Pieces of Forever
Couple: Tyler and Lena
Prompt: Because I love weddings.
Title: Of Reconnection and Ballroom Dances (Part One)
For Shannah. Because you're in need of a good squeal, I think.
For Rochelle, because no one deserves someone like Ty more than you.
Thank you to Moselle, for the inspiration you give me every single day.
"I tried to write these vows dozens of times."
You are not a wedding person. It might be a gender stereotype, but you will never be a fan of the dressing up, the mushy declarations, the tears. You can of course, make an exception for this wedding, because your best friend is getting married and you're the best man. James, said groom, is beaming at the woman who will become his wife in mere moments: Victoria. Her eyes are shining as she speaks, and even you—the not fan of weddings—are getting a tight throat.
"I kept thinking of more and more to say, but I came up with less and less words to express myself. So you know what? I'm just going to wing it."
The two hundred guests chuckle collectively. Classic Vicky; she's always doing things with her own signature quirkiness. A light breeze wafts through the ceremony, carrying the sweet scent of the forget-me-nots lining the aisle.
"I love you James. I love your heart, your mind, your soul; I love how you'll stop at nothing to make me smile, and the way your hair sticks up in the morning."
James's laugh is airy. Your eyes are trained on Vicky, but even without looking at his face, you know that he too, is holding back tears.
"You are my everything. You are my joy and my courage and my inspiration, and when I look into our future together I am not afraid. Because I know you're by my side, and nothing conquers us." At the minister's cue, Victoria slides the wedding band onto James's ring finger, running her thumb tenderly across his knuckles.
"James?" prompts the minister, "Would you care to share your vows?"
James clears his throat, mustering his courage. You reminisce none-too-fondly on the hours and hours spent working on the words your best friend struggled to find that would be significant enough, encompassing enough in his love for this one person who is the very center of his universe.
"I am the luckiest man in the world today. I get to marry you Vicky, my best friend, the absolute love of my life since I was thirteen years old. I'll be able to see our children with your eyes and your zest for life, and I can't be more blessed. I want you to know that you are stuck with me."
Victoria's laughter is tinkling, despite her tears. James's face is perfectly straight as he secures both her hands in his, eyes on hers. "I know they say 'till death do us part', but I refuse to believe that. You are my forever. In this life, and the next, and however many there are after that. We'll never be apart."
They're linking pinkies. Promising. Moments later they are pronounced Mr. And Mrs. James Patrick, and you couldn't be happier for them. Just behind Vicky, with tears brimming threateningly is the maid of honour; the (second) most beautiful girl in attendance: Lena.
You can remember very clearly the moment (Se)Lena Watson (who had hated her given first name as long as you can remember) walked back into your life. Well, more like ploughed actually.
She burst through the Patricks' front door, a simple red binder and pen clutched to her chest. Her hair (still brown, longer than when you'd last seen her) falling out of the elastic, bags under her eyes, clothes rumpled as if she'd spent days in them. Lena's (still so bright) blue eyes scanned the room until they landed on Victoria: her cousin, her sister, her best friend. Her second mother. She dropped what she'd been holding and launched herself across the floor, where Vicky flew to meet her.
They cried. You didn't know whether it was happy crying or sad crying. You still don't know. As of last week, Lena's parents were officially divorced. As of last night, Victoria was getting married.
Lena had been away at University out of the province for two years. And now, as the maid of honour, she'd returned home to help plan the wedding. It's not until those familiar sparkling eyes find yours for the first time (in far too long) that you realize how much you've missed her.
"And finally, the best man, Tyler West, and the maid of honour, Lena Watson."
She's beautiful. You thought bridesmaid dresses were supposed to be ugly, but Vicky's always had good taste. You're not even sure how to describe it; sky blue, silk, maybe? It flows with her so gracefully it's like it was made for a singular (non-wedding related) purpose. Just to make her shine. Everyone in the reception hall is applauding, but you can't hear it.
You can only hear the steady rhythm of her steps. You can only feel her. You can only see the flood of memories from a time and a place that is too idyllic for reality, but they're yours and you're grateful.
Her hair was always up. Braids, buns, ponytails, even pigtails from when you were kids and the days later when she was feeling just a little whimsical. It was always out of her face, pushed away as you grew up and competed nonstop, while the seeds of romance rooted deep within your respective best friends. James is your neighbour, Vicky his neighbour, and Lena is Vicky's cousin your age who was always over at her cousin's and always wanted to play. She challenged you in everything you did, her hair never getting in the way.
The first time you saw Lena with her hair down was at the graduation ceremony in 9th grade. It startled you. You were so distracted by how different—how lovely—she looked that you couldn't even pay attention to her speech.
It's the first dance. James twirls Victoria in a graceful circle on the floor, thanks to weeks of ballroom dance lessons. You took them too. You're not sure whether to be angry at this blow to your male essence (dance lessons, really?) or grateful for your dance partner. Your instructor was an intimidating, large lady who spoke with an accent you couldn't place and grand hand gestures. Lena—as she always did—picked up quickly on the steps, leaving you to stumble ineptly along. It's not that you're uncoordinated. It's the dancing. It's the dancing with Lena.
