*It was the day she had waited twenty five years for. She had a fancy white dress, floor length veil and a harem of girls prancing around in pretty pink dresses helping her get ready. Riley Hunter was about to marry the man of her dreams. Her college sweetheart who swept her off her feet the moment she first saw him frantically scribbling away at the library. He had since then went on to become a best-selling author. A title she very much gives herself credit for. As his publicist she launched his novels into the public eye. That journalism degree sure came in handy.“Will you stop blinking,” Her sister barked. “You’re going to have mascara all over your eyelids.”“Geez Jenny, I’m sorry I’m nervous,” Riley snapped back. Riley’s beautiful, takes no crap from anybody, makes sure you know what’s on her mind, baby sister had graciously volunteered her cosmetology services today. However; don’t think it came without a price. Sure, Riley trusted her completely as she knew her sister wouldn't let her walk out there looking like Frankenstein. Yet instead of brown eye shadow like she’d asked, Jenny wanted purples and grays. Riley could’ve argued until she was blue in the face, but she still wouldn't have gotten brown eye shadow. So purples and grays it was. “Can you believe you’re getting married today? Oh, my precious girl is such a beautiful bride.” Riley’s mom patted the under lids of her eyes with the personalized handkerchief the bride to be had gave her this morning as a gift. “Really mom? I’m not redoing your makeup if you cry it all off. I don’t have time,” Jenny said.“I’m not crying Jenny. I’m just overjoyed that your sister found such a wonderful man.”In between lipstick swabs from her sister Riley thought about how her and her soon to be husband Jake had just hit the five year mark a few months ago. For most of it, it was nothing but true bliss. A few months after college gradation they took a break to figure out their lives, but something always pulled them back to each other. When they officially became an item again Riley tried so hard to tell him of the events that occurred during their hiatus, but Jake wanted nothing of it. He told her he didn't care what happened. That it was already in the past and what was most important is that they had found their way back together. It’s been two whole years since their reunion. And in those two years, Riley kept to her word and never said a thing. Sometimes it would eat her up inside to a point where she just wanted to blurt it out. She was torn between the fact that she felt he had a right to know and the fact that telling him may ruin more lives than just their own. In the end, not telling him was not only what he wanted, but it was for the best. It hadn’t even really crossed her mind during the whole wedding planning process. That is, not until last night when it came walking back into her life again. Riley’s mind began to wander off as she recalled the events of the night before, but her sister didn't give her much time to go into detail.“Hello? Riley? Did you hear me?” “No, I’m sorry. What did you say?”“I said, go get your tiara on the pillow over there. I need to put it in your hair. Are you ok? You seriously look like you just saw a ghost?” “I’m fine. Perfectly fine,” She said, forcing a smile as she looked up at the family who stood before her. “Maybe I should put a little bronzer on you. We don’t want you to look dead in your pictures.”“No Jenny really, it was just a little moment of nerves. I’m good.”“Well snap out of it. You ruin my makeup job when you look like that.”“Oh dear goodness Jenny will you give your sister a break. She’s allowed to be nervous on her wedding day,” Riley always thought her mom was always good at putting out the fires between her only two children. “Speaking of, there won’t be a wedding day if we don’t actually get to the ceremony on time.”“Oh my gosh, what time is it?” Riley jerked her head towards the nightstand as she reached for the tiara. “Two-fifteen, we are going to be late. I have to be down there in fifteen minutes.” “No we are not Riley. I’m almost done anyways. Besides, there can be no wedding without the bride. They will just have to deal. I believe it’s called fashionably late and better term for a bride on her wedding day.” Jenny pushed Riley back down into the chair as she put the final touches on her bridal hairdo. “There, all set. Now let’s get your dress on and get this party started.”Riley’s mother draped the taffeta over her arm as she reached for the hanger to pull the Vera Wang wedding dress out of the closet of the hotel suite. Secretly wondering if Jake had arrived at the altar yet, she prepared herself to put on the final piece of her ensemble. They were just a few floors away from where the ceremony would take place. “Ok pretty girl. Step on in.” Once again Riley’s mom tried to hold back the tears.Slithering into the extremely form fitting mermaid gown. Looking at it in the mirror, Riley remembered why she first fell in love with it. It had ruching all the way up the bodice. The heart shaped Swarovski crystal necklace Jake had given her on their one year dating anniversary fell perfectly in the middle of the sweetheart shaped neckline. Each time her sister pulled the corset strings tighter it hugged her curves in all the right places. It was pure perfection.Just as Jenny finished tying the final knot on the end of the corset strings the hotel door flew open.“Well, this must be what perfect looks like.” A stocky, gray haired man in a black tuxedo trumped in. “Thanks Daddy.” Riley gently placed her hands upon his shoulders as he leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Are you ready to do this?”