I have been searching for this for YEARS. Writers: do NOT password protect every document you work on. Years will go by, and you’ll have no clue what the passwords are. I was lucky enough to find one unprotected RTF file that had this little gem in it. Anyway, without further ado, this is the *original* ending to Never Look Back. (SPOILER ALERT, if you haven’t read Emi Lost & Found)
Emi’s point of view
The girls let me sleep until one, and they were rushing me into the shower in order for us to make our salon appointments on time. We made it in time, but my heart rate still hasn’t slowed down, five hours later.
“Try to eat, Emi,” Jen encourages me.
“Am I supposed to feel sick?” I ask.
“It’s just nerves,” Kelly assures me. “It’s normal. Have some more grapes.” She pushes the plate of fruit toward me.
“What are we supposed to do for two more hours?” I ask, impatient.
“Aside from getting ready, which will take a good hour and a half… this. Eat,” Jen says again. I take a deep breath.
“How is Jack?” I ask Kelly.
“Calm and cool, as always,” she says. “At least that’s what he said last time he texted. And funny, I don’t doubt that at all.”
“Did the cakes make it?” I ask her.
“Both cakes made it just fine,” she assures me. “They look amazing… and they’ll taste even better, I promise.”
“I still don’t know why Jack wouldn’t tell me what the groom’s cake looks like.”
“You’ll see,” she smiles. “You would approve.” Anna and Jen both smile and nod.
“Super sweet,” Anna says.
“Okay… where’s mom?”
“She said Clara is being a little difficult about her hair,” my sister tells me. “It doesn’t look ‘princess’ enough, she says. I told her to just bring her up here and Anna and I would fix it. She’s six going on thirteen these days. Definitely wanting to grow up too fast.”
A knock on the door interrupts us. Anna quickly hops up to answer it. “It’s Teresa,” she smiles, giddily clapping her hands together. “That means you have to start getting ready. Go get your dress.”
“Not until she eats a little more,” Kelly says. “Please, Emi, I promise you’ll feel better with a little something in your stomach… and you won’t be completely loopy when you have a glass of champagne at the reception.”
“Champagne sounds good,” I tell her. “Can I have some?”
“Eat this plate of food, Em,” Jen bargains. “Then we’ll let you have some champagne.”
“Jack will kill me if you’re drunk.”
“Or tired,” Anna reminds me.
“Okay, okay. I’ll eat. I’m not tired at all, so we don’t have to worry about that.” I finish the fruit and crackers on the plate quickly and head to the closet to get out the dress while Teresa sets up her camera equipment.
“Emi, you look gorgeous already,” my friend tells me. “I’m so honored you asked me to take pictures of this.”
“You’re the best at candids… I hired you because of that, not because you’re my friend,” I remind her, smiling.
“Even a better compliment,” she says, hugging me. “Let’s see the dress,” she requests, opening the window to let in some natural light.
Anna carefully unzips the garment bag and removes the white dress that I’ll be wearing as I walk down the aisle into the safety and… the forever… of Jack’s arms. I jump up and down a little at the thought.
“Careful, your hair,” Jen reminds me. I nod my head eagerly.
Teresa gasps at the first sight of the dress. I cover my mouth, looking at her in anticipation. “It’s pretty, right?” I ask, my speech muffled by my hand.
“It’s so lovely,” she says. She hangs it from a coat rack near the window and begins to snap shots of it. She starts at the strapless sweetheart neckline. The bodice, creating a basque waist, is made of delicate alencon lace. The skirt is gathered in folds of raw dupioni silk. At the bottom hem, a few inches of lace peek out beneath the silk. “White, huh?” she jokes with me.
“I think the meaning of white has changed,” I throw back at her. “I think it just means you’re not a whore.”
“Well, my dear Emi, I guess it’s okay for you to wear it, then. I’ll be wearing red on my wedding day,” she adds, a wicked grin on her face.
“Awww, you’re not a whore,” I argue. She winks at me.
“Isn’t your mom supposed to be here to help you get ready?”
“She should be here any–” Anna opens the door for my mother, Clara and Renee.
“Oh, baby!” my mother calls to me, tears already pooling in her eyes causing a similar reaction in my own.
“Don’t make her cry, Mom!” Jen yells.
“But she looks so beautiful.”
“She’s not even dressed!”
“But she needs to be,” Anna says. “We need to get on with the pictures, so let’s all focus!” “Renee, how are you?” I ask.
