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Love at It's Finest

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Short Story

Love at its Finest By Christopher K She was in a room by herself on the twelfth story at the Ritz Carleton Hotel. It overlooked Sarasota Bay, a body of water Gulf marine life. The room was beautiful. Bottles of Champaign were on the counter, flat screen TVs in every room, and artwork from the sixteenth century. The marble floors were so perfect; you could see your reflection as if it were a mirror. But it still wasn’t enough. She walked the streets of downtown Sarasota. There were many clubs hopping and bands were playing on the street; and it was 2:00am. Looking for a place, or even someone, to comfort her. She settled her self at a lounge at fifth and main, called the Seaside Lounge. “What would you like hun?” the bartender asked. “A glass of Merlot please.” The bartender poured the dark, red wine into the glass. He had a five o’clock shadow of a workingman. You could tell by the bulging sunken eyes that he has been up since the wee hours of the morning. His short brown hair went well with his blue eyes, but he looked mad, even though he wasn’t. He poured a second glass to himself, as he sat next to her. He asked, “You doing alright mam? You look down.” She looked, teary eyed, and said, “Just a little nervous for the wedding tomorrow?” “Please don’t tell me you have cold feet!” the bartender said. “I will feel bad if you drink too much and blow off your wedding.” “Oh trust me sir. I wouldn’t do that.” The lounge was dark and Christmas lights were along the walls. Calm jazz music played, while people were huddled around tables and booths sipping their drinks. Some were drinking beer, others coffee, and some cocktails. But none of this mattered to her. She downed her glass and asked the bartender, “Sir? Please. Another” He returned with two glasses. He sat next to her and took a sip of his wine and asked, “How long have you known your fiancé?” “Since we were fourteen years old.” “Middle school sweethearts!” he said. “That’s cute.” No other words were spoken for a few minutes. An upbeat jazz song where the bass was loud and the saxophones were rocking, she said, “Please change the song! I have a headache.” The bartender went behind the bar and skipped to the next song. The drinkers and couples in the booths turned around, disturbed, wondering why he changed it. He came back to her, poured himself another glass and asked, “May I ask you a personal question miss?” “You may.” “Do you really love the man?” She took a sip of her drink and said, “Not as much as I should.” Puzzled by the response, he said, “You didn’t cheat on him did you?” There was a silence for a minute and she said, “No. He cheat on me.” “Then why are you marrying him?” Her makeup was starting to wash away from the tears and she said, “Because my father wouldn’t back out of his wedding.” The bartender asked, “Did you tell your father about your man cheating on you?” She looked at him; her green eye, and other blue, with her gorgeous blonde hair blew him away. She was beautiful. “He died in a car accident when I was little. I will never forget what his tombstone said.” Right there at the bar, she pulled up her dress, and there was a tattoo on her side. It read: Faithfulness and Love will carry you a long way. “That’s beautiful,” the bartender said. “Thank you.” She finished her drink as did the bartender. He said to her, “Miss, please don’t do anything stupid tonight.” “What do you mean, stupid?” “I mean…like suicidal stupid…” “Do I look that bad?” “No you’re gorgeous, but you heart I can see is broken.” She walked the lonely journey back to the hotel. The streets were empty, except for the bums playing the guitar on the streets. Maybe she could sleep now. She slipped off her dress, and took a cold shower. She didn’t deserve this hotel room, this wedding, or her life. She should have been in the car that day. She should be in the grave right next to her dad. She dried off, and fell on her bed. There in the covers, her body was wrapped with the warmth of the blankets. Yet she was still cold. Finally she fell asleep. She woke up the next morning. She wasn’t hungry, even though her fiancé ordered room service for her. There on the kitchen table was a selection of fruit, bagels, and Columbian coffee; just for her. Without thinking or regret, she took the tray of food and dumped it all in the trash. “He is still trying to make it up to me,” she told her reflection. “He loves you and is really sorry!” said the reflection. “No he doesn’t! I know he sleeps with the sluts at work!” “What about your tattoo you have? Are you going to show him Faithfulness and Loyalty?” “Shut up!” she said. She picked up her blow dryer, and smashed the mirror. She curled her hair, and put on her makeup. Her mom and friends kept calling and leaving messages saying, “Let us in your room! We want to see you!” But she ignored them all. She put on her dress and finally her veil. She called her Mom and said, “Mom, I’ll be down in a minute. She walked down the hall, all alone. A sign of what was to come. Her father wouldn’t be there to walk the isle with her in an hour or so. Her finger pressed the 1 button in the elevator, and listened to the music in the elevator as she went down. When she walked in the lobby the only thing she could here were the “OOOs” and “AHHHS” of her bride’s maids and aunts. She put on her fake smile and went with them out to the car. As the drove on the Sunshine Bridge, she looked out the window out on to the Gulf. The sun was shining bright and there were a few boats out in the water. The others in the limo were taking pictures, drinking margaritas and talking all the gossip her in-laws could think about it. She was with her family and