It was silent. Unusual. Rachel Winters surveyed her closet, hoping that by some miracle she'd be able to spot something suitable. Her rehearsal dinner was in a mere hour and a half. She was still not ready. Nothing seemed quite right. She definitely wanted to wear a dress but which one? What color?
Rachel hadn't seen her fiancé since that morning. It'd been a hectic day. Last day wedding preparations. It was surreal to her that she was getting married. Everything had come together so quickly yet so slowly at the same time. And despite her tendency to worry about all the little things, her wedding day really was going to be perfect.
After a few more minutes, Rachel finally pulled a dress out of her closet. She hadn't worn it in a long time. It had some history, this dress. But it was perfect. It was the perfect combination between dressy and casual for the evening. She slipped the dress on, grateful that there wasn't a zipper she had to attempt to zip on her own. She stepped in front of her full-length mirror, feeling pleased with the choice she'd made. It was a simple dress. It was white, reaching down to just above her knees. The empire waist wasn't one she generally liked but this dress was different. Rachel made a subconscious choice not to let her mind wander to all the memories she had with this dress. It wasn't the time. It would never be the time.
When Rachel's cell phone rang, she was snapped back to reality. She hardly had enough time to get ready without getting distracted. She stepped over to her dresser where her phone was. When she checked the caller-ID, she smiled.
"Hey you," she said as she answered the phone. The shy smile she had on her face was common—primarily when Josh Holden called.
"Mm, how does it work that on the day before we get married I don't even get to see you?" Josh asked, clearly smiling. There was something about his voice that made it easy for Rachel to figure out if he was smiling or not.
"I know. I missed you all day."
"Then that makes two of us." Josh paused for a split second. "I'm on my way to pick you up. You almost ready?"
"Almost. I just gotta do something with this hair of mine."
"You look beautiful."
Rachel rolled her eyes and smiled. "You haven't even seen me."
Josh laughed. "As if I have to see you to know that."
"You're such a flirt," Rachel teased her fiancé. He was, in fact, a bit of a flirt. But she didn't mind since she was the one he was flirting with.
"What I can I say? You bring it out in me."
Rachel laughed. "Yeah, yeah, OK. If you're on your way then I better get off the phone so I can finish making myself pretty."
"Alright, see you in a few. I love you."
"I love you too," Rachel said before she hung up the phone. She glanced at the mirror. Her hair didn't look terrible but it certainly wasn't good enough for tonight. After trying a few things out she settled on pulling her dark brown hair into a high ponytail. It wasn't fancy but she always felt that if she left a few of the short tendrils of her hair framing her face, it made the updo a bit more fancy.
After one last glance in the mirror, Rachel finally left her bedroom. She walked into the living room of her small one-bedroom apartment. Not too much longer and she'd move to Josh's apartment. It wasn't any nicer but it was a bit larger. She couldn't wait!
Rachel sat down on her couch and waited. It was the first time in weeks it seemed that she was able to simply sit and relax. Planning a wedding was fun but it was also exhausting. She was looking forward to the day being over. Not because she didn't want to marry Josh but because she wanted to actually be married to him. As soon as the day was over, that's the way it would be. Forever.
It was crazy to her how quickly she'd met and fallen in love with Josh Holden. She'd met him at work, of all places. She was the secretary at a wedding planning agency. She made the appointments and answered the questions she knew how to answer. Josh hadn't come seeking a wedding planner. He'd walked into the office seeking directions. After a slight jibe at his likely cover up for secretly wanting to join in on the wedding planning business, she'd given him directions. He'd left and she hadn't given him another thought. Till he came back everyday for the rest of the week, always needing directions. It wasn't until he'd been coming for about ten days that he finally asked her out. Despite her feelings of uncertainty at getting involved in a relationship with someone she barely knew, she'd said yes. The rest was history. The whole thing had happened merely a year ago. Some might say it was too fast but she was ready. So was Josh. Why wait?
The only problem was the knots she was feeling in her stomach. Or was it in her heart? Either way there were knots and she didn't appreciate them. She told herself it was because everyone got knots right before their wedding. That had to be what it was. All it was.
But deep down in the places of her heart that she never allowed to be opened, she knew the truth.
Before she let herself visit those locked away places, she jumped off the couch, grabbed her purse, and headed out. There was no reason to wait for Josh in her apartment. It'd be easier if she just waited for him outside. More convenient. It also gave her less time to venture into her unwanted memories, but that was beside the point.
In a matter of minutes, Josh pulled up in the parking lot. Rachel smiled and ran out to get into the passenger side of his Toyota Camry. He sat behind the wheel, looking just as charming and attractive as he always had. His blonde hair was combed the way it usually was. He was wearing black slacks with a maroon dress shirt. No tie. Josh hated ties.