“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he said. “Ok then, let me just strap on my shoes and out the door we go.” The photographer had pushed past the wedding crowd to get a close up of Riley and her shoes. Distracted by the flashing lights far before that moment, it actually helped Riley relax a bit while getting ready. On a day like today it was surely a good thing. And after last night, it was everything she needed to get through the morning. She didn’t even want to think about all that had happened. All she wanted to do was focus on what was waiting for her. She peered down at her left hand. A beautiful cushion-cut diamond ring sat upon the most important finger. It was confirmation that the rest of her life with the man of my dreams was about to begin. She was about to walk down the aisle to the perfect man. The right man. And all other thoughts needed to be pushed aside in fear of ruining that image. “Ok, everybody up and out.” Jenny motioned everyone towards the door and peered down the hallway making sure the coast was clear of the groom before they paraded out. It was finally time. There she was, walking down the hall in her wedding dress, hands clenched around the stems of her bouquet. The flowers trembled as one foot made its way in front of the other. The nerves she had tried to ignore before instantly overcame her as she inched closer to the doors where her groom awaited her. There was no denying Riley’s heartbeat had elevated. A cooling sensation ran through her causing her to feel dizzy. She forced herself into the elevator that would bring her to the rooftop terrace where friends, family and Jake waited.Before exiting the elevator, Riley paused for a moment, leaning against the wall to catch her breath. “Here have some water.” Riley’s dad handed her the bottle he had grabbed from the mini bar before they parted the hotel suite.“Thanks dad. It’s just nerves really. You know all eyes on me. I hate being the center of attention.” “It’s ok. Take a minute dear. We have time.” Just as Riley stood up to regain her composure, a tall dark haired woman wearing a headset came around the corner. “You have perfect timing Riley. We are ready whenever you are.” Her name was Stacie. She was the wedding planner Riley had hired to help her with all of the details she envisioned for her big day. Up until now Riley liked the fact that she was always on top of things. At this moment though, she wished she was a little behind schedule. “Ok then, what are we waiting for?” Riley said as she smoothed out her dress one last time. “Marsha, she’s ready. Start the music please,” Stacie informed her assistant. Over the loud speakers music began. Jenny and the rest of the bridesmaids made their way down the aisle. Riley took one last deep breath and then intertwined both her arms between her parents. The moment she’d been waiting for all her life was officially here. She let her parents lead her around the corner to where the crowd was waiting. The many people who stood between her and the handsome man in the tuxedo that awaited her became blurred. All sounds were drowned out by the beating of her heart. She slowly lifted her head up and there he was.*I’d never seen anything more perfect. Her blond, curly hair pulled back away from her face emphasized those incredibly intoxicating green eyes. That very moment she turned the corner solidified everything I had thought from the very moment we had met. Riley Hunter was the love of my life. She was the most beautiful woman to ever exist and my life would never be complete without her.As she walked closer to me I could feel my body begin to shake. It took all I had in me to maintain my composure. There was no doubt that she was looking meaningfully into my eyes. Her eyes were deep in thought. They looked the same as they did the fateful night I first felt her lips upon mine. I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s a moment I hold close to my heart as it changed the way I would feel about one person forever. My mind pulled me out of that current moment and into the night she came to knock on my door. It was two in the morning and the pounding on the front door awoke me from my sleep coma. I jumped out of bed and felt my way down the hall and reached for the foyer lights. I was ready to shout a few nasty words to whoever was on the other side of that door, but my vocals froze once I realized it was her.“Riley, are you ok? It’s late.”“It’s been a rough night. I didn’t know what to do or where to go, but somehow this is where I ended up.”She looked up at me longing for comfort. I pulled her into me and let her rest her head upon my chest. “I need to know something,” she asked pulling her head up to face me. “Do you have feelings for me?”Slightly caught off guard, I questioned her motives.“Well, we’ve been spending a lot of time together. I haven’t said it before, but I think about you a lot. Even miss you when you’re not around. I don’t know what it is, but I think there is something here between us and I need to know if you feel the same way.”“Riley, you know I would do anything for you, but…”“But you don’t have feelings for me?”“Even if I did, we couldn’t.”“So you do have feelings for me.”“Where is this coming from?” I asked.“Will you just answer the question. I need to know.”She had given me an opening. The chance I’d been waiting for. All I had to do was say yes. I had wanted to shout it from the rooftops for months. Did I have feelings for her? Of course I had feelings for her. I was in love her. And maybe because of that very reason I had to lie.“No Riley, I don’t have feelings for you.”She looked at me for a long moment before she replied. “For some reason I don’t believe that.”