"All the waves of blame arrange as broken scenery
As they steal your best memories away..."
~Rachael Yamagata, "Quiet"

Now

This is easily one of the hardest days I've had to endure, and I don't know whether to blame you—the fire that sparked in the middle of my life so abruptly and just as quickly went out—or to blame myself—the one who let it all happen in the first place. It's a tough call.

I walk down the aisle, on the way to my seat, and see your friends and family, the strangers on his side that I've never met, and they are all smiles. I can't tell if they're genuine, like your mother's, like Jack's, like I'm sure Will's is, or if they're just for show, like mine. But everyone surrounding me is making the greatest effort to make this a good day for you. And as much as I want to appease you, as much as I want to give you what you think you want, it would go against everything inside me to do this. But I will smile, I won't say a word. I will let you have your day. That's all that I can give at this point. Because it's just too damn hard. To see him at the end, waiting for you. To know that you will walk by me in white, like an angel, only to give your promises to someone else. It kills me. You were only with me for a short time, and I still can't decide if you were honest with me, but it doesn't mean you didn't leave a hole in my life. It doesn't mean that you didn't shake me and leave me shattered. The truth still remains: he will not love you the way I did, the way I do.

No one else here knows about that. No one here would believe me. No one would think it plausible for what transpired behind their backs to happen. Our kisses took place behind closed doors; our caresses lingered in the dark. Our whispers were hidden by the laughter of others, by the passing wind. It was intoxicating and thrilling then. But it's a different game now. Because now, the memories start to burn to dust in the old flames. And I can't for the life of me figure out if that's a blessing or a curse.

At this moment, if you asked me, I'd be leaning towards the latter.

I almost didn't come. But you were so wrapped up in this wedding that I'm not sure if you would even notice my absence. And even if you did, I'm sure it would be a bigger relief to see an empty seat than to see the false smile on my lips. You didn't give us any warning; you just ran off with him to the opposite end of Central Park to take part in a makeshift ceremony that didn't take. And although the first one was not real, you had your mind set, you would do it until you got it right. Marriage has never been kind to me—my history is proof of this fact—but it doesn't mean I'm bitter when the subject comes up. If it had been anybody else getting ready to walk those steps and say those words, I wouldn't be longing to run for the door.

But it's you, Grace. I can't help but be sad about it all. I was never good at making love work. Take one look at my track record and you can see how obvious that fact is. But that never meant I didn't try. I tried like hell. And I thought you did, too. Although now, I wonder if your intentions were true. I wonder if you agreed to set our history into motion simply because you felt bad for me, because you saw me in a weakened state with everything I knew taken away from me, and you didn't know how to react to that. You were always one to please, but to my knowledge, you had never gone that far for someone just to secure their happiness. You wouldn't toy with emotions just because it's what you think is desired. And I don't think that's what you did to me. Whether or not it's reality, I choose to believe that you would never do that to me, or to yourself. But that doesn't mean that I doubt my convictions at times.

I didn't even mean for it to start in the first place. It's no excuse, but it's all I have. And I take it with me as I sit next to Jack and rack my brain trying to figure out who should be held responsible for your white dress and my false smile and jealousy for the man standing up there, waiting to take a part of you that you never let me have. Maybe I could hold Stan responsible. He made a mistake, he was sent away. He set off a chain of events leading to this moment. But as soon as I think that I finally found someone to blame, I automatically feel guilty. Stan isn't able to defend himself, not against this. He could in no way control our short but intensely passionate stint as secret lovers.

I can see him waiting for you; I've got a clear view. I know he's got something that I could never give you, and as enticing as what we had might have been, what was behind door number two must have been too spectacular to put into words. I can't see it. Maybe it's because I'm biased or bitter—in fact, I can almost guarantee you that's the reason. He met your standards better than I did; I failed the test, didn't meet the expectations. And we never got the chance to talk about it. There was an overlap. He was getting closer to touch you while I was still trying to hold you, but you were out of reach. If my arms had been an inch longer, my fingertips could have brushed your skin.

Even then, though, I don't think it would have done much good. You were already gone. I could see that right away.

