Chapter 1 : Leaving Him Behind
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Except the wedding dress.
I am twenty-two years old, and it is far too soon for me to be getting married. I have to experience life. I have to make mistakes on my own. I have to be Cho Chang a little while longer.
But it’s not only for me that I feel it’s too soon. It’s also because of him. I know what you’re thinking. I was fifteen. I didn’t know what love was. But I know how I felt then, and I know how I feel now.
I know I can’t get married with him hanging over my head. He’s been there through every failed relationship, every attempt at living again, and even now, I feel his presence in this room. I feel his lips gently touching my forehead. I hear his voice murmur my name- softly, as if it were a special secret just between the two of us.
I hear my name spoken aloud and turn to see my mother standing in the doorway. I gaze, wide-eyed, at her beautiful almond eyes- just like mine- and notice for the first time, the small stain of sorrow. Had she, too, had a former lover? Had she loved and lost? Was she still longing for him, even after all these years?
I decide it must be so. It’s so much better to imagine my mother escaping to an ordinary life after losing her heart’s treasure- so much better than choosing it herself.
I stand slowly, and the folds of my dress slip gracefully to the floor. I glance at the mirror again to see the pure, virginal white satin. I want to rip at it- take it off. Its perfection should be marred in some way.
“Cho,” repeats my mother. “You will be late.”
Still, I say nothing, but I must begin to walk because soon the mirror is far behind me. The music is playing, but it’s as if I’m hearing it underwater. He saved me underwater. The sound is muffled and sloppy in my ears. Why was I his most precious possession? My sight, too, is blurred and out-of-focus. Was I really that important?
When the smoke in front of my eyes clears, I see David’s face before me. The similarities between him and Cedric are undeniable. He had been what I was looking for. The day he walked into the bookstore-
I heard the bell ring as somebody entered the shop, but I couldn’t look up from my book. It always took me awhile to get going, since I’ve never been much of a reader, but once I did, I hated being torn away. It was a nice book about a princess who is about to marry a prince she doesn’t love. Her one true love had been killed by pirates many years before…or so she thought. I was at a crucial moment- Westley, the lover, had just returned, apparently not dead.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
I looked up, slightly irritated at being interrupted. My irritation quickly melted into disbelief as I looked at the boy in front of me. He had a chiseled jaw and dark brown hair. His eyes stared back into mine, and his rosy lips lifted in an bemused smile.
I shut my jaw, flushing slightly from embarrassment. It’s not Cedric, I thought desperately. You’re just destined to see him wherever you go, Cho.
There was something different about this time, though, that really drew me to this stranger. There was something undeniably Cedric about him. True, he had blue eyes rather than Cedric’s beautiful brown, and he had a deeper, rougher voice than Cedric, but there was still a little too much to remind me.
The stranger held out his hand to me and said, “I’m David.”
And, although I knew he was David, it was Cedric that I was kissing on our first date. It was Cedric who was telling me how lovely I looked. It was Cedric making love to me in my chilly apartment.
But once the ring was around my finger, I could no longer pretend. It is as if that little band of gold and rock hard diamond has cut off the circulation of my dream. I knew from then on that it was David Kesey who I am marrying. He is a former rock star turned politician. His ambition is to become the Minister of Magic. He is quite the catch for any witch.
But I don’t love him.
How can I, when my heart still belongs to Cedric? If anything, I love the piece of Cedric that I see within David, but it is masked by his coarse hands, his rough voice, and his rowdy tendencies.
As he takes his hands in mine, I recall the book that I had been reading when I first met him- The Princess Bride. My story is what would have happened if the lover never came back. Cedric is not going to save me from a loveless marriage; he is dead, and he is going to stay dead. I am going to live the life that Buttercup so skillfully avoided.
A tear trickles down my cheek, and David mistakes it for joy. In a tender gesture for his audience, he squeezes my hands gently. Trophy wife. I hear them murmuring, “How beautiful she looks!” Trophy wife.
“No,” I mutter.
The priest stops mid-sentence and stares at me. “What’s that, love?” asks David, his brow furrowing.
“No,” I repeat, releasing his hands and stepping away.
David looks awkwardly to the congregation and then back at me- the lovely bride who has gone insane. “Why not, dearest?” he asks.
I shake my head and begin to leave the church. I feel the eyes of our family and friends boring into me. Many of them are beautiful brown eyes, like mine and my mother’s, but they do not share the sadness. They cannot understand that there will be no happy marriage until that stain is washed out.
I want to look in my eyes and see cleanliness- no hint of despair. I want Buttercup’s happy ending.
I can’t have Cedric back, but I can find love again- once the stain is gone. I can’t commit myself to this marriage, this lucky match that was approved by my parents. I can’t be someone’s trophy wife.
I am twenty-two years old. I am too young to be married.
I am going to live my life.
I am going to make my mistakes.
I am going to be Cho Chang.
But this time, I have to leave him behind.
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