The greatest of all

‘Gerald always looked at me in class at school. I don’t think he ever paid attention. But as he tells it, he was learning to pay attention to the most important person in his life. He finally built up the courage to ask me out just before our year 12 formal. I told him I had bought a red dress and he went out the next day to buy a matching tie. From the moment he took my hand on the night of our formal, I knew I would never let go, not completely anyway. It felt like the world suddenly stood still and my stomach dropped to the floor.
‘He kissed me that night too. I didn’t tell anyone. Even though it felt like a big deal to me. He held both my hands and smiled at me before moving ever so slowly towards me. I thought my heart might give out before he made it to my lips, but I hung on. In the breathless moment just after that kiss, I promised myself I would give him a piece of my heart.
‘As it turned out, he took all of my heart that night. And I took his. After dating for a couple of years, and not once having doubts about whether we wanted to be together, he proposed. It was the most simple, and yet perfect, proposal I could imagine. He waited for me to wake up one morning, as he did every morning and pulled me in for a hug. As I lay in his arms, he asked me to marry him. No speeches, no fuss, just a question. We eloped just three months later.
‘I’m really supposed to tell you about his life, but I don’t know how to separate his life from my own. They have been so intertwined for so long that I’m not sure we are separate people anymore.
‘And yet, he is gone. And I’m left here.
‘He promised he wouldn’t leave me but I suppose his promise wasn’t as strong as the cancer which took him. He fought hard, but we didn’t have long. The cancer had already staked its territory in his body by the time the doctors found it.’
Kelly took a moment to catch the tears before they fell from her eyes. She looked up at the people in front of her before continuing.
‘Gerald had a way of disarming everyone he met. I don’t think he even fought with his parents and siblings growing up. He just wanted to be happy, and spread that happiness everyone around him. I think everyone else felt the same way about him. That’s why there are so many people here today. I should tell you that he always enjoyed his work, and looked forward to seeing his family and friends. He liked being around people.
‘But I will always remember the boy who kissed me, and the man he became. The love he brought to my heart, the way he held me and the promise that he would always love me. I hope that will continue even though he is gone, because I can’t stop loving him.
‘Gerald is, was, no….. always will be, the greatest love of my life.’
Kelly walked down from the altar, and the crowd remained silent. Her black dress swirled around her ankles and exposed the comfortable but ugly shoes she had chosen for the day. He wouldn’t care what she wore, only that she was there.
Then, one by one, as she walked towards her space on the hard, wooden bench, Kelly saw people standing up. A few at first, then most, then all. She stopped before sitting down, and stared at all the people gathered to mourn Gerald’s death. Each had lost a friend, and each had heard something in her speech which resonated within them. Kelly stood up tall and allowed her gaze to pass over the entire crowd before she bowed her head in thanks and sat down to a chorus of others following her lead.
Should would never love anyone in the same way again. The love she shared with Gerald, while she couldn’t admit it out loud, was better than any love story she had read. Better than the romances in movies and less complicated than the stories her friends told her of their relationships. Their love was the greatest of all.

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