A/N: This is an entry for the 30 Days of Emmett compilation. It's still going on so go check out what they have posted! Thanks to the lovely ladies hosting this compilation of Emmett fun and to my beta, thetinkk, and a slew of prereaders: agoodWITCH, EmDempster, jadsmama and mizzdee. Hope you enjoy!
The tiny, black words on the screen of my laptop taunted me, begging for a reaction. But I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. All I could do was stare at the three short sentences that brought my otherwise normal day to a halt.
Rose is getting married. Saturday. I'm sorry that I couldn't give you notice sooner.
Who knew that the inbox of my Facebook account could hold a message that would have such a phenomenal impact on my life? I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost noon. On Friday. Fuck my life.
The email from Rose's best friend, Alice Whitlock, had been sent the previous night. She went on to tell me about Rose's whirlwind engagement to Royce and the subsequent rushed wedding planning.
This was the first I had heard of the engagement, let alone a wedding. I knew Rose was dating Royce. She was completely upfront with me about him when we met in New Orleans at Mardi Gras in February. That didn't stop us from a weekend full of raunchy flirting and one drunken, lust-filled kiss that might have led to more had we not been interrupted by Alice. At the end of the weekend I headed back to my college life in Austin and she headed back to her perfect, Southern debutante life in Valdosta, Georgia. Not before we had exchanged numbers, of course.
Once we were back in our respective cities, we stayed in touch with one another. If we were not talking late at night on the phone, we were texting each other at all hours of the day. She made me laugh with her witty humor and told me that I calmed her down after dealing with her family all day. Her father was a big wig in their small city and expected his family and children to act as small town royalty should. She expressed many times how restless she was growing while living under her parents' scrutiny. She had been raised to be a trophy wife, nothing more. She had graduated high school with honors, but her parents convinced her to "take a few years off" and see what she could do to help with her mother's various charities and functions. Three years had passed and her parents still refused to acknowledge her interest in college. They would simply point out something that required her immediate attention, distracting her and effectively ending the conversation. She had considered leaving at one point, but could never work up the balls to do it.
Even though neither of us approached the subject of an "us" in our conversations, I stealthily asked about Royce several times. She always answered vaguely, but confirmed that they were indeed still together. I think he was also a factor in her stagnant life.
The only night she went into detail was when she called me after having one too many margaritas while out with the girls. She clued me in on the background of their relationship and how it began with a setup by both of their parents, and continued as an effort to make both families happy. Even though they made every attempt to find things they had in common, there simply weren't any, she confessed.
Honestly, from the way she acted that night, I expected her to break up with him.
"I just don't think he's what I want, or what I need."
Her words had given me so much hope that night. However, the hope I had gained was crushed the next afternoon when I called to check on her and she pleaded with me to ignore anything she said the night before. She remembered talking to me but not the conversation. Rather than pointing out her confessions like a jackass, I chose to keep that information to myself.
Our conversations continued for the next three months. We talked about our childhoods and our dreams for the future. They seemed parallel to each other. Maybe that was one more sign of fate. I did notice that she rarely spoke of Royce when we talked after her drunken tirade.
Our daily discussions suddenly came to a screeching halt about a week ago.
She stopped texting or calling. I sent her a message on Facebook only to receive a short message back that simply said, Now is not the time. The next day, I couldn't access her page. I looked up her profile and tried to send her another friend request, thinking that it was just a computer glitch, only to find that she had blocked me. The last text I sent to her was five days ago. It simply said, What's going on? I had yet to receive a reply. Now it all made sense. She was cutting me out of her life.
I instantly accepted the friend request that accompanied the message from Alice and was surprised to see the little green dot show up beside her name, indicating that she was online. Before I could double-click it to start a conversation, a little box popped up at the bottom of my screen.
Alice Brandon Whitlock: Please tell me I have the right Emmett.
Emmett McCarty: Yeah, it's me. How ya doin?
Alice Brandon Whitlock: Let's skip the niceties. We have an urgent matter. Call me. 229-423-5893.
I remembered her being a pushy little thing, but jeez. I dug my phone out of my pocket and dialed her number. She picked up before the first ring ended.
