In the voice of Grace:

It was a wonderful day. 

A solemn ceremony, followed by reception with friends and family. Champagne flutes, hors d'oeuvres, potato pancakes, oysters, shrimp. The flower girls and bridesmaids wore purple dresses, the bouquet was wildflowers I picked from my mom's garden. My wedding dress was a white strapless mermaid gown, tied with a huge sash ribbon on the back. The top part of the dress was smooth and shiny as silk, but made of heavier cloth, though not as close to velvet or corduroy. Here comes the best part: the lower part of the gown where it ballooned to its "mermaid tail" was made of chiffon, embroidered with the hand and embellished with sequins.

I look at Juan Marie, my husband. It was only customary in Hispanic countries to name boys "Maria" or Marie"

"To Mr. and Mrs. Vega!" came the toast.

Mrs. Vega. I still could not believe it. In my many years of failed romance, I finally found "the one". That was Juan Marie. A Spaniard, Juan grew up in Spain's countryside, where they own 8 acres of land and a farmhouse. I've been there once before the wedding, when he introduced me to his parents. Fresh air, olive trees, chickens - especially olive trees. They made olive oil from olive trees, bottled them and sold them in the market. But that was not what attracted  me to Juan. 

Juan is the Spanish counterpart of John. Like how Maria is also Spanish, and how it becomes Marie in English. I like to call him "Juan" because it sounds so exotic on my tongue, so foreign, so ethnic, so country. So Juan. 

I excuse myself. The lights were glaring my eyes again. I feel dizzy but I'm sure I was not yet pregnant. I go to my hotel room (the reception was at a hotel). Juan asked in his heavy Spanish accent, "What was wrong?" I said I was tired.

I didn't realize I fell asleep. 

I woke up to my mom in my hotel room, I couldn't remember if she had a key. My eyes are falling again, until mom says, "Juan Marie is dead" , then I rub my eyes, sit up and yawn. I didn't realize the impact of it until she repeated, "

Your husband. Juan Marie. Is dead."

I stopped in the middle of my tracks. I was about to head to the kitchen to clean up. I turn to her. "What? Don't say things like that, mom. It's not funny." I added, "Besides, I have to get pregnant. Juan always wanted kids. I can't do that when he's dead."

My mother was silent. She didn't say anything, but looked me straight in the eyes. It was the kind of stare that pierced you, and I realized now she was telling the truth.

I drop the plate and it crashes into pieces on the floor, but the sound was so distant. All I could hear is the sound of my tears falling, and my mother sobbing. "I'm so sorry, Grace. I'm sorry it had to be this way." 

I sit next to her. She continued speaking, never stopping. Now I couldn't hear her anymore, her voice was muffled, the outline of her was blurry. My head hurt. Must be my vertigo again. 

When she stopped  speaking, she hands over a beautiful brown paper bag (just like I like them). "This is for you." She wipes tears in her eyes with the tissue I give to her.

I look at it and take it without thought. I open the bag. 

A slinky black number with heels.  

I remember where this came from: Dancing Supplies. It was just downtown right across the studio where I worked. "Mom. Why did you get this?" I was puzzled.

"Last dance. Save the last dance for me. He said."

"Who? Who's he? Save the dance?"

"Juan wanted to take you out for dancing tonight. But he couldn't. Not anymore. He bought you those as a wedding gift. He said you always wanted to buy that, but you don't have money. Look at the price!" she points to the price tag. "And the shoes! More like Dancing with the Stars." Her voice turned happy but a second later, was back to grim again. "He wrote you this letter." 

A brown envelope. On the front, I recognized Juan's cursive handwriting. It said, "Mrs. Vega."

I smiled. But where is Mr. Vega now?  It reads: 

"Dear Mrs. Vega,

If I am gone, just look up at the stars, I am there. Save the last dance for me?" 

Below he signed, Juan Maria Vega. It was funny because Juan, the Juan that I know had two left feet! 

I hug my mom. 

Love hurts. It definitely hurt. There's no guarantee of no heartbreak when you fall in love. It's the nature of love.

 

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Published by Joanne Giselle Degamo