The plane was landing at Court. I couldn't breath. I was finally here, I was finally home, and I was scared shitless. The captain signaled for us to get up and off, but I couldn't move.
"Let's go, Rose. We got to get off the plane. Come on, Rose." Artur encouraged me softly. I snapped out of the stress-induced haze and stood up, grabbing my luggage, and sprinting to the car waiting for us as fast as possible, God forbid someone I knew saw me.
I had made it very clear that I was only attending the service, and once that was over, I was going straight back to my room to cry and eat ice cream, and nothing or no one would stop me. Of course, I think it was a dead give away if my team went to the reception, which they insisted they would, that I was here. The Belikovs would know for sure. I grimaced at the thought.
We stopped off at guest housing and I once again sprinted into the house with my luggage, nervous that I'd spot someone from my past. Now, we would wait until the wedding. Once again I found myself lying in my bed pondering the acute misery I had foolishly forced upon myself.
I heard that you're settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now.
I thought of Dimitri, how in love we used to be, how he'd pushed me away, and how I'd done the same. I thought of how he was getting married to someone else, someone named Naomi. I thought of how painful it was going to be, watching him tie the knot, without knowing how much I truly loved him, without knowing that he was going to kill me inside.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you.
It killed me to think that Dimitri no longer thought of me, no longer cherished the memory of our love, and no longer loved me. It put a hole in my heart that couldn't be filled by anything other than him. It was maddening; knowing that I was this close but could do nothing but sit and wait. Dimitri had finally found the girl of his dreams. A girl that didn't break his heart and leave him hurt and alone. He'd found someone better; he'd found his soul mate, his true soul mate. Never in a million years would I ever have guessed that his other halve wouldn't end up being me.
The time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to get ready, mentally as well as physically.
"Rose! Get dressed, the wedding is in an hour." Lev called from the hallway. They'd pretty much avoided my semi-conscious self the entire time since arriving at Court. They didn't know how to deal with my situation, and to be honest, I didn't either.
I hauled myself out of bed, specifically avoiding thinking about what I was getting ready for. I slipped on the black dress, the exact one I wore to the dance, the exact one Dimitri took off, the only dress I owned. I wasn't exactly one for dress shopping, especially for one-time occasions. Lissa was usually the one forcing me to buy dresses, so obviously I hadn't really invested in them much unless they were slutty and revealing to attract Strigoi.
I brushed my hair, slipped on a pair of patent leather black pumps, and proceeded to do my make up. Before I knew it, the boys were breaking down my door, demanding that I had to leave now. I sighed, opening the door slowly, waiting for their reaction.
Their mouths dropped, something I hadn't seen since I first joined them. They had almost lost it the first time I went hunting with them in my sexed up Strigoi-attracting outfit, but after a while, they became accustomed to my looks, so when I got this reaction, I felt pleased to say the least.
"Well?" I asked, knowing that their answers would build my confidence, confidence that I was most definitely going to need.
"You look…" Lev started. They were all awe-struck at my appearance. I felt my cheeks burning red as they gawked.
"Beautiful and sexy. Nice work, Rosie." Denis teased. I felt my mood turn sour. They're 'funny' nickname for me set me on edge. Rosie was girly, god awful, and altogether not a name I would tolerate.
"Don't be fooled by the dress, I can and will kick your ass if you ever call me that again. Got it, Denny?" I growled, poking my finger in his chest. He gulped, nodded, and proceeded to whine about the use of 'Denny'. If I was going to have a horrid nickname, so was everyone else.
I tuned out their incessant chatter on the walk there. I couldn't seem to force myself to focus. My mind wandered too easily to the upcoming catastrophe. I knew I would cry, I knew I would hide and avoid everyone I knew, and I knew I'd probably leave early. Just the dress made me want to hide in my bedroom and cry. Seeing him again would be painful and miserable, but seeing him again getting married to someone else? Well, that was just unbearably cruel. So naturally, I flew halfway across the world to experience just that. I seriously needed to rethink my priorities.
"Are you okay? You seem tense." Artur observed. I almost laughed. Seriously? I seemed tense? I swear I was going to kill them all.
