Home > Only You (One and Only #1)

Only You (One and Only #1)
Author: Melanie Harlow

One

Emme

It is true that I am slightly more prone to disaster than the average person, but even I was surprised by the fire.

I mean, it’s not like I had a habit of igniting household goods—either on purpose or by accident. And certainly I had other options for destroying that invitation. Flushing it down the toilet, for example. Shredding it in the garbage disposal. Stabbing it repeatedly with an ice pick. All good ideas, and each would have been gratifying in its own way.

But in the end, I went with fire—and got slightly more than I bargained for in the process, which is often the case with me.

It happened on a Friday.

I’d come home from the Devine Events office a little early since I’d worked late at a corporate event the night before. Normally, I only handled weddings and my partner Coco managed corporate events and fundraisers, but she was way pregnant with her fourth child, had three rowdy boys under age six, and was beyond exhausted all the time. I didn’t mind taking on a few extra projects here and there to help her out. Weddings were slow during March in Michigan anyway.

The funny thing is, it’s actually my last name—Devine—on the business, because my cousin Mia Devine started it like ten years back, then partnered up with Coco, her college roommate, a year or so later. It was Mia who suggested I take her place when she and her husband moved up north to open a winery a few years ago. The timing had been perfect since I was fresh out of grad school with a business degree but didn’t want a job where I’d be stuck at a desk.

Incidentally, you might think a person slightly prone to disaster would be ill-suited for handling the biggest (and most expensive) day of someone’s life, but somehow misfortune never follows me to work. It’s perfectly content to wait for me at home, however, and that particular afternoon, it practically greeted me at the door.

I’d picked up my mail in the lobby of my building and was idly sorting through it on the elevator ride up to my 23rd floor loft. There was the usual assortment of bills, coupons, special offers, appeals for donations, and crap addressed to the guy who’d lived in my apartment before me, but there, at the bottom of the pile, was something unexpected—a wedding invitation.

For a moment, I frowned. Did I know anyone getting married who wasn’t a client? I attended all those weddings automatically and wouldn’t normally have received an official invitation, since I wasn’t technically a guest.

One glance at the return address and my jaw dropped.

They wouldn’t.

They couldn’t have.

A sweat broke out on my back and my pulse thundered in my head. When the doors opened, I dashed through them and hurried down the hall, my heels catching on the carpet. Once inside my apartment, I slammed the door behind me, dropped my bag and the other pieces of mail to the floor, and tore open the fancy engraved envelope.

Then I gasped.

They had. They actually had.

My blood boiled as I stared in disbelief at the thick ivory card stock in my hand, its elaborate black script requesting the honour of my presence (what a joke) at the marriage of my ex-boyfriend, Richard the Turd, and my former assistant, Lucy the Traitor.

I’d known they were getting married, of course. Before she’d quit working for me “to focus on the wedding,” Lucy was constantly flashing her big diamond and pitiful-yet-smug expression my way. I’d spent months pretending it didn’t bother me that I’d been dumped for my younger, skinnier, prettier assistant.

Of course I understand.

You can’t help who you love.

I’m not angry. I’m happy for you. Really.

It was all an act, though. Of course I was angry—who wouldn’t be? I’d dated that asshole for almost a year and he’d never once mentioned marriage, yet he’d proposed to Lucy after only a few weeks! And she’d worked for me for two years and had known how I felt about him. I’d wanted to scream, bite their heads off, throw things when they’d told me. But I didn’t want them to know I was hurt, so I summoned my dignity, smiled, and played the role of the Bigger Person as I congratulated them.

Then I literally became a bigger person, since the whole situation drove me to eat my way through the holidays. I’d probably put on ten pounds between Halloween and New Year’s, and let me tell you, there is nowhere—nowhere—on my five-foot-two frame to hide an extra ten pounds. I’d spent hours in the gym this year trying to take it off, and I loathe the gym.

It was all their fault.

I shoved the invite back into the envelope and whipped it across the room like a Frisbee. Then I shrugged off my coat, dug my phone from my bag, and wondered which of my sisters I should call first to rant about this. I decided on my younger sister, Maren, only because our older sister, Stella, was a therapist and might try to analyze my anger rather than indulge it. Maren, a free-spirit who believed that everything happened for a reason and gluten-free pancakes tasted as good as regular pancakes, might not share my outrage either, but she seemed a better bet to start with.

“Hello?”

“They invited me,” I said.

“What?”

“Lucy and Richard! They sent me a fucking wedding invitation!” I gestured wildly with my free hand.

She gasped. “They didn’t.”

“They did.”

“Why would they do such a thing?” Maren kept her voice low, which meant she was likely still at the yoga studio where she worked.

“To show off, obviously,” I huffed. “To rub my face in the fact that I am a loser and they are the winners.”

“Emme, come on. You’re not a loser.”

I began to pace back and forth in front of the big picture window overlooking downtown Detroit. Normally the view of the city lights coming on at twilight cheered me up, but not today. “Then why can’t I find someone nice? Why do I keep dating assholes who disappoint me? Why don’t my pants fit?”

She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Listen, can we talk about this later? I would be happy to help you find answers to some of these questions you have about yourself, but I’m at the desk and the studio is getting busy with the after-work crowd. Hey, why don’t you come down and take a class? I think it would be great for you, really help you find some peace and balance.”

I wrinkled my nose. I didn’t want peace and balance. I wanted wine and cheese. Maybe a cupcake. “I can’t,” I lied. “I have to work tonight.”

“Okay. Maybe tomorrow?”

“Maybe. I’ll call you.”

We hung up, and I stood there fuming for a moment, eyeballing the invitation, which lay on the floor in front of the television. Tossing my phone onto the couch, I picked up the envelope and took it into the kitchen, holding it away from me between my thumb and forefinger like it was a rotting vegetable. Then I set it on the counter while I yanked the cork from a bottle of Merlot I’d opened last night. Since no one was looking, I took a few swills straight from the bottle.

“Lousy motherfuckers,” I seethed, my nostrils flaring. “No class whatsoever.” After a few more mouthfuls, I set the bottle on the counter and pulled the RSVP card from the envelope. It gave me two choices—I could regretfully decline or accept with pleasure.

If I were really the bigger person, I thought, I would put an X on the regretfully decline line and simply send the RSVP card back. That’s what Stella would have done, but Stella has way better control of her emotions than I do. It’s easier for her to be a bigger person because she hogged all the sensible, rational genes. I got all the wild, unbalanced ones, which was great for enthusiasm and creativity, but meant my feelings occasionally got the better of me.

Okay, often got the better of me.

Better make that usually.

Maren says this is because I am not centered and lack inner homeostasis (which I think sounds like some sort of infection, so I’m pretty glad I don’t have it). If this had happened to Maren, she might have gotten angry, but then she would have gathered herself with a few deep breaths, repeated some sort of soulful affirmation about letting it go, and tossed the invite into the recycling bin. But while I agreed that the tree deserved a better purpose in its next life, there was no way in hell I could let this go—not without a retaliatory move.

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