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Her Best Man
“Is this seat taken?” I looked down as the words tipped off my lips with an irrepressible fear, a hesitation I'd grown used to though I could tell it bothered her. My gaze fixed safely on the wavy edges of her white dress. My heart began to pound insistently and I couldn't ignore myself any longer. I tilted my head up and her eyes met mine, pleading and looking straight through my soul.
“Please sit,” she said, grinning at our courteous manner, so out of place though not altogether inappropriate considering the circumstances. I sat beside her not bothering to look away from those brilliant eyes. Mingling loosely in them was a look that terrified me, if only because I knew it so well. For a moment I could have sworn it was the sheerest reflection of my own expression that playfully danced through her gaze. But this look overwhelmed her features with a glowing eagerness, as if she were tangled in an inexplicable trance. A reassuring peace where chaos was strung. My eyes were filled with nothing but a broken hope and an abused promise. They continued to fumble around in search of a future that had been set for some time, irrevocable, and not including me.
“I suppose I never really got the chance to say congratulations.”
Her eyes flashed with a sharp pain that I instantly regretted circling around but recovering, her hands shook as they reached out toward mine. Her fingertips, still trembling, alarmed me as they brushed against my skin, stone cold. Taking my hands in hers she lifted them up to her face and rested her burning complexion in my palms for a quiet moment. Eyes closed, I watched her. I felt I may have underestimated how alone I was in this newly developed hell.
“Would you like to take a walk with me?”
Her fluttering dress was everywhere when she stood as if anticipating my barely spoken words. We walked slowly down the patio steps, being careful not to disturb the subtle lights that curled along the railing, glowing in our silence. We approached the dewy grass that led to a backyard with a similarly radiant atmosphere. I stopped short and slipped my shoes off that I'd halfheartedly worn for the occasion. Of course I was going to wear a tux, what else was I supposed to turn up in? After all, it was a wedding. She turned to watch me, smirking infectiously, twisting the knife even further. When I caught up to her we began to walk again, revolving around one another: closer than two ordinary friends, yet with every step seeming to become even further apart.
I frowned into the night, reluctant to give a voice to my reeling thoughts. She noticed, of course, her eyes never leaving me. She turned me quickly to face her and standing on her tiptoes in that unbearably beautiful dress, looked directly into my eyes with a pensive look, masking that deep contentment.
“What are you thinking?”
I couldn't look away but I was fearful that she'd seen on her own and have no need for my explanation. But with that terror came more pain, pain that I will only ever blame myself for. I felt that blank stare cover my face and it was a relief to find a way out. I put on my mask and blocked her eyes from coming in. As soon as I composed my expression she cringed away, hands falling at her side. She hated it when I shut her out from whatever progress I'm sure she thought we were making. With that familiar fear of losing her I backtracked, abandoning my resolve to become vulnerable once again.
“My mind, it's going so fast. I'm just trying to slow it down.”
As her beautiful face grew exceedingly confused I spoke even more quickly in hopes that I would say something worthwhile in the next moment, or begin to make sense again.
“I think we should take a drive- I want to give you something, I've been wanting to give you for years...”
She smiled curiously but with caution.
My heart. As my head beat furiously with a thought I'd never say I just shook my head and smiled as convincingly as I could. Retaining very little of the happiness I'd once shared with her. Her reaction shocked me and I watched, helpless as her voice shook with a withdrawn clarity:
“It's my wedding night.”
Her silky voice was thick with a fierce and careful deliberation. It practically knocked the wind out of me after she'd spoken. I remained motionless, glaring past her, wishing I could run from this reality yet not wanting to be anywhere else. Calm down you idiot, you knew that, hence the getup. Don't ruin everything because she's trying to show you the truth. I looked at her now, lost in defiance; she had read my move flawlessly and this was her warning, a reminder. Had I anything left?
“I came to see the light in my best friend, you seemed as happy as you've ever been.”
I saw the words strike her one by one and hated myself for sounding so angry, so scared. My chance of being open was broken and I would never get her back, my friend, my girl, my love. Her expression grew farther away and I knew I had to catch her, to catch myself.
