The sun shone bright that morning on the Freeway. Sara stared at the light reflecting off the bumper of the car in front of her as traffic crept along. Her thoughts drifted back to the first time she met Jason… the first day of classes and her first day of college. As she walked down the sidewalk reading her schedule and trying to figure out which building her next class was in, her foot got caught on something and she flew through the air. Almost immediately after she landed, someone firmly gripped her arm and pulled her up. As she regained her balance, she turned and found herself staring at a howdy-doody grin on an Adonis face. He introduced himself and apologized for leaving his book bag in the way. She accepted his apology and asked him to help her find her next class. They were shocked when they discovered the both were in that class. They gathered up her spilled books, headed down the corridor and into their class.
They became fast friends. They had lunch and studied together. They went to movies and out to eat whenever they were dateless at the same time. Between the two of them, they had some pretty memorable romances. Like the girls Jason dated that lived 2 blocks down, but wrote him letters all the time. Or the guy Sara dated that spent more time in front of the mirror a day than she did all week. Those relationships never lasted very long.
This traffic jam seemed to last longer than the majority of those bad affairs, she thought as her mind returned to the matter at hand. She finally made it to her exit, rolled down the ramp, turned right and headed toward her final destination.
Pulling up outside Saint Anthony’s Church, Sara took a deep breath. She drove into the fist spot she could find and parked her Jeep. She checked her face in the rear view mirror applying a touch of powder to her flushed cheeks. She pulled off the tie that had kept her long auburn hair from knotting in the wind. Sara’s thoughts wondered again to memories that she and Jason shared over the years. All the times they stayed up until three in the morning trying to solve the word problems, or at least their own. She remembered him staying with her after she had gotten her wisdom teeth out. Then the time he wrecked his car and she practically lived at the hospital until he got out of intensive care. Thinking of these things now, though, didn’t help.
Taking another deep breath, she began walking slowly towards the church. She almost missed a step when she saw Jason across the lot, standing and smiling in his rented tuxedo. She gulped down some spring air and rushed over to say hello. She prayed she could pull this off as Jason noticed her coming over. They hugged each other as they started talking. The cool breeze and the shining sun alluded to the makings of a spectacular day.
“Jason, you look great! Are you nervous?”
“Not really. I’m sure glad you came here today.”
“Well, we are friends. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Sara said even as she thought I really just want to see if you go through with this debacle.
“Sara? Yo! Sara? Where did you go? You seemed so far away”
“Oh, just thinking that I hope you’re happy and everything goes as it should today.”
“Buffy made sure that everything will go according to plan.”
Only if she falls on her face, or you change your mind, she thought.
“You sure do look great in that dress Sara. It shows off your great figure that attracts all the guys.”
Not the one that I want, she thought but said, “Oh sure Jason, I’m fighting them off with a stick.”
“Normally you are.”
“Well, I’m not interested in the dating game right now anyway.”
“I’ve been wondering about that. Why haven’t you been dating? But, then again I haven’t really seen a lot of you this year. What has been up with you?”
“Oh, just this and that… nothing I want to bore you with today. Right now isn’t a good time for one of our in-depth discussions. By the way, you look great in that getup.”
”I can’t wait to see the pictures. Make one for me with that funny face of yours.”
“You mean this one?” Jason contorted his face in a grimace.
Sara laughed, “Yes, that one.”
“I will. I guess I need to get in there.”
“I’ll see you at the reception.”
They kissed each other lightly and hugged tight. Tears threatened to fill Sara’s eyes. Jason brushed a hand through his sandy brown hair, winked one of his green eyes at her, turned and disappeared into the church.
Standing there, she couldn’t figure out why she agreed to come to this thing anyway. She knew that they had been good friends for five years, but this hurt a little too much. She knew he didn’t have a clue about how she felt anyway.
Taking yet another long, deep breath, she smiled, turned around, and entered the church then walked up to the usher.
“Bride or Groom,“ he asked.
She just laughed and said, “The groom, please.”
She slid into a pew about halfway down the aisle. This seat worked perfectly; not too close and not too far away. She could still see the front, but wouldn’t be able to see the bride’s face. She had already seen more of it than she’d like; both sides of it.