“I’m great, girl,” she say, hugging me. “There’s that amazing dress. I’m so glad you found that.” “Me, too. And I actually had the designer make a wrap to go with it since it’s going to be cold tonight. It’s in the closet.”
“She’s awesome, isn’t she?”
“Yes, thanks so much for introducing us.”
“Aunt Emi, you look pretty,” Clara says, her cheeks rosy, her eyes painted and her lips red.
“So do you, Clara,” I tell her. “Are you ready to walk down the aisle with your rose petals?” She nods, smiling.
“Where’s Jackie?” she asks, looking for her fellow flower-girl.
“Her daddy should be bringing her any minute,” Kelly says.
“Is it strange that half of our guests are in the wedding?” I ask the room.
“I don’t think so.”
Jackie shows up a short time later. Andrew, in his little grey tux, follows her in, but Thomas quickly catches him and carries him out, taking him down to Jack’s room to get ready.
“He looks so cute!” I tell Kelly.
“Yeah, he’s nervous, though,” she says. “I don’t know that he’ll walk up there alone. Jackie may be pulling him.”
“Even with Jack up there?”
“Well… maybe Jack can lure him down,” she laughs. “He can hold a little batman figure or something.”
“That would be funny,” I laugh. “Whatever happens… it’s all going to be perfect.”
“That’s a great attitude,” she says.
“Can we please get dressed?” Anna says, tense. “You can’t be late, Emi, and I think we’re behind schedule already!”
“Okay, Anna,” I say. “I think you and I should both have a glass of champagne first. Calm down…” I urge her. “I’m supposed to be the frantic one, not you.”
“I’m sorry, Em.” She sighs deeply a few times. “Okay, you’re right. Let’s have that drink, and let’s get you dressed.”
“Okay, where are the guys?” I ask from the limo, looking across the street at the park that Jack guaranteed would be a beautiful backdrop to the ceremony. As the snow lightly falls, thousands of lights twinkle from the trees outside. It looks like a fairytale.
“They’re upstairs,” Anna says, the phone to her ear.
“He can’t see me,” I remind her. “Tell him to back away from the window.”
“Emi is begging you to back away from the window. She’s become superstitious again,” she mumbles. I glare at her. “I won’t remind her that she’s wearing a cape that covers the dress.”
“It’s all the same,” I argue. “It’s all part of the look.”
“Right, Emi,” she laughs. “Yes, she’s fine… yes, she’s beautiful.” She looks at me and smiles while she answers his questions. “I don’t know, let me ask… Emi, are you sure you want to go through with this?”
“Of course I am!” I speak loudly enough for him to hear. “I love you.” Anna continues to listen. She holds the phone out for me.
“He wants to tell you something.” I shake my head. “Emi, he can’t see you before the wedding, but nowhere does it state that he can’t talk to you.” I slowly take the phone from her.
“Hello, Love,” he says.
“Hi,” I blush.
“I love the cufflinks,” he says. “Did you design those?”
“I worked with someone, yes,” I smile, remembering the small platinum knots that I had picked out for him. I had the jeweler add a small “e” to one side and a small “j” on the other side of each of them. I look down at the bracelet I had made that mimicked the cufflinks.
“No, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, but they can’t even begin to compare to the gifts you gave me.”
“Hush, Emi,” he tells me. “You’re the greatest gift of all.” I blush deeply at his compliment, my eyes watering.
“Thank you,” I barely manage to whisper.
“No, thank you,” he counters again. “Are you ever coming up here? We’re all waiting.”
“God, yes, I’m on my way. Get off the phone already!” We both laugh as Anna dabs the tear from my cheek. “See you in a minute.”
“Ready?” Anna says, smiling wide.
Once upstairs, Anna lets me peek into the gallery. The moveable walls have been rearranged to create a barrier to hide us from the guests. The large mural that had been the first thing I saw yesterday is now obscured by a beautiful wall of flowers strung from the ceiling, falling all the way to the floor.
“Anna, it’s beautiful!” I gasp. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I know people,” she says, cocky.
Chris and Steven both approach me, both looking stunning in their grey tuxes and black vests and ties. My father follows closely behind.
“Congratulations, Emi,” Chris says, kissing me on the cheek.
“Welcome to the family,” Steven smiles, pulling me into a big hug. Both groomsmen find their place next to their respective bridesmaids.
“Baby, I’m so happy for you,” my dad says, taking my hand in his.
