It’s not every day that you stand in a fancy hotel room, your wedding dress spread out over the bed while you stare at it in pride. This is the night I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl. The night when everything is meant to magically come together. The night when my heart is so full of love that I fear it might burst. The night before my wedding, where I will join hands with the love of my life and say the vows I’ve had memorized since the day after I met my fiancé, Colin.
I sigh happily, pouring myself a glass of champagne. This is the happiest I can remember ever being. I’ve always felt like I was born to do the big white wedding thing. I’ve always known I’d be a good wife. I’m excellent with kids. Good with Colin’s parents. I’ve been practicing walking down the aisle since I was a kid, and I had my first dance song chosen by the time I was thirteen. I was made to do this. And tomorrow, my dreams will finally come true.
The door opens without anyone knocking. I rush to close it again.
“Don’t come in! It’s bad luck to see the dress before the wedding.”
“Only for the groom, you idiot,” my best friend, Ashley, mumbles through the door. “Colin’s still at the bar with Christian. Let me in.”
I open the door, blushing. Ashley grins at me, pushing past me into the room.
“Let me see the dress again…”
She stands by my bed, admiring the white gown as though it’s a work of art. To be fair to her, it is. It’s all tulle and white lace, with long sleeves and a modest neckline. It took hours of shopping with Ashley, but I wanted to get it right. To me, my wedding day is going to be everything. Ashley sniffs.
“Oh, Sam. You’re going to be a vision. I’m so happy for you.”
She hugs me tight and I squeeze her back, happy tears in my eyes. I can’t help getting emotional. I don’t even try to stop myself. I want to feel every emotion this wedding throws at me. Especially when every single one so far feels so good.
Ashley takes my hand and sits me down at the small hotel room table, pouring herself a glass of champagne. “I want to hear the vows.”
I shake my head with a smile. “Come on, Ash. I said I wanted everyone to wait until the wedding.”
Ashley wiggles her eyebrows and drains her glass. “I’ll just get super drunk and then I won’t remember what you said. It’ll be like hearing them for the first time tomorrow.”
“Wow. I’ve chosen such a classy maid of honor…”
“You don’t need your maid of honor to be classy. I make you look more sophisticated if anything. Come on. You need a second pair of ears.”
I blush a little. I poured my heart into the vows I wrote. I know it’s going to be hard enough reading them out tomorrow. But she’s right - I could use a little advice. Maybe I’ve put too much into this, after all. I get my notes from my bedside table and clear my throat while Ashley watches me expectantly, her second glass of champagne almost half empty.
“Colin...when we met, I thought you would never look at me twice,” I begin hesitantly. I cringe at myself. Do I sound pathetic? Probably. But I told myself I’d be honest in my vows. So I don’t correct myself and continue on. “You taught the same grade as me that year, and I saw that as such a blessing. We got to spend so much time together, planning lessons, discussing the kids...we just had a great time.”
“Aww,” Ashley says twirling a strand of blonde hair around her finger. “I always wanted to have a work romance.”
I raise an eyebrow at Ashley. She mimes zipping her lips.
“Sorry. Not the time.”
I pick up where I left off, “On the day when things went further, you made me the happiest girl on earth. Everything that I imagined would always be off-limits to me became mine. I could hardly believe that you were choosing me. And since then, you’ve chosen me over and over again. You always put me first, and I’ve never been with anyone who would do that for me. You’re selfless, kind, hilarious...and I can’t think of anyone I would rather spend the rest of my life with. I love you, Colin, and I want to be with you until the day I die.”
I put my notes down quietly. Ashley stares at me, her forehead scrunched up. Then she drains the rest of her glass.
“Damn, girl. You really feel all that?”
I nod without hesitation. I shouldn’t be ashamed of how he makes me feel. There’s a reason I’m so happy, and that’s him. “Honestly, Ashley. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough for me.”
Ashley’s eyes are swimming. Her expression is a little vacant from the effects of the alcohol. “Damn,” she repeats. “I need to find myself a Colin.”
It’s nearing midnight. Ashley has headed back to her hotel room, taking the bottle of champagne with her. The sparkles that the booze had me feeling are beginning to fade a little, replaced by dehydration and a headache. Colin still isn’t back from the bar, which is unusual. He’s not the sort who usually stays out late or drinks. He prefers to be in bed by half past nine with a cup of tea. Maybe he’s having last minute nerves, though that doesn’t seem like Colin either. He’s always so calm, so collected. So certain before he ever makes a decision. So why would he suddenly have his doubts about me?
I hear the door open quietly. I sit up, fixing a smile. Colin looks a little disheveled as he creeps into the room. When he spots me sitting up, he seems startled.
“Samantha...I thought you would be asleep.”
I pat the bed beside me. “I was waiting for you, honey. Did you have a good evening?”
Colin moves slowly to remove his shirt. “It was fine.”
Something’s wrong with him. Perhaps too much to drink. I want to ask him what’s wrong. I want to know if he’s got cold feet. But I can’t bring myself to ask. Maybe I’m scared of what the answer will be.
He gets into bed, turning his back to me wearily. I tentatively shuffle towards him and snuggle in, hoping he might suddenly revert back to the Colin I know. The smiling, happy Colin that kisses each part of my face before we go to sleep. Now, I can’t even see his face to know whether he’s smiling. I rub his arm gently, hoping to coax him back to me.
“Can you believe tomorrow’s the big day?”
Colin slowly turns to face me. His eyes search my face for several seconds, his features completely devoid of emotion.
“No,” he says. “I can’t believe it at all.”
With that, he turns his back on me once more and goes to sleep.
I lay awake for a long time last night, thinking about how strangely Colin acted when he came to bed. Was it something I said or did to make him act that way? Eventually, I managed to catch a few hours of sleep, but when I wake up this morning I still can’t stop thinking about his unusual behavior. Everything was perfect up until that moment. How can I find a way to make everything seem right again?
I turn over and see that Colin isn’t here. I get up and check the en-suite bathroom, but he’s not there either. I wonder if maybe he’s gone to see his best man, Christian, to get ready for today, but he’s left his suit hung up on the door. I send him a text, but I receive no response.
I check my watch. It’s seven am. Colin and I are used to being up early to head to work at the school, but on the weekends, when we have more time, he likes to lounge in bed. Yet, on what should be the most leisurely day of our lives, he’s already gone.
I throw on some clothes and head downstairs to the lobby. Perhaps he and Christian have gone back to the bar to calm his nerves with a drink. The receptionist is slumped in her chair at the front desk, watching a movie on her computer. She glances up guiltily when she spots me.
“Good morning. Can I help you at all?”
“Actually, yes. I’m looking for my fiancé. He wasn’t in our room.”
The receptionist chews the inside of her cheek. “Ah. Miss Asher...yes, I’ve seen your fiancé.”
My heart skips a beat. “Why do I get the feeling that’s a bad thing?”
She gnaws at her lip. “He left you a note when he left.”
She pushes a piece of hotel stationery across her desk towards me. I hesitate. I know whatever I’m about to read isn’t good. If he’s left, surely it can’t be for any good reason?
The receptionist watches me as I open the letter. I can feel her eyes boring into me as I scan the words Colin wrote. She gasps as I fall to my knees, tears streaming down my cheeks.
I can’t live a lie any longer. It’s not fair on you, or myself. I want you to find happiness with someone who can give you everything you want. I found love in a place I never expected - Christian is the one for me. I hope someday you can forgive me for this, and you will realize it was the right decision.
I gasp for air. I read the letter again, hoping this is some kind of sick prank. But it’s not. This is it. This is real.
Colin’s left me. For his best man.