There are times in your life when everything becomes perfectly clear. Moments when everything seems to crystallize and suddenly everything you questioned becomes so simple that you wonder why you didn't see it before. Seconds where everything slows and you can only see one thing or one person. When that thing right in front of you suddenly becomes your whole world. It's these kinds of moments that strike when you least expect them. Almost randomly, but when they happen you know that they aren't chance. Something made them happen. You just don't know what that something is.
We were sitting at Graduation. I had already been given my diploma and just wanted the whole thing to be over. The whole thing seemed so very fake anyway. Overly dramatic for no real reason. I think Buffy summed it up best, "Graduation is a pointless ceremony where you sit around and listen to a bunch of boring speeches until someone hands you a piece of paper that says you graduated which you already know. Nothing changes." It's true. Everyone here seems to think it's some big thing. Like the world is just going to open up for them and they'll go on to do great things.
I know better.
Graduation just means you get to go on, fighting the same battles, living in the same hell.
The name came across the loud speakers, but it didn't happen then. It didn't happen until I looked up. He was walking down the stage and it just hit me. It was just so clear. I blinked, trying to regain some of my senses at least, but it didn't help. Everything seemed to fade away, blurring and fading to black. Everything but him. He moved towards me and I knew, in that moment, that there was no other person in the world I would spend the rest of my life with. No other person in the world that would be The One.
I must have had a strange expression on my face because he shot me a worried look. I wanted to jump up and grab him, kiss him until he felt it in his toes. Somehow I managed to stay in my seat. He reached out to me, his hand grazing my shoulder as he passed.
The electricity was, well, shocking. No matter how often we had been together, how often we had sat next to each other, how often we had been alone together, no matter how much time we had spent together or how he touched me, nothing compared to that simple brushing of skin against my graduation gown.
I had always tried to make it out to be something so complicated. Something that could never happen because of the differences. Because of destiny. But in that moment, it was so simple. So easy to have. I couldn't believe I had ever thought otherwise.
The final name was called and we were supposed to stand and make a big production out of tossing our caps. But that was so much less important than reaching him. Than telling him how I felt. The caps went up and I raced to him, ignoring protests from the other Seniors. When I reached him, I just stood there. The smile on his face was brilliant. He was still looking to the sky, his eyes following the trail his cap was taking. The smile was replaced with a startled expression when he saw me.
"I love you," I blurted.
"Huh?" he managed. Confusion flooded his face.
"I love you."
He blinked, looking at me like I might have suffered heat stroke. "You sure you haven't been out in the sun too long?"
"I love you dammit."
"Yeah, you keep saying that." He tossed a glance to the others who had gathered in a group and were now looking at me like I lost my mind. Or maybe grown a second head. Or turned green with antennae.
"All of that destiny crap, the whole 'differences' thing, all of it it means nothing."
He smirked, then shifted uncomfortably. This wasn't the kind of place he preferred to have a possibly humiliating conversation. "Well it mattered before" The words trailed off, but I couldn't say why.
I did the only thing I knew to do. I kissed him. Kissed him like I'd never kissed him before. With all of my heart and soul.
The hooting, whistles, and yelling brought us around. Eventually. He just looked at me, dazed. Unable to say anything.
"I love you. More than anything else in the world."
"Shut up." I took his hands in mine and held them to my heart. "I love you Alex Charles Whitman. You're just going to have to deal with that because there is no one else in this world or any other that I want. No one else that will ever come close to being what you are to me."
"What are you saying exactly?"
I wondered, briefly, if his ears were attached to his brain. It wasn't the first time I had asked myself that question.
"I love you. I'm going to marry you. We're going to have kids. Lots of them. And we're going to live happily ever after."
A silly grin spread slowly across his face.
"I suppose I can live with that," he drawled as he pulled me close.
"You'd better," I told him, "I'm not giving you any other option."
He kissed me then. And in that moment, I knew everything would be ok. No matter what happened, whatever fate or destiny threw at us, it would all be ok. Because he would be there with me.
She used to talk about the moment she knew. It seemed so simple to her, and I always just nodded and agreed, even though I couldn't say it had happened to me. Not that I ever doubted I loved her, or that I wanted to be together with her forever and ever. Sure, I had always hoped it, always dreamed it. But even when she said it to me, it didn't seem to become solid. Not in the way she described.
At least until the first dawn of our honeymoon.
The sun was just starting to creep over the horizon. Rays of light stretching out over the water and sand. I sat there, watching as the golden brilliance reached out. It crawled across the sand, to a foot. Then up her leg, then her waist, her chest, her shoulders and arms, and finally her face.
She looked at me then, smiling as brilliantly as the sun shone. It made her hair look like spun gold and her skin like it had been bronzed. It made her into some kind of sun goddess. A female version of Apollo.
It was then I knew. The way she looked at me. All the emotion in her eyes, on her face. The way she sat, the way she held her body. The way her fingers trailed in the sand. Everything.
The first time she told me she loved me played in my mind like a movie in surround sound on a giant screen. I remembered everything. Ever little detail. The way the odd maroon color of the robes seemed to look perfect on her. The look on her face as I approached. Wondering if she was ill, if something had happened. And then her standing there. In front of me. Suddenly declaring her love for me in front of the entire town. I can look back on it usually and chuckle. It seemed so insane.
But suddenly I understood just how she felt.
In this place, surrounded by new sun, the sound of waves, with her at my side, I knew. I knew I would be with her till the end of time. Until death do us part. Our kids would surround us our grandkids. And our friends.
Life would never be easy exactly. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was that she had chosen to be by my side. Had chosen to spend her life with me.
The sun played across her face as she squinted into the light. I don't know what made her look at me, but she did.
"I love you," I said, reaching out to take her hand in mine. "More than anything else in the world."
She put her other hand over mine. "I know," she smiled, "I didn't give you any other choice."
"That's good," I replied, "I don't need another choice."
Isabel leaned over then, resting her head against my shoulder. I wrapped my arm around her waist and we sat there until the sun was high in the sky.
The cool cloth felt like heaven against his skin and he wondered if he had died. The angel appeared above him, his angel, but that angel let him know that death had not taken him yet. His angel still appeared very young, still healthy.
Even after almost seventy years together.
His body had withered and was fading fast. But hers, hers was still strong. She noticed his eyes had opened and she smiled down at him gently. Fingers stroked his temple as she rewet the cloth.
"I love you," she whispered.
A thin smile pulled at his mouth. A shadow of the smile she had come to love so much, but she knew how painful it was for him to give her that shadow.
"You'd better," he told her.
"With all my heart and soul," she promised.
Thoughts of all the times she had begged him to let her heal him played over in both their minds. But he would never allow it. Would never let her even attempt it. That was not the way his life was meant to be. Even with all the pain of the last few weeks, he knew it wasn't his way. Knew it just wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Their time in this world was over.
Alex felt the change within himself and knew.
"I'll be waiting," he managed softly as his hand sought out hers.
His grip was tighter than it had been in months. Gently she squeezed his hand in return, fighting back the tears that welled, not only in her eyes, but in her heart and soul.
"I'll be there soon," she promised. "As soon as I can."
A smile formed, a smile that made her think of him that day at Graduation.
"Take your time," he said, "I've got lots of moments to relive while you're still here."
Isabel leaned over and kissed his forehead. A frail hand reached up to lightly stroke her face as she pulled away. Tears finally broke and she smiled down at him.
"There will be even more moments to relive in the next lifetime."
His hand fell from her face to the bed, his body completely still.
Tears ran down her face as she touched his cooling cheek.
"Neither can I," she managed around the lump in her throat. "Neither can I."