Natalee Grant, Contributor
It took her awhile to realise that the huge lump in her throat was a ball of regret, contracting and releasing, sucking the life out of her peace of mind. If only's woke her up in the morning, self-reproach whispered to her at night. In retrospect, all the signs had been there the lingering looks, the unrequited stares, the tension between them was palpable, it sucked the gaiety from the room and replaced it with an anxious expectancy. They would catch each others' gaze mid-sentence and instantly lower their voices as if they feared the other would hear the underlying longing in their voices. Social occasions found them tripping over themselves to be overly polite, and they nervously avoided each other in the halls.
Months passed, no words were spoken, yet it was there. The unspoken feelings they were both afraid to express, waiting for the next move like chess players at an impasse, each hoping the other would drop their guard and give voice to the unnamed compulsion that forced them to think of each other all the time.
She looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes once alive with laughter were deep pools of regret, pain etched in the lines around her mouth. Fresh tears threatened to unravel the tentative composure she had mustered on the way to the bathroom. She brushed the tears aside, numbness and hopelessness threatening to drag her back to the shallow comfort of her bed. Her pillows, the arbiters of sanctity would shield her from the thoughts of him and the thoughts of what might have been. She slipped her black stockings on and looked at herself in the mirror. It wasn't the same, nothing was. She had ceased to greet life with the optimism that had made her who she was. She was a glass half-empty with a crack that threatened to shatter her reality and break her sanity.
She turned sideways adjusting her stockings and girdle. Her misery had manifested itself in a paunch, fueled by mid-night 'cry-athons' and ice cream. The hooks of the girdle dug into her flesh, even as the memories of last year dug ditches of remorse in her heart.
The moment she had waited for came and went, unceremoniously. She had expected more from the glorious moment of contact, flowery prose, a whispered sonnet, a meaningful waltz around the room. Instead, it had been an anonymous email which she had summed up as spam and sent it to the place where all spam goes. Just like that she had de-spammed her life and any chance of happiness that came with it.
The dress was snug; she turned this way and that, testing its durability, a picture of a plump bridesmaid ripping the magenta masterpiece of the frock to shreds with the power of flab, sprang to mind and with it, a hint of a smile. She pinned her hair, adorned it with the rosette garlands her sister had demanded she wear and steeled herself.
The 100-watt smile on her face belied the devastation in her heart, only pride kept her from falling to pieces. Their eyes met as she walked down the aisle, her heart stopped. The aria that accompanied her walk may as well have been the announcement of her execution.
Her smile faltered the closer she got. Thoughts of what could have been threatened to usurp the joy of the occasion. She watched her sister, the smiling bride walk into the arms of the man who was almost the love of her life.