Okay, here's the last chapter.
She said yes. And I had never been so elated. I hadn't been expecting a no, but, then again, I hadn't been expecting a yes. In truth, I don't really know what I had been expecting—but she'd said yes.
Over the next few months, we picked out flowers and designs for the wedding—well, I didn't pick out anything, I let her have everything she wanted. This was her wedding… I had been married to her for a long, long time. I wanted her to have the perfect wedding, because she had already made my life perfect… she had already made me the happiest man on the face of the planet.
We tottered back and forth on a date—and settled on December 30th. We both agreed that we loved the notion of both ending a year together and immediately beginning a new one… and our life together.
It was an experience I had never before had. All of a sudden, I wasn't just talking about the rest of my life, I was planning it. And planning it with the woman of my dreams, no less. It all seemed so surreal to me.
I kept waiting for someone to turn to me and say 'haha, you're on candid camera.' I kept waiting for the catch. I kept waiting for someone to tell me it had all been a cruel joke. I kept waiting for her to realize that she didn't love me. I kept waiting for someone more handsome to come sweep her off her feet. I kept waiting for someone to wake me up from this wonderfully amazing dream I was having.
But none of that happened, and on December 30th, I was faced with the most wonderful reality that I had ever had the good fortune of experiencing.
I stood at the end of the aisle watching the flower girl come down the isle, and I saw the face of a daughter we would someday have together. I watched the bridesmaids come down the aisle and I thought of the friends we would make together.
And, as I stood at the end of the aisle listening to the bridal march, I saw my dreams in an off-white gown come straight at me. Everything I had ever wanted I saw coming straight at me. And the amazing thing of it was, she wasn't running away. No, she was smiling. And that smile lit my heart aflame. I felt something inside, something pull tightly at my heart, and tears came to my eyes.
She stopped in front of me, and I lifted her veil and gazed into her beautiful blue eyes, and everything from then on was a blur. Right up until I said 'I do.' I did. I did, I did, I did.
"You may now kiss the bride." And I did that, too. As I felt the tears roll down her face—happy tears, too, began to flow from my eyes. And I'm not a crying man. But there was something about her… and God knows there was something about that moment that made me want to stay there forever.
We didn't go away on our honeymoon. We just took time off from work to lounge around and enjoy each other's company. On the 31st, we were invited to some New Year's Eve parties, but we decided to stay in.
We spent the day in bed, sleeping every now and then. But mostly, I held her. I held her in my arms to make sure she was real. To make sure I wasn't dreaming. That this all wasn't some figment of my imagination.
And I told her I loved her every chance I got. I'm sure she got annoyed with it at times, but I just had to let her know. And she told me she loved me just as many times… but I never got tired of hearing it.
That night, she decided, impromptu, that she wanted to cook me something for dinner. A late dinner, as it was already ten o'clock.
I told her in wasn't necessary, that we could just order out… but she'd have none of it. She said she wanted to cook me dinner on our first real day as a married couple. She went on and on about the things she made, and I gave in because she was so enthusiastic about it. She just looked so adorably happy.
I told her to write down the ingredients, that I'd go get it. But she said that, too, was unacceptable. Not that she fell into the housewife role or anything, just that only she knew what kind of ingredients to get to make everything just right.
I protested once more, but she wouldn't hear it. She said she was just going to the liquor store across town and that she'd return shortly. I walked her to the door, kissed her again, and told her I loved her. She laughed as she walked to the car and said she loved me too.
I went inside and concentrated on making everything inside perfect. I lit candles all over the house, and set the table perfectly with our new china. I opened a bottle of her favorite wine and poured two glasses and set them on the dining room table. I wanted everything to be picture perfect.
I hung around for awhile, flipped on the TV, and turned it off again. I didn't know what to do.
I started to worry around 10:45, but I talked myself out of it. I rationalized it away. 'The store was crowded', I told myself. 'She had trouble finding the ingredients.' I said.
But at 11:30, I was panicking. She wouldn't have taken so long. She wouldn't have needed an hour and a half. It only took ten minutes to get to the store, and ten minutes back. She said that she wouldn't be that long picking out the ingredients.
At 12:15 I called the police, they told me not to worry, that she was probably fine. Just to wait it out and call if she was still missing in 24 hours.
I called everyone I could think of, all of her friends, my friends, our friends, to see if they had seen her. To see if maybe she had stopped by to wish them a happy new year or something. But no one had seen her. No one had heard from her.
At 12:55, I heard someone knock at the door. I was so relieved… it was her! She had left her house key, and couldn't get in. I raced to the door, smiling. Thank God!
But when I opened the door, it wasn't her. It was two solemn looking police officers. My face fell. My heart constricted.
I stared blankly at them. "Mr. Romano?" One of them said.
"Yes." I answered, meekly.
"Mr. Romano, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but it's your wife. I'm afraid she's been in an accident."
I choked on his words. An accident? "What? Where is she?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Romano, but she didn't make it. She passed away."
I felt the tears spring to my eyes and I didn't care at that moment, I let them fall. Because my entire world, my entire life came crashing down in that moment. In that one moment, everything I was living for disappeared.
The officers mumbled their condolences, but I paid no attention. The minutes seemed like an eternity, as I just sat there, staring into space with tears rolling down my cheeks.
I looked at one of the officers. "We need you to come ID the body?"
ID the body? Couldn't this wait? I asked them if it could wait, but they said that it would be better if it were done tonight.
I rode in the back of the police car, motionless. Emotionless. This couldn't be happening. I kept waiting for someone to say "You're on candid camera." Or for someone to wake me up from this awful nightmare.
But no one did. No one said a thing as we reached the morgue. I silently walked from the police car, following the officers inside.
I was led to a small room, and brought inside. The sterility of it all didn't comfort me in the slightest. In fact, I think it made things worse.
But they brought her body out, and I took a deep breath as I prepared for what was to come next. But I wasn't ready.
When they pulled back the sheet, I lost it. I started crying as I brought my face to hers—her face. The beautiful face that hours ago had been full of life. But, now, she laid before me lifeless. Completely lifeless. I wanted to scream, I wanted to yell, I wanted to do anything but sit there and cry. But that's all I could do. I could do nothing else.
I looked up at the coroner, after what seemed like an eternity, and I knew she had the answer she needed. But she also needed me to confirm it verbally.
So, I said through my tears:
"Yes. That's her… That's Elizabeth."