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The Roads Not Traveled

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The day they were married was sunny and warm. They stood before their friends and family, sandals squishing in the hot sand against the backdrop of Lake Ontario while Alison officiated. On one side stood high brown-grey cliffs, birds circling around them and on the other the grey sand went on until the beach curved into the trees.

Cosima loved the water, nothing more so than the salt of the sea, but this fresh water lake was close enough and if it meant that everyone she loved was able to make it to the wedding it was more than worth the compromise. She still had the waves and the sand and the breeze off the water. And, most importantly, she still had the love of her life beaming across from her, golden and warm like a drop of sunlight had fallen to the Earth.

Neither of them had worn white. Delphine said it reminded her of the dress she’d been forced to wear on the island, of false submission and a painted on lie of who she was. She didn’t want to bring any of that to this celebration of their love so she wore pale blue instead, which she said symbolized stability, security and lifelong loyalty. The dress was simple, sleeveless for the summer heat and her hair was braided around her head like crown to keep it off her neck. Along with her soft smile and carefree glow, the effect made her look light enough to have rolled off one of the waves that hit the shoreline of the lake in a steady rhythm. She was so beautifully happy it took Cosima’s breath away to look at her.

Cosima hadn’t wanted white either. She hated the symbolism behind it, of innocence and sexual purity, as if she were a doll to be kept clean or tainted rather than a whole person who was neither. It wasn’t as if she were against other people wearing white, Alison after all had worn white to her wedding not out of self-deprecation but out of a desire to uphold the image of marriage she’d believed in. Alison wore white, Delphine wore blue, and Cosima had chosen dark red because she liked the way she looked in it. Alison and Donnie had been married in a church, Cosima and Delphine said their vows against the sunset on a lake. Donnie and Alison’s wedding had been big, Cosima and Delphine’s was small. They looked different, because they were different people but in the end, they had meant the same thing.

Delphine had made the point beautifully in her vows, words that had left both of them in tears.

Life is precious. It’s a gift. And love is what let’s us share our gifts with each other, to make them more than they could ever be on their own. Before you, I had never thought about what love was. In the past, people have tried to measure it. They’ve codified it, defined it. It’s contrary to the nature of love. There is no definition for what is between us. You are my best friend, my soulmate, my lover. I love you because of your integrity, your intellect, your humour, but no combination of descriptors could ever capture the entire reason you are you, so none could ever describe my reasons for loving you. I love you because you are Cosima. There is no classification for that. And there is no quantification for the love between us. Because there is no way to measure how happy you make me. And it’s not possible to define love as happiness because I love you even when I’m miserable. When I’m angry. When I’m scared. Love has no numbers, no units of measurement.

I don’t think we can ever define what love is. But being with you has shown me that I don’t have to define it. Because I feel it. I know that my love for you will be a part of me for the rest of my life and that that part of me makes me better than who I was before. And I know that you love me too, and that your love for me makes my life better. I am standing with you now, because our lives are a gift, because of this wonderful, indescribable thing that we share that brought us both to the conclusion that they’d be better together. That’s why we do this. And that’s why today I am making you a promise to be your wife, your soulmate, your lover, your best friend. And I am promising you my love, forever, in all it’s infinite, undefinable forms.  

Her words had been poetic, flowing from her with natural passion and Cosima was glad she’d gone first because there was no way she could have gotten through her vows after she’d heard Delphine’s. She’d needed a long enough to manage I do after Delphine’s conclusion had left her half-laughing, half weeping and hiding her face in her shoulder.

What she’d said had made Delphine cry too though. It wasn’t as pretty, and she’d been nervous about making a long speech in front of everyone but Alison had come through with some good advice. She’d told her that this was their moment, not the anyone else’s. She’d said that all she had to do was figure what she wanted to say to Delphine, and then tell her. These words were for her, the rest of them were just witnesses.

That was hard enough on its own. Delphine was right, the love she felt for her was undefinable, so how could she possibly condense it into one three-minute speech? It had taken her months, agonizing over what to say, how to say it without sounding like a complete dork, but then she’d found help in another sister.

