I was brushing my hair in the penthouse suit when I first heard the voices. Loud, panicked voices and the sound of people arguing. Not again, I thought to myself rolling my eyes. People had been fighting all day over the smallest of things. The flowers, the food, the seating arrangements, the decoration, you name it and there was a problem with it. I wasn’t surprised though, my mother and sister were perfectionists. I pitied the wedding planner who’d taken up such a Herculean task of satisfying not only Olivia but also my mother.
Olivia’s wedding was all anybody could talk about for months, not that I was complaining. I loved weddings; there was just something about the ‘till death do us part’ line that got me every time. The idea of two people deciding to spend the rest of their lives together was so utterly romantic and everything about a wedding symbolized that decision for me. Though it had surprised me that my elder sister had agreed to the wedding after dating Zach for only two months but hey, I guess when you find the ‘One’ there isn’t a lot left to think about.
I giggled when I thought about finding the ‘One’. Hopefully I’d managed to find my soul mate too. Noah was everything I could ever ask for and more. Sweet, romantic, sensitive and compassionate, he was the ideal boyfriend and I’d fallen for him hook, line and sinker. He would be here today and the idea of seeing him in a tux made butterflies appear in the pit of my stomach. Oh I had it bad.
I got up to examine myself in the full length mirror placed in my room, ignoring the increasingly loud voices that had started coming from the hallway. Whatever it was that was wrong now could be handled, just like it had been handled previously. Seriously, they just needed to calm down.
I twirled a strand of my curled long brown hair around my finger and fidgeted with my figure hugging cream dress. Of course it had been selected by my sister and I wasn’t one to argue, it was her wedding after all, I couldn’t just go about telling her that the dress she’d picked up for me barely gave me room to breathe. I was naturally curvy and the dress did a good job of hiding that, I looked almost as thin as my sister and that made our resemblance even more prominent. Both of us had deep brown hair, the same green eyes, as dark as emeralds and both of us were cursed with the same pale skin which refused to get a shade darker. Olivia often said people would die to get such a clear, creamy skin tone but how I wished that my hours at the beach paid off.
The dress was fitted at the bust, the sweetheart neckline revealing only an appropriate amount of cleavage. A bow right underneath the bust tightened the grip on my waist and the skirt of the dress skimmed my body, hugging the area around me hips. It was hard being in it but if I do say so myself, it made me feel and look gorgeous. Olivia did inherit our mother’s exquisite taste.
I was examining myself in front of the mirror for the millionth time when suddenly an assortment of people walked in halting me in my tracks. My parents, Olivia’s in-laws the Prices and her fiancé Zach along with my Uncle Collin and Aunt Ophelia all stormed right in without as much as a knock but the look on their faces made that thought go away immediately. Worry was etched on to their features and my mother looked pale enough to faint at any moment. Oh no, something’s terrible‘s happened I thought to myself, dread filling my body. It was how defeated and haunted my father looked that told me that the problem was bigger than the usual wedding woes. He was never one to worry about the small things and was generally a very optimistic man; if something had managed to take a toll on him then it had to be bad.
“What is it?” I found myself asking them, my heart racing a mile a minute.
No one answered; they looked like they didn’t have the courage to answer my question. I looked around at all of them, expecting someone to speak up. Mrs. Price placed a hand on her husband’s arm just as he was about to say something. He looked red in the face, like he was barely controlling his fury and I shuddered at the thought of witnessing one of his famous tantrums.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was my Aunt Ophelia who answered, her face contorting into a mask of pain and sorrow. Okay, now I was officially freaking out.
“Honey, we found this in your sister’s room.” She said holding up a piece of writing paper. I walked towards her, my legs shaking as I did so and grabbed it from her. On it, in my sister’s perfect handwriting were written the words
I’m sorry but I can’t do this. I can’t go through with this wedding, I don’t love him. Please try to understand that I’m doing this for the both of us. I’m going away and I’m not sure if I ever plan on coming back. Don’t try to find me and please don’t hate me.
A gasp left my lips as I held the note in my trembling hands. This could not be happening, it had to be some kind of a sick joke that everyone was playing on me. My eyes searched their faces for any sign of contradiction but there was none. Everyone was just as shocked as I was and just as hurt. However one face confirmed the horrifying fact.
Zach. He looked so broken, so dejected and crushed that I felt my heart ache for him. His shoulders were slumped in defeat, his entire body tensed and stiffened and his fists clenched. That however wasn’t the worst part, the worst part was how he was trying to be strong and not give away the amount of pain he felt but I could see it. His eyes told a story of their own and there was nothing false in that story. How could Olivia have done this to him?
“Ari we know that this must be so difficult for you but the fact is that we have a wedding to go to in less than four hours with over three thousand people arriving.”
I looked at my aunt like she had lost her mind. What wedding? The bride had run away, she had made a terrible mess and had left us all to deal with the frightening consequences that were surely to follow. There wasn’t going to be a wedding anymore, how could there be?
As if reading my mind, my father spoke up, his voice completely lacking the confidence I normally associated with it, “We can’t cancel the wedding sweetheart. It’ll ruin us, all of us. If a wedding doesn’t take place today not only will we be utterly humiliated but we could stand to lose everything,” he choked out and I stared at him stupidly not knowing where this was headed.
My mother, someone who would never allow herself to be humbled by anyone looked at me then, pleading with me with her eyes.
"We need your help Ari. You're the only one who can save this family now."
Approximately four hours later I was taken into the church followed closely by my mother, my aunt and the few cousins who had been told the truth. A long veil covered my face and the corset I wore under the dress molded my shape to fit into the dress. My sister’s wedding dress.
The music began to play and I fixed my gaze firmly to the ground, begging myself to not let any tears escape. My father linked his arm with mine as everyone else left the room.
“Ari, honey you have no idea what this means to us.” He whispered in my ear and I nodded my head slightly, not trusting myself to speak.
It was to the beat of the traditional wedding march that I walked towards the altar, my father gripping my arm tightly, comforting me but all the while suffocating me. He let go of me when we reached where Zach and his best man stood and after completing his duty of giving me away, left me alone to take the biggest step in my life.
The vows were said, the lies concealed as I took Zach Price to be my husband, for better or for worse. My actions were mechanical, my tone robotic. I had always dreamt of the day I would get married but now I knew better. Those dreams hadn’t been dreams to begin with; they had been signs of the nightmare to come.
One sentence, I whispered one sentence as the priest pronounced us husband and wife,hoping they would somehow reach him.
"I love you Noah, please forgive me."