The Sweetheart Sham

By: Danielle Ellison


“Always good to see you, Will,” Shelby Kramer croons his name. Yes, croons. She is not the queen of subtlety. No one in this town is, really, which is why I’m still shocked that in two years no one has found out about Will. “You too, I guess,” she directs toward me.

She hates me, probably because I’m Will’s best friend. Everyone in town has been betting on us getting married one day. We are the first generation to have a girl and boy that are the same age at the same time. The Montgomerys and the Monroes will be united at last. If only they knew. All of it makes me a target for Will’s would-be suitors. Shelby Kramer is the main one.

Will bends down to grab a cup, and Shelby leans into him, making sure that her cleavage is perfectly placed in Will’s face. I roll my eyes. Not only is it pointless, but also, she doesn’t have much cleavage to speak of; most of it is upper boob that doesn’t fit in her too-small bra. But bless her heart for trying.

Gag me. I spread on my best sugary smile. “I need to find Lyla,” I say.

“I’ll come with you,” Will says, following me out.

Shelby frowns, and I know it’s wrong to hate, God may shoot me down for it, but if I could hate someone then it would be her.

“Find me later. I’ll save you a dance,” Shelby calls out.

Will tips his head toward her, but we practically run away from the table. “Good luck with that,” I say to Will when we’re out of her sights.

“I know. Hide me from her.”

“I can’t do that, sorry. It’s far beyond my powers.” I avoid his gaze because I’m sure I will get an eyeful of puppy if I look at him.

My phone buzzes again. They’re classic.

Classic yes, but there are other flowers that don’t scream unoriginality.

“Who’s that?

“Momma, more opinions on the ‘wedding of the year.’”

Any RSVP from Kerri Ann?

Not yet.

“Doesn’t she know you’re at a party?”

I laugh. “She doesn’t care where I am.”

Momma is the premier (read: only) party planner in Culler. She helps lead all the town events, but the Montgomery wedding is in August. Momma’s been working on it since Drew Montgomery popped the question back in February. Lucky me, I get to be her right hand, her second in command, her assistant—a.k.a. do whatever she tells me no matter what, all summer long. It’s not that I don’t love a good party, I get that from her, and it’s not even that I mind helping her, because I don’t. But a Montgomery wedding is not a usual party. It’s an event. No, it’s the event. The whole Montgomery family tree comes back to town for it, and Momma is never so happy as when Montgomerys come to town—and they aren’t even her family.

“Our whole house has turned into Drew Montgomery and Emma Claire Stanguard wedding central. I don’t plan to see the dining room again until fall,” I say. I also don’t expect our house to be empty ever again, since the Montgomery clan will be traipsing in and out for two months.

Will laughs. “Your momma’s the best. Granddad wouldn’t even consider letting them pick anyone else. At least you don’t have to live with all of them.”

True there. Poor Will. Every room in the Montgomery estate will be full of people soon. A big change from the six people who usually live there. “When do they start coming?”

“I have no idea,” he says. “I love my family, but it is going to be a long summer.”

The beer is on the porch, and Will beelines there around me. I’m not really into beer so he gets me a solo cup of water.

Will hands me the cup and says, “Let’s make a promise to each other.”

“Aw, Will. You’re sweet as a button, but I’m not saving my virtue for you.”

He scoffs and rolls his eyes. “Keep your virtue. Let’s promise to help each other make this the best summer.”

Will takes a big gulp of his beer. His eyes scan the field then land back on me.

“Let’s promise to do whatever we can to make this summer memorable. We’ll go new places, get out of here when the family drives either of us crazy, and we’ll go together. Like musketeers,” he says.

We walk across the yard toward the bonfire, and I smile. “There are three of those.”

My own comment makes me freeze. We used to be three a long time ago. I rarely let myself think about Beau Montgomery, but sometimes he pops up. He was such a part of my life that it’s hard to completely forget. I reckon his being my first kiss and kind of boyfriend, the only secret I still keep from Will, and the first boy who broke my heart makes him hard to forget. In two years he hasn’t set foot in Culler, not even for a visit. He and his momma left two summers ago, before the divorce, and they still haven’t RSVP’d to the Wedding of the Year. No one really asks his dad, Hank, what happened or why; Beau and Kerri Ann are kinda this thing no one talks about, a skeleton in the proverbial closet. Still, I can’t imagine him not being here for Drew’s wedding.

Beau Montgomery. I don’t even know if I want him here or don’t want him here.

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