A/N: Story written and originally published on LiveJournal in June of 2009.
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin is a creative genius and a brilliant wordsmith; I'm a lowly fangirl just borrowing his characters for a spell.
The ivory envelope is bulky in his hands, the raised sable-brown script lettering on the front making his familiar name seem stylish and refined. The paper itself is thick. Textured. Heavy. The kind of paper upon which invitations to Inaugural Balls and state dinners were printed, once upon a time. Back when he was on the guest lists.
The weight of the envelope he holds now, a lifetime later, has nothing and everything to do with the words he knows it carries.
He grabs the sterling silver letter opener from the blotter on his mahogany desk – a concession to his assistant, who quickly tired of hearing him complain about paper cuts – and slices it open. A smooth cut, right along the seam. So clean, so straight, no one would imagine the pain that such a straight incision could cause. No one, of course, but him. And perhaps anyone with a pulmonary embolism in her medical history.
He pinches the sides of the envelope so that the now-torn seam gapes open, a wide mouth daring him to reach inside and pull out its contents. The matching ivory paper from within is ridged between his fingers, and the wisp-thin square of tissue paper obscures its message, though not enough for him not to know what it says.
Donnatella Angela Moss
James Robert Callaway
He wonders, reading their names juxtaposed in elegant typeface, if they have a single-breath kind of name. Once upon a time, it had been JoshandDonna. One word, one breath. Linked. Inseparable. The implication clear in its delivery.
He couldn't say for sure now when the last time was that he heard it. In fact, he'd be hard pressed to say with any certainty when his name and Donna's had shared the same conversation, let alone the same sentence. The same room? Not so forgettable.
He wonders, reading her oh-so-familiar name, if this other man ever calls her by her given name. He tries not to imagine the occasions on which he might; instead, he forces himself to wonder if she calls him anything besides James. Is he a Jim? Jamie? He almost hopes not; hopes that this other man goes by James, so that when she uses his given name, it doesn't mean anything more.
together with their families
He imagines Donna's father, dark hair matching his dark tux and his sky-blue eyes identical to the pair beside him as they float down the aisle in tandem. Her mother, fair-haired and misty-eyed, somewhere ahead of them. He wonders if they ever gave the new guy the same look they'd given him that told him, in no uncertain terms, all he needed to know on the subject of their daughter. Not good enough. Undeserving. They never needed to say a word; the message was far clearer than anything obscured by tissue paper.
request the honour of your presence at their marriage
If his new assistant were so inclined, he would make a joke about how surely they weren't invited to be present for the whole wedding. Perhaps just the start of it. But the joke never even makes it to his tongue, as a vision of blond hair and white lace dances around the periphery of his mind and his olfactory sense conjures up the sweet perfume of fragrant roses.
He pretends the sensory memory of the tickle of bubbly champagne is responsible for the sting at the back of his throat, and not something else. Something he'd never admit to, even to himself.
on Saturday, the seventeenth of April
at half past four in the afternoon
The sudden knot in his stomach is an almost-forgotten one, a response he assumed was buried and forgotten. He hears her words tickling at his memory, unable and unwilling to be ignored. "I started working for you in February, this is April, and you're an idiot." Back then, all those years ago, all those lifetimes ago, April seventeenth wasn't a Saturday. It was a Wednesday, and he wonders when it was that he started remembering dates and their corresponding days of the week with such clarity. And then he tells himself to give it up, because anyone who knows him at all knows exactly how many dates and days he remembers.
A Monday in October, when the moonlight glinted off the cover of her diary and he realized with startling clarity that there was, in fact, something that came before the job.
A snowy Tuesday night in January, when snowballs and a blue sequined dress made him think that maybe four more years wasn't too long to wait, if she would look at him like that every once in awhile.
A Wednesday in May, when he woke up and saw her tear-stained face through a haze of morphine and bewilderment.
A Thursday night in December, when he put his feelings in print inside the cracked cover of an antique book and her smile made him think that maybe Christmas was worth the hoopla, after all.
A Friday in June, when she said goodbye.
He remembers them all, and he hates himself even more.
Covenant Protestant Church, Madison, Wisconsin
He pictures soft candlelight and the lilting chords of Yo-Yo Ma as she glides past the pews; a string of pearls glistening softly from the milk-white skin of her throat, her silk-fine hair curled into ringlets that cascade gently down her back. He tries not to see her brilliant smile, her sparkling eyes, the gentle flush of her cheeks, all for this stranger in a black designer tuxedo. He tries, but he fails. Par for the course, where she's concerned.
The favour of a reply is requested before March 18.
He tries to image a world where he could see her in a white gown, happy and at peace, and not wish it were all for him. He aches to live in a place where he is unable to remember the cadence of her voice, the song of her laugh, the velvet of her skin beneath his fingertips. He is equal parts desperate for and terrified of a scene where they might find themselves alone again, the sea of words between them too angry and too sad and too difficult to even begin to navigate.
_ Accepts with pleasure
_ Declines with regrets
He makes his mark, and tries to feel the sentiment that the response card suggests is appropriate, but as with everything else in his life these days, it is a lie. Neither pleasure nor regret; he declines with relief, even as it cuts to the quick. He tries not to acknowledge that he knows her relief will be the same when she sees his check mark in the blank for "no."
Breaks his own heart, because it's just easier that way. Maybe one day he'll believe it enough that heavy cream-colored cardstock won't hurt any worse than a paper cut.