My reflection stared back at me in the mirror. My white veil cascaded perfectly down the white lace dress that Julia and had I spent weeks trying to pick out. My curly chestnut hair was pinned up loosely, a few curls falling freely. I kept it simple, not wanting to add anymore stress to today than I had to. I never intended on walking down the aisle. Growing up, I never had the normal dreams young girls had. When everyone was dreaming about their wedding, and the perfect man, I was dreaming about college and what I wanted to do with my life. A man was never a top priority for me. Until last year. Last year I decided that he was my whole life, the biggest part of it. Last year I decided that I needed to face my fears, and stop pushing the people that I love away.
"It's beautiful!" I gasped, stepping onto the back deck of his new house. He had saved for months to afford the down payment, and now I understood why he couldn't live without it. He decorated the deck, which I am sure had taken hours upon hours. It sure looked like it. There were white lilies lying on one of the chairs. They were my favorites, and he knew that. We had been dating for almost a year. He knew almost everything, if not everything about me, and I knew more than anything, that he was the guy I was supposed to end up with.
"I love this house," he sighed contentedly, leaning against the railing.
"It's perfect," I agreed, pulling my sweater tighter around my body to fight off the cold night air. Christmas was only a few days away, and I had yet to decide what I was getting him.
"You're perfect," he smiled, pulling me close to him. I laid my head on his shoulder, taking in the view he had from his back porch. I was jealous that he bought himself a house. I wish I could afford one, but after Julia moved in with Garrett, I moved back in with my dad. I had to keep an eye on him and make sure he was eating his Cheerios.
"What color are you going to paint the living room?" I asked him, turning towards him and wrapping my arms tightly around him.
"You don't like the charming color of beige it already is?" he asked, acting shocked that I didn't appreciate the decorum that the standard suburban home came with.
"It is a very interesting shade of boring," I agreed, thoughtfully. He chuckled and pulled me closer.
"I love you, Peyton Elaine Smith," he kissed my forehead, and rested his chin on the top of my head.
"I love you, too," I sighed back, content with how perfect everything seemed right now.
"I didn't buy this house for me," he told me, running his fingers through my hair. I let that sink in for a moment, but I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to say until the next two words came out of his mouth.
"Marry me," he whispered. I closed my eyes and let the reality of everything sink in. There wasn't a ring; he didn't get on bended knee. We weren't that kind of couple. He was too perfect, and I was a wreck. Together, we made sense. Anyone could see that.
"Marry me, Peyton," he whispered again. I felt his cheeks lift up in a smile against my head. In return, I couldn't help but smile. I pulled back and let my hand slide to the back of his neck. I played with the tiny hairs resting on the collar of his shirt. His hair was soft, and I knew how turned on he got when I played with it. I let my head fall back so that I could look into his eyes. I already knew the answer, it was one of the easiest demands anyone had ever asked of me. So I closed my eyes and planted tiny kisses on his lips as I whispered the word, "Yes," over and over again.
"Peyton?" I heard someone call, and I snapped back into reality. I turned to the doorway and saw my best friend standing there. I hadn't seen Julia in a long time, and it was good to see her beautiful smiling face.
"Come here!" I yelled, practically sprinting for the door. She smiled and ran to meet me halfway. Our embrace was cut short when Garrett stumbled his way into the room balancing wedding gifts and Julia's bag.
"Where do these go?" he asked, trying to keep everything from falling. I chuckled and grabbed a few boxes off of the top.
"What is all of this stuff?" I asked, setting the boxes on the floor.
"Presents. From Jared, Pat and Nick. They were just all too lazy to find out where to put them."
"And when he says, Jared, Pat and Nick, he means Tessa, Steph and Nick's mom." Julia informed me. I giggled at the fact that Nick was still living the single life. Pat and his girlfriend Stephanie had been going strong for a few months now. I really liked her, and so did Julie. We were glad that he found someone perfect for him.
"You look," Garrett started, looking me up and down and then let out a wolf whistled. I smiled and turned around so that they could get the full effect.
"I never thought I would see you ever getting married." Julia looked like she was about to tear up and I understood why. We had been each other's everything for years. After she moved in with Garrett and I moved back with my dad, we only saw each other every once in a while.
"Don't cry or I will start crying," I sniffled. She nodded and pulled away to wipe her eyes. Garrett cleared his throat. We were being way too girly and I am sure he felt uncomfortable.
"I'm going to go make sure I have my best man speech ready," he informed us, heading for the door.
"He just doesn't like to see anyone cry, even if they are happy tears," she smiled. "You do look gorgeous," she told me, fixing my veil. "Are you nervous?" she asked me, sitting down on a stool.
"Not at all." I smiled at her. "I have never been more sure about anything in my life."
