Chapter 1 I was ready; so ready for him to ask me. So ready, I was practically beaming, and I imagine so red in the cheeks, I probably looked ruddy, like streetwise children do in Charles Dickens novels--a tomato with a beating heart. Only five minutes ago, everything was perfect, and I don't often use that word because nothing, however wonderful--people, kisses, bacon sandwiches--ever truly is. But it was. The restaurant, the candlelit table, the beach beyond the decking with its soft-sounding waves, and the wine, which tasted so close to what we'd had nine years ago, on the eve of our twenty-first birthdays, and hadn't been able to remember the name of since. The fairy lights, spiraling the pillars of the wooden gazebo we sat beneath. The sea breeze. Even my hair had gone just right for the first time since, well, probably that one, singular time it did , and that was likely back when I listened to a Walkman and was convinced Jon Bon Jovi would somehow find himself on a mini-break in Ramsgate, bump into me, and ask me out to the Wimpy for a burger and chips. And Lucas. Of course, Lucas, but then, he always looks as close to perfect as you can get. I close my eyes now, palm pressed against my forehead, knees bent on the tiles of this cold bathroom floor, and I think of him in the next room. Handsome, in that English, waspy way of his. Skin slightly bronzed from the French sun. That crisp white shirt pressed and open at the collar. When we'd first arrived, just a couple of hours ago, swiftly ordering wine, and sharing two appetizers, I looked across at him and wondered dreamily about how we looked to other diners, against the setting sun. Who were we, to the silhouettes of strangers, ambling along the sand and past the veranda on which we sat, their shoes dangling from their fingers at their sides? We'd looked meant to be, I reckon. We'd looked like a happy couple out for dinner by the beach. An anniversary, maybe. A celebration for something. A date night, even, away from the kids at home. Two. One boy, one girl. "I'm nervous here, Em," Lucas had begun with a chuckle, hands fidgeting on the table, fingers twisting the ring on his index finger, "to ask you." And in that moment, at that table, in that restaurant--the bathroom of which I'm hiding in now--I think I'd felt more ready, more sure, than I have ever been of anything. Ready and waiting to say yes. I'd even planned how I would say it, although Rosie said that if I rehearsed it too much, I'd sound constipated and give the impression I actually didn't want to say yes, and "tonight is not the night to do that thing where you talk like you've got the barrel of some maniac's gun shoved into your back, Emmie, 'cause you do that sometimes, don't you, when you're nervy?" But I did rehearse it in my head, ever so slightly, on the ferry over this morning. I'd say something sweet, something clever, like, "What took you so long, Lucas Moreau? I'd love nothing more." And he would squeeze my hand across the table--across the same, scallop-edged tablecloths Le Rivage has had draped on every one of their little round tables for as long as we have been coming here, and outside, on our way home, we'd walk along the beach, Lucas pausing, as always, to show me where he'd found my balloon all those years ago. He'd kiss me, too, I was sure. At his car, he would probably stop and bend, slowly, hesitatingly, to kiss me, a finger and thumb at my chin. Lucas would kiss me for the first time in fourteen years, both of us tasting of moules marinière and the gold-wrapped peppermints left on the dish with the bill, and at long last, I would be able to breathe. Because all of it would have been worth it. Fourteen years of friendship, and six years of swallowing down the urge to tell him how I really feel, would come full circle tonight. At least, that's what I'd expected. Not this. Not me, here, crumpled in this bathroom, on a perfect night, in our perfect restaurant, on our perfect beach, after a perfect dinner, which now stares back at me, chewed and regurgitated in the restaurant's toilet bowl, an artist's impression of "utter fucking soul-destroying disaster." I was expecting to say yes. Minutes ago, I was expecting--practiced, perfect line on the tip of my tongue, back straight, and eyes full of stars--to say yes , to going from best and longest friends, to boyfriend and girlfriend. To a couple. On the eve of our thirtieth birthdays. Because what else could Lucas have to ask me that he couldn't possibly ask me over the phone? I think I hid it well, the shock I felt, like a hard slap, at the sound of the question, and the nauseous, long ache that passed across my gut as his words sunk in slowly, like sickly syrup on a cake. I'd gawped. I must have, because his smile faded, his eyes narrowing the way they have always done when he's starting to worry. "Emmie?" Then I'd said it. Because I knew, looking at him across that table, I could say nothing else. "Yes." "Yes?" he repeated, sandy brows raised, broad shoulders relaxing with relief. "Yes," I'd told him again, and before I could manage another word, tears came. Tears, I have to say, I recycled masterfully. To Lucas, in that moment, they weren't tears of devastation, of heartbreak, of fear. They were happy tears. Overjoyed tears, because I was proud of my best friend and this momentous decision he'd made; touched to be a part of it. That's why he'd grinned with relief. That is why he stood from his chair, circled the round, candlelit table, crouched by my side, and put his strong arms around me. "Ah, come on, Em." He'd laughed into my ear. "Don't grizzle too much. The other diners'll think I'm some dickhead breaking a girl's heart over dinner or something." Funny. Because that's exactly how it felt. Then it had come: that hot rising from my stomach, to my chest. "I need the loo." Lucas drew back, still crouched, and I willed him to not question it, to not look me in the eyes. He'd know. He'd be able to tell. "Bit of a funny head since this morning," I lied. "Bit migraine-y, you know what I'm like. Need to take some painkillers, splash some water on my face..." As if. As if I'd smudge my makeup. But it's what they say in films, isn't it? And it didn't feel at all like real life, that moment. It still doesn't, as I hug this public--albeit sparkling--toilet, the bowl splatted with the dinner and wine we'd ordered, all beaming grins and excitement, a mere hour ago. Married. Lucas is getting married. In nine months, my best friend of fourteen years, the man I am in love with, is getting married to a woman he loves. A woman who isn't me. And I am to stand right there, at the altar, beside him, as his best woman. Excerpted from Dear Emmie Blue: A Novel by Lia Louis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.