As an early riser is had been years since she’d seen a sunset. How many years, she couldn’t be sure, who remembers the last sunset they see? You’d have to know ahead of time it was your last sunset, or be one of those annoyingly mindful people that she secretly wished she was. Mindful, that is, not annoying. In the moment, wasn’t that what it was all about? You have only today, only the now, only right this second. Sigh.
At any rate, as far as sunsets went this was pretty spectacular. It wasn’t just that she was on her first vacation in twenty years, or that she was in Hawaii, a place she’d never been to before despite having multiple opportunities, it was that the colors themselves were so vivid. Maybe it was the humidity? Stop wondering why, she scolded herself, and just enjoy it.
It was then she realized no one else was enjoying it. In fact, everything had become eerily quiet. She noticed that everyone was staring not at the dramatic pinks and tangerines in the sky, but at him, the man in the tux who was supposed to be marrying her cousin but didn’t appear to be doing so. Was he flustered? Was he having a heart attack? What the hell was happening? And then she understood, just as he dropped her cousins hands, the tears streaming down his face, her mouth held in a perfect O of surprise, like something out of a movie.
He didn’t love her, and it was killing him.
How could I possibly know that, she wondered, but she did. She knew it in her gut, you weren’t supposed to know things in your gut, but in your heart, but she knew this in her gut. Her cousin and that man had grown up together, like cousins themselves, which is why the whole wedding had felt so wrong from the beginning, cousins shouldn’t marry! But they weren’t really, were they, related that was. Just grew up close like family, which was why everyone else thought the marriage was so natural, so expected even.
But he didn’t love her that way. He loved her, clearly he loved her, they’d grown up together and knew each other more intimately than anyone else knew them, he’d asked her to marry him. He loved her. But he couldn’t marry her.
She wondered when he realized it. It had to have been just this moment, he wouldn’t have put either of them through this otherwise, wouldn’t have put their familied through it. He was a good man, she knew that, they all knew that. There was no time to sit there trying to figure it all out, chaos had erupted. The bride was crying now, not just crying really, sobbing. It was loud and snotty with makeup running everywhere despite the shellacing the makeup artist had given her to withstand the humidity. People were literally running, some to the bride others after the groom who’d apparently disappeared, no, no there he was almost back to the hotel already. Chairs were overturned on the sand, women were cooing and coddling and crying with the bride, men were standing about hands in and out of pockets and running through hair, a lot of murmuring with no real understandable language.
She knew she should go to her cousin or her aunt and attempt consolation but she was simply stunned. No, that wasn’t quite right. Stunned would imply she hadn’t seen this coming, and somehow, she had. She realized she wasn’t stunned so much as disappointed. She’d known this was coming, if she was honest, and she’d had plenty of time to figure out how to behave and yet, here she was just sitting. Watching the damn sunset. Enjoying the sunset, how was that possible, but she was. It was gorgeous. When she’d last seen a sunset became irrelevant and she began to wonder if she’d ever seen a sunset this spectacular, and realized she hadn’t. And she’d certainly remember it, whether it was her last or not.
She felt the warm and rough texture of the sand against her feet, realizing she’d slipped off her shoes sometime between sitting down after the bride walked up the aisle and standing up when all hell broke loose. She realized she was sitting again, however, her hands gentle in her lap. She was breathing deeply, breathing in the colors, the humidity, the scent of something, plumeria maybe, in the air. Heavenly.
She felt like that mouse from the childrens story. The one who didn’t work stockpiling food for the winter and who the other mice began to resent a bit until winter. What was the mouse’s name, she wondered. It didn’t much matter, she was like the mouse. She was stockpiling the colors and scents and sensations, the pinks and tangerines, the plumeria and ocean, the gritty warmth of the sand.
Fredrick. That was his name. The mouse.
She was Fredrick now, so that her cousin could make it through the winter of her wedding day, a winter that would extend far longer than an actual season.