Walking out of the shopping center, I saw a pair of black Converse in the window. I went in, asked for my size, tried them on, and smiled. “I’ll take them,” I said to the woman helping me. She smiled with a look in her eyes that would have turned me on just six months ago. A woman looking at me that way usually meant any attempts I made to get in her pants had just been made a thousand times easier. That look meant: take me home.
“Great choice,” she said in a smooth, flirtatious voice. Her dark hair was long, thick, and shiny. Probably half of her five feet. She was a sophisticated, Asian beauty, wrapped in a tight dress and sky-high heels. Her eyes were sharp, calculating. She was exactly the kind of challenge my old self would have happily taken on. “Are you staying in Vegas long?”
“Just a few days.”
“Is this your first time here?”
“Oh. I was going to offer to show you around.”
“I’m getting married in these shoes in a couple of hours.”
My response snuffed out the desire in her eyes, and she smiled pleasantly, but she’d clearly lost interest. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” I said, taking my receipt and bag with the shoe box inside.
I left, feeling much better about myself than I would have had I been here on a guys’ trip and leading her back to my hotel room. I didn’t know about love back then. It was fanfuckingtastic to go home to Abby every night, and see the welcoming, loving look in her eyes. Nothing was better than coming up with new ways to make her fall in love with me all over again. I lived for that shit now, and it was way more satisfying.
Within an hour of leaving the Bellagio, I had picked up a suit and a gold band for Abby, and was right back where I started: in our hotel room. I sat on the end of the bed and grabbed the remote, clicking on the power to the TV before bending over to untie my sneakers. A familiar scene lit up the screen. It was Keaton, quartered off with yellow tape, and still smoking. The brick around the windows were charred, and the ground surrounding was saturated with water.
The reporter was interviewing a tearful girl, describing how her roommate had never returned to the dorm, and she was still waiting to hear if she was among the dead. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I covered my face with my hands and rested my elbows on my knees. My body shook as I mourned my friends and all the people I didn’t know who’d lost their lives, as I apologized over and over for being the reason why they were there, and being too much of a fucking bastard for choosing Abby over turning myself in. When I couldn’t cry anymore, I retreated to the shower, standing under the steaming water until I got back into the frame of mind Abby needed me to be in.
She didn’t want to see me until just before the wedding, so I got my shit straight in my head, got dressed, slapped on some cologne, tied my new kicks, and headed out. Before letting the door close, I took one long, last look at the room. The next time I came through this door, I’d be Abby’s husband. That was the only thing that made the guilt bearable. My heart began to pound. The rest of my life was just hours away.
The elevator opened, and I followed the loudly patterned carpet through the casino. The suit made me feel like a million bucks, and people were staring, wondering where the fine-looking asshole sporting Converse was off to. When I was about halfway through the casino, I noticed a woman sitting on the floor with shopping bags, crying into her cell phone. I stopped dead in my tracks. It was Abby.
Instinctively, I stepped to the side, partially hiding myself at the end of a row of slot machines. With the music, the beeping, and the chatter, I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but my blood ran cold. Why was she crying? Who was she crying to? Didn’t she want to marry me? Should I confront her? Should I just wait it out and hope to God she doesn’t call it off?
Abby picked herself off the floor, struggling with her bags. Everything in me wanted to run to her and help, but I was afraid. I was fucking terrified that if I approached her in that moment, she might tell me the truth, and I was afraid to hear it. The selfish bastard in me took over, and I let her walk away.
Once she was out of sight, I sat on an empty slot machine stool and pulled the pack of cigarettes out of my inside pocket. Flicking the lighter, the end of my cigarette sizzled before it glowed red while I pulled in a long drag of smoke. What was I going to do if Abby changed her mind? Could we come back from something like that? Regardless of the answer, I was going to have to figure out a way. Even if she couldn’t go through with the wedding, I couldn’t lose her.
I sat there for a long time, smoking, slipping dollar bills into the slot machine while a waitress brought me free drinks. After four, I waved her away. Getting drunk before the wedding wouldn’t solve a damn thing. Maybe that’s why Abby was having second thoughts. Loving her wasn’t enough. I needed to grow the fuck up, get a real job, quit drinking, fighting, and control my goddamn anger. I sat alone in the casino, silently vowing that I would make all of those changes, and they would start right then.
My phone chimed. Just an hour was left before the wedding. I texted Abby, worried how she might respond.
I miss u
I smiled at the phone display, seeing the text was from Travis. I clicked a response, knowing that words couldn’t convey what I was feeling.
I miss u too
T-minus one hour. U ready yet?
Not yet. U?
Hells yes. I look ducking amazing. When u c me u will want 2 marry me 4 sure.
Fucking* goddamn auto correct. Pic?
No! It’s bad luck!
Ur lucky 13. You have good luck.
Ur marrying me. So clearly u don’t. And don’t call me that.
Love u baby.
Love u too. See u soon.
Of course. Aren’t you?
Only about ur cold feet.
Feet r toasty warm.
I wish I could explain to u how happy I am right now.
U don’t have to. I can relate.