Tomorrow was supposed to be a wonderful day, full of happiness and joy. After all, her cousin was getting married to the man of her dreams.
There were only one small problem. The man that Charity would be marrying was Miguel -- the man that she had loved for what seemed like an eternity.
It was so unfair, Kay thought, plopping down on her bed in the room she shared with her sister Jessica. After Charity had come to town, everything that Kay wanted had been handed to her cousin on a silver platter. She had complained, of course, but her mother had informed her that Charity needed it more than she did -- no matter what it actually was.
So Charity had it -- all of it. She had the attic room that Kay had planned to move into. She had clothes that were purchased from money that Kay was saving to buy a car. But, more importantly, she had Miguel.
Kay could have made him happier that Charity ever would, but that was a secret that would be forever buried after the following day.
She still couldn't believe that she was supposed to attend the wedding and pretend to be happy for the happy couple. Even worse, she was a bridesmaid. She had no idea how she was going to be able to keep a smile on her face throughout the entire ceremony!
Well, there was nothing else that she could do. Ordinarily, she'd stay up half the night plotting and planning to break up Miguel and Charity, but they were getting married the next day. But not even she was heartless enough to try to break up a couple the night before their wedding.
"Why did Charity ever have to come to Harmony?" Kay asked rhetorically, looking out the nearby window at the starry night sky. "Why couldn't *I* be the one that Miguel loves?"
Kay knew that her prayers would never be answered. After all, she had lost and tainted her soul more times than she wished to remember.
In attempts to escape the pain of consciousness, Kay closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, missing a bright twinkle of the stars in response to her plea.
Damn birds, Kay thought, as she squinted at the sunlight streaming through the window. This was only the most miserable day of her existence. Why couldn't they commiserate with her and stop their annoying chirping?
Without opening her eyes, Kay reached to close the window beside her bed. Oddly enough, she couldn't seem to find the cord. She knew it was there, so she just kept reaching and reaching until --
What the hell had just happened? Kay wondered, instantly opening her eyes. Her bed wasn't where it was last night. Hell, this wasn't even her room! What was going on?
"Are you okay, sweetie?" her mother asked, popping her head into the room. "We heard a loud thud downstairs and we wanted to make sure that nothing had happened to you."
Kay looked at her mom quizzically. Since when did she give a damn if she was alright?
"I'm fine, Mom," she replied, dismissing her curiosity for the moment.
Her mother smiled and nodded before softly shutting the door behind her.
What on earth was going on? Kay wondered. Nothing was as it had been the night before.
Suddenly, she realized where she was. She was in her cousin's room, but for some reason it looked nothing like the room of 'Saint Charity.'
Charity's room was lilac and, well, girly. The room she was in had a blue and green décor, with sports memorabilia everywhere. She had a Sammy Sosa poster above her bed, with ones of Brett Favre and Tom Brady on either side. The baseball that Miguel had given her was in a place of honor on her vanity, and beside it was a photo that she didn't recognize. Well, perhaps that wasn't the total truth. She knew who was in the picture. She was posing with Miguel, and they looked very much in love.
But how could that be? Kay asked herself, her fingers instinctively playing with the gold chain around her neck. Miguel loved Charity and had dated her for years. He had never looked at her like that -- not unless you counted their experience in the mineshaft. Besides, they were dressed very formally in the photo, making it obvious that they weren't in the mineshaft.
Unconsciously, she glanced down at the gold pendant that she was fingering. As she examined it, she did a double take. She was wearing the cross of Miguel's grandmother. It was Charity's most precious possession -- she never took it off. How could she have ever gotten a hold of the pendant if --
Slowly, the door opened, revealing the smiling face of her best friend.
"Morning," he greeted her, striding over to give her a soft kiss on the lips. "How did you sleep?"
So apparently they were going out, Kay concluded. But she had to admit that this was beyond strange. What the hell was going on?
"I slept well," Kay replied quietly before covering Miguel's lips with hers and kissing him deeply. If she had the opportunity to kiss Miguel, she might as well take advantage of it!
Moments later, Miguel pulled away, earning a moan of disappointment from Kay. Grinning he said, "Now go get changed, Kay. We've got a big day ahead of us today."
