Huddled in the bathroom with the door firmly locked and checked four times, was Aaron. He had to find some form of peace from his newest reason to keep on smiling—little twin toddlers that were as inquisitive as they come—and their irritable mother. Of course, he loved her, only he seldom got time to himself and struggled to wind down after work. And so, he was mindlessly scrolling through social media while pretending to pick hair out of the bath’s plughole. Out of the corner of his eye, the pink and purple hairs wound around the metal, waiting impatiently for attention to be paid to them.
Five years had passed since his phone was last crammed full of notifications to the point of crashing, failing to restart for hours at a time. Six years had passed since his last performance, since F.A.S.T’s last recording session in the studio. The band had split, following an argument between Yuni and Frank regarding Aaron’s availability. She won. Now Troy and Shane were a duo, and Frank had gone at it alone, but they were no where near as successful without their lead singer.
As for Aaron, he stepped down from his high-flying career around the same time Yuni did. Just quit while you’re ahead, he had convinced himself. Still, he wondered whether that saying was appropriate or not. His life hadn’t been all that exciting since then, bar the twins, of course. Yuni had set him straight; rather, she dragged him down from fame and into bed with her, and now he was putting on a brave smile to see his children to dreamland.
He loved them dearly, far more than their mother, with their tiny noses and curious minds. Ever since their first words, questions had flown from their voice boxes like racing pigeons. They were bound to be very important people to the world someday—Aaron could tell. Little Hana and Mamoru wouldn’t always be there just for him. They would change the world, and after a lifetime of believing in them, he’d be stuck in a rut, not knowing what to do, where to go, or who to speak to about it.
Yuni’s popularity in her home country had dwindled shortly after officially moving to England. Since then, she had reluctantly taken up a part-time job as a translator for companies who struck up business deals in Japan, but was always thrilled if a rare fan recognised her for what she once was. Aside from Yuni’s downgrade in career, in her opinion, she was having the time of her life. She loved that her long-term boyfriend, was there when she wanted him, and she loved having her two tiny look-a-likes following in her ambitious footsteps already. Life couldn’t get any better, and hopefully wouldn’t ever be getting any worse.
That night, the couple were wrapped in each other’s arms, cuddling on the sofa in front of Yuni’s favourite romantic comedy; something about three men and a woman camping in a tent that was far too small really, and then gradually having more and more campers join them. However, Aaron’s mind was elsewhere and he didn’t care that nine people were now huddled in blankets around a singular candle. Their cat—a rescued black mix-breed that had arrived with a brutally-docked tail—had jumped up onto his lap half an hour ago. Before curling up on his thighs to doze, she had wobbled and teetered on his knee, unable to use her tail to correct her balance. As Aaron stroked her under the chin, scratching her in just the right spot, he watched her tiny stump twitch with every new mouse she sniffed out in her dreams. It was that fluffy stump that got him wondering about Ceri again…
After the text he sent her eight years ago, he hadn’t heard from her at all. Her various social media accounts had all been abandoned or deleted soon after, so he had no way of finding out how she was doing without being borderline stalkerish. Eventually, Aaron had stopped worrying so much about her and instead focused his energy on his own evolving life. He was a father now and Yuni was practically his wife! What more could he want?Every so often, Ceri would creep into his subconscious, though. It wasn’t often that she popped in—in fact, Aaron couldn’t even remember the last time he thought about her—but anything could trigger that flickering vision of her. The short time he spent with Ceri had been magical, but with cruel self-discipline and fear of what Yuni would say or do if she ever found out, he had successfully distanced himself from all of the memories. Mostly.
Aaron sighed, resting his head on Yuni’s shoulder. I wonder where she’s at now…
By chance, Ceri happened to not be very far away at all. She was less than an hour’s drive away, staying with Bella in London and preparing for a fun-filled weekend with all of her best friends. But she wasn’t alone. Cherry was there visiting Bella, too, and not just from down the road like she always used to.
There had been suspicions right from the moment when Cherry decided to join Ceri in Wales. She claimed to miss her so much that living far away ‘drained her of her spirit’. Since moving, she had appeared much happier in all the phone calls and video chats, and their friends had all correctly assumed it was much more than a case of close friendship.
“Woah! That’s beautiful!” Bella exclaimed that evening, ungracefully leaning over her plate of spaghetti to get a closer look.
“Isn’t Ceri just the best?” Cherry gushed, watching the woman next to her blush and grasp her hand.
They each ran their fingers over the other’s hand, smoothing over the soft skin and performing a jolly, little jump when they met identical engagement rings. For the billionth time since proposal day, they marvelled at the shine and how they glimmered under the light, hardly believing that it was all real. It’s not very often that a teenage crush leads to marriage, but this couple were going to make it.
Bella instantly demanded to know the entire story, so they all stayed up late that night to squeeze in every last detail. Their tale was sickeningly romantic: the way Cherry had started writing letters instead of sending emails for that ‘personal touch’, how Ceri still wasn’t sure when exactly the letters became quite so flirtatious, and how one day Cherry just showed up at the front door, suitcase in hand and true love’s first kiss pleading to leave her lips.
“And then—and then,” Cherry squealed, flapping her hands excitedly like a baby bird testing out their wings, “she did a strange curtsey and pulled out this ring! But I didn’t say ‘yes’—”
“I pulled out the same ring!”
Bella sighed with relief, a hand to her chest, trying to calm her racing heart. The story was so sweet, but so intense!
“No, no! You missed the best part! Remember? You tried to go down on one knee, too, but you fell in a bush…” Ceri’s spectacular input ended in a heap of uncontrollable giggles.
“Awww! Guys! That’s so cute!”
“So, Bella,” Ceri said when she finally managed to pull herself together, “we actually wanted to request something…” She wrapped her hands gently around Cherry’s upper arm, leaning on her shoulder with the most adoring expression embedded in her features. “We would love for you to be our Maid of Honour!”
For once, Bella was speechless. She had half-risen out of her chair, hands flat on the coffee table. Usually, she would burst with excitement, thrilled to play such an important role in her best friends’ wedding. However, she didn’t utter a word until Cherry’s face fell with assumed disappointment.
“Don’t you want to do it?”
“I do!” Bella managed to spurt out. “But, shouldn’t Tasmin be the Maid of Honour? She is the oldest.”
“If we were to follow the rules, then yep, probably,” Cherry explained, gazing at her fiancée with total confidence, “but we’re clearly not following the rules anyway!”
“We both wanted you specifically because, well, we wouldn’t be together now if it wasn’t for you. Don’t you remember when you introduced us?” Ceri asked with a grin. “I’m so happy it’s led to right now!”
Bella broke into the widest of smiles and pulled up the calendar app on her phone. “So, when’s the big day?”
This is the penultimate part of a short story by Heather. Follow Heather on Instagram and Wattpad @centaur_h. Stay tuned for the finale!