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People ask me, “Do you regret your life choices?”, and I’m always at a loss as to how to answer.
Sometimes, it’s not always a choice. Yes, there are many choices in life, but not all are your own. There are choices which have already been made for you, set in stone. You can never change them, only blindly follow the path they’ve set you on. Some of my ‘choices’ haven’t been the most ideal, but I haven’t the most stellar track record at making decisions. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you.
Which explains why I’m standing outside this grand church on this positively grand day. Hear me now, the day is grand, but I am not. I am really, really not grand at all. In fact, I’m a total nervous mess.
It’s one thing to be invited to a wedding. It’s another to be invited to a wedding of your ex. And it’s totally another thing to be invited to the wedding of an ex you’re still in love with. You can imagine the horror, the awkward glances and the whispered judgement. But you know, the things we do for love. A mantra I repeated as I pushed my way past the heavy church doors, trying to close it as silently as possible. There was no one here, not yet. I was very early. Smoothing my hands down on my thighs, I continued walking, trying not to seem horribly out-of-place.
The walk to the bride’s changing room was a lot shorter than I had anticipated. I heard excited voices, some hushed whispers, some loud exclamations of beauty, going on inside. I smiled to myself, pride growing in my chest. Of course she’s beautiful. She always has been and will always be. I rapped my knuckles on the door, just loud enough for the occupants to hear. All actions stopped before someone came to open the door slightly.
“Hi. Is Meg in there?”
“Who are you?”
The woman who opened the door asked, looking me up and down with a slight glint of annoyance in her eyes. Another person approached her from behind. Ah, she I recognize.
“Oh. It’s you.”
“Yes…it’s me. Is Meg in there? Can I see her?”
Piper, Meg’s best friend, eyed me with a mixture of surprise and pity. I think she’s the only one who knew the full story of what happened between Meg and I. She gave the woman who opened the door a reassuring smile and nodded at me, beckoning me inside the room.
As soon as I stepped inside, the wind was completely knocked out of my lungs. Meg’s back was turned to me, but with the way she was looking, even a blind man would be able to appreciate her sheer beauty. She was radiant, glowing as the morning sun shone on her wedding dress, casting a halo around her. It was nothing short of something out of a fairy tale.
“Piper? Who is it at the door?”
She asked, sounding confused. Everyone was looking at me right now, some with confusion, and some with recognition. Clearing my throat that had magically closed up at the sight of her, I stepped forward into her line of sight. Meg saw me reflected in the mirror in front of her. Her gasp was audible throughout the room.
“I-I… you came.”
“I don’t think I could have missed this at all, even if I tried.”
Megan stepped down from her elevated stool and turned to face me fully. Her face was coloured with surprise and shock. She was so, so, so beautiful. God really poured some extra effort into making her. I barely registered the people leaving the room at Piper’s behest, to give us some privacy.
“I thought you’d never come. You didn’t reply to my invite.”
“Frankly Meg, I never intended to come. I just got into the car this morning and my hands and feet led me here.”
I didn’t miss the way her face fell as I said that. It was awfully bitter of me, but how could I not, when she was marrying someone that wasn’t me?
“Well, I’m still glad you’re here.”
“I’m not staying long. I just came to see you, mostly. How is the wedding going?”
“You don’t have to force yourself to be here. Or force yourself to be civil either. I know you hate me still for what I did.”
“You look breathtaking, Megan.”
I blurted out, unthinking. What? It was the truth. Also, I enjoyed the small blush she gave me at those words and I grinned bashfully, twisting my fingers together and then releasing them.
“Thank you. You look amazing too.”
“And… for the record, I don’t think I can find it in myself to ever hate you. I love you. You might not know this, but I still do. A lot. It sucks that you’re getting married to what’s-his-face, but if this is what you want, then I can’t say anything more.”
Okay, that wasn’t what I had been planning to say initially. I wanted to keep it simple, friendly. No use stirring up pesky emotions on her big day, right? But I couldn’t help myself. I’ve observed that I can’t help myself doing a lot of things when I’m around her. What can I say? This girl robs me of all coherent thought and speech. She does that to people.
