Michael had two wedding receptions to attend that evening, so we hit one (that I’ve previously mentioned) first. To add to the awkwardness of the evening, we sat at a table with Michael’s family (who were eager to find Michael moving forward with his life…with a new girl who wasn’t his wife). Of course, pictures were requested. How exactly do you bob and weave your way out of that situation? I’m was unsure, so I posed for pictures instead of coming up with an excuse. Luckily (and embarrassingly) my dress, when photographed, had a transparent quality. So, since the twins were visible, the photos never made it past the digital cameras of his family members.
As expected, James’ cousins were there. They saw me with Michael. Questions followed.
Cousin #1: “Fina! Aren’t you dating James?”
Me: “No. We aren’t dating.”
Cousin #1: “Really?”
She was clearly disappointed and waiting to see if I’d divulge more information. James and I had an agreement. I couldn’t go back on it no matter how much I wanted to say that he was missing out on the best thing that would ever happen to him.
Me: “No, we aren’t. You’ll have to ask him about the rest.”
Cousin #1: “So…it was his decision then?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I really can’t say. If he wants you to know, he’ll tell you.”
Cousin #1: “Well, if it is because of him, I want you to know that I think he’s a complete idiot.”
I wanted to puke. Of course he was an idiot, but how could I possibly agree with her without letting her know how I felt? It was best to walk away from the discussion…not easiest…best. My heart crawled out of my chest and tried to pin itself on my sleeve; I couldn’t exactly let that happen. If I was going to move forward without him, I couldn’t acknowledge that I yearned for the days when he told me that he loved me. I couldn’t acknowledge that I was torn between the present state of our relationship (confusion) and his past pursuit (clarity). I couldn’t admit that I was in love with someone who would leave my dreams unrequited.
Me: “I can’t wait around for something that somebody else doesn’t want. I deserve more than that.”
With that said, and my heart a little more battered, I walked away from our discussion. I’m sure it seemed a bit bitchy, but I didn’t know how else to handle it.
Michael and I left shortly after the conversation with James’ cousin.
Reception number two was uneventful. It was another high school reunion and, to be honest, my brain was on overdrive and in another place completely. Thoughts were clouded. My heart, so clearly, belonged in another city.
Michael caught up with his friends that he hadn’t seen in years. He was popular enough that he didn’t seem to notice my shift in mood. Of course, I had already been uncomfortable because of our earlier conversation, so maybe I didn’t seem to be acting any different. I held it together the best that I knew how, but I desperately wanted to leave.
This was the first moment that I realized how deep my love for James was buried in my soul. For the first time in my life, I was in love with a man who wasn’t in love with me and, sitting next to Michael, I could empathize with the look in his eyes. I hated knowing I caused the same type of pain in someone else that James caused in me.
I was in love with James, Michael was in love with me, and James was hundreds of miles away living a life that no longer included me. Dreaming of waking up next to him, of our first morning together in his apartment (the amazing sex, the warmth of his body near mine, his smile), I put a fake smile on my face, wrapped my arms around Michael’s neck, and danced with him while the lyrics to “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” blared from the dj booth.
p.s. Who the fuck plays this song at a wedding, anyway?