As Serena is about to walk down the aisle, her father tells her that the groom, Dave, has disappeared. Two years later, Serena bumps into Dave, finally allowing him to explain why he left.
I know that judgment comes with marrying young — people always assume that it’s because you’re pregnant.
I wasn’t pregnant, but I was twenty-four and believed that I had found the love of my life, Dave. We met in the hallways of our college — Dave was studying philosophy, and I was studying biology.
After two years together, he proposed, and I agreed without hesitation. We began to plan our wedding with enthusiasm. We wanted it to be the best party we had ever thrown. I even bought my fairytale bridal gown off the rack because I could see myself walking down the aisle to Dave in it.
But then, after a year of planning our wedding down to the tiniest details, everything changed.
On the wedding day, I remember feeling the most joy I had ever felt. I stood in the venue’s dressing room, putting on my shoes and feeling the butterflies I had felt the day I met Dave.
Anyway, when it was time for the ceremony to begin, I walked to the front of the venue, where I would walk down the aisle on my father’s arm. I peered through the lace curtain, hoping to get a sneak peek of Dave, but he wasn’t there.
“Serena,” my father said. “Dave’s not answering his phone. His parents have been trying to reach him for the past thirty minutes. Did something happen?”
I shook my head, unable to believe the words that came out of my father’s mouth.
“Listen, honey, we may have to call it off.”
After that, I can only remember returning to the dressing room and changing into the sweatpants I wore when my hair and makeup were done.
It’s been two years since that day, and the thought of reliving that nightmare still haunts me. I’m alone, too — unable to get into another long-term relationship.
But as fate would have it, something unexpected happened yesterday. I was about to meet a friend for lunch when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I came face to face with Dave.
He looked older, tired, and as though he had been through some tough times — but he was unmistakably the man I had once loved. His eyes were filled with sorrow and longing, and his smile was a faint memory of our shared happiness.
“I know you hate me, Serena. I would, too. But know I love you, and I had no choice but to leave.”
“Leave me at our wedding, you mean?” I said, finding my voice.
“Just give me ten minutes to explain everything, and then you can decide.”
At first, I didn’t want to give him that pleasure — he didn’t deserve a moment of understanding. But then, I looked at him and how much older he looked since I had last seen him; I realized I needed to know what had happened.
I texted my friend, telling her I was running late. We got takeaway coffees and sat down on a bench. I hoped that whatever he said would give me closure.
Then, I let him explain himself.
Dave revealed that on our wedding day, just an hour before the ceremony, he had received a phone call from his doctor — he had been having a few issues in the weeks leading up to the wedding, but he chalked it up to wedding stress.
“It wasn’t,” Dave said, looking at his shoes. “I was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease — it’s rare, Serena, and it’s an inherited genetic disorder. How would I have married you, knowing that I had a disease that came with no cure? And worse, that I could pass it down to our children?”
“But why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, my voice shaky.
“I was scared, terrified even. I thought that, in my way, I was protecting you. You’re still so young, and I know you want children. I’ve decided that I won’t have kids. Not when there’s a chance that they’ll get this disease.”
I shook my head at him. I felt betrayed that he didn’t share this with me, but it also broke my heart that he had been facing it alone.
Then, Dave went on to say that he was getting medical care — trying to manage his symptoms as well as he could. And that he was in therapy, working through his issues and building himself up again.
“Were you looking for me? Now?” I asked, wondering why our paths had never crossed for two years.
Dave shook his head.
“No, I wasn’t ready. But when I saw you now, I knew it was now or never — and I needed to say my bit and give you some peace.”
As we talked, it became clear that while we still had love, too much had changed. I had spent two years rebuilding my life and learning to be independent, and Dave was healing.
I couldn’t be his support system, mainly because I had only learned of his illness now. I wasn’t prepared for this. And I knew I would constantly wonder when he would walk out again.
In the end, I watched him walk away. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the man who had once been my everything. Life had dealt him a difficult hand, and I’ll give him that.
“You’re thirty minutes late,” my friend Gina said when I eventually met her.
“I’ll explain everything,” I said, looking at the menu.
I hope Dave gets to live the life he always dreamed of. And I am grateful that we bumped into each other on the sidewalk. I got the closure I needed.
Would you have done anything differently?
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