Laura's Unexpected Wedding Guest (PG)

The house was full of energy and activity just a few hours before the ceremony was to begin. Laura's mother had a bright grin spread on her face as she made a few last minute touch ups to her daughter's face.

"You look good to go to me," her mother announced.
"I'd better be!" Laura replied with a laugh, nodding excitedly in response.

"You're not nervous?" Her mother asked with concern.
"Should I be?" Laura asked with a reassuring smile.

"No," her mother agreed. "You've been planning this day for half your life."

Laura looked at herself in the mirror. She had chopped off her long brown hair into a shag. She went light with the make up and her dress was a huge monstrosity that she was lost in but it had been worn by her mother twenty-five years earlier and she wanted to wear it again. It wouldn't' kill her to be a little out of date.
"Okay Laura, the rest of us are going to the church to make sure everything is perfect," her mother announced with a joyous smile. "Just like we rehearsed and talked about. The Limo will be here for you soon so you can make your grand arrival."

Laura nodded and watched as the bridal party began flowing from the house full of laughter and giggles and last minute jokes, wishing Laura good luck and happiness with the jokes about last chance to back out and are you really sure and all the other light banter.

Laura walked out with the girls and soon she was standing on front sidewalk waving bye to her mother and the other excited women as they sped away in their various vehicles leaving the bride alone to wait for the limo that was scheduled to arrive….now.
She felt out of place standing in front of her house in a wedding dress and when five minutes passed and the Limo didn't show up she headed for the front door to escape the heat and cool off with the air conditioner inside but the front door was locked and of course she didn't have the keys. She had no idea what time it was or where in the hell the limo was but the one thing she did know was that the service couldn't start without her!
Laura felt for her cell phone but wedding dresses don't have pockets and she sighed with resigned defeat.
Laura took a deep calming breath and walked toward the street figuring a neighbor could bail her out by driving her to the church but she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw a figure standing at the curb staring at her.

"Oh My God," she groaned loudly. "What in the hell are you doing here?"

"You're getting married?" He asked, obviously surprised.

"Are you here to stalk that too?" She grumbled.

"I didn't know," he told her. "Really."

"Then what are you doing here?" She demanded.

"My Dad's dying," he revealed. "I came home to see him."

"Oh, sorry," she mumbled. "I didn't know."

"I was just out taking a walk around the old neighborhood," he said with a shrug. "I don't get back much."

"Me either," she replied. "Except to get married, obviously."

He looked over her shoulder. "Where is everybody?"

"At the church," she sighed. "I've been stood up by my limo driver." She stared at him suspiciously. "Unless you had something to do with this," she accused. "Are you trying to sabotage my wedding?"

"I told you I didn't know anything about it," he said. "My family probably thought I'd do something stupid if I heard so they didn't mention it."

"Yeah, you went nuts about everything else," she muttered.

"Come on, I'll drive you," he offered.

"I don't think so," she replied, baking in the hot sun. "Somebody will come back for me."

"You sure?" He asked with doubt.

She sighed heavily knowing he was her only choice if she was going to make it to the church on time. She slipped off her shoes and held them in her hand. "You have a car?"

"Rental," he replied. "I flew in from Orlando."

"What do you do there?" She asked as she walked down the walk.

"Work at Disneyworld, believe it or not," he replied. "The rental is in my father's driveway. I can go get it and come back if you want."

"No, we don't have time for that. I'll walk with you." She hesitated for a moment, staring at him with uncertainty.

"You can trust me, Laura," he replied. "How long are you going to punish me?"

"You're a nut case, Simpson," she reminded him.

"I was a little obsessed," he understated as they began walking down the street. "I'm better now."

"You sent me a Christmas card last year!" She protested.

"I couldn't help myself," he replied. "I used to do it junior high too, remember?"

"How could I forget?" She groaned.

"I can carry your shoes," he offered."

"That's okay," she said, holding them close to her. "You probably have a fetish or something."

He rolled his eyes. "You're going to burn your feet."

She was walking on the grass strip between the town sidewalk and street, dodging trees as they went.
"Don't worry about me," she told him.

"I've tried not to," he replied.

His house was just around the next corner. They had grown up in the same neighborhood but they were in different worlds. Laura was from a well bred upper middle class successful and popular family, well liked at school, a real catch with a winning personality. Walt Simpson's mother died in fifth grade and his father drank too much. Walt wasn't a very popular kid around school and the neighborhood kids made fun of him because of his family situation. He wasn't the most confident kid or the best looking and he certainly had his issues, the most serious one being Laura Richardson with whom he had been obsessed with since sixth grade.

At first, Laura tried to be patient and understanding with him but she eventually figured out that the nicer she was the more clingy and intrusive he became so she started treating him meanly and with insults hoping that would chase him away but it only made it worse as far as his harassment and invasion of her privacy went. He called her to the point that the family got an unlisted number. He hung around her house all the time until her father chased him away and the cops paid him a visit. He wrote her notes and left them in her school locker or mailed letters to her house. He never missed her birthday, Christmas, or Easter with a card.

