Serenity forced a smile as her Mother and Aunt walked out the door; her friends reluctantly went after them, shooting her their concerned looks on their way as they went. As soon as the door shut, the smile that was frozen on her lips slipped off.
Serenity unclenched her balled fists and looked around the spacious waiting room. The room decorated in every shade of white imaginable. Beige sofas, off-white colored walls, eggshell white chocolate truffles, and an ivory colored crystal chandelier, the same shade as her wedding dress. It was the happiest day of her life. Yeah, right.
Serenity stared at her reflection in the mirror; the woman staring back at her so beautiful: her blond hair done up in an elegant French twist, wisps of hair framing her oval face, her make-up just right; enough to accentuate her best features. The dress she wore was nothing short of spectacular with its abundance of ivory lace and chiffon silk. The young woman looking back at her was throwing her a well-practiced smile, almost believable, but the smile didn't reach her eyes.
Serenity searched her cerulean eyes in the mirror. What was she doing? She should be happy. She had to be happy. She was getting married to Alan Merlott, a rich and good-looking businessman. He was a gentleman that would bring great wealth to her family in a time where her father's business was going further down the drain. That was just about the extent of her knowledge but according to her family, he was a perfect choice.
Serenity had gotten to know Alan better after the engagement. He was quite sweet and intelligent and after many unsuccessful relationships, Serenity was tired of love. So she had agreed to go through with the marriage. Now as she stared at her reflection, she wasn't so sure she wanted to spend the rest of her life with a man who was essentially a stranger.
Serenity got up from the vanity mirror, needing to move around. She moved to the coffee table, in front of the sofas. She sifted through the wedding magazines, the chocolate, the cards, her veil and a bottle of extra strength Tylenol. Serenity eyed the Tylenol but decided against the pills. They would not do her any good. Instead, she picked up her glass of white wine and gulped it down, hoping it would silence all the thoughts in her head.
She would go through with this wedding. Yes, she would marry Alan. He was a nice guy and they would be happy together. Serenity looked up at the clock and found the time was moving much too fast for her liking.
It was 11:25 AM. The marriage ceremony would start at noon. She had half an hour.
Serenity could feel the dread building up in her stomach and felt an urgent need for fresh air. One good thing about this waiting room was that it was connected to the front porch. She wouldn't have to waft through the people outside to get some peace and quiet.
With her wine glass in one hand, Serenity opened the French doors and stepped onto the wraparound porch. The stormy sky had opened up and it was now pouring with rain. Jamming her eyes shut, she took a deep breath of fresh air to calm her nerves. It's all right. Everything will seem better once we're married.
"I'm going to be all right," whispered Serenity, eyes still shut, away from reality.
"You don't look all right," called a deep male voice from beside her.
What? Serenity's eyes fluttered open and her head shot to the side.
There, on the porch, three feet away from her, stood the most devastatingly handsome man she had ever seen. He was tall, easily over six feet tall, broad shouldered with midnight black hair and piercing royal blue eyes. He was dressed in faded blue jeans and a black blazer. The first two buttons were undone on his shirt, giving Serenity a glimpse of a smooth, tanned and muscled chest. Right now, his gaze fixed on all her bridal glory.
His gaze slowly trailed down her body, stopping at places where her gown molded to her frame. Just as slowly, he worked his way back up, his eyes coming to rest on her rosy pink pout.
Serenity blushed under his searing gaze. She had never felt so attracted to anyone before in her life.
"Excuse me?" said Serenity, her heart pounding in her chest.
"I know it's not my business to say, but you don't look the least bit happy. Quite the opposite actually, what with it being your special day and all," he finished, gesturing towards her wedding dress.
He was blessed with a deep tenor voice she observed.
She didn't know how to respond to that remark so they just stood there in silence.
Pitter patter-Pitter patter; the rain beat against the porch railing. Serenity watched the rain drench the pink carnations and hydrangeas that dominated the garden in front of the church, her attention turning to the sidewalk off in the distance where a few children played.
