Ok, so people trust me now? if so a little positive reinforcement is good see link below for general comments.
I would love to hear what you think of these characters as they evolve.
I am aware of the chapter numbering problem. I accidentally added an extra chapter to the end of the first installment, that was my mistake and i will correct it.
remember the characters are now in thier mid twenties and dealing with modern life issues. not all of lifes situations are good ones. It's about how we choose to deal with them, and its about the people we surround ourselves with.
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Comments or questions direct to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feed back is welcome.
"You had nothing to be jealous over." Andrew said softly.
Will stopped in telling his story to stare at Andrew, "Didn't I?" he asked seriously, "you don't know what I went through the next day."
Andrew sighed as he flagged down the stewardess and asked her for a refill on the coffees. Brody was snoring fitfully in the aisle seat, somehow managing to sleep on the flight. Andrew envied him that, he was too nervous, too wound up and one glance at Will told him that there was more.
"Ok, what did you go through?" he asked quietly.
It hurt. He bounced another screwed-up paper ball off of the wall of his office, only to have it miss the garbage can by a good foot. Not that he was paying much attention since his gaze was focused on a little patch of green on the lawn outside his office window. He stared vacantly at the lawn, wondering why his company even bothered with the feeble attempt at landscaping. It wasn't as if the clients or the customers would ever see it. They could run the entire operation out of a basement somewhere and no one would be any the wiser; why care so long as money was being extorted from people for no justifiable reason.
Another paper ball followed the first; he was upset and depressed. He knew perfectly well why. Jealousy was something he couldn't readily admit to, but he recognized it when it chose to surface in him. Even if Andrew couldn't see what Maria was up to, Will could. Maria was a threat to everything they had, not because he wasn't willing to fight for it, but rather that he didn't know how.
"Scott's looking for you," Alicia commented from across his desk. Will had been so distracted that he hadn't even noticed her enter his office. She gave him a concerned look, readily picking up on the fact that something was weighing heavily on his mind.
Will looked up at her and let out a heavy sigh before he stood up, "Where is he?"
"In the cafeteria, I think," she replied. "Everything ok, boss?"
Will glanced past her towards the general direction of the cafeteria, "Yeah, we'll talk later, ok?"
She gave him a sympathetic nod, as he left in search of his Royal Highness and whatever menial task awaited him upon his arrival. He always dreaded a Royal summons, they never went well, and always began exactly the same way.
"I've had an idea," Scott exclaimed, standing beside the coffee machine.
"Oh really, sir?" Will attempted to inject a note of enthusiasm into his voice, but it came out strangled.
"Yes, follow me." Scott started towards the door back onto the sales floor, but paused when he noticed Will was in no hurry to follow him. "I have a meeting with the regional manager in an hour," he said, a mad glint seeping into his eyes. "I want to implement this before he gets here."
Will poured himself a cup of coffee and contemplated his no-alcohol policy for the umpteenth time. A belt of strong Irish whiskey would definitely deaden the pain that was about to be inflicted. He stirred in some sugar and steeled himself as he followed Scott out onto the floor.
Will watched as agents poked their heads above their cubicles like gophers to watch where the predator, in this case Scott Weippert, was heading, ducking back out of sight again if he looked in their general area. There was a smell of fear in the wind, and Will noted the look of satisfaction on Scott's face. Whether he was conscious of it or not, Scott revelled in the fear his presence generated.
One of the sales verification agents drew up short; he had unwittingly crossed paths with the two managers. Never a comfortable position to find himself in. The verifier froze like a deer caught in a pair of headlights. Will felt pity for him, the other four verifiers had fled to the far end of the call centre, acting like they were busy, while whispering amongst themselves and nodding towards Scott.
"How are you doing today?" Scott said, a smile on his face that was cold and toothy, like a wolf bearing its teeth. He reached out and took the verifier's clipboard and flipped through the pages. "Ah," he said in disappointment, "I need more credit card closes than this, Brian. Otherwise I will have to put you back on the phones."
Sufficiently terrified for his position and for the extra dollar an hour it paid, Brian reclaimed his clipboard and mumbled something about understanding before he scurried off as fast as he could.
