You paint on a smile and laugh at jokes that Paddy makes but you don't mean it. You look around at all the smiling faces and wonder how life can go on because right now yours feels slightly stuck. Plans put on the back burner, the future hard to talk about. You've only come because Vanessa insisted but all you really want is to be at home, snuggled close while you watch another nature documentary.
That morning you watched as your fiancée struggled to get the younger boys ready. Pain, tiredness and sickness written all over her features as she buttoned up shirts and fixed bow-ties. Her smile never dropped not once as the boys talked excitedly about the day. You watched as the tears formed in her eyes at the boys' matching outfits, rose from the dresser and slipped an arm around her waist, kissing just above her ear. She spun in your arms tucking a stay hair behind your ear, she smoothed the lapels of your jacket down and leaned in to whisper,
" You look beautiful, this suit brings back all sorts of memories"
You smile coyly, catching her lips in a soft kiss. Noah appears at the doorway, you smile at him and he smiles back, he doesn't avoid your love anymore. Vaneesa moves towards him, slowly reaching up to fix his bow tie. She forces you together for a picture, you all smile towards the camera, humouring her. Before you leave you settle her on the couch and make her promise to ring if she needs you. She sends you on your way with a smile and a kiss, still shouting promises as the door clicks.
You were brought out of your thoughts by laughter. When you look up it's the boys dancing with Noah and Sarah. Today really has been beautiful. Lydia looked stunning, her dress made of delicate panels of lace. The vows had been heart felt, you'd even shed a tear. Then on the way back to the pub you had quietly slipped away, tears freely flowing. For the wedding you should have had, this should have been you and Vanessa. Mrs & Mrs. Your first dance, the night to follow but life had gotten in the way and now you're not sure if you"ll get that chance again. You hope and pray you will but there is a small voice in the back of your mind that makes you doubt it.
You miss her. Even if she is only across the street. You imagine her dancing, her arms waving wildly around her, as the kids laugh from a far. You imagine holding her close as a slow song plays, whispering promises and hopes into her hair. You imagine a night tangled up in bed sheets. Spent after you've called out her name into the night. You don't notice Chas's stare. She leans towards you a look of sympathy in her eyes.
"Go Home. We'll have the kids tonight"
You nod. Placing your hand against hers in a quiet thanks. You find Sam and Lydia and apologise for leaving early. They understand. Everybody does. You find the kids and kiss each on the head. Followed by a warning to be grab a bottle of wine and two pieces of cake. You walk quickly. Balancing the plates on your forearm as you open the door.
The site that greets you makes your heart rip in two. Vanessa looks so small on the large sofa. Wrapped up in a quilt, a mug wrapped in between her hands. Your dressing gown is big on her small frame. She smiles wearly at you.
"Your home early. Where are the boys?"
You kick off your heels. You start to explain as you work your way towards her. You drop a kiss to her head and place the items on the breakfast bar. Your next move is a bold one and not something you would usually do. But you're feeling brave and the emotion of the day is still bubbling in your veins. You flick the switch on the small radio and it fizzes into life. The slow melodies fill the small space and your heart hammers in your chest. You move to stand in front of her, taking the mug out of hands and throwing the quilt back from her body. She looks at you confused as you hold out your hand.
"May I have this dance?"
The smile she gives you could light up the night sky as you lead her towards the kitchen. You wrap an arm around her waist protectively, her hand rests lightly on your shoulder, your other hands entwined. You sway softly, her head drops to your chest and you rest your chin against it.
"The first dance we never got"
You say into her crown. Blue eyes meet your own and you've never seen anyone more beautiful.
"And you'll owe me another one day"
She chuckles, resuming her original position. You take that as a promise that she's going nowhere and neither are you. Together you will beat this.