"He had you and I wanted you, but I shouldn't have said anything, I-I betrayed my brother."
Tyler and I got married on December 1st, almost half a year after he had asked me. It was a small ceremony only our closest family members and friends, 50 or so guests, because the fact that we were getting married so young, him being 21 and me being 17 bothered many. I wore a cream dress with a sweetheart neck line and roughing on the boddess and a satin belt resting just above my hips. My hair fell in large curls around my pale face, my lips stained red with Tyler's favourite shade.
My parents had money thanks to lucky investments in the 90's, so they paid for the costs. Neither one of them ever showed issue with the marriage, both making sure that I knew that they supported any decision I made. I think partly it was because I was their only child that they were so calm about it. I had saved their marriage, they had told me many times, and they needed me just as much as I needed them.
Both my mom and dad walked me down the aisle that warm afternoon, tears in both of their eyes. I could feel tears in my own, but I willed them away. I didn't want my vision blurred, I wanted to remember the day that I became Mrs. Smith. And a day to remember it was. Tyler cried as he embraced me for our first kiss as husband and wife. I was lavished with compliments all the while Tyler held on to me, never once letting me away from him except to use the washroom and dance with my father. The toasts were too many that they had to be cut short because desert was still to be had. And the dancing, my favorite part of the night, became the point in the evening where everyone seemed to disappear and it became me and my husband.
Tyler had disappeared for a moment, and the appeared at the front of the room on the dance floor with a mic in his hand.
"Thank you for being here today," he said to our guests, who watched curiously. "I'm sure some of you think that we're too young to get married, and if you do, then you have no idea what true love is. I don't ever want to love another as I love Val, and that is all I ask for you to understand. Now I encourage all of you to join me and my wife for a dance to our wedding song. Valarie asked me to surprise her with our wedding song, so here it is." He held out his hand towards me and every eye in the room turned to me as I glided towards him. He had handed off the microphone to his best man, his younger brother who smiled at me, his eyes brimmed with tears. I was confused, but only for a moment; I had more important affairs at hand.
"Tyler," I said as my husband took me in dance position. "I love you."
"It can't possibly be as much as I love you, Mrs. Smith." He kissed the tip of my nose and smiled his brilliant smile.
The soft noise of a violin filled the room as he twirled me around before words finally reached me and I gasped; he had chosen our song. The song he sang to me as I fell asleep in his arms after our first time, the night I had agreed to be his wife.
"This song is my promise to you," Tyler whispered, reaching up to wipe away the first tear that had fallen. I could see people joining us on the dance floor but they didn't matter; nothing mattered at that moment but me and my husband. He waited for the chorus until he sang along.
"I will never let you fall, I'll stand up for you forever. I'll be there for you through it all even if saving you sends me to heaven." A look of fear flickered in his eyes before it was gone without a trace. "You know that right?"
"Know what?" I said, ignoring the worry in my stomach.
"I will do anything to keep you safe. You are my number one priority, Val. I won't ever let anyone hurt you." He kissed me with his strong lips. "I love you."
"Ty, is something wrong?" I couldn't conceal the fear in my own voice.
"No baby. Everything is fine. Don't you worry your beautiful self over anything,
especially today." He pulled me against him as he began singing again. "Your my, my true love, my whole heart."
As I rested my cheek against Tyler's, I couldn't quite completely shake the feeling that something was bothering him, but as our wedding night progressed, the night I received not just the gift of a soul mate, but a gift of life, the bad feelings were pushed to the back of my mind but not forgotten.
Ryan kissed my shoulder as his arms held me securely. My head lay in the hollow of his neck, a place that was comforting. I wasn't sure how long we had stayed like this, I just knew that I liked it. I liked having my skin touch his, no barriers between us. I was beginning to need his touch more than I needed anything else. And I was trying my hardest not to let it scare me. Honestly, I was sick of avoiding everything. I needed to be happy, and more and more, Ryan seemed to do that.
"Val?" he whispered, his lips brushing against my ear. A shiver ran up my spine and I could feel his lips smile against my neck.
"Mmm?" I replied.
He took a hesitant breath and propped himself up onto his elbow. I twisted my neck so that I could see what his expression betrayed; he looked nervous. I lifted my head to give him a kiss as my way to reassure him.