"No shit, Sherlock." I hissed as we entered the Church. My stomach dropped. I hadn't even realized that this was the very place where my heart had been mercilessly broken by the very man I had flown all this way to see. It was a cruel twist that added to the silent misery I had endured for years now.
"Let's find seats, quickly." I suggested, half dragging them to seats near the back. I didn't want to mingle, nor did I want to be spotted. I was going to attend this for the boys and that was it. I never agreed to participate.
We found our seats in the back and started chatting. I kept my head ducked and my voice low. Across the room I spotted Lissa chatting away with Tasha and holding hands with Christian. They seemed happy. I also noticed Tasha in the arms of a hunky Dhampir; I guess she finally found her happy ending. I searched the room a bit more and found Adrian chatting with Mia and Eddie, a tumbler of amber liquid occupying his hand. Some habits just can't be broken. I spotted my mother and Abe in deep conversation, completely absorbed in each other in a quieter corner. It made me happy to see that everyone had moved on. The one thing I couldn't figure out was how the hell no one noticed me yet. The thought was a complete jinx. I heard a screech and jumped to find the danger, only to be tackled by a pile of teal dress and blond hair. Damn. Lissa had spotted me.
"ROSE!" She screamed, squeezing the life out of me. I stumbled for a moment before regaining my balance just as we were about to topple over. I choked for air, trying to claw my way out of her grasp. "Oh, Rose! I'm so sorry! I had no idea you were here! I missed you so much! You have no idea how horrible I feel! It was the darkness I promise! I never meant any of it! Rose, oh my gosh, I missed you so much!" She was rambling, hugging me fiercely while I tried to remove her without inflicting pain.
"Can't…breath!" I gasped. She let go immediately, her face clearly showing surprise and guilt.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I just missed you so much. Oh, Rose! I can't tell you how many times I've just needed you to talk or watch stupid movies or shop with. I've missed you terribly. I know it's my fault you left and I feel horrible. Can you please just forgive me? Please! I just need you here again, Rose! Where have you been?" I was overwhelmed seeing Lissa like this. My heart instantly went to war with my head. I hadn't decided whether or not I was going to accept Lissa back into my life if she wanted me back. My heart wanted my sister back dearly, but my head knew better and reminded me how selfish and needy she was. Was I ready to forgive and forget?
I stepped back slowly, putting on my Guardian mask and straightening out my dress. "It's nice to see you, Princess." I added coldly. I knew that if I made nice with Lissa, I'd never leave and I'd get sucked back into Court, into the lifestyle I left behind, and I left it behind for various reasons, not just heartache. I wasn't going to pretend I'd forgotten, nor was I going to forgive so easily. The wounds inflicted all those years ago were still fresh, to me at least and I was still pissed. I couldn't make attachments to Court when I'd already booked my flight out. If I made up with her, I wouldn't be able to bring myself to leave, and I most certainly could not stay. It was a painfully difficult decision, but in the end, I knew it was for the best.
Lissa's face wore a look of shock and rejection. Her eyes welled up in tears as she stepped back to examine me. "Oh." She sniffled, before whipping around and walking away. I sighed, and looked around. The interaction had drawn some attention and I noticed more than a few familiar faces wearing the same shocked faces. Luckily, none close to me really noticed besides Christian, who had his arms full of an upset Lissa. I noticed his cool gaze, anger as well as relief in his ice blue eyes. I tilted up my chin defiantly before taking my seat. I wasn't going to cower in their stares, but thankfully no one dared approach me, for I had a feeling that another confrontation would have me feeling not as tough. They were all content to stare and whisper.
Everyone took their seats and the groomsmen took their places. That's when he walked in. Dimitri. He wore a simple black tuxedo with a black tie. I gazed at him, unable to break my stare. I drank in his features, the same, as they'd always been, his shoulder length brown hair, same chocolate brown eyes that you could lose yourself in forever, that strong, clean-shaven jaw, and his incredible height that he somehow makes graceful. My heart pounded in my chest. Seeing him made me want to cry when I thought of what was to come.
