/ Author's Note: Okay, I'm back with another oneshot! This was painful (but fun!) to write. I'm not really that good at stories that are principally about angst or drama (I was all tensed up the whole time I was writing it...), so completing a rather long one shot is quite an accomplishment for me. I've had a few paragraphs of this story written and saved on my computer for ages, and I finally decided to finish it up. The idea mostly stemmed from my great disliking of the KarenxRick couple. It might seem ironic, because this fanfic is about Rick and Karen's wedding, but not all is as it seems. Mwaha. If you listen to Ayumi Hamasaki, I've compiled a little sound track that I listened to while reading this. In this order, it's part of Me, Secret, fated, Together When... and M. Yes, they all added to the atmosphere of the story greatly, I find. Also, those first two lines are from the lyrics of another of Ayumi's songs, HANABI (Fireworks). I reccomend all of 'em. But that's enough rambling, enjoy the fanfic! And once again, writing angst/drama fanfics is not my forte, so I'd really like to know how I did on this. Thanks and Enjoy! End Author's Note /
All the Wrong Reasons
' I'm searching for a shooting star to cast my wishes on,
but dawn draws near, and I won't be able to find one. '
The sky was a perfect, endless blue. The breeze was warm, soothing. There was a faint smell of honey in the air. In other words, It was, undoubtebly, the most absolute perfect conditions that any bride would kill to have on their wedding day. However, as the saying goes - God gave chestnuts to toothless people. Karen Lucine, who's wedding just happened to be on this, the most gorgeous of days possible for a wedding, was not at all happy with the weather, or, for that matter, with anything. One would think, that since everyone says that the happiest day of a girl's life is their wedding day, that Karen would not be dragging her feet, frowning, and silently helping herself to breakfast when she got up that day. She poured milk into her bowl of cereal, and grabbed a spoon. Her parents were not yet up, as it was barely six in the morning. Karen's sleep had been restless - she tossed and turned and shifted her body into at least a million different positions, trying to clear her mind and forget about the wedding that was to take place later today. This, however, was easier said than done. Everything, in some way or another, reminded her painfully that today would be the day she sealed her fate as Mrs. Emerson. Her pink pyjamas, for example, were decorated with tiny, cartoony chickens - They had been a gift from her former boyfriend - who was now her fiance.
Rick Emerson was not a bad person. In fact, she was sure that there were many women who would love to be his bride. He was intelligent, sensitive, a good listener, handsome - the list went on. Sure, he could be obnoxious at times, sure, his overly large glasses made him look like a dork, and sure, he may be a bit too infatuated with chickens at times, but still, he was a great guy, and an ideal husband. Only an idiot would dread being his wife.
'I must be an idiot, then.' Karen thought to herself, burying her face in her hands. She stroked her long, golden hair with her fingers and rested her sleep-deprived eyes. 'The biggest idiot ever.'
'It's normal to be nervous on your Wedding day.' remarked a small, insignificant voice in Karen's head. This voice was the one always trying to rationalize everything.
'But this isn't nerves,' piped up another voice. 'No, no, this is something much worse. Apprehension, maybe? Fear? Consternation?' And this voice was the one that brought reality crashing down on her every so often.
She ran her hand through her hair again, unable to believe that these thoughts were coming from within her. She had known all along that these feelings were present, dormant, perhaps, deep inside her. But now, for the first time, she was admitting to herself that they were there - and, that they were right. It was a frightening thing to realise on the day of your wedding.
Karen felt a certain peace within the room as she listened to the kettle boil. The golden rays of light, though enfeebled by the curtains, filled the room with a tranquil ambience. The birds sang their delicate melody, adding to the effect. She poured herself a cup of tea and pressed it against her lips, wishing it was strong liquor instead.
'How the hell did I get myself into this?' the girl asked herself, burying her face once more in her hands. Rather than feeling like the best morning of her life, it felt like the last morning before a new era; the one where she would no longer be Karen Lucine, but Karen Emerson. An era she dreaded greatly. The question that had been bubbling up in her thoughts lately finally had the change to surface. 'Why am I marrying him?'
Time seemed to speed up at an uncontrollable rate. Before she knew it, the village of Mineral Town was buzzing with activity - it was small enough that, even within the kitchen of her house, she could feel the excitement emanating from the rest of the village. Her mother, Sasha, had walked downstairs with a blazing aura around her that was impenetrable. She cooked Karen a 'proper' breakfast, insisting that she'd need the energy for the day. Karen refused it, having satisfied herself with her simple bowl of cereal. Sasha scoffed and got to work organizing the outfits for herself, her husband, and Karen.
