Hello! A quick note to let you all k now, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month this month, and this is the novel I'm hoping to finish by the end of November. It's an idea I started in 2010 that never quite worked out, so I'm rewriting the entire thing and hoping to finish the story this time. So please, forgive any historic errors and other mistakes. Writing a novel in a month is a fun challenge, but it's going to be far less researched and edited than my normal stories due to lack of time. Enjoy!

Chapter One: The Guiding Light

December 31st, 2017. Snow was falling on the empty streets of Seattle, creating an unnatural quiet in the chill of the air. It was New Years' Eve, and everyone was celebrating. Everyone was counting down the hours until a bright new year would begin, when all of the mistakes of the old year could be wiped away and the world could start afresh. The snow was unexpected; here in Washington, it was more likely than not raining in the winter, bringing disappointment and wet mush to everyone who walked the streets hoping for wonderland. But this year, it was a perfect night.

Perfect for celebrating, perfect for parties, perfect for everything. It was supposed to be perfect, anyway.

Maeve Carridean wandered the quiet streets with no direction in mind. Attired in a dress as white as the streets and just as pure as the snow falling into her dark hair, she pulled her faux fur wrap closer around her lace-covered shoulders and shuffled through the streets blankly staring at bright windows where parties were well under way, and felt the hurt grow bigger by the second. Every step drove the failure of this night further and further into her heart, like an icicle being driven sharply into her chest. Tonight, she was supposed to be having a party of her own. A special kind of party, full of champagne and promises, beginning with a long walk down the church aisle and ending on a plane ride to Hawaii.

Arguably, one could say she had been planning this day since she was five years old, when she first witnessed a distant cousin sweep up the aisle in a white dress with puffy sleeves. She had been planning this day since Billy Turntough kissed her in the schoolyard when she was seven, and vowed he would love her forever. Since her highschool sweetheart gave her his letterman's jacket, since her college beau gifted her his class ring, since her work crush had asked her out on their first date.

Practically, she had been planning this party for one year and nine days, from the date that Alexander Proctor asked her to marry him, after taking her out for an expensive dinner at a seafood restaurant and complaining that the lobster was not fresh enough for him. In the true nonchalance of his personality, he had popped open a clam, and presented her with a pearl ring as she licked the butter from her fingers. It had not been a romantic proposal, but she would later embellish the truth to say that after dinner, they had walked along the pier and under the lights of the ferris wheel he had asked her to be his.

For one year and nine days, she had managed every iota of their wedding plans, ensuring that every miniscule detail would be absolutely perfect. The church would be decorated all in white, with a garden of roses spilling from every corner while white candles romantically lit the stage. She would wear something classic and lacy, with a skirt so fluffy she could practically float down the aisle, and her veil would twinkle with a thousand rhinestones. Sheer lace sleeves were in style, thanks to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Alex would be a striking figure in a dark navy suit and a white boutonniere, his blond hair combed neatly as always and his blue eyes emphasized by the color of his suit. Her bridesmaids would wear pale ice blue; his groomsmen would wear dark navy suits with ice blue vests. The bouquets would be white roses with lilies and baby's breath, and ferns to spill over in an elegant cascade.

The wedding would be at five in the afternoon, with a reception to follow immediately after. And the food would be the best part of the wedding. Everyone would marvel at the steak that melted in your mouth, the delicate flavor of the lamb, the excellent appetizers and perfectly dressed salads. The cake, understated and elegant, would be absolutely delicious. Not a bite would be spit out, even by the pickiest of eaters. Wine and champagne would flow from the open bar, dancing would last well into the night, and then at midnight, they would depart, the party still going on behind them, for their fairytale life, beginning a new life in the new year. A completely fresh and wonderful start.

Maeve's parents had paid for it all, her being the only child and both parents working extremely high-paying jobs even though both could have retired at fifty and still lived a wealthy life. Though not exactly spoiled - for they had worked from the ground up and expected her to do the same - Maeve was certainly never wanting. The only thing from the wedding that Maeve paid for had been her dress; this, she had insisted upon. She wanted to own it fully and completely, as a signifier of breaking off from her parents and becoming her own person.

Now, she fingered the flowers that cascaded subtly into a full tulle skirt and felt a harsh pain rip through the numbness that had hitherto overtaken her body. So much for a fresh start. Here she wandered in empty streets, two hours after her wedding should have begun, alone. No arm gently cupping her lace-covered elbow, no clean-shaven jaw brushing her hairline as her beloved whispered secrets in her ear, no ravenously single friends vying for a chance to catch the beautiful bouquet.

