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On a beautiful June day, Marcel Taylor and Diana Guy spoke their vows before God, friends, and family. It was a nontraditional wedding where BrandyMarcel's ninety-pound Doberman pinscherserved as the ring bearer. Timothy Banks, Diana's best friend and neighbor, stood as the maid of honorin a tux, and Ophelia Missler, one of Marcel's closest childhood friends, took her place as a groomsman.
After the priest introduced Mr. and Mrs. Marcel Taylor to the guests, a shower of rose petals descended on the smiling couple.
Louisa Mae Styles, Diana's grandmother and a cancer survivor, couldn't stop crying, and now demanded that the couple get busy producing babies.
Donald and Camille Taylor, Marcel's parents, said their congratulations to the couple and also hassled them about grandchildren.
At the reception, Solomon Bassett, Marcel's best friend and business partner, approached Ophelia for a dance.
As he took her into his arms, he marveled at how long he, Ophelia, and Marcel had been the best of friends.
Solomon first met Marcel when his family moved next door to the Bassetts in the summer of '78. Their love of sports was all it took to seal their life-long friendship. It was the year when Reggie Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Muhammad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ruled their world. Solomon and Marcel vowed to be the first athletes to win the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, and the World Series. Life was good.
In the winter of '81, Ophelia, a scrawny girl who they originally suspected had cooties, wormed her way into their private club. It was hard to ignore her. She could sail a fastball past the best players in the neighborhood and could run like the wind. Life was better.
By the time puberty hit, Ophelia's long, thin legs suddenly had shape to them, and her round bottom was a nice distraction in Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. And Lord, her breasts. Solomon, to this day, didn't know where they came from, but suddenly she had them, and they were the best pair in their junior high school. His brotherly affection toward her had changed overnight, and life had never been the same.
Ophelia was amazingly beautiful, with her perfect honey-coated skin and mesmerizing topaz-colored eyes. Today her thick, sandy brown hair with streaks of blond was pressed iron straight and hung like a beautiful curtain to the center of her back.
Solomon had never found the words to tell Ophelia about his feelings, mainly because she always had seemed more attracted to Marcel. But, in a recent talk at one of their favorite cafes, Solomon had relayed the story of how Marcel was snared by his former secretary, Diana, and Ophelia had revealed that she'd once harbored a secret crush on him.
Maybe things were finally about to change between them.
He wasn't too happy that she had brought a date to the wedding, but hey, it wasn't like he had any right to be jealous.
"I'm glad you told me about their love story," Ophelia said, beaming at the couple. "They look so happy."
"I have a feeling that they are." He drew in a deep breath. "Ophelia, there's something I've been dying to tell you."
"There's something I have to tell you, too," she said, smiling. "Oh?"
"Yeah, I told Jonas about Marcel and Diana"
"My dateJonas Hinton." She frowned. "You never pay attention to me, do you?"
"Of course I do." He tried to cover up with a smile.
"Well, anyway, Jonas and I have been dating for a while, and last night he popped the question."
Solomon's heart dropped. "What question?"
Ophelia slapped him on the shoulder. "The question, silly. Now, we haven't picked out a ring, but. .we're getting married." She bounced excitedly against him. "Isn't that great?"
He stopped dancing. "What?"
Her smile started to ebb away. "Aren't you happy for me?"
Slowly he managed a butterfly smile. "That's great."
"I know it's a shock." She giggled. "But don't tell Marcel and Diana. I don't want to take anything away from their day."
"My lips are sealed."
She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Thanks. You know I want you and Marcel to serve as bridesmaids." He managed a chuckle. "I wouldn't miss that for the world."
He managed to finish the dance with some semblance of dignity, but soon found himself at the bar.
"What's with the long face?" Marcel asked, slapping him on the back as he joined him. "No one should be frowning at my wedding."
"Don't worry about me, man. I'm fine. Congratulations again." He looked around. "Where's Diana?"
"Upstairs changing. It's about time we leave you guys for our honeymoon in Bermuda."
"Ah, white sands and pastel-colored buildings."
"Paradise for thirty days."
"Shouldn't be." He draped an arm around Solomon's shoulder. "I see Ophelia showed up with Jonas."
"Yeah. Don't remind me."
"You know, you better get in there before he snatches up your girl. A woman can only wait for so long."
"You've been married an hour, and already you've turned into Dear Abby."
Marcel held up his hands. "Just trying to help."
Solomon bobbed his head and glanced back at the dance floor to see Ophelia floating in Jonas's arms.
