Rachel saw him even before he saw her. How could she forget that tangled mess of dirty blond hair, that lean, athletic physique and those hauntingly beautiful grey eyes that had always raised goose bumps on her arms?
She pushed through the crowd and headed in the opposite direction. Who cared if she missed the metro? She was not going anywhere near him. Not anywhere near the guy she had dated for a year in high school and got dumped by.
He turned around and saw a flash of ebony. Subconsciously, he tried to recall the last time he had seen such dark, beautiful locks of hair. While his mind thought of all the girls he dated, his eyes followed the curve of the lady's legs that were exposed beneath the knee length skirt she was wearing. She seemed to be jogging away, pushing through the crowds, desperate to get away.
He saw her getting lost in between the crowd, and pulled out his cell phone that was vibrating in his pocket.
"Flynn!" his sister cried, relief in her voice.
"Yes, Cassidy?" he asked. He knew he had to maintain patience with his sister with her flaying nerves now. She was getting married in three weeks, and she was still not done with the wedding shopping.
"Can you please pick up my dress from Missy's?" she asked. "I am sorry brother dear to put you through this. But I'm completely booked the whole day. I am in this pastry shop, and Aunt Em is insisting I try all their wedding cakes on display! God, everything is so crazy!"
"Calm down, Dee," he laughed. "I will pick your dress up. And in case you don't want to fatten up before the big day, don't listen to Aunt Em."
"Sure thing! Love you!" she said. The line went blank, and Flynn smiled wryly. She was so ecstatic to marry her college sweetheart, Gavin. She wanted everything to be perfect. One of these days, he thought, he would take her to a Yoga class and help her practice breathing in and out.
The metro arrived and as the automatic doors opened, he stepped in.
"Hey Rachel?" her next door neighbour called. She was fumbling with her keys at the door, but she turned around and regarded her neighbour, Sharon.
"Hi Sharon," she greeted. "Something you need?"
"Yes. Henry and I have a party at night. Just a house warming party. Why don't you come too? It's not going to be big. Just some neighbours and close friends."
"You mean your second house warming party?" she asked. Sharon looked embarrassed.
"Uh…you know that was ages ago. I thought we should throw a better party this time."
Ages ago meant three months ago. And when she said the party would not be big, Rachel highly doubted her. The last time she had politely refused to come since she had been knee-deep in grading papers. She was after all, a History teacher in Denver High, their local school. But this time, she was not sure what excuse she should come up with.
"Oh I know that look!" Sharon said. "You are thinking of an excuse to not come. That won't do! You live in the apartment right in front of me! Not having you come is preposterous!"
"I am sorry, Sharon. I am kind of busy."
"Busy?" she raised an eyebrow at Rachel.
"Ok. I'll drop by for an hour," Rachel said finally.
Sharon flashed her a smile, showing off her flossed, pearly white teeth, and sauntered off inside her apartment.
Rachel smoothed down the creases on her indigo evening dress that fell to her knees. It was simple but she liked the dress very much. The sleeves were very short, and the dress accentuated her curves.
She pressed the doorbell and waited.
An over zealous face greeted her.
"Oh my God! You look gorgeous!" Sharon gushed. "Come in, Rachel!" She stood aside to let her in.
She was wearing a peach cocktail dress and her hair was nicely done in curls. Her make up was top notch and so was her jewellery. Not to mention that the whiff of perfume that greeted Rachel's nose was definitely branded. Her neighbours were definitely rich.
On the way, Sharon's husband, Henry waved at her. Both of them were friendly, but Rachel always wanted to steer clear from them. Somehow she did not think she belonged in their social circle.
She was a mediocre history teacher, and they were probably owners of some huge import/export company. Everything in their apartment looked foreign. Renaissance paintings adorned their walls; Mongolian sculptures decorated the hallway; Persian rugs and beautiful chinaware decorated their living room. She was momentarily feeling suffocated.
She bobbed her head up and down, and smiled when Sharon introduced her to her colleagues. She recognised Sally from fifth floor. She had met her a few times in the elevator. Other than her, everyone looked unfamili-
Her heart was in her mouth. No, this can't be. Was she still not over the shock of seeing him again after so many years? She must be hallucinating.
