True love, by definition, means “someone that is truly loved.”

But true love must be reciprocated, or it is only excruciatingly unbearable and devastating—a never-ending lonely night in an empty room.

By the dictionary of Ara, true love means you could not live without that person. That the love you feel for them is as honest and deep as the love they feel for you—a soul mate—a perfect match. David was my soul mate, but Mike was my perfect match, and in only a few hours, we’d be sharing this truth with the rest of the world.

The presence of my hand over my belly was supposed to settle the feeling of nerves, like black bats had assembled in my gut and bludgeoned the ogre to death, but it didn’t. And it didn’t hide the fact that, in truth, I wasn’t ready for this. But Dad wouldn’t let me go back to Perth with Mike unless we were married first. So, I stood in front of the full-length, oval mirror, with golden light spreading its warm beams of morning over my bedroom floor, and let time pass around me—unable to control it or make good use of it; just existing as a part of its greater plan.

I reached across and tilted the mirror’s frame, changing the image to the plain white of the roof. I couldn’t look at the reflection staring back at me today; she was error, beautified by justification, painted in the form of a bright-eyed young girl. A young girl who was doing what was expected of her, not what her heart wanted.

I loved Mike, I really did, but the quiet prelude to the tempest had me wondering if I was doing the right thing; if marrying one man, when I was still in love with another, would perhaps destroy not just my life, but Mike’s as well.

The passed winter was long and the blue memory of Christmas Day settled over my thoughts, blotting out the yellow of spring in my room. Mike’s parents had demanded he return home for Christmas, and I spent the whole day on the armchair downstairs, talking to him on the phone. The bill was huge, but Mike just laughed and said it was small change—a minor drawback in the greater scheme of things—and covered the costs himself. When he finally came back, I had never been so glad to see him in all my life. I’d had so many nightmares while he was gone—one’s that ended in him calling to say he’d changed his mind about me, or some where his plane crashed while I waited for him at the airport, and some where I slipped into the darkness again, and he wasn’t there to save me. I needed him, almost as much as he needed me. So, maybe I wasn't really ready for this, but I couldn’t live without him, either.

I shook my head a few times, releasing the shiver of memories, and looked behind me to the near-empty room. My bed was gone, the spongy white carpet dominating the space, while the new daybed in the corner had become a shelf for all things bridal, except the bouquets, which were lined up on the hallstand beside the window. It might not have been my room anymore, but it still felt like my room, except, like me, it was changed beyond recognition. My face, my hands, everything was polished and shined, shaped and fashioned to look like the bride standing by the mirror in her wedding dress.

The swirling vortex of time had swept everything up, and I was next—destined to leave everyone behind. But that was always my destiny, wasn’t it? And one day soon, I was sure it would carry me away from Mike.

Under my thumb, the white flowers stitched into the veil sitting over the chair back felt silky. This veil was one of the reasons Mike gave no protest over going home at Christmas time. He’d salvaged a few things when he and his mum cleared out my old house after I left—my mum’s veil being one of them. I don't think I ever cried so hard as when he handed me a box, wearing that cheeky grin, and I opened it to see white tulle. He and Dad found it utterly amusing, but I was sure half Dad’s tears of hilarity were owed to emotions he wouldn’t admit.

Outside my window, the familiar chatter of my little bluebird friend formed the soundtrack to my faraway thoughts. I snapped from my reverie, tilted the mirror back down and watched the bird dancing in the reflection, bouncing happily as if life just went on. So simple. That’s it; eat, sing, dance and play.

But life was not a novel and people didn’t really get happy endings. I finally understood all the negative philosophical one-liners this town loved so much. They were phrases invented by smart people who knew life wasn’t made of dreams, even though it sometimes felt like one.

David said it best, though: “Even dreams eventually die.”

We’re not the leading ladies of our own illusory films. This is life and we are real. The time had come for me to grow up and, if I couldn't live the life I wanted, I had to at least live the lie. Either way, they were making me move on.

I ran my fingers over the yellow and silver embroidered cherry blossoms, flowing like a swarm of butterflies over the fitted bodice of my white dress. I wasn’t totally sold on the full hoop skirt and long train, but it had been a stipulation of Vicki’s that she get to help choose the dress—without any arguments. The only thing we really argued on, the only thing I really enforced was that my bouquet be white, with only accents of yellow. No red. It caused massive debates, until Mike stepped in and told Vicki it was my choice.

Vicki meant well, but she could never understand what the red rose once meant to me, how it represented the part of me that would always belong to David. That was a different time; I wish it were a different life.

I took a wispy breath and felt my heart flutter as I pushed his face away from my mind. I couldn’t have any thoughts of him today or I’d fall to pieces. There is, and never was, a David Knight. He died in nineteen-thirteen when his uncle bit him and turned him into a vampire. He never loved me, never promised me eternity—never existed. I was moving on, as he did—leaving all hope of love and destiny to the children who read fairytales.

They say that spring represents new beginnings; the end of the darkness; the cloaking of faux pas—the chance to wake up and start all over again. David would never be far from my thoughts, but I would live for the rest of my life without him in my embrace.

I looked at myself in the mirror again, at the bride, the woman that now stood before me: this was moving on.

“Ara? Are you okay?” Emily smiled at me from the doorway.

“Emily! You look beautiful,” I all but squealed and hugged her as she walked over to me. She held me tight. Then, standing her at arms length, I smiled, admiring her dress. “Yellow is definitely your colour.”

“Well, thank you for choosing such a tasteful bridesmaid dress.” She smiled, running her fingers over the chiffon.