"Thank God. I need you to get here A.S.A.P."
"Wait. What? Where?"
"In Valdosta. Emmett, she loves you. She hates him and honestly, she's a bit scared of him and of her parents. She'll marry him unless you're here to stop her. Please come."
"Alice, there's no way I could make it in time."
"It's Friday! You have until four o'clock tomorrow! Surely, you could find a flight!" It's amazing how people who have constant access to their rich daddy's money don't understand why you can't just book a thousand dollar flight on a whim.
"Alice, you don't understand. An airplane ticket would be ridiculously expensive on such short notice. I don't have that kind of money to just throw around on a chance that I might be able to change her mind."
"Emmett, please. There is no 'might'. I know she wouldn't do it if you were here. She told me everything about you guys. The conversations, the texts…do you really think they meant nothing to her?" She paused as I contemplated her words. "If she marries him, it'll be the biggest mistake of her life." Her anxiety was evident in the sound of her pleas. I sighed noisily and reached over to grab my laptop. I quickly keyed in an airline's web address in the bar.
"Alice, how do you know I could even stop her? She doesn't love me," I said distractedly. I was busy searching for information for a flight from Austin to Valdosta. The prices on the screen sent me into a panic attack as I mentally calculated how they would impact my savings account.
I heard her getting all huffy on the other end. She was losing patience with me. "Did you not hear me earlier? Yes, she does, Emmett. She told me." My fingers halted and hovered over the keyboard.
"She told you? When? Why didn't she tell me?" This was news to me. Of course, I knew that I really liked Rose. But I had no idea whether she reciprocated those feelings or not.
"Last night. She tried on her gown one last time and when she went to check herself out in the mirror, she broke down sobbing. She confessed that all she wanted was you, but in order to save you from any heartache due to her stupidity, she cut off all communication with you. It was her way of saving your heart because she knows that you feel the same way. Please, Emmett. Please come save her from herself."
I was silent for a few moments before answering.
"Let me think about it. I'll call you back." I shut my phone without waiting for her answer, sat my laptop back on the table and buried my head in my hands. That was how my sister, Bella, and her boyfriend Edward found me when they arrived at the apartment that Edward and I share.
"Why so down, Em?" Bella asked as she plopped down beside me on our old, ratty couch. I didn't respond, simply reached over and picked up my laptop, brought up my Facebook message screen and placed it in her lap. Bella knew about my feelings for Rose. We had spent hours talking about it. She would understand.
I watched her eyes widen as she read the words in the message screen and the chat box.
"Did you call Alice?" I nodded. "What did she say?"
I blew out a gust of air and propped my elbows on my knees.
"She said Rose loves me. And unless I try to stop her from marrying Royce, the wedding will go on as planned."
"Call Rosalie." Why didn't I think of that? I picked up my phone and held down my number four button to dial her number. It went straight to voicemail.
"Rose, please, please call me." I hit the end button and tossed my phone on the table with a frustrated sigh.
"Is there any way for you to go there?" she asked, mostly likely already knowing the answer.
"I checked for a flight out tomorrow. A roundtrip is almost nine hundred dollars. I just don't have that kind of money, Bella. You know that." Of course she did. She was working her way through school just like I was. Our parents weren't wealthy at all. We were lucky enough to be academically blessed and receive the scholarships we did. Even though I had not lost my athletic scholarship after I tore my ACL in a game my freshman year, I still had to rely on federal aid to help with my supplies and a job at the local gym to pay for my living expenses. Our parents helped us out where they could, but otherwise, we were on our own.
"I'd help you out if I could, Em." I looked over to see my sister's big brown eyes full of sympathy. Not what I wanted right now. Bella and Edward had gone to New Orleans with me and had listened to me babble on and on since February about how great Rose was. They knew how I felt. They knew what was at stake here.
"You know," Edward piped up from the recliner on the other side of the room, "you could always road trip it."
"Dude, there's no way my truck would make a trip like that. It's in the shop once a month as it is."
"I know your truck wouldn't, but my car would." I abruptly sat straight up and whipped my head toward him.