She’d rehearsed what she’d wanted to say with Sarah, who’d told her that it was nice but it didn’t sound like her. And she was right. Months of editing had sucked the soul right out of what she’d wanted to say. She might as well have bought Delphine a Hallmark card. It was pretty, but it wasn’t real.

So, she’d gone back to agonizing over it. She’d even had a nightmare about it which she’d been too embarrassed to tell Delphine about. How were you supposed to tell the love of your life that you didn’t even know what to say them on your wedding day? What kind of lover was she, that she couldn’t even do that?

Her final piece of advice had come from Helena. Too upset to tell Delphine about the dream, she’d described it to her sister as they’d taste tested the chocolates for the guests. Helena had simply shrugged, understanding of Cosima’s frustration but unable to overcomplicate the matter herself.

You like to think. You like to solve puzzles. But this is will not help you now, I think. This speech is not puzzle. If you want to tell her you love her, tell her you love her. She’d placed a hand on Cosima’s chest, pushing it firmly. You know it here.

Helena was right. This speech wasn’t a test or a game. She wasn’t being graded on it and she couldn’t win or lose. Delphine would love her, whatever she said. All she had to do was mean it. So, when the day had finally come, she knew exactly what she wanted to say. She’d taken both of Delphine’s hands in her own, looked into her shining eyes, and wondered why she’d ever been so afraid of this.

I don’t think I really understood what being in love was before I met you. I used to think I did, but now I know it’s so much bigger than I imagined. You made me feel things I didn’t even know existed. Falling in love with you was like a discovery that changed everything. Suddenly, all these things I hadn’t understood before made sense. But you know what? I still thought I understood them. I thought I knew what my parents saw when they looked at each other, or why people chose to promise their lives to each other, or what it means when they say home is a person. But I had no clue. I was just seeing outlines until you filled them in.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what to I was supposed to say today. The truth is, I don’t know what to say. In my opinion, I’ve already said the most important thing, that I love you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life. And I really hope you know how much I mean that. But I don’t just want to tell you, I want to show you. Not just today, but every single day for the rest of our lives. I want you know that I love you. And that I choose you every morning when wake up and every night before I got to bed and in between every breath I take.

Delphine had listened to the entire thing, growing more and more emotional as she’d went on. By the end of it, she was in tears, and the moment she’d realized Cosima was finished her hands had closed around her face and she’d lunged forward to kiss her.

Alison, who’d been officiating their marriage, had bounced around stressfully at the break from the timetable before conceding with a shrug and mumbling that, well, it was their wedding after all.

Everyone else had laughed happily. Someone, probably Sarah, had clapped and cheered. When Delphine had pulled away, she was blushing but she didn’t seem to regret her impulsive decision and Cosima didn’t either. When they’d kissed for the second time, moving towards each other at the tail end of Alison saying you may kiss the bride, everyone had been cheering and laughing.

Now the sun had set, soft white lights strung up between the posts around the dance floor illuminating the darkness. A love song played through the speakers and Cosima leaned on Delphine’s shoulder, letting her lead them around as they swayed back and forth. Normally, she wasn’t a big fan of slow dancing, but as great as today had been she was exhausted and, admittedly, it did feel pretty good to hold each other like this.

“I love this song,” Delphine said quietly.

Cosima chuckled softly. “You picked it. And I like it too.”

Delphine kissed her crown, holding her tighter, and Cosima closed her eyes, content to let her guide her until she heard Delphine sniff.

“Hey, are you still crying?” she teased lightly, tilting her head up. Her nose brushed Delphine’s chin and she felt it slide through a warm tear. But Delphine’s silence shifted Cosima’s amusement to concern. “Are you OK?”

“It- it’s nothing,” she mumbled.

It wasn’t nothing. Cosima pulled back, tilting her head questioningly. Delphine tried to smile but her mouth seemed weighed down in a frown and her cheeks were shining with tears. There weren’t many dancers left on the floor, people were drifting off into groups, soon they’d start heading home and coming to say their goodbyes, but for now the two of them had a short moment of time alone.