"I listened to him earlier," Will commented. "He saved a sale from going sour..."
"I don't care," Scott said absently, still staring after Brian. "I need credit card sales; you know why."
"Money in the bank." Will recited the party line verbatim.
"Exactly; he can be the best salesman in Ottawa, but I am not paying him to close sales, I am paying him to get credit card numbers and put money in the bank."
"Of course, sir," Will inclined his head, choosing not to press the issue that any return, no matter the method of payment, was still far better than none at all.
"Good, now I want you to look around; who doesn't belong here?"
Will frowned, "I don't follow," he admitted looking at the rows of agents.
Scott gave an exasperated sigh. "Work with me Will, not against me. Who here doesn't belong? How many people here aren't salesmen?"
Will had that ominous feeling forming in the pit of his stomach, "They are all trained..."
"I'm not talking about training." Scott snapped, "You've had months to work with them, some of them are just not producing. They are taking up seats you should fill with better salespeople. I want you to walk around the floor with me and count the number of people who should not be here."
"You're asking me to decide who stays and who goes?" Will was incredulous; he had never been faced with such a choice before in his life. Sure he had fired people, agents that were not right for the firm. But that was with a valid reason; he kept those with potential, those who held the faintest spark of life. That small chance they could develop into sales agents. To be suddenly asked to "cull the herd" made him uneasy.
It was regimented; Will did as he was asked. He walked around the call centre and discreetly indicated ten individuals who were not living up to their potential. He hoped desperately that it would be enough. It wasn't. Scott reached over and added another ten names to the list. Will's heart sank.
"Terminate all of them," Scott ordered. "I want them all gone by the end of the day."
Will could only nod in assent as he received his instructions; he felt a little piece of his soul get tugged away.
When he eventually returned to his office, he felt the overwhelming urge to break something, but he held his temper tightly in check. It was a hard day that only seemed to get steadily worse as it drew on. He slammed his mug down on the edge of his desk and stood with his hands tightly clasped behind his back staring out of his window at the street.
There was literally nothing he could do; he couldn't say no, refuse to comply with his instructions. His job was to manage the Human Resources, and that meant this was his responsibility, a thankless task at that. The red numbers on his wall chart would go up beside him and would take a month at least to recover. Until then the numbers were going to be running at a deficit.
"Log out!" Brad's voice echoed across the floor as lunch break began. And for some of them it was their last. Will didn't move, couldn't move. He didn't want to face them. There was a certain responsibility he felt he owed them. Some of the names on that list had families and depended upon their paycheques to survive. It felt like they had been betrayed.
That was how Alicia found him. She tentatively set a fresh mug of coffee down on his desk and flopped into the chair across from his own. She lifted up her legs and tucked them under her as she unwrapped a Twinkie.
"What's up?" She asked after he refused to move.
"It's a rough day," he replied suddenly feeling so much older. "Ever had a day when you just want to go home, crawl into bed and hide under the sheets?"
"All the time," she admitted. "But I need the money, and Worm isn't about to get a job. One of us has to pay rent and buy food."
Worm was her latest love affair, a street kid she had met on one of her sojourns through Ottawa's underbelly. It was like buying a rundown home: she thrived on fixing them up as she went, giving them a place to live and food for them to eat as she tried to get them back on their feet. For her, bringing home such strays was a way to buy a little love. Sure Worm loved her, but he was getting a free ride; she provided everything for him and all she asked in return was his adoration. Why bother going out to find love when you could just bring it home with you, keep it warm and feed it occasionally?
"Yeah," Will agreed collapsing into his own chair finally. "Well, today seems hell bent on breaking me."
"Oh? Do tell," Alicia said, giving him her full attention.
"Well, it started last night," Will took a pull on his coffee. "Jeff's family needed a place to stay so they ended up at mine."
Alicia screwed up her face. "Ouch, how did Andrew take that?"
"Not well; they don't know about us so we've had to be discreet, if you catch my meaning."
"Oh, no," she said empathically. "You two have to be going nuts!"
Will looked up at the ceiling tiles, "That's not the worst of it. Jeff's sister has taken a shine to Andrew."
