“Katie, wait! Stop!”
But I didn’t stop; I kept running, or perhaps it was more like stumbling in those stupidly showy heels that had never been my choice, just like nothing about that day had been my choice, other than the man who I was fleeing from. Oliver Wood would always be my choice.
I ran now from the pain and bewilderment in his voice, but I didn’t get far. Familiar fingers closed around my elbow, stopping me abruptly and spinning me back towards him.
One silly kitten heel finally snapped, trapped by the damp earth, and I pitched forwards, caught by strong arms just inches from his chest.
“Katie, I don’t understand … I thought … why?” He righted me as he spoke, and I kicked the wretched shoes off beneath the enveloping folds of my dress – my first delicious taste of freedom from all the overwhelming expectations that everyone had had of me all day. Expectations that were as heavy a burden as my sodden dress had become.
I couldn’t bear to meet his eyes though; I couldn’t bear the hurt that darkened them. I didn’t want to hurt him. That had never been my aim, but I couldn’t go through with this.
“You don’t need to understand,” I all-but-whispered, looking anywhere but at him as the cruel rain chilled me and slicked my oh-so-painstakingly-arranged hair back against my head.
“What the hell do you mean?” he demanded angrily, his fingers tightening on my arm more viciously than I knew he must intend, no matter how furious he was. “Two minutes ago we were stood at the altar, and yet you never got further than ‘I—.’ The least you owe me now is a bloody explanation.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, the first tear streaking from below my lowered eyelids, “but this isn’t about you, Olly.” He stared at me, incredulous. “It’s about me.”
It’s not you; it’s me. Oh so original, Katie,
I berated myself, but it was true. For once in my life, this was about me.
“I don’t know who I am. I’ve gone from one relationship to another since I was fourteen, and I don’t even know what there is of me without a man there beside me. How can I become Katie Wood, when I don’t even know who Katie Bell is? I have to stop running from myself, because there’s nobody else for me to be! Please, Olly,” I begged him. “You have to understand. I never meant to hurt you, but I stood there and finally I knew: I couldn’t do it, not yet.”
“Not yet?” His voice was low and somehow dangerous. Involuntarily, I took a step backwards, and his fingers fell away from my arm, slack and nerveless. “And what if I’m not here when you come back?”
The tears began to spill more freely down my cheeks, mingling with the rain. “I hope you will be,” I breathed, the words a fervent prayer. I turned again and ran.