Something Like Hate - Harloe Rae

“All rise.”

A chorus of creaks from the wooden pews responds to the pastor’s command as the guests stand in a fluid formation. The entire crowd turns toward the sealed barricade on the rear wall, bated breath stalling in our lungs. This is that precarious moment we’ve been on the literal edge of our seats for. Or on our aching feet, for those of us in the bridal party. In my case, I’m wobbling on the point of my stiletto in greedy anticipation.

With a rusty groan, the doors open to reveal a beautiful vision in white. I practically melt into the altar at the sight. Elegant lace and silky satin sweeps down the aisle, following the trail of glittering rose pedals. My cousin is getting married—finally, many would say. But I’m the type that appreciates Ashlee’s patience.

Her family almost wrote her off as a spinster at the ripe age of twenty-nine. Ashlee didn’t give in when her parents put on the pressure, though. She waited until the right groom came along. Based on her demure smile dipped in sordid intentions, I’d say she found her prince. And she’s not the only one ensnared in this whimsical cloud. Josh’s stare is the epitome of enraptured. I can feel the electricity pumping between them as the tether gets shorter with every measured step. How does a love of this caliber feel? They’re giving me a new standard to strive for, and I always meet my goals.

A string quartet is playing the procession, coming to an end as Josh eagerly steals Ashlee from her father’s grip. He spared no expense for his only daughter. Renting the ritziest hotel downtown was expected. There are no less than four ice sculptures waiting for us in the ballroom. The band is local and famous, no doubt costing a small fortune. A catered meal from the most popular chef Minnesota has to offer. Pretty sure the cake has seven tiers. Just thinking about the final bill for this shindig makes me wince.

I dap at my stingy eyes while the ceremony passes without a hitch. The happy couple seems to be pushing the service along faster than we rehearsed. Vows are exchanged and rings are slipped over knuckles by trembling fingers.

There’s a distinct scoff when the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife. I turn and whip a glare at the offender, invisible though he might be. The rude interruption was most definitely male. When only clapping and cheers ripple through the audience, I face my cousin and her Mr. Right once again. They’re wearing matching grins fit for this day. A kiss seals their union and everyone hoots in celebration. Ashlee and Josh link hands, floating across the aisle on newlywed bliss.

After five beats of the recessional, I loop arms with the best man and follow in their wake. The booming applause chases us outside onto the manicured lawn. We’re all smiles during an hour of pictures. Bubbles and laughter skip through the air. Glee is reflecting from every facet. My jaw and cheeks ache, but I’ll never complain. This is a day to remember.

Servers deliver brimming flutes of champagne to us as we stroll into the reception. I raise my glass, many mirroring me as we toast to the bride and groom.

“Cheers,” I announce to anyone listening.

Jeff chuckles beside me. “You’re totally catching the bouquet.”

I bat my lashes at him as he escorts me to the head table. “That might be a waste, considering my single status.”

The best man just shrugs. “Weddings are the perfect place to meet a special someone.”

“Are you offering?” The question is in jest, since his very happy girlfriend is standing mere feet in front of us.

“I might know a few of the guys roaming around without dates.”

Consider my interest officially piqued. “Do tell.”

Jeff points them out with subtle nods as dinner is served. I recognize most from the coed stag party Ashlee and Josh hosted a few weeks ago. My gaze returns to one in particular, but I can’t recall his name. He’s memorable as the only man who didn’t participate during Stick the Dick on the Prick. That game is hilarious, but he apparently doesn’t enjoy dirty humor. He was silent and broody while the rest of us cackled—very similar to now, in fact. I had felt a slice of disappointment from his withdrawn attitude. A single glance was enough to feed my fantasies for days so I’ve been stuck fantasizing about what a touch could do. Maybe he’ll give me