"I never liked wedding dresses." Karen said in a strained voice, leaning on the doorway as she watched her mother unfold the dress on her bed.
"Of course not," she said huffily. "You never liked formal wear of any kind. But Karen, dear, this dress is an important part of our heritage. Almost every woman in our lineage has worn it to their wedding ceremonies."
"Is that why you keep it in a shoebox under your bed?" Karen asked non-chalantly. Her mother pointedly ignored the remark and continued straightening out the dress.
Her father, Jeff, was far more understanding and much less overbearing. Though he was often too much of a push-over, Karen still respected him. He sat at the dining table, shakily drinking coffee from his mug, flipping through the newspaper without any intention of reading any of it.
"You okay?" he asked her, as she took a seat next to him. "Big day, huh?"
"The biggest day of a girl's life." she replied, her words laced with sarcasm that her father didn't pick up.
"That's true... You're going to look stunning in your mother's dress."
"I don't like dresses."
The egde of Jeff's mouth curled into a kind of half-smile. "Neither did your mother."
Karen gaped. "Are you kidding? The way she raves about this one would make you think it was a living creature or something."
"It's important to her. Just go along with it, for today." her father said.
Karen had nothing to do but stare blankly at her fingers as she sat in silence with her father. "Dad..."
Karen was unsure how to phrase this. "Did you ... you know, feel nervous on your Wedding day?" The question was a stupid one, and 'feeling nervous' was putting it lightly in comparison to how she felt.
"Of course. It's perfectly normal." he replied, grinning. "There's nothing to worry about, though."
"Not just nervous." Karen stopped him before he could go on. He looked up at her. "Not just nervous," she repeated. "... but, something worse?"
"Something worse? Honey, I know this is probably the most nerve-wracking day you've ever had to go through, but I assure you, It's nothing more than nerves and fear of the unknown." he said wisely. "Pefectly normal."
'I don't think it's that.' she thought to herself, but didn't pursue the topic. The silence grew between them once again, before er eyes fell on one of the paintings on the wall, one of a tall, proud lighthouse standing on a peninsula. "Are you going to paint me a Wedding portrait?" She asked. If there was another thing, besides being a push-over, that Jeff was known for in Mineral Town, it was his prowess with a paint brush.
"Hm? I don't think so... Wedding portraits are things of the past, I guess. Kano, the photographer, will probably have some pictures taken, though..." he replied, with a poorly concealed tone of bitterness.
Karen felt her stomach lurch as she imagined, for a moment, the picture of the lighthouse being replaced with a picture of her in the intricate wedding gown of her Mother's, walking arm-in-arm with Rick down the aisle. She couldn't picture what her face would look like - would she be crying, perhaps? Or grinning to please the crowd?
The morning slipped by again at an unnatural speed. She had expected, wished that the morning would never end. She stood in front of the mirror, gazing at herself, a doll in a game she did not want to be part of, dressed up as a woman she didn't want to be. The door knocked and her mother's muffled voice requested entry.
"You look gorgeous." She said sentimentally. "I knew you would."
Karen mumbled something incomprehensible, and knew the fear in her eyes showed, for Sasha said, "It's just nerves, dear. It's normal."
'Normal, normal, normal...' Karen repeated in her head. A word echoed so often, it was starting to lose meaning.
Karen's dad was already at the ceremony at the Church, attending to guests, while she got ready with her Mother. Someone knocked on the door below, and Sasha went to answer it. Soon, a girl with bouncy pink locks came bounding up the stairs with immense energy.
"Oh dear goddess." she gasped, when she reached Karen's room. "No, seriously, you may as well be the Goddess, you're that stunning."
Karen returned a sheepish smile that took more effort than usual. "Thanks, Popuri."
Popuri was Karen's maid of honour and best friend, and, incidentally, Rick's sister. Despite being two years younger than her, she and Karen had been close since childhood. Popuri would always play the maid of honour whenever they held a pretend wedding between Karen and Rick as kids. This distant memory seemed to amuse Karen. Back then, she would bully Rick, jump on him, order him around, tease him, annoy him... All because she liked him. Forcing him into her pretend Marriage games had all been part of fulfilling her childhood fantasy of becoming Mrs. Emerson. Things had certainly changed.
Popuri had always been highly supportive of these fake weddings. She was ecstatic about the idea of Karen marrying her older brother, so that the two could be even closer, like sisters. This fantasy of hers had not changed at all. She stood in the doorway, beaming at Karen. "We're going to have the same last name, soon."
