Sequel: Good Enough
Status: Finished: The sequel is up! Read this, then go read that! (That's how sequels work) <3

Strong Enough

The Love I Live For

“Ok, bridesmaids and groomsmen, your turn!” The photographer, an overweight middle-aged man, was ushering the 6 of us over to where the bride and groom were standing. The first set of pictures the men and women were separate. We smiled and posed and made silly faces. It was actually a pretty good time. Even though I kept seeing Bryden’s happy face taunting me just past the lovebirds.

“Ok, pair up and we’ll take some pictures that way.” I inwardly groaned, but managed to keep silent as I walked to where Bryden was waiting. Once we were positioned how he wanted us, the photographer snapped some photos. I was stuck, wrapped in Bryden’s arms, as the ridiculous photographer snapped away.

I did my best to pretend I was anywhere else. I imagined being out with my girls. I imagined walking down the beach behind us alone. I even imagined being stuck in a stuffy classroom. But, I couldn’t manage to keep myself from inhaling his scent. It took every ounce of energy I had not to sink back into his arms. It wasn’t real. This was just nostalgia.

As soon as I was cleared by the photographer, I shot away from Bryden. It was time for the groom and his men to go take their pictures. I stood with the girls, trying everything I could think of to forget the familiar smell of the man 20 feet away from me.

“Have you talked to him yet?” I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of Mia’s prying question.

“Holy shit, you scared me.” I clutched my chest, trying to calm my heart.

“I’ve been standing next to you for the last 5 minutes. Are you alright?”

“No, I’m not alright. I just want to get this night over with.” I flagged down a waiter from the catering company and informed him I needed Tequila and pronto.

“Are you sure you want to do that? You know how you get with Tequila.”

“I’m positive. It’s the only way I’ll get through the night without killing him.”

“Just take it easy, okay?” I could see the concern in her eyes as the waiter reappeared with my shot in hand.

“Calm your pants, Mama. I’ve got this.” I downed the shot, handing the empty glass back to the boy. She rolled her eyes and walked away.

After we’d taken pictures of the bridal party, it was time for us to get back to all the guests. I was suddenly very jealous of the people who’d gotten a cocktail hour. They would be sufficiently buzzed by now, while I was still mostly sober.

As we paired up again to make our way into the banquet hall reception, I couldn’t help but wish I’d had that waiter bring me more than one shot. Bryden’s hand found mine when it was our turn to dance into the room. It’s lucky modeling requires at least a few acting skills or everyone would know just how much I didn’t enjoy the situation I was in. When we’d made our way to the other side of the dance floor and Alex had danced in with Lee, their first dance started.

I stood with Bryden at the head table and watched as they swayed and glided to the music. It wasn’t until halfway through the song I realized my hand was still in Bryden’s. I pulled it away and crossed my arms. His eyes darted to me, but I refused to look at him. This whole thing was getting way out of hand.

Dinner went by excruciatingly slow. I did my best to keep my conversation with Emma flowing so I wouldn’t hone in on what Bryden was saying to Tommy on the other side of him. Emma was a fun girl. I could tell she was very spirited and she still loved to party. I mean, if last night wasn’t evidence enough already.

At one point her hand found my leg under the table. I didn’t move it away, but I knew I couldn’t take advantage of the innocently adventurous girl next to me. I was damaged goods. I wasn’t in a place to be anything more than a one-night stand. And I know Lee would kill me if Emma became one of them. Plus, I haven’t been with a girl in two years. The experimental college phase had mostly died out with a few exceptions once in a while.

When dinner started to slow down, it was time for the toasts. Lee’s parents spoke, then mine. They were traditional things about love and growing up. My mom was a puddle of tears as she let get of her little boy. When it was my turn, I drew a breath and spoke to the ones I loved so much.

“I am not good at expressing myself. So rather than try to be sentimental, I’m going to say, be grateful I’m not telling college stories.” I could see Lee’s eyes light up as she laughed. “You both are two of my favorite people. And it’s hard to say goodbye to the way things have been. But, now you two have each other and that’s fucking awesome. You’re welcome by the way. I think the only thing I haven’t already said to you, besides your first child better be named after me, is congratulations and don’t cause too many noise complaints in Hawaii.” I smiled and hugged them both tightly as I moved back to my seat, ignoring the glare I was getting from my mother.

I didn’t realize who was next until I heard his voice. “So, I’m not good with speaking, but I’m good with music, so Alex and Lee, this one’s for you.”

I looked up to see Bryden sitting on a stool in front of the DJ, guitar in his hands, as music started moving through the room. Gentle chords floated to my ears and soon he was singing.

