I remember her first making the comment as we lay together, exhausted, in the afterglow of our third date. I’d propped myself up on one elbow, turning to look over at where she lay on the dew-dampened grass.
“You know,” I commented, “I think that this was the best date I’ve ever had.”
She turned her head a little, smiling back at me. Even in the dim moonlight, I caught the little hint of violet in her sparkling eyes. “I knew it would be,” she murmured back to me.
Her fingers reached out, lazily, their tips dragging across my bare chest. “Might as well just write the ‘happy ever after’ ending now, huh?” I said, keeping my tone light. Just a joke, I told myself. Don’t admit how hard you’ve already fallen for this girl.
“Happily ever after?” she repeated back, her eyebrows furrowing together slightly. “No, this isn’t happily ever after.”
I didn’t think much of the comment. Most of what she said felt mysterious – it was one of the things I liked about her, that drew me to her. She was the flame to my moth’s wings.
The conversation slipped out of my head, lost in the slipstream of romance as I fell head over heels for this girl. The words didn’t emerge again until we toasted champagne glasses to our first anniversary. We’d gathered at a restaurant with several of our close friends, all of them cheering for us.
“You two really give the rest of us hope for finding our own happily ever after,” one of my friends commented, holding up his (mostly empty) glass of champagne.
I smiled and thanked him, but I felt her frown beside me. By this point, I didn’t even have to look over at her to sense her expression. “It’s not happily ever after,” she murmured, so quietly that only I heard her speak.
I tried to make a note to ask her about it later, but it slipped my mind later that evening, and I forgot about her words.
Two years later, I sank down onto one knee, grinning like an idiot as I pulled out a small box from inside my jacket pocket. “Will you marry me?” I asked, barely even able to pronounce the words.
She, of course, was grinning back at me, clapping her hands together. We’d talked about it plenty of times, of course, but I always pretended that it was far off in the future. I’d bought the ring in secret, planned this whole occasion.
“Of course!” she exclaimed, and I swept her up into a passionate kiss for several seconds before I remembered to put the ring on her finger.
An hour later, after she’d finally gotten off the phone with her mother (who yammered on like no one else I knew), I tugged her off to bed, kissing her to distract her from how my fingers tugged at her clothes. Given how eagerly she stripped me bare, I don’t think my distraction worked.
“If every time is like that, we’ll certainly live happily ever after,” I commented a half hour later, still breathing a little heavily.
“This isn’t happily ever after,” she panted back, even as she curled up against me, her soft, small breasts pressed against my side.
For some reason, those words seemed familiar. I straightened up a little, looking down at her. “You’ve said that before,” I remarked, frowning.
“What do you mean?”
She turned, squirming around to look up at me. “It’s nothing,” she insisted, gazing up at me as she rested her chin on my chest. For a moment, I thought I saw pain in those eyes, mixed in amid the hint of violet.
I left it alone.
But every now and then, as the years passed, I’d cautiously revisit it. I mentioned it as we headed off towards our honeymoon, as she cradled our first child, lying exhausted but happy in the hospital bed, when we saw him playing with his toys on his second Christmas morning.
And every time, she would reply the same. “This isn’t happily after.”
It’s only now, I think, as I gaze out at you all, that I think I know what she meant.
In the end, there is no happily ever after. Our presence here today, all of us dressed in black, shows that. In the end, nothing lasts forever.
But I don’t see this as bad. Instead, we should learn from this to savor every happy moment, knowing that it’s fleeting, that it won’t last. Nothing lasts forever. If it did, we couldn’t truly appreciate it – not like how we love these shooting stars that streak only briefly through our lives before fading.
So when you all go home tonight, I urge you, take a minute to acknowledge that you don’t have happily ever after. You have happily right now, and that’s far more valuable.
Cling to it.
To Emily, my loving wife, devoted mother, a true friend. Let’s all bow our heads for a moment and remember those happy moments with her. She may have been taken from us, but no one can take those memories away.