The music started playing and everyone stood. I didn't even bother looking at Naomi. I didn't bother to study her most likely gorgeous self, and start to analyze and compare our every feature. No, I was too entranced with the groom, I was much too captivated by the very thing I'd yearned for since I was 17 years old. The world faded away as I watched him smile. That damn smile. The very smile that lit up my days back at the Academy. The smile that made me swoon. The smile that was procreated at the sight of his bride, at the sight of Naomi. I no longer made him smile. That's when I flicked my stare over to Naomi. That's when a burning jealously erupted inside my body.
She was beyond beautiful. A Moroi with long brown hair, hazel green eyes, and fair, clear skin. Just as I suspected, she looked Russian with rosy, pink lips and high cheekbones. She was tall, somewhere in between 6' and 6'2". Her smile was radiant and I could tell she was beyond happy to be walking down that aisle. I felt a tear drop roll down my face as I realized she was living my dream. She would be the one to possess the very thing that I'd so foolishly squandered. I envied her, but I didn't hate her. It was my own fault that I was hiding in the crowd watching the love of my life get married instead of walking down the aisle myself.
"Are you okay?" Lev whispered in my ear, taking my hand in his. I sighed, unsure how to respond.
"No." I wasn't okay. I was in an inescapable nightmare. I was living my fears. My hope was being mercilessly crushed as I sat there, watching a beautiful woman marry the man of my dreams. My will to live slowly shriveled up and died, my defiant spirit, my reckless passion, my determination and strength crumpled up and blew away in the wind as I waited in the audience for my heart to be completely broken without hope of ever being repaired. She finally made it to the alter and the ceremony began.
Each word was a slap in the face, a stab in the heart, sending chills down my spine. I forced myself to sit and stay calm on the outside for the team, but the coward within me wasn't feeling the team spirit. I felt ripped apart, one half of me glued to my seat in iron determination, the other desperately needing to flee and relieve myself of the heartache. However, I made a promise I was going to keep, at least until Dimitri said his vows.
"Naomi, from the first time I saw you, you've taken my breath away. When we met that night at the bar, I knew that you were different, that you were special. It took me a while to open up, but you saved me. You helped me pick up the pieces and helped me feel whole again, and for that, I am eternally grateful…" He recited his vows gracefully and lovingly. I felt like I was going to puke. She'd helped him through the heartache after I left him. Great. So breaking his heart brought them together. Wonderful.
That's when I could no longer take it. "I'm sorry, but I just… I can't." I whispered to Denis before standing up and shuffling my way out of the aisle, wiping the tears as I went. I had tuned out Dimitri's vows, unable to listen any longer as a way to minimize the damage they inflicted. They hurt too much. I had started walking quickly down the aisle toward the door when I heard his voice peter out and stop. I glanced over my shoulder to see what was the matter. Dimitri was staring at me intensely, eyes wide with shock. I froze, locking eyes with him.
I was reciting my vows, I tried to make them sincere and loving, but my mind was elsewhere. As horrible as it sounds, my mind was on Rose. At the Academy, I'd always daydream that I'd marry Rose, and it seemed strange how drastically things had changed and now I was marrying Naomi. I loved Naomi, I truly did, and I was happy with her, but it just wasn't the same. There wasn't that same connection I'd had with Rose. Naomi didn't understand me as intimately as Rose did.
Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light.
It was as if my thoughts conjured her. At first I didn't believe she was there, and then I noticed the dress. The dress. I noticed the way she walked, the way she carried herself, her hair, the skin, and I knew. I knew it was her. I noticed distantly that I'd stopped my vows. I felt Naomi touch my shoulder and ask me if I was okay. I heard her call my name, but I wasn't really paying attention, I was completely entranced by the one person I'd yearned to hold for the past three years.
"Roza?" The nickname slipped out of my mouth like silk, elegant and soft, a name I'd missed speaking.
