Part Two: Remembered
I saw her the moment she walked in. I waited for her. I needed her here. She was going to help me get through this day, even though she didn't know it.
It wasn't as if I was nervous about getting married. It wasn't as if I was scared. I just had to be sure that this was the right thing to do. Seeing Buffy walk into the church reminded me why it was right.
She was still as beautiful as ever. Her blonde hair had grown longer. It was a little bit lighter…it brought out the blue in her eyes. She wore it like she had worn it at our senior prom. It was half up and the rest cascaded around her shoulders.
Bellisima…Even Italian didn't do her beauty justice.
I saw some of my buddies giving her a look over. I liked them most of the time, but that most of time didn't include their gawking period. Especially when it involved gawking over a certain Buffy Summers. It took all of my military control to suppress my want to walk towards them and give them a piece of my mind. As much as I wanted to, I wanted more that Buffy and I didn't meet.
The phone call to get her to come was torture…talking to her in person would have been absolute agony. Yet, when we talked, I couldn't put the phone down. I couldn't allow myself to end the conversation even though it eventually became just about anything that came off the top of my head. The sound of her voice has always seemed to haunt me wherever I go. I've never really felt that I left Buffy's side all these years because of that, but memories are nothing like reality. To hear her voice…to not just remember it…made any pain I felt worthwhile.
When she came in, I stood staring at her for a long time. I don't know how long…I just couldn't take my eyes off her. So many years and yet so much had remained the same…like my love for her.
She has my love. She's always had it. The woman I married today never will, but she's fine with that…she doesn't love me either.
Rebecca and I didn't marry for money or for success. Life had brought us both that individually, but what life had failed to bring us was the most important component - Love. At least, it brought them in the most unreachable places. For me it was Buffy. For Rebecca it was a married man…twenty-five years her senior.
They both don't know. I guess they never will.
If anything, Rebecca and I were marrying for loneliness. We actually would have been okay with living with each other, but of course, a Phelps couldn't do that. The one drawback in marrying Becca…her parents.
They almost took Buffy off the guest list. It took the very little control I had over this wedding to make her stay on that list. It hurt that she almost didn't come. As if she didn't care about my life anymore…as if my world didn't matter anymore…I felt a little forgotten.
But being forgotten is okay. I'm use to it…at least, in the eyes of Buffy.
I could never forget Buffy. I could only remember her. I wish I could still know her.
I spent all these years thinking of her…remembering not just the sound of her voice, but *her*. Everywhere I went, there was just something I wanted her to see…I wanted her to know. Maybe it wasn't so much that as it was that I wanted her to know I loved her. I had been so close to telling her the day I left. I wanted her to know how much I needed her. How much I wanted her, but I never told her. Not even the countless times when I just wanted to quit and run back to where I really belonged…back to her…by her side.
But I never did. Instead I kept to my word. I saw the world for her and even though she never asked, I gave it to her.
It hadn't started out that way. I remember France almost as if it were yesterday. I think that it mostly had to do with how much I realized I didn't know French, and I felt a little lost there. I hadn't made many friends by the time I finished training and entered into the service. I guess I didn't really want to. They could've never amounted to the people I left behind.
But for a short while I didn't feel lost. I walked by a little shop and saw a snow globe with a little silver Eiffel Tower in the window. I walked in and in bad French I stumbled out something like "I'd like to see the object by the window." It was either that or "I see a cow out the window." Luckily, the shopkeeper spoke English.
I looked at it for a long time before I decided to buy it. I can still hear the tune that it played. I still remember it. I never knew what it was called, but it was beautiful. It made me think of Buffy. So I bought it for her, and before I had a chance to realize it, that started our journey together around the world.
There were always presents. Sometimes there were pictures. There was usually never any letters or notes. I just couldn't really write to her. I was always half-afraid that she'd find out how much I didn't like my "success". The other half of me feared that somehow I'd tell her I love her and somehow I'd find out that she didn't feel the same.
