Home > In a Jam

In a Jam
Author: Kate Canterbary








Today’s learning objective:

Students will be able to know when it’s time for an axe.



I was in my wedding dress when he called. Dress, veil, shoes, and an industrial-strength corset to smooth down my squish. It was a great cupcake of a gown too, heavy and poufy and impractical for a July wedding but it looked perfect nonetheless. Everything was perfect.

He said, “This isn’t going to work out, Shay.”

I knew what he meant and I knew it before my name left his lips. He wasn’t talking about the raw bar or the dogwood branches canopying the aisle or the band. And I wasn’t surprised.

I should’ve been surprised. I should’ve been shocked. But the spots where those emotions should’ve lived were filled with a dry, brittle emptiness that cackled back at me. And that cackle said I should’ve known better.

All I could do was rip the veil from my head and fling it to the hotel suite’s plush carpet while a quartet of bridesmaids cried out in horror. The veil meant something, and they knew it. A hair out of place wasn’t a risk I’d take, not minutes before moving outside for pre-ceremony photos.

The photographer lowered her camera as I said to my ex-fiancé, “Okay.”

Okay, apparently this doesn’t warrant an in-person conversation.

The photographer took a step backward. Then another.

Okay, we’re not getting married in three hours.

My maid of honor Jaime moved toward me, a hand outstretched and her eyes wide.

Okay, a year and a half of planning, right out the window.

My bridesmaids Emme and Grace exchanged a glance that seemed to ask What the hell?

Okay, all the things I thought I’d done right, wasted.

Audrey smoothed the skirt of her navy bridesmaid’s dress and ushered the hair and makeup artists toward the door.

Okay. Okay.

“Did…did you hear me?” he asked. “Do you get what I’m saying?”

I wish I could say this sort of thing didn’t happen to me. Not that I’d ever been left at the altar before—or damn close to the altar—but that I’d been left somewhere.

“You’re ending it,” I said, hating the quiver in my voice. He didn’t get to destroy me like this and listen while I broke down. I yanked at the suffocating bodice of my dress. I was going to throw up if I didn’t get this thing off me. “You’ll make this announcement to the guests?”

He didn’t respond immediately, and in that silence I heard a ticking that sounded very much like a turn signal. “I can’t be the one to do that,” he said, “because I’m not there.”

I hadn’t completely understood what it meant to turn on a dime until my ex-fiancé dumped me and refused to clean up that mess, all within the span of five minutes. I’d loved him, and I’d loved him for years, yet he destroyed our wedding day and I wasn’t even surprised. I couldn’t access any of the affection I’d once felt for him right now. All the good and kind things I’d once attached to him turned bitter. They shriveled on the spot. As much as I had loved him, I discovered I could now despise and resent and loathe him. It came to me rather easily.

And that did surprise me.

“What do you mean you’re not here?” I asked, kicking off the fuchsia heels that perfectly matched my bouquet. “Don’t you think you should say something to your family?”

He cleared his throat. “They won’t be coming. They already know. I told them last night.” Another throat clearing. Another turn signal. “After the rehearsal dinner.”

A shocked noise shot out of me, something between a laugh and a gut punch groan. Now I was certain I was going to vomit. But before I sprinted to the bathroom, I was going to—for the first time in three years—tell this man precisely what I was thinking. No more editing. No more putting on a good face.

“Last night—what? No. To hell with that. And to hell with you. I can’t imagine why you’d tell your family last night but wait, like, eighteen hours to tell me. The person you were supposed to marry today. And I don’t care. I don’t want an explanation. It doesn’t matter. We are finished.” I pulled at the bodice until a satisfying rip filled the room. Then my friends were there, surrounding me, untying, unzipping, unhooking until that gorgeous whipped cream dream of a gown—the one I’d planned the entire wedding around, the one I’d hunted down, the one I’d starved myself for—pooled at my feet. “Never speak to me again. Never.”

I threw my phone with the intention of it smashing into the wall and crumbling into a million pieces but my aim was terrible and it landed on the bed, its dark face glaring back at me in the sea of crisp white linen.

“What do you need?” Jaime asked.

I shook my head. Three hundred of our closest friends and family members would be arriving within the hour. Save for the ones the ex had already warned off. There was no fixing this.

“Do you want me to get your mom?” Emme asked.

“No,” Jaime and I said in unison. I admired my mother but maternal or comforting were not words anyone would use to describe her.

“Do you want a giant bowl of liquor and an axe?” Grace asked.

“How about a giant bowl of liquor and a quick exit?” Audrey asked.

“Something like that,” I whispered.

“We’ve got you,” Emme said.

I sobbed then, loud and hysterical and shattered.

My friends closed in around me, one wrapping a robe around my shoulders, another pushing a bottle into my hand and saying “Drink” with a firmness that wouldn’t be swayed, a third plucking the pins from my hair while another gathered up the gown and got it out of sight. Not that I could see much through this uncontrollable downpour of tears.

“He can fuck right off.” That was Emme.

“He never deserved her.” Audrey.

“He’d better hope I don’t get my hands on him.” Grace, ever feral.

“While you plot his dismemberment, I’m going downstairs to—to handle everything. I’ll talk to your mom and stepdad too.”

Something about Jaime’s carefully worded announcement, about handling my ruination, tore through me harder than anything the ex said this afternoon. I brought the bottle to my mouth and tipped my head back, not caring whether the vodka burned my throat or dribbled down my chin or smudged my lipstick.

None of it mattered.

I didn’t have to be perfect anymore, and that came as a strange sort of parting gift. A gift I hadn’t asked for and didn’t want. But I’d been fond of perfect. I’d liked that look for me. And I’d played by the rules of perfect. I’d done everything right.

And none of it mattered.



chapter one






Students will be able to do battle with attorneys, cow trucks, and pirates.



“You have to sign for a letter.”

I blinked up at Jaime from my cocoon on her sofa, day drunk and dressed in three-day-old pajamas. Two weeks after being left at the altar, I was at least slightly drunk most of the time but I didn’t cry constantly, which seemed like an improvement.

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