If You Only Knew(2)

By: Kristan Higgins



The gifts—including mine—border on the ridiculous. The shower invitation—engraved from Crane’s—asked, at the behest of the parents, for donations to the clean-well-water charity Ana-Sofia founded—Gushing.org, the name of which brings to mind a particularly bad menstrual period, but which raises funds for wells in Africa. Yeah. Therefore, everyone donated fat checks and tried to outdo each other with gifts. There’s a Calder mobile. A 1918 edition of Mother Goose stories. A mohair Steiff teddy bear that costs about as much as the rent on my soon-to-be former apartment in the Village.

My gaze drifts across the now-tastefully furnished apartment. When I lived here, it was cozier and boho—fat, comfortable furniture; dozens of pictures of my three nieces; the occasional wall hanging from Target, that bastion of color and joy for the middle class. Now the decor is incredibly tasteful, with African masks on the wall to remind us what Ana-Sofia does, and original paintings from around the globe. The walls are painted those boring neutral colors with sexy names—October Fog, Birmingham Cream, Icicle.

There’s their wedding photo. They eloped, so thank God I didn’t have to go to that—or, heaven forbid, make her gown, which I would’ve done if asked, because I’m still pretty pitiful where Owen is concerned and can’t figure out how to divorce him out of my heart. Though the photo was taken by the justice of the peace in Maine, it’s perfect. Both bride and groom are laughing, slightly turned away from the camera, Ana’s hair blowing in the sea breeze. The New York Times featured the photo in the Sunday Vows section.

They really are the perfect couple. Once, it was Owen and me, and while I didn’t expect perfection, I thought we were pretty great. We never fought. My mom felt that since Owen is half-Japanese, he was a better bet than “those simpletons” I dated—all of whom I hoped to marry at one point or another, starting with Nico Stephanopolous in eighth grade. “The Japanese don’t believe in divorce,” Mom said the first time I introduced her. “Right, Owen?”

He agreed, and I can still see his omnipresent, sweet smile, the Dr. Perfect Smile, as I called it. It’s his resting expression. Very reassuring to his patients, I’m sure. Owen is a plastic surgeon, the kind who fixes cleft palates and birthmarks and changes the lives of his patients. Ana-Sofia, who is from Peru and speaks five languages, met Owen eleven weeks after our divorce when he was doing his annual stint with Doctors Without Borders in the Sudan and she was digging wells.

And I make wedding dresses, as I believe I’ve already said. Listen, it’s not as shallow as it sounds. I make women look the way they dreamed they would on one of the happiest days of their lives. I make them cry at their own reflections. I give them the dress they’ve spent years thinking about, the dress they’ll be wearing when they pledge their hearts, the dress they’ll pass on to their own daughters someday, the dress that signifies all their hopes and dreams for a happy, sparkling future.

But compared with what Owen and his second wife do, yeah, it’s incredibly shallow.

In theory, I should hate them both. No, he didn’t cheat with her. He’s far too decent for that.

He loves her, though. Ostensibly, I could hate him for loving her and not me. Make no mistake. I was heartbroken. But I can’t hate Owen, or Ana-Sofia. They’re too damn nice, which is incredibly inconsiderate of them.

And being Owen’s friend is better than being without Owen entirely.

The quilt has made the rounds of admiration and is passed back to Ana. She strokes it tenderly, then looks at me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t have the words to tell you how much this means.”

Oh, shut up, I want to say. I forgot to buy you a gift and dashed this off last night with some leftover Duchess satin. It’s no big deal.

“Hey, no worries,” I say. I’m often glib and stupid around Ana-Sofia. Andreas hands me another cream puff. I may have to give him a raise.

“I’m so excited about your new shop,” Ana continues. “Owen and I were talking about how talented you are just last night.”

Andreas gives me a significant look and rolls his eyes. He has no problem hating Ana-Sofia and Owen, which I appreciate. I smile and take another sip of my mimosa, which is made with blood oranges and really good champagne.

If I’m ever pregnant, though the chances of that are plummeting by the hour, I imagine I’ll have the unenviable “I sat on an air hose” look that my sister had when she was percolating the triplets. There was no glow. There was acne. Stretch marks that made her look as if she’d been mauled by a Bengal tiger. She gnashed on Tums and burped constantly, but in true Rachel fashion, my sister never complained.

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