“Um… Jocelyne?” Clara’s voice called out over the loud music that filled the air around them.
Her niece turned toward her expectantly as she placed the tall glass back on the edge of the bar. She’d already downed half of her drink in just a few seconds.
“Maybe you should slow down a little? I mean, you don’t wanna be crawling back to the hotel, do you?” The purple-haired woman laughed softly. “You do realize I was joking… When I said you should get drunk off your ass tonight?”
Jocelyne shook her head. “I’m fine, Clara. Seriously. I’m fine. It’s okay.” She raised the glass to her lips yet again before continuing. “I just need to take the edge off and stuff, y’know? But it’s okay.”
“Take the edge off what, exactly?” Her aunt raised an eyebrow at her.
“Everything. All this.” The girl gestured to the room at large. “Being at my stupid Bruder’s wedding. Being stuck in the same room as…him…” Jocelyne could not bring herself to say Mark’s name. “For the first time in two fucking years… Spending eight goddamn hours on a plane with three screaming babies…” She let out a small, bitter laugh. “I’ve earned this, Clara. Trust me.”
Her aunt just shook her head, sighing softly. “I know you have.” She agreed. “But are you even listening to yourself? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have said any of that three drinks ago… You don’t wanna piss anyone off, right? Not tonight…”
Jocelyne just shrugged. Lucas should be grateful she even showed up at all, shouldn’t he? Less than four months after giving birth to triplets, she was willing to fly across the Atlantic to see the two people responsible for ruining her life get married – be happy together. Something she and Mark would never have.
But now she actually had to be nice about it too?!
Still… It was really great for her family to finally meet the little munchkins in person, wasn’t it? Jocelyne couldn’t help but smile as she glanced across the room to where Tobi and Colette stood, cooing excitedly over their new grandchildren. Elliot stood off to the side, beaming proudly as he chatted with Mari and Jonas about the little ones.
“Elliot’s such an amazing dad.” She said softly. “Look at how proud he is. He’s so great with them.”
Clara smiled. “It’s sweet.” She agreed. “Sounds like the two of you have been doing pretty well… I mean, I thought Florian and I had it rough with two. Especially now that they’re running around all over the place.” She and Florian had opted to have Remi and River stay with Florian’s parents for the weekend, rather than worry about chasing them all over the reception hall all night. “But I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have three.”
Jocelyne nodded. “It’s hard. But we’re making it work. Especially Elliot… God, he’s just so amazing with all three of them… And I feel so guilty, y’know? He loves them so much. Like, so damn much. And he loves me so much… But I… I don’t really… I mean…”
Her aunt’s face fell. “Jocelyne, we’ve had this conversation so many times. You already know what I’m gonna say.” Clara sighed. “But I don’t wanna talk about it when you’re… Like this. Okay? Just… slow down a little. And try to have some fun tonight.”
In the edge of her vision, Jocelyne could see the familiar spectacled figure across the room. So handsome. So perfect. She could still feel his gaze on her, just as she had all afternoon.
But she willed herself to keep her own gaze fixed firmly on anyone, anything else.
“Yeah, sure.” Jocelyne muttered. “Fun.”
It was going to be a very long night.
A warmth that had nothing to do with the alcohol washed over her at the sound of his voice. Deep. Soothing. Beautiful. Oh God. I missed him.
Jocelyne finished her drink and placed the empty glass carefully back onto the bar. She blinked a few times against the annoying spinning sensation that washed over her, took a slow, deep breath, and turned to face him at last.
“Hi, Mark.” She smiled softly at him, her eyes drinking up every line, every detail of his face. He still looked exactly the same as he had when she’d said goodbye to him over two years ago. “Congratulations.” Jocelyne said seriously.
“Thank you.” Mark returned her smile. “I almost can’t believe my little girl’s all grown up…” He shook his head slowly. “And I suppose some congratulations are in order for you and Elliot too.” Mark glanced over his shoulder at the distant bassinet. “They’re beautiful.”