Are your hands shaking? Lena's shoulder is soft and smooth beneath your palm. You lead her with careful precision, and in the back of your mind don't step on her feet plays like a mantra. Her gaze is pensive and eyes far away and you have to chokingly swallow the words that want so desperately to tumble from your lips.
I missed you.
"Lena?" Your voice is slightly hoarse from lack of use. You've barely spoken since that terrifying best man speech, so it's with a slight wince that you clear your throat and try again. Her head jerks up in the barest of movements, looking up at you expectantly.
"Are you okay?"
Lena's mouth opens and closes slowly. You can practically see the air rushing into her lungs, the gears whirring into a frantically made reply because it's too late for a simple 'Yes.' Fortunately for her, the music has stopped. Lena steps away, averting her eyes and walking away from you without another word. You stand alone on the dance floor blinking at the empty space she'd just occupied, not quite comprehending. A few feet away, Victoria catches your eye over James's shoulder and throws you a despairing glance.
She's not okay. You both know it. But for now, you'll let it go. You make a beeline for the bar, where a fellow groomsman, Steven, shoves a drink in your hand. The ice clinks against the glass as you open your mouth and down it in one go, not even bothering to ask what it is. The alcohol burns in your throat. It's soothing in a somewhat masochistic manner.
"Just be patient, man," Steven urges quietly. "She'll talk when she's ready."
"What are you, a shrink now?" you snap, slamming the empty glass down onto the bar with more force than necessary. He says nothing else. He hasn't even looked at you through this entire exchange, following instead your line of vision across the ballroom. Steven doesn't comment as your gaze wanders everywhere, searching unconsciously (or in denial-ly?) for Lena. It's easy for him to say. He's already married with a baby on the way. You don't even know if that's even what you want with Lena. All you know for sure is you want a chance.
Your chance comes later, when you're just slightly inebriated and courageous enough to ask her to dance. The raw, crooning voice of Matt Hires spurs you on; he's Lena's favourite. You're counting on this fact alone (and not the fact that Matt Hires isn't really danceable to) for a yes. In fact, you're praying for it.
"Dance with me?"
Her hesitation is plain. It's mildly insulting. "Ty..."
"Please?" You hold out your hand and hope she doesn't notice it's trembling. "C'mon Lena. You know you can't pass up Matt Hires." You smile with all the boyish charm you possess. "For me?"
It's with a barely audible sigh and the barest hint of an eyeroll that she takes your hand in silent acceptance. You pull her up and onto the dance floor, letting yourselves be lost amidst a sea of couples in various stages of sobriety. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up as her hands rise to your shoulders and you put yours on her waist. She's a whole step away from you, but you don't want to infringe on her space. Not now at least. You dance in that slow, rotating circle, school dance kind of way, but it's okay. In fact, it's pretty great.
"What is it, Ty?" Her voice is laced with tired frustration, and you want nothing more than to pull her close and tell her everything is going to be okay. But you don't do that. Instead, you hold Lena's tired gaze with yours and say the one thing you know she doesn't want to hear.
"I'm sorry. About your parents."
The brief instant of pain that flashes through her eyes leaves broken glass behind; fragile, glittering, beautiful eyes that press unrelentingly on your heart. She almost stops, but you tug her gently closer, holding her tight and manage to keep both your feet and hers moving. Her fingers lace together against the back of your neck and her head drops to your shoulder. You stay like that, breathing slowly in perfect time.
"We all just want to see..." You whisper the last lines of the song in her ear, and whistle the final strains in time with Hires as they fade off into silence. For the barest of moments, there is nothing, nothing but her; the warmth of her skin and the smell of her perfume and the softness of her hair. You close your eyes and ingrain this moment forever in your heart, because in the next instant it is gone.
After you excused yourself from several conga lines, the cake was cut, and that crazy drunken relative subdued, the reception dwindles. Your tie is somewhat (thankfully) looser around your neck as you grab your suit jacket from the back of your chair and hear the comforting jingle of your car keys in your pocket. There's no place like home.
"Don't worry about it guys, I can just check into a hotel for the night. It's no big deal."
Lena's oddly placed rationale makes you frown, and you turn the corner of the lobby you find her imploring gaze on Vicky and James. The bride's forehead is creased in classic worried sister mode.
"I'm sorry Lee. I can't believe we didn't see this coming."
The maid of honour chuckles lightly, holding a dark duffel bag that's starkly normal against the fairytale design of her dress. "We had other things on our minds, Vic. I think it's okay."
Now thoroughly confused, you adjust your stride and head over to them. "What's up guys?"
Victoria's eyes grow wide as they land on you, and you have to resist the urge to start backing away in fear. "...What?"
Lena's gaze flits from you, to her cousin, and back again. "Oh no. Vicky, I can't. No way!"
"Got any plans tonight Ty?" Vicky asks, a manipulative edge to her voice. You should have just kept walking. Although, in retrospect, you couldn't have left without saying goodnight anyway. Curse the best friend duties.