She had nothing but a pretty dress and the knowledge that her one true love, Alexander Proctor, had gotten drunk the morning of his wedding and decided to sleep with one of her bridesmaids soon thereafter. After a day of inebriated revelry, he had slept through the start of their wedding and shown up half-dressed with Elizabeth Cavenaugh on his arm, stuttering about how it was all a mistake.

Maeve agreed. It was a mistake. Everything was a mistake. The engagement. The wedding. Giving her heart away to a cheater. Saying yes to a man who couldn't have even bothered to get down on one knee. A man who decided it was romantic enough to propose while she slurped clams from their shells and dripped butter from her fingers, while she wasn't even looking his way, while he was wearing a giant bib with a bright red lobster on it. The entire year and nine days of planning, worrying, not sleeping, decorating, fittings, cake tasting, and venue chasing... it was all a mistake.

Kicking a drift of snow, Maeve turned down the street toward a more populated part of the city, where bars and pubs were booming with business. She was definitely a sight to be seen, all in white, dark hair cascading down her back, veil hanging listlessly from one hand and her bright red purse hanging from the other. A few people stared. Perhaps more than a few as she started to push past people on the sidewalks, people ready to bring in the new year half drunk and high on life.

One, a young man who could only have barely been past legal drinking age, offered her a drink. It was not so much an offer as a can of beer shoved into her hand as she passed, and a shout of "three cheers for the bride!" at her back. The beer was unopened, but not for long. Maeve did not even think as she cracked it open and chugged the contents far too fast.

Maybe what she needed to clear her head was a proper drink. Not this cheap stuff that had been freely handed away, but a good, sharp drink that would heat as it went down and wake her up to the reality of what she was. A jilted bride.

Making a sharp turn, she entered the first bar she saw. It was darker inside than she had expected, and much, much louder. Someone stepped on the back of her dress as she made her way to the bar, and she felt it rip. The outer layers of delicate netting were easy to snag, and she knew somewhere a layer was drooping sadly. But she didn't care. She had photos, from before the wedding, before she knew she wouldn't be getting married in this dress. And now? Nothing mattered.

The bartender did not blink an eye as she ordered a shot of vodka and a glass of merlot. He only nodded, checked her ID, and complimented her faux furs. Thanking him, Maeve settled on an empty barstool in the corner, and threw back the vodka in one swift go. She was not a drinker, but had learned not to breathe immediately before or after taking a shot and, much to her own surprise, had yet to find a straight gulp of any alcohol that phased her too much. She liked the way it felt, sliding down her throat and touching everything inside with the flames of warmth as it went.

Then the merlot came, rich and comforting in its darkness. After that, she took whatever was given to her. Several people volunteered to buy her drinks, especially after she broke down and told her story, and word circulated that she had been left at the altar. But, instead of pitying her as she expected, people congratulated her. They told her she'd escaped what probably would have been a terrible marriage. That she was beginning a new year completely fresh, unshackled by any man or vow. That she could do absolutely whatever she wanted. And, despite herself, Maeve started to have fun. The more she drank, the less she cared, and the better the night got. She danced, sang, did terrible karaoke, drank, and forgot all about Alex. The altar became some half-lucid dream from a nightmare too inconsequential to remember.

And, somehow, when the countdown to the new year began, she had a drink in one hand and a willing stranger beside her, who had vowed to kiss her at midnight so that neither of them would be alone. She didn't know his story, but he knew hers. In the dim light she could only see that he was man of indeterminate age with dark hair barely graying at the edges and a face much younger than she would have expected, given his baritone voice. Something about him comforted her barely-lucid mind, and she held on to his hand much tighter than she should have for being a stranger in a dark room.

At five seconds to midnight, she found herself facing this stranger and locking eyes. At four, wondering what this kiss would be like. At three, her eyes dropped to his lips of their own accord, and she liked the smile she saw there. At two, she lifted her face to meet his. At one, she let out a wild cheer, feeling all of the hurt and joy and drunken revelry flow through her just before she gave away her wedding day kiss to a stranger.

And at midnight, just as her lips touched his, the fireworks began and a light blossomed around them so blindingly Maeve could not fathom what was happening. Everything seemed to melt away around them, until it was just her and the man, whose face was blurred by light. He seemed to be asking her a question, but she couldn't quite make it out. He looked worried. He was reaching a hand out to her, but somehow he was too far away to touch her.

And then, everything went black.