"No!" Alicia said, incredulously.
"Well, she only came into the kitchen last night wearing Andrew's hockey jersey and a pair of panties wanting Andrew to show her around town."
"Bitch!" Alicia exclaimed. "How'd Andrew react?"
"Shock, mainly," Will admitted. "But like any guy, he was looking."
Alicia gave him a strange look, "I thought Andrew was... well... you know..." she bent her wrist and held it up.
Will had always detested that stereotype, "No, Andrew's straight with an exception." He shrugged trying to explain, "You know, one of those guys confident in their sexuality until they open their eyes and realize they are in a relationship with a guy."
"I thought that meant you were gay?" she asked, a little confused.
"No," Will responded. "Only confused, it's like taking a vacation from the norm and visiting Gay World. Everyone gets a ride, and don't worry, you can bring baggage."
Alicia noted the sarcasm in his tone, "Bitter?"
"I suppose," he admitted. "It's more from the fact that I know I can't compete. I use charm, social skills and intelligence to get what I want, but this girl is using the one thing I just can't fight...sex appeal."
Alicia snorted, "Sure you can, kick her to the curb. It's your house, you don't have to take some little bimbo seducing your boyfriend."
"Too late, I think. Andrew took her on a tour around campus today." He shuddered at the memory of the journey in town that morning, of her leaning on the back of his seat, resting a hand on his shoulder, laughing and joking with Andrew about things Will had felt too out of touch to understand. Andrew hadn't laughed like that in months; he'd been too engrossed in his books and studying to take an interest in the world around him, until now. Until her.
"You're just going to give up?" Alicia was shocked. "Why? `Cause some girl comes along waving her booty and he happens to look?" She tossed her Twinkie down, "I've seen a gay man seduce a guy from across a room; I was at that bar down on Lisgar..."
"Icon?" Will supplied the name of the bar.
"Yeah, I know you; it would take you all of five minutes to pick up in there. I've never seen anyone act as smooth as you." She shook her head in disbelief, "And you are just going to give up, the first time it starts to get a bit too hard?"
Will set his mug down. "It's not the same thing," he replied. "I don't like going to a gay bar, the guys are after the same thing."
"And that's why you're dating Andrew. You wanted something more than a one-night stand, you just don't give up on a love like that." Alicia stared at him for a long time, "You like to think you're some big-shot, but deep down you really want to be loved... Too bad you're too chicken shit to take what Andrew offered you."
Will blinked at her; when had she grown up to the point where she could make that kind of observation? She was four years younger than him, and he realized he had underestimated her because of that.
He let out a long sigh, "So what do I do then?"
"You need to start by getting her away from Andrew. Once you're done that you need to fix some of the damage she's caused. Remind him of why he loves you and all of that."
Will nodded, "He was interested in the hockey game."
Alicia grinned, "Game six is tonight. Hang on, I might be able to help." She rooted in her purse, pulling out two battered tickets which she handed to him. "Worm wanted me to take him, but you need them more."
Will smiled in gratitude, accepting the tickets, "Alright, I'll take them. Thanks Alicia."
She shrugged and retrieved her Twinkie, "No problem, Boss."
Will set the tickets down and glanced at his other problem. If only the list would go away as easily. No, that was going to make his afternoon difficult. But he relaxed slightly; at least he had something to look forward to.
Will should have realized something was wrong when he had pulled up to the bench where he normally met Andrew, only to find he wasn't waiting for him. On any other day, Will would have written it off as just Andrew running late, but not that day, though. That day, Will knew all too well why Andrew was late.
He waited, watching as the clock on his dashboard counted away the minutes, slowly creeping closer to an hour. And he watched as the world seemed set to pass him by, people coming to and fro from the student buildings, meeting their own loved ones, going on with their lives. And yet there he sat, the two tickets in his pocket, a futile gesture now.
Again he regretted not buying Andrew a cell phone, at least then he could call him and find out what was happening. But that wouldn't change the fact that Will's phone was sitting in its cradle on the dashboard. Andrew hadn't even bothered to call to let him know he was going to be late, that alone said something.