"Until you and Kai decide to tie the knot." Karen retorted.
"Hah! We'll never get married, then! Or better yet, I'll just keep my name after we get married." She threw her arm around Karen. "We can finally be sisters."
Popuri's warmth did nothing but pain Karen. She wanted to be Popuri's sister; was this the answer to her question? The reason she was about to marry Rick Emerson?
Karen, Sasha, and Popuri walked together, down the deserted street to the town Church. The village was oddly quiet now, with everyone being assembled at the Church. It left Karen with the feeling of being in the calm before a storm.
"We're going to have to go in from the back," explained Popuri. "And wait there while Rick walks down the aisle and what-not."
Sasha nodded, and added, "Remember, it's bad luck to be seen by the groom before the Wedding ceremony."
Once arriving at the Church, they found Pastor Carter standing outside, waiting for them. Another couple stood with him - the vagabond Cliff, and, with her arm around his waist, the red-head tomboy, Ann. Both were dressed formally for the occasion.
"Karen!" Ann exclaimed, her jaw hanging open. "Drop. Dead. Gorgeous." She winked.
"Uh, Thanks, Ann." Personally, Karen felt hot and uncomfortable under the dress.
Cliff nodded. He wasn't much for words. "Congratulations. Rick's a great guy." He left it at that.
Karen gave Cliff a smile. Mineral Town was notably lacking in young men. There was Rick, of course, and Cliff. Then there was Kai, Popuri's long-distance boyfriend, who only came around during Summer, Gray, the grumpy blacksmith who had fallen for the bookish librarian, Mary, and the Doctor, who was now married to Elli, a nurse who he employed and later fell in love with. Karen's parents had often urged her to "get on with it" and feared that Rick would find another girl and leave Karen to be single forever, eliminating all chances of them getting grand-children. Put in that perspective, this was almost a marriage of convenience - neither of them had any other options, and pretty much everyone in the village had been sure that they would get together since they were little kids. Indeed, Karen suspected that Sasha's visits to Lillia on Sundays gave them ample time to discuss wedding preparations.
So everyone expected this of her, and here she was, about to fulfill their expectations. Another reason, perhaps, why she was about to do this.
The trio continued on, after a brief chat with Carter, and went around the Church to get to the back room. As they passed between the Church's wall and the trees of the forest, they could hear the muffled sounds of excited talking from within the Church. Memories surfaced, as she knew they would, of the adventures she and Rick would have in the Forest as kids, and, as they grew older, how they would often take walks through the forest, enjoying the shade that the canopy of leaves provided.
The back room was dusty and dimly-lit, a sure-sign that it was rarely used. It was made up of a small, wooden vanity, and a dusty crate in front of it. Sasha produced a water bottle from under her coat and placed it on the vanity. "Drink, you don't want to lose your voice when reciting your vows."
With that, Popuri produced a small stack of cue-cards with Karen's vows printed neatly on them. Karen took them and looked over them with a feeble attempt in memorizing them. 'What's the point?' she thought bitterly, looking down at the black ink. 'It's not like I mean any of the things I'm about to tell him.'
Someone knocked on the door, and Popuri opened it. Karen turned around, to see Popuri and Rick's mom, Lillia, enter, being supported by a short man in a ridiculous-looking top-hat.
"Sorry, sorry, ladies. I was just helping Lillia walk over here." said Mayor Thomas, blushing slighlty. Karen automatically got up to offer the crate to Lillia, but she shook her head and leaned against the wall instead, breathing heavily. Popuri rushed to her side and thanked Thomas, who shut the door and returned to the ceremony.
"Karen," wheezed Lillia. "You're so beautiful."
Karen felt another stab of pain. Lillia, though having vibrant pink curls like her daughter, was extremely frail and sickly. She suffered from a rare and mostly unheard-of disease, which made her extremely feeble. Her husband, Rod, had left a good ten years ago to search the desert for a rare and potent plant that could cure her, but his time away had left her to become even more ill and, though no one dared to voice it, the village had made a silent agreement that Rod was not coming back. Whether it was because he was incapable of, or because he was still searching for the plant, no one knew - but after ten, long years, it was hard to keep one's hopes up. Lillia had always liked Karen. No, she had most definitely loved her. She often proclaimed that Karen was already like a second daughter to her, and that she'd like nothing more than for her to settle down with Rick. Karen always volunteered to help Lillia out whenever she stayed at Rick's, and Lillia had not only become very fond of her, but very dependent on her as well. There was no doubt in her mind; she was certain since day one that Karen would grow up to be Mrs. Emerson. Of course, everyone was certain of this; even Karen was at one point.
