As she walked toward her future, her heart stuttered, and nearly stopped. Her feet seemed glued to the floor, and suddenly she realized that she was living in a nightmare. The beats of the music continued, expecting her to move along with them, but instead she turned, and fled toward the door, trying desperately not to trip on the train of her dress. She ran to the nearest taxi, and begged him to take her straight home, so she could change. Upon arrival, she paid him extra to wait for her, and ran into her room to change into something more suitable for an aeroplane flight. As she was packing her suitcase, she found a letter, and memories came crashing upon her.
It was her first year in a new school, she had braces, and she was slightly overweight. She'd been through the same routine hundreds of times. You walk in, introduce yourself, and head straight to the back, hoping no one trips you on the way. This time, she wasn't so lucky, a pretty girl tripped her only two desks into the aisle. There was laughter about the room, and tears sprung to her eyes, but suddenly there was a gentle hand on her arm, helping her up.
She'd known Ethan for three years now, and they were moving up into high school. Her braces were finally off, though she was still a bit pudgy. She felt like she was the least beautiful person in the world, but he treated her like a princess anyway. They sat at the lunch table, when her crush came up to her, and asked her to the homecoming dance. He laughed in her face when she said yes, and called her ugly… She barely held the tears in as she ran away from him. She didn't hear the sound of flesh contacting flesh and bone breaking under a fist. But soon, she felt a familiar arm around her, holding her close.
They were standing in front of the gym, where prom was to take place, her hand on Ethan's arm, and a smile bright in her eyes. He'd asked her to prom, and even though she knew he would never want to date her, she felt happy just to be there with him tonight. She'd lost her baby fat through the years, and was now a curvy, and beautiful woman, though she couldn't see it. Eyes followed her as Ethan whisked her around the dance floor, her amber eyes sparkling as bright as her smile, which they saw all too rarely. Jealousy ran rampant that night, especially when the clock struck midnight, and Ethan pulled her close, pressing a soft kiss to her lips.
Graduation, and the going of separate ways. She knew it had been inevitable, but she had hoped to avoid it. Ethan was going to an in state college, while she was going to and out of COUNTRY college. She still couldn't believe she'd been accepted to Oxford of all places. They'd have a great summer before she had to leave, but how can they keep up a relationship with 3,500 miles of water between them, and such a large time difference? So they decided to call it quits on the day she left. Her heart broke that day, and never recovered.
The first day of her sophomore year of Oxford, she met someone who made her heart hurt with how much he reminded her of Ethan. She got closer to him, and eventually they began to date. He treated her badly, staying out late, and flirting with other women in front of her. Even telling her that he had a girlfriend on the side. She stayed because when he was in his good moods, he was so much like Ethan, that it made everything seem worth it. She stayed with him for the remainder of her college days.
Two years into the relationship, he told her they would be married. He never asked her, only told her. She went along with it, because she didn't feel that she had a choice at this point. She stayed with him, and got ready for the wedding. Buying the dress he liked, picking out the flowers and china pattern he liked, and even booking the place he wanted, even though she disliked it. She did everything in her power to make him happy, never realizing that deep in her heart he wasn't the one she wanted to see smile.
As her vision blurred she noticed that tears had fallen onto the page she'd read. She couldn't believe it, but she had found a letter from Ethan, posted on the day of her "engagement." It read
"Your mother told me about your engagement. I hope that he makes you happier than I could imagine, because it is what you deserve, and I hope that he loves you more than words, because you are worth it. You're the most beautiful woman in the world, and I should have told you sooner that I love you, and I know that now I have lost my chance.
She grabbed her suitcase and bounded down the steps, ordering the cabbie to take her to Heathrow on the double.
She didn't tell anyone she was coming home, and she didn't know what she would find when she got there. She knew Ethan's mom had died, and left him their old house, and she hoped she would find him there. As the cab pulled up to the house, a little girl came out of the front door, and started to draw on the sidewalk in chalk. Fearing the worst, she got out of the car, and walked toward the girl, asking if she knew Ethan. The little girl said no, and went back to playing.
She didn't know how she ended up at the park, she just knew that her feet had carried her there, and she didn't know what to do next. She felt like she had lost the one good thing her life had ever decided to bless her with, instead of making her work for it, like everything else. She felt like crying, and as she sat on the swing she did just that, until there was a soft hand on her shoulder, and a soft voice spoke her name.