Finally giving up, Will gunned the engine and threw the car into gear as he headed for home. At least there he could be productive. Jeff would be getting everyone together for the rehearsal dinner a few hours away, and since there was no point now to dodging it for a hockey game, Will might as well fulfil his obligations as the best man.
By the time he arrived at home he found that his once peaceful haven of solitude had been converted into a staging ground for an invasion; there were cars everywhere, including on his front lawn. And he recognized Jared's Jeep Grand Cherokee blocking his driveway. It looked set that the fun of the night was only just about to begin. He quickly found a parking space, stealing one at the retirement home across the road from his house, and headed into the midst of the madness.
Jared intercepted him at the door before he had so much as stepped a foot across his threshold. "Will!" he called grabbing his arm and dragging him back towards the door. "Come on, we have to get moving."
Will blinked as he set down his brief case, "I just got home, can't I at least..." he looked longingly towards his couch.
"Oh no," Jared replied as he shook his head, "You're the one who said you wanted to be a part of this whole wedding thing, and weddings take more than a day. Jeff's got a list of things that need doing, and now you're stuck with all of us doing what we do so if I don't get to relax, neither do you."
"Wonderful." Will wasn't in the best of tempers to begin with, now he was becoming grumpy.
"Come on, rehearsal's tonight and then there is the bachelor party; we're all going to dinner at the Keg..."
"And after that?" At least, Will thought, there would be some fun tonight.
"Nothing else, just dinner," Jared replied.
"Just a dinner?" Will looked confused, "What the hell's with that?"
"Oh, come off it Will!" Jared rolled his eyes, "You know what a bachelor party is. It's the night before the wedding; the groom needs to go out and his buddies throw him this big dinner. All his male relatives should be there, and us."
"Slow down," Will said shrugging his arm out of Jared's grip, "you said dinner, Jared. That's a bachelor party? I mean a dinner? What about the drinking? Aren't there supposed to be strippers and dirty movies?" He loosened his tie.
"You don't drink, and I know you don't want to watch the dirty movies. Much less Jeff, and I don't think the rest of us are going to be into your taste in strippers."
"But that's not a bachelor party. Does Jeff know he's just having a dinner? If I was getting married, I would expect a party." Will grabbed his leather bomber jacket as Jared pushed him back out onto the street.
"But you're not the one marrying Lisa, and she specifically said no bachelor party."
"She requested it?" Will asked, pulling his jacket on and looking at Jared in confusion. "Since when does the bride get to decide that?"
He nodded, "Yeah, and I don't think Jeff wants to start out his married life with Lisa mad at him, so he said okay." Jared shrugged, "I mean we never went out to drink and see strippers anyway. So what's the point of doing it now?"
"Never?" Will asked as he leaned on the side of the Jeep. "What was her name... Bambi... Candi... Sandi...—"
Jared cut Will off quickly, "Yeah, but that was a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with right now." He opened the passenger door, "Now get in `cause we have to go pick up Brody at the airport."
"Oh," Will said, as he climbed up into the mammoth vehicle, immediately wishing they had taken his car.
He knew should have been stressed about Andrew, the doubts and fears that went along with the day, but he was beginning to cheer up; there was something about the chaos of a wedding... an energy, Will couldn't help but be sucked up by it. It gave him a way to avoid dealing with his own problems.
To think, originally he had been dreading the thought of a wedding. Lisa was one of those people he always assumed would want a high-fashion wedding, something where everyone wore designer clothes. Naturally he would have starved, being unable to eat anything he didn't recognize and couldn't readily identify. Will had real issues with eating things that looked ready to crawl off the plate and do the tango across the dance floor. When Farah and Rafik had gotten married it had been like that; Farah had wanted a modern Islamic wedding, filled with a mix of the traditional and western ideas. It had been uncomfortable, uptight, and very typically Farah. Rafik had hated it.
But there was the difference between Farah and Lisa. Lisa actually listened to what her husband-to-be wanted, and Jeff was more about family. To Jeff, it was more important than being fashionable, and that meant that the wedding would be a quiet, private event with real, `down-home' food. Jeff had described the event as `two days of mothers, grandmothers, cousins, aunts and uncles, other relatives and friends; those who pretended to be, and all the good food they can cook. Plus there was supposed to be lots of singles for all the bachelors out there, and you know how accommodating Italian-Canadian girls could be.
