He sat next to her with barely suppressed fury, throwing back scotches from the cash bar, a cheap blended scotch which increased his disgust. He was icily polite to the rest of the table, only on point of pride -- not even the dreadfulness of this wedding and its attendees could induce him to what he considered rudeness. He didn't want to be with her at all anymore, not even in a bar or in bed and yet they were stuck at this loathsome work wedding with nothing to say to each other.

Mistake, mistake, mistake. Why did she ever think to bring this crashing bore of an almost ex-boyfriend? He had seemed agreeable enough when she asked him a month ago, when they were still having fun. When he was charming her with his ardentness and his over the top manners. When he laughed at her stories. When he seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the semi-employed espresso-drinkers she usually slept with.

She had given him an out, described the awfulness of it as best she could. "It'll be a tacky Northeast Philly wedding. You'll be appalled. The cheesy hall, the legions of bridesmaids, the bad food and worse music, the cake smashed into newlywed faces. I have to go because I work with her. I certainly don't expect you to, but you're more than welcome to come."

"Thank you for your gracious and heartfelt invitation, but I believe I will. I can't allow such a sweet thing to go unescorted to a wedding. Besides, it sounds like some kind of anthropological adventure into the deep wilderness of the great Northeast. It'll be a hoot."

She supposed that the anthropological adventure of dating what he called an alterna-girl had worn off at some point in that last month. She didn't have to nag him to honor his commitment, etiquette was one of the many things he prided himself on, but he had tried to talk her out of going to the wedding because then it wouldn't be his breach.

She tried her best to be giddy and merry, anything to get him to smile, but he was unyielding. She chatted cheerfully to her tablemates. He pointedly excused himself to get another drink. She tried to get him on the dance floor but he sourly refused. He had liked to dance the few times she had taken him to that after-hours club, but the music had been better and he had been drunker and much more into the novelty of her. Finally, the d.j. announced, with great fanfare, that the bouquet tossing was about to begin, to be followed, of course, by the garter removal.

"I can't believe they're going to do the garter. It's indecent."

"Well come on then, my great anthropologist, let's observe the savages."

They watched the crush of big-haired girls in skimpy dresses grow eager as the d.j. urged them on. Finally, when the bride turned her back to them, a zaftig girl in a strapless dress pushed her way forward and even knocked down another big-haired girl in her zeal to catch the bouquet, which she did, diving down onto the floor and practically popping out of her dress after the bride threw short. She then waved the bedraggled bouquet triumphantly and posed for pictures with the bride and the envious others.

He rolled his eyes at her and clinked the ice in his glass. "I definitely need another."

"No, you really must stay for the garter."

The d.j. began playing striptease music as the bride seated herself on a chair in the middle of the dance floor. The groom knelt down in front of her and put his hands under her dress. He pretended to fumble around for a while and then finally lifted up her poufy skirt and stuck his head under. The bride laughed uproariously along with everyone else. After a good long while he emerged triumphant, the garter in his teeth.

"Okay, now I really need a drink."

"But wait, there's more."

The groom tossed the garter to one of his friends without even turning around. The d.j. cued porno-movie music. To the surprise of no one but her squeamish date, the garter-catcher gyrated Chippendale style for an excruciatingly long time. He even rubbed the garter between his legs. Finally, he ended up in front of the bosomy bouquet girl and performed the groom's act in reverse. Everyone at the wedding, especially the eighteen members of the wedding party, was well-pleased with the show.

He turned in disgust to fetch his drink. She tagged along, she'd need a few more to make it through the rest of the night with Mr. Happiness.

It was fun in the beginning. She had liked to entice him with tales from the underground, as he termed it. Not that her stories were anything special, or that she was especially wild, but he was so sheltered. He had endured the binge drinking and inanity of fraternity life, but had never been to a bar more sordid than a generic college pub. He had never heard any live music except cover bands muffled by the beer drenched carpet in a frat house. She took him out in the city, to the art school bars and the tiny, smoky ear-ruining clubs. She introduced him to new music, ethnic food and parties in crappy roach infested apartments. Her normal everyday life was a great big adventure to him. He thought he was some sort of bwana venturing into the wilds of the city with his tribal girl guide.

