Love and friendship both share intimacy. Your love is often your best friend for a reason.
Tammy’s aunt added the finishing touches to her rosy cheeks in the makeshift dressing room, while the rest of the bridal party was getting ready. It seemed this day took forever to arrive but Tammy’s wedding was finally here. Soon, she would be Mrs. Justin Robinson.
This wasn’t the 60’s but her grandmother kept referring to her by that name. She feigned a smile while getting her cheeks pinched. Abuelita grabbed everyone’s cheeks. It was her way of saying, “I love you.”
Tammy Rodriguez wanted a break from her grandmother’s pinching, her mother’s overcrowding, and her aunt’s opinions on the importance of keeping a man happy. She wanted the opportunity of a woman leaving her family and cleaving to her soon-to-be husband, starting a new family. No sheltered, overbearing love from her family and relatives today.
She and Justin had been going strong for six years, a one-night stand that started in Austin. One night led to two nights, then to five nights, then to three months. They looked up and a year had passed. The simple arrangement turned into a complex mixture of emotions making everything complicated. They had fallen in love. Tammy knew how to keep him happy.
The only problem was Justin wasn’t keeping her happy. This had been the case for the past two years just about the time they moved to Houston. The move itself was exhausting and they were sore, but after much coercing from her mom, the two were forced to attend her cousin Maribelle’s barbecue later that night.
Tammy was happy to see her family again but the both of them had rather been at home unpacking, tossing boxes, and getting settled in. Their arms hurt from the lifting while their jaws hurt from smiling all night as relatives and cousins filed past the couple in a processional, giving their congratulations and hugs. The world stopped when Zac walked in. Zachary Vela, the best friend.
From the gasps, Tammy thought someone famous had entered the room, but it was just mild-mannered, pristine Zac. Giving him some time to make his rounds, greet, and hug everyone; Tammy provided details to Justin that her best friend for 20 years was a guy. She assured Justin that Zac was gay, although she didn’t have concrete proof.
Freshman year in high school, the bold and fearless Tammy single-handedly fought off three seniors who picked on this skinny, short kid with wobbly knees and spikey braces. Zac was helpless, refusing to defend himself. Tammy fought for him. At the beginning of sophomore year, he started filling out and Zac shot up two feet.
Twenty years of friendship spanning from high school, college, and the early years of adulthood consisted of laughter, drunken sleepovers, Zac consoling Tammy during her breakups, Zac listening to Tammy’s boy problems, and Tammy consoling Zac when his parents died within three months of each other. Despite their loyalty and friendship, boundaries were never crossed.
Zac’s love interests were still a mystery to her. He rarely spoke about himself personally, rarely making himself vulnerable enough for Tammy to get to know him on a deeper level. Zac was funny, often cynical, highly organized, great dresser, sometimes displaying a feminine quality than most men. He was a Virgo.
Tennis shoes in every color to match his shirts caught Tammy’s eye. He was the perfect gentleman: opening doors and ordering for Tammy whenever they went out to eat. She wanted her relationships patterned after the bond she and Zac had, but she settled for Justin.
Justin received an earful about the best friend, welcoming him as a brother once it was Tammy and his turn to reunite with Zac. She hugged him, nostrils getting a whiff of the herbaceous cologne he wore. His clothing was equally pleasant as his choice of cologne for the barbecue. She leaned in close as often as possible before the smoke from the grill overwhelmed the aroma.
It was like old times again, Zac and Tammy cracking jokes and people watching. It was unfortunate for Justin being the butt of their jokes as he tried to keep up shot for shot with Tammy’s uncles and cousins. He was plastered and passed out in his cousin’s spare bedroom within two hours. A drunken casualty.
Tammy’s favorite uncle, Oscar, noticed the reunion of the two, happy to see the friends together again.
“When are you two going to get together?” he asked, snarling in laughter. The question made the two a little uneasy. “I know the rumors of you being gay can’t be true.”
“Tio Oscar!” Tammy objected. “That was rude.”
“Well, everyone says he’s gay,” he shrugged. “I don’t believe it. I see how he use to look at you, Tammy.” Zac laughed. Tio Oscar took a sip of his beer.
He didn’t object to Tio Oscar’s words, making Tammy even more convinced that maybe he truly was gay.
“I am in a relationship, Tio Oscar,” Zac said. Tammy was impressed. She planned on asking about this relationship in further detail.
A gorgeous petite woman entered Maribelle’s backyard. She looked lost at first, craning her neck to get a better view of who all were at the party. She looked out of place compared to the rest of the guests. She resembled a model.
