The following is the Prologue to The Good Life, and is a flashback featuring Dominic Valentini and Kyle Anderson.
The Good Life
by Genevieve Dewey
Three years before Bird Day Battalion…
“I can’t do this,” Dom choked, feeling a strange breathlessness.
“Wha’d’ya mean y’can’t do this?” Kyle mumbled around a needle in his mouth.
“Ow!” Dom punched Kyle’s shoulder after he poked him with the other boutonnière needle.
Kyle stopped struggling with the flower, took the needle out of his mouth, and then released a noisy, irritated huff.
“Can’t do what?” he asked again slowly.
“I got… man, I got… the worst case of cold feet right now,” Dominic confessed.
Kyle stared at him for what felt like an eternity. Then he took the needle and jammed it into the head of the flower.
“What the?” Dom replied.
Kyle walked over to the leather jacket hanging by the door, pulled out a flask and shoved it at Dominic. Dom opened the flask and saw it was half empty.
Well, that explained why Kyle was having trouble with a few simple pins, he thought.
Kyle put his fists on his hips in a very stereotypically Johnny Law sort of way. “I took a train from Omaha to Pittsburgh with your mother, my mother, and two of my sisters for this mother-fuckin’ wedding. Do you have any idea how long that train ride is? As your best friend and your best man, I’m saying your ass is making it to the altar if I have to hog tie you and say your vows for you,” Kyle punctuated the end of his sentence with a finger jab.
“No one made you take the train with them,” Dom countered. “I honestly didn’t even know they still had passenger trains. My dad flew.”
“Please, your dad has some strange sort of immunity to your mother’s Catholic guilt trips and my mother’s passive aggressive snark. For the rest of us, when our mothers get together, there is no free will. It is sucked up into the vortex of impossibly long labors and an eternity of hellfire.”
Dom grimaced and took a long swig of the whiskey. He hissed his burning breath out and let loose his worries.
“It’s just… Demetria couldn’t make it because she broke her leg skiing…” Dom began.
“But your parents made the trip. Besides, like I said, Kandy and Kellie came as honorary sisters. Two for one ain’t bad, right?”
“And Katelyn never RSVP’d…”
Kyle laughed. “Katie hardly knows what day of the week it is these days she’s so obsessed with her Master’s thesis. I’m surprised the library at UNL hasn’t just set up a cot for her.”
“And hardly any of our friends from Ashland made it. It just seems like a bad omen or something. I just checked out there and the church is almost entirely filled with Isabel’s family…”
“Dom… Is it about the guest list or about the bride?”
Dominic winced. One could always trust Officer Kyle Anderson to cut to the chase.
“What if she’s… not the one?”
“He asks thirty minutes before the wedding,” Kyle drawled, sarcasm practically dripping in puddles around him.
The door opened and the wedding planner stuck her perky, overly-painted face in.
“We’re going to start lining up soon, so if the groom and BM could join the FOG in the chapel?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, simply closed the door. Dom grunted. Izzy’s wedding planner referred to everyone in the third person and seemed incapable of speaking in anything but questions. Added to that, her voice was almost a carbon copy of the HR lady in the movie Office Space. If Dom had expressed his doubts to her instead of Kyle, he had no doubt she would have answered with, ‘Does somebody have a case of the Mondays?’
“Bowel movements and effigies?” Kyle asked, still staring at the door.
“Best Man and Father of the Groom.”
“Ah,” Kyle said and grabbed the flask for a swig. “Speaking of, how come your dad’s not here giving you the pep talk? Why’s gotta be me? It’s sort of making me remember when we used to hate each other’s guts.”
Dominic grunted then walked to the chair by the window and sat down. “My dad… Well, Dad’s sort of the reason I’m having doubts.”
Kyle’s eyebrows contracted in confusion.
Dom shuddered as the hooch started making its way through his veins. He rubbed his face and continued. “My dad took me aside last night after the rehearsal supper on the boat and said, point blank—and I’m not kidding here, Kyle—just point blank said, ‘I’m disappointed in you, son. A Valentini man never settles for his second choice. And he never lets a woman lead him around by a nose ring.’ And that was it. He just levels me and walks off.”
Kyle stared in open mouthed horror. “You’re shitting me?”
“Naw, man, I’m not,” Dom replied. “I sort of lost my cool, followed him and told him if he objected he didn’t have to come to the wedding, and he interrupts in his Godfather voice—”
“Ah, geeze, I hate the Godfather voice.”
“Yeah, imagine living with it! Anyway, he says, ‘I’m done speaking about it. I’ll be there because I’m your father. This is what fathers do. God willing, you’ll know that one day. And God willing, it won’t be with her.’ And he walks off… again! He waits until the night before my wedding to tell me this.”
Kyle leaned his back against the desk in the room. He crossed his ankles then his arms.
“Well, bright side, I guess you know where you got the last minute waffle thing from,” Kyle attempted a bit of a laugh.
Dominic shook his head. “The thing is, what if he’s right? What if I’m just settling?”
The corner of Kyle’s mouth tilted up in a skeptical manner.
“Settling for a hot, rich, intelligent woman who can cook?” Kyle asked.