I watched her glance over her shoulder. Oh, her face. So beautiful. She was captivating. I drank in her features, taking in her long, wavy, black-brown hair, her rosy lips, her tanned, olive skin, and her eyes. Her eyes were the most interesting things about her by far. Yet as I stared into her beautiful, chocolate eyes, I felt a sadness encompass me. They weren't the same as they used to be, full of life and spark. They were dead, lifeless, and devoid of her usual animation. The ferocity and warmth that she used to bask in was missing. Her eyes were absent, and her face contorted with despair. I wanted to run to her and hold her in my arms until that spark returned. I studied her a moment longer, taking in her tear-stained face and smudged make up, making her look even more like a fallen angel. She was a goddess no matter what she was in.
I watched her face turn from despair to panic. "I-I'm sorry. I h-have to go. Congratulations to the both of you." She gave a quick nod toward Naomi before sprinting out of the Church, much like she had the time I'd broken her heart.
Before I realized what I was doing I sprinted after her, leaving Naomi speechless at the alter. At the moment I didn't really give a damn. I pumped my legs as hard as they would go, chasing after her. I watched her stop and rip her heels off and silently thanked God for the delay. She continued running, swerving around groups of Moroi women and men, running aimlessly.
I heard someone scream my name. It was Naomi. Of course she was chasing me. I wondered for a moment how ridiculous we must look, each one chasing the other. I shoved the thought out of my head, storing it for later.
I pushed my legs harder, desperately trying to catch her. I needed to talk to her, to tell her how I felt. I needed to know why she was here, why she was crying, if she was over me, and if she still felt the same way. This time, I wasn't going to let her go.
I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over.
"Roza?" His voice was like velvet. The way my nickname rolled off his tongue sent chills down my spine. My heart melted at the use of it, making my want to run into his arms as if Naomi and this entire wedding didn't exist.
The whole world faded away as cheesy as it sounds. I didn't notice literally everyone was staring at us, or Naomi calling Dimitri's name, or even everyone who hadn't noticed my presence, was suddenly made aware of it. All of that was made completely oblivious to me with just a look from those dazzling coffee eyes. I stopped breathing and I felt the entire room hold its breath, waiting for his reaction. Then I remembered exactly where we were and why, and suddenly, it was all too much, the stares, the reveal, the drama, the pressure. I couldn't handle it.
"I-I'm sorry. I h-have to go. Congratulations to the both of you." I stammered out, the tears running before I could finish my sentence. I gave a quick nod to Naomi before sprinting out the door, pausing only to take off my heels. I didn't wait for his answer, I didn't want it, and I certainly didn't need it. I was getting the hell out of here before I regretted coming back anymore. It was a mistake to think I could waltz into his wedding unnoticed and be able to sit through it like an adult. No, I was a fool, once again. What a surprise.
I ran as hard as I could for as long as I could. I had long ago ruined my dress and no longer cared. I slowed down and speed dialed my Maid of Honor, my sister, Noel.
"Naomi! Where are you? Where's Dimitri? Who's that girl in the black dress?" She yelled through the phone as soon as she picked up.
"I'm running after Dimitri all over Court trying to catch him. He's running after Rose Hathaway, the girl in the black dress. Rose is Dimitri's ex-lover and broke his heart. Remember the heartbreaker girl I told you about? Yes, this is her." I was fuming, completely mortified.
"Wait a minute. Rose is running away from the wedding. Dimitri is running after her. And you're chasing Dimitri. Correct?" I sighed, Noel could be so irritating.
"Yes! That's what I just told you! What's your point?" I snapped, losing my patience. Today was supposed to be the best day of my life, and now, it was probably the worst.
"The question you need to ask yourself is who is chasing you?" I thought for a moment about what the hell she was trying to say.
"What does that mean?" I hissed, my temper boiling over.
"It means you're not the one, Naomi. Dimitri ran out of that Church for a reason. He ran for love, sis. If he loved you, you'd be married by now. Naomi, he's still in love with Rose. He may not admit it to you, but he is." I froze. It made perfect sense, but I refused to believe it.