He was only familiar with the type of girls she thought of as debs. Pouty, manipulative, semi-literate, with an over-developed sense of entitlement, but pretty, polished and expensively dressed. They played their role well. They would happily give up even their first name for that all-important 'Mrs.' They were easy to be with because boys knew what to expect. Cookie-cutter girls, nice to look at, sweet and empty. He didn't know what to expect from her and that had been irresistible, if only for a little while.

She tried to smile coquettishly. "Come outside with me, I want a cigarette." She wondered which he would find worse, standing alone with her while she smoked or watching the wedding guests dance stiffly to bad disco?

He had gotten a kick out of her smoking at first. He relished lighting her cigarettes with his Zippo, with that silly one-handed flourish. He even bummed a few off her and smoked then with the perfect gestures. He must have practiced in front of a mirror. He was so taken with tiny details and unnecessary material things, like carrying a sleek lighter in case he had the opportunity to pull a Cary Grant and light a woman's cigarette, even though he had informed her that he thought it was unfeminine for women to smoke.

She so regretted inviting him. If she hadn't asked him to this wedding so that he could sneer at the people she worked with, he probably would have ditched her a week ago. He now openly scorned everything about her, her political opinions, her taste in clothes, her friends, her job, her smoking. She should have dumped him the night he called her a naive little fool. She moved too slowly, waited for too much evidence.

"I can't believe they did that, in front of their grandmothers and all. It was so crude. And that dancing guy. What was that all about? It was like he was some paid performer. I have never seen anything like that. And I hope I never will again."

She desperately tried to think of something to change the subject. She didn't want to dish the wedding with him now that he was like this. She knew he wouldn't like the wedding -- he wasn't supposed to like it, it was supposed to be a lark, something to laugh about. Something to get into and enjoy. It wasn't about moralizing, it was slumming.

"Okay. Imagine this. Imagine a wedding where the bride and groom haven't been living together for years, and haven't had sex with seventeen people each. They haven't had sex at all. They're virgins."

He snorted.

"No really. It has happened. Even today, but I'll grant more often in the past. So they're virgins. They've fumbled around in the back of the car, sure, but they live with their parents. And she's a good girl, even if it's only because they've never had a good opportunity to finish up the fumbling, and he likes that about her.

"So this is their big night. They are both so keyed up with anticipation they can barely see. And then they sit her down on that chair in the middle of everyone she knows. And she's shaking. He slowly runs his hands up her legs. She a good girl, but she's no prude, so she's put the garter up extra high. What the hell, no one else will know whether it's just above her knee or at the very top of her thigh."

"He expects it to be right above her knee and when his hands don't find it there, he gives her a look. She's blushing crimson, after all, everyone is watching, but she would be blushing even if they were alone. His hands go higher and higher and higher up her leg. Slowly. He's still looking for that garter, thinks he might have missed it, he's already so high up her leg. Finally he finds it. His hands have never been there before. Not quite in that place. He touches her a little, what the hell, nobody can tell. He feels her lace underwear. Her thighs tense. But they're good kids and he knows he can't linger in front of everyone, so he strokes her thigh once more and slowly pulls the garter off."

As she finishes the story he looks at her as if he's seeing her for the first time that night. Notices her carefully chosen dress revealing just a hint of cleavage.

He moves in close, nuzzles her neck and whispers, "You've got quite the imagination, don't you? Let's get out of here. Let's go back to your place."

He kisses her and she wonders if the taste of cigarettes and gin will bother him. Apparently not. She thinks, what the hell, we'll go back to my place. One more night with this pain-in-the-ass, self-righteous, teeth-achingly cute suburban boy. She doesn't have any prospects on the horizon. It could be a long dry spell before she gets another dance at a wedding.

About the author:

Mary Richardson Graham is no longer doing the Lord's work.