"Hear me out," he started. "Classes just finished. We're all relatively free for the next few days. I mean, you could take a few days off from the gym, right?" I nodded. He looked over to Bella. "Think you could sweet talk Mrs. Cope into letting you off for a few days? Surely she isn't that busy."
"I'm sure I could. She just hired Angela to help out. I'm sure she'd appreciate the extra hours. I'll call her now." Bella disappeared from the room while dialing the number to what I assumed was the bookstore.
"Dude, there's no way we'd make it in time." I couldn't believe that we were actually considering this.
"How far is Valdosta?" he asked.
I studied his face and realized that he was completely serious. When I didn't move to look up the necessary information, he got up, grabbed the laptop out of my lap and began typing.
"Google maps says it'll take about 16 hours. So, if we leave in, say, a half hour, we could drive 10 or 12 hours tonight, stop and rest, and finish the trip tomorrow. If the wedding isn't until that afternoon, we should have plenty of time."
Bella came back into the room, confirming that she could indeed take a few days off. Were we really going to do this?
"What about gas money? Do you get good mileage?"
"Dude, it's a Volvo. It gets fantastic mileage. Besides, I have a gas card my parents gave me. We can charge the gas and pay it off when the bill comes. The only thing we'll have to worry about is splitting a hotel and food. You can cover that, right?" I nodded silently. "Then let's do it." Bella snuggled up next to him, dreamy-eyed and swooning over his offer to help me out in a time of need.
I grabbed my phone and dialed the number before I could change my mind. Was I really about to cross six states to stop the woman I love from marrying another man? Yes, yes I was.
"Hello?" Alice's panicked voice floated across the line.
"Alice, I'll be there tomorrow. Give me details."
Ten hours and forty-seven long minutes later, we pulled up to a La Quinta Inn on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama. We pooled our money and were able to book a room with double beds while dealing with a sicko desk clerk that was giving us the stink eye. Fucking pervert. But I could understand how it looked weird that two guys and one girl were checking in at almost midnight, looking slightly haggard and out of our minds. If he only knew.
Bella and Edward leaned on each other during the elevator ride to the third floor. They walked into the room ahead of me and dropped both of their bags onto one bed. I wrestled with my big brother conscience to keep myself from grabbing Edward by the nape of the neck and throwing him in the hall. But while the thought of my little sister sharing a bed with her boyfriend made me want to bend him into a human pretzel, the thought of sharing a bed with her myself made me cringe a bit more. Besides, it wasn't like I was naïve. I'd heard her sneak out of our apartment in the early mornings more than once. And, come on, they wouldn't do anything while I was in the bed next to them. Hopefully. Gross.
Edward took an order for a fast food run and left Bella and I to take turns using the shower. None of us were very fond of travel grime and after being folded up in the backseat of that car for almost eleven hours, I was eager to stretch my aching muscles. The thought of climbing back into that tiny Volvo for five to six hours tomorrow morning did not sound appealing at all.
I threw my duffle bag down in the tiny space between one of the beds and the wall and crashed facedown into the mattress. I felt the bed shift slightly and turned my head to see the concerned gaze of my little sister focused on me.
"Em, I hope you aren't wasting your time taking this trip." Her words roused a bubble of panic that I had forced down back in Texas. I know that's not what she intended to do. She was just a caretaker by nature and was looking out for my best interest. She was a lot like our mother.
"You and me both, B." We were both quiet for a few minutes before she moved to get up.
"B?" She turned back, waiting. "I have to know. I have to know whether or not what I feel for her and what she feels for me is real. Otherwise, I'll always wonder 'what if'. So, I need…I need you to help me stay optimistic in this. Otherwise, I'll go crazy, ok?"
Her eyes changed from skeptical to sympathetic in a matter of seconds. She rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet before quickly stooping down to place a chaste kiss on my cheek.
"She'd be crazy not to drop everything and run away with you." A small smile broke through my serious expression. As much as we fought and "hated" each other at times, Bella was my best friend and greatest support through anything I had ever faced. I knew she wouldn't leave me hanging.