They jumped, hopped and skipped into the puddles all the while laughing hysterically. Every time they splashed into the muddy water, their eyes lit up with joy.
Serenity smiled wistfully at the scene before her. What she wouldn't give to be that carefree, to live life as she pleased, damn any consequences.
Her smile slipped from her visage as she recalled her childhood. She had never played in the rain like that. Anytime the little girl asked to play with the other kids down at the park, her mother had chided her about how it would ruin her beautiful clothes and that it was not proper for a lady.
She had been raised to uphold the honor of her family at all costs; a responsibility she was still fulfilling to this very day. Glancing back into the waiting room, Serenity noticed the time was now 11:48.
There was a chill in the mid-October air and Serenity shivered. Whether it was because of the cold or the realization that she would be walking down the aisle in twenty minutes, she wasn't so certain anymore if she could do this.
Serenity was suddenly engulfed in warmth as a black coat surrounded her shuddering shoulders. Surprised, she looked over at the man, who now stood less than two feet away from her. She noticed he was wearing a maroon shirt that painted a striking contrast with his beautiful blue eyes.
"That dress is not the most ideal outfit for October weather, especially here in Manhattan," he said with a shrug.
"Thank you. That's very kind of you," Serenity whispered.
"Don't mention it. Anyone would have done the same," answered the stranger as he leaned his head back against the grey brick wall.
Anyone would have done the same. Serenity's mind flashed back to a breezy September evening the previous year.
Serenity watched as number 21 drove the ball into the goal with one powerful swing of his mallet. She cheered with faked enthusiasm and watched as Alan yelled out words of praise to the winning team. It's not as if Serenity hated the sport Polo, it was just that this was her third date with Alan at a Polo match within a month. Serenity's parents had been adamant about her spending more time with Alan. Her parents absolutely adored him.
He was the perfect man, with a perfect bank balance.
Alan was nice enough to look at. He had short blond hair and emerald green eyes that were twinkling with excitement as he relayed the events of the Polo match thus far in excruciating detail.
Serenity shivered once again in her sleeveless periwinkle blue dress. She had not prepared for a Polo match. Alan had called and asked her to lunch, which she had agreed to and had dressed accordingly. But as soon as they finished lunch, he dragged her off to another match.
Serenity sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. Alan looked away, focusing his attention on the game. She endured the cold for another ten minutes, before she felt her teeth start to chatter.
She looked over at Alan dressed in his warm grey pea coat and she knew she had to do something.
"Alan," she said.
"Ah-hmmmm?" Alan responded, his eyes still fixated on the match.
"I'm really cold. Is there any way…," Serenity, said pulling her arms tighter around her
body. Alan showed no indication of having heard anything she said. "Alan!" she repeated in a louder tone.
Alan's face jerked around to face her with a questioning look. "What's wrong, Serenity?"
"I'm freezing. I'm sorry, I know how much you really love Polo," she said, with an apologetic smile.
"Yes I do, but we have to put your health above all else." He took out a pair of keys and handed them to her. "My car keys; you can have a seat in my car, with the heat on; the match is almost done. Don't worry, you won't miss much," with that said, he turned around and immersed himself in the game, Serenity forgotten.
She stood there for a moment, her hand still outstretched, too dumbfounded to move. But when she started feeling the numbness in her feet, she forced herself to walk and sit in Alan's Jaguar until the bloody Polo match ended.
She had sat in the car for a good hour before he came back and drove her home. On reflection, she had written the incident off to Alan's uncontrollable love for Polo. He was a really nice guy otherwise. As her parents constantly reminded her, he was perfect.
Now, with that memory fresh in her mind, her heart filled to the brim with dread, she began to feel much worse. A cold dread was slowly enveloping her whole.
