I'll take her laughter and her tears

And make them all my souvenirs

For where she goes I've got to be

A year and a half had passed by since the night she had left me alone in bed, rushed outside and vanished through the streets of New York, trying to escape from her feelings; or just from mine. I wish they had been hers for embracing then the soft shapes of some happy end. Perhaps we should have talked about it instead of keep on pretending that nothing had happened. At least it would have been clear, no matter the final decision we would have taken. She would have shaken her head then turned her back at me and even though I wouldn't have been able to forget the slightest thing, I would have accepted it and begun a new page of my existence; far from Karen, so close to her image I had fallen for. Who would have cared if I had chosen to live contemplating my past? As long as we're quiet, people stay silent about our choices. It's all about delicacy, like the perfect curves of her lips and the warmness of her hands on me. She could have smiled too, then rushed into my arms and we would be so happy now; together. I wouldn't have hurt Vince and even less started my notebook. She wouldn't have found about it at the worst moment of her life when doubts were getting mixed with fears for the engagement she was about to take.

But it didn't happen like that and I found myself alone, one more time, staring blankly at the door she had slowly closed behind her while leaving my suite in Vegas, confused and shocked.

Time speeded up and the ceremony approached. For a couple of minutes I felt the urge to pack my things and go away but the bright sincerity of her eyes came back to me through a melancholic whirl. She may have nodded to Lyle's whims but she still had some feelings and I knew she needed me here; in spite of all. The air was hot, almost suffocating when I reached the slot machine floor and the constant ringing of the coins falling down against a metallic support seemed to press on my ears and burn my heart. The guests were already there, so was Lyle Finster. I sat on one of the last benches left, my heart beating too loud for some anxious reasons. I had spoiled everything through a couple of words. I would have never imagined it could be, that vocabulary was so dangerous and strong but then I realized that it hurt a lot more than a physical gesture because it remained engraved in our souls then; unforgettable injury, ridiculous excuse for being alive and daring to act. All of a sudden I caught his gaze. Oh God, Grace… I had almost forgotten her in the middle of the little tragedy playing in my head. I opened my mouth to speak to Leo but he was way too far to start such intimate conversation so I simply frowned and interrogated his gaze but very soon he turned around and I looked down. After all who was I to judge his demeanor? I didn't have more success in my own life.

My throat began to sore and I swallowed back my pain, clenching my fists, trying to concentrate on some superficial aspect of the room; the flowers, the chairs, anything that would keep me away from Karen. But it didn't work at all and so I left. My feet led me among the crowd of strangers losing money in a motion of breathing but nothing sounded right there. I was wandering through the symbol of vice and anonymity while I was looking for my real identity. I heard the wedding march in the background and couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in disbelief. Karen would definitely always surprise me for her unexpected choices. And then I stopped, focalizing on my thoughts and the cries of my soul. I needed her to go on, no matter it would just be a friendship, an odd one but which uniqueness would never be able to get substituted. I arrived at the doors breathless, leaning against the golden frame just in time to see her back and the line of her ankles; the delicacy of this nape I had thought mine, once.

She had tied up her hair. I love when she does and the little strands that caress her skin make her shiver in a lovely motion of grace. She didn't look fragile but full of this self-confidence that sounded so wrong to me, so false. She seemed to be serene and Lord knows how she was fighting to keep a straight face in spite of the fire of feelings running in her veins, probably making her heart suffer.

"Karen Walker, would you like to…"

The priest's voice faded away, buried by the loud screams of my pain. The end was there, our end; if only there was actually a beginning to speak about. But a sudden brouhaha coming from the guests made me look up, confused. All the gazes were turned towards Karen who hadn't answered yet. What was she waiting for? I stood up firmly on my feet, intrigued by this weird behavior and plunged in the state of confusion like all the rest of the people there. She turned her face to Lyle and stared at him as if she were looking in his features the reason of her silence but then her hazel eyes looked down at the marble ground. She seemed to be so small at the altar, holding ridiculously a bouquet of lilies and roses. It was so evident she had nothing to do with the entire scene.

I don't know why her hazel eyes began to scan the benches with an ounce of fears and a ton of insecurities weighing on the awkward movement. I guess she stopped breathing when our gazes crossed each other's. It probably didn't last more than a few seconds but I felt like time had been suspended and the loud beats of our respective hearts were covering the noise of the slot machines in the background and players' laughter, their tears. Her lips started shaking as a fine line of pain stopped by her forehead, distorting the usual grace of her face. She shook her head at me and swallowed back the cries that were only asking for running on her cheeks; then murmured to herself, to Lyle, to the guests, to me. Nobody knew.

"I can't."

My brown eyes slowly slid from her face to the ground, vaguely noticing her curves underneath her white dress and I jumped under the gasps; then looked up as the clicking of a pair of high heels resounded loud in the uncomfortable silence of the chapel. Lifting up her dress to prevent from falling, Karen left the altar and ran to me. For the second time in my life she rushed into my arms, grabbed my neck and captured my lips. But there was nothing hungry in this kiss; it was just sweet and desperate; needed. However I have to confess it also tasted of her tears, without any regret though. We broke apart and she locked her eyes with mine, smiling brightly under her uncontrollable cries.

No, there was no regret; just hopes for a better life to her side.

This is how it all started, at least publically. Five years have passed by since Karen rushed in my arms in Las Vegas. We have never really broken apart since then. She may be exhausting sometimes and sounds as spoiled as a child, but I still need her laughter, her tears; the way she looks at me half-asleep when she wakes up in the morning, or our late-night kiss, so soft and quiet. I feel like I already know her by heart though there's still plenty of details left to be found out and they light up our days, feed my heart with joy and the chance to be in love. Because I do love her and she loves me too. She's the mother of my children, the reason why I'm still here today. I stopped looking at the past; I just became addicted to our present life.

You did it in an attempt of protection because you cared so much about her. Then you realized you couldn't live without being there, next to her. It was a dangerous game and while pretending you were dead, you ended up losing her. It's too late, Stanley. I'm sorry for you. It's all over. I didn't let her go for dreading the situation you're facing now. She's the reason of my life, the only one. I didn't steal her from you. She just embraced my heart and I abdicated. That's why I told her about my feelings; that's why I did it.

You ruined your chance with her, Stanley. I saved mine.

The meaning of my life is

She, oh she