Across the room, leaning casually on to the wall, and dressed formally in a crisp, baby blue shirt and black pants, was Flynn, her high school boyfriend.
Flynn choked on his drink when he saw her looking at him. As soon as she realised he had noticed her, she turned and walked towards the mini bar in the corner.
Flynn nodded at the man he was talking, and with a polite nod, he warded him off and ambled towards her.
He took the empty high stool beside Rachel and ordered a whiskey.
Just when Rachel was trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Sharon and Henry had their personal bar and bartender, she froze in her seat, realising who it was beside her.
"Are you going to keep ignoring me?" he asked. Rachel pretended not to hear. She swirled her drink and bit onto the olive on the toothpick.
"Rachel?" he inclined his head to the side trying to lock eyes with her.
"What do you want?" she lashed out at him, when she realised that he wouldn't be letting her off easy.
He laughed. "We meet after seven years and that's how you greet me? Ouch…that hurts."
"The last time I remember talking with you, you were the one breaking up with me right before college was about to start, and I was too stumped to even speak because you gave me no reason for the break up. So if you expect a hug, then you are just asking for too much."
"A smile would have sufficed," he said, observing her expression. She still had the most incredible look in her brown eyes when she was angry. Her nostrils flared as she glared at him, and somehow he found that really attractive.
She turned her attention to her drink, and ignored his presence completely. She never thought that seeing him after such a long time would bring back those memories she had learned to bury. She was not a teenager anymore, then why was she reacting so much? She should forget what happened in the past, because she was now mature and reasonable and maybe what she and Flynn had before was nothing but a stupid infatuation.
But the hurt would never go away.
Even then, she clearly remembered that day.
April 29, seven years ago
Dorothy, her older sister, and Julian, her husband, had gone outside to the hospital for a check up. Dorothy was three months pregnant. Julian and she were expecting their first baby and all three of them were ecstatic. Since their mother died six months ago, Rachel had come to live with Julian and Dorothy, while her father had taken to alcohols and lost himself.
Outside, it rained. Every now and then, there were flashes of lightning and Rachel gasped every time it thundered. She was not a fan of thunderstorms. There was a knock on the door, and she ran to open the door. It wouldn't be Dorothy and Julian because they had left just a few minutes ago.
When she opened the door, she smiled. Flynn was completely soaked. His grey t-shirt clung to his well built body, and his jeans appeared soggy. His Converse All Star was dripping water and mud all over the front porch.
"You are a sight!" she chuckled, not letting him in, but just staring at him with humour in her eyes.
"Rachel…can we talk?" he asked.
"You came over to talk?" she asked. She let out a small laughter. "Since when do we just 'talk' Flynn Carter?"
She stepped closer to him, and grabbed his wrist and pulled him inside the house.
"Do you know what you need?" she said. "A towel. I'll go get one for you. And then…we can talk." She laughed again, pressing her palm on his chest and pushing him down onto the armchair.
She was soon back with the towel, and she went over behind him and towelled his hair dry. She let the towel fall onto the sofa beside the armchair.
"I always thought you look hot with messy hair," she said. "Would you like a change of clothes? Julian wouldn't mind. And probably a shower. We can shower together if you want."
"Umm…Rachel, I just came over to say something. I wasn't planning to sit," he said. Rachel thought he looked nervous.
She smiled at him. "What's wrong?" She came around and landed herself onto his lap, not caring that his clothes were wet. She ran her fingers through his hair and waited for him to speak.
"We…uh…we don't make sense. This isn't working," he said.
Her fingers stilled in his hair.
"What did you say?"
"Rachel, you are fun. But that's just it. I don't think there's more to us than that."
"You are breaking up with me because we have fun together," she stated. "Do you hear yourself?"
"I know this sounds weird. But, I am sorry, I can't see you anymore." He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her up along with him.
"Take care of yourself," he said. He walked towards the door, and just like that he was gone. He didn't even say where he was going to college, or if they would remain friends.
He didn't even say goodbye.
And here he was, seven years later, sexier than before, and sitting beside her, and trying to talk to her as if that had never happened. She had cried that night, but the next morning she had thrown away all of their photos. She did not want any of their memories lingering anywhere in her room.
"I know what you are thinking," he said.
