not attending the bachelor/bachelorette party. I started by showing him the massive bruise on my leg. During a game of ladder golf and an impromptu bathroom break, I had fallen down a hill, taken out two people, the game, and ended up with a wedge sandal up my butt. He rolled over and looked at my leg while I told him the whole story. He laughed, but then made the mistake of taking his hand and caressing my leg with it.

I slapped his hand away. "Don't fucking touch me!"

"Then get your sexy legs out of my face!" He shot back. If he were anyone else, this would have seemed like foreplay, but I was still depressed over Chris and so annoyed with Peter, I was about to kick him out of the room for good.

Red in the face, I sputtered, "What? They're not in your face. Pull out the cot!"

He ignored me and played with his phone. I pulled out my own and started texting Linda furiously, asking her where the fuck she was, please come up and rescue me, etcetera. All of a sudden, Peter threw his phone down and said, "Dammit!"

"What now?" I asked through clenched teeth.

He sat up and leaned against the headboard. "You know, you're really beautiful… but Goddammit, you're an asshole!" He shouted, getting louder with each word.

I was stunned speechless as he stared me down. I gathered my wits and shouted back, "Me? I'm the asshole? You're an asshole, not me! And who calls a girl an asshole anyways?"

"Well, that's what you are!" He snatched the room phone and dialed the operator. "Yes, I'm in room 332 with an asshole and I need my own room. I can't stand another minute with this woman. Dammit, I don't care if the hotel is full, I will sleep on the floor. She's going to kill me in my sleep!"

This went on for another minute or two, and had the appropriate affect; me laughing until my sides hurt, my head shoved in a pillow. When Peter hung up the phone, I giggled, "Fuck you."

Peter snorted back, "The chick asked if I was having issues with the Misses!"

He stood up and kept it going by announcing, "I can't take this anymore. I don't deserve to be treated this way. I'm leaving!"

I laughed out loud as I said, "Good! Leave then. Get your own damn room!"

Peter stood up and walked towards the door, sans jacket, tie and shoes. I heard a door slam, but looked up in time to see in the mirror across from me that he had walked into the bathroom. He'd opened the door a crack to see if I was watching.

"I can see you, idiot!" I rolled my eyes. "The door is to your left!"

He walked back out and frowned. "Why do you have to be so mean?"

He settled back onto the bed and asked, "So, asshole, what's your story?"

Since I no longer felt the threat of molestation, I gave in and started talking. I told him I was a writer, had just gone through a divorce, that I was moving to New York to start over. He told me he worked for Nick's dad and loved his job, golfed, of course, and loved David Sedaris. Funny, I didn't even think he could read. Finally, Linda entered and headed straight for the cot.

"Linda, no! You're sleeping in the bed honey, he was just moving. Get up," I hissed at Peter, who continued to lay there like a sack of potatoes.

Linda proceeded to pull out the cot and fell into it, fully clothed. I sighed. She would most likely pass out in three minutes. I walked over and knelt down beside her.

"Linda, Peter is sleeping on the cot. Come on, I'll help you get out of this dress."

I stroked her hair with one hand as she started crying. "My best friend has just made the biggest mistake of her life, and there's nothing I can do about it," she moaned.

I took a deep breath. "I know honey, I know. It'll all be okay."

She looked up at me. "How?"

"I don't know, it just will. It has to be. Things work out however they're supposed to, but there's nothing we can do about it."

"I know," she whispered and fell into dreamland.

I shot Peter a look, though he pretended not to see me as I walked past him and into the bathroom. When I got out, I turned on the TV and began looking for a movie.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Getting a movie, can't sleep now. Your friend Nick better not fuck my friend over," I added as I stared at the list of movies available for rental.

Peter was quiet for a minute. "What movie are you getting?"

"He's Just Not That Into You," I replied and pressed purchase on the remote, fifteen dollars for a couple of hours of mindless activity. A fitting movie for my night.

"Total chick flick."

"Yeah, I'm a romantic, what can I say?" Jaded, cynical me.

"Me, too," he said back in a surprisingly honest tone. I looked over at him with one eyebrow raised, but he'd finally passed out.

The next morning, I opened one eye and felt around to make sure Peter hadn't ventured towards my side of the bed. He hadn't; he'd stayed on top of the covers on his side, I was safely tucked in on mine. I gave him a small bit of credit. Maybe he wasn't such a jerk, maybe he was just drunk and didn't feel like going home, or going home to be alone. Maybe we had all been in a weird place after witnessing the wedding that never should have been.

"I feel like hammered shit," he groaned to confirm that he was, indeed, joining the land of the living.

"Me, too. I think I'm still drunk." I buried my head back in the pillow and cursed that last glass of Merlot.

Linda stood up in her wrinkly taffeta dress, hair everywhere. "What time is it?

Before I could answer her, Peter picked up his phone to call someone. "Hey Mama! Happy Mother's Day..."

Oh, shit! I'd almost forgotten. I was going to take my mother out for dinner after flying home that night, probably with one of the more noteworthy hangovers of my drinking career. These Southern boys cracked me up. Peter, sleeping in a stranger's room after a night filled with bad behavior, still calling his mother first thing in the morning. Were they all Mama's boys? I snickered as he glared at me to shut up.

After he hung up, he rolled over and looked around the room. "Who took my tie off last night?"

Just as I was about to say something smart like how I would rather kill myself than have taken off one article of his clothing, he went on dryly, "Don't worry, honey. I know it wasn't you!"

I smirked; even with a hangover he was funny. I relaxed once more and felt bad for coming down so hard on him. "Sorry for being such a jerk last night. I didn't mean to be so evil, but I don't even know you and you wanted to stay in our room, and…"

He interrupted,"It's okay. We had a good time, right? I probably was an asshole anyhow."

"Yeah," I said and left it at that.

"You guys want to get some breakfast?" Linda asked. We all stood up, patted down our ratty hair and headed towards the lobby. Linda and I caught a glance at Peter's curly blonde locks standing every which way. She smoothed them down, then roughed them back up again. Peter was turning into our little pet, a toy for our amusement. We all giggled, obviously still slightly inebriated.

As soon as we made it down to the lobby, I headed straight for the food. Peter went to the front desk to call a cab, just as Linda got hijacked by David himself, who had seen us getting off the elevator with Peter. Shit; so much for not looking like cheap white trash. Oh well. Linda tried to tell him we had all just passed out (I don't know how that sounded better than what he was envisioning), and he told her that Peter was nothing but trouble, as if we couldn't tell that for ourselves.

Linda and I sat down to eat. "Where's Peter?" I asked.

She spotted him at the front door, walking out without saying goodbye. "There he goes." A fitting end, I thought.

Jen called me just as we were on our way to the airport. She told me that she and Nick had fought the whole night of the wedding. She said that she'd had a picture in her mind of how her wedding was supposed to be, but that it hadn't matched up at all. I told her that was what everyone thought. I didn't have the heart to tell her I knew how she felt, because I didn't want her to think I was comparing her marriage to my own, doomed from the start. I didn't have any words of advice for her, I just listened. She hadn't confided in me in a really long time, I think because she and I are so similar, and because we'd been through a lot of the same things. She didn't want to curse herself by seeing if we were still parallel. That's what I would think if I were her, anyhow. I wished her a happy honeymoon and told her to have lots of sex and call me when she got back. She and I texted for the rest of the day about Chris and Peter, and I wished her more happiness than I think I've ever wished anyone in my whole life. What else was I going to say? You can't change fate.