Ok so this is my second holiday story thing (I really didn't like the first one, so eh) and now it's revised (again). While I was writing this, had a kind of soundtrack going so here are the songs if anyone is interested.
"Linger" by the Cranberries
"Look After You" by The Fray
"Name" & "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls
I stared at the happy couple as the groom (my younger brother) recited his vow of undying love and wondered how much longer my feet could handle these torturous heels. My brother slid the glittering diamond ring on his blushing bride's finger and the priest continued on speaking. Blah, blah, blah. This was not how I wanted to spend Christmas Eve. Sure, I was happy for them but I was supposed to be my brother's best man, erm, best person. Instead his bride had hijacked me into being her maid of honor. It wouldn't be so bad if my brother's new best man wasn't so damn smug about taking my place.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." The crowd oohed and ahhed as the bride and groom kissed their way into marriage bliss.
I breathed in a sigh of relief and heard a chuckle I would know anywhere. The best man, Mike, was laughing at me as he came to take my hand to lead me down the aisle after the newly weds.
"What's so funny?" I glanced at him; he was still as gorgeous as ever.
"You look like you're about to run everyone down. What's the hurry?" He turned to grin at some of my relatives.
"It's my shoes." I flushed when he laughed again. "They hurt."
"You wouldn't have had to wear them if you were the best man."
"Oh, shut up."
Annoyed, I let him lead me out of the church and to the reception hall, doing my best to ignore the fluttering I felt in my stomach every time our sides brushed.
"I never thought there would come a day when my baby brother would ever get married." I raised my glass towards the newly wed. "Take care of one another and, Skylar, stay off WoW long enough to make her happy." The crowd laughed; my brother was such a World of Warcraft junkie.
I sat down as Mike stood up. "Congrats, Sky. Now, everyone, drink up." He laughed and tossed back his own drink.
The guests roared with approval, it was just the kind of thing my family would enjoy. It took three hours for the cake to be cut, the garter and the flowers to be thrown and fought over, and the couple to say enough goodbyes to leave for their honeymoon. Cheers followed the limo as it drove off through the holiday decorated streets. Everyone else filed back into the reception hall, cranked up the music, and continued the party.
"May I have this dance?" One of my uncles pulled me to my feet. I was passed from one partner to the next, dancing barefoot with my dress swirling all around me.
"Hey." Familiar brown eyes met mine and my breath caught in my throat.
"Hi, Mike." He slid one hand around my waist and took my hand with the other as a slow love song settled over the speakers. "Um."
He smiled slightly. "You look different."
"I took my hair down and my shoes are gone."
He laughed. "It's definitely not that. God, how long has it been since I last saw you?"
"Yesterday at rehearsal."
"Before that, before that."
"About a year, I guess." Yeah, a year ago when I came home from grad school and saw him, as handsome as ever, being clung to by some giggling, peroxide blonde who drank too much and wore too little.
"Oh yeah! Your homecoming party."
"Yeah." I looked around, hoping someone would save me from this conversation.
"How long have we known each other?"
I closed my eyes. Did we really have to go there? "Six years." It had been six years since I had first laid eyes on the mud-covered, high school football player. He was so distant then that even saying hello had been a challenge, but as the months had passed, he had shed the quiet exterior. After a year, I knew I had fallen hard, even though all we ever seemed to do was argue. So many heated arguments and I couldn't remember what any of them had been about.
He whistled. "Damn, six years? We've got history, don't we?"
"We sure do." We sure do. So many afternoons of watching movies with him and my brother, playing cards until dawn stretched out across the sky, helping him and my brother do their tuxes for prom night and then watching them go off with their dates. I smiled, but even I could tell it was more of a grimace.
A hand at my elbow startled me out of my reverie; it was my grandfather. "May I cut in?"
Reluctantly, Mike let me go and gratefully I went. Mike's questions had brought up a lot of buried memories and I was pretty sure that they were things best left alone. It sucked to love someone you know will never love you back.
Church bells resounded somewhere close by, chiming midnight to anyone who cared to listen. The party was slowly winding down, the elderly relatives staggering out, clutching one another and laughing in all their drunken joy.
Family members sought me out constantly. "Adele, have you seen my coat?" "Adele, help me carry the babies to the car." "Adele, where's the vodka?"
"Hey, Adele." Mike slid an arm around my shoulders, sighing in contentment as more people waved goodbye.
"Can I go home yet?" I ignored the warmth emanating from him.
"Nope, we're in charge of seeing everyone off. We promised Skylar, remember?" He shouted goodbye to an old family friend before turning his smile on me, my knees went weak.
"Yeah, yeah. Let's just kick them out already."
"Wish we could, but we also promised that we'd be nice." My face must have fallen for he squeezed my shoulder gently. "Merry Christmas, by the way." He kissed my cheek.