“Thanks, Dad,” I say.
“Are you nervous?” he asks, removing my cape and hanging it on a coat hook.
“Not at all,” I smile. “Just a little cold.” He puts his arm around me, rubbing my arm for warmth. “Thank you,” I whisper to Anna, taking her hand and squeezing it tightly.
“It was my pleasure, Emi. I just hope you have nothing but happiness from here on out.”
“I will,” I assure her. “I have the best friends… the best family… and the best husband in the world.”
“Second,” she coughs.
“We’re not arguing about this now,” I smile as the music begins to play. Up ahead, I see Thomas trying to give Andrew a pep talk. Our ring bearer’s eyes and face are red from crying.
“Kelly,” I whisper up to Jack’s sister. “Just tell Thomas to let him go with Clara and Jackie.” She nods and whispers to her husband, a look of relief spreading across his face. Jackie takes his hand as Kelly rearranges Clara to stand on the other side of him. She nudges the girls forward with her hands.
I can’t wait to see him. Cannot wait. Absolutely cannot wait… Steven and Kelly link arms and begin to turn the corner into the gallery, beginning their walk down the aisle. Jen and Chris follow suit, a feeling of warmth spreading deep, so happy to be sharing this day with all the people I love.
Anna turns around before making her trip down the aisle. She hugs me one last time. “Just smile pretty,” she says, “and enjoy every second of this night. I love you.”
“You, too, Anna,” I say, the tears making their way to the surface. I watch as she turns around the corner, out of my view. My dad wipes the moisture from my eyes with his handkerchief.
“Happy tears?” he asks.
“Definitely,” I choke out.
“Baby,” he says… “my sweet little Emi…” He sighs. “I can’t believe it’s finally here.” The music changes to the song I chose to walk down the aisle to. “Where’s the Wedding March?” my dad asks.
“Too cliché,” I shake my head.
“Of course. We can’t have anything traditional for my sweet little Emi. You always had to be different,” he whispers in my ear as we turn the corner. “You have always been so special to me,” he adds… and anything else he says is pointless because I see Jack. I see the man I’m going to marry, and the vision of him consumes me. I don’t even see anyone else. I don’t see any thing else.
His eyes, full of confidence and adoration, lock on to mine. He makes me feel stronger just by looking at me. I feel the heat in my cheeks rise with the corners of my lips. He mouths the words I love you to me. I notice his foot tapping quickly, as if he can’t wait for me to meet him in front of the crowd. His hands are clasped loosely in front of him, and as my father and I approach, he steps forward to us.
I look into his eyes intensely, feeling nothing but jubilation. He stares back at me, then brushes my cheek with the back of his hand. Ignoring typical wedding customs, I take his hand into mine and kiss his palm, then bring it down and hold it tightly.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” the preacher asks of the room.
“Her mother and I do,” my father answers, kissing my cheek before sitting down. Jack leads me forward to the alter and stands facing me, still holding my hand in his. Anna peeks over my shoulder and takes the bouquet from me… I’ve already forgotten everything we rehearsed last night. I blush, and Jack smiles, squeezing my hand.
Beyond Jack, outside the windows, I notice just how beautiful the park across the street is. From where I stand, I can’t even see the cars below or the buildings down the street… just the most beautiful grouping of pink and white lights I’ve ever seen.
“You look beautiful,” he says, my attention coming back to him, his eyes sparkling.
“So do you,” I whisper back, choking out the words. “And this is beautiful.”
The preacher talks, says things that I should be listening to but can’t focus on… sensory overload… I’m just waiting for the queues to say my vows… or to exchange rings… or to kiss my husband. Hopefully Anna will kick me at the right moments.
I’m just lost in his eyes, feeling that they’re speaking to me in their own language. He tells me how much he loves me… how much he needs me… how much he has loved getting to know me…
“Emily Clara Hennigan,” he says, startling me with the sound of his voice. When he begins speaking to me, I realize we’ve reached the part where we exchange vows. I am completely focused on him now.
He sighs deeply.
“Emi…” he continues. “Every day I’ve known you has been a new opportunity for me to know myself. I didn’t know my full potential, not just as a man but as a human, until you shared your love with me.” He clears his throat, swallowing a lump. He looks at the floor briefly before bringing his eyes back to mine.
“I’ve been a good son. A supportive brother. An attentive uncle. A loyal friend. An honest businessman. An adoring boyfriend, and a devoted fiancé.
