As he sprinted down the street, his dress shoes slipped on the pavement and he slammed to the ground. He scrambled up, not even bothering to dust himself off. He couldn’t believe what he was doing. His lungs screamed at him for air as he heaved and gasped but he didn’t slow as he dashed down the sidewalk. He dodged among people receiving a fair amount of curses and yells in his wake.
He skidded to a halt at an intersection where cars whizzed by at top speed. He couldn’t barrel through them as much as he wanted to. He hopped from foot to foot, impatience radiated off of him. He could not believe his horrid luck. Today of all days.
He met her five years ago at the Olde Village Tavern. She had been the bartender and he plucked up the courage to strike up a conversation. He would regularly come by after work for a quick bite and beer then walk her home. She was chatty and they shared the same interests; archery, books, Dungeons and Dragons, anything nerdy. They would talk for hours about everything and nothing. They would laugh over old horror flicks, or play board games until the sun came up. They had begun dating not long after and stayed together for three years. They had taken many vacations as a couple, been introduced to the parents and extended family, and had moved in together. The words engagement and marriage had begun to float around. They were happy and content. Until that last big fight. His last memory of her was her tear streaked face and retreating back as she slammed the door. But that was in the past now.
Regret, terror, and nervousness all fought in his head leading to a flutter in his stomach, as he waited for the traffic light to change. He had to get there in time. He could get there in time. He could make up for the biggest mistake of his own life. How could he have let her walk out the door? Why hadn’t he just apologized? He had stayed away, refusing her calls and leaving her text messages unread. He had believed that he was right, that he had been the justified one. He couldn’t even remember what the fight was about now. He could only remember righteous fury and relentless anger.
He had inadvertently learned about the wedding from a mutual acquaintance during a housewarming party. When he heard, he couldn’t believe it. He wouldn’t believe it. She had moved on. She had found someone new. But that couldn’t be true. How could she have moved on, when his every waking moment was filled with thoughts of her? The way her hair glinted in the sunlight, the way her hands cupped a mug of tea, remembering her quiet smile, or the funny way she danced when cooking dinner. It felt like every radio station played their song and every TV channel played her favorite movies. Every bookstore advertised her favorite books. How could she be getting married when his whole world was still about her?
It came to him last week while watching one of her favorite movies. The bride was about to marry the wrong man when her one true love came running in shouting “I object!” She had always sighed and commented on the romanticism of it. He had planned his speech and written it down, rehearsing it over and over again until it was perfect. He imagined the way her eyes would tear up and she would leave her newly-rejected fiance to come running back down the aisle. She would fling herself into his arms swearing to never leave and begging for forgiveness, which he would, of course, graciously give.
Buzzing with nerves, he had taken a sleeping pill to get to sleep the night before, ensuring that he would be well rested and ready for the day. Unbeknownst to him, however, a lightning storm that night blew out the electricity rendering his alarm clock, and the alarm programmed into it, useless. He had slept through the morning entirely missing his appointed wake up time. When he did finally wake and saw the time he rocketed out of bed and threw on the light blue suit he had laid out the previous night. He paused for a moment to check that the speech, carefully written, was tucked safely in the inner pocket of the jacket before leaping out the door and into his car. Which had a dead battery that he had meant to change the previous week. With no further options he took off running to the church 3 miles away.
After an eternity the white stick figure flashed up on the traffic signal as the cars stopped and he sprinted on. His jacket flapped in the breeze of his passing. His heart hammered in his chest from the sprint as well as the adrenaline of dread coursing through his system. The chapel was finally within sight. He dashed down the sidewalk and noticed something which sent a chill down his spine. A car was coming towards him where a puddle waited. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes but didn’t stop his momentum. He gasped as the icy deluge drenched him from head to foot. He swept droplets out of his eyes but couldn’t stop, not now when he was so close. The church was picture perfect- small and white washed with a bell tower at the front, the quintessential wedding chapel. Steps led to the front doors that he took two at a time. He paused scant heartbeats at the door and attempted to catch his breath. He was now dripping with sweat and icy puddle water, his hair plastered to his scalp but he had made it against all odds. He put his ear against the door and could just make out the words from within. What he heard stopped his gasping breath and froze his racing heart.
“I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
He had missed it. He had missed his last chance. His second try at true love, gone.
He retreated down the stairs, dumbfounded, and sat at the base of them, pulling the carefully prepared speech from his pocket. The words written with a precise hand had become blurry and almost unreadable from the passing car’s rogue wave and his sweat. He put his head into his hands as the tears began to flow. As his tears fell the memories of their time together came flooding in. Laughing over games of pool, cuddling on the couch watching Lord of the Rings, the first kiss under a star strewn sky. Maybe he deserved this. She was probably better off without him, he decided.
He finally stood, wiped his eyes, and turned his back on the church as the doors opened. His hand fell to his side as he walked away. The speech lovingly prepared, edited and re-written dozens of times slipped from his numbed fingers. He began trudging back the way he had come as the bells from the church began to ring happily. He didn’t look back.
If he had, he would have seen a beautiful woman in white gaze after him, a look of almost sorrow in her eyes. He would have seen her glance down as something at her feet caught her attention and bent down to pick up a sodden bit of paper that fluttered at the hem of her gown, would have seen her begin to read the first few words before whipping her head up at the retreating dejected form. He would have seen her fold the papers back up and wrap them around her bridal bouquet, with a small quiet smile.