I Loved Her First.
"I was enough for her not long ago.
I was her number one;
she told me so.
And she still means the world to me
just so you know."
- Heartland – I Loved Her First
They'd gathered in the country club; a sizeable space filled with numerous round tables able to seat eight draped in laced linens and meticulously set with clear porcelain and shining silverware. Bunches of lilacs and orchids had been set in white, wicker baskets, topped with silken, pink bows and by each place, a clear champagne glass was filled with Easter-coloured treats. Cards written in a neatly calligraphic hand indicated the spot of each guest.
From the ceiling hung a large chandelier, the kind associated with a Victorian-style ballroom, lit just enough to set a romantic mood while maintaining uninhibited vision. The walls were touched with bouquets of the florist's finest white roses and bunches of pink and white balloons, and far at the other end, opposite the tables and beyond a cleared space for festive party-goers, a short stage – accessible via an almost strained leg lift and slight jump – was currently a bustle of technicians tuning the equipment, adjusting volume and setting tracks while the microphone was plugged in.
Unfortunately, despite the top-notch air conditioning system, the South Ashfield summer heat was unavoidable and James tugged at the collar of his tuxedo uncomfortably, trying to remember the last time he'd spent the entire day in a stuffy, black suit. All that came to mind was the only other wedding he'd attended: his and Mary's.
He stood off to the side, near a bobbing bunch of balloons. He hoped the distance and ideal situation next to a vent would provide ample air, but so far was having little luck. Sweat beaded along his hairline and ran down his shoulder blades.
Between the swaying couples, each dressed exquisitely and lost in one another's gaze, he could see the new bride and her groom and his stomach plummeted like a large stone.
Suddenly, he felt a presence beside him and turned his head slowly. An elderly man in a polka dot bowtie approached with a glass of bubbling liquid. He leaned against the wall, supporting himself on one bent knee and held out the glass. "You looked like you could use one."
James stared at it hesitantly. He'd been on the wagon for sixteen years, improving a little more every day. He wasn't perfect, but he no longer sought companionship in the bottle, no longer lived in a treacherous fantasy of violent passion constructed by a suppressed sexual appetite. And he wasn't going to ruin all of that now.
Frank laughed gently, reading his son's thoughts as they passed through his eyes. "Don't worry; it's just sparkling water."
Assured, he accepted the glass and polished it off in five seconds, dribbling down his chin. Despite the bubbles, it was refreshing. Afterwards, he stared at the empty glass, wishing it would magically refill. But it didn't and he could already feel his throat start to dry again.
"How are you holding up?" Frank asked, nursing his own champagne.
Crossing his legs at the ankles, James tilted his head slightly, watching the newlyweds with a pang of jealousy. "Well, considering the only woman I've ever cared about besides Mary has just walked out of my life and into another's, and he's still breathing, I'd say pretty good."
Frank laughed, though knew not the haunting seriousness behind his son's statement. Sometimes, James wondered if that monster with the caged head he'd seen in Silent Hill hadn't lingered after all. He'd shed no further blood after Mary, but that didn't stop the thoughts from creeping into his psyche once in a while.
"It'll get easier in time. Besides, you've been together for sixteen years; regardless of who comes into your life, you don't forget something like that."
James rolled his shoulders, unsure. Yes, they'd been together sixteen years, but those sixteen years hadn't been easy. There'd been much anger to overcome during the first few months. Even now, their relationship was fragile at best. He knew there were days when she mourned the friend – the life – she never had because of him. Sometimes he didn't wonder if she'd only stayed with him because she had no other option.
He watched the bride whisper something to her new husband and step away, holding her dress as she wove through the crowd, muttering apologizes to those she rudely squeezed passed. She smiled upon seeing him, but hesitated before coming closer. She swallowed and there was nervousness behind her smile. "You disappeared after the ceremony," she said. "I was worried you were upset."
He shrugged and admitted, "A little. But that's only because my little girl is all grown up."
Laura flushed and glanced away. Then, she stood tall, like the confident young woman she'd always been. "Do you want to dance? We never got the chance to have ours."
Slowly, he nodded and took her hand delicately, letting her lead him through the couples into the center of the floor. The next song started up; a piano instrumental she'd requested especially for this moment. He felt all eyes on them as he held her hand and hip gently and she rested hers on his shoulder.