"You do? Smart as usual, Mr. Carter," she said sardonically.
"Rachel, I won't say I regret what I did seven years ago—"
"You sure know how to please young ladies you have ditched," she said bitterly.
"But it's good to see you after all these years," he finished, as if she had never interrupted.
"If you're done seeing me then why don't you ditch me now, for old time's sake?"
He should have thought before coming up to her. A ditched woman is a bitter woman. His college room mate had said that to him once. Instead he smiled slowly.
"I never thought you'd still be harbouring such a huge grudge on me," he said.
"I am not harbouring any grudge. I just don't want to socialise with you right now," she said.
"Fine. Then walk away."
"You are asking me to walk away? You walk away. I came here first!" she retorted.
"I don't have any problem talking to you. I don't mind sitting here. So if anyone's leaving, it's you," he said calmly. "Because you are the one having a problem with me."
"Don't be ridiculous! What are you doing here, anyways?" she asked irately.
"My sister's getting married to Gavin. Gavin's Henry's younger brother," he replied.
"Cassidy is getting married?" she asked. She had always liked Flynn's sister.
"Yes," he said. "I think it's about time too. She's twenty eight for Pete's sake!"
"You still use that term? God, you're still a kid!" Rachel said. "And Cassidy's only twenty eight. She is still really young."
"Firstly, how does saying Pete's sake make me a kid? And secondly, girls should get married within the age of twenty one. You know why? Because the longer they wait, the older they become and the crankier they get. That is why young couples are usually happily married. And as time goes by, the woman cracks up and the marriage starts falling apart."
"Why blame just the woman? The man gets forgetful and ignores his wife; hence, the woman gets cranky."
"This debate can go on forever. Can we just call truce?"
"You still talk like a teenager. Truce? Really? And for what? For breaking up with me seven years ago or for this debate on man ruins marriage or woman?"
"Both," he said.
"Whatever. I really don't care anymore," she said.
He instantly missed her fieriness. She looked nonchalant now, trying to distance herself from him. But he had to admit, she looked very nice. The dress looked fantastic on her. Her beautiful black hair was done in waves, and hugged her long face.
"You want to know why I dumped you?" he said suddenly.
"If you want to tell me," she shrugged.
"I was tired of you being a bitch. You were head cheerleader. You were arrogant, you bullied the other girls. You thought you were superior to them. I didn't like that about you. Plus, Mom always said I shouldn't date you."
"I remember. You were such a Mamma's boy!" Rachel scowled.
Rachel looked at the bartender, and found him shamelessly eavesdropping, and said, "whiskey please! And make it double!"
"Things with you were fun. But I couldn't ignore your bitchy personality. I thought it was a phase and you'll snap out of it. But you didn't. And we were about to start college, and I wanted a fresh start. And going out with a bitch wasn't really on my list of priorities."
"Wow!" she exhaled. "I was a bitch, huh? Funny how you never mentioned that to me."
"Well, everyone, at least the normal people thought you were a bitch. I thought you were smart enough to get the hint."
"Flynn, that was high school! I did a lot of things that I'm not proud of! Maybe I was a little mean—"
"A little mean would be a major understatement."
"OK. I was very mean to some girls, but I was…well, I wanted to be popular. And in high school, everyone wants to be popular."
"You never had to try to be popular. You could have been a good athlete and people would have known you. You could have lent notes to people, or helped them with homework, and they would have liked you. You didn't have to be a bully for that."
"That was high school. And it was a long time ago."
They strangle me
I can't explain myself at all.
And all the wants
And all the needs
All I don't want to need at all…'
She opened her purse and fished her phone out.
"Hello?" she asked. She smiled. "Yes Claire? No I am not busy. Is there a problem?"
She listened. "It doesn't matter. Your health comes first. When you feel better, start on your homework, OK?"
"Who was that?" Flynn asked.
"I teach History to eighth graders."
"I would have never imagined you as a teacher," he laughed. "A model, sure. A stripper…maybe. But a teacher?"
"Things change, Ok? I am not the same person I was before," she said. She stood up, and without a goodbye she left, waving at Henry and Sharon on her way out.
"Hello Sharon," Rachel greeted exhaustedly, when she held her door open for the middle aged woman.