“Thanks. I really love them.” Jocelyne replied. “They’re kind of a handful though.” She admitted. “I don’t think I can even remember the last time I slept more than four hours at a time. It’s pretty exhausting. They’re such a handful. It’s so exhausting. But I love them.” The tipsy young woman didn’t even realize she was repeating herself as she continued to ramble. “I don’t know what I’d do without Elliot. Probably lose my mind or something. He’s so good with them.”
For one moment, Mark’s smile almost faltered. “You’re lucky you found each other again. I’m so happy for you, Jocelyne.”
“Heh. Yeah. Thanks.” Jocelyne’s voice was flat and lifeless. “Anyway… It’s really nice to see you, Mark.” She changed the subject quickly. “You look great.”
The older man chuckled, shaking his head. “Not sure if I agree, but thank you. And, Jocelyne, wow. You…” Mark’s eyes seemed to trace every inch of her, head to toe. The way he was looking at her sent a pleasant shiver down her spine. “You… You look…” His voice trailed off into silence.
Jocelyne said nothing for a few moments. And neither did he.
At last, Jocelyne reached down, unfastening her shoes and kicking them from her feet. They fell to the floor below with a pair of soft thuds. “Do you wanna dance?” She asked. “Now that I won’t break my ankles in those heels…” Jocelyne giggled. She knew that even trying to stand in those shoes in her current state would be disastrous.
Mark bit his lip uncertainly. “I’d love to, but… I’m not sure if that’s the best idea…”
“Oh come on. I’m not that drunk. I promise.” Jocelyne teased.
“It’s not that, it’s just…” Mark’s gaze traveled across the reception hall to where Elliot stood.
She sighed. “It’s just one dance. It’s not a big deal.” Jocelyne assured him. “Please? Just one?”
He hesitated for just a moment. “Okay.”
“Mmm… This is a blast from the past, isn’t it?” Mark whispered softly. “Remember that little lounge up in Falkenburg? The one I used to take you to?”
Jocelyne could smell the hint of whiskey on his sweet, warm breath as he spoke. Her eyes looked down at his lips, watching intently as they formed each word. She wanted nothing more than to lean forward and taste them.
She nodded slowly. “I’ve never really liked dancing.” Jocelyne confessed. “It’s not really my thing.”
His hand was so strong and warm against her waist. Jocelyne began imagining what would happen if he moved it just a bit lower…
“It’s not?” His voice was so soft and gentle. “Then why did you let me keep taking you there?” Mark’s gaze bored deeply into hers.
“Because I would have let you take me anywhere.” The girl leaned forward and laid her head against his shoulder. She could feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest with every breath he took. “It didn’t matter. As long as I was with you.”
His hand slid gently down the lace of her dress, coming to rest on her hip. Jocelyne let out a soft sigh, wishing he would keep going.
She closed her eyes, breathing in the intoxicating scent of whiskey and cologne and old books.
And imagining all of the things that hand could do…
Jocelyne’s legs felt weak as she staggered out of the messy closet. She fought to catch her breath as she straightened her skirt and tried to steady herself enough to stand properly. And this time, it had nothing to do with her drunkenness.
There had been nothing gentle or romantic about what she and Mark had just shared. It was desperate. Frantic. Hungry.
And Jocelyne felt certain it was the best she ever had.
“Wow. That was… wow.” She managed to gasp. “You were holding out on me! Who knew?” Jocelyne laughed softly. He’d always been so slow and gentle when they’d made love before. Back when she was just a naïve young girl…
But those days were over now, weren’t they?
Beside her, Mark did not smile. He buttoned his pants hastily, not even bothering to tuck in his shirt. His jacket and tie still lay discarded on the closet floor.
Jocelyne’s face fell. “What’s wrong?”
“This.” He replied seriously. “This is wrong. Jesus… What was I thinking?!”
Her eyes widened. “You are NOT pulling this shit on me again, okay?!” Jocelyne cried. “That was amazing, and you know it!”
“Amazing or not, that doesn’t make it right!” Mark held his face in his hands for a moment. “God, your boyfriend is out there! The father of your children!”
Jocelyne felt her stomach drop as a wave of guilt washed over her. Elliot. It didn’t matter whether she loved him or not, did it? He was the father of her children. And she’d cheated on him.