“And now, because of you, I have the opportunity to become a faithful and caring husband… and possibly a doting father.”
I smile warmly at him, weaving my fingers in between his.
“And you,” he continues, “have been an exceptional daughter. A kind sister. A thoughtful aunt. A steadfast friend. A talented artist. A passionate girlfriend, and an affectionate, fun, warm, beautiful, intelligent, incredible, and enlightening fiancée.” Members of the crowd laugh quietly at his string of adjectives.
A tear drops from my eye. “Thank you,” I mouth to him.
“And it is my honor, Emi, to be the person who watches you become a loving and constant wife… and hopefully someday, the most amazing mother.” I wipe a tear from his cheek.
“I love you, Emi. I love the silly girl you were when we first met, and I love the woman you are today. And I can’t wait to find out who you’ll become tomorrow, next year, even fifty years from now. But two things I know for certain. You will always surprise me. And I will always love you.”
Unable to contain myself, I lean in to kiss him. Fortunately, he meets me halfway and lightly touches his lips to mine.
“Not yet!” Matthew whispers. We both start laughing.
“I love you,” I say quietly to him.
“Emi?” the preacher urges. “Your vows?” I nod.
“Jackson Andrew Holland… the second…” I glance at his mother and father, who smile. “I first just want to say that I’m really glad I got drunk at that party in college.” The entire wedding party starts laughing, including Jack.
“I warned you,” I say innocently.
“You did,” he encourages me.
I take a deep breath before continuing. “Jack… I knew when I met you that you were just the type of man I needed. You were grounded to my flighty. You were rational to my emotional. Your were polite to my rude. You were sensible to my stubborn. You were patient to my restless. You were reserved to my uninhibited. You were trustworthy to my unreliable. You were practical to my absurd.
“You are the strengths to my weaknesses.
“And over time, you’ve brought out the best in me. With you, I am more responsible, more stable, more composed, more amenable, more tolerant, more controlled, more dependable, and more reasonable. I am better with you, and that makes me happy.”
He shakes his head at me.
“But the best thing about you… is that you fell in love with me when I was much weaker. Unconditionally. You never once asked me to change. And I know you never would. And I know that, on those days that I am flighty-emotional-rude-stubborn-restless-uninhibited-unreliable-absurd,” I take a deep breath, “that you will still love me.”
“I will,” he confirms. “I do.”
“And that makes me the happiest.
“Thank you, Jack, for being the grounded, rational, polite, sensible, patient, reserved, trustworthy, practical and, above all, the strong one in this relationship. Your strength has carried us here, to where we stand today, to this alter.
“Becoming your wife, though, means I get half of everything.” Our friends and family members laugh. “So with your shared strength, I promise you, that I will help carry us wherever our lives may take us, together.”
“You’re the strongest woman I know, Emi,” he tells me.
“Thanks to you,” I smile. He shakes off the compliment. “I love you, Jack, and I can’t wait to tackle whatever life throws our way… because I know that we’re strong enough, together, to handle anything.”
“We are.” Again we kiss, and again the audience laughs as I see Matthew flinch out of the corner of my eye.
“The rings?” the preacher asks. Matty and Anna hand us the rings. The preacher nods to Jack, signaling him to continue.
“With this ring,” he says, taking my hand into his and sliding the circle on my finger, “I promise to be attentive, understanding, faithful, loving and kind, for all the days of our lives.”
The preacher nods at me.
“With this ring,” I repeat, putting the ring on his finger and holding it in place, my eyes confirming my devotion, “I promise to be attentive, understanding, faithful, loving and kind, for all the days of our lives.”
“And with that,” the officiant says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” He turns to the audience and announces, “May I now introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Jackson and Emily Holland.”
Our guests applaud loudly, almost drowning out the most important part of the ceremony.
“Jack,” he says, “you may now kiss your wife.”
“Come here, you,” he says softly, taking my head into his hands. I get goosebumps in anticipation, grabbing hold of his arms. He looks at me, tentative, just like he had that night in college, measuring my reaction. As his lips brush lightly against mine, he closes his eyes just before I shut mine. We’ve kissed this way hundreds of times, felt this electricity every time, but it somehow feels new tonight. We part briefly, then meet again for the deeper kiss. We both open our eyes at the same time, his deep blue staring into my pale green. Our smiles force the kiss to end, and he picks me up and twirls me around as everyone claps again.
©2009 Lori L. Otto