Minutes later, Diana appeared at the top of the stairs dressed in an all-white linen suit. Below her, a small crowd of single women gathered around for the tossing of the bridal bouquet.
The crowd gasped when an unladylike shove awarded Nora Gibson, a wickedly ambitious employee at T & B Entertainment, the prize instead of Marcel's thirteen-year-old cousin.
"I got it. I got it."
"You sure did, honey." Willy Bassett, Solomon's philandering uncle, beamed at her as she slid next to him.
"Now that's a crazy match," Marcel whispered to Diana.
Seconds later, Solomon won the garter-belt toss. He gave Ophelia a long, meaningful glance and then held the garter up for a loud cheer from the crowd.
More rose petals rained down on Marcel and Diana as they made their mad dash to their limo. While Solomon was incredibly happy for the couple, who were embarking on a new chapter in their lives, he battled a tsunami of depression.
He turned toward the sweet sound of Ophelia's voice and ignored the tightening in his chest when he faced her.
"It looks like it's one down and two to go." Her full lips slid into a smile.
He hesitated before finally replying. "Not for long."
Her cheeks flushed prettily before a tall, light-skinned brother slid next to her and draped an arm around her waist.
"Hey, baby. I brought you a drink," the man said, and then cast a curious glance at Solomon. "Hello, I'm Jonas." He jutted out a hand.
Solomon straightened and sized up Ophelia's fiance. Both men stood at an even six-two, but where Solomon looked the part of a clean-cut, scholarly type, Jonas looked as though he were born to be on a Hollywood screen. In fact, Solomon couldn't remember ever seeing a man with such long, curly lashes.
Ophelia coughed, and Solomon suddenly realized that he hadn't responded to the man's introduction.
"Solomon," he said, accepting Jonas's hand. The men pumped each other's arms with more strength than was necessary.
"It's nice to finally meet you," Jonas said, but there was very little warmth in his eyes. "Ophelia talks a lot about you."
Solomon's gaze returned to hers. "Is that right?"
"Yeah," Jonas continued. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think I'd have to watch her around you."
Ophelia playfully slapped Jonas on the chest. "Solomon and I are just friends."
Just friends. Solomon forced a smile. "Well, let me be the first to wish you the best of luck. Any ideas when this happy event will take place?"
Ophelia rolled her eyes heavenward. "Well"
"The sooner the better," Jonas answered. "I know I'm hoping for something before the new year."
Solomon's heart dropped.
"That's just around the corner," Ophelia said, astonished.
"What can I say? I can't wait to make you a Hinton." He leaned down and gave her a quick peck on the nose.
"And I can't wait to be a Hinton," she responded, gazing up at him.
"All this gushy sweet stuff is bad for my diabetes," Solomon said with a healthy dose of sarcasm. "If you two will excuse me." He turned and walked away.
He hadn't moved more than a few feet when he felt a restraining hand against his shoulder. Turning, he once again faced Opheliaminus the fiance.
"Hey, what's the matter?" she asked, frowning. "Aren't you happy for me?"
He didn't want to answer that. "Of course I am."
Her brows rose as if she detected his lie.
"I'm just shocked," he amended. "I didn't even know that you were seeing someone seriously. You never mentioned it."
Her smile trembled a bit while she shrugged. "Well, I guess it happened kind of fast."
He studied her for a moment before he cast a glance over her shoulder to see Jonas watching them from a distance. "Just how long have you been seeing this guy?"
She shrugged again. "Not long maybe four months."
"Four months?" he echoed. "You hardly know him."
"That's not true," she said defensively.
"What's his mother's maiden name?"
She blinked. "I don't know. What does that have to do with anything?"
"What's my mother's maiden name?"
He smiled and crossed his arms. "How does he like his coffee?"
"He, uh "
"How do I like my coffee?" Ophelia hesitated.
"Milk, no cream, no sugar."
"I think I made my point."
"But I love him," she admitted, settling her hands on her hips.
Her words wiped the smug smile from Solomon's lips and plunged the blade of jealousy deeper into his heart. "Then I wish you all the happiness in the world."
Ophelia's face lit up as she leaned up on her toes and brushed a kiss against his cheek. "Thanks, Solomon. You have no idea what it means to me to hear you say that."
"Ophelia?" Jonas's voice floated over to them.
"You better go," Solomon said. "I think your fiance is getting nervous."
"A little jealousy won't hurt him." She winked, kissed Solomon, and turned away.
Solomon watched as she returned to her fiance's side. For a brief moment, his gaze met Jonas's, and he felt as if the man could read his mind. Exhaling a long breath, Solomon turned away and went in search of the open bar. "I need a drink."