"Uh, what?" Kay asked, confused. What on earth had happened? Had she pulled a Rip Van Winkle or something?
Miguel smiled again, realization washing over his tanned features. "Don't tell me you forgot already, Kay," he teased, tweaking her nose. "No, I know that it's still early -- you're probably not completely awake yet. We're driving up to the Disappearing Isles, just off of the coast."
Kay beamed blissfully at the thought of what would happen during their trip. She had already ravished Miguel's mouth -- and they'd only been alone a few minutes. She could only imagine what would happen later that day…
"Thanks, Mrs. Bennett!" Miguel called out for what seemed like the hundredth time. They were on the verge of leaving for a secluded excursion, and he couldn't stop thanking her damn mother for the picnic lunch!
"You're welcome, Miguel," her mom replied yet again. "Now why don't you get going -- I'm sure you would rather be on the road."
"Ok, Mrs. Bennett -- if you insist," Miguel agreed, climbing into the driver's seat of the shiny red convertible.
"Goodbye!" he called out, waving as he pulled away from the curb. Reluctantly, Kay did the same, waving goodbye to her parents. She'd do anything to get her away from Harmony and alone with Miguel.
As her parents faded off into the distance, Kay closed her eyes and reclined into her cushy seat. She knew better than to attempt to distract Miguel while he was driving, but she might as well have some deliciously sexy dreams about him while she couldn't have him.
The ride to the Disappearing Isles was much shorter than she had anticipated, she realized, as the car came to a stop. Opening her eyes, she realized that they were not along the coast, as she had anticipated. Rather, Miguel had parked them in front of Reese Durkee's house.
Reese Durkee. The bane of her existence. The man who believed that he was her boyfriend -- although in reality, that couldn't be farther from the truth. He was everything that she *didn't* want in a boyfriend. He was dorky, inathletic, nerdy… in short, Miguel's complete opposite. If he was intruding on her Miguel Time, she would have to hurt someone.
Quickly, Miguel hopped out of the car. "You coming?" he asked as he walked around the car.
Kay shook her head. The less time she had to spend around Reese, the better. No, she would stay in the car, in her Durkee-Free zone.
Miguel nodded and gave her a quick peck on the cheek before he headed up the walk to the front door. "I'll be right back."
Surprisingly, he was back momentarily, which was something that Kay had not expected. She smiled happily, eager to get back on the road. But then her worst nightmare came true.
Miguel wasn't leaving Reese's home alone. No, he was being followed by not one, but two people. The first being Reese himself, and the second being her annoying, maddening little sister.
This was absolutely fantastic. Her romantic getaway with the man who was apparently her boyfriend was being invaded by two people that she wouldn't mind avoiding for the rest of her days.
She supposed that Miguel had never specifically *told* her that it would be just the two of them that day, but how was she supposed to stop herself from jumping to such a conclusion?
With a sigh of relief she watched Reese and Jessica climb into a different car. Maybe they weren't going to the Disappearing Isles, and if they were, at least she wouldn't be trapped in a car with them for the entire drive.
Nearly an hour later, they were still on the road following Reese and Jessica. Kay was starting to love driving around in Miguel's red Volvo C70 Convertible.
"Miguel, I really love this car, you know that? This is such a cool car!"
He looked at her curiously. "I know you like this car, Kay. That would be why you bought it."
"But if this is my car, why are you driving?" Kay asked, trying not to let on the anger that was filling her. If she had paid so much money for the damn car, why the hell was Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald the one driving it?
"Kay, don't you remember?" Miguel asked, not moving his eyes from the road. "We decided awhile back that I would always drive so that you wouldn't have to worry about it. It's much easier this way, you know."
Sure, it was easier for *him*! He didn't shell out thousands of dollars for the damn car, and he got to drive it constantly. How the hell did that work?
"Kay, just sit back and relax," Miguel instructed her with a smile. "We're almost there."
Well, at least that was a good thing to hear. If she had to spend any more time in *her* car without being the driver, she was going to go crazy.
It was official. Her heavenly trip with Miguel had turned into a hellish nightmare.
Miguel was babying her, doing everything that he could to protect her. He was acting the same way that he had acted around Charity.