"Rachel! I haven't seen you for days! Are your students having exams at school?" she asked.
"Yes they are," she said. She was staying up late at night to grade their papers. She hadn't gotten sleep last night.
"Oh poor honey!" Sharon said. Her hand flew up to her heart. "Well, I have news to cheer you up!"
Rachel raised her eyebrows at her.
"Remember that guy you were getting cosy with at my party?"
Rachel let her shoulders droop. Seriously?
"You mean Flynn?"
"Yes!" she cried out excitedly. "He's been calling at our house since yesterday, looking for you."
"Looking for me?"
"For your address, honey," she smiled. "Don't you worry. I gave him your address right away! Flynn's really adorable, don't you think?"
"You told him my apartment number?" she was reeling from the shock. Why would Flynn want to know that? They were done. Over. Everything was in the past. What's this new deal then?
"Of course! He is really very charming."
"Did he say why he wants to know where I live?"
"No. You'd have to find that out yourself!" Sharon smiled, jiggling her eyebrows at her.
Rachel wanted to disappear off the face of the Earth. What the hell did he want with her?
"What do you think of this?" Cassidy asked Flynn, holding out a tux for him.
"It's good. But shiny."
"Flynn, this is really good. And you are wearing it at my wedding!" Cassidy said.
"Uh…okay," he shrugged. Not a time for argument. He did not want to mess with her. She could get a hundred times scarier than his Mom when someone disagreed with her.
"So, did you find a date?" she asked.
"Working on that," he said.
"Flynn, what about Belle?"
"The girl you brought home for dinner last month?"
"Oh her? It was nothing."
"So when do you suppose you'll find a date?"
"Oh I have found one all right. Just have to ask her."
"Anyone I know?"
Cassidy gasped. "Rachel? Rachel Hills? From high school?"
"The very one."
"You're telling me you're going to bring her to my wedding? Flynn, you're insane! Mom always hated her! If she knows Rachel's going to be your date, she's going to flip! And after so many years, you sure you want her as your date?"
"She's different now, Dee. I mean, the moment she saw me, she was ready to bolt out the door. I don't know how I managed to talk to her. Before, she would have flirted. Flirting to her was like breathing. She didn't even have to try. And now, she is this motherly History teacher. She's going to be a perfect date. We already have 'history' together, you know?"
Cassidy rolled her eyes at his lame pun.
"And when she heard you were getting married, she was genuinely excited," he added.
"I don't know. Do you think she will agree to be your date?"
The doorbell buzzed loudly.
Rachel hit mute on the remote and ambled towards the door.
Flynn was standing on her doorstep, a bouquet of gardenias in hand. Add to that his unabashedly sexy smile.
"Sorry. You got the wrong apartment," she said. She was about to shut the door on his face when he wedged his shoe between the door and the doorframe.
"These are for you," he said, dumping the bouquet onto her and walking past her into the apartment.
"I did not invite you in!" she retorted.
"Don't worry. I don't bite," he scoffed.
Vampires were such a common household entertainment nowadays. But somehow, hearing him joke about it did not amuse her.
"Flynn, what do you want?" she asked, once she had shut the door, and placed the bouquet on the low coffee table.
She blinked several times and finally laughed.
"I am not seventeen, if you haven't noticed," she said.
"Remember we had called truce? So, I really need your help. And I know you will help me out."
"It depends on what you want."
"I need a date for Dee's wedding. And I want you to be my date." He placed the invitation card on the coffee table beside the bouquet.
"Have all the other girls suddenly vanished?"
"No. But you were an easy choice. I dated you for a year."
"In high school; seven years ago. So forget it. Besides, I'm busy."
"So are you dating someone?"
"I wish!" she scoffed.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't have time to date. I work at the school. I tutor students in my free time."
"What have you done to Rachel?"
"This isRachel," she said. "And Flynn, we are at a point when I really don't understand what's going on. You dump me. And then seven years later we meet at a party. And suddenly you want me to be your date at your sister's wedding. Don't you think everything's all messed up?"
"Messed up? No. You told me you've changed. I can see that you have. And this Rachel is both a good teacher and a breathtaking beauty. I don't think I want to pass on an opportunity to have her as my date."
"Thank you for the flowers, but Flynn, I don't want to travel down that road again. Not with you, at least."
