Act IV, Scene VIII
Once the ceremony had at last come to an end, they collectively moved to the party location where their selected group would be having dinner before the actually party would commence and the other guests would arrive. It was when they were all getting settled at the new location, a glass of champagne in one hand and a small appetizer of shrimps in some kind of creamy sauce in the other, that Anna finally had time to inconspicuously survey the other guests. Stuffy uncles, ancient great-great-great aunts, some teenaged cousins that kept throwing not-so-inconspicuous glances at Tom. But no other school friends. Guilt crept up on her, for she had originally not even planned to invite Kate at all, let alone for the entire day. It had been many years since they had seen each other, and the friendship had been neglected to the point that the memory had become more valuable than the actual thing.
Just as she was considering this, a flash of white appeared in front of her and her own name was screeched before the bride suddenly hung around her neck. Returning the greeting a bit awkwardly, she was secretly glad when the groom also made his entrance – and Kate was forced to move back so that she could properly introduce them.
‘Will, meet Annie, my bestest friend in high school!’
‘I’ve heard a lot about you,’ the man in question said smilingly, as he shook her hand. He had curly blond hair that fell around a narrow face, a sizable nose, warm amber eyes and a friendly smile. ‘It’s very good to meet you.’
‘I’m surprised you would say so if she has really told you so much about me,’ Anna smiled, then, with only the tiniest hint of bitterness, ‘Congratulations on your marriage. You both look very handsome.’
‘Speaking of handsome, you never told me Ian was such a catch!’
Had she been taking a sip of her champagne at that moment, Anna was sure she would have spewed the beverage all over the bride’s pristine white dress. As it was, however, she simply felt her face grow hot as she sputtered, ‘This is not Ian! Ian and I…’ she fell silent just as the semi-truth was about to pass her lips. It would be easy to say Ian was no longer in her life, so very easy. And yet… ‘Ian died in a car accident last year.’
‘Oh heavens!’ cried Kate, and her expression turned sympathetic. There it was. The compassion. The pity that made her sick to her stomach. ‘You poor thing.’
‘It’s all right – I’m all right. Tom here has been a great support for me these past few months.’ And just like that, the conversation was redirected. And Tom softly squeezed her hand. And Anna felt like she could breathe again. And for the time, all felt normal.