L is for Love… Or is it for Loss
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the TV show and its producers, writers, and actors, nor do I own any of the characters in it.
Rating: PG-13 for some language.
I stood outside the door to her dressing room, my right hand closed in a fist, ready to knock, but I hesitated and brought the hand to my face instead. I rubbed the bridge of my nose, closing my eyes in the process as thoughts started to overflow my mind.
I can't do this. I can't see the look on her face when I tell her. Maybe I can leave a note, or maybe Alice can help me—Damn it, Shane. Get a grip. You're going to tell Carmen that you can't marry her, and you're going to tell her yourself, even if it kills you to do it. She deserves that from you at least. Just don't look into her eyes. Look anywhere but her eyes. You know you won't be able to say it if you do.
I exhaled a breath I didn't know I was holding, running a hand through my hair in frustration before taking a step aside, clenching my right fist and pressing it hard against the wall as I leant my forehead against it. Just as I was about to walk away, the door opened, and her voice made me freeze in my tracks.
I instinctively turned my head to the source of the voice, my eyes widening a little as I noticed that she was already in her wedding gown, almost all set to go. The realization sent my gaze flying towards the opposite direction again, and I instantly shut my eyes, trying to block out the image that I had just witnessed.
Fuck. She just has to look like that, doesn't she? Damn it. Damn the dress. Damn that smile. She looks beautiful. Well, what do you expect? She's always been beautiful. Now let's see you pull yourself out of this one, Shane. Fuck, pull yourself together and just spit it out—or at least say something—anything.
The feel of her hand on my shoulder made me jerk away in surprise. I turned around and took a couple of steps backwards, my heart beginning to pound even faster than it already was when I noticed that the smile on her face was replaced with a look of confusion.
She knows something's wrong.
"Is something wrong?"
She knows. She knows.
"Uhmmm… w-why w-would you say that?" I stuttered through my response, nervously rubbing the back of my neck as my heart threatened to leap out of my mouth.
"You're not ready," she answered.
In more ways than you can imagine.
"You're not dressed yet," she pressed on. The cowardly part of me hoped that she would guess what was going on and I wouldn't have to tell her myself, but it obviously wasn't going to happen.
"…We're not getting married, are we?" she finally asked.
Okay, so maybe she did guess it correctly.
I looked down, trying to interest myself on a particular stain on the carpet, unable to bring myself to confirm her suspicions.
"Damn it, Shane! Talk to me!" The helplessness in her voice made me snap my head back up, but the stubborn side of me still refused to look her in the eyes.
Oh god. She's crying— I know she is. I can feel it. Fuck, I've made her cry. Yeah, well what did you expect her to do, genius? Smile and tell you that it's okay?
"Shane," she pleaded as a small sob escaped her lips. Unable to take it anymore, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close, my face tilted downwards as my nose burrowed into her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," I heard myself finally say, "I'm so sorry."
"…Why?" She maintained a quiet voice, but nevertheless, that simple question rung in my ears, almost deafeningly.
"I…" I stopped, suddenly unable to put my thoughts into words, suddenly unable to remember just exactly why I couldn't marry the woman that I have grown to love more than anything else in the world. Silence enveloped us, and for a split second I wondered where everyone else was—probably downstairs waiting.
"I should have known better than try to marry the most unattainable woman in California."
Her voice jolted me out of my thoughts once more, and as the words sunk in my brain, I couldn't help but feel slightly offended. I released her, stepping back to take a better look at her.
Okay, so she has a point, but I'm not about to let her know that.
"You heard me," she retorted, her voice now stronger as she stared right back at me, hastily wiping her tears with the back of her hand. I let out a cry of protest, my defensive side getting the better of me this time.
"Well, yeah, I heard you. 'Most unattainable'—what the fuck, Carmen? I proposed!"
She narrowed her eyes at me.
"Damn right you were the one who proposed! And now look who's running away!"
Clearly, she's not planning on backing down anytime soon. You're fighting a losing battle, you know, and you're not exactly coming up with the best arguments, either.
"Running away? I'm not running away!"
Gee, that sounded so much better. But I'm not running away—I'm not—really!
"Then what do you call this? You couldn't even tell it to my face."
She's calling you a coward. Yeah, Shane, that's exactly what you are—a big, fat, freaking coward.
"Well, I'm here now aren't I? I'm still here."
"For now," she muttered, scoffing at the faint hint of satisfaction in my voice.
"God damn it, what do you want from me?" I felt the volume of my voice rise in exasperation and my shoulders start to tense up.
"What do you think? I want to know why you changed your mind! I want to know why you don't want to marry me."
Who said I didn't want to marry you? What the fuck, Shane, you did. No, I didn't. I said I couldn't. Those are two different things. God damn, SHUT UP. Fuck, I'm really going out of my mind.
I leant back against the wall and slid down until I felt my butt hit the ground. I hugged my legs to my chest to try to stop myself from shaking.
"It's not about not wanting to marry you—I just—I just can't," I answered, sounding defeated, my voice barely audible. I turned to see that she had crouched down, her arm reaching for me, but just before her hand came in contact with my face, I flinched and tore my gaze away from her.
"What are you so afraid of?" Her question set off a million alarms ringing in my head.
What am I afraid of? EVERYTHING!
I shook my head, almost as if trying to shake the thoughts out of my head.
"L-look, I can't, okay? I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to make a commitment like that. I don't know how to 'be in a marriage'—I don't know any marriages that have worked out. And my dad—he—I just—I can't end up like him. It's better for us—for you. You—you deserve better."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" she asked with a sigh, reaching for my cheek for a second time, and this time, I let her. "Before we got together, you didn't know how to be in a relationship either, but look how far we've gone since then, look at everything we've been through. Sure, you made mistakes, but I did, too. We all do."
