The ceremony had been beautiful. Everything had gone off without a hitch. Shelby had stood at the front of the church beside her best friend and watched him marry the girl he loved. She had watched with a smile on her face.

And dread in her heart. The bachelor party was no fluke. Antoinette wasn’t simply insecure because she had been drinking. It was obvious to Shelby, no matter how much Ronan wanted to deny it, that Antoinette had a problem with Shelby. A serious one. She did not like the idea of them being friends, at least, not the way they used to be. She didn’t want them as close as they were.

Because that had been when Ronan loved Shelby.

Shelby sighed, watching as the newlyweds danced awkwardly across the dance floor. She couldn’t help the smile that came to her face as she watched Ronan try to keep up with the music. He had absolutely no rhythm. The boy was coordinated enough to rule the scoreboard in any video game, but when it came to dancing, he had two left feet.

Watching them dance, Shelby had never felt lonelier.


Red Carpet Arrivals at the 2016 SAG Awards.

Shelby, Ronan, and Blue played long into the night. There was no more talk about Antoinette and Ronan’s phone conversation. It made Shelby feel good that Ronan said they would always stay friends, no matter what, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that rested inside her.

She felt bad for Antoinette. She hated that Antoinette was insecure about her and Ronan. She wished she could fix it. If she was strong enough, she’d walk away from this friendship forever. Antoinette is a sweet person, and it bothered Shelby to cause her any kind of pain.

But Ronan was over her, and he had been for years. They were only friends, and Ronan would be marrying Antoinette in less than two weeks. Hopefully, Antoinette would feel better about this after some more time passed. Because Ronan wasn’t willing to give this friendship up, and Shelby didn’t want to either.

She hoped it would never come to that.

Ronan shrugged, “It’s not a big deal, okay? Let’s just move on.”

“It seemed like she was pretty mad,” Shelby said. “I can go, if you need me to.”

“No,” Ronan said quickly. “I’m not letting this ruin our night. Like I said, she’s drunk. Super drunk. Her and the girls were on their way back to the hotel, and she’s bound to be asleep soon after.”

Shelby glanced at her hands as Ronan set them up for the next game. She fidgeted with her fingers and opened her mouth to say something.

“Don’t, Shelby,” Ronan said, pleadingly. “Annie said some stuff that wasn’t true and made some crazy demands that aren’t going to happen. I love her to death, but like I said, she’s insecure when she gets drunk. You and I are going to be friends until we die, just like we always said. You know I’m over you. Annie knows I’m over you. She’s just a little insecure, but everything will be okay when she sobers up.” He smiled. “Let’s just play.”

Ronan walked over and sat on the couch, an obviously fake smile plastered on his face, “Sorry about that!” Shelby and Blue were silent, and they had backed out of the game queue. He glanced between the television screen and Shelby, then sighed, “Heard all of it, did you?”

Shelby nodded, and Blue gave a quick ‘Yes’. They were quiet again. Finally, Blue broke the silence, “You’re going to pay for that tomorrow, Cross.” 

“She’s not going to remember a word of that conversation,” Ronan gave a snort. “She was completely hammered. That’s the only reason she was being like that. She’s usually cool. Sometimes, when she drinks, she gets a little insecure.”

“Still,” Shelby spoke up. “You were kind of harsh with her…”

Ronan gave Shelby a genuine smile, “Yeah, I know… but I couldn’t stand what she was implying. And… well, Shellfish… you wouldn’t have liked it either.”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that, I–” Shelby officially couldn’t focus on the game. “Listen… No, it’s because you’re drunk and impossible to talk to… Annie, stop… Annie… Annie…”

Ronan gave an exasperated sigh and listened, placing a hand on his waist while Antoinette talked on. Blue was suspiciously quiet, and Shelby wondered for a moment if he could hear Ronan, too.

Ronan’s voice got lower but harsher, “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this, Annie. You’re acting ridiculous. She’s my best friend and there’s nothing going on. We’re playing video games and getting fat on pizza. It’s not some romantic evening.”

There was another long pause. Ronan huffed, “Sober up, Annie.” Then he hung up and shoved his phone into his pocket.

“We’re just playing Halo,” Ronan said, stepping away a bit. “Me and Shelby. … No, he left about twenty minutes ago. Had to… Oh, I guess. … I don’t know.”

Shelby got killed again, unable to concentrate. She couldn’t help but glance up at Ronan, her curiosity driving her crazy. He looked confused and a bit upset. She diverted her eyes again and tried to focus on the game. Blue scoffed, “Wow, you guys are killing our team this round. Where’s your head, Purple?”

“Beer must be getting to me,” Shelby mumbled, glancing up at Ronan again as he turned his back to her.

“No, like I said, we’re playing Halo…Wait, what do you mean?” He glanced over his shoulder at Shelby, and then stepped into the kitchen. His voice got lower, “Was I supposed to tell him to ignore his child and play video games all night?”

As Ronan walked back over, his phone rang. “Crap,” He said, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. “It’s Annie. Hide me over in that corner and I’ll be right back.”

Shelby nodded, grabbing his controller and backing his man into the dark. Blue’s voice came over the speaker before Ronan answered his phone, “Okay, but if you take too long, I’m sacrificing you for the greater good. I mean, for the personal joy of it.”

Ronan grinned and hit the answer button, “Hey Annie. What’s up? Everything okay?…No, I’m just surprised because you’re supposed to be out…Oh…I… Yeah…Are you drunk, Annie?” He gave Shelby a look and she smiled back, but she was nervous about the direction of the phone call. She tried to ignore it and played the game.

After Dean left, Ronan and Shelby got back to playing with Blue. There was some talk about the wedding, and the usual banter, but mostly they were engrossed in the game. Without Dean slowing them down, the three of them destroyed the other team just like they used to.

Shelby’s mind wandered in between games when Ronan jumped up to grab a beer. She began thinking about how perfect this night was, and how much it reminded her of when they were kids and things were simple. Then, she remembered her conversation with Antoinette, and her peaceful smile faded. Antoinette had been adamant about her and Ronan not spending his bachelor party alone together, but now here they were. Things weren’t weird or awkward between them; they were friends and nothing more. But still. She couldn’t fight the feeling that if Antoinette found out, she’d be pissed.

Dean’s phone dinged, and he set his controller aside. Ronan backed out of the queue for the next game, “Quick pause, Blue. Dean’s lady is calling.”

Love everywhere,” Blue scoffed. “I hate you guys.”

Dean checked his text and quickly typed back, “Looks like I need to call it a night. Portia is giving Kylee a lot of trouble. She’s sick again, you know. I’ve got to go give Kylee some relief.”

“Well, thanks for coming over,” Ronan said, standing up quickly to walk Dean to the door. “Sorry it wasn’t the bachelor party that you might have expected.”

“It was perfect,” Dean smiled. “I haven’t had this much fun in a while. When Landon and I get together, it’s all kid talk, you know.”

Shelby gave her brother a hug, “You can always hang out with us when you feel like acting like the kid.”