At the time she thought she had made the right decision.

For as long as she can remember, she wanted this; and for quite a while she was convinced it would never happen.

When she thought back to why she had started a relationship with him in the first place, she cringed. The life she had been living was not what she wanted. When she thought of the friends she had left behind, the missed opportunities to attain, dare she say it, real happiness, saddened her deeply.

She sighed. A very deep sigh filled with so much regret. How did she get here? Why did she always follow others and more importantly, why did she “just settle”?

There was passion right at the very start, she would admit that. A very brief period, when just the mere thought of seeing him would excite her. He was so different from anyone else she had been with before. More worldly, more cultured. He was charming.

He pulled her in and made her silly and indecisive. He made her ignore everything and everyone else in her life. Oh, how naive she had been.

The build up to the big day had been, she felt, the way it should have been. The lists had been written up, invites chosen, venue booked. Even the dresses had been chosen swiftly and without fuss. Had it all been just a little too easy? She would come to ask herself this question over and over; it would haunt her for a long time.

He seemed happy enough to go along with everything. He did not baulk over the cost of anything that she had chosen, did not complain about the endless number of details she went over with him. She could invite whoever she liked, “a couture gown?” No problem.

She was so caught up in the excitement, she felt giddy at the thought of her big day. “It will be amazing,” she kept telling herself. “Everything I’ve always wanted.” Like a mantra, she would repeat these thoughts over and over. She would come to realise later that she should not have pushed aside those persistent, uncomfortable doubts that would creep into her subconscious, like choking vines winding their way around the delicate buds of excitement floating through her mind.

Perhaps because of all the plans she had carefully put in place, the overwhelmingly large list that she had created for herself that kept every spare moment she had full, she did not notice. Maybe subconsciously, she was filling up all her time so that she did not allow herself to be aware. She was never very good at facing anything painful. She always looked for an easier path. So while she fussed over the house, the plans, her job, he was free, free to manipulate her world to his liking.

“It’s here, the big day is here!” She did not know whether it was nerves, genuine excitement, or just sheer bravado that caused her outbursts. All she knew was that she wanted to make everyone around her believe that on this day, the day she had longed for, she was ecstatically happy.

On the surface of it all she looked relaxed but excited. How many times, when she was young, had she heard the words “Oh, isn’t she just a little actress”. Well, today she needed to be just that.

She had not really slept much at all the previous night, she had laid awake for hours, her mind was a jumble of thoughts and her body was overcome with intense emotions, flowing through her like a raging river. “I can get through this it’s just nerves. I am happy”.

The sun was out, there was not a cloud in the sky. A delicate breeze was blowing and she could smell the jasmine wafting up from the garden. “What a lovely day for it”, “Couldn’t ask for better weather”, she was only half listening. The blood rushed around her body and pounded in her ears. People were fussing over her. She tried to be present in the moment. To soak up the occasion fully, but to her, the excited commotion felt like a swarm of frantic bees. The sound was almost deafening, causing her to wince. “Are you ok?” “Oh just those nerves kicking in,” smiles accompanied the comments.

She wanted to scream “STOP, this is all wrong, just go away and leave me alone!” “I’m just excited, that’s all,” is what actually came out of her tense mouth.

Her stomach was like a whirlpool. She hadn’t managed to eat a thing since getting up and she wasn’t sure she could have kept anything down even if she wanted to. Even a small cup of black coffee sat half drunk, its colour like the dark, murky thoughts resting her in her mind, refusing to leave.

“It’s time to go” shrilled her Aunt; don’t want to keep the man waiting.”

As she walked towards the door she caught a glimpse of herself in the hallway mirror. “I really do look beautiful,” she thought. She looked just like she had always imagined she would on this day. This thought started to lift her spirits, just a little. She walked out the door towards the waiting car, her dress a brilliant white against the inkiness of the dark Limousine. “Smile!” the first of many flashes of the camera. Her nerves were slowly starting to fade. The vines of doubt that had previously wound their way through her mind were wilting a little, leaving way for the delicate buds of excitement to once again float freely.

They pulled up outside the small Chapel. It really was like a postcard. Surrounded by a cottage garden, there were roses climbing up the sides of the chapel, statues of cherubs peeking out from their hiding spots amongst the foliage. She giggled to herself, “Wow, could you get anymore clichéd?” she thought sarcastically. She began  the walk up the cobblestone path to the front door of the Chapel, her brand new shoes echoing off the stones. She could hear voices and the faint sound of an organ playing, yet none of it seemed to be clear. Like all of this was happening to someone else and she was merely a curious observer.

A small white butterfly snapped her back into the present. It caught her eye causing her to stop for a moment. She watched it making its way silently along, so tiny amongst the tall roses that lined the path. She too, felt like a small white butterfly, dwarfed by this whole occasion, but not fortunate enough to have wings, so as to take flight.

“Come along, you will have plenty of time to daydream after” this coming from the strong, male voice standing beside her. She smiled uneasily. She started to walk again, the voices and music subsided. “Someone has announced my arrival”. This thought gave her a sudden rush of self importance, like a Princess about to take time out of her busy schedule to visit with her loyal subjects. Another giggle, “my I do have a vivid imagination”.

The floorboards creaked against the silence as she stepped inside. She paused for a moment, awaiting her cue. The organist started, music engulfing every inch of the small space. “Here goes”, “My big moment”, she smiled. She could not make eye contact with anyone. She could not risk anyone seeing through the façade. She was glowing, radiant and all of those other clichéd images expected on a day like this. “One foot in front of the other”.

She had fixed her gaze directly in front. She now had to look to him. A wave of darkness suddenly washed over her. There he was, confidently standing there in his new designer suit, hair slicked back. A faint smell of aftershave gave her a brief sense of familiarity. The look on his face was so complex. His smile looked genuine, but then it always did. His eyes, however, revealed more. Today they looked sorry. Sorry that he had continued on to get to this point. Sorry that he had never had the courage to leave sooner, to allow me a chance at actual happiness. The smile on his face never wavered. Forever the consummate performer. Liked by some, fooled by many, understood by no one.

The next few moments flew past in a blur. She could hear voices, reading out words like love, forever and lucky. She did not feel lucky, she felt weak, guilty for dragging all of these people here, to this charade. She had misled those she cared about. Her body moved in slow motion, her heart heavy. She briefly thought back to the white butterfly, by now far away. All of a sudden everything was forced back into focus, with two simple words, “I do”.