She wasn't Charity, dammit, and she sure as hell didn't want to be!
But Miguel shouldn't be acting like she was going to break. After all, she was Kay Bennett -- his lifelong friend and confidant. He knew that she wasn't a prissy little girl who would break if anything went wrong. She was a tomboy, someone who could take the hits and keep on coming.
And then there were Jessica and Reese, and they certainly didn't make the situation any better. They were in love, apparently, and they couldn't keep their hands off of each other.
It wasn't that she was jealous. Really, that wasn't it. She didn't want Reese -- she knew that for sure.
But Reese … his body was nothing like she had ever seen before. From his chiseled features to his rippling muscles, he was sexy. She had never seen Reese look the way that he did during that seemingly never-ending day.
He couldn't possibly have looked like that when he was *her* boyfriend, right? I mean, this must have been something else that was just completely different from how it had been when she had fallen asleep last night, right?
But what if it wasn't? What if she had passed up on the wonderfully sweet and sexy Reese for the overprotective and not nearly as cute Miguel?
This was too much to deal with. She couldn't handle all of this -- she just couldn't.
So, she curled up on the blanket Miguel had brought along, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
Everything was dark. She couldn't see or hear anything. Anything that is, but a soft voice whispering in her ear.
"Katherine Elizabeth Bennett, you are one of the lucky ones. Few people are allowed to have a glimpse of how their life would have been different if certain events had not come to pass. You saw how your life would be if Charity had never come to town. Don't let your experience be for naught. Learn from it and from your mistakes, Katherine. Learn…"
"Wake up, sleepyhead," a voice admonished, shaking her into consciousness, her dream forgotten. "We've got to get to work -- Charity and Miguel are getting married in only a few hours."
With a groan, Kay opened her eyes to reveal her younger sister. Jessica was wearing a smirk, obviously unable to resist the temptation to rub in the fact that the love of her life was marrying someone else on that wretched day.
"Give me fifteen minutes," Kay muttered, pulling herself out from underneath her covers. "I'll shower, put on the damn dress, and meet you downstairs."
Jessica smirked again at her words, obviously picking up on the fact that this was a day Kay certainly was dreading, before leaving the room.
Why the hell would she want this day to come? After all, her soul mate was marrying someone else today -- and Miguel wasn't marrying a random someone. No, Miguel was marrying her cousin, which meant that she would have to deal with the impossibility of the fruition of their love on a daily basis.
Unless… She could pull a Noah, she supposed. After all, her older brother had appeared to disappear off of the face of the earth -- they didn't even know if he planned to attend the wedding that day. She could do that, couldn't she? She simply had to find a way out of this wretched town -- and how hard could that be? It's not like anyone would miss her anyhow.
Yes, that would be what she would do. After Miguel and Charity had left for their honeymoon, she would leave as well. She didn't know where she would go or what she would do, but that didn't really matter. The important thing was that she would be getting the hell out of Harmony and away from the love that could never be hers.
"You love him, don't you?" a familiar voice whispered in her ear, as they were waiting in the entryway to the church for the wedding to start.
Startled, Kay flinched, before turning to see her brother standing behind her. "Noah!" she cried happily, throwing her arms around him. Maybe he would help her escape Harmony, as he had so many years ago.
"What are you doing here?" Kay asked excitedly, the discomfort of the lilac bridesmaid's dress forgotten for the moment.
"I heard that there was a wedding in town, so I thought I'd stop by," he replied cryptically. "I'll explain more later -- there is a wedding we have to see to first."
Kay nodded, hugging him impulsively before he could disappear again. "I've missed you, Noah," she admitted, earning a grin from him.
"I missed you too, Squirt," he replied, using her childhood nickname. "Later," he reminded her with a grin.
Noah had returned. Kay knew that as long as he was in town, everything would be fine. But if he would leave again, as he was apt to do, she feared that she could never recover.
"May I have this dance?"
Kay turned, her dress swirling around her. "Yes, you may, Noah," she replied with a grin.
"So you're in love with Miguel," he began tentatively.
"Thanks for the reminder," Kay replied with a small frown.
"So how are you holding up?" Noah asked, his concern written on his face.