"Thanks, sis." She smiled and disappeared into the bathroom.
Edward returned minutes later, arms laden with fast food bags. We both dug into our dinners with a force that only hungry men could accomplish. By the time Bella emerged from the bathroom, we had finished. After a quick shower I crashed on my bed, exhaustion overriding my anxiety.
The next morning, after only about seven hours of sleep, we set out to drive the remaining five or six hours to Valdosta. The wedding wasn't scheduled to begin until four that afternoon, so we made sure to keep plenty of time available just in case something went wrong.
The first leg of our journey was relatively quiet. Everyone was tired and we found a rock station and turned the music up loud to keep from nodding off. We had been driving across Florida for a while when I started thinking about what exactly I planned to do when we arrived at the wedding. I hoped that we would be there with enough time to spare that I could just seek out Alice and get her to pull Rose outside. I didn't want to be the schmuck that objected to the wedding from the pew and confessed his undying love for the bride.
Tons of scenarios were running through my head when I heard a loud pop and felt the car jerk suddenly to the right. Bella shrieked and Edward slowed immediately while trying to maintain control of the car. Once we were safely on the shoulder, I jumped out to inspect the damage. I have no idea what I was expecting to find. I knew a tire had blown. I just needed to see it for myself.
"Do you have a spare?" I asked, as Edward rounded the front of the car to look at the front tire on the passenger's side. He nodded.
"Yeah, it's in the trunk. Let me get it." As he rolled up his sleeves and popped the trunk I leaned down in the open passenger door to check on Bella. She was a little shaken, but seemed ok. Edward and I changed the blown tire to the donut and scrambled back in the car to find the nearest town so that we could get the tire repaired or replaced.
Twenty minutes later, we were at a tiny gas station and repair shop in Bonifay, Florida, talking to a man with a long gray ponytail, wearing overalls, with a lit cigarette dangling from his bottom lip.
"So you blew out a tire, eh?" Edward nodded along with the old man as they stared at the tire with an obvious massive gap in the rubber.
"Yes, sir. And we're in a pretty big hurry to get back on the road. Do you think we could get it replaced quickly?"
"Well, son, I don't think we have a tire to replace that one, but I could send a boy over to Stanley's place in Vernon. I'm pretty sure he's got one. Want me to call and see?" Edward, Bella and I all nodded at the same time. He stepped behind the counter in the little waiting area and dialed a number on the old rotary phone. After five or six boisterous laughs and a bit of small town gossip, we heard him confirm that Stanley's shop did in fact have the tire we needed. As soon as he hung up the phone, I spoke up.
"How far is Vernon from here?"
"'Bout twenty minutes." Forty minutes round trip. Add thirty minutes to replace the tire. We should be out of here within an hour and a half, give or take a few minutes. We would be cutting it close to get to the church on time, but it was doable.
"Ok. I guess we'll just have to wait."
"Sure thing. Michael!" We watched as a greasy-headed, pimple-faced kid emerged from the shop, wiping his hands on a towel. "I need you to head over to Stanley's shop in Vernon and pick up a tire. He knows which one. Don't dawdle around, now. These good people are in a hurry." Michael nodded and grabbed the keys the owner was dangling in his face.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Banner." We watched as he ran out to the old, beat-up red Ford parked in front of the station.
I looked at my watch. Ten twenty-eight. Jesus Christ.
"Well, folks, it's gonna be a little while. There's-"
"How long do you think?" I interrupted.
"About an hour, hour and a half at the most. Like I was sayin', there's a diner next door if you want to have you a bite to eat for lunch. Just leave me your number and we'll call you when it's ready."
Edward jotted his number down for the old man and ushered Bella and me out the door. We crossed the loose gravel lot to the small diner. When Edward opened the door, it seemed like we had stepped back in time. Most of the wooden tables were angled funny, like each was missing a peg on one of their legs. Duct tape held the old, green vinyl on the booths together. A cloud of hazy smoke drifted through the air near the ceiling, wafting from the various smoking patrons sitting together in the far corner of the restaurant that was designated as the "smoking area".
