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The Late Bride

By Luv and Peace

One Shot

She was five minutes late.

I glanced at my watch yet again to confirm this before frustratingly glancing at my best man who merely gave a shrug back as he busily called one of the bridesmaid. The church pews were full and people had randomly began to talk amongst themselves as they waited for my bride to come down the aisle with a wide smile as she came to stand beside me. Her father would have walked a little proudly with her even though he gave me a hard time.

I became wistful as I thought about my fiancée, my best friend and my childhood friend. Her name was a very common one, Anna, but her spirit unique. She was beautiful in every sense of the word and I loved her very much.

We had been best friends when school didn't exist and then mortal enemies during recess, especially when I found out that all the girls in my class has cooties. It wasn't until recently that I found out that cooties had meant lice and no one in my class had them… except me. Which was perhaps why Anna had enamored a special hate for me ever since then.

Or perhaps it was because I kept constantly teasing her. But what's a guy to do when the girl gets so easily annoyed?

"You're a…a…meanie!" A five year old Anna cried as I stole her sandwich.

"And you're fat! FATTIE!" I cried gleefully. When I heard her cry, I felt a tinge of guilt. About to return her sandwich, I caught the secret smile on her face…

So, she's decided to trick me, eh? Well…

I dropped my grin and put on my apologetic face, "I really am sorry, Anna,"

"It's ok," she sniffled pitifully. She held out her hand for the sandwich but I bounced back playfully. Her eyes widened.

I placed my hand on her shoulders and said seriously, "I just can't give you back your sandwich. You'll be like the sumo wrestlers if you eat this. I'm just doing you and the world a favor."

I had the sense to run away then. Even now when she questioned if her ass was getting bigger, I replied back in my typical manner and sang, "I like big butts and I cannot lie…"

Rest assured, I'm surprised every time I come out alive after that one.

"She hasn't even showed up at the dressing room in the back of the church," my close friend, also my best man, Steven whispered. He continued dialing numbers and chatting but he had his hand on the receiver, halting the conversation so that he could update me on where my bride was.

I nodded, before asking my younger brother to fetch some drinks for the guests. Right after I suggested this, the priest frowned at me, "Water. Only water. This is the House of God, not a restaurant."

My younger brother, Dave, nodded and hurried away. Sighing I began fiddling with my watch.

She was now fifteen minutes late. But she would be here soon. She was always late for important event. Hell, I remember that her date for prom had to wait for an hour for her to finish getting ready. She was late on our first date and then again on a cruise that we had planned on going. She had arrived a minute before the anchor was about to be pulled up.

Each time she pulled that kind of rank, I promised myself that I lecture her the importance of time. Yet when she arrived in her fashioned late time with such a bright smile and eyes that practically begged mine to forgive her, I couldn't help but feel a tug in my heart. I didn't want to end up a softie so I had stilled pulled my stern face and gave her glare.

I just couldn't get enough of her. I was crazy about her. We were as opposite as day and night. I was the bully at the school whereas she was the nerd. She was the life at any party while I preferred to be the wallpaper and watch all the hot ladies dance. I liked women and she like men. I preferred to sleep in the nude and…well, we had the same opinion for that, though.

We even looked completely opposite.

She was a brunette with naturally tanned complexion and deep chocolate eyes. She was also a little on the petite side while I towered over her by a feet and half. I was as white as she was dark, with my almost white hair and stormy blue eyes. I could be compared to a white chalk (I'm not just speaking about my skin, you racist bastards). I normally am not so descriptive when I write about myself because I feel like a little girl telling the audience, "Look how pretty I am".

Though, of course, I was good looking. I have had my share of women throw themselves at me. Well, not exactly throw but…

What the hell was I thinking? I'm getting married to my best friend and I was thinking about other women?! My God, I'm an utterly stupid man. Who thinks about other women when they're standing at the alter waiting for their stupid, always-late fiancée?

Which brought me back to reality of my wedding. Where the bloody hell was Anna? Jesus H Christ, she had to be late for the one event that mattered to us the most! Our wedding! What was our future going to be like?

What if I had an important party planned where I planned to show off my beautiful wife then? Would she decide to stroll in then and make up an excuse about how it's the in thing to be late? Or worse…Whenever Anna would get pregnant, maybe she'd decide not show up at the hospital. Think it would be ultra cool to show up a day late

I mean, I simply cannot tolerate disrespect to time.

Geez, did I just sound British-y there? I'm sure that would have made Anna swoon. She did have a penchant for accents. Unfortunately, she learned that so did other women. Sebastian, the blasted French man, had wooed her for a week and almost had her when she caught him in the arms of another girl. I was surprised with her considering that I had been one of the witnesses to bear the infidelity of a young French man with another woman. I honestly thought if Anna did manage to catch him with someone else, it would have been a man.

