Like most girls, Stevie had pictured her wedding day in her head. Not that she had images of the flowers, the dress, or any of that stuff …..but the man she would walk down the aisle with, that was something she had pictured, many times. And there was only one man in her dream. And the man who stood before her today, was NOT the one.
It wasn't the first wedding day she'd had. She hadn't realized the first time round with Jarred that it would be a mistake. They were young, and stupid. And back then she didn't know any better. Back then she had not known what true love was. But now she was older, and wiser. And now she had experienced that feeling of true love, with Alex.
She shook her head in an attempt to shake Alex Ryan from her mind. She told herself he didn't feel the same way, he would never feel the same way, and now he was with Fiona. But still, there were times she wondered, and hoped and dreamed, maybe Alex did feel the same way? maybe they had a chance after all? But after today there would be no chance.
In her dreams Alex would come to her, and tell her that he loved her, that he always had, that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, and Rose could come live with them, and they would be a real family. It was a stupid fantasy, but she couldn't quite let go of it.
It was a lonely day. She had thought her wedding day would be a day to share with family and friends. But she hadn't told the others about it, she didn't want to be talked out of it. She knew that Kate and Jodi wouldn't approve. She was relieved that Tess was in Argentina, because Tess may have been the one person who could have talked her out of this. She had always pictured being married on Drovers Run also, but that wasn't possible. So here she stood, in the town hall.
She surveyed herself in the mirror. She was surprised to see she looked great. The dress was simple, but perfect. She hadn't made much effort with her hair, but it was still perfect, and her red curls framed her face nicely. It seemed odd to her that she looked so beautiful for this day. This wedding was so wrong. The man she was marrying was wrong. But she looked so perfect. She wished Alex could see her.
Lawrence looked perfect too. He was a handsome man. And a nice man. And she tried to tell her self it wouldn't be so bad being Mrs Lawrence Wilson. It just wasn't the same as being Mrs Alex Ryan.
"Well it's now or never." She told herself and she took one last look in the mirror. She prepared herself to say goodbye to being Stevie Hall, and to close the door once and for all on the dream of being with Alex.
There may have been music, she couldn't say for sure. It was a blur in her mind. Lawrence was smiling at her, and she tried to smile back. He knew she didn't love him, it didn't bother him. He was entering into the marriage for other reasons also. She stood beside him. He took her hands, it was his way of reassuring her that it would be ok. But it had the opposite effect. It was so wrong, he was so wrong. And as he touched her, panic filled her mind. It took every ounce of self control for her not to turn and run.
Alex could calm her mind with just one touch, one look. Everything looked different in Alex's arms. Everything was different. Everything was right. The way he brushed the hair out of her eyes, the way he smiled at her. He was so strong, so gentle, her best mate, her soul mate, her everything. But now he belonged to Fiona. And here she was, about to give herself to Lawrence.
The words washed over her, not sinking in. Promises of love and loyalty, promises she didn't mean. Promises she wanted to make to Alex. But Lawrence didn't mean them either, and she tried to tell herself that made it ok. She thoughtlessly repeated the vows, not even trying to sound like she meant them. Lawrence didn't seem to mind.
He took her hand about to slip the ring on her finger. She looked away from him, trying with all her energy to tell herself it was Alex slipping that ring on her finger. She didn't want to look up, to see that it was all a delusion. She wasn't yet ready to let go of her dreams, of Alex. But Lawrence paused, and with his hand he lifted her head to look at him. She looked into his eyes. She didn't even know him, let alone love him.
"Don't worry, it will be alright." He said to her.
"I know." She replied. She didn't really believe it though. But she had come too far to go back now.
Again he took her hand, about to slip the gold ring on her finger.
The moment was interrupted as they heard the doors slam. Lawrence was startled and dropped the ring to the floor. Stevie turned her head towards the door. It was Alex. She told herself she was dreaming again. Dreaming Alex would come and save her. And they would ride off into the sunset, happily ever after. She looked to Lawrence, then she blinked and turned back to the doorway. Alex was still standing there.
"What the hell are you doing cowgirl?" Alex's loud voice echoed in the old hall. Stevie was frozen, she couldn't speak, couldn't move.
Lawrence moved towards Alex "I don't believe you were invited, Alex. I think perhaps you should leave."
It was Alex who threw the first punch, and before long the two men were engaged in a fight. The marriage celebrant rushed over to break up the fight. Stevie stood in shock for a moment, and then seized the opportunity to slip out the back door unnoticed. It was difficult enough to walk in the high heel shoes, let alone run. Lawrence had the keys to the car. And she was stranded.