This was surely another reason Karen was marrying Rick. Karen was like a wish come true for her. Another daughter to be there for her was just the thing someone as sickly as Lillia needed. Karen's entire life seemed to lead up to this point, and after all that time of being in love with Rick, she couldn't let Lillia down now. The consequences would be devastating.
"I just wanted to see how you were doing." Lillia said feebly. She lifted herself up again from against the wall and wobbled over to Karen. Her attempt at a hug resulted in her practically falling on Karen, but it was all the same in the end. "I'm so, so, proud to be able to call you my daughter-in-law." Her voice quivered with emotion.
Karen saw, over Lillia's bushy pink hair, the smiling faces of her mother and Popuri, and she couldn't take it anymore. She wanted to tear off the dress, run from them, run from the village, and never turn back. All of these feelings dissolved into a small sob. Lillia released her and backed away, smiling warmly. Sasha and Lillia left the two girls on their own, and Karen had to be a doll for a few more moments as Popuri fixed her make up and her hair. She worked in silence, and Karen kept in tears that threatened to spill out, in respect for her friend's work. She adjusted the veil delicately on Karen's head.
After Popuri finished, Karen stared into the mirror, at a face that wasn't hers, and this illusion had nothing to do with the make up she had on.
"Ready?" Popuri said, her voice trembling with excitement. Without an answer, Karen got to her feet and proceeded to the door.
As she made her way around to the front of the Church again, she found only her father standing there this time. He flushed at the sight of her, but the grin across his face did not shift. Without words, he pulled her into a hug, and then took her arm. "Let's do this, then."
The grand oak doors of the Church swung open, and the crowd was silenced at once. The two children of the village, May and Stu, walked along the path throwing multicolour flower petals in every direction. Mary played a hymn of the Harvest Goddess on the organ, a traditional piece played at weddings. The church seemed somehow much bigger, and much more intimidating, with all of the people seated inside it, each pair of eyes on Karen. The candles on the walls were all alit with dancing flames, even in broad daylight. The natural light, on the other hand, filtered in, in many colours, through the stained glass windows. All of it stung Karen's senses, and though her body and mind protested, she took a step and began the longest walk of her life.
She walked forward, one step at a time, feeling unaware that she was moving at all. She heard stifled sobs and was sure they were coming from her mother and mother-in-law. She kept her eyes low, not daring to look up at the person at the end of the aisle, afraid of what she might do once she finally looked into his eyes. Through the tears in her eyes, the entire church seemed like a bright blur of colours and lights.
Karen wasn't sure how or when she had come to this point. The point where she no longer loved Rick, but was far too deep into the relationship to back out. The point where she was marrying him, not for herself, but for everyone around her - Popuri, her parents, Lillia, the entire village...
She didn't love him. She was marrying him for all the wrong reasons. As she approached the altar, she felt hot tears spill out of her eyes. Beaming faces surrounded her - they mistook her tears for ones of joy. She vaguely wondered if this gown, in all of the generations upon generations of weddings it's seen, had ever been stained with the tears of one who was about to make a pact with one she didn't love.
Karen finally opened her eyes to see Rick in front of her, his smiling face, his soft smile, his gentle eyes. She had a savage urge to break them, to shatter every smiling face in the building. She looked at him, unable to imagine what her face must look like during this maelstrom of emotions. She heard Carter speak, but did not take in his words. She heard Rick make his vows, but did not pay attention to a single one. She mumbled through her own, certain she had made many mistakes, but not caring.
"Do you, Rick Emerson, take Karen Lucine as your lawfully wedded wife, to live together in the state of matrimony? Will you love and honor her in health, sickness, prosperity, and adversities, 'til death parts you?" Carter recited, though Karen did not hear.
"I do." said Rick's voice. Like a knife, his words came cutting down into Karen's mind, forcing her ears to open and listen.
"Do you, Karen Lucine, take Rick Emerson as your lawfully wedded husband, to live together in the state of matrimony? Will you love and honor him in health, sickness, prosperity, and adversities, 'til death parts you?" Carter repeated.
Karen felt as if the light of the Harvest Goddess herself was shining down on her as she opened her mouth. The Church bells rang overhead, drowning out the greatest lie ever uttered within the walls of Mineral Town's Church.