Bella and Edward scooted into the far side of a booth near the door, so I slid in across from them as an older lady brought over menus.
"What can I get y'all to drink today?"
We placed our drink orders and when she left to fill them, the table was silent. I knew they were dying to say something. I could see it in the way they shifted their bodies and the way they were stealing sly, apprehensive glances at one another.
"What is it?"
"Spill it, guys."
"We're just worried about getting you there on time, Em."
"It's only," I glanced at my watch, " ten forty-five."
They nodded in unison because that's the kind of couple shit they do.
The little frumpy waitress, Shelly, came back with our drinks and took our orders. My stomach was tied in knots with nerves, so I took it easy and ordered just one cheeseburger with fries. Considering the way it was swimming in grease when it was delivered, that was probably a good thing. But hotdamn, I had never had a more delicious cheeseburger in my life.
"Have you heard from Alice lately?" Bella asked as she plucked a pickle from her plate.
"No. I haven't received a text from her since we left the hotel this morning. I sent her one when we headed out. Rose refused to listen when Alice told her that I was headed their way. She thinks Alice is just trying to keep her from walking down the aisle. She said she wouldn't believe I was coming until I was standing in front of her. I guess she's standing her ground there. Her phone has gone straight to voicemail for the past several days."
"Why wouldn't she answer your calls?"
"Rose is a stubborn person."
"Yeah, but don't you think if she had any inclination that you were interested in her, she might give you a call before she took such a drastic step in her life?"
"I asked myself the same thing. I don't know, Bella. But I do know that she doesn't love him. And if I had my guess, he doesn't love her. Especially not the way that I love her."
"Awww," Bella cooed. I rolled my eyes but smiled in spite of myself.
We killed time for about an hour and fifteen minutes before walking back over to the shop. I was not thrilled with the news when we got there. Apparently Michael was busy flirting with Mr. Stanley's daughter and lost track of time. He was thirty minutes late getting back. Good news was Mr. Banner, the man in the overalls and owner of the shop, wasn't charging labor for changing the tire due to Michael's negligence. Bad news was it was going to be probably closer to two hours before we got back on the road. We would definitely be pushing it now.
It was exactly two hours by the time we were back on the road and headed to Georgia. Time ticked by and before we knew it, we were near the Georgia state line. We veered off the interstate momentarily and stopped at a gas station because in our haste to get out of Bonifay we neglected to fill up the gas tank. As Edward pumped gas, Bella and I walked inside to get some drinks. She grabbed something for them and joined me in a long line. A lady at the front practically dumped her entire purse on the counter as she counted out change to pay for her purchase. I was focused on a row of car magazines stacked up near the counter when Bella spoke up.
"Emmett, what time is it?"
I glanced down at my watch.
"Two twenty-three. Why?"
"Emmett, I think we all neglected to remember a very important detail when we were planning this little road trip." My ears started heating up from the blood pressure slowly creeping up my body.
"The time, Emmett. It's not two twenty-three. It's three twenty-three. We've crossed into the eastern standard time zone."
"That means we only have thirty-five minutes to get to Valdosta."
"Yes," she responded quietly, tears forming in her eyes.
By that time, we were at the cash register. The man behind the counter rang up our drinks as my mind reeled.
"Excuse me, do you happen to know how far Valdosta is from here?"
He never looked up from his cash register as he responded.
"About an hour and fifteen minutes. Possibly quicker, depending on how fast you drive."
I nodded silently, threw a five down on the counter and stalked out the door.
"FUCK!" I screamed as I crossed the lot, earning a dirty look from the woman getting out of her van.
"What's wrong?" Edward asked, leaning against the car as I reached it. I shook my head, yanked the door open and climbed in the backseat.
I couldn't bring myself to explain it to him. Once I said it out loud, there was no escaping the reality. It was over. We had come all this way only to be fucked over by time zones. I could hear Bella's muffled voice explaining the situation to him. It was hopeless. We'd never get there on time.
The front doors opened and Edward and Bella climbed into their seats. The car started immediately and we took off at an absurd speed.
"Edward, dude, slow down!"
