The Wedding Reception

John Greco
5 min readMay 14, 2023
Photo by Thomas William on Unsplash

I never understood…

We seemed to get along, and always enjoyed having lunch together discussing books, movies, and music. Of course, those activities were never together. We were work buddies only, though I yearned for something more than table talk in the cafeteria. When I hinted at something more, you quickly shut me down.

Then came Chad. He was a new employee in the office, and soon after he started the three of us connected. Lunch became a threesome. We began going out for drinks or to a club on Friday nights together. You and Chad danced to whatever music was playing, your long dark hair swinging wildly from side to side. There was a free-spirited look on your face that I had never seen before. Me? I stood off to the side with a drink in hand. Oh, I could have picked up some girl to dance with or whatever, but she wouldn’t be you.

It’s not that you are a beautiful woman. Honestly, you’re not. Average is a more honest term, but it was your vibrant personality that shined. That’s what attracted me to you. When we talked about books we both read or movies, your enthusiasm became infectious. You caught subtle nuances in them which I always missed. It was exciting. Now, seeing you on the dance floor, it was the same. You looked wild, and I found it exhilarating. Only you were dancing with Chad instead of me.

I wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn’t you want to go out with me? Was I that unattractive? Boring? Dumb? Naïve? All the above?

Then one evening, a few months after you and Chad had been dating, as everyone was leaving the office for the day, you stopped me and asked what I was doing this coming Friday night? For a split moment, I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t speak.

Did I hear right? Were you about to ask me out? How could that be? What happened to Chad?

Smiling at my inept ability to respond, you continued and asked if I’d be your partner at a wedding rehearsal dinner for one of your friends? You asked Chad, and you said he would have gone, but he was going to be out of town this weekend for a family reunion.

That explained it. There was no actual change. You were desperate, and I was your backup plan. Like a fool, I agreed to go.

I picked you up at your parents’ home that night. I could tell your mother liked me right away. She was all smiles and welcomed me into the house like I was already family. From the look on your face, I could tell that was a check mark in the minus column. A second strike appeared when Mom mumbled how handsome she thought I was. Next, your father eyed me suspiciously, with a stern look that told me, you better not touch my daughter. If you do, you won’t see your next birthday. Finally, there was your brother, Tony. He shook my hand and gave me a knowing big smile that told me he knew something I didn’t. As we were set to depart a third minus appeared when your dear Mom sweetly said how she hoped to see me again. The look on your face told me that would never happen.

The evening went downhill from there. Unbeknownst to me, you were a bridesmaid and even though this was a rehearsal, you would sit at the dais with other members of the wedding party. I was exiled to a table in the back of the reception room, sitting at a corner table with strangers, explaining why I was alone and knew no one except for you.

The people were pleasant but boring and the dinner, which I barely touched, tasteless. After dinner was served, I finally got my opportunity to ask you to dance.

“Only one and then we’re leaving,” you said.

“Leaving? It’s only eight-thirty.”

“My brother is picking me up outside and taking me home.”

“Why so early? We…”

“Chad is picking me up at nine o’clock,” she replied. “And we’re going to Club Delray. Jesus, it’s Friday night! Did you think I wanted to spend it here with these people?”

“I thought Chad was out of town with his folks.”

“That was BS. He refused to come, even after I told him it would only be for a couple of hours. I was so mad at him! But I got over it. I don’t think I could ever stay mad for long at Chad.”

Good old Chad.

“So, I was only a backup, a last resort.”

“That doesn’t sound nice,” she laughed. “You’re a friend and you did me a favor,” she said, putting on an overly smiley face. “Friends do favors for each other, right? Look, you’re a nice guy…”

You’re a nice guy! Those words were the death knell, telling me I never had a chance.

After our dance, she said a quick goodbye to everyone. What excuse she made to her “friends” I don’t know. Outside the hall, Tony was double parked sitting in his car smoking what looked like a joint. You barely acknowledged my presence at that point as you jumped into the car. Tony took one more drag and tossed the joint outside the car window. He gave me that same knowing big smile he did earlier in the evening and drove off.

They left me standing there dressed in a suit with nowhere to go but home.

As I started walking back to my apartment, I realized I was still hungry, having eaten hardly any of the horrible dinner. I stopped at Mario’s Pizza Joint and ordered a couple of slices and a Coke. I sat at a corner table eating my pizza slices when I realized how ridiculously overdressed I must have looked to the other customers who were all casual in jeans and shorts.

Screw them!

I sat there, reflecting about what happened tonight. The obvious answer: is I was used, like the chump I felt like. I fell for you, and you knew you could use me, and you did. If that humiliation was not enough, you rubbed Chad in my face one more time.

I never understood why, and after tonight, I no longer care.

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John Greco

Author of various short story collections including, "Brooklyn Tales," "Harbor House," "Dark Secrets," and "The Late Show."