Jumping Off the Diving Board

Submitted into Contest #190 in response to: Start a story that begins with a character saying “Speak now.”... view prompt


Romance Coming of Age Fiction

Note: Written with input from Taylor Swift superfan Kathryn Berenbaum.

“Speak now, or forever hold your peace,” the preacher said.

I stood frozen in the back of the church looking at the man of my dreams dressed up in a tuxedo that he probably rented. The girl beside him, in the super-frilly bridal gown, didn’t know that he probably rented the tux because he just would have wanted a nice suit. Or his best pair of jeans. He certainly didn’t want three hundred people and eight bridesmaids that he had to pretend he cared about. All he wanted was his parents, his little sister Hailey, his best friend Mike, and a few of the people from work, and his old college football coach. His bride to be, Jessica, wanted him to give up playing football. I went and cheered at all his games even though she looked disgusted at me.

What should I say?

Should I say, “Don’t do it, you’ll be miserable?”

By the look on his face, I think he already knew that. He’s my childhood best friend. We never wanted to risk what we had. But we could have so much more if I hadn’t chickened out and played it safe.

“Speak now. Speak now,” the preacher said as I was standing, frozen stiff. I felt like I was standing on the edge of the diving board at the community pool when Derek and I were thirteen and I didn’t want to jump. He told me to jump. Dared me to jump. He always brought out the best in me. I was the careful one. He was the daredevil. The one who broke his arm jumping off the roof. I stayed by his side in the hospital while we watched all the Harry Potter movies together. Jessica wasn’t in the picture then. Things were obviously better.

What could she give him, other than the sorority girl life he’d always thought he wanted, but laughed at? A nice predictable job, marriage, and two kids with the white picket fence, instead of adventures. Adventure didn’t mean “no problems.” It just meant that we’d make the most of whatever came our way.

She was going to turn Derek into the kind of guy he’d always hated. The kind of guy he stopped me from going out with. The guy who never ate the messiest pizza because he thought people would judge him. The guy who couldn’t be himself or live in the moment. The guy who was too worried about what his in-laws would think. His father-in-law already had a job lined up at the car dealership. Mike would rather be fixing cars, not selling them and tricking people. His words, not mine.

I doubted Jessica ever heard him say that. Because he wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. He had no problem telling me that I should concentrate on my music and work my butt off singing in clubs, at weddings, at bar mitzvahs and retirement parties, anywhere that would hire me. 

Well, today, I was going to sing at his wedding. But they hadn’t hired me.

I picked up my portable microphone and began to sing our favorite song. The one during which we’d almost kissed when we were sixteen. I sang my heart out, my voice filling that stuffy but beautiful church. 

Jessica turned and looked at me like she wanted to kick my ass. If she did, I would respect that. But instead, she just looked at me and rolled her eyes.

I continued to sing, to pour my heart out in the melody and the words. Derek just stood there open-mouthed. His little sister Hailey ran up and hugged me. His parents looked conflicted. Like they wanted to hug me, but they weren’t sure. Jessica’s mother clutched her pearls. Literally. Mike ran up and gave me a hug too. I knew Mike was not on Team Jessica.

He whispered, “Savannah, you got this. Keep going.”

I kept singing our song, inventing new lyrics just to get the message through Derek’s thick skull. Or at least give him the courage to go after what he wanted. Which was, hopefully, yours truly.

Jessica tugged on the sleeve of Derek’s rented tuxedo. “Do something,” she hissed.

Do something? Was he supposed to fight all her battles for her? Didn’t she love him enough to take a stand?

Mike and Hailey looked at Derek too. So did the preacher. Every eye in the room was on Derek. I’d put him on the spot, which I hadn’t had the courage to do before. Maybe not the best time or place, but if I didn’t do it when the preacher said, “Speak now,” when would I?

Derek walked over to me, and his heart was in his eyes. This was do or die time. There was no turning back, either way. I stopped singing and looked at him with hope. 

He murmured, so low no one could hear him even in the complete silence, “You have the worst possible timing.”

“I know,” I said in an equally low voice. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you?”

I had to think about it. “No. I’m not sorry for doing what the priest said. But I am sorry for making a scene. You and I never really talked about what mattered to us and about what we could have together. I think we were scared.”

“Hey.” Jessica had no problem with speaking up. “It’s my wedding. I’d like to get on with it. If you don’t mind.”

And Derek looked at her, disbelief in his eyes. He said, loudly, “It’s my wedding too.” He turned his back to her and focused on me.

I heard his mother mutter something that sounded like, “It’s about time you spoke up for yourself.”

Derek pulled me close and whispered, “It’s been ‘my wedding’ the whole time. My dress. My church. My party. My guest list. My perfect day. I’m not sure if she’s more upset that you love me or that this is interrupting her perfect Instagram-worthy wedding. You said ‘we.’ Why don’t we get out of here?”

I gripped his hand, and we ran down the aisle hand in hand like the two little kids we’d once been. We ran away from the ceremony, the guests, the preacher, the shocked looks, and from the biggest mistake of Derek’s life. We ran out of the church and climbed into my gently used Kia Soul.

“Speak now,” I said as I started the engine.

“I love you,” Derek said.

“I love you, too.”

March 24, 2023 02:33

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Emory Pearson
15:56 Apr 01, 2023

Hi Kristin, Great job with building suspense in this story I so wanted to finish and find out the outcome, and it really could have gone either way. It’s funny this story was recommend for me to read as I am attending a wedding today of a family member and her attitude parallels that of the bride in your story. The line “ You said ‘we.’ Why don’t we get out of here?”” teared me up a little. ❤️❤️ Great ending to a well told concise story!


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23:35 Mar 29, 2023

The world is so full of darkness and pain, so, thank you for writing such a well-written, truly spot-on romance story. I wasn't going to read it - I'm far beyond romances, but I'm so glad I did - I needed this right now. beautiful - I was almost in tears watching 'them' watching each other. well done xoxo


Kristin Johnson
00:47 Apr 01, 2023

Thank you!


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