Will had to admit he had no clue.
Well Maria was certainly out to give Andrew a crash course.
At least there were lots of people around, and lots of food. A winning combination, Will thought.
All of Jeff's family liked to laugh, talk and eat, and Will could relax into that environment. And as much as the imposition annoyed Will, he had to admit Jeff's family was nice. Most of them were friendly, especially Jeff's mother. But they all looked at him with a strange recognition in their eyes. Will didn't know whether it was from things Jeff had told them about his upbringing, or if it was just because he was a close friend to Jeff. Or maybe they recognized something in his mannerisms. Whatever it was, it was better than being stared at like he was an alien or worse, like he was about to break.
The only reason Will could surmise they looked at him like that was because they knew he didn't really have a family of his own. It was like Jeff was letting him borrow his for a little while, because things like a wedding just didn't happen in the Major's army. At least not without bloodshed. And if they did, it was because Will stopped going.
Jared punched Will's arm, "Hey, wake up."
Will rubbed his shoulder, though it didn't hurt; he had been staring out of the window at the cars and houses streaking by them, too focused inwards to pay attention to anything else.
"Sorry, was just thinking," he murmured, watching the big houses slip by as they drove.
"I saw the smoke," Jared replied. "Just kidding, is something bugging you? Did you break up with Andrew?"
"No," Will replied, "nothing's wrong, I'm fine."
"You always were a lousy liar," Jared responded. "Well, there's no hurry, right Will? I mean, take your time, eh? You never know what might happen. You and Andrew will be okay."
Will finally turned to look at his friend; it was a strange thing to say, like Jared knew something more than he was letting on. For him not to come right out and say what he meant and be cryptic like that...well that was strange.
"I heard Brody was coming stag," Jared changed the topic, noticing Will looking at him strangely. "Not that it's a bad thing..."
"Brody is eternally stag," Will replied. "Is there such a thing as a male spinster?"
"Will, he's just being choosy. He needs to find just the right kind of woman. I mean, imagine what his mother would say if he ended up with the wrong one."
"Couldn't be any worse than what the major said," Will retorted.
Jared met Will's look for a second before turning back to the road ahead of the jeep.
"Is that what's bugging you?" Jared asked, and he shrugged, "Just because your dad's a narrow-minded asshole..."
"I'm past it, Jared. Really." Will rubbed his temple absently, "Really."
Jared nodded, "Okay, okay, I'll stop prying." He shrugged again, "Not that I've made the best choices with who I date..."
"Bambi," Will supplied with a grin.
Jared reached out to smack Will again, but Will pushed his hand away.
Brody's plane was on time, but there was no sign of the great man himself. The trend-setting globe-trotter hadn't come through the arrival gate yet. No doubt tied up in customs explaining various narcotic paraphernalia he always seemed to have on hand.
Will had just begun to get impatient when his phone rang.
Someone breathed hard, then Will heard a loud moan.
Will clicked it off. "Sick bastard."
"What?" Jared asked.
Will didn't get a chance to answer before it rang again.
"I want you," a deep, male voice said. "I want you to--."
Will clicked it off again, and Jared was staring at him, confused.
"I don't know," Will said. "Maybe someone got a hold of my number and--."
It rang again.
"Hello!" Will yelled into the phone. A few passers-by turned to look at them.
"I know, I know. I know what you did last summer, William Carter. I know--."
Will turned the phone off completely then, knowing that no one important was going to call him anyway. He wasn't even sure why he had brought it with him.
"That was odd," Jared observed, "has that happened before? Maybe you should--," Jared was cut off by his own ringing phone. "Uh-oh."
"Don't answer it," Will cautioned.
Jared pulled it out and clicked it on. "Hello?" He was quiet, eyeing Will seriously for a very long time, then he started laughing. "It's for you," he said, handing it over.
"Great," Will murmured. "Hello?"
The breathing and the moaning started up again. Will listened this time, knowing that it was a Jared-approved call.
The moaning stopped and was followed by a satisfied sigh.