“Because of you, I'm so damn happy. Guess there's a God up there and he must be watching over me. I fell so damn hard, and my first thoughts were, well she fell from above, wondering where he'd been hiding her.

“Always wanted to be your first anything, and now that I’m blessed to be everything to you. I know I never was your first in the past, but I swear I'll be your best and your last. Baby, and you know your first in line in my mind. Forever and longer baby you are mine. That you are for sure, the love I live for. The love I live for…” As he sang, his eyes moved from Lee and Alex and fell on me. Once again, I could feel that ominous force that wouldn’t let me look away. I wanted to run and hide and bury everything again, but as he sang, I could barely breathe.

“Because of you, baby, I can’t sleep. Staying up all night ‘til its five in the morning just to hear you breathe. Looked all my life, and baby here's the truth: Been around the world and ain’t a girl that could even come close to you.

“Always wanted to be your first anything, and now that I’m blessed to be everything to you. I know I never was your first in the past, but I swear I'll be your best and your last. Baby, and you know your first in line in my mind. Forever and longer baby you are mine. That you are for sure, the love I live for. The love I live for…” His fingers moved along the neck of the guitar, beautiful notes dancing through the room. His eyes not leaving mine and I couldn’t help but think maybe this wasn’t a song meant exclusively for the bride and groom. But the words he was saying made no sense to me. We hadn’t been together in years. I wasn’t the love of his life. I was the girl he’d cheated on.

“Girl you got me forever, it couldn’t be any better. And I promise to grow old with you. I hope you'll always remember, how we got together and how it felt the first time.

“I know I never was your first in the past. But, I swear I'll be your best and your last.

“Always wanted to be your first anything, and now that I’m blessed to be everything to you. I know I never was your first in the past, but I swear I'll be your best and your last. Baby, and you know your first in line in my mind. Forever and longer baby you are mine. That you are for sure, the love I live for.”

The music stopped and he returned his gaze to the happy couple. “Enjoy the love you have. To Alex and Leeana.”

The room filled with cheers and clinking glasses, but I couldn’t risk letting Bryden see how his words had affected me. Bolting from my seat, I quickly found the bathroom and locked myself in a stall. His words had seriously messed with my head. He couldn’t possibly think anything could happen between us.

My body tensed when the bathroom door opened and heels clicked across the floor, stopping in front of the stall I was currently sitting in. The shoes matched mine, and I knew it was Mia. As much as I liked Emma and as cool as I think she is, I didn’t see her following me into the bathroom. I pushed the latch and let the door fall open, soon after Mia filled the rest of the space in the stall, kneeling in front of me with a sad smile.

“I’m fine. I’m just confused.” I told her honestly.

“Talk to me.” I could tell she wasn’t leaving until I spilled everything, so I gave up trying to force it down and let it all explode.

“We dated the last year of high school. We’d been friends since the 2nd grade along with Tommy and Rylan. I’d always been a guy’s girl even when I was only 7.” I was trying to get myself to laugh, but nothing would come out. “By the time we were seniors, we realized that there wasn’t just friendship there. Honestly, we were in love. He was the perfect guy. Everyone thought we’d get married, as cheesy as that sounds. I won’t lie, I thought it too.

“After graduation, we spent the whole summer together, on the beach, at the park, in the backyard, at dad’s ranch. It was a fairytale. But I was going to UNLV and he was staying here to go to Long Beach State. We were committed to making it work. I would only be 4 hours away. We would see each other twice a month.

“But two days before I left for school, I went to his house and found him with another girl. Their lips were locked and her hand was in his pants. I yelled and I threw shit and I punched that girl in the face. And then I ran. He tried to follow me. He tried to explain, but I didn’t care. I left and went to Vegas and pushed it away.

“I was happy being who I was. I was happy being the party girl model in Sin City and not giving a fuck. He ruined me emotionally, so I stopped feeling. I didn’t ever want to hurt like that again. And now, I’m forced to see his face and remember the love and the joy and the pain and all the shit I left behind.”

I didn’t realize I’d started crying until I felt her hand wipe a tear away. Her hand rested on my cheek as she took in what I’d said.

“Clearly, you haven’t moved on. And I’m starting to think he hasn’t either if that song was any indication. I’m not saying you have to tonight, but you need to talk to him. If you don’t you’re going to lose yourself completely. And I like you too much to let that happen.”

Her soft smile reappeared on her face and she wiped the tears away. She helped me fix my make-up and gave me a hug before we returned to the reception. I still wasn’t sure if I could face him, but at least there was an open bar.
♠ ♠ ♠ you know what happened!
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PS: song credit is The Love I Live For by Hinder.