I still think he might be homosexual.

I guess she started to like my American accent, because after that ensued our romance, (our friends had rolled their eyes and gasped sarcastically, 'Finally').

My gaze settled on my father who was sipping his wine as he spoke to my mother. Whatever he had said made her shake her head sadly. As though he felt my gaze, he looked up at me and silently shook his head in disappointment. I could practically feel the discouragement from him and turned away.

You see, both our families come from different backgrounds. My parents were wealthy British something or the other while Anna's were an ordinary American family. Her father was an ex-marine who now maintained an office for something while my father somehow managed to get millions and billions of dollars. My mother stayed at home and gossiped with fellow other grannies and mommies while her mother actively lead a protest or created something very artistic. I know I sound vague but neither fathers interested me when I was a child, teenager and then an adult and gossip was certainly not my cup of tea.

Of course, Anna kept a mental file on our families (among others). She constantly reminded me of birthdays (hers as well), anniversaries (ours as well) and names of family members I couldn't bother remembering. Honestly, if they couldn't show up at events other than weddings and call up at other times than Christmas, then they were simply unimportant.

The priest cleared his throat for the tenth time and glanced at his watch before pointedly glanced at me. I gave a half shrug back, much like Steven had with me.

A feeling of uncertainty and foreboding settled quietly in my stomach. What if she had changed her mind?

What if she was having doubts all this time…

That was when the doors suddenly burst open and a black fury of clouds came in.

No really. Her father, James Norton, was wearing a black tux with a black tie and black shoes…then there's the black hair…well, I certainly can go on but I refuse to, after seeing the urgency in my future father-in-law's eyes.

"Jude!" He cried, "Anna's been in an accident!"

My world crumbled.

I hadn't realized that I had fallen on the steps until Steven was holding me up by my armpits. It was honestly the first time I had ever felt like the world was about to swallow me whole and all that stopped it were Steven's hands.

Anna's been in an accident…

"What? Where?" I managed. I realized dimly that the crowd was talking more loudly.

Right…

God, was she…

"Where is she?" I found the strength in my fear.

Her father looked miserable, tears coursing down his cheeks. It was the first time I had ever seen an ex-marine cry. The seriousness of the situation brought a new hold over my senses and I didn't know quite what to do.

"She's at the County Hospital," he said with a lazy drawl that belied the urgency of the situation. "She's hurt real bad, Jude."

I didn't wait for whatever he had to say. I ordered my younger brother to take care of the church while I ran off to a hospital.

Dear Anna, what the hell happened?

Steven was right behind me as we ran out of the church and into the car. My heart was beating so fast and I felt ill just thinking if she was alright.

Dear Lord, let her be okay. I promise never to steal treats from Anna's basket that she left for the kids during Halloween.

I stepped on the accelerator just as Steven sat down. I was out of the parking lot when he slammed his door closed and put on his seatbelt. Safety wasn't an issue in my mind really at that point. All I was driven was…

I don't think I've mentioned this, but I happen to be a writer. My specialty included thrillers, horrors, mystery and basically violence. You could find some of my books at your local bookstore. I'm sure they are on sale for the Christmas season . Probably at a cost no more than yours truly, ten bucks.

So, you see, I have a very active imagination. Currently my latest book involved a serial killer who was caught when he stupidly collided against car with a family of three. The family of three instantly died but they did happen to bring the serial killer to justice.

I didn't want Anna to bring anyone to justice. I wanted her to be healthy and perfect with her crooked smile and bravado as she cried, "Fooled ya!"

Of course, then I would be the killer then. Because after being relieved at her well being I would throttle her senseless for scaring me out of my wits.

My tired screeched as I pulled over into the parking lot. I was just grateful that there hadn't been any traffic or police cars on the way. Slamming the door closed, I jogged into the hospital.

I was out of breath when I reached the nurse's ward. They took a step back when I crashed into the register and gasped, "Anna Norton. Is she here?"

"Who?" an Asian nurse asked. She had so much energy that it seemed as though she was jumping up on her toes, "The bride?"

I assumed that not a lot of brides were injured today and so nodded quickly. "Yes, she's the bride."

"Who are you? Family?"

I smiled a little and pointed at my tux, "I'm the groom."

She still looked at me suspiciously, "Your name?"

"Jude Darcy," I replied.

"Armani?"

"Pardon?"

Armani who?