"I knew it," Josh said matter-of-factly as he drove towards the exit.
"You knew what?"
"That you'd look gorgeous. Is that a new dress?"
Rachel winced. "No, I've had it a while. I don't wear it much."
"What a shame! You look incredible in it."
Rachel smiled. "Thanks. You don't look so bad yourself. You look all freshly showered. I can smell it."
Josh laughed. "I know how you like it when I actually shower," he teased. "You ready for all this?"
"Are you kidding? I've been ready for about a year now," she responded with a smile firmly in place. She wasn't lying. She meant every word.
"Who knew that needing directions would bring us here?"
"We'll never be able to condone getting upset about getting lost. Divine intervention."
Their conversation continued as they drove to the restaurant where their bridal party was waiting. It was going to be a fun night of memories and laughter. The future was looking bright. There shouldn't have been anything in the world to diminish Rachel's excitement about the following day. There shouldn't have been but there was.
Logan Sparks pounded on the door to his shared apartment with his best friend, Chase Harland. It was not his day. Not at all. Everything about this day was awful. The worst part was that Logan knew it wasn't going to be getting much better in the following days.
He was soaked through from his run. He tried to run a few times a week for around 20 minutes but for the last few days he'd run everyday for close to an hour. It was, he supposed, the way he was choosing to release emotions. Logan was never one to wear his heart on his sleeve—even when things were feeling hopeless.
"Chase! Open the door!" Logan yelled as he pounded once again.
The door finally opened to reveal Chase, all 6'3" of him, with an exasperated look on his face. "If I'm not mistaken, you do live here. Where's your key?"
Logan pushed past his friend and walked into the apartment. He made a beeline for the kitchen to get himself some water. No use in dehydrating himself after such a long run. "I forgot to take it."
"I figured. It wasn't so bad the first time, Man. But you've forgotten it everyday for almost a week. What's going on with you?"
Logan finished off the water in his cup before setting it in the sink. He didn't bother to answer Chase's question before heading towards the bathroom for a shower.
"Oh nice, so it's gonna be like that? We're turning into a married couple." Chase changed his voice to sound more feminine. "This isn't over, Logan! We're gonna finish this discussion!"
Logan rolled his eyes as he took a quick, hot shower. Usually Chase's antics and jokes made anyone lighten up their mood. But not today. Not lately. Chase was working part time while he finished up his last year in medical school. He was so close to being a Pediatrician that he couldn't stop himself from talking about it constantly. Chase had been Logan's roommate since their sophomore year in college. They'd stuck together. It had only made sense. They knew each other so well—frighteningly so. For example, Logan knew that Chase wasn't going to let up on the teasing and jokes till he stopped acting like a kid or started talking about what was bothering him. Logan didn't know if either one would happen.
After Logan got out of the shower, he walked into his bedroom. The apartment they shared was a two-bedroom apartment. They had a living room, kitchen, and one bathroom. It was big enough, nice enough, and affordable. Neither of them had any reason to complain.
For some reason, despite his usual shorts and t-shirt he slipped on after his evening run, Logan found himself putting on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that wasn't nearly as worn out as the ones he usually wore. During his run, he'd thought through a lot. He'd come up with an idea but hadn't realized he'd decided on it.
Logan made sure his hair looked decent, stepped back into the bathroom to brush his teeth, and returned to the kitchen to find himself something to eat.
Chase looked up from his laptop as Logan opened the fridge.
"You going somewhere?"
Logan wasn't sure what to say. When he pulled out some lunchmeat and mustard instead of answering the question, Chase finally got annoyed.
"Dude, what the heck is wrong with you? You're acting like a kid and the most annoying part is that I don't have a clue why. You're in a bad mood, slamming the fridge, slamming cups on the counter or in the sink. Are you PMSing, 'cause let's face it, if we were a married couple you'd totally be the girl, or did someone die and you didn't tell me about it?"
It was just like Chase to still manage to throw in a joke of sorts in a reasonably more serious conversation.
Logan looked up from spreading mustard on one slice of bread. "It's the PMSing. Good guess." His biting sarcasm always came out when he was in a bad mood.
Chase sighed. "It was a joke. In all the years I've known you, going on seven now, I've never seen you act like this. You never get offended at my jokes, you're probably the least emotional guy I know but lately, your chronic anger is showing a bit more emotion than you probably realize. You're still my closest friend and I want to help you but I can't do that if you just ignore me and stomp around like a thirteen-year-old girl."
