Annie was beyond excited. The day she had expectantly waited for much of her adult life was finally here - it was her wedding day, and it was going to be just awesome. It was like a fairy tale...albeit with a few bumps here and there.
She and Jim had dated for five years. They had met in their final year of college and it had been love at first sight. From the very beginning, she had known he was the one - the one she would share the rest of her life with. Like any young couple, they'd had their share of ups and downs, but had weathered them successfully. At least she had thought so until that day five months ago. Jim had seemed unusually antsy and on edge, and very unlike his usual easy-going self. She had probed and prodded before he confessed that he was having second thoughts about getting married. He wanted them to wait another year or two so they could both be sure it was still the right thing for them.
She struggled to keep her tone warm and her voice calm "Oh, honey, it's just cold feet. Everyone gets pre-wedding jitters. I know it feels pretty intense, but this is what we've planned for almost from the first day we met - we just knew, didn't we?"
She tried to imagine how he felt but couldn't quite get there. She did her best to calm him down - she was in the middle of planning her dream wedding and had no intention of letting anything get in her way. She was already 28 - 3 years older than her ideal age; she had wanted to be married at 25...but no harm done. In just a few months, she would be married. It was what she had always wanted.
She was finally able to convince him that his fears were unfounded - they would get married and they would live happily ever after - just like a fairy tale. Besides, they had already paid for the venue, the flowers and catering. The invitations had gone out and she had the final fitting of her dress in just a couple of weeks. Changing the date would just be an unnecessary pain - why, they'd have to re-book everything!
"Annie...Annie, how are you feeling?" Her mother's voice brought her back to the present.
"Oh, Mom. Isn't it awesome? In just a few hours, I'll be married. I can hardly wait!"
Her mother smiled indulgently and chatted with her daughter. The dressing room was buzzing with activity - the bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids, little bride - everyone was there and getting ready for the big moment. Annie glanced at the clock - thirty minutes to go. She imagined walking down the aisle on her father's arm, floating towards Jim - her husband-to-be. The hall would be filled with the scent of roses, and everyone would stand and focus on her once she entered...it would be magical. She would feel like a princess.
A knock sounded on the door and her mother went to open it. The person at the door appeared to be asking for Annie, but her mother refused. "Who is it Mom?"
"It's the bestman - he has a note from Jim. He insists on giving it to you in person."
Annie raised her voice, so it would carry. "It's alright, Mike. Go ahead and give it to my Mom." She didn't want to go the door and risk having him see her dress before she made her grand entrance. She wondered what was in the note - probably Jim telling her he loved her and that she'd be the most beautiful bride ever. Oh, he was such a romantic...
Her mother pressed the note into her hands and she looked at it in surprise - it wasn't written on flowery stationery or scented with perfume like she thought. It was just in a plain, crumpled envelope. She opened it and pulled out a little piece of paper, and quickly scanned the contents...she froze and mutely glanced at her mother. Seeing the stricken look on her face, her mother asked her what was wrong. Annie couldn't answer - the words were gone from her mind. Her mother removed the note from her unresisting fingers and read it quickly. The note was short and to the point - almost brutally so.
"Annie, I'm really sorry to do this to you. I should have had the guts to tell you face to face before things went this far, but I tried once and you didn't hear what I was trying to say - maybe I didn't try hard enough. I'm not going to be at the wedding today. I want to get married someday, but I don't think we would be happy together. I'm so sorry....I hope that one day you'll find it in your heart to forgive me, Jim."
"Oh, my poor baby." Karen gathered her broken daughter in her arms. She barely knew what to say, but she tried anyway "It'll be alright dear. It'll be just alright. Daddy and I will take care of you."
Annie looked at her blankly...and muttered quietly to herself, her mind fixed on the perfect wedding that she had planned - and the man that had ruined it all.