"Have you heard from-"
"P," I heard my dad yelling down the hall. He got lost in his own house, I am sure he would get lost walking me down the aisle. He was that kind of person.
"In here, dad," I yelled back. Julie squeezed my hand and then left to give my dad and me and moment. She kissed his cheek on the way out.
My newly engaged fiancé and walked into my dad's house on Christmas morning. I was itching to tell him the news. When he wasn't in his chair, I started to panic, but it didn't last long. I heard him singing "Heaven and Hell" by Black Sabbath in the kitchen. He was cooking. I smiled at my fiancé and guided him towards my happy father.
"Hey daddy," I smiled kissing his cheek and grabbing a strawberry out of the bowl.
"Hey baby," he replied. He looked over at my new fiancé and nodded, smiling.
"Morning," my dad told him.
"Good morning, Mr. Smith," he replied politely.
"How many times do I have to tell you to call me Bill?" he asked.
I chuckled at their exchange and then rested my chin on my folded hands, eying my father. He knew what that meant.
"Alright, Peyton, what do you want?" he asked, flipping the pancakes on his griddle.
"I just wanted to tell you that we got engaged. No big deal." My dad just chuckled to himself and poured more batter onto the griddle.
"That's all I get, a chuckle?" I asked, faking hurt.
"I knew you were getting engaged before you did," my dad smiled at me.
"Oh," I bit my lip and looked at my fiancé.
"I asked your dad if I could marry you before I asked you. No big deal," he shrugged, slightly mocking me. I smiled and stood up, wrapping my arms around him.
"Kicking it old school? Mmmm I like it," I whispered, bringing my lips to his.
"Not in the kitchen. Not in front of your father," my dad said, ruining the mood.
"Hey, dad, remember that whole eating healthy thing so you don't end up in the hospital again. How's that going for you? All I see are pancakes and bacon." I mocked.
"Shut up, I have been doing really well. Can I just have one good breakfast? I don't like eating cardboard," he whined, like the baby he was. "It's Christmas morning, my daughter is engaged, and I feel better than I have in years. Pancakes are what I want, and pancakes are what I am going have."
"Fine, but you have to start eating better." I sighed, grabbing another strawberry to snack on.
"Congratulations on the engagement, baby," he smiled, kissing my cheek as he passed me walking to set the pancakes on the table. I looked at my fiancé and smiled at him. Everything was perfect.
"I feel like I need to give you words of wisdom or something," my dad smiled as he took a moment to take in the way I looked. "I don't have any, but you look perfect," he pulled me in for a tight embrace.
"Thank you, daddy," I replied, wrapping my arms around him.
"Uh," he pulled back and sat down on the stool. "The wedding night is-"
"Dad!" I yelled, throwing my hands up to stop him. He was a way too late on the sex talk.
"I know, but I feel like I have to say these things." He justified himself. "I don't know if this is irrelevant now, or very much needed," he continued. I opened my mouth to tell him that he didn't need to do this because I had already had sex before, once. I guess a sex talk wouldn't hurt because I didn't even remember the time that I lost my virginity, but this would be painful and I didn't want to sit through it.
"I don't want to know," he informed me, now throwing his hands up to stop me. "Just be smart about it. I don't think you want the pitter patter of little feet around your new house, is all I am saying." I smiled at his attempt at a sex talk, and wrapped my arms around him again.
"I love you daddy," I sighed, laying my head ontop of his.
"You are the best thing that ever happened to me," he smiled. "And you are going to make this guy so happy. I hope he realizes how lucky he is."
"Oh, he does. Believe me," I smiled. "You're just saying all of this because you have to."
"Nope. You know how much you mean to me. If he ever hurts you, I swear to god I will-"
"Don't worry about it! He won't. Stop being such a dad and walk me down the aisle. It's about that time," I kissed his cheek and grabbed my bouquet of arranged lilies. He nodded, and I grabbed onto his arm.
"Don't do this," he whispered, holding me so close that I could barely breathe.
"I love him, and I want to marry him." I whispered into his shoulder.
"It almost sounds like you are trying to convince yourself," he said, slowly running his hands down my back.
"No, I'm not. I do love him." I said, slowly pulling away.
"You love me too. You told me. You can't say that you don't," he said, grasping at any straws he could to make me call off the wedding.
"I do love you," I whispered, taking a step back so that his hands wouldn't be clouding my judgment anymore. "I just can't be with you."
"But you can," he took another step forward, but I took one step back.
"You can't do this right now, I am getting married tomorrow," I felt the tears that were lingering in my eyes start fall.
"Don't," he said taking another step forward. I didn't step back this time.
"Nothing you say will make me change my mind. He means too much to me to hurt him, and I won't." I told him, meaning every word.
