Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

Liam pulled into the restaurant lot and found a spot to park. “If you insist on ruining my surprise, I was thinking it could be more like a room to honor your parents. A place we could fill with as many memories of them as we could. Your brothers still have some pictures and a few other things that came from your parents. And Ethan said he had a phone number for a cousin—someone who might have some pictures from your parents’ wedding and other stuff like that. They’re going to make some calls and see what they can scare up.”

My heart and lungs had apparently decided to reposition themselves somewhere in the vicinity of my throat. I couldn’t swallow past the huge lumps there. My parents had been killed in a convenience store robbery several years before, and in the time since, the house had been repossessed and then the car I’d been living out of—that housed all of my memorabilia from my parents—had gone up in flames.

The thoughtfulness behind Liam’s idea was stunning. I clutched his hand, drawing it up to my lips so I could kiss his knuckles. “Really?” I finally squeezed out despite my tears.

“Unless you don’t want it.”

“I do. I want it more than I could ever say.” I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect. Except… “Just my family, though? Couldn’t it be about your family, too?”

“And mine, too, if you want it to be.”

“I do.” I threaded my fingers with his, tugging his hand closer to my body. “Do you still have any of Liv’s wind chimes?” Liv had been Liam’s wife, but she’d died in a car accident a couple of years ago. She needed to have a place in this room, too. She would always be part of Liam, and I wanted to honor that. I wanted to honor her as much as he was trying to honor my parents.

“I still have some,” he said cautiously.

“Some that we could bring to Portland? She should be represented.”

He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, and a rush of peace washed through me.

WE REALLY SHOULDN’T have left Laura in charge of the bachelorette party, despite the fact that she was one of my best friends—and one of our joint bridesmaids—but somehow she’d finagled her way into that position, anyway. I should have tried harder to insist that Sara would be better suited to the task and had Laura deal with the bridal shower. Instead, the pair of them had ended up in charge of the exact opposite event we had been hoping for.

Laura meant well, but she’d had so much on her plate lately with Katie’s illness and graduating high school, and then also with Dave retiring and moving into a different part of his career, that she had forgotten some things—like my panic attacks. Even now, she seemed so caught up in the moment that she wasn’t aware of my extreme discomfort.

That was how I ended up in my current predicament. Not only did I have to figure out a good excuse for turning down wine and other drinks at every turn, but I also had virtually nude men shaking their thong-clad backsides in my face in the hope that I’d shove a bill in the string. That wasn’t going to happen. I’d come a long way in the last year and a half but not so far that I had any intention of touching a strange man’s ass. But because I was one of the two brides, the strippers were paying particular attention to me, no matter how many times I refused to participate. At least they didn’t touch me. They just hoped I would touch them—and at least that left me in control of the situation.

Sara would have probably found a classier bar to take us to instead of a strip club. Then I would only be dealing with the alcohol aspect of this uncomfortable night. It was too late for a change of plans, though.

Once the current stripper gave up and went to shimmy for Rachel, our waiter came over. He was wearing pants, thank God, but no shirt, just a bowtie, leaving his waxed chest bare.

“You sure I can’t bring you something, sugar?” he asked, giving me what I was sure he thought was a seductive smile. To me it only seemed smarmy. “Brides drink free at bachelorette parties here. I could get you a sauvignon blanc…a sex on the beach…maybe a pomegranate cosmo?”

Katie leaned over so she could whisper in my ear. “Get something and give it to me if you don’t want it. Mom won’t notice tonight. She’s…distracted.”

I rolled my eyes at her and turned my attention back to the waiter. “I’m sure. Just water for me.”

“Spoilsport,” Katie muttered, but she was grinning. She knew there was no chance I was going to give her alcohol with her mother sitting three seats over. She should just be glad that her father didn’t know she was here. Yeah, he knew she was with us, but I doubted Laura had filled him in on the precise details of her plans for the evening.

Katie was eighteen now, so she was a legal adult, but that didn’t mean he was any less protective of her than he always had been. Especially not after she’d just been given a clean bill of health.

The waiter worked his way through the rest of our group getting more drink orders, and a new song came on, signaling a new stripper coming to the stage. I tried to brace myself for another onslaught of naked man-flesh wobbling in my face.

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