Logan hated being compared to a thirteen-year-old girl. He remembered back when his younger sister was thirteen. She'd been a pain in the butt if there ever was one. Emotions all over the place. She was rarely in the same mood for five minutes straight. It was sickening to think that he was acting that way. To go from being a logical, level-headed guy to an emotionally unstable girl was quite an insult.
"I'm gonna go see Rachel."
A look of realization finally settled itself on Chase's face. Logan could tell that Chase had completely forgotten.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Chase finally said.
Logan shook his head. "I don't either."
"Then why are you going?"
Logan let out a long sigh. "Because I should've gone a year ago. And come tomorrow it'll be too late."
"Hate to break it to you but it's already too late," Chase informed his friend slowly. If anyone knew what Logan was going through, it was Chase.
"I still have to go. Even if it isn't the right thing."
Logan picked up the plate with his sandwich on it and handed it to Chase. "Not hungry. I'll be back later."
Before Chase had the chance to argue, Logan was out the door. He got into his truck and pulled out of the parking lot. He had no doubt in his mind that the smart thing to do was to stay home. What good could possibly come from going to see Rachel?
He kept driving till he reached Rachel's apartment building. He sat in the parking lot, waiting till she got home. He knew she wouldn't be back yet. She'd be at her rehearsal dinner. She'd be going through all the memories she'd accumulated with her fiancé over the last year. She was with some guy she planned on marrying in less than 24 hours. Some guy that wasn't him.
And that wasn't how it was supposed to be.
The soon-to-be bride and groom laughed as Josh drove Rachel back to her apartment. It had, in fact, been a wonderful night. They'd enjoyed countless stories and hysterical speeches. Everything had been wonderful. It was the perfect way to prepare the couple for the following day. The day when they would promise to be together until death did them part.
Rachel wasn't feeling as knotted anymore. All she'd needed was a reminder of how incredible of a man Josh Holden really was. She was so very blessed. How could she have ever thought otherwise?
"I can't believe Dave told that story. No one really needed to know how much of a goof I was on our first date," Josh continued in remembering the stories from the night. His best man, Dave Carver, had shared the story of Josh and Rachel's first date. It had been a memorable one. One that Rachel loved to tease Josh about, but that he wasn't quite as fond of.
"I think it was told quite well. Very accurate. And yes, everyone really did need to know," Rachel joked with him.
"I was nervous! You've seen you! How could I have not been nervous?"
Rachel laughed. "Was it nerves? See, I thought you were just a clutz."
"Oh very funny."
Josh turned into the parking lot of Rachel's apartment complex and pulled into a close by parking space.
"Tomorrow night we'll be able to go to the same apartment. Is that amazing or what?" Josh said as he leaned over and gently kissed Rachel.
"Pretty amazing," she agreed.
"I love you so much. Tomorrow can't seem to come soon enough."
Rachel sighed. "I love hearing you say that."
Josh kissed Rachel one last time before they said good night. Rachel got out of the car and walked to the entrance of her apartment. She turned and waved as Josh drove away. Just one more day.
Rachel walked up to her door and pulled out her keys.
"So tomorrow, huh?"
Rachel jumped slightly as she turned around. Part of her felt relief at seeing that there wasn't some masked killer standing behind her. But that was the only reason for her relief.
She was frozen. She couldn't move. Everything about tonight was fading quickly and those same knots she'd had earlier were returning.
"It's almost as if you didn't expect me," Logan teased.
Rachel exhaled. "What, Logan? What do you want?"
He took a couple steps closer. Not enough to close much of a gap though. She was feeling certain that he could be nose to nose with her and there'd still be an endless gap between them.
"You invited me."
Rachel shook her head. "Tomorrow. I invited you to the wedding tomorrow. And I only invited you out of courtesy. I figured it'd be rude not to."
"So you're saying…"
"I didn't want you to come, Logan. Why would I want you here?"
Logan stood there staring. She knew that gaze so well.
"Stop it!" Rachel bit out. "Why are you here?!"
"I don't know, Rach. I wanted to see you. I needed to see you."
"Do you just not want me to be happy? Is that it? You can't stand the thought of me being happy again?"
Logan closed his eyes and shook his head. "I want you to be happy. You know that."
Rachel's dark green eyes filled up with tears. "No, I don't."
Logan took another step closer. "I wanted to be here, Rach. I'm supposed to be here."
Despite the glistening that the tears were causing in her eyes, Rachel knew he could see the hurt, anger, and so many other emotions she was trying desperately to hide. Logan Sparks. It would've been so much easier to do this if he didn't look so amazing. Perhaps if he'd let himself go, gained some weight, grew out his usual short light brown hair—anything. But instead he looked as though he was in better shape than she'd ever seen him. This was torturous. Why had he come here?
