Summary: Someone's getting married and someone had to cry.
Dislcaimer: Roswell's not mine and neither are the lyrics from Fisher's 'Had To.' So sad...but I do have a lovely pair of glow in the dark socks. :p
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The music began and a hush filled the room. Everyone turned in their seats to see the beautiful bride. All eyes on her, and none on me, which I preferred. After all, it was her day, not mine. Which was why I chose to stay in the back.
The procession began; a small girl leading the pack, carrying a basket of flower petals of which she tossed occasionally on the floor. Following her was the ring bearer, two bridesmaids and best men, and finally the bride herself. By the time she reached the beginning of the aisle, her counterparts were already at the altar, meticulously placed and arranged by height.
I smiled. She would, of course, have everything perfectly organized. Planned months ahead. Perhaps she had dreamed this whole entourage up when she was dating her soon to be husband.
She passed me, clutching her bouquet so tightly her knuckles were turning white. It reminded me of the way she used to clutch her order pad when she asked me what I would like to eat. “Those silly little antennas,” I would reply. To which she would shoot me a glare. Deserved, I suppose. I did, after all throw her life, and her boyfriend’s completely out of whack. Turned the whole world upside down with my mention of destiny.
Obviously, the two had chosen fate over destiny. Or whatever that means. A few years after I left Roswell, I received a letter from Isabel. The first of many, so I don’t really remember the particulars. But I do remember the post signature: Liz and Max have chosen fate over destiny. They’re getting married; I’ll let you know when. I’m sorry.
Nice little touch, I suppose. Fill the letter with silly fancies about graduation, parties, and questions about where I am. And then save the one-two punch for the end, thinking that maybe she won’t read it. Knowing full well that I scan her letters looking for his name first. Ah, but don’t forget the “I’m sorry.” I read that and immediately the pain in my chest and the lack of air in my lungs was relieved.
My eyes followed her up the aisle and to the altar where he was. Dressed in a suit that fit him just right. He probably bought it. Strike that. It probably just materialized in his closet. Max Evans: Perfect Boyfriend. Comes with flowers, boxes of chocolates, and the perfect monkey suit. Three Spanish singing musicians not included. However, for the right price, he will stab wives from the past in the back. Even if Mom-In-An-Orb, sold separately, tells him that lives on this planet and his home planet depend on it. Never fear, with fate and true love on his side, Max Evans never fails at being the perfect boyfriend to his perfect girlfriend.
I should write ads. Maybe even do commercials.
Max smiled and I closed my eyes. Maybe I could pretend, just for a moment, that he was smiling at me. That I was some perfect bride in a perfect world. That I wasn’t some harlot sent to Roswell to destroy cosmic soul mates. Yes, even their love is out of this world.
I think I missed my career boat. I’m awful good at this.
Although, I must admit, that I didn’t think it up all by myself. I’ve had years of staying up late listening to talk show reruns. Plenty of lovely couples on, telling the world how they’re a real life Romeo and Juliet. Yeah, great romantic play. Aside from the fact that people die, I just don’t understand how they could call that a tragedy.
Max’s eyes averted from the beautiful white bride and to the priest. Even though I didn’t want to, I had to look; had to watch. To see him smile as the priest read aloud the vows to be repeated. To pretend that he was speaking those vows to me.
Can you believe it? I wouldn’t even be feeling this pain in my chest if not for three days ago.
(Three days ago)
“Tess. Tess. Tess!”
Tess was jerked out of her reverie by the yelling of her employer, Sam Leannard. “What?”
“Where are those proof sheets? You know, the ones that you’re supposed to have placed on my desk. The ones filled with beautiful pictures of the vacation we sent you on. The ones you were paid to have taken!”
“Yeesh, Chief. They’re right here.” She picked up a manila folder hiding under several others, all of which were strewn across her desk.
Sam grabbed the folder, looking inside. He held the sheet up to the light, staring at her choices marked in red. “Harding, if you weren’t such a good photographer, I’d have to fire you.”
“But, Chief, what will you do when I become a great photographer?” Tess laughed. Her boss shook his head and headed back into his office, shutting the door behind him.
