Charlie stood in the cemetery. The brisk autumn air swirled fallen leaves and ruffled his hair. He sighed and looked down at the two gravestones that belonged to his mother and older sister. He imagined how differently his life could have gone. His sister would have interrogated his fiance, and his mother would have smiled kindly as her son married the beautiful May Gardener. Charlie couldn't help it. Suddenly, he was overcome by grief.
He sobbed into his hands and let out a broken cry. Why did they have to die when he was so young? Why did they have to leave him all alone?
He wished he had some family in his life that would come to his wedding, but his father was too busy pretending Charlie didn't exist. He was devoted solely to his new wife and daughters. Charlie scowled, remembering how his step mother used to shout at him.
It was good they weren't coming, Charlie told himself. Secretly, he felt a pang in his chest.
He felt like a kid again, alone, sad, scared. Broken.
This was supposed to be the happiest day of his life. Why had he come to the cemetery anyways? He glanced at the opposite side of the cemetery where his fiance mourned her father.
Charlie thought about his own relationship to Ethan Sanders, his soon to be late father-in-law. He remembered the time his father had punched Ethan in the face and he had run sobbing into his bedroom to hide. He didn't know what that was about at the time, but as he grew up, he understood. His mother had had an affair with Ethan. He wasn't sure if he would have reacted any differently than his father did if May were to ever cheat on him.
He shook that thought out of his head. Not a good thought to have on one's wedding day, Charlie reminded himself. He walked over to May and the couple embraced.
"Are you ready to get to the venue, love?" Charlie asked. May smiled. She glowed. She was positively radiant.
"Yes!" she giggled. They held hands and walked to the venue.
It was an old barn left over from when River Springs had been a ghost town, but some of the townspeople had chipped in and turned it into the cutest wedding venue Charlie had ever seen.
They approached the arch and stood under it, gazing into each other's eyes. The guests arrived and watched intently. It was a happy day.
"My love, Charlie," May began. She took a deep breath. "You have been my best friend since we were in elementary school."
"From the first day we met, when you were in your blue pajamas, to this moment right now, you have been a positive force in my life." She paused, smiling widely at Charlie. "You have seen me at my worst, and you have seen me at my best. I am broken, but you make me whole."
Her voice cracked as she held up the ring. "It is a great honor to marry you, Charlie."
Charlie wiped a tear from his eyes and began his vows. "May Gardener, friend, lover, and most importantly, family member. There is not a moment that has gone by where I didn't love you. I loved you when we were kids."
"I loved you when we were teens. I loved you when we argued. I loved you when we had snowball fights. I loved you when you got me detention from Mr. Franz in 8th grade Algebra." The guests chuckled in unison. Charlie smiled and continued. "You have always been my best friend, and there has never been another person with whom I would rather spend my life. I look forward to loving you when we're old and senile, babe."
Rose petals swirled around Charlie's head as May slipped the ring onto his finger. It was warm from being in her hand.
The guests clapped and cheered. May casually wiped tears from her eyes. Charlie's cheek muscles were starting to hurt from smiling so much. The crowd disseminated as guests went for the buffet table, the bar, or the dance floor.
May took Charlie's hand and led him to the cake. She cut herself a generous slice, and gingerly fed her husband a bite. Charlie opened wide and savored the sweet vanilla cake. It melted in his mouth and sent sparks all over his tastebuds. He cut himself a piece and stood next to May. His wife. He rolled that over in his head, silently. May was his wife now. He smiled instinctively.
"Well, you two seem so happy!" Max, May's mother, chirped proudly. Her purple dress fluttered in the breeze. "That's good. I'm happy for you both. Charlie, I couldn't have picked a better husband for her myself!" Max chuckled heartily and ate another bite of cake.
"I'm thrilled you could make it, Mom," May said between bites of cake. Charlie gazed on the cake crumbs on May's mouth, and smiled even bigger. She was so cute.
"Oh, I am, too honey. I almost didn't you know. This town doesn't run itself!" Max threw her head back and laughed. "Now, Charlie, you better make sure my grandkids are overachievers. I know you and May are brilliant, but don't let your own working lives get in the way of proper parenting." Max's tone had become more serious. Motherly. Charlie nodded dutifully.
