Standard Lines
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve

The beginning of the end...

I swear to God, I love weddings. Any kind of wedding. Of course, when you're sitting in the second pew watching your best friend marry the love of her life, the whole wedding feel amplifies itself until nothing surrounds you but flowers, silk, velvet and two pairs of smiling eyes at the altar.

I still remember every aspect of that day. It's weird, really, because I think I remember more about her wedding than I do about my own, but every little detail has managed to stay with me throughout the years. She had on this gorgeous white dress that billowed out behind her and the most beautiful flower girl that ever existed. Somehow, she managed to snag the most beautiful husband as well, because the twerp was positively glowing when she started to walk down the aisle.

That said, it's not hard to imagine why I was in tears from the very beginning of the ceremony. I was happy for her and happy for the future.

*      *      *      *      *

I couldn't believe that day had finally arrived. I mean, who knew that I, Julie Tidman, the self-declared, self-prophesized to be a singleton all of my days, would find herself one day in a way too expensive for one event gown, walking down the aisle of a church bigger than my hometown, getting married? And nonetheless to a mega superstar. Okay, I'd never really considered Nick to be of such a caliber, but I knew what he meant in the eyes of so many others.  That day he got taken off the market, hopefully for good, and I was the lucky taker...

The wedding theme was some rocked-up version that Nick fought me tooth and nail to get to have played and it really made my eardrums ring but there was no telling that to Nick. I glanced at my father, who stood slightly above me, and a solitary tear had just slid down his cheek. The butterflies were churning wildly in me like I swallowed all those damn migrating monarch butterflies and the tears were even welling up in my often bone dry eyes. I turned my gaze from my father to the man my father would soon be giving me over to.

I don't think I'd ever seen him smiling so brightly at me, like I just handed him every video game in the world that he wanted and told him to lock himself in a room and play 'til the calluses on his thumbs had calluses. It made for more tears welling up. I think my grin was bigger than his at that point but nothing could beat that twinkle in his eye. What's so funny is that just a month before, we'd decided our relationship could never work because we were just too independent and scared of commitment. God must've had real plans for us because within the next week, we were back together and going strong on our wedding plans again. We were going to make it. As I turned to face Nick, I caught Emma's tear-filled eyes. She smiled proudly at me and my eyes met Nick's as the vows began. I don't remember much of what was said because the only person in that room was Nick and I was the only person in the room to him. I know we both repeated our vows but I still can't recall actually doing it. So this is what love is. All I could say was about damn time.

*      *      *      *      *

It was quite a moment. The vows, the pinnacle song, everything. Something moved in the room when his lips touched hers, and I had to grab Howie's hand to make sure that my feet were still on the ground and my loved one was still there. I could feel change shifting underneath the floor, and I knew as they broke apart that one era had ended and another had just begun. I think I tried to explain it to Howie in fervent whispers as I clapped and cried and sniffled at the newly-proclaimed husband and wife, but he simply smiled down at me and told me that I worry too much. Usually, I would agree with him, but when I feel trepidation like that, I'm rarely wrong. Howie's very good with words and reassurance, though, and before I knew it, he had talked me out of my hysteria and into the reception hall like the devoted husband he was. Howie loved me loves me will love me, and in that I took solace enough to go on a massive search for the glowing bride and her rather frustrating husband.

*       *      *      *      *

There seemed to be this air of tension surrounding us in the room. Neither Emma or I could explain it but she said she knew something was about to go down. Seeing that she's normally pretty perceptive about these things, I began scanning the room for any sign that her intuition was valid. The guys were in their respective corners, chatting away about the upcoming Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles game and Nick was boasting and gambling as always that his beloved Bucs were going to sweep them and carry their victory torch through the Super Bowl and beyond. My mother and his mother were conversing as the old friends they'd become so there was nothing there. My dad and uncles were chatting with Nick's dad and uncles, each with their glass of champagne being held behind their backs in their hope that the wives would come by and take them from them for none of them were much into champagne or anything that wasn't beer for that matter. People were dancing, smiling, and all the world seemed right but even in my gut, I had a feeling that the silver lining was about to be torn.

*      *      *      *       *

One minute there was peace in the massive ballroom, and the next there was nothing but chaos outside. One minute, everyone was carrying on with civil conversation and the tight, polite smiles used at any public gathering, and the next civil conversation had deteriorated to a shouting match in the courtyard and the tight smiles were replaced with broken glasses of champagne and a finite declaration of "I can't do this anymore". And all of us knew what "this" was, but none of us wanted to acknowledge it except to paste the smiles back on our faces and apologize for the outbursts when only the men had been screaming. We tried to paste the past back together like we had pasted the grins on our faces, but we ran out of glue too quickly. At least, that's what I think happened. Because there's really no other explanation.

*      *      *      *      *

All I remember is murmuring, "No God, not today. Please not today. Not on my wedding day, God", over and over again. I don't even remember the initial instigator of the fight. All I knew was that vindictive words were being tossed back and forth and two of the guys, one being my husband of 15 minutes, were rolling on the ground in their rented tuxes, throwing fists. The next thing I heard was the siren of a police car and two cops telling my husband and Kevin, one of his bandmates, to break it up. I then felt my hand being jerked in the direction of our limo with me giving Emma a rushed kiss on the cheek. "Enjoy your honeymoon!" was her exclamation before rushing over to the fight scene and as Nick and I drove away in our limo to the airport to enjoy our week in the Bahamas, I somehow knew that our vacation had just transferred into a somber week of planning the next and final battle of the war called the Backstreet Boys.

*      *     *      *      *

She thought that was the beginning of the end. Hell, so did I. We all thought it was the first battle of the last war. In the end? We were all wrong. Because, when the years tallied up and the days started fading together, it finally became clear that there was no war this time. There was just an end.

That was the last time any of us ever saw each other.