The right thing to do would have been to walk across the road and stop the wedding. The right thing to do would have been to tell Andrew to run - to run as far and as fast as he could, to a place where no one could find him. No one. Not even me.
When did I ever do the right thing?
I figured it was easier to stay in the café and finish my coffee than tell him the truth. Easier. And kinder. Why should I ruin the happy day? I’d read the etiquette sheet Jess had provided. Specifically points five through seven, underlined and detailing my responsibilities as his best man. Not one, included me telling the groom to run for his life.
Andrew was to be at the appointed place ten minutes before the appointed time, preferably sober and wearing clean underwear. I was to bring the ring and hand it over when asked. Afterwards, at lunch, I was to make a speech - amusing and short. Smut verboten. Simple.
I was late and still I waited. I nursed my coffee and stared across the street at the bridal party standing in the driveway of the hotel. It was a nice day. The sun was shining. There was not a breath of wind nor a cloud in the sky. Jess and Carole were pacing up and down, examining the faces of passers-by, searching for me. Jess was anxious. Carole was swearing under her breath.
Andrew leaned against the veranda watching them, smiling. I know that smile. I’m his best friend. I’m the first person he told he was in love, and later that he was getting married. I know what he’s going to do before Jess does. He talks, I listen. At least that’s the way it used to be. Until she came along. I said nothing when he told me he’d proposed. It was too late to say anything now.
I finished my coffee, went to the bathroom took a leak and washed and dried my hands. With a nod to the barista I left the café and sauntered across the road. Smiling broadly, I greeted the wedding party, told the women how beautiful they looked, shook Andrew’s hand, clapped him on the back and muttered about a late taxi.
The venue, chosen by the bride, was a boutique hotel: expensive, exclusive, small and to give Jess credit, tasteful. Inside, it was all French flea-market elegance - chandeliers and white upholstered Louis XIV chairs. Outside, it was white, gravel paths lined with box hedges which marshalled us down to an arch brought from a decrepit French chateau to this garden on the other side of the world.
I stood beside Andrew under the arch. I handed him the ring at the appropriate time.
I didn’t ruin their day.
We risk everything when we love. Andrew knew that. He committed to love Jess in good times and bad, till death did them part. On the happiest day of his life Andrew wasn’t thinking about death. It was not my place to remind him. Not when there was a chance of a happy ever after. That chance was my present to my friend.
More importantly, keeping quiet saved a whole lot of trouble. It saved me. For a while. What did that philosopher say? Life is nasty, brutish and short. Terrifying, he forgot terrifying. Images of retractable baseball bats wielded by Murray’s mates loomed large when I considered telling Andrew the truth. I feared losing my friend. Even more, I feared what would happen to me.
It was done. I slapped him on the back and kissed the bride. And Carole. I smiled, I laughed, and I posed for photos. At lunch, I made a short but amusing speech with only a smidgen of smut. I did what a best man does. As ordered. As per the etiquette sheet.