A/N: I do not own any of the characters. I have used pieces of conversations from the film, but Rachel's thoughts are mine.
Six weeks. Six weeks have passed since my world turned upside down. Six weeks since the day that should have been the happiest of my life was intruded upon by fate or destiny or whatever you may call it.
The candles, the flowers, the attendants, the groom, all were perfect. As I walked with my father by my side toward my soon-to-be husband, I could not help but smile in self-assurance and contentment.
Then there was movement to my left. I turned my head and was met with a startled green stare that caused my smile to falter, my pulse to quicken, my footsteps to slow. I looked forward then back to my left, but there was only an empty aisle. Maybe I had imaged her—imagined the angel who caused me to begin to wonder if I was making a mistake.
My newfound doubts were only reinforced shortly after the ceremony when my ring slipped from my finger and into the punch bowl. Shit! How in bloody hell can I get the ring back if I can't use the ladle to scoop it out?
And then she appeared, confident and sincere. "Hi, I'm Luce. I did your flowers." Luce? Like Lucifer? The angel of light or the angel of turmoil?
She could see I was agitated; she offered her help. I realized how serious she was when she laughed, "Cover me," grabbed me by my waist, and positioned me between her and the wedding guests. A glance over my shoulder allowed me to see her slide a sleeve up her arm and reach into the bowl.
I giggled. Yes, giggled. What is happening to me? I almost can still feel the warmth of her hands even though they touched me for little more than a second. Why do I react to her touch, to her gaze?
I had very little time to process the thoughts scrambling in my head. Someone was approaching and I had to act. I turned slightly, glancing back to see that a very wet and sticky ring was being removed from the punch. My left hand was firmly grasped and gently pulled behind my back while I still stood as a barrier between the guest and the florist. The ring was slipped on my finger, and a smiling Luce appeared at my side.
What have I done?
Five weeks. Five short weeks since I walked into Flowered Up to say a quick thank you to Luce.
I had hardly entered the shop when I was rendered speechless by Luce's captivating green eyes, her beautiful smile.
She was helping a customer, a rather flighty chap who was frantically searching for a last chance flower. It seemed he was attempting to make up for some ill-advised dalliance, yet Luce chose a Bird of Paradise and proceeded to tell the love story behind the flower associated with faithfulness. She held my gaze the entire time she spoke. Were her words meant for me?
A shiver raced down my spine. "Would you like to come to dinner?" I blurted. "With Heck and me? Next Friday?" I quickly added.
Why had I done that? What was it about her voice, her eyes, her presence that drew me to her? I didn't know, but I had an insatiable need to find out.
Four weeks. Four weeks since I invited Luce to dinner in what I told Heck—and myself—was an effort to play matchmaker between her and my husband's best friend, Cooper. Four weeks since I realized exactly what I was trying to escape.
The evening had been fantastic until the conversation turned to love. I shared my feelings that love should grow from familiarity and trust and respect. That love did not just happen; it had to be cultivated. But Luce disagreed, "I think you know immediately. As soon as your eyes . . . then everything that happens from then on just proves that you have been right in that first moment. When you suddenly realize that you were incomplete and now you are whole."
I felt I had been sucker-punched. What I felt for Heck had taken years to achieve, and yet I had felt complete the moment that I had seen Luce on my wedding day. That could not be love. I can't have spent the past eight years of my life with the wrong person. I have not settled for someone. I love him. I have chosen to spend my life with him. I love him, right?
I had lashed out at her because I didn't want to be wrong. I needed to think, to clear my head. Once the dishes had been cleared from the table and I had excused myself to freshen up, I decided that a bit of fresh air was needed. I walked up the stairs and reached to slide open the glass door to the roof-top when I realized that someone else had had the same idea. I stood watching as Luce sat looking across the city, an umbrella propped against a shoulder, and a wistful smile on her face. She was beautiful.
Then she looked at me and smiled in a way that made me believe everything would be okay. As she walked across the rain-soaked roof she never looked away from me. I stepped aside to allow her inside, closed the door, then stood shoulder to shoulder with her as we looked out into the rainy night. And I knew that I could not be angry with her, that her words had not meant to cause me any pain. I had to let her know with more than my awkward apology. I saw her shiver and reacted immediately. I removed my cardigan and wrapped it around her shoulders, rubbing her arms in an effort to give back some of the heat that her time outdoors had taken from her—thanking whatever supreme power exists for the opportunity to touch her.
Heck called up to us, and I jumped guiltily away from Luce. Why should I feel guilty?
The next day was filled with errands, and I couldn't help but gloat to Heck as we did our weekly shopping that my matchmaking plan had worked. Coop and Luce had left the flat together. And now I can see more of her since Coop spends much of his free time with Heck.