"How the hell do you think I'm holding up?" Kay asked. "I'm planning to leave town after this whole fiasco is finally over. I can't stand the idea of seeing them together day after day. Could I stay with you, Noah? Not for long, I promise -- just until I get on my feet."
Noah chuckled. "You could, but I doubt it would do you much good, Munchkin. I'm actually moving back to town."
Kay looked at her older brother quizzically. "Why?"
Noah sighed. "It's a long story. C'mon," he said, taking her hand and leading her away from the throng of people.
Momentarily, they were seated on an old wooden bench in a nearby garden. Fountains were bubbling and colorful flowers decorated the landscape.
"When I was younger, I adored Uncle Hank. I know now that he and his friends didn't especially love having a little kid hanging around all the time, but they never told me to get lost. Anyhow, somehow, I got the idea that I was in love with Beth Wallace. Of course, she loved Luis, so I knew that we could never be together, but that didn't stop me from worshipping the ground that she walked on.
"When she and Luis broke up, I was a senior in high school. I always made excuses to go to the Book Café and see her -- eventually she caught on. She let me down gently, but it still hurt. So as soon as I graduated high school, I left town with no intentions to ever return. She held out hope that she and Luis would get back together, and I knew that I couldn't bear to see them together, with her knowing how I felt. So I left."
"But, then why are you moving back? I mean, Beth is still in love with Luis."
"I know she is," Noah agreed. "And she probably always will be -- but I'm not in love with her anymore. Maybe I never was."
"What do you mean?" Kay asked, curiously. "But you just said that you were in love with her."
"Beth was unattainable for me. She was a woman that I know now that I never had a chance with. Subconsciously, I probably knew that back then, which was why I loved her. Loving her had no consequences -- until she figured out that I loved her. It was easy and painless, but there was also no joy in it."
"Why are you telling me this?" Kay asked. "So you're not in love with Beth -- lucky you. But I'm still in love with Miguel!"
"Are you really in love with Miguel?" Noah questioned. "I know that he's your best friend and that you love him in that sense, but are you truly in love with him? Or are you more in love with the idea of Miguel, in love with the man that you *think* he is? Chances are, Kay, that Miguel is not the man that you remember. Being with Charity has changed him, and he might not be the man that you once knew.
"Some day, Kay, you'll meet a man who loves you and accepts you for all that you are. He gives you what you need, and allows you to do and be what you are. You'll find someone who knows you inside and out -- nearly better than you know yourself. I've found a woman like that, which is why I've come home. He's out there, Kay -- just make sure that you don't miss him." Noah leaned in to give Kay a brotherly kiss on her forehead. "You're a fighter, Squirt. Don't be giving up so easily now, you hear?"
Kay nodded thoughtfully. "I'll think about what you've said, Noah."
He grinned. "That's all I ask. Now, if you don't mind, I think that there's a wonderful woman out there to whom I owe a dance."
Kay nodded and watched him walk away and leave her in peace. Noah couldn't possibly be right, could he? She truly loved Miguel for who he was -- not for who she *thought* he was. This wasn't some "wanting what you can't have fetish" or anything of that sort. She wanted Miguel -- after all, look at all of the things that she had done to try to attain his love! He had been her dream for years, and…
Dream. She had had a dream last night, a rather weird one at that. But it was merely a dream, right? That couldn't have possibly been reality.
But those words… the words that she had heard at the end. What about those?
Those whispered words had told her that she was being offered a glimpse of what her life would have been like without Charity. But those words couldn't have told the truth, could they? After all, Miguel would never baby her as he had during her dream.
But Luis had 'babied' Miguel for years. Perhaps that was why Miguel had fallen in love with Charity -- he had wanted someone to protect, someone to watch over. Charity had needed someone like that, and she had found that in Miguel.
Now that she thought about it, she couldn't even truly think of what it was that made her love Miguel. It was just something that she knew was true, but she no longer understood the reasoning behind that conclusion.
Was it possible that Noah had been right? That she loved Miguel because he was unattainable, because she was afraid of being in love and being loved?
She had to admit that Noah did make one point. Miguel didn't know her, not anymore. They had lost touch since Charity had come to town. Miguel no longer had time for her, which could have perpetuated her 'love' for him.