“Hey, Tess.” Tess whirled her chair around so she was facing Jeff Cartell, her partner in crime. Or so she liked to call him. The two had done several articles together, she supplying the images and he the writing. He wasn’t that bad of a photographer, he just had a different style. Tess enjoyed candid, free flowing pieces. He, well, when he wasn’t writing or researching articles for the magazine they both worked for, was a wedding photographer. In his spare time, he also enjoyed photographing furniture for catalogs. Still life and pre-arranged photography were more his thing. Not exactly the magazine’s style, but he was dependable and could shoot straight. Which was why Sam had asked Tess to take him under her wing. “You used to live in Roswell, right?”
Taken aback, Tess took a moment before answering. “Briefly, why?”
“John and I are doing an expose on weddings in America. You know, the whole shindig, coast to coast. Give all our female Texan readers something to dream about. Show them a Jersey wedding and how it differs from a Californian wedding. A couple of friends on the East Side sent me some slips and John’s are doing the same thing. We showed it to Chief, and he thought it would be great if...”
“If?” Tess braced herself for her younger partner’s proposition.
“Well, I got a gig for a wedding out in New Mexico. Since its weather is similar to Texas’, Chief thought it would be a nice touch to the article. But...”
“But he wants me out there with you.”
“Exactly,” Jeff replied. “He wants something to capture the moment. To show how the parties really feel about each other; how it feels to get married. And not-”
“And not a bunch of pictures of stiff people standing around.” Jeff’s ears turned a touch pinker and Tess smiled. “No problem, Jeffy. Just book a nice flight.”
I saw Jeff out of the corner of my eye, taking pictures of the two saying their vowels. Hey, at least he’s got some movement in his photos now. Taking the cover off the lens of my own camera, I slowly moved down the side aisle of the church. When I reached the front, I began taking pictures. I knew Jeff would get the bride, groom, and all the other clowns on stage, so I could focus on the pictures that I wanted to take.
I snapped a few pictures of the parents sitting in the front row. Then a picture of the flower girl tying her shoes. From a crouching position, I took a picture of the bride and groom. Maybe I could put some cheesy caption underneath it. Something along the lines of, “As we look up onto them, may they look unto their dreams of life together in wedded bliss.” Or some stupid thing like that. I’m sure the sappy sentimentals in Texas would enjoy that.
So the Chief wants emotion, I can give him emotion. I snapped a picture of Max. Gee, Chief, can you see the raw emotion in this picture? Do you see the man that I ran away from crying? The one who was so sure that I wasn’t the one for him that he was willing to risk millions of lives to prove it. To prove that I was worthless, meaningless. That the only one who meant anything was some scrawny brunette. That the rest of the world be damned if the two of them weren’t constantly with each other twenty-four-seven.
The one who I was desperately in love with, even though he constantly told me that he didn’t love me. That there was no way that he could love someone like me.
Who exactly is someone like me?
I’ll tell you who someone like me is. Someone like me is a girl who will stand by her convictions no matter what. Someone who follows their dreams and believes that someday they may come true. Someone who is strong and doesn’t cry. And never runs away from her problems.
Someone who is really stupid.
Stupid enough to believe him. To believe that things between him and her were over. That he remembered things from our past lives. That he loved me and wanted to be with me. So in one fleeting moment of passion I gave to him what I had been saving all my life.
And then the next morning he told me it was a mistake. It was all one big mistake. Because he still loved Liz; he always loved Liz. So he couldn’t love me, couldn’t be with me. Perhaps he saw the tears in my eyes, so he told me I was his first too. That I was special, and that what we shared could never be taken away; could never be forgotten.
Some people might say that it was a trite thing to say at the time. Well, screw those some people. Because they don’t know Max and they don’t know me. They don’t know that Max always means what he says.
And they don’t know how much it would hurt me if it weren’t true.
(Two Days Ago)
Tess turned the key on her mailbox outside of her apartment. She quickly grabbed the pile inside before running up the stairs to the next level. While unlocking her own door, she assessed that the first three in the pile were bills that didn’t need to be looked at.
Once inside, she threw the first three envelopes and several other suspicious looking ones in a candy dish on the coffee table. As for the remaining two, she threw one in the trash, while staring greedily at the other blue one. She recognized the handwriting on the return address. It was another one of Isabel’s letters.
But she was surprised when she opened it and found only a small clipping inside with a post-it note attached. It was a wedding announcement. The post-it covered the text of the announcement, but all Tess needed to see was the photo and the post-it reading, “I’m sorry.”