She was beautiful in her dress, a sleeveless gown with a sweetheart neckline embroidered with real diamonds and silver thread. Her blonde hair was curled and pinned to look like flower petals and her eyes and lips were touched lightly with pink. He wondered how she'd gone from that spunky little child to this beautiful woman over night.
They were silent for a while, and James could see her eyes sparkling with unwilling tears. They were not the tears of joy that generally accompanied weddings and the prospect of new life with one's beloved. He released her hand as the dance faded to an end and carefully wiped her eyes without smudging her makeup.
"Mary would be very proud of you," he whispered, knowing it was what she needed to hear.
Laura's chest shook, her eyes closed and she fell into him, wrapping her arms tightly around his back, pushing her face into his chest. Her nails pressed into his skin and she fought off a wave of anger and hatred.
It shouldn't have been like this. Though the disease would have likely killed Mary regardless, she held onto the belief that if James had loved her a little more, she would still be here. They should have been a family.
But she caught herself, feeling the love and sorrow in his arms. They were a family, albeit far from a perfect one. No one had loved her before Mary and James came along – though the latter took a good while. No one had allowed her to simply be a child, to play in the yard until it grew dark, or have pizza in the living room while watching a movie when she was supposed to be in bed. No one took her to the amusement park, buying her cotton candy and overly priced cheap souvenirs from the gift shop.
But he had. When she was nine, he bought her a pink bicycle with pink and purple tassels on the end, and spent hours jogging behind her, with one hand on the seat so she didn't fall, until she was zipping up and down the street without wobbling. When she woke in the middle of the night, sweating and afraid after some vividly real nightmare assaulted her otherwise pleasant dreams, he welcomed her beside him and held her until she once again slept soundly, and every time she was ill, he'd sit by the couch or bed, replenishing juice boxes, retrieving her favourite toys and holding her hair back when she vomited into the toilet.
He was there when she went to school and when she came home, and in high school, when a boy broke her heart for the first time, he was there to comfort her over a batch of her favourite cookies and the promise that she was too beautiful, too intelligent and kind, to ever end up alone.
She drew back as the couples on the dance floor parted, some returning to their seats, others relaxing and massaging tender feet as they waited for the next track. They were joined by a middle-aged woman in a fitted red dress with thin straps and matching stilettos, her dark hair bundled up in a lazy, messy bun and her features touched with dark makeup.
James recognized her as a clerk from his office; in fact, shortly after Mary'd died – to his everlasting shame – they'd rendezvoused in the men's washroom on the third floor for a quickie during lunch. They'd spoken infrequently since, most of those occasions in the years prior to his eye-opening vacation for repeat performances in sleazy motels and third-class bars. She was married, after all, and sharing Mary's bed left him too guilty.
"Care to dance?" she asked him, standing too close for comfort. She'd long ago left her husband – ironically because he'd had an affair with a woman half her age – and habitually attempted to rekindle their shady romance.
Laura cast a glance at her waiting husband, then turned back. She knew there was a place for only one woman in James' heart, but all the same, he was lonely. If nothing more, she didn't want him to resume his earlier stance of bored wallflower and said, "Why don't you? I have someone waiting for me anyways."
"Are you sure?" James asked, hoping she would be his scapegoat. But Laura nodded earnestly, her gaze assuring her faith in him.
"Yeah." And she kissed his warm cheek before stepping away. "I love you."
"I love you too."
When she was gone, James turned his attention on the woman in the red dress, suppressing self-loathing as he touched her hip and held her hand. He was disgusted with the man he'd once been, wondering how Mary and Laura ever found it in themselves to forgive him. He hadn't deserved it, but he appriciated it.
"That woman," she said thoughtfully, "is too old. Tell me the truth; who is she?"
With a smile, James found Laura in the crowd again. She returned his gaze with a small smile and wave. Then, with absolute sincerity, he answered, "She's my daughter."
Disclaimer: Silent Hill and all characters are property of Konami.
Author's Notes: To be honest, I just wrote this because I wanted another happy Silent Hill fan fic in my collection and I've already written two involving Harry and Heather and the happiest you can get is familial relationships.
I like this idea as an ending for Silent Hill 2 – the fact that James leaves with Laura – but I don't think it'd happen since it's revealed in Silent Hill 4: The Room that Frank Sunderland's son and daughter-in-law "never returned from Silent Hill." So, the "In Water" ending is what I consider to be cannon.
That doesn't mean I don't still like the idea of James and Laura living as a happy '