I’m doing something a little different today. I’m sharing a short story I wrote two (!) years ago. Now, before you go in expecting the happy ending I usually give you (oh, that sounded dirtier than I intended), be aware that you won’t get it. See, I use my short stories as a way to get the not-quite-appropriate-for-Harlequin stories out my head. But rest assured; this is just the prequel to what would be Gina’s happily ever after. Because everyone deserves one 🙂
The Wedding Ring – A Short Story
Gina walked into the church knowing she didn’t belong there.
But she had to see it. It was a long time in the making, this moment that she was about to witness. The moment that would be etched in her mind for the rest of her life. She’d known it the minute she had seen him with her. It felt like an eternity ago, even though it had only a few years.
But even then, her soul had mourned the end of what she shared with him. She wished with all her heart that she was strong enough to let him go. To let him be with the other woman and free herself from the obsession of him.
Instead, she tipped her hat over her face, nodding politely at the usher who offered her a wedding programme. When he wasn’t looking, she slipped passed and walked up the stairs that had been cordoned off to the rest of the guests. It suited her perfectly. She would miss the greetings, the excited chatter, the anticipation.
Her nerves tightened, nauseated her, but she sat down and looked at the face that haunted her dreams. He was smiling in a way he never had with her, his arms wrapped around his soon-to-be wife.
Her lungs stopped for a moment, and then she released the air that had stuck there.
The pain threatened to draw her into its darkness, but she pushed it away. If she wasn’t there, she would never accept it. So to accept it, she’d become a guest at the wedding of the man she loved.
It made her a fool, she knew. But she was a foolish woman. One who would rather punish herself for her mistakes than learn from them.
And then she saw him, and her heart – already stretched to its limits – snapped.
He looked dashing. His chestnut hair was swept back, just the way she liked it. The black suit and white shirt he wore fit him perfectly, covering the broad shoulders, narrow waist and strong legs that had belonged to her not so long ago.
Or had she just imagined it?
Watching him now as he strode to the front of the altar, it certainly felt like a dream. And she wondered for a moment if she had been the one to lose him, or if his bride – the word weighed heavily, even in her thoughts – was just a replacement for her. But she’d always known that they could never be together. For whatever reason, fate had prevented it at every turn.
Had he wanted her? Or had she been right the first time she’d seen them together? After all, the woman he was marrying was the safe bet. She was so different to what they had been through together. So far removed from everything they had shared. And in that moment – the moment she’d seen them together – she’d known that love would never be enough. Not for them.
He stopped, greeted a few people, laughed. His shoulders were tight – she could see it from where she sat – but not one bit of that showed on his face. He wanted this, she reminded herself. Over and over again – every time he’d come back to her for the last time – he’d told her that they couldn’t need each other. Their light was too bright, their love a fire that would burn them to ashes if they didn’t give it up.
She wiped at the tears that rolled down her face. It hadn’t even begun yet and she was losing it. She wanted to be strong, to believe, like him, that this was for the best. But the tears kept coming. And when the music started – the music she knew would be the theme song to the nightmares she would have after this day – she stayed seated as their guests stood, welcoming the bride. The woman’s white dress stood in sharp contrast to the black one Gina wore. A reminder that what she was witnessing was the start of a life together…and the end of another.
She watched as the woman smiled at the man she loved.
The man they both loved.
Through their vows, their promises to love and protect, Gina cried. And when he placed the ring on his bride’s finger, she wished that she hadn’t come. She slipped out the church, and longed to just as easily slip away from the memories of the man she loved. To run, far away from where she was, but she stopped. She couldn’t leave. Her heart had dissolved in her chest, and still, she couldn’t leave.
One last time, she thought. It couldn’t hurt any more than it already did. So she waited.
When they came out the church – the man she loved and his new wife – their guests threw confetti over their heads. People wished them well for their lives together. But still, Gina stood, away from the guests, but close enough to see him.
And then he looked at her.
Their eyes locked, electricity flashed, and she took a step forward. But he shook his head – the movement so slight she barely saw it – and she stopped. After the eternity of a few seconds, he turned to his new wife, lifted his hand to her face, and kissed her.
His wedding ring glinted in the sun.