She slid of the wall and stepped away from the awning that protected her from the cold rain. A drop kissed her cheek as she dropped her arms by her sides and turned her head towards the sky. Refreshing…The rain made soft taps as it hit her face. Tap…tap…tap. Why was it that rain could wash away…everything?
Sadness. Joy. Regret.
Was it because of today that she loved the rain so much at this moment—she who normally hated the rain? The rain collected on her eyelashes as she let out a sigh that formed in the air like thin, wispy fingers curling around the miniscule rain drops falling slowly as if time had slowed to a crawl.
“Natalie? Natalie!” The slow motion that surrounded her snapped into lightning-fast reality, her eyes flying open and her head turning to the sound. The sound of the rain changed from a soft lullaby to the hard sound of static.
“It’s cold and raining. Why are you out here?”
“Just felt like a break.” Natalie shrugged before grabbing her friends arm and pulling her towards the building. “Come on, let’s go.” She put on a smile for her as she did for the other people at the reception.
As she walked in, soaked and cold—trying hard to hide her shivers—she gazed upon the happy couple who had just gotten engaged. Her best friend was going to marry the women he loved while she had to watch him slip away and leave her behind. It wasn’t like she hadn’t told him…that she loved him. He just didn’t love her like that. They were best friends, he said.
“Hm?” He answered without looking at her.
She stood in front of him and placed her hand on the binoculars. “Listen to me.”
He looked up, his face full of curiosity. He smiled sweetly like he always did, in a way that made her heart flutter.
“I wanted to stay—I care about you as more than a friend and I don’t want to regret not telling you this.”
His smile fell and his eyes became cold. “I…don’t feel that way…about you. We’re best friends, you know. You’re like a sister to me.”
Natalie met eyes with David and he smiled at her. It had been a year since she had confessed and after that he ignored it as if it never happened and he met his soon-to-be wife a month after her confession. She still loved him, of course, but she decided to hide it and be just what he said they were—best friends.
“It’s time for a toast!”
He nodded towards the front of the room where a microphone stand was placed. She couldn’t help but scoff inside before dragging herself to the front of the room.
1. 2. 3. She halfheartedly smiled before taking in a sharp breath of air and closed her eyes to the tears that were trying to form again at the ends of her eyelids. The scratchy metal of the microphone felt harsh in her hands as she cleared her throat and began a speech of congratulations…
He sat there, wringing his hands constantly, waiting for someone to tell him anything. Everything was a blur. Everything felt so surreal—the ambulance pulling up as he did, both his brother and wife on stretchers covered in blood. His heart beat rhythmically with his breathing; his breath slipped out of his mouth in raged puffs. His normally crystalline green eyes looked glassy as tears collected on his eyelid while his eyelashes glistened from those tears that had already escaped. As he dipped his head in his hands a piece of his jet-black hair broke free from the carefully combed mop on his head and caressed his right hand. Greg’s wife, Celine, had survived but was in a coma and Greg was still in the operation room.
Silent, ghost-like footsteps stopped short of him. He raised his head and stared into the doctor’s old brown eyes. The doctor shook his head and everything slowed down around Jared. He could feel himself jump up and grab the doctors arms, his mouth moved—screamed—but he didn’t register that it was him that was screaming so desperately.
The doctor mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ before turning and left Jared to crumple back onto the bench he had been sitting on. His eyes closed and the tears burst through, rolling down his face with reckless abandon, staining his suit sleeves with dark, wet blobs.
“Jared!” He looked up as the voice of his mother screamed his name. “Where…where are they?”
He stood up slowly, the tears still rolling silently down his face. “He’s gone.”
His mother’s face crumbled and she fell in his arms. Her whole body shook as she sobbed loudly. All that could be heard was the ragged sobs echoing down the hall. In the back of his mind, Jared noticed that his father was nowhere in sight.
After his mother’s sobs hushed into silent whimpering, he left his mother’s side to go into the room where his brother’s body was placed.
He stopped short when he saw his father standing in front of his brother’s covered body. Jared didn’t even know that someone had gone into his brother’s room, especially not his father. His eyes rested on a sight that he thought his farther was incapable of—showing emotion. His father’s old, wrinkled hand held the cold dead hand of his brother while his father’s shoulders shook as he silently cried.
Jared turned around and shut the door before leaning on the wall beside it, his head pressed against the wall looking up to heaven as if asking why?
Just a week ago his brother and him had an argument that reminded him of how much he had secretly resented his brother but Jared wished he could take it all back. He wished he could erase that whole conversation and maybe his only brother wouldn’t be dead; maybe the fates wouldn’t have made it this way.
“Jared…you’ve got to relax. Have a life. All you ever do is think about work and the company. When are you going to get married, start a family? Isn’t it hard to swallow that your older, more handsome brother is more accomplished in that area than you. Greg tried to joke around to defuse the tense situation but it didn’t help. You haven’t even seen your niece since she was born, for God’s sake.”
“Let’s just focus on the matter at hand, Greg. Dad is going to hand over the company to you in a few years and as your right-hand-man and someone with ownership in the company, I want to make sure everything is ready for the change of leadership—which means focusing on this, by the way.
“No. I made a decision a long time ago; right when I looked into my daughter’s eyes at the hospital I knew I didn’t want to be the head of the company.”
“Does dad know this?”
“He does but he won’t accept it.”
Jared jumped up from his chair and glared at his brother. “It was always you who dad wanted to give everything to, not me—someone who was willing to follow his lead. We are no longer brothers if you can’t even accept how lucky you are.”
Jared stormed out of his office and never looked back, even after his brother ran calling after him. He wanted his dad’s position like his heart needed a heartbeat but he was only able to sample that power as the temporary chief executive for his father who had taken an ‘extended vacation’ a few months ago.
“Jared,” a whispered voice whimpered beside him. He opened his eyes and let them roll to the side and rest on his mother’s weak form.
“Because you’re the godparent…” She took a deep breath as if the news she was about to utter was any worse than what had already happened. “You’re responsible for Emily now.”
Jared blinked rapidly in disbelief as the person of interest peeked silently from behind her grandmother.