My husband looked at me with that cat-ate-the-canary grin of his. "You mean you didn't ping? You're so not cool." He practically skipped as he pushed the cart. "The thing is, Luce is," he looked up as he came to the crossing aisle, "right here!"
Luce was here? With a friend? A quick round of rather awkward introductions, and we were on our way. "That's what I was trying to tell you," Heck stated as we started down the next aisle, cocking his head in the direction that Luce and Edie had disappeared. "Luce is gay."
I stopped. "She's gay." Oh my God, she's gay? How could I not have known? Why should it matter?
But it did matter.
Three weeks. Three weeks since Luce appeared at my side in an unexpected place.
I met my parents at my little sister's school because H had invited me to hear her presentation on space. As the three of us entered the hallway and made our way toward H's classroom, I heard that familiar voice that always caused my body to react, "Hello."
"Lucy, darling, what are you doing here?" my mother queried.
"I helped H with her presentation. She invited me."
I was confused. Why had H asked Luce to help with her schoolwork? How often did H speak with Luce? I had never thought about Luce being a part of my sister's life. But perhaps I should have. Hadn't my mother told me of how patient Luce had been with H at my wedding, how H had insisted that Luce sit with her during the ceremony, of how H had not let Luce out of her sight until the florist had left the reception? But why had Luce continued to stay in touch with H?
Why hadn't Luce told me she was helping H any of those times we had spoken on the phone the past week, when I had stopped by the shop to chat on my way home? And why did I care?
I had too much to sort out, and I was too embarrassed to speak with anyone about my thoughts. And I certainly couldn't talk to Luce about the feelings that would not go away, of the thoughts that came unbidden to my mind, of the dreams of her that haunted my dreams.
Even sitting beside her as the overhead lights were turned off and H stood at the front of the classroom with only a flashlight illuminating the shiny paper stars overhead, I had found it hard to control my breathing. I could not concentrate on what was being said. And when I reached down to grip the bench on which we sat, I was assaulted by goosebumps when our hands touched. Everyone around us seemed to fade away, and H's voice was replaced by the pounding of my pulse in my ears. I reached up to smooth Luce's hair behind her ear. I looked into eyes that had darkened to the color of a stormy sea, and I leaned forward. I have to know how this feels. I have to know if this will stop the confusion in my head. As our lips were about to touch, the lights came back on, and I realized I had been dreaming again.
Four days. Only four days since I almost kissed her.
If only the night had not been such a success. If only I hadn't asked for her to teach me how to properly heckle the players on the pitch. If only I hadn't asked her to show me, to wrap her arms around me to illustrate her points. If only I hadn't relaxed into her as she stood behind me, her hands atop where my diaphragm would be, her fingers lightly brushing my breasts. If only I had not looked up into her eyes and held her gaze. Paradoxically, I felt lost and at home.
And then the match was over. The evening could not end. I didn't want to go back to my flat. Luce didn't seem to want to back to hers. So we went dancing—in an arcade. And I had never felt as exhilarated, so alive.
God, I wanted to know what her lips felt like against mine. I wanted her arms around me once again. I wanted to know if the racing of my heard would be slowed, if the butterflies in my stomach would be stilled, if the throbbing between my legs would stop. I needed to know that this was an infatuation that would dissipate once I had kissed her.
Once I had kissed her? Wasn't I happily married? Shouldn't I still be enjoying the bliss of being a newlywed?
The headlights of a passing car illuminated us as I was about to have my answer, and they wakened me. I couldn't kiss her. I was a married woman with a wonderful, loyal husband. I couldn't hurt him just to pander to my curiosity.
I responded to that awkward silence and the confusion I saw in her eyes by walking away with a muttered goodnight.
I had done the right thing, but sleep would be as elusive as that almost kiss. My mind was filled with the words she had tried to keep from me on the walk to my flat, the words I refused to let her keep to herself: "The lily means 'I dare you to love me.'"
Three days. Three days had passed since the guilt of my thoughts the night before caused me to try to reestablish the spurned intimacy with my husband.
Three days since I asked Heck if we could go to dinner. We had a nice meal, pleasant conversation. We had always been able to talk easily with each other, but tonight I felt as if I was being pressured to go on a blind date out of pity for the person I was being set up with for the evening.
I saw him glance my way as he drove us back home. I could see the confusion he felt mirrored in his eyes. And I felt guiltier.
Maybe, just maybe, spontaneity would help make this date with Heck as the one with Luce had been last night.
But, no, an attempt to bring some excitement by having sex in a public park was just that—an attempt. It seemed as if there was some unseen force destined to keep us alienated. There was some force pushing me past the man I had loved and toward the woman I wanted to love.