The kid was harmless enough but a nuisance to the nth degree and finally Laura got fed up and pissed off enough to ridicule him in public and make fun of him in front of other kids. He was hurt by that, of course, but that didn't stop him from liking her, following her around at school, watching her tennis matches, and writing letters to the school newspaper editor praising her whenever she accomplished something at Hillsboro High. There was no reason to hate the guy other than he was a constant pain in the ass and instead of being flattered or pleased with the attention he bestowed on her, Laura became freaked out by it, convinced Walt Simpson was a crazy person who might climb through her window one night and stab her dead.

Holding one shoe in each hand, Laura walked along the tree line furrowing her eyebrows in concentration. She started to speed walk sensing people were staring at her in her wedding dress. She knew it wasn't polite to stare but she should be used to it by now - Walt had been staring at her non-stop since sixth grade!

"Can't these people get a life?" she complained. "At least if they're going to stare they could do it more subtly."

"You can't really blame them, Laura," Walt replied. "You do look at little out of place."

They reached his house and he gestured to the late model sedan in the driveway.

"What's wrong with your Dad?" She asked.

"Cancer, along with cirrhosis of the liver," he sighed. "Hospice is involved and my sister is close by in Greenville. Shouldn't be long now."

"That's really too bad," she said, climbing into the car with some difficulty because of the dress.

"You didn't have to block me on Facebook, Laura," Walt sighed as he climbed behind the steering wheel.

"You were posting stuff on my page," she said. "Commenting on my friends pages."

"Well, it's not as though I don't know some of them," he replied. "I grew up here too, you know."

"Look, I'm living in...maybe I shouldn't tell you."

"You're living in St. Louis," he said, starting the car and buckling the seat belt. "That's far enough from Orlando, isn't it?"

"I don't know," she frowned. "Am I safe?"

"Look, I was a messed up kid growing up," he admitted as he backed the car out of the driveway. "I was lonely and insecure and desperate to be liked but I'm better now. I went to therapy. I moved on. I even have a girlfriend."

"You do?" She asked with surprise.

"She plays one of the Snow White's at Disneyland," he grinned.

She laughed. "Well, good for you," she said.
"What church?" He asked.

"Blue County Lutheran," she told him. "Over in the flats."

"For what it's worth, I apologize," Walt told her as he drove through the familiar neighborhood. "I'm embarrassed for some of the stuff I did and I know I drove you crazy. Scared you even. I never meant you any harm and I certainly didn't want to make you feel bad or afraid or nervous or unsafe."

"Why did you do it then?" She asked.

He shrugged. "I thought you were the prettiest girl I'd ever seen," he revealed. "It wasn't long after my mom died when you moved here and you represented all the beauty and hope and dreams that I had lost when she passed."

Laura looked out the window at the passing scenery and chewed on her lip.

"Why didn't you just tell me that?"

"I thought I was," he said. "In my own screwed up way. I didn't know how to talk to girls, Laura. Especially you. I was afraid of you but I couldn't stop thinking about you."

"You were deranged."

"I know."

She knew he was sincere in his apology and for the first time in years she didn't feel the same level of anger, disgust, resentfulness and hate toward him as she had in the past. "I didn't know how to deal with you."

"I'm sorry. He gave her a solemn look. "Laura," he said in an incredibly sad voice. "I have no excuse. I have no defense. My heart ached and I acted out in a strange way. I know it was pathetic."
"Well, don't be so hard on yourself," she replied. "I guess deep down a small part of me was flattered."

"You must have a soft spot for the nerdy," he joked.
"I truly felt horrible for some of the things I said to you," she let him know. "I went out of my way to be mean and cruel and insensitive, especially in front of my friends. I didn't have to humiliate you like that."

"It's okay," he replied. "If you're willing to forgive me for my immature anti-social behaviors the least I can do is forgive you for being..."

"A bitch," she replied.

"I wasn't going to say that," he said.

"But I was, wasn't I?" She realized, looking at him feeling sorry and guilty for her own transgressions.

"Growing up was hard for all of us," he reasoned. "If I could go back and do it over again differently, I would."

They were delayed by construction on Anderson Street. "Oh great," Laura moaned when she saw the traffic backed up.

"I should have taken Ferret," he sighed. "Sorry, I didn't know about this."

"What would you have done differently?" She asked.

"Talked to somebody," he replied. "You know, professionally. A counselor or something. The Priest. I would have gone to Alanon meetings."

"Because of your Dad?"

He nodded. "I just wish you hadn't hated me."

"I didn't hate you," she admitted, although she knew she was lying because she really did in her own stuck up egotistical selfish way. She was embarrassed by his interested an effection and she didn't want her friends to think she was soft for a strange kid who couldn't talk to girls. They would have laughed at her the way they laughed at him.

"I guess I could have offered to be your friend," she admitted with a sigh.