I stiffened, trying not to think of how wonderful his lips felt against my skin or how much I loved the way his cologne smelled. "Merry Christmas to you too."
He scoffed, making me turn my head, and tapped his cheek. "A kiss for you, now a kiss for me."
With my heart beating rapidly, I stood on tiptoe. He lifted his arm from my shoulder to make it easier for me, but still I hesitated. Could I pretend that, just once, he was mine? As my face neared his, he turned, capturing my lips with his. I stood, rooted to the spot, closing my eyes and deepening the kiss.
Startled by my recklessness, I pulled back, raising a hand to my lips. Mike stared at me, his eyes hooded and filled with some emotion I couldn't recognize.
"I-I have to go." I turned to flee, my head spinning with delight and horror.
His hand grasped mine, holding my in place and shattering my resolve. "Don't go."
"Kiss me again."
I couldn't help it, as much as I would have liked to run home, I loved him too much to leave. "I'll stay a little longer, but no kiss."
He sighed and pulled me closer. "Then let's dance instead."
"There's no music."
"So what? I'll sing if you need something to dance to."
I shook my head, he was an awful singer. He spun me out, then back in, bringing my arms up around his neck. We moved, caught up in our own thoughts, that we lost track of how many guests remained. He dipped me, once, so low I was sure that if I had looked down, my head would brush the ground. With each step, each sway, each beat of his heart near mine I allowed myself to dream and my heart broke a little more each time. Six years and he had never seemed interested. Six years was an awfully long time.
I took a step back, letting my arms fall to my side. I couldn't let my eyes meet him. "See you later."
Once more, his hand grasped mine. Spinning me back into him, his lips hovered over mine. "Stay with me tonight."
A bitter laugh rose and died in my throat. "I wish I could say yes, but I can't. To you I'm just some girl of the week, and that's just not for me. Bye, Mike." I turned to collect my shoes and jacket and headed to my car.
A single tear rolled down my cheek. He didn't follow. Disappointment rolled over me in one great wave, but it'd be all right. It always was.
"Happy New Years!"
Friends and family, all dressed in bright clothes, gathered around the TV, where the ball had finished dropping. Glasses clinked together and the music was sent soaring. "Let's par-tay!"
Tired of dancing, I stepped out onto the patio of my grandparents' house. The sky had been promising snow all week, but nothing fell. The city, sprawled out before me, was teeming with celebrations. Smiling, I tugged my coat closer and waited for life to make sense. Skylar and his ridiculously happy bride had called from their hotel on some sunny island in the Pacific. They reminded me of Mike and how I had walked away; another thing I wish I could forget.
"Adele?" A cousin called from the open doorway. "Ah, um, someone's looking for you." Not in the mood for people, I waved her off. "All right." She disappeared back into the crowd.
Laughing without mirth, I kept my gazed fixed on the sky, hoping that snowflakes would come tumbling down soon.
My world went still, I know that voice. Closing my eyes, I bit my lip. Why was he here? "Hello, Michael."
"Michael? Jesus, Adele, you've never called me that. Don't start now." I heard him making his way towards me, but I refused to turn around. "Look at me." He swung me around; his mouth was set into a firm line, but his eyes were searching.
"Sorry." I sighed.
"Don't be sorry." I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off. "Shut up for a minute and hear me out. I was wrong the other night to ask you to sleep with me. I was drunk and stupid."
My heart broke, even though I had turned him down, his interest had made me feel really good; like we could be more than two people who knew each other in this wild world. Now though, I sighed again and gazed off to the city's lights.
He grabbed my shoulders. "But, dammit woman, you drive me nuts. Six years of being near you, unable to touch you. I couldn't even hold you and I wanted to. You never even got jealous when I paraded those girls in front of you."
"Wait, what?" This was not what I was expecting.
"You'd just look at me, nod, and then turn to talk to someone else. And who was I to question it? Your brother's friend, not worth anything but a polite smile." He ran a hand through his hair, his frustration in every line of his face. "But, when we kissed, it was like there was something there." He smiled wistfully. "You were so beautiful that night. You're always beautiful."
I stared, all words lost to me, stunned. This was a dream, right? I'll wake up in a minute, in an empty bed, won't I?
He drew me close. "I love you, Adele." He pulled back, waiting for a response. Still, I said nothing. "Well, uh, I had better go."
"Wait." My voice broke, so I held his arm close to me. I was afraid that if I let go, I'd lose my chance forever. "Don't go. I love you too, Mike. I have for a very, very long time."
He held me then, held me as if letting go was never going to be an option. He was warm and there and nothing else mattered. He kissed me, long and deep, leaving us both breathless and grinning like idiots.
"Happy New Years." He whispered in my ear, pulling me in front of him and wrapping his arms around me as a huge firecracker set the sky awash in blues and reds. And, the first fragile snowflakes of the new year began to drift down.