"You'd be surprised at how people show their kindness," Serenity said as she wrapped the coat tighter around her. The smell of rose and musk enveloped her senses and she remembered the man next to her.
The man opened his eyes and looked at her with curiosity. And Serenity wondered for the first time that day, what he was doing there. She didn't recognize him. He didn’t look particularly dressed up for a wedding.
"Are you from Alan's side?" she questioned.
"Alan?" he replied, arching an eyebrow.
"The Groom? You know, the man I'm about to marry?" she asked dumfounded.
"Oh no, no; I'm not related to anyone from this wedding party. I'm just taking cover from the rain. My car is parked down the street."
"Oh." So he wasn't involved in this wedding, for some reason that made her feel better, it comforted her.
"You're relieved," he said, watching Serenity intently.
What? She shot him a surprised look.
"Your face is like an open book. It's very easy to read," he said with a light smile.
Serenity shifted her weight onto her other foot, feelings of uncertainty and doubt overwhelming her. It was unnerving that a total stranger could see through her façade so easily.
The two strangers settled into a comfortable silence. For once, Serenity felt at ease, she felt she could be herself without any pretenses. She felt all this with a complete stranger. A man she had met mere moments ago.
She was perplexed as to how this man could understand her so easily. How could he make her feel more relaxed than she had been for months?
Her face must have mirrored her distraught emotions once again because his voice cut into her thoughts.
"Do you want to talk about it? I know it may be hard, but sometimes it's easier to discuss things with somebody you don't know. You'll feel much better after letting it all out." He paused, waiting for her to say something.
Serenity moved her gaze from him to something in the distance.
"It's alright. It isn't any of my business anyways," he said after a moment of silence.
"I-I'm getting married today. To a man who’s perfect. He's handsome, he’s intelligent, and he’s rich. He's really all a woman could hope and dream for. I’m very lucky...," she said, still gazing upon the bleak horizon. "I should be ecstatic…," she mumbled.
"But you're not," his voice broke through her haze.
She whipped her head towards him to give him a hard glare. "I-I am. He's really a very nice guy and my family adores him. He’s perfect," Serenity retorted.
"Your family?" his smooth, deep voice asked; a voice that had the ability to coax her into revealing anything he wanted.
"My parents introduced me to Alan. They're fixated on me marrying him. They seem to think that he is the perfect match for me."
"So you're marrying him to please your family," his voice rang out in response.
"No, o-of course not, he can keep me happy and really what else can a woman hope for?" she said as she tried to smile to lighten the mood, but it must have looked more like a grimace because she saw him frown.
You are marrying him for your family a voice called from inside her head.
"Do you love him?" he asked as he took a step closer to her.
"I will learn to. He is everything I should love in a person," Serenity sighed.
No, you won't , her conscience interjected.
11:50. What was happening with her? Serenity would marry Alan. Everything would be fine; she would come to love Alan with time.
She regarded the dark haired stranger and gave him a reassuring smile, "I'm just getting cold feet is all. Everything will be fine."
He stepped closer and his silver speckled sapphire eyes pierced into hers. It felt as if he could see into her very soul.
"People who are in love do not get cold feet. If you truly love him, you won't have any doubts about marriage. This would be the happiest day of your life," he stated.
“I know you didn’t ask for my opinion. I know you’re trying to convince yourself you love him,” he added.
“W-what? How can you say-“
“He’s a nice guy,” interjected his deep voice.
“What?” Serenity asked, confused.
“You called him a nice guy. You don’t fall in love with a nice guy. You don’t describe the love of your life as a nice guy.”
“You’re being very presumptuous. Not everyone is so open about expressing their feelings,” said Serenity.
11:53. His closeness wasn't helping her think clearly. She could feel his warmth in the chill and she felt drawn to him. Serenity crossed her arms to stop herself from reaching out for him.
"Everything isn't as simple as you make it out to be. Love isn't the only thing important in a marriage," Serenity stuttered. Even to her own ears, it sounded like a blatant lie.