“But, I'll try to say I'm happy, for you.”
Her eyes peered up through those long eyelashes and through them I saw my own crumpled expression. I was horrible at fooling her, as if the guilt wasn't excruciating enough!
“I think I'm gonna take that drive.”
I could see how easily she had clung to that glow I'd seen before. It was there even now, through all of the pain and guilt. Nothing I told her tonight was going to erase that.
Before I could turn to end whatever I'd decided not to start, she was in my arms. Her whole body shook as I held very still trying to forget, for that one moment, that I was in love with her. I imagined this wasn't the night where I would lose her forever, that we were still best friends tangled in each others' trust, when she was and would always be my girl.
“I- I’m sorry.” Her muffled whisper cut me as I held her, her arms clenched my waist tightly, she buried her face in my neck and I waited for her to say more, she didn’t. Hah, maybe that was all I deserved. Coming here on what was supposed to be the happiest night of her life, just to hurt her. Though I knew that wasn’t the real reason I had come, I hadn’t come to beg or to fix something that was deteriorating before us both.
No, I had come to say goodbye. And I was doing a terrible job at it. After a moment I felt her lips move as she spoke into my shoulder. “There’s, nothing I can do… I don’t know what---”
“No. You, don’t, do anything. I didn’t come here to sulk in front of you, I came because you asked me to because I nee- wanted to see you. You had a choice you always have, it just happens that I have to be the gallant loser this time. You love him.”
That did it. My entire life was slipping from me while I held it tight in my arms and I had no way of preventing it. She couldn’t have stopped, couldn’t have just let me hurt, let me burn in love alone; she had to hold onto whatever she could and by doing that devastate all my hopes of getting past her.
“You know I love you, you know that. That love in me is never going to go away, you’re my best friend. But I’m in love with him, I always have been and I always will be.”
I felt sick. My pulse raced and my stomach twisted with a deceiving pang of false hope those simple words instilled in me. She couldn’t just let me go, make it easy for me; because she needed me as much as I needed her. I was such an optimist coming here tonight imagining a clean break, she had to hang on. But was this what I wanted, to be rid of her?
“You’re angry.” She had pulled away now though we remained inches from one another.
“You left me.”
“I’ll always be here.”
“No! You aren't even here now! I see that look in your eyes. It's him, all you see is him. Look, I can’t change this---” I glared down at the rock on her ring finger as I held up the hand she’d been holding and gestured to the empty space between us. “I can never take it back, I can’t though I’d love to, I won't lie to you. I didn't come here to change your mind, I can’t change your mind. You left me.” As I backed away feeling driven to resist the raw torture I was driving myself into I could see the reality of what was taking place set in, in her mind; it upset her to no end.
“What can I do?!”
“Go away” I caught a short gasp, like I had knocked the wind from her completely as I watched her fists clench, she almost looked as weak as me. And I was doing this to her, God if there was only some way this love could ruin just one of us.
“If that’s what you want.” She was defiant now, daring me to agree though the misery was plain on her face.
“Make it go away.” I whispered meekly, She knew what I meant, and in that moment we could both truly see how powerless we were. “Please.”
“You know there’s only one person who can do that and you will, you can’t see it now but one day you’ll find a girl who you can’t live without.” And before I could tell her I already had, she backed away and turned to rejoin her party, to her future leaving me behind paralyzed in our past.
I turned to look at him, one last time, I promised myself. He was towering within the night I wished to leave behind. His strong arms were lifeless at his side as one was reaching out slightly in my direction. I was a selfish wicked person for hurting him this way but he didn’t understand how much I needed him to remain a part of my life. I would never expect him to forgive me for me being so heartless. His eyes were burning. He seemed himself, to be burning. I reminded myself, whatever he was going to say would not change the way things were. They couldn't.
“I love you. Congratulations.”
I smiled at him, heartbroken, and turned quickly before he could see the tears welling in my eyes stream down face. So I walked inside leaving my best man there, alone in the night.