"But marriage is different… it's forever," I heard myself continue to argue.
"So what, you're going to call off the marriage and break up with me?"
I gaped at her in surprise.
No, no, no—that wasn't the plan! The plan was—ugh, I don't even think I had one. Of course you didn't. You never have a plan—why would this time be different? All you thought of was not going through with the wedding. You didn't even think of what could happen afterwards.
"Break-up? God, no, I still want to be with you… I just…"
"Can't marry me," she finished for me. I heaved a sigh and clenched my fists.
"You're not making this easier," I said before I could stop myself.
That's it, Shane. You're now officially an ass.
"Easier for who—for you?"
I sighed again in irritation, aware that I had caused the anger in her voice.
God damn, you're really an ass. Who are you kidding, thinking you could simply call off the wedding and you could both go back to the way things were and that everything would work out… Since when were you going to learn that life just doesn't work that way? Would marriage REALLY be that bad? Can you really imagine your life with anyone else?
"You know what? You're right," she spoke up again, and I looked intently at her, waiting for her to continue, "I do deserve better."
Ouch… okay, so I deserved that. I know I did.
I opened my mouth to reply, but she held up her hand, and I shut it again.
"I deserve better than this… I deserve better than to have you play me along. That's all it ever was to you, wasn't it? That's all I ever was—a game."
Her statement sent a torrent of angry objections reeling in my head.
What the fuck!? Where did she get that? I LOVE HER. She knows that! Well, tell her then, stupid.
"What the hell are you—you know you were never—you know I—" I blurted out, trying to find a way to voice my thoughts, but she cut me off.
"I was always just there… I was there waiting for you to finally come around and realize your feelings for me. I was there waiting to see if you would change your mind and finally allow yourself to be in a relationship for once… I was there until you decided; I was there after you cheated—"
"I wasn't the only one—you cheated too—" I butt in, trying to defend myself.
"Let me finish."
I tried to speak again, but the firm look on her face told me that it was wiser to just do what she wanted me to do. I nodded and waited for her to speak.
"I was there, Shane, and you know it. I was there, and you know what? I'm not going to be 'just there' anymore, waiting for you to decide whether or not you want me as your wife. You never thought you could lose me, and I guess that's the problem. You've always had me. Well, there you have it. I'm tired of waiting around for you. I love you, Shane, God knows, I do, and I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with you, but I don't want to—no—I can't. I can't stay with you and wonder every second if you're thinking about running away. I'm done."
She stood up, smoothing the back of her gown, and turned around to walk away. I immediately panicked, thoughts about losing her flooding my mind, and all of a sudden I felt like someone was wringing my neck with both hands. I quickly pushed myself off the ground and grabbed her arm. Her body stiffened, but she stopped walking nevertheless.
"Wait," I managed to muster, "I just… Please, don't go. I don't want to—I can't lose you."
"No, Shane. I can't—I can't do this anymore." Her voice was once again reduced to merely a whisper. She tried to leave again, but I kept my solid grip on her.
She whirled around, the pained expression painted on her face making me wince.
You see that look on her face, Shane? You caused that. You're the cause of her pain—again. You better make it right this time or you're going to lose her forever.
"They're waiting for us," I heard myself saying, and she looked at me questioningly, her eyebrows rising a little. I swallowed the lump in my throat and licked my lips.
"They're waiting for us," I repeated, this time sounding surer of myself, "Let's get married."
She sighed and shook her head, pulling her arm away.
"Look, I don't want you to feel obligated to marry me. I'm sorry I gave you an ultimatum. Maybe you're right. Maybe we just—"
"I want to marry you." I interrupted her mid-sentence.
I don't know what made me change my mind—maybe it was the fear that I would really lose her for good, or maybe I've never stopped wanting to marry her and I just needed her reassurance—maybe it was something else—but at that moment I knew that I could do it. Forget what my dad said, or what anyone else said or will say. I, Shane McCutcheon, am fully capable of settling down and spending the rest of my life with one person and only one person. I can, I want to, and I will, marry Carmen.
The sudden realization formed a small smile on my face. Knowing that she was now watching me anxiously, I brought my hand to her chin, tilting it upwards as my lips met with hers. She paused, still uncertain, but the moment I wrapped my other arm around her waist, she relaxed and started to kiss me back.
"You were right," I started when I pulled away later, nodding along with my words, "I can do this, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life proving it to you. I know you deserve better, but I want to try to be that better person for you. Marry me, please."
Fresh tears sprung from her eyes again, but this time, they were accompanied by a wide grin that I countered with a shy smile of my own. I cupped her cheek as I used my thumb to wipe her tears away. Then, I brought her close to me once more, placing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Let's do this." I murmured before pulling away. She nodded, a look of determination now dancing across her eyes.
I sighed in relief.
"I'll just go… get dressed, and you can finish getting ready, okay? I'll see you in… let's say… fifteen minutes?" I said, turning to head back, but she pulled me back, a slight look of fear in her eyes. I looked at her in confusion, but I suddenly understood, quietly cursing at myself for making her feel so vulnerable and uncertain. I leaned forward to capture her lips with mine before resting my forehead against hers. "I'm not going to run away, okay, babe? I promise. You're stuck with me for good. I love you."
She nodded, my assurance seeming to have calmed her down. She beamed at me, reaching forward to brush her fingers against my cheeks to wipe the wet streaks from my face—I didn't even know when the tears had managed to leak from my eyes. I smirked back at her, and with another swift kiss, I turned around and walked away to get ready for my wedding.
Yeah, you heard me right. I guess I'm getting married today after all.