"No! No! No! He loves me! He proposed to me! He's marrying me!" I screeched. I threw the phone on the ground and started to bawl. I slowly sank to the ground, brought down by the reality that the love of my life had left me at the alter for the girl who broke his heart. I wished I were her. The startling realization that he didn't love me as deeply as I loved him broke my will to chase after him. I knew I couldn't catch him. I knew I wasn't the one, but it didn't mean I was giving up. With that in mind, I wiped away the tears, composed myself, and set out after him once more. I may not be his 'soul mate', but it didn't mean we couldn't be happy together.
I could hear him behind me. He was gaining on me, slowly but surely. I didn't know why he was chasing after me, and I didn't want to. I didn't want to hear what he had to say. I was confused and half delirious with overwhelming, intense emotion. I wasn't even sure what the emotions coursing through my body were, but they were enough to pump the adrenaline through my system and keep me sprinting full speed, and that was enough for me at the moment. I could wait until I made it to my apartment to organize and categorize my feelings.
It was top speed up the stairs to my suite, and that's when I realized I didn't have time to open it with a key. I swore aloud, whipping out the key to see if I could try.
"Rose! Rose! Wait!" He called, a half flight of stairs behind me. I sprinted down the hallway, jammed the key and the lock, missing. My hands were shaking and I fumbled with the key, dropping it. I scrambled to the ground, grabbing it.
"Shit!" I cursed, sending a silent 'fuck you' to God or whoever was listening.
"Rose!" He yelled sprinting down the hallway. I had the lock opened and was opening the door to go in when he reached me, slamming the door shut before I could reach safety.
"Stop! Stop running and tell me what's going on!" He yelled, pinning me against the door. I shut my eyes, pretending he wasn't there. "Answer me, Roza. I know you didn't just travel across the globe to go to the wedding. Tell me why you're here." I opened my eyes, deciding to look at the floor. I felt this finger on my chin, tipping it up to get me to look in his eyes, just like he used to. The closeness of our faces took my breath away. I paused for a moment, studying his face as if I hadn't already memorized every detail.
"Tell me." He spoke softly, compelling me with the tenderness of his voice. It was the warmth that I loved and grown to daydream of. It broke my silence.
"I came for the wedding. Nothing more. I got the invitation, so I came. I was curious and I just couldn't help myself. I had to see. I had to make sure you were happy. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come. It was a mistake." He took in my response for a moment, staring at me intensely, as if judging whether or not my answer was true.
"Why are you crying?" I flinched at the concern in his voice, unsure whether or not to tell the truth.
"It was an emotional ceremony." I choked out the lie, disappointed at how fake I sounded. He didn't hesitate to call me on it either.
"Don't lie to me, Roza." I sighed, knowing that I was getting nowhere by lying. He could read me so easily, just as I could read him. We knew each other too well to play games.
"Your vows. They reminded me of us, of what we used to have. They brought back memories, memories I've tried to keep forgotten. They made we realize that you've moved on. You found Naomi, and she seems wonderful. I'm happy for you." I looked away again, unsure of my words once more. I knew I sounded anything but delighted at the moment, in fact, my words seemed contradict the broken, fragile sound of my voice.
"What we used to have, or what we have?" I snapped my gaze to his, meeting his eyes in shock. I didn't know how to answer. What could I say? So I decided on saying nothing at all. He leaned forward, closing the rest of the distance between us. I stood there, pondering the question when my thoughts were interrupted by a sudden explosion of electricity on my lips. He was kissing me. Kissing me. It was the very thing I'd yearned for for the past three years. My imagination hadn't done him justice, his lips meeting my own set my heart on fire, the heat coursing through my veins. It was a passionate kissed, filled with the heartache and sorrow of the prolonged anxiety of being apart. I couldn't think straight. The kiss deepened and I felt my heart speed up, little did I know that we were about to be interrupted.
"Dimitri?" I heard the tiny voice of Naomi, standing wide eyed and looking lost in the entrance to the staircase, like a child, betrayal written all over her face.
"Naomi!" Dimitri jumped back from me, surprise written all over his features. She shook her head, tears starting to form.
