“That was Tyler,” Emily gulped. Her mouth so dry she wished she had a bucketful of water to drink. “He’s not coming.” Her voice dropped to a bare whisper.
The cousins gasped and clutched one another in horror.
The make-up artist, who had been waiting to do final touch-ups, packed up her case in a flash and squeaked out of the room without a word.
Ruby’s eyes widened, her mouth formed an ‘o,’ and her body vibrated a fine tremor. “Oh no, was he in an accident? I told him not to drive himself. I’ve read so many stories about brides and grooms getting in accidents on the way to the church. Nerves, they said. Should I go to him? Where is he? Was he driving his father’s car or the rental? I hope he wasn’t driving the rental. We have to make it to our suite at the Hilton tonight, and I really don’t want to take an Uber. Or have my father drive. Oh, that would be so embarrassing.”
“Ruby.” Emily grasped her friend’s arm, the fine Mikado silk cool under her fingers. A long-sleeved dress for a late fall wedding maybe was too warm for the Tampa location, but it had been so gorgeous on her friend’s slender body there had been no other choice at the bridal boutique. “He’s calling off the wedding.”
Nausea soured Emily’s stomach.
Why did she have to be the one who picked up the phone?
One of the cousins burst into tears.
Ruby stood stock still in the middle of the bride’s dressing room. “But—”
Rhonda Madison Evers entered wearing a royal blue mother-of-the-bride dress covered in sequins. “My darling. The make-up artist told me the news. How could that man be so cruel?” She curved her arms around her only daughter.
“Mom, I don’t understand. How could he not be coming?” Ruby crumpled to the floor.
“You’ll crush your dress!” Mrs. Evers gasped and knelt beside her. She yanked at her daughter’s arm as if her will alone would lift up the one-hundred-twenty-five-pound woman and her ten pounds of underskirts and heavy fabric. “We can still return it.”
“No, we can’t. It’s been altered.” The bride spoke in a monotone.
“Well,” said Mrs. Evers, “there’s always eBay or Craigslist, I suppose.”
“Facebook Marketplace is better,” mumbled a cousin.
Mrs. Evers shot daggers in the woman’s direction.
“I need to talk to him.” The bride snapped her fingers at Emily. “Get Tyler on the phone. I will just demand that he come.”
Emily gulped and bit at her lower lip, then got up the courage to tell her best friend since grade school the worst thing a best friend could say. “Tyler doesn’t want to get married. Do you really want to force a man to marry you, Rubes?”
“But he promised me. He gave me this ring.” Ruby held out her hand for the cousins, her mother, Emily, and now the florist who’d arrived with her wedding bouquet. A gorgeous pear-shaped 2 ½ carat diamond decorated her left ring finger. “Would he have given me this ring if he didn’t want to marry me?”
“He doesn’t want to marry you, Rubes.” Emily knelt and put an arm around her friend. The bride sagged against her.
The florist quietly set the bridal bouquet on a chair and scrambled for the door.
Emily led Ruby to an empty chair and her mother sat beside her. “He’s an awful man. A terrible, mean, awful man. Who would do that to my little girl?” Mrs. Evers took her daughter by the hand and gripped it tightly.
“Ow, mother, that hurts.” Ruby pulled her hand out of her mother’s grasp and began to nibble on her freshly manicured nails. “What do we do about the guests?”
“Your father is telling them now,” Mrs. Evers reassured her.
“What will we do about the reception?” Ruby pulled the veil out of her hair.
“We’re inviting everyone to meet us over there,” her mother answered. “We’ve already paid for the hall, the food, the entertainment. We might as well have a party, don’t you think, darling?”
“What will we do about the honeymoon?” Ruby kicked off her satin heels and rubbed her toes.
“Well, I guess you’ll have to cancel,” sighed Mrs. Evers. “Maybe they’ll give you credit.”
“No, wait, I have a better idea,” said Emily.