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Dear Diary—Day 12
Dear unknown-reader of the future, or alien archiving information on humanity (I have so many questions for you), Christmas is in the air. Well, not Christmas per se. But melted butter, cinnamon and… Is that ginger? Yes, ginger and candied pecans. Aisling’s perfecting a new apple pie recipe with a sugary and nutty crumble on top, and she will need someone to taste it to make sure the flaky crust has enough butter and the caramelized apples melt in your mouth. And this is only one perk of having my sister, Aisling, as a roommate. She’s determined to find the perfect recipe to bring more customers to the bakery. Our parents’ bakery. Our family legacy that is close to bankruptcy. Just like me.
Because of me.
Not thinking about this right now.
Countdown: Day – 12… Twelve days until New Year’s Eve and what should have been my first wedding anniversary.
Dear reader, I have breaking news: I can now type “First wedding anniversary” without feeling like a seam ripper is destroying the stitches keeping me together. Go, me. It might be because Nathan wasn’t selected as most coveted Bachelor in America. Apparently, the show decided to go with rockstar David J. And thanks to that decision, I can sleep again at night. Not that I don’t wish him happiness, but having our past and him jilting me at the altar on repeat every week on national TV isn’t my idea of fun.
Status of the “31 Things To Do Before the 31st of December List,” also known as the “What was I thinking? List”:Almost done.
Tomorrow I should hear from the Bridal Dreams representative about them carrying a new O’Connor line in their spring catalogue, and I am also going on my first blind date ever. Me. The Leftover Bride. On. A. Blind. Date.
After, I’ll have five items left to cross off my list, which is totally feasible. Do you remember my post about the 10k walk on the Bay Bridge? How high that bridge is? How long and hard it felt? (That’s what she said).
Last Google search (related to The List): Has Ryan Sawyer ever been on a blind date? Apparently, yes. Once. One of his teammates set him up and he ended up dating her for three months after. I also checked out his team’s social media. But just for a few seconds. He hasn’t played most of last season after getting into a brawl that worsened his shoulder injury, and his argument with the team’s owner still has the hockey world buzzing, but he’s hanging on their roster. Reconnecting with Ryan has been on my list ever since he almost drowned, saving a little girl and her mother. It has nothing to do with my heart and my mind not agreeing on the concept of letting Ryan Sawyer go.
Why did I add a blind date to my list? Good question, past Sorcha. Blind dates can be fun. Right? Rom-com and Hallmark movies have taught me that blind dates can lead to epic love stories. If I check on IMDb’s website, it will show you… oh no.
One of the top movies on IMDb’s “Most Popular Blind Date Movies and TV Shows” is the 2007 movie Zodiac… about the Zodiac Killer.
How? Why? Wait… does that mean I shouldn’t go on that blind date?
Deep breath, Sorcha, deep breath.
Tomorrow: Let’s do this.
The Blind Date. Not The Zodiac Killer movie.
CHAPTER 1 – SORCHA
When Tiramisu The Cat yowled inches from my face way before my alarm rang, his I-just-ate-my-wet-food breath wasn’t the only reason I groaned. A thunder of panic rumbled in the back of my mind, making it impossible to fall back asleep. After convincing myself my ramped-up anxiety was playing tricks on me, I let a cup of piping hot coffee mixed with sweet Italian cream wake me up and settled at my computer to work before sunrise. Between updating a database for a real estate agency in Connecticut, fixing one of Ava’s favorite shirts and doing research for a true-crime podcast that started two months ago, I barely had time to grab lunch. Yet, the sense of impending doom lingered.
I’ve ignored the signs all day: Tiramisu coughing up a hairball on one of my latest designs; my mother messing up a chocolate souffle, leaving a burned smell in the entire building; the hot water in our shower stopping to work half-way through washing my hair.
There’s no way I’m ignoring the signs now. Not after receiving that email from Bridal Dreams.
There’s no way I’m going on that blind date.