"Uhm, what we just....what-no." He chuckled nervously and picked up a strand of hair from my forehead. "Was that just a one time thing?" he whispered.
I knew what he was talking about, and it was then that I finally begin to feel the guilt. It was one thing for me to be happy, but to let another man take Tyler's spot was a whole separate issue. I felt as if, by letting Ryan make love to me, I was betraying my love. I didn't want to take another chance and see if the feeling would go away. I needed to not feel the way I did about Ryan. I needed my love for him to dissolve. I needed to put distance between us, and I knew exactly how to do it. After all, if I was good at anything, it was running.
"What do you mean? The sex?" I couldn't bring myself to say the words I knew he wanted to hear again.
"No. I mean, well, that kind of sex." His cheeks burned a bright red.
"Ry," I whispered. "Just let things be. There isn't a need to worry about that.". Indirectly, I was trying to tell him that no matter what, I still had the power in the situation. I would decide what kind, if any, relationship there was going to be between us. I would not show him my real feelings.
He nodded, but didn't say anything more. I could see the disappointment in his eyes and I knew it was time for me to leave; I had already stayed one night too many. But, as I moved to free myself from his arms, they tightened around me. His breath touched my neck as he held me to him, causing an involuntary flutter in my stomach.
"Spend the day with me," he whispered in my ear. My body stiffened against his own, and I knew he felt I, but he only held me tighter.
"I already gave you a night, you can't have a day, too," I replied as calmly as my voice would allow.
"It's just a day. I want to know what you do. I want to more about you, Val. I don't know anything about you." His fingers came up and caressed my breasts. "Well, I know your body. But give me a chance to know more about you. What's your favorite colour? What foods do you like to eat? Nothing too serious, yet." His lips were millimeters away from my ear, and I could only focus on where I wished they were. This was my one chance to open myself up. If I took it, maybe there was a chance for happiness, even a small degree of it, and maybe he knew it too. He may have realized that the time had come to make or break me.
"Blue. My favourite colour is blue and my favourite food is lasagna. Ok?" I twisted myself in his arms to face him. He smiled at me triumphantly before he brushed his lips along my jaw.
"So, will you spend a day with me, pretty please? I'll be a good boy."
As hard as I tried not to, I laughed quietly and pressed my fingers to his lips. I couldn't keep running, I had to try.
"Ok, but just a day, though. Not another night."
"That's all I'm asking for," he laughed and then scooped me up in his arms to carry me to the shower.
My phone rang for the fourth time in half an hour with the same name. Pressing the ignore button, I silently begged for him to stop calling before I turned it to silent and stuffed it in my pocket where it would be easy to forget about. The day before spent with Ryan was more enjoyable than I had expected. There were times where I had found myself feeling genuinely happy. I actually laughed, and smiled. It was much easier than I thought, and I was happy. But it was a day that I couldn't talk to him.
I turned my attention back to the book on the table top in front of me. My long finger nails drummed the wood anxiously, as if I was waiting for something momentous to happen. It was after all December 1st, a day that was just one year earlier one of the happiest days of my life. Was I not allowed to expect something of significance to present itself again? Something that would put my life back into perspective, or perhaps something that would save me from the life I wanted to drown in? Or maybe just a temporary fix? Maybe answering the phone was the right thing to do.
The door of the quiet bakery opened, and my eyes strayed from the world of Madame Bovary to casually glance at the new occupant of the empty room. My heart thumped in my chest as I recognized the familiar face that had yet to notice me. He ordered without looking over the menu board, indicating that he was a regular. A slight giddiness floated to the surface as I watched the only connection to my past life look for his wallet; he had found me, after six months of my searching, HE had found ME. And as if he was listening to my thoughts, he turned in my direction. The air rushed out of my chest in a single instant as his eyes locked with mine. The barista placed his drink down in front of him, but he didn't move an inch. It wasn't until someone else walked into the place that he looked away. He grabbed his cup and slowly turned back towards me. He wouldn't dare walk out without saying anything, I knew him well enough to know that much.
"Valarie," he said and stood beside the chair.
The air had been sucked out of me. There were so many things that I wanted to say to him, so many questions to ask, yet I felt as if I was frozen. I couldn't speak and say the things that needed to be said.