Two days. Two days had gone by since I threw caution to the wind and kissed her.
I had gone to the shop to finally put an end to my feelings for Luce. I had to tell her, and myself, that this flirtation with each other could not continue. I couldn't live with the guilt of hurting someone I loved.
I heard the words come out of my mouth, "So whatever it is, or was, it's got to stop, and it's got to stop now. Do you understand? It's over."
I saw her shoulders slump, her head bow in defeat as I stormed out of the back room and closed the door behind me with finality.
I can't leave this way, without knowing. I have to know.
No sooner had the thoughts formed than I was back inside the room with Luce, placing my hands on either side of her face, and kissing her. God, it felt so right. Her lips were softer than I expected. I had to get more of her. My hands slid lower, pulled at her vest. There were still too many layers between us.
I don't remember how we ended up on the table, but I remember that the only reason we broke the kiss was because she had rolled onto a bed of roses and was forced to pull away because of the pain of the thorns pressed into her lower back and bum.
This was right. This was everything I wanted.
Then the bell on the front door rang, and a familiar voice filled the storefront. The fear of being caught in the back room with Luce was almost suffocating me. How had Heck known I was here?
And Luce was gone to help him. And I heard the heartbreak in his voice as he asked after me, if maybe I had told her something was wrong with the marriage. I couldn't do this to him. I had to get out without being seen by either Heck or Luce. I saw the window and managed to crawl out through it. I didn't stop to think. I just had to run.
I was almost to the top of the hill when I finally stopped and turned to see a frantic Luce close behind me. I needed her; I needed to get away from her. I had to save my relationship with Heck.
Then she offered an answer: "Tell me to go. Tell me that's what you want, and I will walk away and you will never see me again."
I was stunned. "Is that what you want?"
"I want you." Her voice was strong, but her eyes let me know that her heart was breaking.
"I know." Then she was walking away, but I couldn't watch her leave. I wasn't strong enough.
Twelve hours. Only twelve short hours since I was sitting on my parents' sofa, Heck's departure from our lives a recent memory. Only twelve hours since I was finally honest with myself.
"I am in love with someone else . . . her name is Luce."
I expected resistance to my words, and my mother did not disappoint me. But Dad, bless him, encouraged me to follow my heart. And I did—with my parents refusing to let me go alone.
I burst into the shop, expecting to find Luce, expecting her smile. Instead I encountered a woman about my mother's age standing behind the counter. Where was she? I needed to see Luce. I needed Luce!
Back in the car with a new spectator to my frantic chase joining my parents, and all I could think to do was drive until I caught up to Luce. An ill-advised turn onto a congested street stopped our progress, so I did the only thing I could think to do. I opened my cell phone and dialed the familiar number. Her voice was distant, somber, defeated. "You can't do this. It's over," was spoken over an out-of-tune melody of "Imagine me and you and you and me." Then there was only silence.
As my newly formed dreams were crumbling, a cyclist weaved through traffic and passed my window singing, "I can't see me loving nobody but you for all my life."
I shook my head and slowly smiled. "I've heard that song before."
I must have been a sight to the other traffic-jammed motorists-and I'm sure my mother was mortified-when I climbed to the top of the car. I placed my hands on my stomach, my mind imagining Luce's arms wrapped around me, imagining my mouth was a cathedral that had to be filled with, "You're a wanker, Number 9!"
Please let her hear me.
A door slowly opened, and I knew before I saw her, I knew before I climbed from the car, I knew before we ran into each other's arms and shared a kiss full of promise that I loved her unconditionally.
Now, lying here with her head on my shoulder, her arm around my waist, a leg thrown haphazardly over mine, I feel complete.
Ten minutes. Ten minutes have passed since I curled up next to Luce's body. Ten minutes since I placed my head on her chest, my arm draped across her waist, my bare legs tangled with hers.
And in those ten minutes I've relived the totality of our relationship from the nascent pangs of my desire through the realization of my live for her.
I almost feel like I am dreaming. But I can't be. I can hear the beating of her heart, taste the salt from her skin that still lingers on my tongue, smell the muskiness of our lovemaking. I can feel her voice on my cheek as the sound hums through her chest before it escapes from kiss-swollen lips, "What are you thinking?"
I smile in the semidarkness of Luce's bedroom, and my finger's glide along the new tattoo on her ribcage—a single lily whose stem is encircled by jasmine and forget-me-nots. "Of you, of me, of us."
"That's a lot of thinking," she teases sleepily then kisses the top of my head as she lazily trails her fingers down my back.
"Yes, it is," I agree. And it all began with a glance six weeks ago.
Six short weeks ago.