He reached out and touched her shoulder. "Look at me." Electricity coursed through her body, her light blue eyes meeting his turbulent ones. "Life is only as complicated as you make it. Don't marry him to satisfy your family."
"Why do you care?" Serenity cried.
His face inched closer to hers. His rose infused smell enveloped her. He smelled so good and if she could just touch him, she knew she would feel better.
"Because you don't love him," he stated so confidently that she resisted and pulled back.
"I will," Serenity said, trying to pull herself out of his embrace.
He pulled her back, his lips grazed hers and she gasped.
"You won't," he whispered against her lips.
"I-I will," she faltered.
He kissed her. It started off slowly; he suckled her bottom lip whilst his arms found purchase on her waist.
Oh my god.
His coat fell to the floor, forgotten as she clung to him as if her life depended on it. He felt so good against her body; so solid and strong. Her fingers dug into his forearms and the strength she felt there delighted and startled her. She knew this man would never let her fall.
He held her against him tighter, her softer form molding to his harder one.
God, he felt so good.
He gently nibbled on her lower lip while drawing small, soothing circles on her lower back. Serenity gasped in surprise at the sensation rolling through her. She felt warmness pooling at her stomach. She had never felt like this before.
11:57. He took this chance to enter her mouth, his tongue playing with hers. She couldn't get close enough to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth closer to her demanding one. He tasted like chocolates and caramel. She couldn't get enough.
11:58. He positioned her head to reach her mouth from a new angle, deepening the kiss. She clung to his shoulders and neck as she felt her legs grow weak beneath her. Please don't let this end. She wanted time to stand still and to remain in his arms forever.
Then she heard it; it finally grew loud enough to break through the haze in which she found herself surrounded, the chime of the grandfather clock in the waiting room. It was 12:00. It was time for her to get married.
That thought jarred her out of her trance and she pushed against his hard chest. He stumbled back slightly before he caught himself.
What the hell was she doing? She was getting married for god's sake and here she was being kissed breathless by a man.
But it felt so right.
Trying to calm her pounding heart, Serenity glanced at him. She felt feminine pride at the fact that he was breathing just as hard as she was, his cheeks colored a faint pink. As he tried to catch his breath, he watched her in silence with those stormy eyes. She realized he was letting her come to terms with what happened. He was giving her space to decide for herself what she wanted.
Then a realization finally hit her. She was more drawn to a stranger than she was to Alan. There was something about this man that drew her in, that interested her. She had known Alan for the past 2 years and there was nothing about him that intrigued her. She never felt like this when she kissed him. She never felt alive, or wanted him. She was just fooling herself.
"I don't love him," Serenity whispered, her eyes growing wide. She repeated it with conviction as she looked up at him, "I don't love him. I never will love him."
"I-I'm glad you finally realized it. All it took was an earthshattering kiss," he said, his voice still hoarse.
12:02. Serenity flashed him a bright smile. She felt so liberated, as if a huge burden had been lifted from her chest. The smile abruptly faded as they heard voices coming nearer.
"What am I going to do? I'm supposed to be getting married. Oh god, I can't face all those people right now. I can't face my parents," Serenity cried, breathing hard.
He eyed her face carefully before breaking into a devilish smile. "Come with me."
"What?" Serenity asked.
"You need time to think, to put your life in order. Come away with me."
The voices got closer and closer, until they stopped right in front of the door to the waiting room.
Oh dear lord. He was right. She needed some time away to think and for some reason, she wanted to stay near him.
"Fine… okay… let's go." She took his outstretched hand, just as the door swung open.
She held her flowing wedding dress with one hand, as they ran into the pouring rain.
As their feet pounded the cemented sidewalk, his voice carried over to her, "I'm Darien by the way."
Laughing, she said, "Serenity."
He flashed her a dazzling smile that accompanied her own, "Pleased to meet you."