Immersing myself into the Zodiac movie while sipping chianti sounds like the perfect way to end this crappy day. Tiramisu leaps on my drawing desk, but instead of coming to me when I call his name, he attacks the ribbon holding my store sign with his teeth like he’s mad at the logo. Did he read my mind?
The blue wooden sign with the words “Happily Ever After Then & Now” hanging over my sewing machine should be in the dictionary next to “crushed dreams”. The familiar feeling of failure creeps up my throat. One day, you believe in fairytales. And the next day, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, your only hope at salvaging your business refuses to carry your designs in their new spring line. Bridal Dreams used to praise my intricate use of French lace in my dresses—now they deem a collaboration with me “detrimental to their image.”
An invisible corset tightens around my chest. Take a deep breath, Sorcha. You’ll figure something out. Don’t cry. But my tears don’t pay attention to my pep-talk. I wipe them with a swift gesture, leaving a smudge of black mascara and eyeliner on my hand.
Fuck. Fuckidy. Fuck.
The sign taunts me, and the urge to hurl it out of the window roars within me. Who knows? It could land on a handsome stranger from New York who got lost in our little town. I’d convince him to quit his corporate job and we’d open a vintage dress shop together. Every year on Christmas eve, we would tell our epic love story to our grandkids: Once upon a time Grandma, who was drowning in debt, threw the sign you see above the fireplace. Instead of suing her for compensation, Grandpa took her out for a mulled wine. And the rest is history.
But in my case, the sign would crack the handsome stranger’s skull open and after a visit to the ER, he would sue me. Influencers, journalists and people around the world would splatter the news over the internet: #TheLeftoverBride sentenced for attacking lawyer with two-ton plank.
I’d have to file for bankruptcy. Again.
Needing to step away from the sign, I slide to the floor between gowns that will never become a fond memory or a family heirloom, never grace the pages of a wedding album or get their own hashtags.
It all started with a hashtag…
My own digital fairytale.
Once upon a hashtag, the digital princess had all her dreams come true.
“Sorcha?” Aisling knocks at my door, left ajar, when I snuck into the kitchen to steal some dough. “Did you decide on what y-?” Her mouth gapes open at the chaos that is my bedroom. Three mugs are balancing on my nightstand—the result of working overtime and a tendency to be messy when I’m under deadlines. Fabric hangs all over the place and crumpled papers are scattered around, forgotten like my stellar reputation as a wedding dress designer. “What’s going on?”
“I’m not going.” I lift my chin, peeking from in-between the dresses. “Not going.” My voice wavers. My fingers brush against my favorite dress: cream lace with a scoop neck and an open back. The one I thought I’d wear on my wedding day with Maimeó’s veil. Instead, I designed another dress, even as Sophie—my best friend and wedding planner—questioned my reasoning. She told me I needed to look deep within. I told her to mind the canapes and the color scheme. And then apologized for snapping at her.
It was going to be the wedding of the year.
I should have worn Vera Wang. If my almost-husband Nathan had run off while I was wearing a Vera Wang, no one would have batted an eyelash.
That video wouldn’t have gone viral. I’d still have a life.
A thousand tiny needles must coat my throat because I can’t seem to swallow. Aisling marches into the room, flour in her auburn hair and a juice box in her hand. One of Ava’s, my niece. “You’re going. You can’t let Roisin down.” Oh, the family pull. Because, of course, you don’t let the family down. The O’Connor motto.
“I don’t want to.” I whine like a like a three-year-old who missed nap time, but I don’t give a flying organza gauze.
“You can’t cancel now. The guy’s probably on his way and Roisin is counting on your feedback before rolling out the app to more users.” Aisling pushes her glasses up her nose and shoots me her you-know-I’m right look she’s been practicing for years.
She’s not the only one who’s been practicing that look for several decades. I may not wear glasses, but I can still pull it off.
“Not going,” I repeat, even though uncertainty laces my tone.
Aisling’s gaze softens, and she holds her hand out. After helping me up, she points to the paper on the side. “It’s on your list. You wrote it. You laminated it. And you’re writing in your diary about it.” Aisling’s got me there.
