This isn't a When It Happens fic; it's Take Me There, also by Susane Colasanti. It was inspired by the song Today by Gary Allan; hope you like.
Seven months ago, Rhiannon showed up at my apartment and told me Steve had proposed.
I faked a smile and told her how happy I was for her, how glad I was that it had worked out between them. And then I sat beside her on the couch and listened to her go on and on about how he'd done it and how sweet it was and what her dress was going to look like. My heart was breaking, but I just kept talking, not having the heart to wipe that overjoyed look off her face.
"James?" Rhiannon asked at one point. "I was thinking, and y'know, my dad never was home much, we're not close at all… so I… I was wondering if you would walk me down the aisle instead?"
I looked away so she wouldn't see my face and made myself say, "Yeah, sure. I'd be happy to." When in reality, that wasn't where I wanted to be in her wedding. I wanted to be the one slipping that ring on her finger, not the one giving her away so someone else could do it.
"Thanks, James!" She threw her arms around my neck. "You are seriously the best friend ever."
Once she had left, I stood in my apartment, hands in my pockets, and looked around. It was big and spacious; my career as a software designer had served me well, as I'd expected. But now, I realized, it didn't even matter. Because I had no one to share it with.
* * *
Today, I'm standing in the back of the church with Rhiannon on my arm, watching the wedding party take their places at the front. I can see Steve waiting expectantly, and rage rises up in my chest. He doesn't deserve her. He broke her heart, threw himself at Gloria, and only came crawling back to Rhiannon when he was dumped by the school It-girl. Who was it who'd bought her those flowers? Brought her Cinnabon? Been there for her when he was the cause of her pain?
We were alone. I could tell her that I was the one she should be with, right now, before I walked her down the aisle. This was my one and only chance; soon, it would be too late.
I turn to Rhiannon and open my mouth at the exact same moment she says, "James, I want to tell you how grateful I am for everything you've done for me. You've been there for me since seventh grade, and I just… thank you. So much."
My heart melts as she wraps her arms around my waist and rests her cheek on my chest. I hug her back and look down at the peaceful, happy expression on her face and know that I can't ruin that. As much as I want her to be mine, her happiness is more important. And right here, right now, about to marry Steve, she is happy.
* * *
That night we danced on the pier was the one I still replay over and over in my head, despite the fact that it's been eight years. That was the night I was going to confess my feelings for her; it was going to become the best of my life. And then it became the worst.
Rhiannon was in my arms, her head on my chest, and my arms were around her as we swayed to the music coming from the iPod. It was amazing, and I knew that we were meant to be.
As soon as this realization hit me, suddenly yet not surprising, I wanted nothing more than to press my lips to hers. And so I took her hand and twirled her, then wrapped my arms around her and pulled her back to my chest.
I leaned down slightly, and Rhiannon tilted her face up toward mine, and our lips were being pulled together by some invisible force, and I could hear her breathing--
Her phone rang.
We jumped at the sound and leapt apart as if we'd been caught doing something wrong, and she bit her lip as she dug through her purse for her cell. It kept on ringing, and I fought the incredible urge to grab the whole bag and throw it somewhere else so we could return to our moment of bliss.
Rhiannon gasped as she pulled the phone out and looked at the caller ID. "It's Steve."
There was shock and fear in her eyes, but these were both outweighed by the hope in them.
My heart sunk.
* * *
I walk Rhiannon down the aisle, watching her out of the corner of my eye. The veil is covering her hair and face; I try not to think about Steve lifting it later so he can kiss her. Right now I have to focus on walking these last few feet without exploding.
We reach the alter, and Rhiannon slips her arm out of mine. She looks up and gives me a heartbreakingly sweet smile, and I can't resist moving that veil out of the way myself so I can press my lips against her cheek.
"Thank you," she whispers for the second time in the past five minutes, and I nod. That's all I can get out. I move to a pew.
The ceremony begins, and I can't keep my eyes off Rhiannon. My stomach twists as I wait for my final chance. Nothing else the preacher says registers until it comes.
"If anybody has a just cause of why these two should not be joined together, speak now or forever hold your peace."
I almost do. The muscles in my legs are itching to leap up, but I grip the edge of the pew because I had to put her first. Even if I know we belong together, she doesn't, and that's where it falls apart. She doesn't love me. Given the chance, she would, but… we lost that chance.
Rhiannon and Steve exchange their vows. I purse my lips.
They're pronounced man and wife. I want to look away, but I can't.
He kisses his bride.
I blink back tears.
But I stay seated and force a smile so I appear to be the best friend I've always been thought to be. One who's just happy for her. One who's going to get a good night's sleep tonight because he won't be up all night tearing his hair out.
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