He hasn't been home in four years; he expects things to be different, but they aren't.
He hasn't been home in four years; Mrs. Evans expects him to be different, but he isn't.
He hasn't been home for four years; everything is the same. Except that sign stuck into the green grass of his favourite park. "The Wedding Of Ms. Courtney Callahan and Mr. Max Jones."
He hasn't been home in four years; he hasn't seen her for longer.
Tossing all logic and reason out the window, he swerves into the nearest parking spot and shuts off the engine of his shiny grey truck. He wants to smile, but his throat feels tight.
Shrugging into his leather jacket, he exits the warmth of the cab and braves the stormy weather outside. Of course it would be raining; nothing ever goes the way she likes.
No one questions his appearance there, even though he's not wearing a tux like everyone else. They're too busy scrambling around the grass in a panicked manner. He doesn't pay much attention to them; too busy leaning against one of the trees and scanning the crowd for her in a big goofy dress.
"-She wouldn't run away from her own wedding!" He recognizes her mother's voice, as it yelled at him more than once, back then. Interest sparks inside him, and he lets his mind go blank and his feet silently lead him out of the group.
She's there, at the old playground, like he knew she would be. Her head is tilted downwards, rain making her hair a shade darker then normal. Her shoulders are quivering upon closer inspection.
He takes a seat on the swing next to her, then bumps her fancy high heel with his own tattered converse. "Pulling a Runaway Bride act? That's so you."
Her head lifts slightly to glance at him from under her thick lashes. "I was wondering when you would show up." Her voice is horse, but still has that faint inkling of irritation he's used to.
He smiles, his tone light. "I threw the wedding invite in the trash before I even opened the envelope. Ma gave you my new address?"
She bobs her head slightly.
He licks his lips, then starts to pump, bringing him steadily up into the air. The creaking of the swing set and the metallic clanking of the rain beating against the gazebo roof where everyone is in a flustered frenzy, are the only sounds between them.
Lightning flashes in the distance, and a crackle of thunder is heard. At the same time, she grabs onto his arm and stops his swinging with a jerking motion.
"Why didn't you ever call? Why did you just leave?"
He brushes her arm off. "We weren't right for each other."
"But a note, Duncan?" There's that fierce glare he remembers. Though this time, it's stained with dripping black mascara and bloodshot eyes. "You date me for.. what? Three years? I wake up one morning and find a note saying that you're leaving?"
He grins bitterly. "Be thankful I said anything at all."
Thunder booms again. He wonders if it's safe to be on a metal swing set during a storm.
"You broke my heart."
Thunder. One, two...
"Max is great for you."
"He isn't you."
One, two, three...
"Let go of that stupid school girl fantasy, Courtney. You're too old for this."
"We really had something special, and you know we did. Yes, it had many flaws, but we were in love... I know you felt it too; don't tell me you didn't."
He heaves himself off the swing, and reaches a hand out to help her up. He carefully keeps his eyes focuses on the wood chips at his feet; he can't bear to look at her dress. "You're marrying Max."
She takes his hand; it fits into his just the same as old times. "And you're leaving again?"
They stand there, holding hands, letting the rain wash over them. "I'm not coming back, Courtney. You deserve something better. He's a doctor, isn't he? He can give you everything you ever wanted; go live your fairytale, Princess."
She throws her arms around him and hugs him. He's grown taller since they were nineteen.
He hugs her back as tight as he can; uncaring to the breathless sound she makes. This is the last memory of her he'll have and he's going to cherish it.
They walk back over to the gazebo. People sigh in relief, despite being cold, and wet.
He watches from the safety of the tree as they kiss, sealing their vows and joining their lives. She spares him a glance when they break apart, but he doesn't smile.
Max has black hair, and blue eyes. They won't ever be teal.
People throw flower petals, and the rain starts to let up. He walks over to the parking lot without a backwards glance.
Her voice is almost drowned out completely by one last crash of thunder, but he hears her.
"Promise me you'll come back." His shoulders slump at the desperation in her voice. He pulls out a rectangle and square from his jacket pockets; flips open the rectangle and pulls a long white stick out of the square. His back is still turned to her, and he keeps walking, while taking a long drag from the cigarette.
"I'll come back." He doesn't promise.
It's enough for them.