Even though Aisling isn’t taller than me, she’s towering over me—with that big-sister-I-know-better vibe. “I’m sorry Bridal Dreams canceled, but you sold most of your dresses online before the show. And you could rebuild a clientele online too.”
“Not with the curse.” My eyes dart around, expecting all the brides who claim my dresses destroyed their weddings and subsequent marriages to appear and scream at me with pitchforks in their hands.
Aisling shakes her head. “Your dresses are not cursed.” She pets Tiramisu, who purrs for her. Traitor.
I stare at the picture I haven’t brought myself to throw out, just in case it’s the catalyst for more bad luck. “Tell that to Esperanza.”
Aisling waves her hand in the air. “Esperanza married a guy she’d known for five minutes. Their annulment five days later wasn’t all that surprising.”
“How about the bride who tripped on her dress, broke her arm and threatened a lawsuit?”
“She didn’t trip on her dress. She was running after the ring bearer and tripped on the stairs. Your dress is not responsible. She didn’t have a case.” Aisling retorts, like she’s heard it all before, which she has many times. I have an entire list of “mishaps,” featuring my designs and she has an answer for all of them.
Or almost all of them. Instead of hiding behind the dresses until the end of time, I remind her of what happened only a month ago. “Tell that to the brides whose dresses both caught fire as they were saying their vows. They wished they had changed their minds about wearing dresses they bought more than a year ago, before the curse.”
Aisling doesn’t miss a beat. “Wind and too many candles. Not your fault.” She pauses. “I didn’t wear one of your designs when Rob and I eloped. And we aren’t together anymore. With your logic, we should be blissfully happy.”
“How about what happened to me?” I hate how small my voice sounds. Mainly because it’s not about Nathan leaving me. It’s about his timing. If we had gotten married, it would have been a hurricane of disasters.
But him sprinting away from me as I was sauntering to the altar in one of my designs cemented my dresses’ bad luck reputation. Nathan not only dashed away, he jumped on his horse that was supposed to carry us to the reception like he was an extra in The Runaway Bride movie that was filmed less than an hour away from here. After that spectacular exit, there was no stopping the urban legend that if you wear a Sorcha O’Connor design at your wedding, you won’t get a happily ever after.
There are Reddit threads about my dresses. YouTube videos. TikTok trends. People dedicated Instagram accounts to the so-called curse. The sleuths claim they want to ensure I am not tricking clients online under a pseudonym. Even if I wanted to… I couldn’t sell my designs online. I can’t even get a job as a seamstress for any of the wedding dresses shops around the area.
“It sucks. But you added going on a blind date on your list for a reason. All you do is work.” Aisling’s tone isn’t accusatory. It’s gentle, too gentle. I can argue until I run out of breath, but I’m not sure how to deal with gentleness.
That’s why I stick my tongue out. “All you do is work.”
She rolls her eyes. “Nice comeback.”
Letting out a long sigh, I put the laminated list on my nightstand. Right next to the picture of me with designer extraordinaire Christian Giovanni. Sophie took it right after getting the news I had gotten through the audition process and was going to be a contestant on Christian’s TV show: I Dream Of A Dress. The perfect mix of Say Yes To The Dress and Project Runway.
A lifetime ago.
On the wall, another picture gets my attention: Aisling and Ava bursting out laughing with ice cream on their noses. I turn back to my sister, hope fluttering in my chest. “How about you? You could help Roisin. You could go instead of me.” I give her my best puppy eyes. “Ava and I can have a pajama party tonight. She’d love that.”
Aisling raises her gaze to the ceiling like she used to do when I was twelve and begged her and my older brother to let me tag along. “I’m baking.” At those words, my shoulders slump. Nothing—except Ava—is more important than baking to Aisling. The entire apartment smells like fresh-baked cookies. She made a batch with my favorite recipe: the one that crumbles in your mouth full with morsels of chocolate and butterscotch. Another reason to stay home.