"The suit," she eyed my coat, before casting a cynical glance at my pants. I felt like looking down just to check that my fly wasn't open. I resisted the urge. Cool people don't have their flies open and I was certainly reassured that I was a very cool person.

WHERE THE HELL WAS ANNA?

"Ah, yes," I said absently, "Where's Anna?"

She took my hand gently in hers and lead me down a long hallway. My heart thundered as the Asian nurse talked, "She's in coma right now. Her father authorized and insured her surgery which had been successful. She did hurt her head, which was why we needed someone of authority here for the surgery. Her right arm was fractured and shoulder dislocated, so she might have a little difficultly moving her hands. As soon as she's conscious, we have some tests we'd like to do. See if her spinal cord wasn't injured."

God, she would be crippled for the rest of her life? Because of some stupid driver?

Then my breath left as soon as door opened with a swish.

There, on the bed, looking more delicate than ever was my Anna.

I was paralyzed.

I was subconsciously aware that the nurse had closed the door behind me to give us some privacy. My eyes were on my Anna.

My God, what…who?

Uncertain, I reached out to touch her cheeks. There was a large bruise on her cheek and a bandage over her forehead. I glanced around the room, looking for some sort of hint, anything to point out that this whole thing was a masquerade, a joke. That Anna would suddenly pop up from this bed and say, "You're so gullible, Jude."

I wouldn't even throttle her.

My gaze landed on the machine that made those beep noise, ascertaining that her heart was still beating. Her beautiful long hair, her scalp was covered in bandage. Her leg and arm were covered in plaster and she looked so abnormally pale.

She was NEVER pale. Ever.

Finally, realization began to sweep into me. Anna Norton, the love of my life, was here battling death and there wasn't a blasted thing I could do. In that second, all humor and jokes fell out the window and all I could feel was the burning sensation in my throat.

"Anna," I gasped out, "Anna, don't do this. I love you. Come back to me."

I caressed her cheek, outlined her eyebrows, her lips, her nose, her eyelashes. I pinched her arm just to see a response.

Nothing.

I glanced at my watch. If I had still been standing at the church waiting for my bride, she would have been three hours late. If there had been no accident…

I glanced up, seeing the doors glide open and felt a thud in my chest as a beautiful woman floated towards me. Her father walked by her side, proudly giving her away to me. Her brilliant smile never vanished, even when my eyes began to droop over the vows. She managed to send a wink my way and I instantly brightened.

I hadn't realized I was sobbing until I felt a wetness on my cheeks. Amazed, I glanced at them before holding my hand out to Anna, who remained unconscious. Despite it, I said, my voice cracking, "Look, love, I'm crying. I haven't cried since the fifth grade. Do you remember?"

Of course she remembered. It was the moment one of those phases where we decided to be friends before enemies. I had bullied a bully, Steven at the time, and it had been short of a miracle that he had not plummeted me to my death. When I had realized that there was such a being better than me, well, it put a dent in my ego.

So like the little girl that I was, I ran of into the woods to cry. No one would be able to find me there and no one would have known that I had my moments of weaknesses. Anna Banana had found me then and consoled me. I fell on her like a baby.

"Do you remember?" I smiled and cried as I looked at comatose Anna. "You were the only one who saw me cry. And now…God, don't leave. I love you so much."

There was no change, no reaction. I just buried myself into her warmth, pretending that everything was fine. That she was okay.

I began praying, "Dear God, I vow to love Anna and care for her as long as we both shall live. I take her, with all of her faults and strengths, as I offer myself to her with my faults and strengths."

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see my Dad silently standing there. He blinked back a few tears before taking a step back. I vaguely recognized my mother standing with my father. Steven was leaning against the door and I knew that the whole church were outside the room right now and he was acting like bouncer to a special club. He nodded at me and gestured to Anna. I smiled a thank you at him before turning my attention to her.

"Before these witnesses, I vow I will help you when you need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life. No matter what. Till death do us part."

I've never felt the sadness that I did at that moment. I loosened my tie and sat down on her bed. Not caring about the audience, I moved down so that I was in her arms. My own arms enveloped her and I couldn't help but sob on her.

I love her.

"Don't leave me, Anna Banana," I whispered.

That was when I felt it…something tapping my back. My eyes widened as I looked up.

Anna suddenly gasped. Her deep chocolate brown eyes hazily blinked into mine.

"SHE LIVES!" I heard Dave yell before Dad shushed him.

I couldn't stop smiling. She was trying to come back into reality. She was okay. Perfectly fine.

Thank God.

"Jude," she crooned. Her voice was raspy. She cleared her throat.

I petted her head, "Yes?"

"Don't you… dare call me Anna Banana again."

I smiled, "I love you too."