"Mom!" May exclaimed. "Don't you think the wedding is too soon to be talking about, well, kids and schooling? Let us be a young, childless couple for a moment, jeez!"
Max chuckled. "Alright, alright." She left to head for the dance floor.
"May?" Charlie said, setting his plate in the trash. "May I have this dance?"
"Oh, how delightful!" May giggled. She put her hand in Charlie's and let him lead her to the dance floor.
They held each other close and swayed to the music. All eyes were on them, but they didn't notice. They just had eyes for each other.
Charlie dipped May, and pressed his lips to hers. They kissed under the cool autumn sun on their wedding day, and suddenly, they had no troubles. All there was was their future. Oh, the possibilities the future held for them! When Charlie kissed May, he no longer felt like the broken boy with the dead mom and sister, and the father and step mother who couldn't be bothered with him. When he kissed her, he felt like a whole man. He felt like he had a purpose, a reason to be alive. And the reason was May.
They came up for air and looked into each other's eyes. They didn't say a word. They didn't have to. All they needed was each other.
The song ended and the couple parted ways to mingle with their guests. May approached her half brother, Navy.
"Gee, sis, this wedding sure is something." Navy smiled at his sister. May smiled back.
"I'm so glad you could make it, Navy! Let's dance."
As the siblings danced, they talked about their father, Ethan Sanders.
"I wish Dad could have been here for this. I wanted him to give me away," May said wistfully.
"Trust me, it's a good thing he's not." Navy glanced around the room at the beautiful women who were dancing and slightly tipsy. "This would have been a field day for Dad."
"Oh please. It's my wedding. Don't say that." May rolled her eyes. Navy was always bad mouthing their father.
"I'm serious. You didn't grow up with him. You don't know what he was like." Navy looked earnestly at his sister. She was lucky, and she didn't even know it. Ethan would have ruined this wedding.
"Yeah, well I wish I had grown up with him. You don't have to rub it in that you got a dad and I never did!" May grumbled, storming off.
May stepped away to get some air. She couldn't believe her brother would say something so mean about her father at her wedding. It wasn't the time or place. She huffed. Charlie approached her.
"Hey, babe. What's wrong?" he asked, concern lacing the edges of his words.
"Nothing. Just my brother. It's nothing." Her voice sounded glum. Charlie was wracking his brain trying to think of something to cheer her up, when suddenly she perked up. "Forget about it. Let's dance!" She grinned sincerely and dragged Charlie back onto the dance floor.
The sun was setting, and it started getting cold quickly. The food was growing stale in the air, and the guests were getting tired. The party was over.
May and Charlie smiled sleepily at each other, and without saying a word, started walking home. They just knew when the other was getting tired. They could hear some of the more outgoing guests dancing on the dance floor until well into the night.
As soon as they were in the front door, they started taking off each others' clothes.
"You looked so good in that dress, but it looks even better on the floor," Charlie flirted. May grabbed him and kissed him, and then she led him to the bedroom where they enjoyed each other all night.
May woke up in Charlie's arms. The sunlight streamed gently in through their bedroom window, and she smiled. She breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of her husband. Charlie. Charlie was her husband. She smiled, happiness flowing warmly in her chest.
"I see you're awake," Charlie whispered.
"Good morning, husband," May said, sleepily.
"Good morning, wife." He kissed her forehead, and they smiled at each other.
It was the first day being married for the rest of their lives. Charlie thought about how he wanted his future to look. He wanted it so bad he could almost see it. He saw May sitting in a rocking chair, grey hair and a wrinkled smile. She was holding a grandchild--no two grandchildren--and reading to them. Charlie was cooking a turkey for their family. Their house was warm; the fireplace glowed in the background. As Charlie brought the turkey to the table, a young adult burst forth into the front door, snow trailing behind her. It was his daughter, visiting from college. Everyone sat together at the dinner table. Everyone smiled, told jokes, and enjoyed each others company. Together, Charlie and May could make a whole family from their broken selves. They were broken, but still good.