The Best Man

By: Kristan Higgins

PROLOGUE

On a beautiful day in June, in front of literally half the town, wearing a wedding dress that made her look like Cinderella and holding a bouquet of perfect pink roses, Faith Elizabeth Holland was left at the altar.

We sure didn’t see that one coming.

There we all were, sitting in Trinity Lutheran, smiling, dressed up, not a seat to be had, people standing three deep in the back of the church. The bridesmaids were dressed in pink, and Faith’s niece, just thirteen years old, looked as pretty as could be. The best man wore his dress blues, and Faith’s brother was an usher. It was beautiful!

The wedding day of these two kids—Faith and Jeremy, together since high school—was set to be one of the happiest days our town had seen in years. After all, the Hollands were a founding family here, salt of the earth types. They had more land than anyone in the Finger Lakes wine country, acres and acres of vineyard and forest, all the way down to Keuka—the Crooked Lake, as we call it. The Lyons, well, they were from California, but we liked them, anyway. They were more the money type. Nice folks. Their land abutted the Hollands’, so the kids were next-door neighbors. How sweet was that? And Jeremy, oh, he was a doll! He could’ve gone pro in the NFL. No, really, he was that good. But instead, he moved back as soon as he became a doctor. He wanted to practice right here in town, settle down with that sweet Faith and raise a family.

The kids met so romantically, in a medical sort of way—Faith, then a senior in high school, had an epileptic seizure. Jeremy, who’d just transferred in, elbowed his way to her side, picked her up in his brawny football-hero arms, which, come to think of it, you’re not supposed to do, but his intentions were noble, and what a picture it made, the tall and dark Jeremy carrying Faith through the halls. He brought her to the nurse’s office, where he remained by her side until her dad came to get her. It was, the story went, love at first sight.

They went to the prom together, Faith with her dark red hair curled around her shoulders, her skin creamy against the midnight blue of her dress. Jeremy was so handsome, six-foot-three inches of sculpted football-god physique, his black hair and dark eyes making him look like a Romanian count.

He went to Boston College and played football there; Faith went to school at Virginia Tech to study landscape design, and the distance alone, as well as their age...well, no one expected them to stay together. We could all see Jeremy with a model or even a young Hollywood starlet, given his family’s money and his athletic ability and those good looks. Faith was cute in that girl-next-door way, but you know how those things go. The girl gets left behind, the boy moves on. We’d have understood.

But no, we were wrong. His parents would complain about the enormous cell phone bills, the vast number of texts Jeremy had sent Faith, almost like Ted and Elaine were bragging—See how devoted our son is? How constant? How in love with his girlfriend?

When home on break, Faith and Jeremy would walk through town hand in hand, always smiling. He might pick a flower from the lush window boxes in front of the bakery and tuck it behind her ear. They were often seen on the town beach, his head in her lap, or out on the lake in his parents’ Chris-Craft boat, Jeremy standing behind Faith as she steered, his muscular arms around her, and didn’t they look like a tourism ad! It seemed as if Faith had hit pay dirt, and good for her for nabbing someone like Jeremy—we all had a soft spot for her, the poor little girl Mel Stoakes pulled out of that awful wreck. Laura Boothby liked to brag about how much Jeremy spent on Faith’s flowers for the anniversary of their first date, for her birthday, for Valentine’s Day and sometimes “just because.” There were those of us who thought it was a little much, out here in the country of Mennonite farms and Yankee reserve, but the Lyon family was from Napa Valley, so there you go.

Sometimes you’d see Faith and a few girlfriends at O’Rourke’s, and one or two of them might vent about their neglectful, immature boyfriends who cheated or lied, who broke up via text or a status change on Facebook. And if Faith said something sympathetic, those girls might say, “You have no idea what we’re talking about, Faith! You have Jeremy,” almost as if it was an accusation. The mere mention of his name would bring a dreamy smile to her face, a softness to her eyes. Faith would occasionally tell people she’d always wanted a man as good as her father, and it sure as heck seemed as if she’d found one. Even though he was young, Jeremy was a wonderful doctor, and every woman in town seemed to come down with something or another the first few months after he set up his practice. He took time to listen, always had a smile, remembered what you said last time.

Three months after he finished his residency, on a beautiful September day when the hills burned red and gold and the lake shimmered with silver, Jeremy got down on one knee and presented Faith with a three-carat diamond engagement ring. We heard all about it, oh, sure, and the planning began. Faith’s two sisters would be bridesmaids, that pretty Colleen O’Rourke the maid of honor. Jeremy’s best man would be the Cooper boy if he could come home from Afghanistan, and wouldn’t that be nice, to see a decorated war hero standing up there next to his old football buddy? It would be so romantic, so lovely...truly, it made us all smile, just thinking about it.