"You haven't forgiven me yet, have you?" he asked. He stood up from the sofa, and looked at the screen.
"Since when do you see romantic movies?" he asked.
"Since, I don't know. I can't remember."
He walked up to her, and took her hand in his. Rachel swallowed. His hand was so warm, and reassuring. She felt tingles shoot up her arm.
With the other hand, he brushed her hair away from her face, and watched as her eyes almost fluttered shut at the contact. He secretly enjoyed her reactions. She still reacted to his simple touch. At least that hadn't changed.
"Think about it. I know I can count on you," he said softly.
The spell was broken as soon as it was cast. She stepped away from him, and closed her eyes.
"No, Flynn. I don't think I want to be your date," she said, opening her eyes.
Rachel let out a deep breath. She was standing in her living room, looking at herself.
"Flynn, your Mom's out?" she asked. She looked about for Mrs. Carter.
"Yeah. Why else would I bring you home?" he chuckled. "Come in."
He held his bedroom door open for her. She stepped into his room.
T-shirts and shirts were splayed all over his floor. Three pairs of Converse All Star sat in one corner. His computer was on as always.
"Your room looks like heaven!" she said sarcastically.
"Welcome to my heaven!" he smiled. What was funny was that, he genuinely meant that.
She sat on the edge of his bed, and observed the dust motes drifting around in front of his window. His room was messy, but she liked it. It was her Flynn's room.
Flynn was flipping over pages after pages of his sketch book.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He took a pencil and looked at her.
"Hold that position. And would you smile for me?" he asked.
"Why?" she asked.
"Don't move! I am going to sketch you," he said.
"Why do you want to sketch me? You already have so many of my photos."
"This is different. This will be you in your unembellished version. Just plain strokes of lead," he smiled as he said that. She liked how he said that. She never liked to think of herself as plain. But somehow she felt special that he wanted to sketch her. She watched as the sun glinted through his dirty blond hair, making it paler than usual.
Finally, the wait was over, and she walked over to him to see the sketch.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"It's plain," she said.
"Plain's beautiful. Plain's true. I like you on paper."
"I don't believe it! You are boasting about your own sketch!" she said.
He had simply laughed.
Rachel brushed her fingers over the sketch. It had come in the mail today. There was no note, but she knew it was from Flynn.
He had finally got her number from Sharon. He did not want to be a pain in the ass, but he thought things between them were still not right.
He dialled her number.
She went quiet, and he heard her sigh. "Yes Flynn?"
"Look out the window," he said simply.
"What is so special outside?" she asked tiredly.
"You'll have to see for yourself," he said.
He saw the curtains being flung apart, and a head appeared at the window. Her hair was tied up in a bun, and she was probably in her PJs. He thought he saw Garfield grinning down at him from the front of her tee.
Her eyes found him standing in front of the building.
"I see you grinning like an idiot up at me. Is that what you wanted me to see?"
"The whole deal with you being smug with me?-That's real cute. But no, that's not why I called you to your window. Look closely. Do you notice something noticeable?"
"Come down, Hills," he smiled. "You don't want to miss this."
He saw her disappear inside. He waited for a while, but there was still no sign of her.
She stepped out of the building at last. She had thrown a robe over her t-shirt, and was hugging herself.
"Flynn, have you looked at the time?"
"You know you want to come," Flynn gave her a lopsided smile.
"All right! Let's go," she admitted defeat.
They walked to the Fools' Carnivaltogether. It took place by the end of March and continued till April. She could see the carnival from her window. She had once researched about the odd timing of the carnival and found out that it was a tradition to celebrate all foolsduring the month of April. Shakespeare has sure left his definitive mark on the people of this century.
She remembered her attachment to carnivals. They sold cheap, but pretty jewellery. And there were always toffee apples and cotton candy to take care of her sweet tooth.
"I am in my night wear," she said, slightly embarrassed.
"It doesn't matter. The carnival's going to close pretty soon. There wouldn't be many people."
"So you suddenly decided to take me to the carnival?" she asked. "I sense motive."
"I know you like carnivals," he shrugged. "Is it a crime to cheer others up nowadays?"
"Who says I need cheering up? I enjoy my life. Very much."
