by M.K. Lee
You watch as he intertwines his fingers with hers, ignoring the way it feels like his fingers are talons clawing through your gut.
She smiles at the contact and squeezes back with practiced familiarity. Her head turns, and she freezes you with a smile. She may as well be sliding an ice knife right through you when her gaze falls to yours.
You smile extra wide, as though all is as it should be. Big, bright and bold, the picture of happiness at their happiness.
But she knows. She’s always known. It seems the entire world has always known. All of it, every last one of them, from long term friends to complete strangers. Everyone, that is, but him. Nathan has always been oblivious to so many things about you. Especially that you’ve been in love with him for longer than you haven’t.
Isn’t this the way that unrequited love always goes?
You wait for the day that she’ll finally get rid of you from his life.
You know it’s coming; it’s in every snide comment that he doesn’t seem to hear, and in every loaded look of ‘why are you still here’ that he fails to see.
He’s in love.
There’s light in his eyes when she speaks and sheer happiness that radiates from his face the moment she steps into the room.
You see it, and it punches you, over and over, adding to a layer of bruising built up by keeping this dirty little not-so-secret to yourself for so long.
You should have hardened against it by now. You wonder if you truly ever will.
But now is not the time for introspection.
Now is the time to do the duties, be the person you’re supposed to be.
To push your true feelings aside.
“Are you ready?”
The kindly spoken man in front of you brings you back from your musings and you smile and nod.
You glance up at the man beside you, looking down at you with a knowing look, and you feel a wave of pain all over again. A pain that bathes you in a sea of guilt.
You wink, nudge him with your elbow and he grins, but the smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes. You feel like you’re drowning.
You’ll make it do that. You’ll make him smile, and smile wide. One day. Because none of this is his fault, and you know you’re using him. And that he deserves better. Because he’s perfect, he really is. In every way. All but the important one. He isn’t Nathan.
Clearing your throat and smoothing down your long white skirt that swishes around you and swirls as you move, you clutch the bouquet tightly. With more certainty than you feel, and more confidence in your voice than you’ve ever heard, you reply.
“Then, we’ll begin.”
A hush falls over the chapel and the man before you clears his throat. He looks fatherly. Caring. Would he look any differently if he knew?
You turn once more to look at Nathan, the one who should be stood next to you, not the one who is giving you away. But he’s not. And he never will be, not now, and not ever.
Today is your day, supposedly. So why does She look so victorious?
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to witness…”