The congregation slowly filed in, took their seats and quieted down. Everyone had said hellos and now anxiously awaited the procession. The organist began to play the wedding march. As the first bridesmaid walked by, Sara had to hold in a gasp of surprise at the fuchsia and pea green dress that poor girl had been forced to wear. She thought the bride had a little better taste than that. Then again…
Three bridesmaids walked by, then the congregation stood for the bride. Sara stood and stared off into space as Buffy slowly pranced down the aisle. Sara couldn’t help but think damn, Buffy sure does look beautiful.
Sara’s mind wondered back in time again. As her memories rolled by, she hit on the most painful one. It happened to be the day she realized that she had deeper feelings for Jason, more than just friendship. They were at the lake with a group from school. They skied, swam, played volleyball and cooked out. The sky gleamed crystal blue with not a cloud in sight. Sara had on her new blue and gold trimmed bikini. It garnered her quite a bit of attention. As she slalomed behind the boat, another boat cut in front of them and created an enormous wave. Sara couldn’t stay up. She tumbled over the water, her ski jacket flew off, and the ski hit her in the head. As she was gulping for air and trying to stay afloat, she could see that Jason had almost reached her in the water. He pulled her toward the boat, lifted her up and took care of her. As she tried to focus again, she looked deep into his eyes. Something that she had never seen before stared back at her. She felt a tingle pulse through her body and she knew that she had deeper feelings for Jason than she ever thought.
The day definitely ranked as one of her most memorable. That day, their relationship also started to falter. She thought she couldn’t stand to be as close as they were and not be together completely. She also thought that if she expressed her feelings, it would ruin their friendship forever. So, month after month, she started making up excuses not to do something with Jason. Then he met Buffy. Sara just couldn’t bring herself to express her feelings to Jason. She treasured their friendship and didn’t think she could survive if he rejected her. Looking back now, Sara realized that she should have taken the chance.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the preacher saying, “If there is anyone who can show just cause why these two should not lawfully be married, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
Sara didn’t move a muscle. She just screamed in her head, I do. I do. I do. I love him. He shouldn’t marry this girl she isn’t good enough for him. It will never last. They aren’t right for each other. Why can’t you marry your best friend? Why doesn’t he realize the truth? Buffy can’t mean as much to him as I does.
Her thoughts shattered when the preacher pronounced them man and wife and the married couple began walking down the aisle. Her heart stopped. She didn’t stop the wedding. She lost her chance.
Jason turned, caught Sara’s eye and winked before he disappeared into the crowd.
She just shook her head, ambled out of the pew and followed the crowd to the reception at the country club. She mingled through the room, smiling and talking to everyone along the way.
Sara had been talking to his parents when she spotted Jason trying to get her attention. She walked over to the happy couple and congratulated them.
“You got a terrific guy here,” she said to the bride.
“I know. He’s the sweetest.”
“He sure is. I hope you two will be very happy together.”
“I’m sure we will! Jay always takes care of me. Don’t you Jay? Jay?”
Jason turned back to Buffy and said, “Of course I do… What do I do?”
“You take care of her,” Sara said as she began to twist the pendant around her neck.
“That’s my job.”
As the tension in Sara’s back cemented from end to end, she gave Buffy another look. Pretty package, but no filler.
Sara took a sip of wine and said, “I wish you all the best Jason.”
“Thanks. That means a lot to me.”
“Thanks for inviting me, it was lovely, but now I have to run.”
“So soon? Can’t you stay? I haven’t seen you in a while. We could talk.”
“I wish I could, but I have another engagement.”
Jason turned to Buffy, “Honey, Sara is leaving.”
Buffy smiled then said, “Can’t you stay a little longer? I know jay would like that. He always says he never sees you anymore.”
“I wish I could. Call me when you get back from your honeymoon. Maybe we could do lunch or coffee.”
“We will,” Buffy said.
Sara hugged them both and told Buffy how beautiful she looked. Then she turned to leave, didn’t look back, walked out the door, got in her car and sped away.
She cried as she drove down the road. She couldn’t keep it in any longer. As she pulled on to the Freeway, she vowed aloud never to be afraid to express her feelings. She would never lose like this again.
When she got home, she prepared herself for her next engagement. She rented three Action movies at the video store and made a big bowl of popcorn. As she sat down in front of the television and settled in, she glanced at a picture of her and Jason taken the summer before. She just sighed and said aloud, “Next time.”