Three chubby little faces came to the forefront of her drunken mind. Charlie. Alex. Tony. So sweet. So innocent. Just like their father. And she’d betrayed them all.
“Shit.” She said at last. “You’re right… I fucked up.”
Mark shook his head. “I’m just as much to blame as you are. And I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking…”
“I do.” Jocelyne lifted her eyes to meet his. “You still love me, just like I still love you.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “And this is why we shouldn’t be apart anymore… Don’t you see that?”
“No. No this again…” Mark stepped away from her as he spoke. “We both had too much to drink. We were stupid. Careless. But… But this doesn’t mean anything.”
“You know that’s not true!” She cried desperately. “We shouldn’t have done this, okay? I know that. But Mark, seeing you again proves that we’re meant to be together! And I know you feel it too!” Jocelyne paused, but Mark remained silent. So she continued. “I can break things off with Elliot. We can work this out. You’ll see.” The words spilled from her lips faster and faster as she continued. “Hazel and Luc are married now. We’re not a ‘threat’ anymore, or whatever the hell they thought we were before… I’m not gonna let you walk away from this. Not when we’re meant to be together. Not when we can make it work this time!”
Mark simply shook his head. “You’re drunk, Jocelyne. You don’t know what you’re saying.” A soft sigh escaped his lips. “Now please, just… Go out there and be with your family. Forget this ever happened… And I’ll try my best to do the same.”
“Like hell you will!” She cried out to him.
But he was already heading for the door.
“HEY! Come back here!” Jocelyne raced after him back into the reception hall.
“You can’t just walk away from me!” She screamed.
Every head in the room turned to look at her. But she did not care.
“Jocelyne, please.” Mark’s voice was pained. His dark eyes flicked back and forth at the faces of their friends and family. “M-maybe we can talk about this later…”
“Is this what you wanted?! Was this your plan the whole time?! Fuck me in a goddamn closet and then toss me aside like it meant NOTHING?!”
“Shut up.” Mark hissed at her through clenched teeth.
“Is that what I am to you now, huh? Some easy piece of ass?! That’s bullshit and you KNOW it!”
But it was too late. The damage had been done.
“Jocelyne, tell me you’re lying. Tell me it’s not true.” Elliot’s voice was pleading. “Tell me you’re so fucking drunk that you don’t know what you’re saying.”
Jocelyne felt like she was going to be sick. “I’m sorry, Elliot.”
“You didn’t. Please… Say you didn’t.”
“I… I fucked up so bad. And I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant for this to happen. I –”
“YOU BITCH! YOU FUCKING BITCH!” His cry of anger was so abrupt, Jocelyne almost jumped. She had never seen Elliot so angry. It was almost frightening. “I can’t believe you would… H-how could you ever… Just… FUCK YOU!” He turned his narrowed eyes toward Mark. “Oh sorry, I guess you already took care of that, you piece of shit.”
“ENOUGH!” Lucas shoved his way forward, his entire body trembling. “Get the hell out of here, all of you.”
“I’m so sorry, Lucas.” Mark said softly to his son-in-law.
“Yeah, you should be.”
“I never meant for this to happen. I never wanted to –”
Hazel stepped forward. “Just go, dad.” Her voice was cruel and cold.
Mark left the room without another word.
“And you two…” Lucas narrowed his eyes at his sister and Elliot. “Go. Maman and Papa will take the babies, okay? Just go.”
For a moment, Elliot almost looked like he wanted to say something. But in the end, he seemed to think better of it, and headed straight for the door.
Jocelyne could already feel tears welling up in her eyes. Oh God, I ruined everything. Her relationship with Elliot, any chance at fixing things with Mark, and now her own brother’s wedding too. And no matter how much anger and hatred she still felt for him, no one deserved to have their wedding ruined like this, did they? To be so embarrassed by their own sister in front of their friends and family…
“L-Luc, I’m sorry.” Her voice was pleading. “I swear, I never meant to do this. I never meant to –”
“I knew I never should have invited you.” Lucas spat bitterly. “Just get the fuck out of here, okay? Now.”