“You…you don’t hate me? Even after what I did?”
“I can’t say I haven’t tried.” I said. No point trying to hide the truth now.
“I was livid. But you know me, I could never stay angry at you for too long.” I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly, trying to maintain my relaxed facade.
The next thing she did basically reduced it to dust.
My back was up against the wall in a flash, and my hands were pinned at my sides. Her lips were pressed up against mine, and the whole thing was so sudden that it felt surreal. I reciprocated the action, relishing the feeling of her lips that were robbed from me once before. In the few seconds (minutes?) of literal euphoria, nothing else mattered.
But as they say, even the sun sets in paradise.
I was the first to pull away from the kiss, gently pushing her away by the shoulders. What had transpired a few moments prior was pure bliss, but I knew this wouldn’t last. I saw the tears shining in her eyes and felt mine water as well. She stumbled into my arms, and I drew her close, her head fitting right into the crook of my neck. We fit like two pieces of a puzzle. I wondered time and time again how could something so right be so…wrong?
“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.” She repeated in shaky whispers. My heart was torn between soaring into the skies and staying here on the ground, in reality. Could she feel the intensity of my heart beating?
“And I know that you have a heavy heart, I can feel it when we kiss. So many men stronger than me have thrown out their backs trying to lift it.” I started singing softly, swaying slowly with her in my arms.
“That’s my favorite song.”
“We can’t do this. My family, they won’t…”
Meg then started to cry on my shoulder. I felt the tear drops hitting my skin and this made mine flow without stopping. Still, I had to steel myself. It was her big day, and I wouldn’t be the one to ruin it all. I tilted her chin upwards, grateful for the two-inch or so height difference I had on her.
“Come on,” I said as I wiped away the tears with the pads of my thumbs. “Today’s your big day; you wouldn’t want to go out there with ugly mascara running down your face.”
“It’s waterproof. Mom made sure of it. I’m sorry I ruined your lipstick. It’s kind of a mess now.” I gave a slight chuckle at her words.
“Well, I’m definitely not sorry.”
A few knocks on the door before it opening broke us out of the bubble we were in and Piper’s head poked in. She caught us in our awkward embrace, but decided not to say anything. I couldn’t discern the emotion in her eyes as she cleared her throat and looked away.
“Sorry to interrupt, but Meg has to continue getting ready…”
“It’s alright, I was just leaving.” I said as I stepped away from Megan, who pulled me back at the last second to give me a parting kiss on the cheek. I swore I could hear the faintest echo of goodbye behind that kiss.
Our last goodbye.
It was another two hours before I saw her again, walking down the aisle clutching a bouquet of lilies. Her favorite flower. I stood in the sidelines, in an alcove to the right of the altar. Her father was smiling at her side. As I watched the people in the pews, my heart ached for something that would never be mine.
“Are you going to stay for the dinner after?”
“No. I’m going to leave right before the ‘I do’. I can’t watch her seal the deal.” I told Piper, who came up next to me, in a quiet voice, just audible over the sound of the piano.
“She still loves you, you know.”
“I know. But she loves her family more.”
“These days I’m not sure if she’s that certain anymore.”
A pause. I didn’t know how to react at first, then I chose my words carefully.
“What’s the point of telling me that now, anyway?” Piper sighed at me.
“I’m not sure whether to call you stupid, or noble for giving her up.”
“I’d like to think it’s a little bit of both.”
“You’re forever the hopeless romantic huh, Natalie?”
I laughed sadly at that remark. It was so true and as they say, the truth is heartbreaking. The vows were coming up, and I couldn’t watch anymore as the groom slid the ring up Meg’s ring finger. I bid Piper a hasty goodbye before pushing my way out of the church, eyes full of tears, as Megan’s song resonated through my head.
And I know that you have a heavy heart, I can feel it when we kiss.
The love I sell you in the evening, by morning won’t exist