She didn't love Miguel, Kay thought with a grin. She didn't love Miguel -- at least not like that. The realization was so wonderful, so freeing.
She would always love Miguel, yes, but merely as a friend. He belonged with Charity, not with her, so everything was as it should be.
With a soft smile, Kay walked back towards the dance floor, her eyes and heart open to find the man that she was meant to be with, the man who would love her with every fiber of his being.
As her eyes scanned the dance floor, she caught sight of her brother dancing with none other than Gwen Hotchkiss. So that was the woman who had changed his outlook on life and love, Kay realized, making a mental note to thank her later.
"Would you like to dance, Kay?" She turned to see none other than Reese Durkee standing beside her, extending his hand.
Kay smiled and nodded, taking his hand. As the two twirled around the dance floor, she realized just how perfectly she fit into his arms -- almost as if it was where she truly belonged. But she couldn't belong with Reese. That just didn't make sense!
"Miguel and Charity are married -- rather hard to believe, isn't it?" Reese asked rhetorically. "How are you holding up?"
Kay met his eyes, her surprise at his words written all over her face. What on earth had he meant by that?
"I'm not blind, Kay. I know that you're in love with him, that you have been for years. Sometimes it was nice to pretend that it was me that you really loved. It made life easier to deal with sometimes," Reese explained, without missing a beat.
"You -- you knew?" Kay asked. "But how -- why -- what -- "
"Let's get away from the crowd, Kay, and then I'll explain further," Reese suggested, taking her hand. When her feet refused to function, he effortlessly picked her up and carried her to the same bench that she and Noah had shared earlier. Carefully, he held her in his arms, allowing her to remain seated on his lap.
"Despite these thick glasses I wear, Kay, I'm not blind. I haven't missed the jealous looks that you have cast in Charity's direction, nor have I missed the lustful ones you have cast towards Miguel. I know that when Charity came to town, Miguel began to neglect you. Much of his time was spent with Charity, and he didn't have much time left to spend with the two of us. You loved him, Kay, and he practically ignored you. I know how much that hurts," Reese informed her.
"Oh, Reese, I'm sorry," Kay lamented, a flash of pain searing her heart. She had been so worried about her own wants and desires that she had forgotten about Reese's own. "I was so horrible. I never should have led you on like that."
Reese smiled gently. "It's alright, Kay. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
Kay looked into his eyes and saw that he was telling the truth. He had accepted that fact that his love for her would never be since she loved Miguel.
But she didn't love Miguel. Not anymore.
Reese had known that she loved Miguel, but he loved her in spite of that. She thought that she loved Miguel out of jealousy because of his love for Charity.
She hadn't truly loved Miguel, but she could see that Reese truly loved her. But she couldn't get involved with Reese, not again. She had caused him enough pain already, and she couldn't bear to cause him more heartache.
"Reese," she began, looking up into his soft gray eyes, "I -- I don't love Miguel. Not like I thought I did. Reese, I don't know if I love you or not. Honestly, I've never allowed myself to love you because I had believed that I could only love Miguel. I'd like to try to love you, but I don't want to hurt you, not again. I don't know what to do, Reese," she confessed, burying her face in his suit jacket, soaking him with her tears.
"Kay," he began, lifting her eyes up to meet his own. "Heartache is temporary. The pain heals with time. Never give up on the chance to love and be loved because you might be hurt at some point. You need to believe that love is worth it, Kay."
"What are you saying?" Kay asked with a sniffle.
"Try to love me and allow me to love you in return. You'll never know what could have been until you try."
Kay looked into his eyes and nodded. She watched as his head slowly began the descent towards hers. Unable to wait any longer, she reached up and pulled his lips down to meet hers in a fiery kiss.
After their lips became fused together, Kay's mind lost the ability to function and was filled with a wonderfully hazy fog. Her limbs moved purely on instinct, wrapping themselves tightly around Reese's body, pulling him as close as possible.
Soon, Reese pulled away, leaving her breathless. It had been much too short, in her opinion. She wanted to spend the rest of her days kissing Reese, embracing Reese, and loving Reese. It was then that she realized the truth.
So this is love.