"Now wipe your hand, you dirty bastard," Will said.
There was laughter. Brody laughter.
"Hey, Brody," Will said.
"Hey, how'd you know it was me?"
"Who else gets off to the sound of my voice? Where are you?"
"Across the concourse at the bar, I arrived early."
Will looked around and didn't see him. "Yeah? Where?"
"Here. Look. Look harder. C'mon. A stylish, handsome guy like me in an airport full of honeys can't be that hard to spot, Billy-boy"
Will simply followed the cutest women in sight back to a large group of them, and the one guy standing in the midst of them. Sure enough, Brody lifted his hand from the bar and waved, his head turning back to the super-model-in-training he was chatting up.
"Yeah, I see you." Will nudged Jared, and the two headed across to join their old friend.
"Hey, William!" Brody said, dropping low and throwing his arms around them both.
"Hey, ya'ol'dawg," Will replied, wondering at Brody's ability to attract so many girls at the same time.
"Hey, Brody buddy," Jared said, clapping a hand on Brody's shoulder, "glad you made it."
"Hey, Jared; Jeff get cold feet yet?" Brody's eyes flashed over his sunglasses, "I could have a jet standing by and we could all fly down to Tijuana... you know there's no extradition treaty there."
"Lisa would find us," Jared said as he grabbed Brody's bags. "Come on, let's get moving."
Brody took a moment to say goodbye to the girls, getting more than his share of kisses and promises from them, always playing the game.
They hurried to the parking lot.
"So what's the plan, boys?" Brody asked, spreading out across one of the Jeep's rear seats. And Will realized the Cherokee was perfect for the idea forming in his mind.
Will glanced at the pair of them, "Gentlemen, we have a mission."
Jared looked worried for a moment. "Mission? What mission?" he swallowed. "We're not going to screw up Jeff's wedding, Will. This is one thing we all have to take seriously and..."
Will cut Jared off, "No, no, hear me out. Jeff's not having a bachelor party. He's having a bachelor dinner."
Jared started the truck silently, but Will could see the idea sat with Brody about as well as it had sat with him.
"How come?" Brody asked as they approached the highway.
"Lisa told him not to. And I understand that, you know? But I don't think it's especially right." Will said.
"Well everyone looks at things differently," Jared began.
Brody chuckled, "Oh no, hell no. What do you mean no bachelor party? What is that about? Who gets married without a bachelor party? Your marriage'll be annulled if you don't have one? Right?" He took a moment to look over his sunglasses at a pretty young woman who flashed him a smile, "Besides I didn't fly all the way here not to have a night of nefarious pleasures that we all will vow never to mention to Lisa."
Typical Brody reaction.
"I don't think it's that serious," Jared said, trying to be cautious.
Brody shook his head, "No. We are having a bachelor party, and we are having it tonight. I don't care what Lisa says. He's not hers yet and we need to have something to mark the event. Something that we will remember, right Will?"
"Dang skippy," Will replied.
"Just watch what you guys plan," Jared warned them. "Don't go making Lisa mad on her wedding day, or Jeff either!"
Jeff couldn't be mad at Will if someone paid him for it. Maybe he could if someone gave him a brand new car, but Will seriously doubted it.
In the past, Jeff and Will had some serious run-ins. Mostly they were about how much their personalities clashed. When people lived togetherWill was the oldest, and Jeff was the youngest. Will was always busy, and Jeff was always bored. Will was always serious, and Jeff was always clowning around. He was always so controlled, and Jeff was so emotional.
That was until Jeff had began to date Lisa, he grew up, and Will had relaxed. They had finally found a median upon which they could both relate.
It was cool in Will's mind to have him around then, because Will had been dating Andrew for nearly seven years, and when Jeff and Lisa had become a couple they finally had things in common. The one thing they didn't have in common, once again, was family. Whenever things went wrong for Jeff, that's where he went. When they went wrong for Will, he...
Well, he had nowhere to go, really. But someone always seemed to find him and give him a direction to go in. Like a few years back, when things had fallen apart between Will's father and him. Brody had been the one to fly into full-protective mode. Will had moved in to Brody's place because he had no clue where else to go. And Brody had been really cool about just letting him stay. He knew that Will just needed to find his feet. After years of living at home in the midst of a war zone, all he had to do was feed the fish and Brody was happy.
