Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

They’d skipped past me in the receiving line, pretending to be so caught up in talking to other people that they’d neglected to see me entirely. I might as well have been invisible. Was it because she was worried I’d scream at her like a banshee? Did she think I would pick a fight and try to rip her hair out or claw her eyes with the perfect manicure I’d gotten while I was out with the other girls yesterday? She would deserve no less, but I was better than that, and my friends deserved better. I could damn well keep my shit together, at least well enough to avoid that kind of behavior. I fucking refused to stoop to that level.

Thank God Cam had realized what was happening before I’d even said a word to him. He hadn’t left my side once since he pulled me into that dressing room in the hall after the ceremony. Every moment that passed, he had one of those big, strong, steady hands on me in some way—holding my hand, wrapped around my waist, resting in the small of my back—something. He was the only thing keeping me from coming completely unglued, and I had no doubt that he knew it. He was becoming indispensable to me in that way, and I actually kind of liked it.

“She’s not worth all this anger, baby,” Cam said quietly as he refilled my glass. “She’s not worth getting yourself so worked up over. You’re not hurting her with it. You’re only hurting yourself, and that hurts me.”

He was right, of course, but I had never been very good at letting go of things. It was just one of many traits I’d picked up from my father over the years. Now didn’t seem like the best time to try to perfect the subtle art of forgiveness, considering I hadn’t gotten very good at it in twenty-three years, at least when it came to my mother.

“I know that,” I muttered, and I speared a piece of chicken with my fork, trying to channel some of the anger into that action so I wouldn’t expose my raw nerves for all of the wedding guests to see. It was fine for Cam to know how fucked up I was over this, but I didn’t want anyone else to catch on. I didn’t want them to know how easily she could still get to me. Especially because she hadn’t done anything. She hadn’t done a single goddamn thing beyond show up and exist, and yet I was still sitting here and imagining all sorts of things I wanted to do to her with this fucking fork.

It was safer for me to stay mad, though. If I let go of my mad, I might collapse into a fit of tears. I didn’t want that woman to see me like that. I didn’t want her to know how bad she’d fucked me up inside. I didn’t want her to see the mess I was because of her. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction, to show her how much control she still had over me.

It had been more than thirteen years since she’d left us. Thirteen fucking years without a single phone call or birthday card or even a lump of coal to go in my Christmas stocking. Nothing. It was like she’d completely forgotten I’d existed, like she’d written me out of her life, like I’d only been penciled in and so had been easy to erase. Weren’t your parents supposed to put you down in permanent marker in their lives? She should have used a fucking Sharpie to write my name on her heart. But she hadn’t.

She hadn’t been there to help me figure out puberty and hormones and tampons. She hadn’t been around for me to talk to about boys. She’d missed my first kiss and prom and graduation and trying to sort out how to navigate the world of dating and men and sex—and until Cam had come along, I’d done a fabulous job of royally fucking up that part of my life. She’d missed me being pregnant, and she hadn’t been there to hold me when I’d fucking miscarried.

She’d missed it all.

And now she was sitting there with her new family, apparently pleased as punch with herself, and it didn’t look like she was going to miss any of those things with her new kids. They’d gotten the Sharpie treatment, and I’d been rubbed out of existence with a brittle eraser.

Why the fuck did she love them more than she’d loved me? What the hell did I do wrong? Why didn’t she want me?

The longer I sat there mulling it over, the closer I got to breaking down. The bite of chicken I’d stabbed was still languishing in my mouth; I’d hardly even chewed it. I couldn’t focus on eating. I felt like I would be sick if I had to look at her and her perfect fucking Sharpied family for even one more minute.

But then she pushed her chair back from the table, wiped the corners of her mouth with the napkin that had been draped over her lap, set it next to her plate, and excused herself.

With unwavering eyes, I followed her every step as she crossed the banquet hall and went out the exit closest to the bathrooms. My mouth was dry, my pulse weak and thready, but for some inexplicable reason I was pushing myself back from the table and following her before I could form a coherent thought.

“Shit,” I heard Cam mutter, but it didn’t matter because I was already halfway out of the room, and I wasn’t going to stop until I got to her.

Not that I had the first inkling what I would do then.

I was almost inside the women’s room when Cam called out to me from down the hall.

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