She was standing in the church. Her flowing white dress hid the worst of her curves and showed off the best. It had taken weeks to find and she felt truly beautiful in it. Harrison was there, his tuxedo pressed. He looked so handsome. She was so... content. Things had just worked out so perfectly. A gloriously drama-free period of dating had flowed easily into an equally pleasant and un-objectionable engagement. All she had to do was say two simple words, three letters total, and she could continue in humble happiness for the rest of her life.
She opened her mouth, but there was no sound. Harrison beamed at her, his eyebrows raised, waiting for her to make the great commitment to a life of non-conflict and simple joys. She tried again, but nothing came forth. Where was her voice? She started to cry, silently. She wanted to say it. It was so easy to just fade into his happiness. Why could she not say the words to complete this moment? There was a cake, and a DJ, and a hall, and hundreds of friends, family, coworkers and people she only saw at funerals and family reunions. She had to say it.
She fell forward, tears streaming down her cheeks. Harrison wrapped his arms around her, holding her. She could feel them tight to her chest. He was warm. He smelled of apples, and linen closets. He was happiness-made-man, here for her. She tried again to say the words but remained silent. His arms tightened. She gasped for air, feeling the boning of her dress cutting into her side. She started to feel faint. Harrison kissed the top of her head as he continued to hold her, the pressure increasing. She tried to scream.
“Woah, woah,” Daryl said, his arms wide as he tried to give her room on the small twin bed. “Are you okay?” He was shirtless and his chest bore the red lines where she had tried to claw her way out of his embrace.
She blinked as she realized where she was and who she was with. She recognized the who, but not the where. She stared around, wild-eyed, trying to remember. Her last waking thoughts were in an ambulance. They were going somewhere, to see Daryl’s friend. They were going to see Daryl’s friend, Stacy. She glanced around the small bedroom. Various movie posters for bad sci fi movies covered the windows, blocking out the light. The space was cramped, holding little more than the bed, and a beat up dresser. The whole space reminded her of college.
Daryl put a hand on her arm. She was still wearing the paramedic coveralls from the night before. “It’s okay,” he said reassuringly. “We’re at Stacy’s place. It’s cool.” He gave her arm a squeeze.
Daryl smiled. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
That was enough for Regan. She fell into his arms and closed her eyes. He held her close, his bare chest warming her cheek. She sighed and put her hand on him, gently stroking his skin with her fingertip. It felt good to be held. It felt comfortable, again. She missed this feeling so much, the comfort of a man’s arms around her.
A voice from the other room cut into their solace. “You motherlovin’ d-bag camper!”
“And that,” Daryl said, letting go of Regan, “would be Stacy.”
Daryl led her out into the living room of the small apartment. An old couch sat in front of a massive flat screen TV. A diminutive stick of a girl was angrily shaking her fist at the game, where the virtual body of a slain soldier took up most of the view. Her mousy brown hair hung loose around her head. She used her arm to brush some of the locks up and out of her field of vision. “Okay, no one touch Aaron. When I find his prone ass I am totally going to-”
“Hey, Stacy,” Daryl interrupted. “Regan’s up.”
Stacy waved a hand and continued playing. Regan watched from behind the couch as the on-screen soldier ducked and wove around the industrial wasteland until he came upon another soldier. Stacy started to shake with light giggles. With a few taps on her controller, several parcels