I'm not entirely sure how I convince myself not to drive down there the moment I get the text, but somehow I manage to sit it out until two days later; I had to extend my stay by a day, but I have to talk to Emma. She sets up a time and place and I manage to be there before her, which has always been a rare thing.
"So," She starts when she joins me with a hot cup of tea. "So much for not having heavy conversations, huh?"
I know she's trying to lighten the mood, but if anything it does the exact opposite. I've practiced what I was going to say at least a thousand times, but now I'm not sure if I'll be able to get any of it out.
"Were you going to tell me?" I ask when she's realised her joke isn't landing.
"I... I don't know, Lucien. Kenna didn't even know. Matthew wasn't supposed to find out. You..." She trails off, but it isn't hard to fill in. You certainly weren't supposed to find out. We pause again, and after a sip of tea she looks up at me. "Are you going to congratulate me?"
"No." I say immediately, and a flicker in her eyes shows her hurt, but I don't care. "Come on, Em. What is this really about? Is this some sort of elaborate plot? Some sick joke?"
"What? No! Why on Earth would I make a joke of this?"
I had promised myself to stay composed, but looks like that promise is out of the window barely ten sentences into the conversation. "Because you can't be serious about this! How long have you known him for?"
"Long enough!" She defends herself fiercely, looking appalled at my reaction. "And why would that even matter? If I remember correctly, you were the person who used to say 'if you know, you know!' whenever couples moved in quickly!"
"Moving in and getting married are two different things, Emma!" I glare down on her, but she just stares back. So I force myself to take two calm breathes in the hope to continue this conversation in a more gentle way. "I just... don't think it's a good idea."
"I'm not looking for your approval, Lucien."
"Em, if this was truly what you wanted - if this was something you were excited about, then why the hell didn't you tell Kenna? Kenna is the first person to hear everything! I'm still not entirely convinced you didn't ring her in the bathroom after we first had sex."
That catches her off guard, because she lets out a short laugh before recomposing herself. "I hid our relationship for weeks from Kenna."
"Yeah, because it coming out would have repercussions. Does this?" The fact that there isn't an immediate answer, is answer enough. I squeeze the bridge of my nose, eyes closed, yet again trying to remain calm and not turn this into a screaming match. "I know I don't really have anything to say about this marriage, but I do think it's a god-awful idea."
"Good thing that you got it right then, you don't have anything to say about it." She snaps back.
With my fingers still on my nose, I look at her over the table. "Are you happy with him?"
"I... yes. Of course I am!"
Was that hesitation, or am I just looking for it? Am I just trying to find excuses to throw at her as to why it's such a terrible idea to get married to this man? No doubt my judgement is clouded, but I saw how the others reacted when they found out about this engagement. None of them are especially thrilled, though no one would tell me why.
"Jesse is a good man, Lucien." Emma says, her brow furrowed. "He's sweet and he's kind, and he has a steady, dependable life, and he loves me. Why can't you see that?"
Because everytime I have seen you with him, or talk about him, or heard others talk about your relationship, you don't seem like yourself. I swallow the words, and shrug helplessly. "I just want what's best for you."
"And you don't think Jesse is what's best for me?"
"Despite the fact that I've met the man just a couple of times - no. I think you could do better."
"Oh, like you? Is that what this is about? About you wanting me back? Is that why you don't like him?" The words come out sharp as a knife, cutting me deep, and I can't be sure if Emma regrets them or not. I clench my jaw, clenching and unclenching my fists under the table to release some of the tension in my body.
"This was never about me, Emma. I couldn't care less that you're getting married - if that's what you want, great! Go for it! I'm well aware that I'm no longer in your picture and I've made my peace with that - I can confidently say that you are no longer in mine either. But that doesn't take away from the fact that I don't think Jesse is the man for you. I just... don't think that you're happy with him. Not like I've seen you be happy before."
"Because you know me so well." It starts out as a sneer, but halfway through loses its power.
"I used to, anyway."
There's a minute of silence in which we both sip our drinks; she's contemplating whatever, and I'm contemplating saying that I'm confident Emma is no longer in the picture. It came out without thinking, and I'm trying to figure out if I meant it or not.
My thoughts are broken up by Emma's soft, warm voice that's empty of any anger. " I love Jesse, Lucien. I truly do, and I'm excited to get married to him."
I scan her face to find any evidence that she's lying, but I don't find it. But then again, in all the conversations we've had in the past few weeks, I never felt like I'm able to read her like I used to be. I don't know her as well as I used to, because we've both changed so much.
I let out a sigh, and push aside my pride so that I can be as genuine as I can muster. "In that case... congratulations, Em. I bet you'll make a blushing bride."

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