Kelly stared at him from across the room. It couldn’t be, but it was. There, with a tanned-muscular arm encircling her best friend was her childhood sweetheart. The one boy who had broken her heart was now a man entrusted with the love of her best friend, newly engaged and deliriously happy. How had she not detected this before, what signs had she missed in Sarah’s excited narration of her relationship so far.
Richard glanced upward, catching Kelly’s eye. She shifted her gaze in a panic. When she looked up again it was Richard who was staring, unashamedly toward her, surprise reflected in his eyes: dumbstruck by her unexpected presence. He moved to approach her, removing his arm from around Sarah, stepping beyond her and leaving her to the conversation he had been a part of only a moment before.
Kelly’s instinct was to escape somehow; she wasn’t prepared for an encounter such as this. But, the walls of the living room imprisoned her, blocking any hope of immediate exit.
‘Kelly’ Richard breathed as he reached her, his voice only just audible over the din of the party.
She smiled sheepishly, unsure of what to reply. ‘Hi’
‘This is unexpected. I would never have thought that, I mean, that you would be, well, here.’
It soothed Kelly that Richard appeared to be just as shocked by her relation to Sarah as she was to find him there, with her best friend. His expression matched his garbled words, brow furrowed in confusion.
‘Yep’ she responded, still struggling to find any words appropriate to their situation.
They stood in awkward silence for a few moments, Kelly tapping her heeled toe refusing to meet his gaze, and Richard looking down at her, absentmindedly fiddling with the bottle in his hands.
‘Well, good to see you’ Richard finally blurted. ‘I guess I’ll catch up with you later.’
Before Kelly could catch a final glimpse of the deep blue of his eyes, he had turned away, fighting through the crowd to get to the other side of the room, back to the relatively safe comfort of Sarah’s adoring smile.
Kelly could hardly move. The adrenaline that had been pumping through her veins, ushering her to flee only moments before, now had her heart thumping in her ears: her heartbeat vibrating all the way down to her fingertips. Her brain could not process the scene that had just taken place, it could not fathom how the boy she had given her virginity to, and who had abandoned her so cruelly only a month later, could now be the man engaged to her best friend. Her stomach lurched at the memory of being that infatuated fifteen year old girl again, left alone to deal with feelings she did not understand at such a tender age. Suddenly Kelly felt the urge to throw up. She had to get out of there; she needed some fresh air, some perspective, some time to think.
Hurriedly, she pushed her way through the knot of people squeezed into Sarah’s living room – Sarah and Richard’s living room, her mind corrected – and out into the bark garden. A few smokers were milling around in a cloud of foul smelling smoke, causing Kelly to cough outrageously. Two men that she didn’t recognise sneered at her, but beyond them she spied a gate. Desperately she murmured a polite ‘excuse me, sorry’ and darted through the disapproving men to the freedom of the gate. Rushing down the passage-way, she found herself on the street, gulping down deep breaths of fresher air to ward off the dizziness that had descended during her hasty retreat.