"Yea…sure you do," he said, giving her a sideways glance. "Those dark circles and those droopy, sleep deprived eyes are testament enough to how much you enjoy your life."
She frowned. "I am not going to lie- I have seen better days."
Entry to the carnival was free, so they walked right in.
"Ferris Wheel?" he asked, tilting his head towards the giant wheel decorated by brilliant lights. She shrugged.
Once they were both tucked in, the guy at the control booth, pressed on the start-ride button and they were being lifted up.
"This is so cool!" she said, grasping onto the steel bar that was there for protection.
Flynn smiled at her childlike enthusiasm. It was actually very soothing to watch her. She had a huge smile on her face, and the more they ascended the wider her smile grew.
Then they got stuck at the summit.
"Technical glitch," Flynn shrugged.
"Oh great!" she scowled. "I have heaps of copies to check! Let's call for help!"
"Uh…no!" he covered her mouth with his hand just when she was about to shout out.
"You need a break. And this is such a nice view. Look around."
She did. Below them, the people walking around looked like little kids, and the little kids looked like baby…something. And everything was illuminated. There were booths set up to show magic and there were brightly clothed tents. Beyond all that was the almost solitary road. It was really breath taking. Andshe could even see her house.
"This is amazing," she breathed out.
"It is." She looked at him then, and he was looking ahead.
"You said we didn't make sense. I think we do," she said.
He turned to face her. "Maybe we do…"
She looked good even in her night wear and with no make up on.
He knew he wanted to kiss her…so freakin' bad. He leaned closer to her, really slowly, giving her time to move away. But she didn't.
Their noses were almost touching, when the ride returned to normal. It jerked them away and the moment was lost.
She bought a toffee apple and Flynn walked her home afterwards, accompanying her as far as the elevator.
She hesitated. "Flynn?"
She opened her mouth to say something then thought better of it.
"Good night," she muttered before, stepping into the lift.
Rachel took a deep breath. She had borrowed a lilac dress from Dorothy. It had nice sequined patterns around the hem of the dress, and it fell slightly below her knees.
She did not know what she was doing there. She woke up yesterday morning and decided to come to the wedding after all. What made her change her mind-she didn't know.
She showed the invitation card at the door, and walked into the Carter's beautifully tended garden.
There were blue and white drapes everywhere. Rows and rows of chairs had been set up, and everything looked very fairytale-ish. The wedding cake sat on a table in the far end, with a bottle of champagne and a silver knife. She stood staring at the intricate patterns on the cake.
"Beautiful isn't it?"
She looked up in surprise and found Flynn looking at her. He was looking so heart wrenchingly handsome in the tux, that for once she thought that coming at the wedding had not been a waste.
"Yes it is," she replied. "I brought this." She handed him a present wrapped in silver wrapping paper.
"You look beautiful," he said.
"Thanks. You don't look bad yourself."
They walked side by side, when a girl sauntered towards them and looped her arm through Flynn's.
"Umm…Rachel? This is Belle. My date," he said.
Rachel's throat constricted. She gulped and tried to ignore the feeling of emptiness suddenly threatening to take over her senses. Belle had pretty blue eyes, and she looked like some Greek beauty. She had flawless, milky white skin.
"Hi," Rachel croaked out. Her eyes were beginning to sting.
What did she think? She would just change her mind and decide to walk into the wedding and get Flynn to herself? Well, of course not. She was the one who had told him that she didn't want to be his date. He had every right to get another date.
"Excuse me," she said and walked away from the pair. Flynn's eyes followed her and never left her.
The wedding song played, and all the guests took their seats. Flynn's mother spotted Rachel and her eyes grew so huge they looked like they would pop out any moment.
She glared at Rachel, and Rachel avoided any seats near her, and took one in the last row. Flynn was seated with the Greek diva, and they were holding hands.
The bride was escorted by her father. She looked absolutely stunning. The hem of her dress swished around her ankles as she smiled at everyone and walked through the crowd. Rachel was smiling all along.
When they had finally exchanged vows and kissed, the whole place exploded in shouts of joy. Bouquets were thrown; young maidens flocked around to get the bride's bouquet. Children played Tag and the adults were busy congratulating the newly wedded couple.
It was finally time for the bride and groom to make a speech.