“I’m glad we went for the shorter dress—it’s says spring to me.” I tapped my chin.

“It doesn’t feel like spring. It’s so cold today.” She smiled and tilted her head to one side, pausing there for a second. “Is it David? Is that what you were thinking about just now?”

A rush of hot blood shot through my stomach; I clutched my silver locket. On my own, with the four walls of my room surrounding me—closing me in—convincing myself I could move on was easy. But in the presence of those who proved life was still real and still hurt, pretending I no longer belonged to him made me want to fold over and cry. “You know me too well.” I sighed, forcing myself to release the locket. “I’m gonna miss you, Emily.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll come see you real soon. You’ll see. And as for David? Well—” she touched my shoulder, “—Mike’s better for you than him, Ara.”

My eyes nearly leaped out of my head. “What! Did you just say what I think you just said?”

She laughed. “I know, I know. It’s a bit if a turnaround, but—” she shrugged. “I'm sorry, Mike’s proven himself in my books, Ara.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty likeable.” My fingers found the locket again and held it tight. “And I am happy, you know. I do love Mike.”

“I just miss David, is all, and—” I faced the mirror again, dropping the chain from my fingers and letting it fall, cool against my skin. “I just needed a moment to reflect on that, I guess.”

“Oh!” We both looked up to the whimpering gasp as Vicki walked in and burst into tears—again. “My beautiful Ara-Rose. I can’t believe you’re getting married.”

“Been that way for a few months now, Mom,” I said and hugged her, being careful of my cascading curls.

“I know. It just feels like we only got you a few weeks ago, and now look at you—all grown up and leaving us.” She wiped away her tears. “Oh. Look at me, I’ve gone and smudged my makeup again.”

Emily and I exchanged a humoured smile as Vicki headed into my bathroom. The wardrobe she passed through was empty now. The rows and rows of clothes she bought me, the yellow dress, my box of pictures and everything else that made this room my own was on its way home now. On a freight plane back to Perth, which, after tonight, when I officially became Mrs Michael Christopher White, I would be too—except…not on a freight plane.

Emily let out a soft breath, half smiling. “Come on. It’s nearly time. Let’s put this veil on.”

I lifted the blanket-heavy skirt and sat down on the stool near the mirror. It felt good to sit. I’d been standing for too long.

“No looking until I get this in, okay?”

“Em—my back’s to the mirror. How can I see, anyway?”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll find a way, if you want to.”

“You know me too well.” I smirked. “So, where’s Alana?”

“Finishing her hair. And still trying to practice walking in those heels.”

“No one will notice,” she muttered with a few bobby pins between her lips, “they won’t be able to see past you.”

With the veil in my hair, Emily took a step back and adoration flooded her eyes like a little girl getting her first kitten.

“Does it look nice?” I asked, touching my fingertips to the meshy fabric.

“I’m not. I’m not. Oh, Ara,” Alana said, waving her hands near her moistening eyes. “You’re so pretty.”

“I know.” She curtsied. “Ryan said his heart stopped beating when he saw me.”

“I know.” Alana walked over. “He’s really sweet. So, you’re all ready then?”

“And you have something old?” She touched my veil.

“Uh-huh, and something new.” I nodded down at my dress.

“Okay, here’s something borrowed.” Emily clasped her silver bracelet over my wrist—over the scar David left.

“Well, that just leaves something blue.” I searched the room, half expecting to see the bookshelf behind my bedroom door where I used to keep a bluebird pin my mother gave me when I was little.

“Um, Ara?” Vicki stood nervously behind Emily. “I—I have something blue.”

When Em stepped aside, Vicki reached across the pale beam of sunlight and placed something cold and kind of heavy in my hand, cupping hers there for a second. “My mother gave this to me on my wedding day—when I married your father.”

I hesitated to look down at it, keeping my gaze on her teary eyes for longer than needed. But when I finally unfolded my fingers, I gasped, seeing the blue perfection there. “Vicki! This is beautiful.”

“It’s a brooch,” she said, turning the delicate glass blossom in my open palm.

“But—” I stole my gaze away from it to look at her, “—this should be passed down to Sam, shouldn’t it?”

Vicki shook her head and closed my fingers around the flower. “It‘s been passed down in my family from daughter to daughter; it belongs to you now.”

“Vicki, I—how can I ever thank you for all you’ve done for me?” I jumped off the stool and hugged her tight, gripping the sapphire blossom in my hand. “I love you, Mom.”

“And I love you, Ara.” She smiled and bit her quivering lips together. “Now, enough cliché fussing. Where shall we pin this?”

We placed the brooch, after much deliberation, to the largest cherry blossom on the bodice, right where the skirt met my hips, and as everyone stepped back to take a look at me, I drew a deep breath and squared my shoulders. “So, that’s everything?”

The chatter of four girls suddenly burst into the roar of twenty screaming fans at a boy-band concert. I calmed myself to a picture of composure while they gathered their bouquets, then hurried into the corridor.

“You coming, Ara?” Alana turned back to look at me.

“Um, yeah.” A sigh forced my shoulders to relax. “I’ll just be a sec.”

She smiled knowingly, then walked away.

The silence seemed to be filled with all the thoughts I’d been afraid of, all the truths I couldn’t own today. So, before it could destroy resolution, I wandered out quickly, looking back for only a moment before shutting the door on the warm yellow light of the past.

Dad came out of his room at the same time; I waited in anticipation for him to turn around. “Dad?”

His face moved from the thoughts of the day ahead to a round-mouthed, wide-eyed smile. “Oh, honey,” he said, raising my hand above my head to spin me around. “Look at you.”