A cork flies off a bottle of alcohol-free champagne. The shit isn’t Dom Pérignon, but for the sake of my brother and his alcohol recovery program, it will do. Besides, it’s not what we’re drinking that counts—it’s what we’re celebrating.
“Congratu-fucking-lations, brother,” I tell Lachlan, grabbing his meaty shoulder and giving it a rather rough squeeze. I’m beaming at him, conscious of my all-too-wide grin in his face, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a while. Maybe it’s the real champagne I had with our mum before Lachlan and his girlfriend came over.
Wait. Not girlfriend.
Kayla is his fiancé now. And if you ask me, it’s about time.
Lachlan nods, smiling wanly in acute embarrassment, which only makes me want to embarrass him more. That’s the job of an older brother, after all, and since our family adopted him when I was out of high school, I missed out on those important torture years of childhood that most siblings experience.
My mum comes over and pours the non-champagne into our glasses, then into Kayla’s, who is standing dutifully at Lachlan’s side. As usual, she’s hanging on to Lachlan in some way—hand at the small of his back—and her cheeks are flushed with emotion. I almost wish she would cry so I could poke fun at her later. She’s such a feisty, smart-mouthed girl that a little vulnerable emotion would be wonderful to exploit.
“Here’s to Lachlan and the future Mrs. McGregor,” my mum says, raising her glass to the happy couple. Before she’s about to clink the glasses, she eyes my father, who is standing at the edge of the room, poised to take a picture. He’s been poised for the last few minutes. “Well, hurry Donald and get over here.”
“Right,” he says, snapping one more photo of us with glasses in the air, and then comes hurrying over. She hands him his glass and we all clink them together.
“Welcome to the family, Kayla,” I tell her sincerely. I glance quickly at Lachlan before I add, “I’ve been bugging him from day one to propose to you, you know. Can’t believe it took him so long, especially with a girl like you.”
The permanent line between Lachlan’s brow deepens, his jaw tense. I think I’m the only person alive that can piss him off and not get scared of him. My brother is a giant beast of a man, all beard and muscle and tattoos, and has most recently become the captain of the Edinburgh Rugby team. You don’t want to mess with him, unless your name is Brigs McGregor.
“Brigs,” my mother admonishes.
“Oh, I know,” Kayla says smoothly before taking a sip of her drink. “I’d be lying if I hadn’t been leaving out my rings on the dresser, just so it would be easier for him to get the right size.”
“Atta girl,” I tell her, and clink her glass again, and though I’m suddenly hit by a fleeting memory, about picking out a ring for Miranda, I swallow it down with the bubbles. That’s how I’ve learned to deal with the past—you acknowledge it and move on.
Yesterday we were all at the rugby match between Edinburgh and Munster, cheering our arses off. Of course we weren’t just there for Lachlan. He had told us a few weeks before that he was going to propose during the game, and it would be nice to have the family there. Even though I just started teaching last week, I flew up from London to Edinburgh on Friday night.