I hadn't noticed that he had sat himself across from me until his hand on mine drew me back to reality.
"I looked for you," I said quietly. I could feel the slight tremble of the words as they left my mouth.
"I know." His piercing blue eyes flickered across my face. It was amazing how, even sitting in front of me, I couldn't see him, all I saw was the other one. "I've been trying my hardest to get over everything. I'm still disgusted with myself. I tried to get over it but its impossible. I went back to Ohio, to get away from you, but I came back for you, I just haven't been able to bring myself to go see you. I still love you, Valarie. Despite hating every fiber of my being for it, I love you and I can't change that."
"Travis," I breathed. "We both made the mistake, it wasn't just you. I could have stopped it before it started but-"
He grabbed the sides of his head and interjected, "No! You shouldn't have had to in the first place! You were broken and I took advantage of you! Even that time before he was gone, I shouldn't have told you how I felt. You came to me for comfort and I did the opposite. But I needed you to know! He had you and I wanted you, but I shouldn't have said anything, I-I betrayed my brother."
"Tyler wouldn't cheat on you," Travis whispered in my ear as he rocked me in his arms. "I know my brother. He would never hurt you."
"I know what I saw," I sobbed. "Brittinea, she was there when I got home. She was, she was naked and they were kissing! We've only been married for a damn week! I shouldn't have been so fucking stupid!"
Travis held me closely and rubbed my back. "You don't deserve to be hurt, Val. You deserve the best the world has to offer. If you were mine, I'd never hurt you." His voice lowered to almost a whisper. "If you were mine, I'd tell you how much I loved you every day. I'd never be away from you for a second." He moved me in his lap so that his face was inches from mine. "My brother has no idea how incredibly lucky he is to have you as his wife. I'd give my whole life for you."
"Trav-" I started but he pressed a finger to my lip.
"No. Let me talk. My older brother may have married you, but that does not mean that I can't have feelings for you. Tyler takes you for granted, but me, I would cherish every touch, every look you ever gave me." I could feel his warm breath touch my cheeks as he leaned in closer to me. I knew what was about to come, and I knew it was wrong, but all the frustration and anger that burned inside me clouded my judgement. When his lips connected to mine, I let myself go. My arms twisted around his neck and I kissed him as hard as I could. I moaned into his mouth, urging him on. He clung onto my jacket and pulled me to him as close as was possible. But like a sudden gust of air, I couldn't breath. I pulled away from Travis and clutched at my stomach.
"No!" I tried to say forcefully but came out as a feeble sound. "I love Tyler. I need to be with Tyler." I stumbled off the couch and made it to the front door, which burst open just inches from my face. A strong pair of arms grabbed me and I felt a shacking chest against me. Tyler was crying; he looked terrible, worse than I did.
"It's not what it looked like," he cried. "I swear on my life it's not. Let me explain, baby, just give me a chance."
"Explain what?" Travis said behind me. "Look at your wife, Tyler. Does she look like she wants to hear any of your bullshit?"
"You don't know shit, Trav," he yelled over my head. "Stay outta this."
"Oh come on. We all know your history with Brittinea. There's no way nothing happened!"
Within seconds, Tyler was across the room grabbing his brother's t-shirt.
"Don't be starting shit you can't finish," Tyler growled.
"Believe me, it's too late for that," Travis retorted, his eyes flickering over to me. Tyler noticed it, and dropped his arms.
"What does that mean," he whispered and looked over to me.
"I kissed your wife," Travis stated without looking at Tyler. "Though it'd be fair since you were kissin Brittinea and all."
"You son of a bitch," Tyler yelled before throwing his fist at his brother's nose. Upon contact, his nose started bleeding. He looked down at his shirt, already stained with droplets of blood.
"I deserved that. But for what I'm about to say, you'll probably want to kill me." He turned his attention back to me and took a step forward. "I think you made a big mistake marrying my brother. He can't keep you safe, he can barely protect himself right now. You chose wrong, Val. But there's still time. I love you, and-"
Tyler grabbed him and dragged him into one of the bedrooms. I stood, frozen by the door, as the muffled voices in the next room screamed at eachother. What exactly was Travis talking about? What did Tyler have to keep me safe from?