The day before they got married, the three of us took a break from backyard wedding prep and stepped out for a bite to eat. Over our lunch, I heard this snippet:
Sam: Haley, may I have a fry?
Haley: Sure, Sam! Besides, starting tomorrow, my fries are your fries forever!
This was the final click. Haley and I used to share our lunches in middle school. This silly conversation began a recognition of the obvious changes that were to take place the next day. My turn now, I thought, Here I go to pass the torch.
At the end of the reception, she took my arm and asked me to help her change. As I followed her into the bedroom, I had to force myself to keep the tears inside. Keep your shit together, Courtney.
I zipped down the back of her wedding dress and began packing the bag just as we'd planned, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude came over me. I have spent the last eleven years growing up with this woman. She has had such a massive impact on who I am as a person and I cannot thank her enough for being so good to me. I kept making trips out to the getaway car to prolong having to say goodbye, though, once the final bag was placed in the trunk, I was at a loss with excuses. On the bed in a mess of undone hair and grass-stained heels, I sat cross-legged, watching her scramble around the room to ensure everything was in order.
"Court! Am I forgetting anything?" she asked. I'll never be able to forget the way she looked at me. Forever cemented in my brain like a sacred, sweet homage to the friendship we shared all those years. Like I was the one with the answers. I was the one who had to tell her things were good and she could go now.
"I don't think so. I think it's time to go."
"Okay," she breathed.
"Guess it's time to say goodbye," I said, grabbing both of her hands. As I went in to hug her, the tears ran out of my eyes. I could hear the music outside, the party continuing without us.
"Thank you for everything. I love you," she said.
"I love you, too. You're my best friend."
And then, she left and it was over.
I was prepared for all the happiest pieces of the day, the parts they play in movie montages. Like, the one where, after she's just been married, I see her through the window, give her a thumbs up, and she responds with the biggest smile, like, can-you-believe-what-I've-just-done? How, minutes later, she walks down the stairs, and I'm the first person she wants to hug. Their first dance as husband and wife. Her hair and the way that it looks just so perfectly undone. I was ready for so much of it. All the good things.
But nobody tells you about the stuff that makes you ache. No one mentions that after she leaves the reception, you'll sit on the grass under the party lights, barefoot, hair tied atop your head, eating leftover wedding cake, watching all the best parts of their 6 year romance on a plasma screen. There'll be quiet buzz behind you. The cleanup crew will arrive, clinking glasses, pouring leftover water into the plants, and collapsing tables, but you'll be alone. Absolutely alone. The empty parts, like these, are left out of conversation. There isn't a Hallmark card to express the feelings her dad will need to express when he watches his youngest daughter drive away on her wedding night, so, he'll come to you, hug you tight with tears in his eyes, and confess that what he's just done was the hardest thing he'll ever do. Stuff nobody tells you about.
I drove home that night so heavy in my head and heart that I had to pull over, hands on the wheel, and compose myself before driving on. What if things are different now? Now that I can't just call her up any time I want and demand a 3 AM trip to Walgreens.
Tonight, I FaceTimed her. When the call connected, I was overjoyed to find her beach-tanned skin and post-honeymoon demeanor.
"I called to see if you were still you, you know, still the same person. Still my best friend," I said.
"I am. Well, sort of. A little different, though, because now I've got a joint checking account." Still the same person, still my best friend.
And, my friends, no one tells you that the world sets itself right time after time. And though things are different post-wedding and you talk about sex more often than you used to, there's still more life to do, and she's still the one who's going to be there for you to do it with. She's the best person in the world and she's not going anywhere.
Here's her wedding video. 413 plays. 400 were played by me. Enjoy!