She didn't know why she hadn't thrown it away. She should have tossed it into the garbage as soon as she saw the words printed on the front.
The letters scrawled inside were not really for her, not now.
They used to be, hours or maybe even days ago when he put pen to paper and poured out his heart, but not now.
Now the card is a mockery, a lie, a physical reminder of how her life took such a terrible turn today.
The other things don't bother her so much.
The unworn dress hangs in her closet. The new shoes rest in their box. The make-up and hairspray fit neatly under the bathroom sink. All the other evidence is already gone, packed up and carted away before she returned to her apartment.
But this, this unsuspecting little envelope went unnoticed.
Except by her.
It was on her dresser when she got home.
If the day went as planned, she would have opened it with him, maybe on the way to the airport.
If the day went as planned her left hand would be a bit heavier now.
If the day went as planned…
It didn't though, and so this is what she's left with.
iTo my Wife on our wedding day/i, mocks the Hallmark greeting.
She hadn't opened the card yet, but she would, she knew.
She'd always been a glutton for punishment.
It was the same reason she hadn't opened the other card sitting next to her on the bed.
This one from her partner, her friend, her something, and if she could ever admit it, her everything.
And maybe she had admitted it, in a way, by not going through with the wedding. By stopping things before they were totally irreversible.
Because she knew, deep down, that you shouldn't marry someone when your everything was someone else.
It wasn't fair to anyone.
But she wasn't trying to be fair, in her defense, she was trying to be happy.
To be normal.
To be whole.
So she was left with this: one card from her almost husband, and one from her (almost) everything.
Taking a long, fortifying drink of wine, she opened the card from her almost husband first. Skipping over the preprinted phrase she went straight for the handwritten note.
Today, we become husband and wife. I can't express how elated I am to spend the rest of my days by your side. You are the love of my life. Forever and always.
The card was signed in his loopy, cursive script and she sighed, waiting for tears that wouldn't come.
She hadn't cried yet about the not-quite wedding, and she thought that must mean something was wrong with her.
It wasn't going to be a big affair, just family. She didn't even invite the guys from the squad, telling them it was a private ceremony and that they would all be invited to dinner upon return from the honeymoon.
In reality, she didn't know how to tell Elliot that she didn't want him to attend.
His card mocked her too, silently.
For some reason it seemed more important to know what Elliot's card held, to gather some insight into what he was thinking, feeling.
These days, she never knew what was going on behind his carefully guarded eyes. His expression never gave anything away, and she'd never seen anyone so careful with their words.
Her name was scrawled on the envelope and she noted acutely that it was not for her and her (almost) husband, but instead just for her.
On your wedding, it read, and Olivia imagined him in the store, swamped by cards, feeling out of place among the $3 emotions being forced on him.
Inside, the preprinted words say simply, May you begin a lifetime of happiness.
It only took half a second to realize that Elliot didn't write anything else inside the card. Just his signature, simple and clear under the bold scrawling letters of the card.
She could picture him clearly, hunched over the card with a pen in his hand, stressing over how to sign.
He'd never really been hers.
He didn't really love her.
He'd known her long enough to send more than just his regards.
It was something they'd struggled with throughout their partnership, from the moment they shook hands until now.
In the beginning, they didn't know they were destined for always.
It wasn't clear to them until a few years in, until they were so connected, so intertwined, so entangled in each other that they couldn't see their way out.
It became, "I'd cheat, kill, lie, steal, and die for you."
There was nothing casual about that, nothing that could be quantified in months or years.
There was no expiration date on undying devotion.
And if it had no expiration date, Olivia wondered, how do you know when to discard it?
Without some pre-determined time, without some way of knowing when to move on, how do you know? If there's no expiration date, when it goes bad you aren't always aware. It can linger, worsen, if you don't know it has expired, that the undetermined date has, in fact, already passed.
She thought that might be what happened with them.
They'd been working on an expired partnership, only it was so far past the date no one knew how to do away with it.
They'd come full circle, back to the question, the problem really, of always.
Always was the reason she didn't pledge eternity to another man this afternoon.
But it was also something that she and Elliot never pledged to each other, never would. At least, not out loud.
And now they were left in a limbo of sorts. She'd never tell Elliot why she didn't get married. He'd never ask.
They'd go back to working in their half-life way, never really doing more than orbiting each other.