"Um, no?" You direct the uncertain answer to James, who just shrugs. "What's this about?"
"Lena needs a place to stay tonight."
And there it is. "Isn't she staying with you—Oh."
In your head, you silently try and figure out if this is some cruel joke. You've got your money on Steven. Lena? At your flat? For the night? But you aren't that guy. You are not that guy who would try and take advantage of a girl in your home, but even as your conscience asserts this, you can't help but imagine the possibilities. Your chest begins to hurt.
"If Lena's okay with it," you say, chancing a look her, "I'd actually love the company."
Her smile is small but (hopefully) genuine and it sparks warmth in your stomach. You're not sure exactly how the next few minutes pass, but before you know it you're headed for your car, and your keys are suddenly like a weight of lead in your hand. Lena tosses her duffel bag into the backseat with an unceremonious air. The idea is comforting; the idea that she doesn't have to ask, and doesn't have to treat you like a stranger.
The ride is silent for several minutes. You're focusing on the road. You're focusing on the road so you don't stare at the girl-turned-woman in the seat beside you. You're focusing on the road so you don't stare at the (beautiful) girl-turned-woman beside you and get you both killed. It's a great plan.
"Hmm?" You turn to look at her, cursing your inferior will power. She directs your gaze to the radio. "Oh of course, go ahead," you say with a smile. "There's a mix CD in already too."
She's intrigued. You can tell by the way her eyebrows arch together, and the shimmer of her blue eyes intensifies. Without a word she turns on the CD, not asking what's on it, not asking why you made it, since these days mixed CDs are somewhat obsolete. She knows your taste in music. She knows you, just like you know her.
You could never do the heavy rock, metal, angry bands that seemed to be the favour of your sex's generation. There was too much anger in your life already. You could still remember the terror of trying to silence the sound of your parents' screams when you were young. They were divorced within a year from the day your father shattered their wedding photo, the glass a glittering reminder of your broken family on the stairs. You were nine. You bounced from house to house for eight years, never quite reestablishing a bond with either of your parents.
Hate was too easy. Hate and anger and broken things once treasured were all too easy to achieve. So, you mellowed out. Your taste turned to artists like Death Cab, Snow Patrol, The Fray—angst-filled maybe, but you'd rather sad than angry and risk the things precious to you. Like your guitar. It's with your still intact guitar that you find yourself in your mother's backyard, playing a string of non-sequential songs that you love too much to sing aloud. The moon is full, bright, promising, and the air is pleasantly still.
You're not focused on what song you're playing until a voice—soft, strong, haunting—carries the words over your fence. Your fingers fumble, and as the notes fade Lena's head appears. She's holding a Blizzard. "Hey," she says, with a faint quirk of her lips. You return the gesture, hoping that the gathering darkness will hide your blush.
"I love that song." Lena's smile is wider now, although you try to overlook the fact it doesn't quite reach her eyes. "You're really great, you know that?"
Somehow you doubt the Perishers would think so. Or maybe you're your worst critic. You chuckle somewhat nervously, rubbing the back of your neck with a hand. "Thanks. You um, staying at Vicky's?"
It's not exactly a night for sleepovers. In fact, it's Thursday. Lena nods, her jaw tightening. You're about to ask the obvious question when the loud 'thunk' of a screen door slamming draws your attention. At a glance, Lena's parents are visible heading for their car parked in front of Vicky's home. Their raised voices cut sharply through the silent night.
"Honestly Tom I don't understand why you allowed this. It's ridiculous. She shouldn't be allowed to just have whatever she wants."
"Don't start, Grace. She obviously heard us. Why else—"
A car door slams, followed by another. You make a conscious effort not to look at Lena, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. A beat of silence passes as the Watsons drive away. Then another.
"Yeah?" you reply softly, carefully lifting your eyes to meet hers. Lena fiddles with her ice cream.
"Can I sit with you for a bit?"
"Sure. No problem." Lena lets herself in through the gate, crossing the yard and taking a seat beside you on the deck. She places the Blizzard between you. It's cookie dough. There is a small strip a block or so down the street, but Lena had to have taken the long way back to be behind your house now. You don't mention it.
"Could you keep playing?" Her voice is tired, defeated, and sad. "Doesn't matter what, just something. Please?"
You want to ask her what's wrong. You what to ask her why her parents are so upset, why she's so sad, but you don't. Instead, you play the Mario Kart Love Song and sing along, because you know it'll make her smile. You play song after song, just trying to keep up that faint happiness, until the ice cream melts and all that's left is cookie dough pieces in a pool of vanilla.
Author's Note: Yay for not being dead! :P Alright so no lame excuses because let's face it, there's absolutely nothing I could say that would make you all feel better. Besides a posting, I suppose. And I think after three thousand words is a good place to stop. We've still got quite a bit of story to go. I think. This instalment is dedicated in part to the newest addition to my family, Myra (at least I think you spell it like that). Happy second day on earth, cousin.