"Don't call me that."
"I've always called you that."
Rachel finally felt everything explode inside her. "Logan! What's wrong with you? It's like you want to pretend like the last year never happened. That's not how it works. You always called me that but you haven't in a year. You lost that right. Now go away. And please, don't come tomorrow. Please…"
Logan didn't move. He didn't speak and he didn't move. Rachel wasn't sure what he was going to do. When she figured he'd gotten the message, she turned around to head inside.
"I'm supposed to be there."
Rachel turned around and threw her keys at his chest. He didn't budge. The look on his face was one of utter sadness. Like he'd never experienced such pain before.
"I know that!" she yelled. Rachel hated that the tears were loose now. She'd lost the battle. "I've always known that! You're the one that didn't, Logan! You remember that? You were supposed to be waiting for me at the end of the aisle! It was always supposed to be you!"
Logan closed the gap completely and pulled Rachel into a hug. She was crying so hard. He hated that he'd caused it.
Before Logan could say anything, Rachel pulled away and took a step back. "But it's not, Logan. It's not you anymore." She stared up at him, the look on her face pleading with him to leave. To pretend he'd never come and just go home. He was causing too many memories to resurface and too many hidden uncertainties about her wedding were coming to mind.
"Why'd you wear that dress tonight?"
Rachel closed her eyes. "You never notice things like that."
"You told me about that dress. You said…"
"I know what I said."
"Look, Rachel. It may have been selfish for me to come here tonight."
"Well it certainly didn't benefit me." Rachel felt bad being so mean but she didn't know what else to do. Her guard had already come down. Now she had to fight her way to put it back up.
"I really don't want you to go through with this," Logan spouted out.
Rachel stared at Logan in disbelief. He hadn't really just said that, had he?
"What?!" she practically yelled out.
"Why? 'Cause you want to marry me?" she shoved him away from her. "It's so ironic to me that you come back now! Right when I'm about to be happy with someone else!"
Logan opened his mouth to say something but Rachel cut him off. She was quieter now, hoping that maybe, just maybe, if Logan could see how much he hurt her, he'd leave her alone. "I wanted to marry you, Logan. If you remember correctly, you're the one that didn't want to marry me. I didn't recover from that just overnight."
"Oh really? Sure seems like it."
"That is not fair and you know it!" Rachel was feeling so worn out. She shouldn't have to defend herself. Not to anyone. And especially not to Logan.
"You started dating the guy, what? A month after?"
"Oh you mean a month after you told me you wanted to put off the wedding for a year? Because you wanted to go to the other side of the country and work? That you weren't ready to 'put down roots' yet? Because once we were married, you weren't allowed to go anywhere. I mean, marriage is definitely like house arrest. You were right."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have…"
"I don't want your apologies anymore, Logan. I wanted them for a really long time but I'm done now. You made your choice. And now I've made mine. I never thought I'd say this," she braced herself, "but I'm glad you made the choice you did."
"But I'm not! I'm an idiot! I never even took the stupid job! I want to be with you, Rach.." Logan looked as though he might cry. Tears were something she'd only seen on Logan's face twice. Twice in all the time she'd known him.
Rachel closed her eyes and shook her head. "You're too late." She walked forward to pick up her keys and proceeded to unlock her door. "Goodbye, Logan."
"I love you, Rach. That never changed. And even though I can't think of anything worse than watching you marry someone else, I'll be there tomorrow. I was always supposed to be there on your wedding day."
Rachel didn't turn around. She walked into her apartment and closed the door behind her. She managed to keep her composure until she reached her bedroom. When the tears started flowing, she quickly took off the awful dress she never should've taken out of her closet and took a short, hot shower. She slipped into some pajama pants and a t-shirt. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop crying.
Finally, when there was nothing else she could do, she picked up her phone.
She dialed the number she knew by heart and waited for the answer.
"I've already assured you that everything's gonna be perfect," Jasmine Young, Rachel's best friend and maid of honor, said as she picked up on the other end.
Rachel was silent for a few seconds. "Jas…can you come over here?"
The tone of Jasmine's voice changed. "What's wrong? What happened? I'll be right over. Are you OK? Do you need anything?"
"Just please come over."
Jasmine hung up the phone. Rachel moved into her living room and curled up on the couch. Everything had been so perfect. She'd met Josh a year and two weeks ago. And one week before she met Josh, she was supposed to be saying "I do" to an entirely different man. Her junior high, high school, college—entire life sweetheart. And Josh didn't know any of it.