“Who happens to be my second choice,” Dom admitted.
“We should all be so lucky. I’d love to have a shot at a woman like Isabel Alesio.”
“C’mon, Kyle. Help me out here. Do you think I’m making a mistake?”
“I think…” Kyle stopped and frowned at the dingy orange curtains for a while. Then he turned his gaze back to Dominic and took a deep breath, straightening as he did so. “I think this is the first woman that I have ever seen you remotely serious about. You went through more girls than Imelda Marcos went through shoes. And I’ve seen you smile a lot more since you’ve been with Izzy. I think you two can be happy.”
“Yeah?” Dom perked up. He looked down and started straightening his tie.
“Yeah. And, also, I think you deserve better than to waste your life away pining for my obtuse little sister.”
Dom’s head jerked up.
Kyle smiled a bittersweet, wry smile then pointed at his chest. “Cop,” he said.
Dom laughed nervously and looked down at his shiny black shoes.
“You’re uh… technically only four minutes older than Katelyn,” he deflected and looked back up.
Kyle’s eyes widened dramatically. “And yet… it feels like decades most days,” he stage whispered.
Dom chuckled. Kyle walked forward, yanked the mutilated flower off Dom’s jacket and tossed it and his own into the antique wash basin by the window. He patted Dom on the shoulder.
“Feelings change. You and I hated each other once upon a time, remember? Then we didn’t see each other for years and we saw things differently. Now we’re best friends.”
“True,” Dom replied.
“So any lingering… whatevers and whatifs… you have for Kate have probably changed over time, too, and the next time you see her you’ll wonder what you were thinking. Plus, you do love Isabel, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Dom answered. He did love her. Not the write sonnets or hold a boom box up in the rain sort of love, but more than ‘she’s a great friend’ love. It was something to build on. He looked back over at the flowers. This was a pretty good pep talk. His dad had always been full of doom and gloom anyway.
Dom pointed at the mutilated flowers, feeling almost cheerful. “You know, Izzy’s wedding planner is going to have your head for that.”
“Excellent!” Kyle said and slapped his hands together. “And here I was worried I wouldn’t have adequate entertainment at the reception with Demi not being here and all,” Kyle opened the door and made a flourish of waving Dom through.
“You and my sister. Honestly, it’s like you two get your rocks off pissing each other off,” Dom held a hand up. “Don’t answer that if it’s true.”
Kyle’s boisterous laugh echoed in the hallway. Dom stuffed the flask back in Kyle’s jacket and grinned. From this moment forward he would just simply stop thinking about Katelyn Jo Anderson. Done. He had a beautiful bride, a football career, and a bright future in Pennsylvania. In fact, after he sent his guests packing, he hoped he wouldn’t set foot in Nebraska again.
Except for holidays. His grin wobbled a bit.
Then again, Katelyn probably wouldn’t still be living next door anyway after she got her degree. His grin perked back up.
Then he remembered he had promised himself he wouldn’t think of her anymore and his grin wavered a bit again. Dom shook his head to clear it and clasped his hands in front of him waiting for the bridal music to begin.
When the doors opened, he watched light from the gothic stained windows glint off Isabel’s sequined head dress. Kyle was right, she was movie star beautiful and talented and good with kids—probably a necessary skill when one was a pediatrician. He was being stupid hanging on to a bunch of what ifs. He tried to catch Izzy’s eye but she was busy smiling and nodding at all the guests, pew by pew.
His own gaze moved to look at his mother. Ramona Valentini wasn’t looking at either the bride or her son, she was staring dewy eyed at her husband of thirty years and he was staring back at her, love apparent in his expression. Dom looked back at Izzy.
Isabel took the steps up to the altar and turned to clasp his hands as they had rehearsed. Her eyes were calm and confident but there was no adoration like with his parents.
Maybe she was nervous, too, Dom thought. He took a deep breath and smiled. Then he leaned forward and gave her a chaste kiss.
“Ah, we haven’t gotten there yet, young man,” their priest joked and the congregation laughed.
Izzy’s cheeks flushed and she didn’t return his smile.
“Dominic,” she whispered in censure. “We’re already running late.”
He squeezed her hands. “Late for a very important date,” he whispered and grinned.
She frowned and nodded at the priest in a meaningful manner. The priest winked at Dom then raised his arms wide and said, “Let us pray.”
As they turned and dropped to their knees, Dom decided he must be right and she was just nervous like he was about taking such a big step. Ever since infancy he had heard the mantra ‘Valentinis only get married once’. Maybe the Alesios were the same and Izzy was under a lot of pressure to get this day perfect. He focused on the fun they would have bungee jumping in Australia as part of their honeymoon package. A wedding was just one day and if she wanted it perfect, he’d make that happen.
The very last thought about Katelyn Anderson he allowed himself to have was no matter how mad Katie had ever gotten at him he had always been able to make her smile, unlike Izzy. But maybe that was the difference between a friend and a wife. It was well past time he stopped thinking he could have both in one woman. He would just find a way to make Izzy smile even when she was mad, too.
After all, if there was one thing all Valentinis had in common, they loved chasing windmills.
© 2014 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved.