As I stood at the front of a church, I could feel a bit of subtle fear. Naturally, I’d feel a little bit of anxiety. You survive junior high then high school, and then you move out into the world. Sometimes, you take small detours…and sometimes you have to gun it down the interstate at maximum speed. This was that day for us.
Expensive, excessive? No, it was just as it was supposed to be. There were over five hundred well-wishers, members of family, and a few people who I had no idea about who they were, but hey, we were glad they were here. I stood in the front of a church with Keith at my left and a minister standing to my right.
“This tux itches in all the wrong places.”
“It’s a little late for that,” I replied.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m not wearing one of these to any wedding I may have.”
“Jeans and a T-shirt?”
“As long as they’re pressed and clean, works for me.”
“And the bride will wear…?”
“Whatever she wants as long as I don’t have to look at fabrics or pay for it.”
A massive pipe organ swelled up and bellowed out several chords, signaling the start of the procession. I looked to the back of the church as the doors swung open to reveal the bride.
I had waited for this day for six years, and now it was happening. The dress was ornate and beautiful, like something out of dream…as was the woman in it. All I could do was look at her as she stepped forward. I didn't want the moment to end, but I did want the ceremony to continue.
She stopped short of the altar steps. I held my hand out to help her step up and…there we were, standing face-to-face in one of the most pivotal moments of our lives.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to—”
“Point of order! No. Hold that line! That still sounds wrong. What’s the phrase? I object!”
Everyone in the church looked to the back of the sanctuary to see a teenager with a flaming sword walking down the aisle.
“Excuse me, could you come back here and talk to us? Yes, both of you. Hello, it’s a great wedding, really. Nice flower choices, by the way.”
“Who are you?” I asked as he sheathed the sword.
“What is it with you and always asking questions? I thought you would have grown out of it by now.”
I looked behind him and saw another me, standing next to another Tiffany.
“I’d introduce you all, but let’s not get redundant.”
“When does this happen?”
“This is just a few months down the road, my dear.”
“Why a few months?”
I stood at Tiffany’s side and looked back at the other two who were looking back at us.
“It shouldn’t be a shock to you…you wrote it.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s a happy day! Perhaps a bit hectic, but hey, it’s the life you chose. And let me again reaffirm that you—as in the both of you, well, him—chose it.”
“And under God, with the power invested in me and the state of soon to be total panic, I hereby pronounce you man and wife and baby girl. Congratulations.”
“What?!” Both girls yelled.
“Did you know you two are just as bad as he is with the questions? This is the way it was written. It all leads to this and this is all wrong.”
“We’re okay, we talked about this happening one day,” I said.
“One day, yes, but not when I’m—”
“Sixteen. You’ll be seventeen in…four months,” he replied as he performed some calculation on his fingers.
“Finally seeing you how crazy all this is? How it doesn’t make any sense if you actually tried to follow it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to compose your life and make it work just the way you want it to? You’d have all the answers, and everything would work out. The bad days would fly away like a memory…and they have, haven’t they, Jason?”
“Who is he?” I asked my younger self.
“I don’t know,” he replied, “but he’s been following us around for a while.”
“You do know; you just choose to ignore it. Something’s got into your head that if you didn’t do something so off-the-wall stupid, then you’d never see her again. You chose—instead of waiting to see what would happen—to take it upon yourself and create this.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Allow me to break it down then: Have you noticed the lack of sound around us? Or how about the fact that neither of you ran away in sheer terror? Or the fact that I’m nearly yelling and not one person has even looked this way!”
Our group of five looked at the now-empty church. I looked to the strange teen as he pulled out his sword, pointed it at us, and then struck the ground.
“Jason, are you okay? Can you hear me?”
I opened my eyes to see Tiffany at my side.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, thank you. Are you okay?”
We both stood up and took each other’s hands.
“Actually, I’m kind of afraid and confused about all of this.”
I took her hand. “It’s okay.”
“You don’t sound too convincing.”
I wasn’t, but I was fighting fear and apprehension and had to put up a brave front.
“We’ll be all right. I just have to think things through, I—”
“Thinking things through? That’s an original thought.” The teen with the sword said with a laugh.
I looked at our surroundings: we were back at the junior high school, in front of the band room.
“Prattville Jr. High…fall of eighty-nine. You’re both here…but you’re not supposed to be.”
“I remember being here though.”
“And what do you remember, Miss Creighton?”
“Going to school, of course.”
“Who was one of your teachers?”
“How are we supposed to remember who our teachers are? Who remembers that?”
“Let’s look at your yearbook, shall we? Oh yes, that’s right, there isn’t one!”
“Let’s go, Tiffany,” I said as we walked away.
“You still don’t get it, do you? Again, what is wrong with this picture?”
“Nothing. It’s perfect.”
“Let me tell you about someone I used to know. He was a real hardhead, a dreamer too. He wanted something for so long. I tried to get him to that point, but he went further, took it into his own hands, and became a jealous man. He took what he valued and locked it away, never to be seen by anyone else…just him.”
“Your point is?”
“Let’s just say that he destroyed the thing that mattered the most. It was hidden away, and it slowly died out. Now the Jason I knew would never let that happen. I wonder where he went. Did he die?”
“The one who really loves her!”
“I had to. It was going to end…that even if I asked her…even if I was able to, then it would all go away. It would never happen. You told me that!”
The teenager smiled and then shrugged his shoulders to me.
“The way you want it to, you’re right…it won’t happen. Welcome to life. That’s how it goes.”
“Because you’re not the author of it.”
“I can choose my future, I—”
“Yes. You can choose the road you’ll travel. You can choose the path you will take. But you can’t choose hers.”
Tiffany grabbed onto my arm and looked into my eyes.
“Do you know who he is?”
“Yes,” I replied. “His name is Gabe.”
“Welcome back to the real world, Jason Dennereck. What a trip, eh?”
Lydia then appeared on the other side of me and leaned in. “This is what you want. She’s here, you’re here. Nothing else matters but that, right? Don’t listen to him. Remember, he wants you to never see her again.”
“Who’s in your other ear? What is she telling you?” Gabe asked.
“Ever since I met you, you’ve been everything I ever wanted. I don’t want to ever lose you.”
“I don’t want to lose you either.” Tiffany replied.
“Both of you have a different life to lead.” He drew his sword—the flame shot out toward my ear. “Unique lives, ones that will be apart.”
“You belong together.” Lydia pulled two burning daggers from her belt and pointed them at my head.
“This is where the road divides. You need to realize that this is not the way it should be.”
“I can’t do it. I can’t let her go!”
“Then you don’t really love her.”
“Then let her go!”
“I can’t do that!”
I stood there with two flaming blades pointing at my head and the object of my affection in front of me.
“Jason. I can’t force you to listen to me. I know you feel in your heart that she’s everything to you, and I get that and it’s probably true, but—this is not how it’s supposed to be.”
I stepped forward and walked down the hallway with Tiffany. I looked back to see Gabe actually had his sword pointed at Lydia’s head, not mine.
“That I did this…I—”
“Don’t be. You finally got to tell me, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if this is a dream or a strange future or—”
“If it is a dream, what do you plan to do when you wake up?”
“I’m hoping we can still go to that dance.”
“Do you know how to dance?”
“I know the Virginia Reel, does that count?
“Square dancing? I don’t think so.”
“Well, do you know how to?”
“I can fox-trot, but I’m not going to in front of other people.”
“Okay, so we won’t dance at the dance. We’ll be just like everyone else.”
I let go of her hand, and there was a slight awkward pause.
“If this is a dream, just so you know, I won’t forget about you…even if I never get to see you again, I’ll always love you.”
* * *
“So, the beginning of the end, oh great messenger?”
“That depends on how you’re looking at it.”
“There’s no other way to look at it!”
“I think you fail to see the big picture.”
“Oh, please, tell me, oh great messenger, how does it end?
“In the near future, I can see a young woman and a man walking together through the forests and the wilderness—living their lives together. She loves her husband, and he in return—”
“Blah, blah, they live happily ever after—”
“Can I finish?”
“By all means.”
“I see another couple—”
“Another—? Never mind, continue.”
“They spend time with each other, taking walks on the beach.”
“But they are not together, never to see one another.”
“Of course they will. Love has a way of bringing people back around again.”
“But it’s not true love.”
“You’re right. It’s greater.”
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