Kimberly Hart didn't care for weddings.
If asked, she would surely say it was because she found it ridiculous to watch as two people supposedly in love smashed dessert in each other's faces. She thought it was boring to watch the newlyweds spin in a circle on the dance floor for their first dance, because, realistically, who knows how to really dance anymore? And she found the bouquet toss to be the pinnacle of humiliation for a single girl like herself.
Kimberly's closest friends knew otherwise. It wasn't the wedding traditions, as outdated as they may be, that Kimberly found offensive. In fact, she loved any excuse to buy a new party dress and throw on a pair of heels, and she often found herself as the life of the party once all the traditional wedding customs were out of the way. Instead, it was what the wedding marked the beginning of – marriage – that Kimberly did not enjoy.
Despite her matrimonial misgivings, when her colleague and good friend Melissa burst into her office almost a year ago gushing about her now-husband's dreamy proposal, Kimberly put on her brightest smile and took part in the obligatory squealing and ring-admiring.
"Oh, it was SO perfect, Kim! He's so perfect! I knew Paul was my soulmate!" Melissa beamed that morning, her eyes fixated on the rock on her finger.
Ah, 'soulmate.' A word that was worse than most curse words as far as Kimberly's vocabulary was concerned. It was her memory of this word, tumbling freely from Melissa's mouth that diverted Kimberly's attention at this moment as the DJ invited the room to their feet. She made it clear to anyone who would listen that she thought the idea of a soulmate was stupid. She had dated plenty of guys, plenty of GREAT guys, and not one of them was what she would classify as a soulmate. She found the notion that each person was only meant to be with one, particular, other person on the planet ridiculous. She found it even more ridiculous that so many people honestly believed they HAD found their soulmate. If she weren't so committed to being a supportive friend, she would have grabbed Melissa and shaken her, asking if she really thought that if there really were only one person on the planet, the ENTIRE planet for her, that she just so happened to run into him in a local bar six months ago? But she bit her tongue, smiled sweetly, and proceeded to spend the next eleven months pouring through bridal magazines, comparing color swatches and sampling wedding cake with Melissa and the other women they worked with.
Again, those closest to her knew the truth about Kimberly's strict aversion to the use of the term 'soulmate'. She was simply masking another fear – that she had found her soulmate early on and mistakenly discarded him, limiting herself to a life of emotional solitude.
"Kim! Earth to Kim!"
She spun quickly, finding her friend Geri snapping her fingers at her. "Are you okay?"
"Um, yeah, I'm fine," she said absently, running her hand over the linen tablecloth.
"Well, stand up! They're about to introduce the couple!"
She shook her head lightly and smiled as she stood and faced the door, prepared to greet the happy couple who at this moment believed they were "meant to be."
"And please remain standing as we invite Melissa and Paul to the floor for their first dance as husband and wife!"
Kimberly rolled her eyes as the rest of the room cheered wildly. She made a grab for her purse and leaned in toward Geri. "I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?" Geri whispered, a bewildered look on her face.
"You can't hold it? They're about to dance!"
Kimberly smiled apologetically at her friend. Geri was, by definition, a hopeless romantic. Kim could practically see stars and hearts dancing in her eyes, and she knew if she stayed her cynicism would tarnish Geri's positive outlook. "No, I can't. I'll be right back. Enjoy the dancing," she encouraged as she slipped away, making a beeline for the door.
Her pace slowed as she reached the elaborately decorated hotel lobby. The reception was taking place in one of the Hyatt's grand ballrooms in southern Los Angeles, and Kimberly certainly had to admit, the girl knew how to throw a party. She gazed around the lobby, suddenly wishing she could bring herself to take up smoking just to give her an excuse for escape at moments like these.
Since I'm not a fan of slow suicide and I'm a big fan of breathing, I guess I'll have to settle for people watching, she mused, making her way to a cushioned bench in the center of the room. It appeared that there was another wedding reception taking place in the second ballroom at the south end of the lobby. Guests were mingling outside the doors, apparently waiting for the arrival of yet another destined-to-be couple. She scanned the crowd for someone who might be interesting enough to talk to for the next few minutes.
She found what she was looking for in the form of a familiar face on a tall, dark-haired man that looked like he just walked off the cover of GQ.
The sight pulled Kimberly to her feet instinctively, only to collapse on to the bench again almost immediately. She glanced down at her legs that had just betrayed her and silently implored her knees to stop quaking. She pulled herself to her feet again and made her way across the lobby boldly, trying to ignore the fluttering in the pit of her stomach.
Butterflies? Are those butterflies I'm feeling?
She locked eyes with the man as she continued toward him, and she tried to smile. I really hope I look like I'm smiling, she thought, utilizing all of her available motor control to keeping her legs moving forward and not turning and running back to the ballroom.
Upon seeing Kimberly heading his way, the man politely excused himself from the conversation he was having with an older gentleman and patted him gently on the arm as he started in her direction.
"Kimberly? Kim, is that you?"
His excited voice rang through the air and she stopped mere steps away, allowing instinct to take over once again as her face broke into a beaming grin.