Jack & Jilted

By: Cathy Yardley

FEELING SHELL-SHOCKED, Chloe sat at the head table in the reception hall.

“Are you all right, dear?”

She looked up to see her aunt Mildred, whose wrinkled face was the picture of concern.

“I…” Chloe struggled for words. “Yes. I’m doing all right,” she said. It wasn’t exactly a lie. She wasn’t feeling badly—wasn’t feeling anything but numb, so she assumed that meant she was functional. As long as she could function, she was all right.

“Have you gotten a hold of the groom yet?”

Chloe shook her head.

“His family?”

Chloe winced. “His mother told me he’s unavailable for discussion,” she said, unconsciously mimicking the woman’s crisp, overly enunciated way of speaking.

Mildred made a snorting sound. “Convenient. He stands you up on your wedding day, with a note, and now he’s ‘unavailable for discussion’! That’s rich!”

Although she felt the same way, Chloe had had this conversation already with at least a dozen members of her family. All her family, in fact, had stayed to try to eat some of the reception food, since it was paid for. Gerald—Chloe’s vanished fiancé and groom—had not bothered to let anybody other than his immediate family know about his plan, so everyone from his guest list had shown up to the church and then beaten a hasty retreat once Chloe made the announcement that the wedding wasn’t proceeding.

“Didn’t you buy a house with this man not too long ago?”

“Yes,” Chloe admitted, suppressing a sigh. “I did.”

“You were supposed to move in after the honeymoon, weren’t you? What’s going to happen now?”

“I don’t know, Aunt Mildred,” Chloe replied, feeling weary.

“That’s not the sort of detail you want to leave hanging,” Mildred said with a disapproving cluck.

“Now, now,” Chloe’s mother Beverly interrupted, to Chloe’s intense relief. “My daughter has a lot of details that she’s going to have to address in light of…this unpleasantness. We’re not going to handle all this in one afternoon.”

“Of course, of course,” Aunt Mildred responded, sounding contrite. “You call me if you need anything, Chloe, dear.”

Chloe nodded and waved weakly as her aunt headed for the dessert table. “Thanks, Mom,” she breathed. “If I have to answer any more questions about Gerald—”

“I know, I know. It’s terrible,” her mother said, and there was a vicious edge to her voice that Chloe rarely heard. Her mother was usually optimistic to the point of unflappability. “Your father has been raving like a lunatic. I finally got your Uncle Carl to calm him down.”

“Dad?” The thought of her sedate father raving over anything but new tax tables was something of a shock.

“Yes,” her mother answered. “He’s been spouting off about buying a shotgun and going by Gerald’s house. He’s not serious, though the thought of doing physical harm to that…” Her mother let the sentence peter out with a menacing overtone.

“Mom,” Chloe said, now truly shocked.

“He left you a note, Chloe. He didn’t even have the courage to face you,” she countered. “And, after making all these plans, telling you that he’s involved with someone else? That is unforgivable.”

Chloe felt her throat constrict and hastily looked away. Every time she thought of that particular sentence—Chloe, I think I found someone more compatible and I’ve gotten more involved than I intended—she felt a cold stab of disbelief. It had taken her months to get intimate with Gerald once they’d started dating. They had a mutual, supportive relationship—or at least that’s what she’d thought. For pity’s sake, they’d split everything, including the house and the wedding bills, right down the middle even though Gerald made much more money as an architect than Chloe did as a personal assistant. How much more “compatible” could this new woman be?

“And don’t even get me started on that devil woman,” her mother added.

Chloe sighed. “That devil woman” not being the “compatible” object of Gerald’s infidelity but, rather, his domineering mother. “Well, at least she’s not here,” Chloe said, teary.

“After insisting on all this froufrou,” her mother hissed, pointing to the bunting, the flowers, the ice sculptures of King Arthur and Guinevere at the main buffet table. “Now her son has the nerve…”

“Mom, I love you for being so angry for me,” Chloe said, and she meant every word. “But it’s not helping. Not right now.”