But Aisling looks me up and down and adds, “Granted, you need to re-do your makeup. You’ve got eyeliner and mascara all over. But if you didn’t want to go, why did you change?”
She’s right. Of course, she’s right.
My heavy wool vintage dress is dark blue and comfy with pockets. A design copied from a picture I saw of our grandma. Maybe I should change. What if wearing this dress means this date will be awful? What if changing into a different outfit means I will never again sell any of my dresses?
Ordering my OCD-induced anxiety to get lost, I roll my shoulders, but the tension lodged in my spine doesn’t loosen. “I swear if that guy created a hashtag for this date, I will never ever listen to Roisin or you.”
Aisling finishes her apple juice. “And if he’s a jerk, you don’t have to stay.” She squishes the juice box. “You can come home. Ava is excited about trying on her Swan costume. She raved about it to all friends, saying how her aunt is amazing.”
“Anything for my favorite niece.” I crack a smile.
“She’s your only niece. Text me if you decide to stay out all night.” She winks, but then her tone turns more serious. “And for Bridal Dreams, I’m really sorry. It sucks. I’ve said it before but let me say it again: you should contact Christian.”
“I’ll figure something out.” Now, if only I sounded convincing. When the tulle hit the fan, Christian distanced himself from me, too. “You make the best dessert ever while I meet…” I pause. “Um. Wait.” I pull up the app to double check. “Trevor, his name is.” True to the legend that I either never answer my phone or that it’s off, my phone’s battery has been draining faster than usual.
“Go have fun. I’d hug you but I’d ruin your outfit with flour.” She does a happy dance as she strolls back out of my room.
After adding a charger to my purse, I do damage control on my make-up and as I use a waterproof mascara, the neon yellow post-it I added to the mirror during my Let’s-be-positive phase falls to the ground. Is it another sign I should stay home? The post-it says, “You got this”. I stick it back up but it falls again and the churning in my stomach intensifies. Even taking a deep, calming breath doesn’t help. I run my fingers through my shoulder-length, curly red hair. Not auburn, like Aisling’s and Keira. Not copper like Roisin or Liam. Red. Anne of Green Gables Red. Like Mámo. And right now, it’s behaving the way I want to.
As I put on boots over my tights and shimmy inside my oversized coat, I give myself a pep talk: The post-it is right, Sorcha. You can do this. Your next adventure awaits.
There. That’s the spirit.
The parking lot behind my parents’ bakery is all decked up with Christmas lights. This time, when I inhale deeply, the crisp air fills my lungs and my jittery nerves quiet down. This guy, um…I really should remember his name. Trevor. That’s it. Could Trevor be the One? The One for Now or the One for Forever? Since the only way to find out is to get moving, I square my shoulders and stride toward my car.
My right foot slides on a patch of ice.
“Shit!” I yelp as I fall on my ass. The snow soaks through my coat and my dress. In one of the romance novels my best friend Sophie and I devour, the hero would have chosen this exact moment to appear and sneak his powerful arms around my waist to prevent me from falling.
No such luck.
“You okay there, Swan?” A baritone voice that used to be the soundtrack of my dreams asks in an amused yet slightly concerned tone.
My stomach flutters in a way I thought long forgotten, buried deep under years of missed chances and pillows soaked with tears.
Only one person calls me “Swan”.
He started during my Twilight phase. Not only because I was accident-prone like Bella Swan or because I inhaled all the books one after the other, barely coming back up for air. But it’s also during that time that I devoted hours to drawing swans everywhere.
That Halloween, he even dressed as a vampire and told me that, unlike Edward, he would bite me with no hesitation.
I raise my gaze, and there he is, leaning against my car. A car that used to be his.
He shouldn’t be here. He moved to the West Coast right after high school. The first chance he got to leave our little town? He grabbed it with both hands.
And now what? He shows up unannounced in my parking lot?
In snow boots, jeans that hug his thighs, and a parka that doesn’t hide his muscular frame.
Everywhere he goes, Ryan Sawyer always looks like he owns the place.
Like he owns a piece of my heart. And goddamn him, he does.
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