The Art of French Kissing
Author:Kristin Harmel

Evidently, I was supposed to be a full-time housekeeper and a full-time cook at the same time I balanced my full-time job.

“So,” I said after a few minutes of dead air between us. Brett had begun eating already and was making mmmmm noises as he chewed. I hesitated for a moment. “Have you had a chance to work on your invitation list yet?”

All I needed from Brett was a list of the names and addresses of the family members he wanted to invite, and I’d already asked him four times. I knew he hated planning things and looked at our wedding prep as a burden, but considering that I had booked the minister and the band, gone to all the caterer tastings, met five times with the wedding planner, and picked out the invitations all by myself, I didn’t think I was being too demanding.

“Not yet,” Brett mumbled, his mouth full of chicken.

“Okay,” I said slowly. I tried to remind myself that he was busy at work. He had just started on a big case, and he put in longer hours than I did. I forced a smile. “Do you think maybe you can get it to me by Sunday?” I asked sweetly, trying not to sound like I was nagging. “We really have to get those invitations in the mail.”

“About that,” Brett said. He ran his fork around the edges of his plate, picking up the last strands of pasta and taking one last big bite before pushing the plate toward the center of the table. He took another long sip from his wineglass, draining it. “I think we need to talk.”

“About the invitation list?” I asked. I thought we had already agreed that we would include everyone we wanted to invite. After all, my father had promised to pitch in as much money as he could, and Brett’s parents were, to put it mildly, loaded. They lived just fifteen minutes from us in Windermere, the Orlando suburb where Tiger Woods and some of the *NSYNC guys owned sprawling mansions. The Landstrom estate was just as grand, and they had already announced that money was no object in planning the perfect wedding for their only child.

“Not about the list,” Brett said. He drummed his fingers on the table. “About the wedding.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t totally surprised. Brett and I had been through some minor disagreements over things like whether we’d have the ceremony on the beach in St. Petersburg or in his parents’ huge backyard (I had deferred to him, and we were planning a garden wedding), and whether we were going to have a traditional vanilla cake or a cake with a different flavor in every layer (we’d gone with plain vanilla, which Brett’s mother had practically insisted on).

“What is it?” I asked. “Is it the seating? We can go with the plush folding chairs if you want. It’s not really a big deal.” I’d been partial to white wooden benches, which I thought would look beautiful in his parents’ rose garden. But it wasn’t about the location or the cake or the seating, was it? What was important was that I was going to spend my life with Brett.

“No.” He shook his head. “The benches are fine, Emma.”

“Oh,” I said, somewhat stunned. It was the first time he had deferred to my opinion without an argument. “That’s great. So what did you want to talk about, then?”

He glanced away from me. “I think we should call the wedding off,” he said.

I was sure, at first, that I’d heard him wrong. After all, he’d said the words nonchalantly, as if he just as easily could have been telling me that the stock market was down or that there was rain expected in the forecast the next day. And after dropping his bombshell, he simply reached for the wine bottle, refilled his glass, and glanced inside at the TV, which had been strategically turned so that he could see the Braves game through the sliding glass door while we ate.

“What?” I asked. I shook my head and forced an uncomfortable laugh. “That’s so weird. I could have sworn you just said we should call the wedding off.”

“I did,” Brett said, glancing at me and then looking away again, back to the Braves. He took another sip of his wine and didn’t elaborate. I felt the blood drain from my face, and my throat went dry. I gulped a few times and wondered why all of the air had suddenly been sucked out of the space around me.

“You did?” I finally asked, my voice squeaking a bit as it rose an octave.

“No offense or anything, Emma, but I don’t think I love you anymore,” he said casually. “I mean I love you, of course, but I don’t know if I’m in love with you. I think maybe we should go our separate ways.”

My jaw dropped. I mean, it actually felt like it came unhinged and fell open on its own.

“Whaaaa . . .” My voice trailed off. I couldn’t seem to get my mouth to cooperate with me. I was so shocked that I could hardly form words. “What?” I finally managed. “Why?”

“Emma,” Brett began, shaking his head in that condescending manner he seemed to have adopted when talking to me lately (it was the same way his father often talked to his mother, I’d noticed). “It’s not like I can explain why I feel the way I do about things. Feelings change, you know? I’m sorry, but I can’t control that.”

“But . . . ,” I began. My voice trailed off again because I hadn’t the faintest idea what to say. A thousand things were racing through my mind, and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on any of them. How could he have stopped loving me? Had our whole relationship been a lie? How would I tell my parents that the wedding was off ? What was I supposed to do now?

After an uncomfortable moment, Brett filled the silence. “You know, Emma, it’s for the best, really. You didn’t want to stay in Orlando anyhow.”