by Jessica Knoll
"Which shoes?" I held out two pairs for Peter to choose from: hooker high red pumps and a metallic mule with a kitten heel (kitten heels were hot in the early aughts, okay?).
Without hesitating, Peter tapped the toe of one of the mules. Peter is taller than me, but not by much. My head would have poked a few inches above his had he gone with the red. That wouldn't have been the case with Campbell, and thinking so made me want to jam the stiletto's spike in his eye. Get out of my head, I shouted at him. I'm getting married.
I balanced on one leg as I slipped on a shoe, watched Peter button his shirt cuffs. As soon as Constance had suggested that we use the "half" in our new two and a half bedroom apartment as a nursery, I had informed the contractor that I wanted him to knock down the wall that separated it from the master bedroom and turn it into a his and her's walk-in closet. I'd had it wallpapered in a eye-searing yellow toile, the only room in the apartment with any vibrant color. It was my favorite thing about the apartment, and a very bright reminder to take my birth control. I'd sooner die than secede this space to a crying, pooping, needy pink alien.
Peter shrugged on the Turnbull & Asser smoking jacket I'd gotten him for Christmas, the plaid so subtle I couldn't even make it out in the closet's soft lighting. "You still think I can pull this off?" he asked, and I'd nodded confidently. His style was decidedly Connecticut, and it sometimes dried me up inside. I wanted him city-slick and mean, and delusional as it may be, I hoped this two thousand dollar jacket might somehow imbue him with this coveted combination.
"Let's go," he said with a smile, and offered me his arm.
Isabel was throwing a New Year's Eve party, to ring in 2001. My apartment was nicer than hers, and bigger, but it would be another few months before all the furniture arrived, and between that and starting to plan our wedding (December 16th at The Pierre, a little less than a year away), I just wasn't prepared to host anything.
"What's this?" I laughed when Isabel opened her door, and I saw the bright gold "Congratulations!" banner behind her, hanging above its silver "Happy New Year!" counterpart.
"Just a little belated engagement celebration!" Isabel said, holding out her arms to take my purse and coat.
"Izzy," I said, turning around and allowing Peter to peel my mother's vintage mink off my shoulders, "we got engaged a month ago."
"And we've had two parties to celebrate it already," Peter added.
Izzy waved her hand. "I know. I just love you guys."
I tried to silence the thought that I wished I loved us as much as everyone else did.
Peter hugged Isabel to his chest and kissed the top of her head. "We love you too, Izzy." When he released her, I saw that her face was flushed bright pink.
"Well!" she said, breathlessly. "There's champagne, there's vodka, and I think I bought Murray's out of brie. Help yourselves!" She disappeared into the bedroom to deposit our coats on the bed.
Peter and I made our way further into the apartment. I was wearing a loose black dress, the back draped low and dramatic, and I felt Peter's cool finger on a prong of my spine.
Isabel's place wasn't big (well, no one's place is really big), but it was new and modern, with three panels of floor to ceiling windows wide eyed and alert on the city. Peter and I stood before one, taking in the farm of lights, the party attendees behind us reflecting in the dark glass, bisecting Manhattan's eastern twinkle.
"What do you want?" Peter offered, and I asked for champagne.
I was alone for a moment, just enjoying the view, allowing for the wondrous for once, when I saw it. The one head that was taller than the rest, gliding through the room like a shark's fin over the water's surface. It couldn't be, I thought, but then I turned around and saw it could. Campbell was weaving through the small crowd, biting the left corner of his small smile, and he wasn't alone. There was a bosomy brunette, caked in make up, petite by his side. Did I fucking call it or what?
Campbell stopped in his tracks when Peter appeared by my side and handed me a glass of champagne. I'm left handed, have I ever mentioned that? When I lifted the glass to my lips my engagement ring cut a bright path through the crowd, dancing right at Campbell's feet.
"What the hell is he doing here?" Biz hissed, glaring at Campbell and Peter, shoulder to shoulder, talking about something we couldn't hear from across the room, making each other laugh. The brunette was looking around, nervously, probably worried she didn't belong with this crowd. She didn't.
Peter had raised his hand when he spotted him. "Brian!" he'd called out. Then he turned to me. "You remember my friend, Brian, right? He had been interviewing for that spot in the New York office."
"Apparently he moved to New York!" I said to Biz, bitterly.
"But your father would never"—
"He got an offer from Credit Suisse." I drained the rest of my champagne and looked around, trying to locate the ice bucket with the vodka. It was time for vodka. I had been turning over what Peter had said to me that night at Dorrian's: "He said the love of his life lives in New York." Had he meant this girl, and not me? And when had Peter become such good friends with him, anyway?
"Guyssss," I looked down when I heard the whine at my side. It was Isabel. "He brought a date!"
Biz looked at Isabel incredulously. "Did you invite him?"
Isabel laughed. "Of course I did. Peter remembered I had a crush on him. He told me he had moved here. I told him to come and bring anyone he wanted. I meant his hot co-workers. Not tits and ass over there."
I widened my eyes at Biz over Isabel's head. I couldn't decide which was worse—that this girl was the love of Campbell's life, or that she was just a date and that there was a possibility Isabel would go for him. Campbell wouldn't go for her, would he? Don't be ridiculous, I told myself, he wouldn't do that to you.
"I'm going to the bathroom," I announced. I took the long route there, around the crowd rather than through, hoping Campbell would see me and follow.
I took my time in the bathroom, waiting for Campbell to barge in, like he had that night at Dorrian's, but he never showed. I half expected to see him when I opened the door, but the only person waiting for me in the hallway was one of Isabel's high school friends, who just needed to use the bathroom. I made a bold choice on my way back to the party and zagged left, joining Peter, Campbell, and his anxious-looking call girl.
"There you are," Peter smiled, and wrapped his arm around my waist. I addressed the group with a tight smile.
"You remember, Brian, right?" Peter asked.
I nodded. "Good to see you, Brian."
"And you," Campbell said lightly. He tipped his head to the left. "This is Lydia."
"Hi," Lydia stuck her hand out. "I love your dress," she said, her palm clammy. "Is that from Cache?"
What the fuck was Cache? "Bergdorf's," I told her, and the rest of her face turned the color of her bubblegum pink blush.
"So how do you two know each other?" I asked.
Campbell looked down at Lydia. "We grew up together."
Lydia smiled, sweetly. "I couldn't believe it when we ran into each other here, of all places."
I tasted blood in my mouth and realized I had been chewing on my lip too hard. "And when was that?" I asked, dabbing the puncture with my tongue.
Lydia opened her mouth to answer but before she could, Isabel's apartment swelled with cheers. We all turned to see Isabel, turning up the volume on the TV, the ball in Times Square readying for its drop. Everyone started to chant, to countdown to one, and when we got there, Peter grabbed me and kissed me. I squeezed my eyes shut, anything to shut out the sight of Campbell kissing the one true love of his life. It seemed possible that she could be now that I knew they had grown up together.
The couples broke apart and Peter raised his champagne flute. "Happy New Year!" he toasted, and we all clinked our glasses together. When mine touched Campbell's, he said, "Happy New Year, Elizabeth." He said it like a goodbye, and I tilted my glass way back, taking big gulps of my vodka soda, trying to cover my face. The way it wadded up at the realization that this, whatever it had been, was really over.