“Talk about timing,” he stated. “And there she is.” Zac pointed to the stranger who entered the barbecue.
Tammy and Tio Oscar exchanged looks. Zac walked over and greeted the stranger with a kiss and an embrace. Tammy wasn’t the only one surprised since the majority of her family assumed things about his sexual orientation. Some of Tammy’s family took a double-take, ogling at Zac and his gorgeous date. Who was she?
She was introduced as Sara. The night progressed with more laughs, inside jokes between Tammy and Zac, oftentimes leaving Sara puzzled, not getting the punchline. The night ended with Zac and Sara leaving, saying goodbye, and Zac making plans for a one-on-one lunch meeting with Tammy for the next day.
Tammy laid in Maribelle’s spare bed next to passed-out Justin sawing logs, sucking in the drapes. His snoring wasn’t the only cause of her insomnia that night. Anticipating lunch with Zac the next day kept her mind reeling and she couldn’t explain why.
Zac was late, which wasn’t surprising to Tammy, causing his tardiness to affect their friendship at times. He strolled inside the restaurant. His stride was safe, with a hint of cockiness to it.
His lavender button-down shirt and khakis were well pressed, another trait she admired about him. She stared at Zac getting comfortable in the booth Tammy chose as the spot for their lunch meeting. He felt her eyes on him and he smiled. She swooned.
Easily forgiven, Tammy and Zac talked for hour in the booth, checking her phone periodically. She knew Justin was still out cold and hungover from last night. She decided not to check her phone anymore. She was devoted to her time with Zac.
He talked about his engagement he called off with a girl he met before Sara. He ranted and raved about her being the perfect woman, but the bomb dropped when shared with Tammy that she wasn’t her. She wasn’t a friend first. Just a lover.
Tammy gasped. Twenty years of friendship and she never realized how Zac thought about her. She disclosed her thoughts and feelings long enough for them to retire to her car to discuss her relationship with Justin. She loved him and would forever love him, but something was missing in the love they shared. She didn’t know what. Zac felt the same about his relationship with Sara.
Being caught up in the moment, they kissed. They were not surprised or shocked about it, nor did they avoid the opportunity. Later, they found another chance to enjoy each other’s embrace with passion and love. It would be the norm for about a year until Tammy made the unfortunate decision to stop the outside relationship.
For the first time in her life, Tammy found happiness, but she had to respect the man she intended to marry. A heartbroken Zac cut ties with Tammy, not wanting to interfere with her future with Justin. It would be a year without contact, but Tammy and Zac thought of each other every day.
The beautiful bride, with her father walking her down the aisle, walked carefully down the aisle. There would be no slips or falls going down in history. She was amazed at the guests she saw while walking. Then she spotted Zac and her stomach was filled with bubbles and nerves.
She perspired, nervous because of his presence. A period of melancholy overcame her, staring the one man in the face who showed her love and kindness. Zac is who she wanted. Instead, she was marrying someone who sexually satisfied her and treated her like a queen, but he couldn’t fulfill the entire spectrum of the love she desired.
The priest started the ceremony as usual, asking who gives Tammy away. In true Rodriguez fashion, her father joked and looked around, temporarily stealing the spotlight for laughs. He handed his lovely, less than innocent Tammy over to Justin.
As the priest continued, whispers were misconstrued for signals to hush those who randomly participated in idle chat during the wedding ceremony. Unbeknownst to the soon to be newlyweds, Zac slowly approached the front in an attempt to make his presence known by the time the priest uttered the words, “Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
He cleared his throat, sending a jolt of surprise to Tammy and Justin. The surge of embarrassment displayed on Tammy’s face while Justin wasn’t surprised. He questioned what woman has a man for a best friend and nothing sexual ever happens between him. He couldn’t force himself to raise his fists to punch Zac.
Instead, air punches gave Justin the temporary satisfaction of fighting something, but soon this wasn’t enough. All four of Tammy’s uncles and the priest made a valiant effort to separate Zac and Justin from the brawl that occurred. Once he fixed his tattered clothing, Zac turned to Tammy.
“Tammy, I have always loved you and I will forever love you,” Zac started. “You are my best friend, you understand me, and I understand you. Since the first time you came to my rescue, I have always been there for you, returning the favor with love. I come today, not to destroy your life, but to build a life with you. Please come with me so we can build love together.”
Despite the chaos that transpired less than five minutes ago with two men rolling around the church floor, the crowd cheered and roared. Tammy’s makeup ran down her face, her bridesmaids wiping her eyes to ensure her mascara wasn’t blinding her.
“Yes!” she proclaimed. “Yes!”