Brody didn't offer any unwanted advice. He never questioned Will. He didn't try to make peace with Will's family, or try to make them understand Will's choice. He didn't try to make Will work out his frustrations, or help him drink them away. He was just there.
All of his friends were. And now it was his turn to be there for one of them. Jeff wouldn't get mad, they were too close for that. Friends were supposed to piss each other off when it served the common good.
"Will!" Jeff yelled from the front of the church. "'Bout time. Get yourself up here."
Churches still intimidated Will; he felt that since he was dammed anyway, it was better to avoid them altogether. And when Jeff bellowed across one at him, he flinched, feeling the full attention of the Almighty zeroed directly upon him.
Jared had dropped Brody off at the hotel while he joined the rest of the wedding party. Will quickly made his way down the long aisle. The whole wedding party was there. Jeff, his brother Jerry, Jared and some other cousin whose name Will couldn't remember. Lisa was deep in conversation with her girls. Or whatever they were called.
"Bridesmaids," Jeff said when saw Will staring at them. "They're called bridesmaids."
Will nodded at him. "What? What do you need? Why are you yelling at me across the church?"
He smiled. "I want you to see something. C'mere."
Will felt as though he was already too close to the altar, but Jeff pulled him closer.
"What? What's there to see over there?" Will asked in confusion.
"Jeff, don't," Will heard Jared warn. That was never good.
"C'mon," Jeff said. "Just stand here. Watch. Right here."
And he stood Will in his spot, all the way up in front, just at the foot of the altar. Will looked around at the awe-inspiring building with its colourful glass windows.
"What?" Will whispered, feeling the hush all over.
"Shh, stand there and look. Look up at the front," he said from behind Will.
Will did, and instantly, his hands were wet. It was worse than standing in front of a huge crowd at a concert. It was like standing with God and having to promise something. The thought of being the one standing before God to swear eternal fidelity and love to one person was enough to--.
He heard Jeff start laughing.
He turned around and moved away from them. "What?"
"See, I told you, Jared. It freaks everyone out to stand there. How are you gonna be ready to do it?" he was asking.
Jared shrugged. "I'm ready now, buddy. Leave Will alone."
Will stepped around them. "Yeah, let's leave Will alone, shall we? You son of a bitch. Why'd you do that?"
"He who goes first," he said. "Remember?"
That was true. That was their agreement. He who did anything monumental first had to share with the rest of them. But Will wasn't ready to start pretending about marriage.
He was met by a sympathetic smile from Lisa.
"Stop scaring the guys, Jeff," she said. "They'll never want to get married at this rate."
He looked at Jared. "Well, you don't have a choice. And you," he said looking at Will now, "you'd just better not."
"Cut it out," she told him. "I swear, instead of helping, sometimes you make things worse. Will, let me introduce you."
I heard the guys chuckling as Lisa introduced Will to three similar-looking girls. All thin, tall and blonde.
"Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you," Will said.
And he waited for the answer, but these girls were a little lost. He smiled and nodded and nothing still.
Jared and Jeff laughed in the background.
"Girls?" Jerry asked. "Hello?"
"He didn't bring a date," Lisa said with a smile.
"Uh sorry," the less-blonde looking one said finally looking over at Jerry before turning back to Will. "It's nice to meet you."
Will smiled and tried to make sure that he remembered her face. Maybe at least, he'd have someone to dance with.
"Sorry I'm late. Traffic's a mess," the minister called as he entered the church.
Will was happy to finally move away from the centre of attention and took his place next to Jeff at the altar.
Brody hadn't let Will in on the whole plan, but he knew most of it. They were going to go along with the bachelor dinner. Male members of Lisa's family, Jeff's brothers and the guys went to eat and to have a few drinks. They made a lot of jokes, and Lisa's father gave Jeff lots of advice most of which Jeff just smiled through. Some of it, he downright laughed to, but everything was very tame. It took all the control Will had not to yawn.