“And what reason is that?”She reached out towards me, caressing my face with her hands. Then, slowly pulling my lips closer to hers, she kissed me. I wanted to push her away. I knew it was what I needed to do for the both of us, but I couldn’t. I gave into the temptation. Wrapping my hands underneath her chin I kissed her like I had wanted to for months. It was deep, passionate and meaningful. I got carried away for sometime before my senses kicked in and I pulled away.“That reason right there. You wouldn’t kiss somebody like that if you didn’t have feelings for them.”“Riley, you have to go.”“I’m not going anywhere until we talk about this.”“There is nothing to talk about Riley. We got caught up in a moment, that’s it.”“That’s it? That’s all it was?”“Yes, that’s all it was. Nothing more.”“You better be real sure. If you let me walk out this door, that moment will be the only one we ever have. Is that what you want?”I should have said no. I did in my mind a million times. I whispered it in her ear, I shouted it to her face, but the word never actually came out of my mouth. “Well ok then. I guess I was wrong. I’ll be going now.”As I watched the door slam behind her, I snapped back into reality. By that time she was right in front of me. Her father lifted her veil up over her head and gave her one last kiss as the main man in her life. He nodded in my direction and went to sit down. She smiled at me briefly, then reached out her hands and grabbed those of her fiancé. Of the man she was about to marry. And although I had tried my hardest last night for her to reconsider who’s hands those would be, it was too late. The woman who made my life worth living, was holding on to my very best friend. *She knew it was wrong. On the day that she was to pledge her love to Jake, she spent the entire time walking down the aisle staring at the man behind him. The only man there was who could take it all away if she let him. Lucas Greene was the manly man all girls had dreamed of. His shoulders broad and his black hair draped in front of his eyes each time he would look down. He was a New York City firefighter who met Riley on the subway on a cold day in January three years before. She was on her way home from work; he had just gotten done with his shift rotation and was ready to go home to bed when he noticed a striking woman sitting across from him. Her eyes glistened and the dried tears upon her cheek reflected the light from the subway car.“Excuse me miss, is everything alright?” He asked.Feeling slightly uncomfortable about the attention of a man she didn’t know, Riley pretended not to hear him at first. He almost left it at that, but there was something about her that prompted him to ask again.“Ma’am, are you alright?” “Yes, thank you.” She folded her hands together and crossed her legs as she answered. She quickly noticed the faint soot marks upon his face. “You look like you had a rough day.”“Ha, well thanks.” He wiped his hands across his face trying to remove what was still left of his last call of duty. “I’m a fireman.”That’s all he really had to say. She knew the rest. “Ah, I see. So than you did have a rough day.”“It was rough, until now.” Riley blushed as she laughed his comment off. “Are you off to anywhere important?”“No, just home. Not as exciting as putting out fires I know. How about you?”“Well, I was on my way to bed, but I seemed to have gotten this sudden burst of energy.”“Oh, I see,” Riley smiled, “and what do you plan on doing with it?” She asked.“How about taking you to get a cup of coffee?” “No, I don’t think so. It’s been a long day.” “And that is exactly why you need a cup of coffee and a little company.” She continued to resist at first, but Lucas was charming. Finally, she gave in to his advances. They walked the meat packing district with coffees in hand and shared intimate details about their lives as if they’d known each other for years. Both felt so comfortable with each other. Riley had confided in Lucas about her break up with Jake. How they both needed to figure out where they wanted to go in life and they needed the time apart to do it. Secretly Lucas thanked Jake for letting Riley go, at least for the time being. It gave him a chance to get to know her. They spent much more time together after that night. They got close, but never close enough to cross the line from friendship to relationship in fear it may ruin what they had. However; six months after they met, the night Riley showed up at Lucas’ house at two in the morning; that was the night she received a pleading phone call from Jake. He had time to think, time to grow and time to understand that life without Riley wasn’t nearly as good as life with Riley. He asked her for another chance. Promising he wouldn’t screw it up this time. Confused about her feelings for Lucas and being pulled in the opposite direction towards Jake, Riley needed answers and she got them. Knowing that Lucas had let her walk away, she decided to give Jake another chance. Riley wanted nothing more than the two best men in her life to get along, so she invited Lucas out often when Jake was around. Hesitant at first, Lucas finally agreed and he and Jake became instant friends. Good enough friends that when he proposed to Riley he asked Lucas to stand up with him as the best man. Foolishly, Lucas said yes. *It wasn’t fair what I did to her last night. I couldn’t help it though; I needed to get it off my chest. I needed to tell her what I’d regretted not telling her for years. “Meet me in the bar downstairs,” I told her.“Luke, I’ve gotta get to bed. It’s late.”“Just give me five minutes Riley, please.”“Alright, I’ll be down in a minute.”Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She donned a pair of black sweatpants and a pink tank top as she trotted through the bar towards me. She could made anything look good. “What’s up?” She asked as she hugged me.“I lied to you Riley,” I said.“You lied to me? When? What about?” She looked confused.