"You just sit back there, lover boy, and keep quiet. We're going to get you to that church."
We stopped at a red light, waiting to get back on the interstate. Edward reached up and started pressing buttons on his radar detector, turning it up to full volume. Minutes later we were back on the interstate, weaving through traffic and racing toward Valdosta.
"Emmett, call Alice and tell her that you're on your way. Weddings never start on time but see if she can stall it any." Bella was always full of great ideas. I picked up my phone and started to dial, but the numbers were not lighting up on the screen. The phone was dead. I chuckled at the absurdity of it all. Just my luck.
"My phone is dead. And before you ask, no, I don't have my car charger."
"Did you write down her number?"
"No, Bella. There's no way to get in touch with her." I laid my head on the back of the seat, rubbing my eyes with my fists in an effort to ward off the massive stress headache I could feel creeping up. This was just not my day.
To my enormous surprise, we reached the edge of Valdosta right at four. Edward was still driving at an excessive speed, but had to slow once we hit downtown traffic. My knee bounced nervously as my eyes darted around the downtown area, not really taking in any of the scenery. I was constantly looking at my watch as the minutes ticked by. Edward maneuvered the car through the blocks according to the instructions Bella was reading from the printout off of Google maps.
"Turn left here, Edward. It should be right up the street." I looked at my watch once again. It was now four sixteen here. If I was going to have my moment with Rosalie, I had no choice but to be the asshole that flew through the doors, proclaiming his love for the bride and stopping the wedding. The question was how the bride would react. Would she be pissed at me for interrupting her moment? Would she run to me and jump in my arms? Would all the groomsmen rush down the aisle and tackle my ass for trying to ruin their friend's happy day? Worse yet, would they already be married?
"Right there, Emmett!" Bella pointed to the steepled building two blocks ahead of us. I could see cars lining the street and a pristine white limousine waiting for the happy couple to emerge.
The car had barely stopped before I jumped out, flying across the street and dodging a car at the last moment. The driver had a few choice words for me, but at the moment, that was the least of my concerns. I raced up the steps and through the double oak doors. The next set of doors that faced me were the ones I had been waiting to see for over 24 hours now. The only thing left to do was open them. My hands gripped the polished brass on the white wood, and with a deep breath, a bowed head and a pounding chest, I pulled open the doors to the sanctuary.
Expecting every head to turn and every set of eyes to be focused on the man that dared to interrupt a sacred joining of hearts, I squeezed my eyes shut as I stepped through the doorway. The sight that met me when I pried them open was not at all what I was expecting, but it did nothing to comfort my worst fear.
The stage of the sanctuary was empty. People were milling around in the pews, talking in groups. I looked down the pale green carpeted aisle to see a line of white fabric littered with pink flower petals running all the way down to the foot of the stage. Was I too late? Bella had said that weddings always started late. Was this one an exception? Of course, that would be my luck.
An elderly lady was slowly making her way down the aisle toward me. She saw me standing there and motioned for me to come help her. As much as I wanted to ignore the manners my mother had beat into me as a child so that I could seek out Rose, I couldn't do it. So I met her halfway down the aisle. Her frail arm wrapped around mine and her hand rested on my forearm.
"Thank you, dear. I just can't get around like I used to." I smiled down at the little old woman dressed all in blue. With her jewels on her hands and tiny hat on her head, she was the epitome of old southern money.
"You're welcome, ma'am."
"It's a shame all of this is going to go to waste now, isn't it? Such a lovely setup." She tsked.
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, ma'am. I just arrived. I was running a bit late."
"So I see," she said, obviously meaning that my outfit of a polo shirt and jeans was not exactly wedding attire. My curiosity was boiling over.
"So, what did you mean by it all going to waste? Did the ceremony not happen?" Could I be so lucky?
"Oh, no, dear. It most certainly did not. That trashy woman. Not my great-granddaughter, of course. That other woman. I always knew his family was just trash with money. You can't buy class. Obviously."
Other woman. Things were looking up for me.
"Ma'am, do you happen to know where the bride may be?"