"It probably would have made a difference," he said. "With my life, I mean."

"So, Disneyworld!" She said, hoping to change the subject.

"Yeah," he grinned as the traffic began to move slowly. "Ironic, isn't it?"

"How so?"

"Well, there I get to be sociable and personable and animated and funny and interact with people and have a good time," he explained. "Everything I wasn't growing up here."

She felt awful, wondering if she had only befriended him back in sixth grade instead of rejecting him how his life may have been different growing up in Hillsboro.

"I can't believe I'm going to be late for my own wedding," she sighed as another dumb truck stopped the moving traffic ahead of them.

"I'm sure the groom will wait," Walt remarked.

She smiled.

"Where'd you meet?"

"College," she replied. "But we waited until we graduated and got good jobs and established ourselves," she explained. "It felt right now."

"Yeah, it took me ten years after high school to feel right,' he said.

"You joined the military, right?" She recalled.

"I knew I needed to get away from here," he replied. "You were probably glad to see me go."

"Except you kept sending stuff to my house," she groaned. "It felt like harassment. My mother would call me and tell me there was post card from Germany or a care package from California."

"She thinks I'm crazy too," Walt realized.

"Sort of," Laura said. "But at least you stopped doing it so much."

"I told you, I got better," he said sheepishly.

"So, you didn't make it a career in the Army?"

"No, the war was too much," he sighed. "I had a buddy who had a connection at Disney and that's how I got in."

"Well, I'm glad it all worked out for you," she said politely.

"And you," he said. "You're teaching, right?"

"Yes."

"And this guy is okay?"

She smiled. "Yeah, he's okay," she smiled. "But I'm going to be late to my wedding!" She groaned.

"We'll be there in a minute," he said.

She chewed on her lip. "I'm not usually this keyed up," she explained. "It's just that…..
"It's your wedding day," he smiled.

"And when I first saw you I thought…"

"Here we go again!" He finished for her.

"Maybe you were going to stalk me or kidnap me or kill me even to stop me from getting married."

"I was never violent, Laura," he said. "Just pathetic."

"I'm not usually that mean to people," Laura told him. "I swear!"

"I just brought out the worst in you," Walt said.

"You were scary," she admitted.

"I was lost," He corrected her. "I saw you as my savior."

"Lucky me," she mumbled.

"Here we go," Walt said as the traffic finally budged.

Laura looked around and breathed out a sigh of relief. "Thanks for helping me out," she said with appreciation.

"Sure," he said. "I'm glad I was able to make it up to you somehow."

"I guess I can finally let you out of the doghouse," She joked.

"Thank you!" He said with obvious relief in his voice. "I can't tell you how much that means to me."

"There's the Church!" She yelled, pointing ahead.

"Isn't that your mother?" Walt asked.

Laura saw her poor mom looking frantic standing on the front steps of the church looking around.

"Poor dear," Laura remarked. "She's probably going to have a heart attack."

Walt pulled the car to a stop at the curb and for a minute Mrs. Richardson was confused until she realized it was Laura sitting in the front seat of the car. A few of the bridesmaids came running down the stairs.

"Where have the hell have you been?" Janice The Maid of Honor demanded almost hysterically. "Joy riding."

"Isn't that Walt Simpson?" Mrs. Richardson frowned.

"The Stalker!" Janice yelled. "Quick, somebody call the cops!"

"It's okay, everybody," Laura said calmly. "Nobody panic. All is well. The stupid Limo never showed and Walt gave me a lift."

"Walt?" Janice asked with surprise. "You're calling him Walt now?"

"She didn't want to call me dipshit to my face," Walt explained.

"Let's go, Laura," her mother pleaded.

"Enjoy your wedding, Laura," Walt told her.

She struggled to get out of the car in her fancy wedding dress, almost knocking the veil off while doing so. She glanced back and saw Walt sitting there looking slightly sad.

"Hey, why don't you come?" She suggested.

"Really?" Walt asked with surprise.

"Why not?" She laughed. "You're the one who got me here."

"Laura, you're not supposed to invite your stalker to your wedding," Janice pointed out.

"Walt isn't my stalker anymore," Laura replied. "He's my friend."

Walt looked like he was going to cry. "Is it okay, Mrs. Richardson?" he wondered.

"It's Laura's wedding," Mrs. Richardson replied.

"Oh, wait, I'm not dressed, I'd better not," Walt realized, glancing down at his Bermuda shorts and Tampa Bay Rays tee-shirt.

"Just stand in the back," Laura said. "Nobody will notice or care."

Walt smiled as he killed the engine and climbed out of the car, watching as Mrs. Richardson and Janice escorted the bridge up the church steps. He couldn't believe that he was actually going to Laura Richardson's wedding! After all the years of misery, rejection, ridicule and hate, he was going to watch her get married.

It felt good being out of the dog house after so long.

Laura looked back at him just before she stepped through the doors. "Thank you," she mouthed.

He waved and smiled as he followed the others into the church.