When I got the invitation for Shanna's rehearsal dinner, I have admit, I was a little surprised to see that she'd chosen to have it at El Fenix. Grated, she was half Mexican and I'd heard great things about El Fenix margaritas, but El Fenix just didn't scream "elegant and classy" the way the rest of her wedding itinerary did. I'd never been to there, but I'd driven past it a number of times and thought it was just a random Mexican restaurant on the side of the highway, which is exactly what it looked like until walked upstairs opened the doors to the private dinning room upstairs.
Black-clothed round tables and black chairs popped against the light yellow walls. Glowing black, metal lanterns hung between arched windows. The hardwood floors reflected the sun setting beyond the large, floor-to-ceiling windows along one side of the room. Tiny champagne flutes holding black and white M&Ms with Shanna and Ronnie's smiling faces printed on them decorated the tables. My jaw hung slack as I took it all in. My eyes lingered on the oversized rooftop patio just outside the windowed wall, bathed in the colors of the sunset.
"Wow," I said, as I took it all in. Cayden squeezed my hand and I saw him nod in agreement in my peripheral.
"Whitney!" Shanna's voice tore my eyes away from the sunset. And there she was in front of me... the bride, looking gorgeous in a slimming black and white dress that made her waist look like the size of my calf. I wrapped her in a hug and squealed about how beautiful she looked. I couldn't believe it was really happening. My best friend from high school was about to marry the random guy I met on the beach in Florida five years ago. I should have charged a finder's fee.
"Ah, and Cayden made it!" she said as Cayden enveloped her in a hug. Cayden was at least a foot taller than her, which made her look more like a cake topper than a life-size bride-to-be. "I'm just so glad you guys are here together!"
"So, how's your stress level? Are you hanging in there?" I asked.
"You know, I'm doing OK!" she exclaimed in her always positive, enthusiastic way. "I'm just so ready for tomorrow. Oh, did you see Johnny yet?"
"No! Where is he?"
You may remember this story from a previous post (Ch. 50: Third of July), but Johnny was one of the three guys I'd met during my first trip to Florida back when I was 15. The next year, I went back, and he introduced me to Ronnie, who I later introduced to Shanna, who was one day away from becoming Ronnie's wife. So I suppose Johnny would get a cut of the finder's fee as well. I hand't seen Johnny since his last trip to Texas, which was a couple years back.
"There!" Shanna said when she spotted Johnny coming toward us.
He looked exactly the same as the day I met him on the beach. That is, if he'd been wearing dress pants and a button down shirt on the beach, which he wasn't. Same jet black hair. Same subtle fauxhawk. Same beautiful smile and friendly eyes.
I smiled and waved and his eyes lit up even more. We hugged that kind of hug friends do when they haven't seen each other in years. Sure, we were Facebook friends, so I'd kept up on his life and clicked through various photos of him and his fiancee and their new baby, but seeing him face to face again was different.
"Long time no see!" he said when he pulled away. "And this must be Cayden! The one who turned you into a hopeless romantic, right?"
He didn't wait for my confirmation to shake hands with Cayden.
"Wait, where's your lady?" I asked. "I need to meet the fiancee!"
Out of nowhere, a short, blue-eyed brunette with a killer tan and a smile as friendly as Johnny's appeared at his side.
"Whitney, Toni. Toni, Whitney," Johnny said. We did that awkward two-second dance people do when they're not sure if they should shake hands or hug it out. Luckily, we both decided on hug it out in enough time to avoid the even more awkward smashed handshake sandwiched in a hug.
"How the hell did you just pop out a kid?" I asked as I spun her around. Her waist was also eerily similar in width as my calf.
"She looks great, right?" Johnny said as he spun her around. Cayden and I nodded in genuine agreement.
Shanna had wandered off to greet other guests. The mixing and mingling continued. Ronnie found us eventually and thanked me again for introducing him to the woman of his dreams. He and Cayden got bromantic while I refilled our drinks. Then I introduced Cayden to Shanna's parents, sister, and the bridesmaids who's names I remembered. All the while, Cayden and I stayed conveniently close to the bar, with its never-ending supply of margaritas, beer and wine. Kelsey, the bridesmaid I'd bonded with at the bridal shower, and her boyfriend Josh joined us.
"What do you say we grab another refill and head out to the patio?" she suggested. "I can't miss this sunset."
It was like she'd read our minds. The four of us grabbed a table outside where we relaxed and kicked our shoes off and let the sunset and the margaritas warm our skin. Cayden and Josh were instant friends, as were Kelsey and I. The boys talked about sports and work and bachelor parties while Kelsey and I talked about the wedding.
"So, the preacher or priest dude thing is here, right?" I asked. Kelsey laughed and nodded, pointing to a 30s something guy in a corduroy jacket and hair like the lead singer from the Goo Goo Dolls.
"So, if he's here, and both families are here, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen are here, why don't they just have a surprise wedding right now?" I asked. "Right here on the roof. Just before the sun sets completely."
We both looked around at the patio. We spotted flowers and comfortable lounge chairs. What more did you need for a wedding?
"You know, that's not a bad idea," Kelsey said.
"It would save a hell of a lot of money."
Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, we were all ushered back inside where a buffet of steaming fajitas was waiting for us. It was just what our margarita-filled bellies needed.
"This is delicious," Cayden said, biting into a fajita that looked more like a double-stuffed burrito. Just past Cayden's shoulder, I made eye contact with a man across the room. He smiled and waved when the woman next to him wasn't looking. I tried to smile and wave back, but I couldn't wipe the stumped expression from my face. Where did I know him from? There was something so familiar about him, but I couldn't place it. Why was he still looking at me like that?
"What's that look for?" Cayden asked.
"There's this guy over there. I know him somehow. But he looks different, so I can't figure out where I know him from."
That's when it hit me. The only thing that was different about him were his clothes. Well, the fact that he was wearing any. I remembered him with much less. And he was probably thinking the same thing about me. Vacation flings are not supposed to show up at your best friend's wedding. That should be a rule.
From left to right: Johnny, me, Shanna and Ronnie.
(Yes, I'm aware that my attempt to keep everyone's eyes covered is getting a little ridiculous. But you've got to admit, this one is more fun that the black bars.)