“Hey,” she whispered, reaching up to touch her face. “What’s wrong?”

Delphine swallowed. “I wish my father was here,” she said quietly. She took a shaky breath. “He should have known you. You would have liked each other. I just… it’s not fair, you know?” She sniffed again, wiping her eyes with one hand, the other still around Cosima’s waist. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled when she couldn’t stem the flow of tears. “I know I should be happy right now- and I am… I just...”

Cosima shook her head. “You don’t have to be anything. And you’re right, it’s not fair.”

Her lip wobbled and she wrapped both arms around Cosima, hiding her face in her shoulder and gripping the back of her dress. When she let out a soft sob, Cosima stroked her back, gently rocking her back and forth. To anyone watching, it would have looked like they were still dancing.

After a minute, Delphine took in a long breath, breathing her in. Then she gave her neck a quick kiss and pulled back to wipe her face off with the back of her hand. Cosima watched her, unsure what to say, until Delphine smiled at her and she smiled gently back.

“He would have liked you,” she said again.

There was so much said in those five words and Cosima didn’t really think she understood all of it. There was regret, for all the moments she’d lost with him, a sense of helplessness too, at how unfair it was. Something else too, not acceptance, but comfort maybe, that if he could see her now he’d know that she was OK, and that she was happy.

“And he’d be so proud of you,” Cosima added gently, reaching up to brush away a tear from her jaw and thinking fondly about what an amazing person Delphine had become. “Just like the rest of your family is.”

They looked towards Delphine’s mother and grandmother, who were sitting down watching the dancers and talking quietly with each other. Annie, Delphine’s grandmother, winked at them and waved when they caught her eye, and her mother beamed at them as they waved back. They’d been so nice to Cosima, accepting her as part of the family right away, and she’d grown to love both of them in the few short years since she’d met them.

She and Delphine shifted their gaze to Rémi, who was enjoying a beer with Sarah and Helena. Helena said something and he stared at her wide eyed for a moment before the three of them threw back their heads in laughter. Cosima thought they all might have been a little drunk, but it was cute. She couldn’t really say that she loved Rémi. And she still hadn’t entirely forgiven him yet, but Delphine seemed to have and she loved him enough for both of them for now.

He had tried these past few months. He’d called every other week, driven down to visit them when he’d had a conference in New York, and he was planning on being there when they visited Delphine’s mother in the fall. It wasn’t perfect, and Cosima had nearly lost it on him when he’d made Delphine cry during a Skype call a month ago, but Delphine had ended the call before she could say anything and he’d called back about an hour later to apologize. He wasn’t even someone she would have liked if she’d met him any other way, but Delphine loved him so she was going to have to figure out a way to care about him too.

“He did a pretty good job on his speech,” Cosima admitted. “I really think he meant it too. All that stuff about being proud of you and how happy he was for us.”

“I think so,” Delphine answered, smiling fondly at him. “He was never very good with words. But that’s why I know that he means what he says.”

“Well, that’s one thing we have in common,” Cosima joked.

Delphine shook her head. “I loved what you said.” She took Cosima’s hand, pressing it over her heart. “I can still feel it.”

“Yeah, me too,” Cosima said softly.

They smiled at each other, seeing between them the infinite treasure they’d found together. In a month, they’d be moving to Atlanta to start their new jobs. Soon after that they’d start looking at houses and Cosima had already convinced Delphine to visit a golden doodle breeder in Barnesville. Then, in about a year, they’d begin the adoption process.

It wasn’t just the big things though, it was the moments in between too. It was late night car rides to the airport, lazy nights curled up together with a movie, it was ‘how was your day’ and ‘what did you want to do this weekend?’ It was getting to keep each other for all of it.

Today was about celebrating what they’d built together, but it was a celebration of the future too. And they felt it now, their smiles widening into giddy laughter and excitement at what tomorrow would bring.