"I'm sorry, I don't. She took off up the aisle in tears. The bridesmaids rushed out after her. I'm sure they're all around here somewhere. Oh, look, there's my husband now." She gestured to a gentleman in a suit coming through the outside doors. "Thank you, honey. I sure hope Rosalie moves past this ordeal and finds someone who will treat her better than that little nitwit treated her. She deserves so much more." I quietly snorted at her use of "nitwit".
"You're absolutely right. She deserves the world." We stopped and she looked up at me. She pursed her peach-colored lips and then smiled softly. Giving my arm a little pat, she left me and walked to join her husband. As they disappeared out the doors, I turned and headed down the long corridor of the church.
I walked rapidly, passing hoards of people and peeking in open doors. As I neared the end of the hall, a small, familiar dark head appeared in my path, her eyes focused on an empty blue tissue box.
Her head snapped up and a brilliant smile broke out on her face.
"Emmett! Thank God you're here!" She grabbed me by the hand and led me through a doorway, stopping briefly to replace the empty tissue box with a full one from a table. She steered us down a short hall and paused in front of a glass door that led outside to a small courtyard in the middle of the church. She didn't need to point out the person we were looking for.
There on a small concrete bench, surrounded by yards and yards of gauzy white fabric, was my Rosalie. She faced the opposite wall, but I could tell by her posture that she was crying. Her shoulders were hunched over and I could feel the heavy weight of defeat in the air as Alice shoved the box of tissues in my hand and pushed me out the door.
"Alice, I told you that I just needed to be left alone for a few minutes."
"I'd be happy to leave you alone, but I didn't come all this way to sit in a chair and twiddle my thumbs."
As I spoke, she gasped quietly and whirled around the face me. The violet hue of her eyes startled me. I had forgotten how vibrant they were in the months since we had seen each other. Now, shiny with tears and surrounded by an outline of smudged black makeup, they stood out remarkably against her fair skin.
"You did come."
"Of course I came. I came as soon as I knew. Although, if you would've answered your phone, you would've know sooner and could've avoided all this," I replied as I gestured toward the inside of the church with my hands. She laughed quietly, but her laughter quickly turned to tears again.
"Hey, hey…I didn't mean to upset you." I joined her on the bench, rubbing her back in comfort.
"This whole day has been a disaster!" she cried. "Alice told me you were coming, but I didn't want to believe it. Then my mother convinced me that Royce was the best for the 'reputation of my family', because he was such a respectable citizen of the town. And they only want what's best for me. And because I'm such an idiot, I did what I thought was best. And then, then, Emmett, his step-sister…step-sister, stands up when they ask for objections. You know what she says?" I assumed that was a rhetorical question because her tirade continued without waiting for an answer from me. "She's pregnant. By him! Of course he denied it at first, but when he finally conceded that it could be a possibility, I was physically ill. I rushed out of the church and straight to this bench. I refused to talk to anyone except Alice. I don't know if Royce is even still here or not. I'm sure his father is ready to kill him. That's what he gets for marrying a slutty wife with a trampy daughter, I guess. Come to think of it, maybe the attraction to tramps is a family trait."
"Well, you aren't a tramp."
"Hell, no, I'm not a tramp. He used me. He used me for my family's connections. How could I be so stupid?" Her crying changed from being fueled by heartbreak to being fueled by rage. She jumped up, yanked the veil off her head and started pacing as best as she could. Actually, because her dress was huge and the path was small, it looked like she was simply turning in circles.
"God, I'm just so mad! At him! At myself! At my parents! I spent all this time and effort trying to make this relationship work, ignoring my heart when it was leading me somewhere else." She glanced pointedly at me.
"We all waste time, Rosalie. But we learn from our mistakes and move on. You can't get that time back. But maybe you could stop ignoring what your heart is telling you now and follow it. I did. It led me here." Her gaze lingered on me a moment before she stepped over to where I was sitting. I stood, towering above her even though she was taller than the average woman. She reached out and clasped our hands together.
