Until They Are Both Empty by Maura Yzmore

My maid of honor Beth and I sit next to each other on the floor, amid beads and teal in the only shaded corner of the bridal suite. We have grabbed two bottles of champagne and ditched the wedding party that’s raging in the main hall. My new husband Luke won’t miss me; he’s pretty hammered and having a ball with his frat buddies, at least those who haven’t already hooked up with some of my bridesmaids. I bet no one thinks my party favors containing an assortment of condoms are gross and tacky now. You’re welcome, horny people.

I can’t imagine Mom or Dad looking for me, either. My parents, though kind and patient, have always seemed like two glaciers, cool and drifting away, with hidden depths that I will never get to know.

I lean back against the wall, spread my legs on the floor, and straighten my dress between them. “It’s a nice dress, isn’t it?” I ask. The skirt is light and poofy, unlike anything I’d ever wear in real life, but if you can’t wear giant cotton candy on your wedding day, when can you?

“It really is,” says Beth. “You look beautiful today.” She sounds a bit more serious than the occasion calls for. I think she might’ve lost sight of the fact we have two bottles of expensive champagne with us, and that the bridal suite is locked and ours alone.

“You sound a little off,” I say. “Is it the crowd?”

She smiles weakly. It doesn’t reach her eyes. “Everyone gets emotional at weddings.”

I squeeze her upper arm. “Look, if you’d rather be out there grinding against one of Luke’s frat bros, it’s totally OK. We don’t have to sit here.”

Beth grabs one of the bottles and scoots away from me, but not far. She leans back against the wall that shares a corner with mine. Our feet could touch but they don’t because she curls her legs close to her body.

“So it’s a no on going back to the party?” I say. “Darryl seemed very interested in you. I won’t be mad if you leave, honestly.”

“Stop,” she says. “Just…stop. I don’t want to hook up with Darryl.”

“OK,” I say, and take a swig. We sit in silence, but her sulking is harshing my buzz. I didn’t quite think this is how our little getaway would go, but I can’t do anything about it now. I sip and take deep breaths. I thought we’d be gossiping about the guests and laughing, not steep in Beth’s out-of-nowhere existential crisis.

“Are you happy?” Beth asks after what seems like a very long time. I can’t tell if she’s unusually loud or if it’s just the ending of silence that feels deafening.

“Sure,” I say. I lift my bottle and inspect the contents. I’ve worked my way through about half of it.

She leans over and taps my thigh.

“None of that bullshit,” she says. “Are you really happy?”

I shrug. “Yeah. I mean, it’s my wedding day.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Yes, I’m happy. Luke and I are a good match.”

“That sounds…weird and calculated.”

“Maybe. Doesn’t mean it’s not good.”

“So you love him, then?”

“I do, I think. As much as I’ve ever loved anyone.” That’s true. I don’t exactly burn hot on the passion front. Never have. Beth knows that.

She sighs and leans back, away from me. “Do you remember Ryan?”

“Your boyfriend from high school Ryan? Sure. Why?”

“Why did you do it?” Beth asks.

“Do what?”

“Why did you sleep with him?”

I feel like the air has left my lungs. Her eyes are fixed on mine with dark intensity.


“I know you did,” she says. “He told me, so don’t deny it. I just don’t understand why.”

I lower my gaze. I am not sure I understand either, not fully. They were so in love, the two of them. Being around them felt alluring, but also suffocating, like I was trying to breathe underwater. Or on an alien planet.

“I slept with Luke,” Beth says flatly.

I sit up. “What?”

“I did. Early on, when you first started dating.”

I know I should say something, but nothing’s coming out.

“I wanted to hurt you,” she says. “I didn’t think you’d end up marrying him. I’m sorry.”

I should feel jealous, but I don’t. I’m surprised that Beth isn’t who I thought she was more than I care that Luke slept with her. Other than a faint ache in my gut, I can’t even say I feel hurt. I think something’s wrong with me. I think Beth knows it, too.

She’s quiet, focused on me, waiting.

I sigh and lean back against the wall. “I wanted to feel the warmth,” I say. “You and Ryan. I’d never felt something like that with anyone. You two seemed…part of something amazing.”

“We were,” she says. “Until we weren’t.”

“Beth, I’m sorry…” I want to say more, but she puts up a hand to stop me.

“I really hated you at the time. I don’t anymore.”

“I had no idea you knew,” I say.

“He told me long after the fact. At the very end. As a parting gift.”

“What an asshole,” I say.

She chuckles and takes a sip. “Yup.”

Beth wouldn’t talk to me for months after the two of them had broken up. I thought she was reeling from the split. Apparently, she just didn’t want to see me.

“Why tell me all this now?” I ask.

She shrugs. “Maybe I’m the asshole.”

We sit in silence for a while.

“It wasn’t very good, you know,” I finally speak, then take a swig. “With Ryan. He wasn’t into it. At all.”

Beth smiles. “Neither was Luke.”

We reach out and clink our bottles, then drink slowly until they’re both empty.

Biography: Maura Yzmore writes short fiction and long equations somewhere in the Midwest. Her literary flash has appeared in Bending Genres, Maudlin House, BULL, and elsewhere. She also writes dark speculative tales and is a member of the HWA. Find out more at maurayzmore or on Twitter @MauraYzmore.

Image: unsplash.com