It's strange, but memories of Spring Fling still hurts. I lost two things that day…the hope that she'd ever love me more than just a friend and I lost her. I got her back, but the hope never returned. Maybe I was too quick to let go, but how much can a guy take? I had spent the summer trying to move on, but when she came back I knew I hadn't gone anywhere in my 'try.' And as quickly as that realization hit me…so did the pain. That dance in the Bronze somehow hurt more than her rejection. I know it wasn't really her…that the whole situation with the Master traumatized her, but that dance was like a knife that cut open and dug deeper the wound that lay within the very folds of my heart. She was so near…she was so close…and still she wasn't mine…even worse, she held the knife that tore the wound.
But that was a long time ago and the pain only hurts when I think about it. It's become a sort of dull pain. I've gotten use to it. I had to, as much as I had to get married…I had to move on.
So here I am, dancing with my wife…Rebecca. She's beautiful, successful, talented, and she even laughs at my jokes. If only I loved her…if only she'd also love me…we'd be perfect for each other, but we don't love each other - at least not like that. But it's okay…having each other is enough…being lonely together is better than being lonely apart.
As we danced I saw her look at me with a trying smile. I didn't have to turn around…I already knew what she had seen: the love of her life with his wife. I met her with the same smile and she knew I understood and she also knew that moments earlier I had seen the love of my life…alone, but not with me.
And I think that that very image is the one that tears me up inside so much more than anything she has done or said that has broken my heart. For a long time before I left to join the service, Buffy and I spent so much time together. I had time to spend and she had to make the time to be the slayer. We mostly patrolled, but it didn't matter to me what we were doing. All that mattered to me was that she let me be there by her side. There were other people - we dated various people, but they never worked out for long. So most of the time, it was just Buffy and me - free as birds. Free to laugh…free to make jokes…free to talk…free to fall in love. We laughed…we joked…we talked, but love? We were free to fall in love, but it was never an option. She never made it an option and I tried my best not suggest it. I wanted her in my life, if only as a friend, and there was no way in hell that I was jeopardizing that.
And that just makes this whole thing so ironic… we're friends, but we're not. Before we went our separate ways, we were so close. We used to be able to just play off of each other's jokes. We understood each other, but, then again, we didn't. Every day that passed the understanding grew deeper. The adventures I had with Buffy weren't the things that we slayed together. They were all the things I learned about her. The adventure was her. The adventure was realizing that every day we were together and every day we were apart, why I loved her so. That period of time was just amazing, but something happened…something changed us…our relationship. Maybe it was because we were apart, I'm not sure. All I know is that we call ourselves friends, but at the same time we call ourselves strangers.
I still love her…more today than yesterday, more tomorrow than today. I've been fighting this urge to just run over to her and tell her that I love her. I'm still fighting it as she sits over…
She's gone. She left without saying good-bye, but, then again, I never said hello.
And maybe that's how it's supposed to be. How did I ever expect anything out of something that never really started?
"Our love is here to stay…" the singer sang as she stood on the stage.
I stopped dancing.
"Xander…are you okay?" Becca asked in concern.
I looked into her eyes as I stood there, "Who picked this song? Why did they pick this song?"
"I just told them that any song would be okay…why?"
"This is Paris…" I said softly.
She was confused, "Right, it's from 'An American in Paris'."
I shook my head, "No. Becca, you don't understand. *This* is Paris…the Eiffel Tower in the…"
Becca knew every present…every story behind every present. She knew almost everything about Buffy I thought I could tell her. She knew how I felt when I first saw that snow globe at Buffy's house. She knew how much hope it gave me…she knew how little of that hope still remained in me…locked in that memory.
Suddenly, I felt so alone. Becca was here by my side, but even she seemed to disappear as my world began to crumble. Suddenly, there were no three hundred guests, no wedding, and there was no New York. There was me, married and destined to spend my life alone…still waiting for that one of kind of girl who had yet to try to love me…remembering all the dreams that never were…remembering France…remembering her…my world….
…The world that just walked away.