Angry as hell, and probably hurt too, Tess picked up the phone, dialing a number she hadn’t in years. After two rings, a female picked up on the other side.
“What the freak was that, Isabel? A newspaper clipping and a post-it note? Whose idea was that? Was it his?” Tess yelled into the receiver.
Isabel visibly winced on her end of the phone. “Tess, I haven’t heard your voice in so-”
“No, no no. None of that bullshit, Iz. So what was that? Was that my invitation to the wedding?”
“No, Tess. I just thought you should know. I mean...”
“Oh,” Tess said, stretching the one syllable word out as long as possible. “So I guess that means I’m not invited. Good, because I didn’t have anything to wear.” She glanced down at the date of the wedding. “Especially, on such late notice.”
“Tess, I wanted you to come. Really I did,” Isabel pleaded. “It’s just...they don’t think that it would be...appropriate for you to be there. Wait, no, I mean-”
“You mean, they don’t want me there.”
“It’s not because of what happened back before you ran away. They just don’t want any trouble.”
“Why would there be any trouble if it has nothing to do with what happened before I went away?” Tess grounded out.
Isabel sighed. “Tess.”
Tess sighed too. She sat down at her kitchen table, holding her head with her free hand. “I know,” she said in a softer voice.
“I miss you, Tess. Letters aren’t enough. You should come back to Roswell.”
“I can’t,” Tess said, her voice cracking.
“Yes, you can. Come to the wedding,” Isabel urged. “Nothing’s changed since you left Roswell, and when you come back, everything is still going to be the same. You might as well come and visit me.”
Tess sighed again. “I’m going to be in New Mexico on business in a few days. I’ll stop by when I can.”
The guests began bustling out, following the bride and groom outside. People were tripping over themselves to see them get into their car. As people milled around the entrance I realized I was trapped. Nice place to be trapped. The smell of decaying magnolias wouldn’t suffocate a person to death at all. No, it would be the gardenias.
Then I saw it. The perfect photo. It had raw emotion, depth and beauty. And Jeff was missing it all, busying himself with getting pictures of the bridesmaids and best men over by the hedges surrounding the churches.
I peered through my camera lens. The lower portion filled with the parents and relatives looking out the church door at the bride and groom, remembering and wishing for the same luck and years of love. In the middle was the cement walkway with friends on either side throwing birdseed. Maybe it was Kyle’s influence-the whole Buddha thing-that helped peaked my interest in such Eastern thoughts like Zen, Hinduism, etc. I liked the thought of reincarnation and super novas, or acquiring peace through education. Wisdom through thought and action. Or lack there of. Anyway, with all those thoughts, all that philosophy, roaming around in my head, it was no wonder I immediately saw the symbolism of the walkway being straight or the rising arcs of the birdseed.
Perhaps I should’ve been an English major instead of art and photography.
But what brought the entire scene together was the bride and groom at the top of it. He had opened the car door for her and was helping her get in. The trust and love passing between the two was so evident, it was practically emanating off of them. And I had to cry. Because it was so beautiful. And I knew I would never have that with Max Evans.
I snapped the photo before the moment passed and listened to the farewells of the crowd and my film rewinding.
“And here’s your ticket.” Jeff handed Tess her ticket as they stood in line, waiting to board.
“Thanks.” As the two walked through the gates and onto the plane, Tess continued to rib Jeff. “I hope you got us first-class tickets.”
“What? First-class tickets? On our traveling budget?” Jeff rolled his eyes.
“Oh, I forgot, Jeff. I’ll be sure to enjoy my first-class seat as you sit back in coach.” She smiled.
Jeff led the way to their seats. “There you go madam. Your first-class seat. Unfortunately, ma’am, we ran out of room up front so we had to put it back here in coach with the rest of the coach seats.”
“Fine with me,” Tess replied as she handed her bag to Jeff to put in the overhead compartment. “But I get the window seat.”
“Comfortable?” Jeff asked as the plane took off after the usual safety precaution babble from the flight attendants.
“Very,” Tess said, sipping her ginger ale.
“You know, you aren’t a very good reporter.”
“Exactly. I’m a photographer.”
“You know what I mean. You didn’t even ask me whose wedding we were photographing.”
Tess scrunched her brow. “I didn’t think it was important. Why? Whose wedding are we crashing?”