The look in your eyes when you had that last story to tell, the way they darkened when you said that you had something to say but you didn't know how. I see that look in front of me at the most silent moments, vivid as the rainy evening it happened. It stings, of course it does, but that's not what hurts the most about that memory. What pierces my skin is the echo of your voice, speaking those words. Telling me about him. Telling me that you weren't going around looking for it. Telling me that you didn't do anything yet. Yet. I don't think you meant for that to sound as though you were planning something to the contrary, but god, that's what it sounded like. It sounded like you were filling me in on the plan, just so I wouldn't be shocked when I found out about it, or if I by chance ran into the two of you hand in hand. And then, in your justification for your feelings, that question that stabbed something already almost dead.

"What good is this"—you motioned back and forth between us—"if no one else knows about it? If we're ashamed?"

Looking back, I think I know what you meant. If we didn't tell anybody, were we really serious about it? But then, in that second, you crushed me, and I knew it was over. But now I think of your question, and in my inability to answer, I offer my own.

If no one else knew about you and me, am I able to pass it off as a dream that I'm free of as soon as I open my eyes?

I lay my head on Jack's shoulder, and if he notices something wrong, he doesn't say anything about it. My head is too heavy with how real everything is now. He places his hand over mine, and for a moment I am convinced that he knows everything without me having to say a word. For a moment, I want to look up at him and tell him what I'm thinking. But I know I can't. I can't tell him about how the weight of you against my body felt. I can't tell him how breathtaking you were when we would lay on the bed hand in hand, our hair mingling as we tried not to break the fragile beauty of that moment. I can't tell him that you waited when you told me you loved me, only to say three weeks later that you weren't sure. But I feel his touch, his comforting silence. I'll take what I can get.

You probably don't remember this, but I do. In retrospect, it wasn't that long ago, but the way we loved made it feel like we went through an eternity. It was the morning after you first kissed me—you started it, not me, as if that's some childish justification for my mood right now—and we woke up to the new day. You looked at me as the sunlight started to filter through your flaming hair and instead of the smile that had once ran across your face, I saw a look of confusion and concern. And in a soft voice that was unsure of itself, you asked me what this all meant. I gave you a smile of reassurance and told you, "Whatever you want it to mean."

I left it up to you. If you decided you couldn't do it, it would be easy enough for me to get over the events that had already taken place. But if you wanted to give it a go, I would still be under your power. What I didn't know is that those words doomed me from the start. I put our fate in your hands because I thought it was the right thing to do. And you held on, Grace, I'll give you that one. I just didn't know you were going to let go. You didn't give me any warning that that would have been a possibility.

Maybe this is all my fault in the end, because I gave up the one thing I've been so used to possessing: control. I gladly gave it up for you, because you weren't like anybody else in my life. With that first kiss, I passed it on to you, knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to steer us in whatever direction seemed like the natural one. Given the opportunity, I still would.

Perhaps that makes me a fool, too.

I hear the music start to play, I know what's coming. But I don't want to face it. Jack shakes my hand to try to get my attention. "Kare. Come on."

And then he says, "Stand up. Grace is coming." And my heart stops for a second.

Everyone stands up before I get the chance. I try to steady myself and slip my hand into Jack's as the doors open. God, you're beautiful, the flames of your hair against pure white. I just wish this beauty didn't come with a price. I bite the inside of my lip to keep the tears down. I wouldn't be able to explain them. No one here would understand. No one here knows. Just the way you wanted it. Pretend it never happened. Think back on it and smile. Think back on it and laugh. Store it in the past and never look back. It doesn't matter what you do to our relationship anymore. You fell out of love, if you were even in love to begin with. You found another pair of eyes, hands, you found another heart. I can't help that.

I will say this, though. After it ended, I thought that maybe it was because you could wipe the slate clean and have no repercussions to these actions. Because this was not what was expected of you, but you would never have to own up to it unless I let it slip. And I would never let it slip, so it would be incredibly easy for you to at the very least brush the remnants of us under the rug. I will keep quiet, and maintain the precious theme of our relationship. Whether the blame is yours or mine, I will not say a word.

I will keep quiet. Just like you always wanted.