And so the date of the wedding that wasn't came and went. I steeled myself for the pain of it and we spent it together, Rich and I, because despite everything we were the only people in our world who would not be getting married that day. The only people who would watch the clock tick past three thirty on November the 5th 2011 and find our lives unchanged by a promise that could not then be made.
We cried a lot. Him and I. We sat on his sofa in front of the half built extension to his living room and we cried over a parallel life: a life in which I was dancing down the aisle on my Dads arm and the room was filled with the palest blue hydrangeas. A life in which we would dance back up the aisle to the tune of Bring Me Sunshine after vowing to wrap our entwined arms around my little boy for always.
The hours ticked by, the room grew darker and though Richards apologies and explanations kept on coming, the crying eventually stopped. For parallel lives don't exist: there is only the here and now. Reality and the setting aside of what might have been in order to gather courage sufficient to see us through what actually is. And so we curled up together and watched repeats of One Foot in the Grave, ate mushrooms soaked in garlic, toasted ourselves with the kind of horribly expensive champagne that had long lingered in anticipation of a true occasion, and finally scraped the date of the wedding that wasn't into the still wet concrete of the foundations of the extension Richard has built to pass time once spent amongst my family.
We marked it: we marked what could not be and then I took a shower to wash away the tears and found my hair coming out in handfuls. A mix of fright, garlic and champagne filled my head with heat and I keeled over in a dead faint and woke up to find the man who should by then have been my husband standing over me, horror written large on his face and a bruise the size of my head spreading across my leg.
Where do we go from here? Truthfully? I don't know. But what I do know is this: the date of the wedding has passed and ultimately it was just another day. At the end of it, the degree of sorrow and regret was unaltered. None of this makes sense to you: I know that and for that I am so, so sorry- I have always, always told the truth as I understood it here, but some stories are not mine to tell and so all I have for you is my experience of the aftermath. All I have is raw pain and the velvet cloaked story of what happens now.
And what happens now is this: we try to re-build our lives. Together. What has happened has intrinsically changed me. Hells bells I am balder and skinnier for it. I am no longer the thirty nine year old little girl my Dad has insisted I was, but all of a sudden, in his eyes and mine, an adult for the first time in my life. An adult who has no choice but to weigh up consequence against the possibility of living without something I truly believe in. Something I cherish. Mine and Finley's happiness in the midst of other peoples judgement. A future tainted by the kind of worst that is yet to come, but a future I do not wish to deprive any of us of because we are, as a whole, stronger for it. Our lives richer for it. Even at their most broken.
For this then, as the poet Jane Mayhall says, is what love is:
Love is not gourmet cream truffles or pacified sucks.
But walking on broken rocks where nobody goes- love is.
So it is decided: I am willing to walk on broken rocks. Not because I am brave or stupid or addicted to the drama of this kind of complicated love but because I have no choice. Not because I am a martyr, nor because my brain is backfiring in the face of deep trauma, but because I do not sleep at night without him. Don't misunderstand me: I have no fear of a tomorrow without Richard. Though he has brought stability and certainty into our lives. He has given us holidays and joys, big, small and car sized. He has fixed things and built things and provided answers to questions I could not give to my child. Though he has done all of this and I have loved every single moment of the past couple of years even when the man was driving me insane. Though I loved the family we were becoming and I love him, the fact remains that I know I could live without him. So it is not because I fear no tangible tomorrow that I have decided to walk this path. It is not because I fear I cannot do it alone, that love won't find it's way back inside these four walls eventually. It does. Of course it does. I know I am strong enough to start all over again. I just don't want to. And more than that I don't have to. I don't have to because when all the listening, and wailing and advice seeking is over, my instincts are making themselves heard, loud and clear... it's ok, they say. It's ok to stand up and be counted as someone absolutely willing to turn her back on gourmet truffles and pacified sucks and instead love for loves sake, and loves sake alone. To carry on loving him regardless.
Because we are still us. True, I didn't get to wear the crystal sprinkled dress, nor carry the cameo encrusted bouquet. There has been no honeymoon, no delivery van from John Lewis laden with wedding gifts, no photographs to treasure for always. But there is always tomorrow. If you take only one thing away from visiting me here at Brocantehome, know this: your deepest fears sometimes come to pass. Terrible, terrible things can happen,and those who love you might doubt you, rage at you and cry for you but at the end of even the longest day you will still be standing. Might even still be believing.
Valiumed up to the eyeballs perhaps, but still standing all the same. This I know for sure.