I had always admired the moon; an enigma, shrouded behind the serenity of clouds - cold, untouchable. It held many secrets, dreams, hopes, guiding those - otherwise lost - in an impenetrable darkness to their fateful encounters. Yet, even in the day of light, it always lingered nearby watching, waiting. Alone.
But, it was never out of reach. With a little effort and a little time, it wasn't an illusion.
I thought he was the same...
I was wrong.
As the evening rendered into the night, I took in the tranquility surrounding the wedding reception. The ceremony had lasted exactly the right amount of time to keep my exhaustion away. With things slowing down, I could keep it up for a while longer, satisfied with my work being taken so well. The crowd - now dissipating into the back of the grassy resort - appeared to be in awe at the lights. They hung, twinkling, in the palm trees acting as another creation of mother nature. A few hundred or more white jasmine flowers were set to afloat the adjoined lake. Though, the crowning jewel had to be the walkaway. It led to another seating area, floating atop the water. I had to admit, every detailed carried out flawlessly. Truly a sight to see.
If only I could appreciate it properly.
Unlike the others, I made my way down the coast. It was darker over here, quieter. I needed it.
In the blinding light of the August evening, the small lake appeared as clear as a mountain spring. I felt the coolness of the surface even before I crouched down and flicked it with my hand. Every rounded stone on the bottom, every fish, was rendered in perfect clarity. Even in the dead of night, it felt ethereal. Too good to be true.
In all honesty, it was hard to crack the unsettled apprehension corrupting my mind. I wanted to stop thinking; of my remaining duties as maid of honour, of the fact that my fiancé would find me any second now and of the fact that I’d have to stay back a few days more than the rest, to clear things up. 'I guess I'll worry about that later.'
Dipping my feet in the water, I let out a soft, unsettled sigh, falling prey to the pinching feeling in my stomach.
“I’ll... be fine I guess,” I hummed subconsciously.
“If you’re talking to a fish, I highly doubt it,” a husky, familiar voice sounded from right behind me. My eyes widened ever so slightly, the shock registering on my face as I turned to face the source.
It took me a while, but then it hit me.
“Will,” I breathed out.
A sudden wave of mixed emotions coursed through me as my breath hitched. He had the same dark brown hair, thick and lustrous - yet not as tousled as they used to be. The same jawline, strong and defined, while his eyes examined every inch of me with open curiosity. However, there was a heavy chill in the air now. His playful smile now appeared more exhausted and distant than they were. Cold, like the first time we met.
"It’s been a while..." It was then reality kicked in - he’d actually shown up. "Hey there, Meow.”
For perhaps a split second my anticipation kicked in, the surprise protecting it until it shattered like glass. My expression morphed into a hostile one. “Don’t call me that.”
“Oh come on, El.” He pursed his lips, afflicted.
I stayed silent.
“Can I cut in...?”
Before I could strongly object, he swiftly moved to settle himself alongside me. "Go right ahead." Taken aback by the exhaustion in my tone, I bit my bottom lip, refusing to fall into his hands.
A moment passed. And then another. The heavy tension tingled at my nerves as I distracted myself with the water. At least that calmed me - the way the ripples moved at every swing of my feet, the way the white flowers floated around them. The only anomaly was the pompous jerk, who seemed more at ease with how I wasn't blowing up at him. I wouldn't give him the consolation to think he mattered that much.
“I’m surprised you showed up,” I cut the silence, attempting to disregard his unexpected proximity.
"What made you change your mind...?” I heard the words tumble out before I could stop them. The response wouldn't surprise me. It was only a matter of what excuse he'd use. How he'd explain there would be 'no way he'd miss a friend's wedding', if he even considered us- them that.
Another silence hung. Suspended in the air, it etched away at my curiosity until I couldn't help but peek at him.
That’s when I caught Will's grey orbs staring back my own. My heart leapt in my throat. Without hesitation, his compulsive gaze dropped down to my lips, lingering for a moment longer until he tore it away, towards the lake. It was then I felt like I could breathe again.
“As I thought,” he let out a humourless chuckle. “I can’t do it...”
My thoughts hazy, my eyebrows slightly furrowed, my voice no louder than a whisper. "What?"
“I can't act normal around you anymore...” A rush of butterflies fluttered in my stomach, before I yanked myself back to reality.
“Look,” I snapped, taken aback by the fluttering feeling in my stomach. “I don’t know why you’re here or what you’re thinking, but-”
“Want me to tell you-” He mused, this time boldly meeting my vexed gaze. “-what I’m thinking?”
Taken by surprise at the heat in his eyes, I glared back at him - thankful the darkness cloaked my tinted cheeks. “This isn’t a game, Will.”
A ghost of a smirk played at his lips. "Isn't it?"
“No. It isn’t.”
“I heard you got engaged...” His eyes were tight around the edges - he was being careful, but struggling.
“I did actually,” I spoke firmly, ticked off by the underlying hostility in his tone. He doesn’t get to ask about that. Not after what happened. Showing up six years later... The others might've been fine acting as if nothing changed, but I wasn’t.
“Excuse me?” I snapped, flustered. I subconsciously caught a glimpse of Aiden’s figure and for that brief moment- I stopped that thought dead in its tracks, hastily suffocating it into a small corner of my brain.
Instead of replying to me, the smirk crept back onto Will's lips. As if he got the answer he needed. As if something, a storm, was brewing in his head.
“Well, I don't. Explain it to me,” I gritted out, the arrogance in his attitude urging me to push him into the lake.
"I don't know what you're talking about-"
“Ella?” I tensed as Aiden approached us, closely examining the other. “...William, was it.” It was more of a displeased statement than a question.
Catching my rigid attire and anxious gaze, Will furrowed his eyebrows before turning to meet Damien's hostile glare with his own. "What is he doing here?" Will spat, getting up. It was then I realized; Will didn't know who I was engaged to. On instinct, I rushed up myself, discreetly pulling on his arm - in preparation for the worst.
I was starting to understand one thing for certain.
Will had brought the storm with him...
Just like seven years ago.