Stevie swore under her breath as she looked up and saw who was coming towards her. Of all the people she didn't want to run into at this moment, Harry Ryan would be at the top of the list.
He opened his mouth to speak, but stopped, and stared at her.
"What are you looking at?" She demanded.
"Nothing. Its just I didn't recognize you, I don't think I've seen you without your boots on. Special occasion?" He asked her.
"No." She answered him. Although she was starting to realize just how special the day had been. Not special in any of the ways a wedding day should be…..but had Alex really interrupted?…..Why would he have done that? Could it be that he had feelings for her too? She tried not to let her heart hope. Alex hated Lawrence, that's all. It was nothing to do with her. Or any feelings Alex had for her.
"Alex and Fiona are busy making plans for the big day. Alex is so excited. And Liz and I are so proud that he is marrying the right kind of girl." Harry stated.
"Nice talking to you Harry, I gotta go." Stevie excused herself and kept walking. The last thing she wanted to hear about was Alex and Fiona.
She had left on foot, not having any other options. She started walking the back road to drovers. Lawrence wouldn't know it, and wouldn't be able to find it. She didn't want him to follow her. But Alex would know exactly where to find her, if he wanted to.
She knew it was dangerous, waiting for Alex, hoping he would come. And what if he did? He was engaged to someone else. And she was about 2 minutes away from being a married woman.
She walked for what seemed like hours. Waiting. Listening for any sound that Alex might be coming. She was terrified he wouldn't come, but terrified he would also. And eventually she heard a car coming along the road behind her. She didn't dare look over her shoulder to see who it was. She heard the car pull to a stop and a door slam. She kept her eyes to the ground and kept walking.
"That was a bloody stupid thing to do!" She heard Alex's voice from behind her. She didn't turn but kept on walking. He caught up and was now walking alongside her. He continued on "You've known that guy for 5 minutes, what the hell are you thinking! You don't even like the guy!"
"No Alex, you don't like him. I like him fine. And hadn't you better get going, your fiancé will be waiting for you." She reminded him.
He was silent for a moment. "Fiona's gone back to the city." He stated simply.
"Shopping trip?" Stevie asked him.
"Nah, she's gone back for good, the engagement is off." He announced.
Stevie came to a stop and looked into Alex's eyes. "I'm sorry." She told him, and she genuinely was. She didn't like hearing the sadness in his voice. "What happened?"
They sat on the roadside.
"It was just never meant to be I guess. I suppose I knew all along. I loved her in some way I suppose. But I was never truly deeply in love with her, not like…….Claire." Alex struggled to hold back the tears.
Stevie put her arm around her best mate, she could see how much he still missed Claire.
Alex went on "And I suppose that's why I chose Fiona, because I didn't love her that way, and because she was safe, I wasn't afraid of getting my heart ripped out again."
They sat in silence. They'd both made mistakes. So many mistakes. Stevie couldn't suppress that glimmer of hope for the future. Now Fiona was gone, could there be a chance? It was crazy. They were mates, had always been mates. And they were both engaged to other people. But she couldn't let go of that dream. And she allowed herself to enjoy the moment briefly.
But still she felt conflicted. She had thought it was the right thing today, to marry Lawrence. She was trying to do something good for once in her life. And now it was impossible to go through with it. Once again she had screwed up her life. After learning all those lessons the hard way, and still here she was again.
"Anyway, we weren't talking about me and Fiona, we were talking about you and that slug. And that was a bloody stupid thing to do! What the hell were you thinking!"
It wasn't so much the anger in his voice that made her cry, but the concern. She had no answer to his question, no answer that she could tell him anyway. She hadn't wanted to cry in front of him. But the tears slipped down her cheeks uncontrollably. She had wanted to protest that she did love Lawrence, that it was none of his business. But she couldn't. And even if she could, he would not have believed it.
She had also wanted to tell him everything, the truth about why she was marrying Lawrence, the truth about her feelings for Alex, but she couldn't do that either.
He didn't say anything, he was just looking at her expectantly.
"What are you looking at?" She asked him as she composed herself.
"Its just….I cant remember the last time I saw you without your boots on."
She couldn't help but smile through the tears "That's just what your father said" She told him, and he smiled back at her.
Taking her hand they walked back to the car. She didn't know what the future would bring, the only thing she knew for certain, was that moment with Alex she felt safe, and secure, and like everything would be ok.