Maybe in Another Life

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt

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Contemporary Romance Sad

I've always believed in love; I'd always hoped I'd find it the way a Disney princess found her prince. Singing in window sills as the world rolled on by until that special knight in glistening armor climbed over a mountain and slayed a dragon for my hand. But life has proved to me, on more than one occasion, that such fairytales should stay in the books. Or maybe on the Hallmark channel where the city girl comes back and falls head over heels for the small-town boy. All that garbage I prayed I'd find until I didn't.

Turns out life doesn't like that. Life likes to mess around with your head; it gives you something until it tugs it away just as you get comfortable. Just as things start to go your way.

Something Disney princess musicals failed to include. 

Breaking me from my thoughts, a high-pitched voice tugged at my ears.

"So, single lady," a disgustingly fake bleach blonde snickered, her lips as fake as the rest of her as she smiled beneath a shot glass the color of kerosene. 

"You're going to be Mrs. Kelvin by this time tomorrow- let's have some single-lady-only fun while you can."

My cousin smiled, her rhinestone tiara tipping further and further down her forehead as the drinks continued to flow. I noticed a collection of random French dudes gathered around the bar as the seven of us- the future bride, her five friends, and tagalong cousin- celebrated the last night Karina had without that golden ring on her finger.

Karina looked over at me, her bride-to-be sash splashed with liquor before she walked over to the end of the bar, tapping us each on the head like a drunken game of duck-duck-goose before sitting back against the counter. As Karina's only family, and the only one who obviously knew how to drink responsibly or without a desire to impress the future princess of Handsome Hunksylvania, I found the Crimson Stag to be the most disgusting, degrading place in all of Paris. 

Paris, my once twerp of a cousin, was going to be married in the most romantic city in the world. Meanwhile, I couldn't get a date who didn't charge fifty an hour. And with Karina's sorority friends, who I guarantee you were all prom queens in whatever podunk high school they attended, that made me the queen of losers. I mean, not that I cared. I was also probably the only one whose IQ was above that of a feral cat.

"Meena," Karina called out, reaching for one of her former roommates as she beckoned me from behind a herd of rabid Frenchmen. "Can someone get my cousin, please? Katie, Shell?"

The women turned around to face me, each flipping their hair in unison as if to shun me out, just like all those years at my cousin's birthday parties, get-togethers, and now, I could add bachelorette party to the list.

"What is it, Karina," I asked, as heated as an active volcano, though I did try my best to conceal that bit. "But before you even ask me to help you do something stupid, I need you to know that I refuse to be the one to tell Mr. Kelvin that his fiancé is dead in a Parisian alleyway like every other-"

"Meena Beena," Karina smiled, speaking through gritted teeth. "I was going to ask you to get me out of here."

Oh, that's right- was cousin was far from a lightweight.

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"So, I guess childhood is over, huh?" 

Walking along the glistening streets of Paris under the starlight, I couldn't seem to look up from my feet. Not going to lie, I was just thankful I wasn't breathing in cigarette smoke for once that night.

Karina laughed, "It was over the day you got your admissions email from law school. But, then again, once the family nerd, always the family nerd."

There was something about how my cousin teased me- it was far from mean; it was almost as if her words tickled me right where I was a stick in the mud. I guess she had to learn, being that she was related to someone like me, of course.  

"But getting married," I sighed in awe, "And in Paris! It's like just yesterday we were playing with water balloons in the mud, but now-" I gestured to her tiara and knee-length white dress. "You're getting married to Prince Charming. It's just too much for me, I guess."

Karina nodded, grabbing my hands as she stopped just in front of the Eiffel Tower as it poked through the cracks in the city skyscrapers. 

"To be honest, Meena, I always knew this was where I was meant to be. Married and settled with someone I love. It was just expected of me. And in time, I learned to accept it. My fate- I know you still believe in that stuff."

I scoffed, my eyes landing on hers as she smiled- her gaze softening into mine. Obviously, she wasn't drunk enough yet. 

"That stuff, Karina, was the closest thing I ever had to fairytale endings and mythical beginnings in a kingdom far, far away, which, I now know, is none other than Paris, France. It's just that I'm getting older, and even my wits have failed me."

"Melina Bianca Tancredi, you are the furthest thing from a black sheep I've ever known. You may not think you deserve or will ever find love, but-"

"But bullshit," I whispered back. "You make fairytales look easy. Yet you treat me like you're the queen, and I'm some kind of errand rat born to deliver your royal messages between towers and castles, distant kingdoms, and your own preciousness. But don't you see: you make the stereotype worse! The idea that people like me need to be settled and married, and in love to be successful and happy. And maybe that's true. But honestly, I try so hard not to be bothered by the fact that I’ve never known what love feels like."

"I don't understand-"

Grabbing the bottle still in her hand, I stormed away, chugging down whatever was left at the bottom. Then, practically running towards the lights peeking from behind the buildings, I left the world behind me- not once looking back  at whatever kind of world I knew I would never be welcomed back to. 

But nothing mattered- I was anything but happy. Anything but happy because the only person I had left was no longer mine. Anything but happy because I was in the most romantic city in the world without love. Anything but happy because I felt anything but belonging- I never had, and I had a feeling I never would. 

Approaching the Eiffel Tower, it really was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Not because it was real this time and not on a screen, but because it stopped me from drowning back at the Crimson Stag and sinking back into submission. 

Why was my fate so cold?

"Oliver," a woman laughed, her voice stifled away with gentle gusts of wind as I turned around, catching a couple about my age embracing beneath the world's beacon of romance. Great. Just the time for that, universe.

"I love you so much, M," the man returned, his head nestled in his lover's neck as she kissed his cheek. "I need you to know that."

I need you to know that- for some reason, those words never left me. And I had a feeling they never would. They just- stuck around.

Just as I was about to turn away, my phone alarm rang twelve- midnight already. Karina's wedding day and, because of me, she was probably back at that dusty bar getting as drunk as a woman could get without getting arrested. But, of course, I was just glad I wouldn't have to make that call to hubby-to-be. 

"Meena?" The man with his lover questioned. 

Looking back, I thought he would be someone I recognized- another face from my past to tell me that "I looked good" or "Congratulations on passing the Bar." Or maybe, "Remember when you weren't voted prom queen back in high school?"

But it wasn't. 

In fact, he wasn't even looking at me. He was still looking at her. His wife- her diamond ring shimmering in the light of the Eiffel Tower as Paris wished its people a dazzling goodnight turned good morning. 

"Yes?" She asked, looking up at him.

"Maybe in another life, my dove."

The girl embraced him, only to look over his shoulder at me. 

Her hair, nose, lips, even eyes- she was me. 

Standing on her tiptoes, she- I- reached up and kissed him, the faint sound of bells tolling at Notre Dame as a gentle drizzle fell from the sky.

Winking at me as I collapsed to the ground, my heavy tears streaming down my face, she- well, me- and my husband disappeared underneath the Parisian icon as the distant sound of her- my- clinking heels fell away. 

Before I knew it, the two disappeared into the fog completely.

And my heart with them as what was left of me sunk into the midnight city of love.

January 03, 2023 01:17

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