"I should've known better. This is my own fault. I should've known you weren't over her, but I guess that's what happens when you fall in love, right? You get hurt. I should've known better! Noel was right, I'm not the one, nor will I ever be. But that's okay. It's okay. It's my own fault." Bitterness encompassed her voice and she continued to shake her head, twisting her engagement ring around her finger before pulling it off. "I won't be needing this anymore." She sighed as she placed it in the palm of his hand.
"Naomi, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you-" He was cut off by Naomi's hand, gesturing him to stop.
"Please, don't. Just don't." She sighed. Dimitri looked torn as she walked out the door. He didn't know whether or not to go after her or stay with me. I shook my head backing up.
"I'll be right back, I swear. Just, wait here." He exclaimed as he started to run off in her direction. I shook my head.
"No. No, you need to go fix things with her. This right here? It wasn't supposed to happen and it won't happen ever again. Now you need to go and fix things with Naomi. You made her a promise and now you need to honor it. Now go, and don't come back."
"Is that what you want? For me to marry her?" He asked, doubt evident in his voice.
"I'm not the one marrying her. It's your decision. It's not about what I want. It's your life, your choice, and your wedding. I'm just a guest." I tried to extract myself from the situation as much as possible.
"Don't pretend it's that simple. You know it's not. Just please, tell me what you want. Tell me what you're thinking, what your heart is saying." He asked, emotion coursing through his words. I gulped, toying with all the cards in my hand. It was unreal. For once in my life, I had complete control of the situation. It was a very new feeling for me, one that I wasn't sure I liked. "Tell me." He whispered.
I shook my head, frustrated tears spilling. "I can't. I can't tell you. I have to do the right thing. I have to. You're getting married today. You made a commitment. You have to honor that commitment. You promised your hand in marriage to Naomi today and that's all there is to it. You love each other. The end. I will not be the girl that destroys a marriage."
"But I love you. Rose, I love you. I've never stopped loving you. I can't get you out of my mind and when you're gone, I don't feel like me. I don't know what to do but I do know that I love you." Those were the very words I'd wanted to hear since I restored him to his Dhampir state. They were what I dreamed of at night, what I thought of all day, and what I prayed for everyday. But they came with a catch.
Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I begged
I remember you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead
Kiss him right now, and I destroy a girl's life, I have to figure out what to tell the team, and everyone else, possibly move back to Court, and confront everyone I've been avoiding for the past three years. Walk away, and I leave Court broken hearted and full of regrets. I lost no matter how I chose. However, one choice didn't destroy somebody else's life, and though it was the more painful choice, it was the honorable thing to do. I just couldn't bring myself to be that selfish.
"I'm sorry, but you've made a commitment, a commitment you must honor. Naomi seems like a wonderful girl and I wish you the best of luck in your marriage, if you can convince her to take you back. Now go, and please, don't come back this time. Goodbye, Dimitri." The tears were pouring hard now. He nodded slowly.
"If that's what you want." With that he pulled me to him, giving me one last hug and pressed his lips to my forehead. "I will always love you." He whispered. The tears blurred my vision too much for me to see him walk away. I gasped as I heard the door to the stairs shut, and a hollow pain fill me. I sobbed endlessly, reminiscing on the happy days I had with him. I curled myself into a tight ball, unable to move any further than rocking myself back and forth in front of my door, unable to make it inside.
You'd know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days
One year. We had had one year of just love. Love and devotion. Now, we had one year of love and three years of heartache, with many more to come. I had given up Dimitri to a total stranger because I couldn't bring myself to be selfish, to finally take what I wanted most. I was a goddamn idiot. Pride was no longer my least favorite trait about me, it was honor.
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?
No matter how badly it hurt, I didn't regret it. Not one bit. I cherished my memories with him, they were some of the best memories I had. I didn't have Dimitri, but at least I had the memory of Dimitri. It was better than nothing. It was a gift just knowing that he loved me, but a curse knowing I could never have him, I could never trust him, knowing that I'd given up my happiness for someone else to have. I had done the right thing which gave me peace of mind, but it came with a tremendous price.
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."
I lye there, contemplating whether or not my life was even worth living, or if I should stop cheating death just by breathing and pull the plug. What was the point of living if you had nothing and no one to live for?