"But I love you," his voice cracked, meaning he was about to get emotional. He couldn't, because that would be the end. I couldn't take it when he cried, it killed me.
"I love you too," I sighed, almost defeated, "I just love him more." I watched his face fall, and it killed me. It killed me.
He closed the distance between us and placed his palm on the side of my face, gently. I looked up into his eyes and almost changed my mind then and there.
"There will never be anyone else I love more than you," he choked out, resting his forehead on mine. My body started shaking with my sobs, my tears blurring my vision. Why was saying goodbye so hard?
"Don't leave," I pleaded. "You can't move. You can't leave me."
"Why not? You're leaving me. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, you are already closing the door," he sucked back his tears, and replaced his hurt features with more authoritative ones.
"I need you here," I pleaded, laying my head on his chest. I heard his heartbeat, pumping at a rapid speed.
"I just need you," he sighed, "but we don't always get what we want, baby," he kissed the top of my head and then had to forcefully unlatch my hands from around him.
"Just because we aren't together doesn't mean that you have to leave," I sobbed, "You are one of my best friends, and I don't want to know what life is like when you aren't-"
"Come with me," he cut me off. I backed away from him forcefully, and shook my head.
"No," I yelled at him, "I can't. I am getting married tomorrow."
"Well," he pushed his hair back, and watched the lights of the houses down the street all flick on at my outburst. They probably thought I was getting raped or mugged. "Then this is goodbye, Peyton Elaine Smith," he said calmly. He ran his fingers through my thick mane of hair, and pulled me in for a kiss. I was expecting it, but I wasn't expecting me to want it. I should have pushed him away, said goodbye and driven back to my dad's. But I didn't. I dug my hands in his hair, and pulled him closer, biting his bottom lip gently. He let out a low grow, and deepened the kiss. And then just as soon as it began, it ended as lightly pushed me away.
"You need to get some sleep. You're getting married tomorrow," he sighed.
"You need to finish packing," I said, wiping my eyes. "You're running away tomorrow."
Standing behind the brick wall that ran around the garden, knowing that my wedding was on the other side, had my nerves in a knot. I was walking back and forth; trying to calm down, my dad was just watching me. Julia, the only person I wanted in my wedding party, grabbed both of my hands.
"Calm down," she smiled at me. I nodded. "Are you ready to go?" she asked. I nodded again, taking a deep breath. She fixed a piece of my hair that had fallen from the pin, and grabbed her bouquet.
"Let's get you hitched," she smiled and turned to walk down the aisle. I looked up my dad, who was smiling at me like a mad man.
"I can't marry you," I cried out over the phone.
"Baby, what's wrong?" he asked, concern practically dripping from his voice.
"I'm twenty-two. I am too young to get married. We rushed this; we haven't even been dating a whole year. We're not ready."
"Where is all of this coming from?" he asked.
"I-" I didn't know what to tell him. I always ran when big things were going to happen for me. It's just what I did.
"The wedding is tomorrow, Peyton. What happened? Where are you?" he asked.
"I'm at my dad's," I answered, looking around the room that I had growing up. The deep purple paint and band posters were still on my walls. Nothing had changed. My dad kept my room the same because I asked him to. It comforted me.
"I'm coming over," he said.
"No, no," I sighed.
"Why are you so scared of us?" he asked, and he sounded hurt.
"I'm not scared of us," I sighed. "I'm just scared that I may regret getting married before I have really even lived. We are young."
"But we are in love. We can call the whole thing off if you want to. I can sit here and personally call every single person we invited and tell them that we need to wait a few years, if that's what you want. You know I would do anything to make you happy." I did. I knew that he would do anything for me. I let out a small chuckle and shook my head, like he could actually see me.
"No. Age is just a number" I said, thinking about it. It was now or never. I could face my fears or hide from them, like I always did. I'll see you tomorrow, baby." I told him. I heard him sigh in relief.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too. Now go to sleep. I plan on keeping you up all night long, tomorrow." I smiled at the thought.
"I can't wait," he said before saying goodnight and hanging up.
The wedding march started to play, and my nerves kicked into overdrive. This was it, no turning back now. My dad and I turned the corner, and I saw him, standing next to Garrett, he had his eyes closed. He had them closed until most of the guest gasped at the sight of me. I hated that. I was never one for attention, and the fact that everyone was fawning over me made me really uncomfortable. He opened his eyes and looked up. His face when he saw me made my heart melt. He looked so happy. He looked the happiest I had ever seen him since I have known him. I smiled back, and started the lengthy walk to the archway, where he was waiting for me. I will never forget the face he made the whole time I walked down the aisle. I will also never forget the face he made when I stopped making my way towards him, dropping my bouquet and running back down the path the way that I had come, leaving Kennedy Brock standing at the altar.