friends. She should be happy! But she was sad and torn. After a twenty-minute drive down to Siesta Key they finally arrived at the beach where the wedding was going to take place. Everyone in her family had moved on after the death of her father. Yes, still everyone one mourned on his birthday, holidays, and date of the death, but no one held on to it more than her. Her dad was her hero. He was her Daddy. She was sad because all the memories she had with him were starting to fade. The days they went on vacation, the days they went to the park, and the nights he would tuck her in. The counseling she went to in high school didn’t help. Her therapist always said, “ Its ok. He’s in heaven now.” But she would always reply, “But so should I.” It was time to let her pain go. They pulled into the parking lot of the beach lot. Some locals and tourist stared and pointed at the limo. When she stepped out, she could here some grandmothers say, “Oh my. She’s beautiful.” She could also hear some beach bums say, “I wonder who the lucky guy is?” She took off her white sandals, and stepped on to the white sand. Her fiancé proposed to her, exactly one year ago, on this same beach. They were on a 4th of July vacation, and he got on his knee and said, “Will you marry me?” as fireworks lit up the sky. How could she say no? It was the most romantic situation not even Hollywood to could come up with. The man that she fell in love with in 8th grade is now the man that betrayed her. What was she going to do? What could she do? It was too late to call it quits? His and her family flew all the way from Ohio to witness a marriage. How could she just say, “Thanks for coming, but I don’t want to be married to that asshole any more.” There were about fifty people at the wedding. Plastic chairs were lined up looking out to the Gulf. Up front towards the tip of the water, were the priest, her fiancé, his best man, and her bride’s maids. She started to walk down the aisle. The band that consisted of a guitar, congos, maraca, and Mexican lady singing, “Here Comes the Bride!” began to play. Her father should be beside her. Handing over his daughter to her husband for life. But he wasn’t. His body was rotted in the grave, and his soul was with the angels. Finally she arrived to her husband. His dark hair and tan skin didn’t make him anymore attractive than he did in 8th grade. His charming smile that said, “I’m glad you’re still marrying me, even though I have had over a hundred affairs since we have been engaged” glared at her. She could not take it anymore. She couldn’t take this fake man who said, “You’re beautiful. I love you. I’ll be with you till the day you die….”was right about to have everything he wanted: a wife who would do all the laundry, cooking, homework for the kids, and all the other s*** he wouldn’t do because he was out golfing or going to strip clubs. In the middle of the priest’s words, she ran off the scene. She headed south, down the beach. As she ran, she could hear gasps and yells. Her fiancé tried to chase her. He was yelling, “Come back! What’s wrong!”? He couldn’t chase her. She was a soccer and track star in high school, and she was angry. He wasn’t going to catch her. She ran till she couldn’t go anymore. A small, rocky cliff ended her run. The cliff separated Siesta Beach and Turtle Beach. She did not know where to go. She turned to the Gulf, and ran in. The water smeared her dress, but she didn’t care. She swam around the cliff. She finally made it to the other side. She paddled herself and walked up the beach. You could see her breasts and ass through the wet, white dress. She didn’t care though. No one was there! She crashed on the sand. She starred up to sun. It was beaming its rays on to her. She though it was a sign from God, saying, “Well done my faithful servant.” Or was it just a star sharing its heat and radiation on to the earth? “Where do I go from here?” she asked herself. She couldn’t go back to the hotel; everyone would be there. She can’t go to the airport; she has no clothes or money. She couldn’t stay here is all that she knew. Her body was weak. She hasn’t eaten in days. Her legs were wobbly and a sharp pain was in her stomach. The radiation from the sun was roasting her skin; she needed help. She started to walk down Turtle Beach, but no one was out. “Where is everyone?” she asked herself. Her steps became staggered, and her vision became blurry. She fell to her knees. Her fragile body couldn’t take anymore. The stress, malnutrition, blistered feet, and burnt skin…she just wanted to die. She yelled, “Dad why the hell did you have to die? You f*ed up everything!” Her voice echoed and the only thing that replied was the gusty wind. She saw a lifeguard shack probably half a mile away. She started to crawl due to her sore and blistered feet. She probably made it fifty feet before her face went straight into the sand. “I am glad it’s over,” she mumbled. “I’m glad it’s over.” Her eyes opened, SPLASH! COUGH! COUGH! Someone was splashing water on her face. She sat up and caught her breath. She looked up and saw a middle aged man. His dark skin and dark hair showed he was out in the sun often. His chest muscles and back made it look like he was a brick wall. She rubbed her eyes, and it was clear to her, it was her dad. “Dad? Is that you?” “I thought you would never ask!” he said. “How did you-” “Come back? Easy. I was watching my baby girl die! I had to do something…” “But…” “Shhhh…. its going to be ok.” “Dad I blew off the wedding. I don’t know what to do.” “I want you to be happy Lauren. If you married that man it would have been hell.” “Will I ever find my love Dad?” “Go to the Seaside Lounge in downtown Sarasota. Just talk to the bartender and see what happens…”
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