"The thing is, I was about to object myself. Deep in my heart I knew I couldn't say 'I do' to him. Not when in the back of my mind I was hearing your voice, your laughter. I knew where my heart was and it definitely wasn't in that sanctuary. But now that I realize that, I'm afraid that the stupidity that led me to the alter will overshadow whatever motivated you to come all this way." She paused and bowed her head, seeming to study our hands.
"Rosalie, look at me." She finally raised her chin and met my gaze cautiously. "You crazy girl, I knew what you were doing. I was afraid that I had misunderstood the emotions between the two of us and would embarrass myself in front of you. But I was determined to stop the wedding because I had to know. At this point, I'm just glad that I didn't have to barge down the aisle and yank that asshole off the stage. Because I would've." She cracked a grin at what she thought was a joke. I was dead serious.
"Rosalie, I feel like such a jerk for telling you all of this right now, considering what is going on. But it can't wait. I love you. And I think you love me, too. I don't know how this will work with us being so far away from each other, but I want to try to make it."
"You're rambling, Emmett." She reached behind my neck and leaned up as she brought me down, our lips meeting in a chaste, but firm kiss. "I do love you. I've always known it, I think, ever since the drunken night on Bourbon Street. I just didn't want to admit it to myself."
"So, what do you want to do now?" I asked quietly as she rested her head against my chest.
"Well, first…I want to get out of this dress." We both laughed quietly. "Did you rent a car at the airport and drive here?"
"Uh, no…we actually drove." She jerked back and stared up at me with a look of suspicion.
"Oh! Bella and Edward are with me! Shit, I have no idea what happened to them. I should probably give them a call."
"Wait. You guys drove from Austin?" I nodded. "Are you crazy?" she exclaimed.
"Little bit. But it was worth it. I'll have to tell you all about our trip later."
"God, how long did it take you?"
"Eh, around sixteen hours. We left yesterday and stopped overnight." Her eyes bore into mine, thoughtful and contemplative.
"I can't believe you guys did that…for me."
"I did it for us, Rose."
She gripped her arms around me and hugged with much more force than I thought she was capable of.
"Come on," she said quietly. "Let me go get changed. Then we can get out of here and go talk somewhere." I followed her back down the corridor and escorted her to the bridal suite where Alice was waiting.
"You know," Alice began, "you kept her waiting long enough."
"Sorry about that. I got here as quick as I could." I flashed a smile at them both and informed Rosalie that I was going to find Edward and Bella before ducking out of the room. I looked around the vestibule and stepped outside the church doors to peer in the street. I saw Edward's silver Volvo parked down the block but didn't see them anywhere.
I rushed back and timidly knocked on the door of the bridal suite. Alice appeared and agreed to let me borrow her phone, so I called Bella and informed her of the events that had taken place. She and Edward had found a little shopping village down the street and were currently preoccupied in an old book store. They told me to take all the time I needed. While I handled my business, they planned to explore the southern charm of downtown Valdosta. I promised to call Bella and inform her of my plans. She saved Alice's number in her phone and promised to let me know of any changes in their plans, also.
I had just hung up when Rose stepped out the door in her jogging suit. Her hair was still in curls, but she had pulled it back into a ponytail. The makeup was wiped from her face and her tears were gone.
"Ready?" she asked. I nodded and followed her out the back of the church to the parking lot.
"Rose!" Her head whipped around to a group of people standing off to the side. "Rose, please let me explain." A guy about my age, who I assumed was the former groom considering he was still dressed in a tuxedo, came running over to Rose and me. I immediately assumed a defensive posture and was ready to kick his ass for what he had put her through. Her soft touch on my arm eased my anger, though, and she stepped up to him. He eyed me speculatively but refocused on her when she reached up and gave him a small hug.
"Thank you," I heard her say. Her words shocked the hell out of me. "You have no idea how relieved I am that Irina stopped us. We would've been making a huge mistake. You and I both know that."
"Rose, I swear-"
"Shhhh." She placed a finger over his lips to silence him. "Let it go, Royce. It's over." I saw resignation wash over him. He kissed her briefly on the cheek, which made me steam a little, and let her go. She turned to me, grabbed my arm and placed her hand in mine.
"Ready?" she asked me once more.
"Just waiting on you."