Zach stood pensively in front of the mirror, straightening out his bow tie for the eighteenth time when he heard a knock at his door. Before he could utter a word, his best friend, Luis, walked in, wearing a tux of his own. “C’mon man, stop fiddling with that thing. You look perfect.” Zach pulled his eyes away long enough to see the joy radiating from his best man’s face.
“Thanks, Luis. I just want today to be perfect.” Luis walked over and slightly adjusted the bow tie.
“It will be. You’ve been in love for how long?” Zach looked up, taking in his question.
“A long time. Feels like forever.” Luis grasped Zach’s shoulders and looked him dead in the eyes.
“It’ll be perfect because I’ve never seen anything so right. It’s like you were meant to be.” Overcome with emotion, Zach hugged his best man.
“Thanks, man. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
“Anything for my best friend.” The two men clapped each other on the back.
“Did they say how much longer?” Zach smiled and checked his watch.
“Should be any second now.”
“So enough of this bullshit! Let’s get downstairs!” The two men, who had known each other since the fourth grade, laughed and ran down the flight of hardwood steps. With each step, Zach could hear the growing excitement in the gathered crowd. The house was alive with expectations.
As soon as Zach hit the landing, a hush came over everyone assembled. There had to be over fifty folks present. He saw his Great Aunt Elda and couldn’t believe a woman her age made the long trek from Maine. The genuine feeling of their collective love filled the air, and despite his best efforts, a solitary tear fell down his cheek. To prevent further emotion from spilling forth, Zach cleared his throat and said,
“I want to thank everyone for coming here today in support of us. Your love means everything.” Zach’s mom rushed over, her mascara out of sorts, and threw her arms around her only son.
“I love you!”
“I love you too, mom.” Mother and son stood there, holding each other, not saying a word. Finally, his mother let go and ran her hand tenderly across Zach’s cheek. She managed to choke out,
“I wish your father lived long enough to see this.” At the mention of his father, Zach’s eyes watered for the third time in five minutes.
“I know mom, I know.”
“He would have been so proud.”
“You think so?” His Mom grabbed both hands and looked her son straight in the eye. Zach hadn’t seen his mother look so…so put together in a long time.
“I know so. It was the last thing he said to me.”
“Fucking bunnies,” Zach muttered to himself. Last winter, his parents had finally fulfilled a lifelong dream and visited a dude ranch. The dream vacation, however, turned into a nightmare when a stampeding herd of runaway bunnies killed his Dad. His mom cleared her throat. It was difficult to discuss her departed husband, and it always would be. Still, she needed Zach to know.
“You know how I was there when it happened?”
“I sat on the ground and held his crushed skull in my denim skirt, watching the life slowly drain from his body.”
“I know mom. I know you don’t have to — ” His mom waved away the objection with a flick of her wrist. Her friendship bracelet let off a quick rattle.
“I know you know, but you need to hear this. The last thing he said to me was, “One day, I’ll be so proud of Zach.” And then he died. He knew Zach. And so do I.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
“I love you, too, dear.” They hugged again until Luis came over.
“Sorry to interrupt. It’s time.” Zach looked at his mom and smiled as the doorbell rang its familiar chime.
*DING-DONG DING-DONG….DING-DONG DING-DONG.*
Everyone assembled stood up. His eight-year-old niece Joanie skipped in place, singing, “It’s time!” Zach looked over at Luis,
“My legs feel heavy.”
“That’s because the next steps you take are towards your destiny.” Zach let out a deep breath and walked over to the front door. He turned to look at everyone assembled, smiled, and opened the door.
A teenager stood there, holding an oven bag. His ratty sandy hair peeking out beneath his red hat. “Uhh, that’ll be $15.50.” He punctuated the sentence by popping his gum. Zach reached into his pants, took out his wallet, and found a twenty. He was so happy he could barely get the words, “Keep the change” out of his mouth. The teenager reached deep into his oven bag and handed over a grilled chicken and roasted red peppers pizza. Zach’s hands shook as he accepted the food, unable to take his eyes away from the white box. The teenager waited a beat before reaching into his back pocket, pulling out a worn index card. He coughed into his hand and said in a disinterested voice,
“Then, by the power invested in me by the state of Iowa and The Droopy Italian Pizza Corporation, I now pronounce you man and pizza. You may eat the pizza.”
Zach flipped open the box, grabbed the first slice he saw, and took a huge bite. Everyone cheered except for the chicken parm hero, sitting alone at the table with tears of marinara sauce streaming down its bread.