Jeff pulled out a newspaper clipping. Tess recognized it as the same one Isabel sent her. “Maria De Luca and Michael Guerin. Do you know them?”
“Once. A long time ago.” Tess paused, then picked up the phone attached to the seat in front of her. “You don’t mind if I...”
“Go ahead.” Jeff nodded.
She punched in her credit card and then phone number. “Hi, Isabel. It seems I’ll be coming to see you guys sooner than I expected.”
Jeff and I followed the cavalry to the reception at the local Embassy Suites. Roswell and its surrounding area certainly had grown since the last time I was here. While everyone else went inside to begin to eat, drink, and dance, Jeff used the time to get more portraits.
After the family one was complete, Jeff took a few more pictures until finally the only people who remained outside were the six people I had been trying to avoid all these years: Max, Liz, Michael, Maria, Alex, and Isabel.
Sure, Isabel and I wrote each other, but we never talked about what was really on our minds. We always avoided the obvious. About why I had left. Why I had never returned.
Jeff motioned me over to the group. I put the strap of my camera around my neck and then smoothed down my hair for flyaways.
“Ms. De Luca...um, I mean, Mrs. Guerin, I’d like you to meet a colleague of mine. She’s helping with the photography on the article. I’m sure she got some great shots today. Sure to end up on the front cover.” Jeff was showering me with compliments, so I gave a small laugh.
“No need for introduction, Jeff. I already know Maria from high school.”
Maria raised her eyebrows. “Really? I don’t...” She trailed off, trying to place me. I knew I looked different. My hair pulled back in a ponytail, a darker tan, and my face not as gaunt as it was the day I left. In fact, the day I left I looked horrid: dark circles under my eyes, who knew when the last time I brushed my hair, I’d been crying, and I hadn’t been eating a lot.
Isabel stepped forward to say something, but I shook my head slightly. She understood and stepped back. “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Congratulations to the two of you,” I shook hands with Maria and Michael. Then it clicked and Maria made an ‘o’ with her mouth.
I turned to talk to Jeff about film, when I saw Max step forward. And I had to laugh. He was shaking my hand as if we’d never met. And I had to cry because the tears were too wet, knowing I was forgettable. He had forgotten me. His special one. The one I shared a bond with that could never be taken away or forgotten.
He must have noticed my change in demeanor. And I had to laugh. He was searching his head for the right thing to say. And I had to cry. Because the tears were too wet, and my eyes were too full, knowing I was forgettable.
I can recall every face that I have ever kissed. How did I fall on his “Miss Miscellaneous” list? Were there others besides me? How many more had he told were special?
I looked down at his hand. Stared at the golden ring on his left hand. He was married. I glanced over at Liz, the obvious choice. She had a large diamond engagement ring and gold wedding band circled in more diamonds. Large enough to be noticed, but not too tacky.
Although, perhaps she shouldn’t wear it. It didn’t match her demeanor, and the brightness and luster of it took away from what little she had left. Dark circles rimmed her eyes, probably from staying up late wondering where her husband was. Her face was sallow and waned: the look of defeat. Realizing too late that her perfect boyfriend, her perfect husband, wasn’t so perfect. That his job didn’t require overtime, even though he stayed out late so many nights.
Her hair was neatly combed and brushed behind her ears into a low ponytail that hung lifeless on her neck. I bet they had two kids. Liz was the perfect homemaker: she stayed home, didn’t work, and made her husband breakfast and lunch to take to work in the morning. She always made sure that her children were on time to school. And then she would go home to a spotless house, where no cleaning was needed. She might talk on the phone with her mother or her best friend. She’d listen to their fairy tales of love and then she’d hang up and cry. Go pick up the kids, feed them dinner, and shush them when they asked where daddy was. She’d tuck them in bed: one boy, one girl. She’d kiss the boy on the head, praying that he wouldn’t turn out like his father. And then she’d kiss and hug her daughter, maybe even a bit too tightly where the girl would squirm and try to pull away. Then she would lie in bed, alone through the night. She wouldn’t dare sleep in the middle or on his side. She’d stay strictly on the left hand side, making sure not to hog too much of the covers, even thought there was no one there to complain. And she’d close her eyes and hope that her daughter would be smarter than her.
And I had to cry.
There was no other way to express all my joy.
And I had to laugh.
When I thought of my fate, it was all I could do.
Knowing I had escaped from you.