I watched Tom and Rachel dance in the middle of the ballroom. Their arms were wrapped around each other not leaving an inch between their bodies. There were flashes from cameras coming from all around the edge of the dance floor as the happy couple swayed to the music. The song ended, and everyone clapped as Tom and Rachel hesitated a moment before separating slightly to kiss.
I turned my gaze away from Tom and Rachel towards the glass of champagne in front of me. I reached for the glass and took a sip. The champagne was too dry and burned my throat, but I continued to drink until there was none left.
I glanced back at the dance floor to see Tom dancing with his mother and Rachel with her father. It was picture perfect. It made me want to vomit.
“Isn’t this a nice wedding,” a voice said. I turned my head towards the sound of the voice expecting that comment to be directed towards me, yet saw two guests, relatives of Tom standing next to a couple of feet next to me. They were clearing speaking to each other.
“It is,” the other person said.
The song ended, and people clapped. Wedding guests clambered onto the dance floor. I stayed in my seat and watched as the drunken wedding guest made fools of themselves. My aunt, Erica spotted me and smiled as she walked towards me. Her cheeks flushed from the heat of the crowded ballroom room.
“Hi honey,” she said, as she sat down on the empty chair next to me, “How are you?”
“Fine,” I said.
I could see the pity in her eyes as she reached her hand towards me and patted my shoulder.
“How are you holding up?”
“Fine,” I repeated.
Erica nodded and looked towards the dance floor, “Rachel looks nice.”
I muttered an agreement as I followed Erica’s gaze to see Rachel smiling and laughing at something Tom had said.
“How’s work?” Erica asked as she turned her gaze back towards me.
I had gotten a promotion last week, and if I would keep this up, I could be the head of the whole department by the time I'm thirty. Instead, I of saying how wonderful that part of my life was going, I just shrugged and said, “Fine.”
“It’ll get better.”
I doubted that, but I played along like a good girl. I delivered my lines correctly, and after several minutes Erica left to talk to some relatives she only saw at wedding and funerals.
Rachel came skipping towards me, with a smile on her face. I forced my lips to move into a smile to match hers.
“I am having the time of my life,” she said, as a greeting.
“You should come and dance,” Rachel said, brightly.
“Maybe,” I muttered.
Rachel leaned closer to me and said, “Some of Tom’s college friends have been eying you.”
“Oh really,” I said.
Earlier today I had met some of Tom’s college friends during the cocktail hour. They all dressed in clean button-down shirts and wore smiles that boasted that they felt good about their physical attractiveness. None of them impressed me.
“Think about it,” Rachel said. “You never know who you can meet at a wedding.”
Rachel walked off towards the next table and started chatting with one of her co-workers. I was jealous of her ease to speak to everyone. I used to enjoy talking to people, but things change.
“What is her problem?” I overheard someone say. My shoulders clenched up and my heart rate accelerated. They were talking about me. I knew it.
“I know right? Who wears white to a wedding?” another voice said.
I exhaled. Someone else. The bridesmaids were talking about someone else. I looked over my shoulder and saw two of the bridesmaids standing about two feet away from me, holding champagne glasses in their hands.
“Though to give her correct, it is white and gold,” one of the gossiping bridesmaids said.
I took a sip of champagne and listened to the conversation behind me.
“Could she see have found a lower neckline? I swear I think I can see her navel.” The two bridesmaids laughed.
I looked down at my watch. It was nine. I wondered if it would be rude to leave already. The dinner was eaten; the toasts were given, the cake was cut, and the first dance was done. There didn’t seem to be any reason for me to stick around.
“What about her?”
“Oh, that’s Rachel’s cousin, Kate, her husband died.”
I froze. There it was. The words were spoken without much thought or caring; Kate, her husband died. It was the identity that I would carry for the rest of my life.
“What’s sadder is that he died on their wedding day.”
A part of me wanted to inform them that they got their facts wrong, Andrew did not die on our wedding day. It was the day after.
I stood up quickly and nearly knocked down the chair. I hurried from the ballroom and to the lobby of the hotel. I headed towards the elevator with the intention of going to my hotel room and hiding till I felt better, which might never be.
The elevator doors opened, and I nearly ran into a man who was coming out of the elevator. The man looked a lot like Andrew that I froze, unable to move, unable to think.
“I’m sorry,” he said smiling down at me.
I couldn’t speak. He gave me a strange look as he passed me. I watched as the elevator doors closed in front of me. I turned from the elevator and walked out of the hotel.
I needed to get away. Go somewhere, anywhere expect to be here. I went over to my car, a blue Honda, and got it. I pulled out of the parking lot and drove down the street. I drove for about a half hour before I got to the place, the intersection of High Street and Chaucer Avenue. It was a back road without streetlights and at the time no stop sign. They put in a stop sign after Andrew’s death.
I cut the engine and sat in my car looking at the road ahead of me. Andrew and I had decided to get married in our hometown even though neither our parents or we lived there anymore. We thought it would be romantic coming back there to get married and it was. It was the best day of my life. It was best moments of my life until that is that Andrew and I got into the car to drive to our honeymoon. We had planned to go to the beach, which was about eight hours by car. We thought it would be fun to pack up the car and go on a road trip. I had been driving. I did not even see the car the slammed into us. Maybe if I had Andrew would still be alive.
I looked down at my hand. I still wore my wedding band even though it had been a year and a half. I slipped it off now and held the ring in my hand. It felt funny not wearing it as if I was missing a limb or something. I placed the wedding band back on my finger.
Suddenly, I felt a jolt as a car slammed into mine. My body pressed up against the seatbelt. My heart felt like it was going to explode from the shock of it. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a car there. I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out of my car with my legs shaking. I held onto the doorframe for support because I was afraid my legs were going to give way.
“I’m sorry. Are you ok?”
I looked towards the voice and stopped breathing. Standing in front of me was a guy. The first thing I noticed about him was his t-shirt. It was one of those I love New York t-shirts. It looked just like the one that Andrew wore. My gaze shifted towards his face, and my legs gave out. I fell to the ground. He looked like Andrew. The short brown hair, the brown eyes, the thin nose, and low check bones.
The guy rushed over to me and asked me again, “Are you ok?”
I stared into his face. It was not Andrew. Andrew was never coming back. Andrew was gone.
I pushed myself off the ground and stood up on shaky legs as I said, “I’m ok.”