But here's where the big and fast Jeep Cherokee came into play. Because they had lots of room, they offered to take Jeff and Jerry back home. Jared was driving, while Brody took shotgun. Rafik and Jerry sat in the seats right behind them, with Will and Jeff behind them.
They drove up to Will's home and let Jeff's brother off. That was Will's cue.
He was about to start climbing off. "What is it Will?"
"Hmm," Will began. "Hmm, do you think that maybe, maybe..."
Will made himself sound confused which really wasn't that hard. "Well, do you think that.. I mean, is it okay if...?"
"Spit it out already."
Will didn't answer, so Jeff finally stopped and looked at him. Will saw Brody reach over from the front seat and shut the door on him.
"Step on it," he instructed Jared.
"Guys?" Jeff asked, knocked off balance by the moving truck.
"Hey!" Rafik protested. "What the...?"
But Jared kept driving, and Will was the one in the back. So Will received all the questions and the hitting.
"What are you guys doing?" Jeff asked as he settled in next to Rafik. He reached over and smacked Will. "Huh? Will? Hello?"
"Where are we going?" Rafik asked.
"Will?" Jeff asked.
"We're going to the... the... the...," Will didn't know whether to tell him the truth yet. "Well, we're going to the, the... Where are we going, Brody?"
Brody cackled a wicked Brody laugh and glanced back at the passengers. "We're just going. Relax back there, and be quiet."
Jeff sat up and grabbed a handful of his shirt. "Brody, you tell me where we're going right now. You tell me or I'll--."
"I'd like to know too," Jared said, hitting the highway.
"Okay, okay," Brody said. "We're going to your bachelor party."
There was a general silence in the truck, and Will wondered if he was going to be really mad and make them turn around. Jeff looked at Will, then over at Rafik who raised his hands as if to show that he didn't know anything, then to the front at Brody and Jared. Jared kept glancing at him through the rear-view as if trying to make sure that everything was okay.
"It'll be fun," Will said sitting forward to them. "C'mon. I mean, that wasn't a bachelor party right now."
"That was a tea party," Brody spat. "We need to have a real party."
"It would be cool to do something just us," Jared said. "Like for the last time."
"Something fun," Brody added. "Something big."
"Something memorable," Will said. "C'mon."
Jared peeled his eyes at him through the mirror one last time. "Say the word, Jeff. And I'll turn around."
Rafik looked from one to the other and shook his head, "Oh no...no no no, Farah may own my ass, but not tonight; I need this!"
He sighed deeply. "Fine. Fine, yeah. Okay. Let's go."
"That-a-boy," Brody said.
Jeff turned around and gave Will another stout blow. "Pull the innocent act on me, Willy." he said mocking Will in a high voice.
Will laughed and settled against the backrest.
Hull. Will had been there all of twice in all the years he had spent in Ottawa, he just didn't bother.
When he found he simply couldn't avoid going there, he tried to make his visits as short as possible. Taking the trip north of the bridge, away from civilisation into Quebec, was dicey when someone spoke with such a heavy English accent.
On the Ottawa city map he was staring at, it was the beige area up at the top that lacked any details at all. It was as if they had done it deliberately, a desperate hope by Ottawa city officials that tourists would take the hint and avoid visiting such a strangely exotic place. And it was exotic; no one bothered to speak English, you could buy liquor at a convenience store and you could even smoke in a bar. He was sure it was because once citizens realized how much they were missing they'd never go south again.
Under Brody's careful instruction, Jared passed up a million bars.
"Not that one," Brody said over and over. "Definitely not that one," he said as they passed up Hooters.
"It's getting late," Jeff noted. "I have to be up early tomorrow. God, Lisa's going to kill me when she finds out."
"Who's going to tell her?" Will asked.
"I'm getting married, Will. I'm not going to start lying to her on my wedding day," he said as the truck came to a stop in front of a dark, big building that looked more like a dance club than a strip bar.
"Right here," Brody said.
"What's this?" Rafik blinked up at the blank marquee.
"It's a show, not really a bar. I didn't want to offend your sensitive sides, guys," Brody explained. "We can have a few drinks, check out the show. Have a few laughs?"
"Let's go then," Jeff said. "Move it."