All I could see was blue and white. It stretched out beyond my field of vision, encompassing the grassy terrain completely, as if the entire football field had exploded into a sea of satin.
Proud parents hugged their sons or daughters, congratulating their success with wishes for bright, happy futures. My fellow graduates had banded together, standing united on that vast green grass, feeling proud and utterly relieved. We had finally made it. Twelve years were behind us, and we had nothing but endless possibilities in our future. I smiled at the thought. There was only one person I wanted in my future, both imminently and permanently.
As my parents took what was probably the hundredth picture, I saw her. Chocolate-brown hair tumbled down her back, contrasting against the stark white robe she wore. When her gaze turned upward, our eyes locked briefly from across the field, and she smiled.
She’d been the first girl I noticed freshman year and the only girl I’d paid attention to since. She was my world, and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her. It wasn’t exactly the life our parents had imagined for us, and I knew they would disagree with the plans we’d made, but everything would work out. With Mia by my side, everything would always work out.
Tomorrow was the beginning of us.
With slight hesitation, she shyly walked up to my large group of family members laughing and talking loudly. She was always a bit timid around my parents even though she had no reason to be. My mother and father adored her, and nothing would change that, not even the bomb we were about to drop tomorrow morning.
“Mia!” my mom said, greeting her enthusiastically, while pulling her into a tight hug. “Congratulations, my dear!”
“How many times do I have to tell you, sweetheart? There’s no Mrs. Finnegan around here. You can call me Mom or Laura.”
Mia hadn’t known how to react to my family the first time she met them. Her family was vastly different. They loved her in their own way, but hugs and feelings were never easy to come by in the Emerson household. Mia came from wealth, and her family did things a certain way. My touchy-feely, middle-income family looked like The Beverly Hillbillies compared to hers, especially her mother.
“Garrett, put your arm around Mia. I need a quick picture!” Mom said, holding her digital camera up once again.
My father chuckled, giving my mom a squeeze, as she held the camera and waited for us to pose. My mouth curled into a grin, and I wrapped my arm around Mia’s waist. I knew when my mom had said picture, she really meant we would be here for an eternity. Laura Finnegan was unable to take just one picture. I didn’t mind. Mom clicked away as we smiled and laughed. I’d gladly hold Mia in my arms forever.
“Okay, okay, Mom! I think that’s enough! He’s going to break the camera!” my older sister, Clare, joked from behind us.
I turned around and gave her a stern look, and she laughed. Her giant basketball stomach bounced up and down as she turned her head to shield her laughter. If she got any bigger, I swore she was going to deliver an entire litter of babies and not just the one she’d kept telling me was in there. Her husband, Ethan, bent down to place a tender kiss on her round stomach. My big sister was going to be a mother. That freaked me out a little. I spent a moment too long staring at her stomach, wondering—
“Hey, I’ve got to meet my parents for dinner. Pick me up later?” Mia said suddenly, bringing me out of my wayward thoughts.
Her brilliant teal-blue eyes found mine, and I nodded, pulling her closer.
“I’ll be there,” I promised before bending down to kiss her softly.
Our kiss lingered a bit before she got embarrassed, giggling and pushing away. My parents already knew we were head over heels in love. Did she really think I was going to keep my hands off just because my mom was around?
Mia shot me a sly grin, promising retribution that I was sure to enjoy later, and then I watched her walk away, disappearing into the crowd of blue and white satin.
Had I known this would be the last time I saw her, I would have never let her go.
I would have fought for her. I would have done something, anything.
I would have done anything, except stand there and watch her disappear…forever.
I gasped, desperately seeking air, as I tried clawing my way back to reality. Oxygen filled my airways too quickly and burned a fiery path to my overworked lungs. I felt myself gripping, holding on…trying not to let go.
Don’t let her go. Not again. Come back, Mia. Come back!
My eyes flew open, and I found myself back in my cramped, lifeless bedroom, back in the present.
I couldn’t count the number of times I’d relived that day. I would relive what had started out as a perfect day in my past, and I’d wake back up to the hell that had become my life. It was like some sick, twisted curse I’d been given to remind me just how f**ked-up fate could be.
The sheets felt cold against my sweat-slicked body, and my heart rate was still racing a marathon. A marathon I never won. Night after night, I’d awake from the same nightmare, my heart racing as I tried, over and over, to change history through my dreams.
I’d given up on that hope years ago. Sitting up, I ran my hands over my face and tried to calm my nerves. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the glint of a mostly empty bottle of tequila sitting on my nightstand. Looking through my hands, which were still covering my face, I saw the bra first, then the dress, and finally the heels. They were all scattered among my own clothes on the floor.
My head began to pound like a drum as I slowly pieced together the night before, remembering the copious amounts of alcohol I’d consumed. I’d wandered into a bar after another long day at work, and there was a woman.
I’d told her she was beautiful and offered to buy her a drink. She’d laughed at my lame jokes, throwing her head back with enthusiasm, while resting her hand on my thigh. Her laugh had been all wrong—high-pitched and too bubbly. But nothing ever was right. I’d bought her another drink, and finally, I’d followed it up by asking if she would like to have a third one—back at my place.
Running my hands through my disheveled dark hair, I slowly turned to my right, and there she was—the owner of the dress.