Cassidy clinked a spoon to her glass, and called for everyone's attention.
"Thank you for your attention," she began. "The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride for me. I wanted everything to be perfect, hence all the fussing around. I am so sorry Mom, Dad, Flynn, for making all of you work and shop with me. I am so glad of the outcome. This is forever going to be one of the best days of my life. Thank you everyone for joining us on this happy occasion. And Gavin's Mom and Dad, I am so pleased to finally be able to call you myMom and Dad!" Gavin's parents smiled fondly at their daughter-in-law.
Cassidy took her place, and Gavin kissed her before getting to his own feet and thanking everyone. He thanked the best men and everyone on the bride's side for being so hospitable, and cooperative.
Finally it was Flynn's turn.
He stood up and smiled at everyone. Rachel's heart lurched. God! Why couldn't he have an ugly face?
"This is a great occasion. It has brought two families together and tied a knot between them. I am very happy for Cassidy. I have never seen her so happy before. And I thank you Gavin for that. I'm hoping you would love her and take care of her forever."
Everyone applauded, but he did not look like he was done. He waved a hand at everyone to cease the applause and resumed.
"I haven't learnt much out of my twenty four years of life. Call me a slow learner, but that's actually true. But there's one thing that I know I have learnt. And that is, never live with regrets. There is this girl. I regretted every moment I spent with her. I told her she looked beautiful, but I was always being dishonest. I told her she had the most alluring smile and I was lying. I left her and I said we don't make sense. I had been lying. All the time. This regret of lying to her has been bothering me for a while.
"So, today, in front of everyone I know, and in front of the girl I have been dishonest to, I would like to say some honest words."
His eyes picked Rachel out easily in the crowd of guests. Rachel had her head bowed. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest.
"When I told her that she was beautiful before, that was never true. Because, now as I look at her, and see how much she has grown and matured into a remarkable lady, I think she has never looked more beautiful. I had told her she had an alluring smile. But now when I don't see her smile at me, I realise that the smile was not really what was alluring. It was the look in her eyes. The look she always had saved for me. She averts my gaze now, because she is afraid I'd see that she hasn't forgotten anything. That look is still there. It's a part of her. It was a part of us.
"I wasn't in love with her before. Not really. But the last seven years without her did not feel so good. I missed her smile, the brownness of her eyes; the way she pouted when she was thinking hard about something; the fact that she sang when she was pissed or anxious; the way she always got defensive when you told her she was doing something wrong. I missed her random doodles at the back of my notebook. I missed being around her. And when I saw her some three weeks ago, after such a long time, I knew what I have missed.
"I am sorry for ditching you like that. But I think it did both of us some good. I know now that you really mean a lot to me than I thought you did. And you probably have your own conclusion. Can I ask you to dance with me now, Rachel? I am sorry, Belle. Tom was trying to hit on you the whole time. Why don't you dance with him?"
Everyone turned to look at Rachel as they followed Flynn's sight. Flynn's mother was red. Her blood pressure was definitely rising like crazy.
Rachel looked up at Flynn. He was looking at her, expecting her to say something. She looked at Cassidy. She had a huge smile on her face, and she nodded at Rachel.
Well, lucky for Flynn, she was a sucker for romantic lines, and what he had just said really touched her. He remembered little details about her, and it had really overwhelmed her.
They danced at last, and Flynn spoke into her ear.
"Whatever I said, I didn't mean any of that. I just wanted to dance with you. That speech took me days to compose."
"So much work only to dance with me? You really need to get a life!" Rachel said.
"Cassidy keeps on telling me that. By the way, Belle's sulking in a corner. Do you think I should go rescue her from her misery?"
"No," she said at once.
"Ok. What do I get to not go dance with her?"
"You get to dance with me."
"Let me see…uh…boring! How about you kiss me and I'll stay?"
She laughed. "You are really trying too hard now."
"I should go to Belle."
"Ok!" she cried. She pressed the flat of her palms on his chest and brought her lips up to meet his. She felt him smile against her lips. He wound his arms around her waist and pulled her closer to him. She ran her fingers through his messy hair, feeling the familiar wave of excitation wash over her at the feel of his lips. They kissed as they swayed to the music.
Something told her, this memory was going to last a long, long time.
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