“In my apartment that night. When you asked me if I had feelings for you, I lied.”“Stop Luke. You don’t want to do this now.”“Yes, I do. I’ve regretted not telling you from the moment you walked out that door.”“Luke, don’t do this.”“I should’ve told you that I loved you that night because I did. And I have every day since.”I watched as her eyes filled with tears. Her lip trembled. I didn’t know what to make of it. “Why now Luke? After all this time. Do you know how selfish this is right now?”“I know Riley and I don’t want to hurt you I don’t. I just really needed you to know.”“Because you thought it would change something? You do realize I’m getting married tomorrow right? You made your choice Luke. I gave you every opportunity and you let me walk away. You had your chance all of those years ago and tomorrow I will make mine. I’m going to marry Jake and you are going to stand up their as our friend and support us. Do you hear me?”“I know you feel it too Riley. I know you do. That connection between us, we don’t mean for it to be there, but it is.”“Enough.” She banged her fist on the bar top. “Whatever it may be that I feel for you Luke, I picked Jake because you didn’t pick me. And he is a good man.”“And he deserves to be with a woman who loves him with all of her heart. Not a woman who settled for him because someone else was too much of a coward to admit his feelings to you.”“I’m going to bed Luke. I’ll see you in morning.”With that, she flung her blond ponytail around and marched out of the bar. And now, here I am watching her confess her love to another man. To a man who has been nothing but a loyal friend to me for the last two years. I felt like such an awful human being standing up there on that altar. I wanted to be happy for him, but I couldn’t. While all of his dreams were coming true, I was living a nightmare. The girl of my dreams was slipping away with each word she vowed. *Riley didn’t even stumble over the words she pledged to Jake. She vowed to love and honor him all the day of her life. And when he slipped the ring on her finger she felt a true sense of happiness overcome her. It wasn’t until it was her turn that she struggled. As she placed it upon his finger, the moment she pulled Luke into her embrace that night in his apartment crossed her mind. She squinted at the thought, trying to push it out of her head. Almost losing her balance, Jake grabbed on to her so she wouldn’t fall. “What are you doing?” Jenny snapped. “Sorry, I lost my balance. These darn heels.” “Where were we?” The priest attempted to get things back on track. “Yes, with this ring, I thee wed.” Riley tried to repeat those words, but she was distracted by the sounds of Lucas’ confession the night before. All she could hear was him telling her he loved her. She tried to block it out but it wasn’t working. She gripped tighter onto Jake’s hands trying to steady herself. “With this ring, I thee wed.”She waited for the priest to say the next part, glancing quickly at Lucas to see his reaction. He wasn’t even looking at her. His head was down as if he was pretending to be anywhere but there. “Wear it as a symbol of our love and commitment.” Ignoring the fact that her vision was becoming hazy, she forced the ring onto Jake’s finger. He smiled at her. A smile that for the first time in five years gave Riley a clear affirmation of the choice she was making. She remembered the smile that had comforted her through her bad times. The smile that had given her strength when she wanted to give up in life. When she felt alone or lost, she remembered the smile that brought hope back into her world. The smile that through good and bad had never wavered. And that smile, was of her best friend Luke. It was clear to her now that she was making a mistake. That Jake, although she loved him dearly always walked away when things got tough and would return when it all blew over. What Riley needed in her life was a man who would walk those tough times with her and that man was Luke. He was right all along. “I’m so sorry Jake,” She said. At the sound of those words Luke’s head shot up. A sigh of relief went through him. He knew what she was thinking. She did feel it too. He knew it. “Sorry for what Riley?” Jake sounded just as confused as he looked. Riley pulled her hands from his and backed away. Black streams meandered down her face. She was horrified at what she was doing to Jake and humiliated for herself at the same time. How she let it get this far, she would never understand, but she knew it needed to end there. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” She grabbed the bottom of her dress and hiked it up to her ankles. As fast as she could in three inch heels, she turned and ran through the crowd. Never even looking up until she reached the elevator. Thinking that the more she hit the button the faster the elevator would open, she continued to poke at it. She held it all in until the doors closed behind her, then melted to the floor. Her sorrows bounced off the walls at an almost deafening pitch. Riley Hunter, at twenty five years old thought she had done the worst thing a woman could ever do. She left her groom at the altar. That moment in the elevator she hated herself more than she ever had in her life. She thought she was a terrible person. Yet there is one thing Riley failed to give herself credit for. She walked away from something she knew wasn’t right for her. She stopped something that in the end would’ve hurt Jake even more. That is something a lot of people cannot find the courage to do until it has already been done. Riley Hunter showed true strength when it mattered most and because of it, once the open wounds heal, many people will find the real happiness they've been searching for. So, thank you Luke and Riley for showing the world that true love really does conquer all.