Mari checked her makeup in the mirror for what had to be the tenth time. I guess that’s as good as it’s gonna get. She thought, sighing softly to herself.
She wasn’t even sure why she cared so much… After all, the only wedding guests would be her own family and Colette’s parents. And it wasn’t like there would be any professional photos for her to appear in.
Mari couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness at the thought. No matter how much she or Jonas or her parents had offered, Tobias and Colette had refused to let them help pay for anything. Which meant that the evening’s nuptials would be unconventional, to say the least…
No real wedding dress (Colette had found hers at a local thrift shop). No wedding cake (Jade had baked and decorated one last night). No professional photographer (“That’s what smartphones are for.” Colette had said). No fancy venue (They’d rented a small wooden arch and some benches for the backyard). They didn’t even have rings (“Someday.” Tobi promised. “When we can afford them”).
They deserve so much more than this. Mari thought, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. They both work so hard.
Both Tobias and Colette were working summer jobs on top of all their parenting duties. Colette was starting University classes in the fall, and Tobi had been offered a contract with Windenburg FC just a few weeks ago (one which he was very eager to accept, despite being nothing more than a benchwarmer. “Hey, it’s a start!” He’d said.).
That’s a Hell of a lot for two kids to handle, Mari thought.
But then, was it really fair to call them “kids” anymore?
Mari jumped at the sound of a sharp knocking against the door.
Who could that be? She wondered. Certainly not Jonas or the boys. None of them were particularly shy about barging into each other’s rooms unannounced (which had proved to be a rather unfortunate habit at times).
“Come in.” Mari called out at last.
Diego was probably the last person she’d been expecting to see standing in the doorway. He shuffled his feet uncertainly for a moment. “S-sorry to bother you… Do you have a minute?”
Mari just shrugged.
“So, it’s… Finally the big day, huh?” He laughed nervously as he crossed the threshold. “Or… big night, I guess.” He corrected himself quickly.
“Yeah.” Mari agreed, trying to ignore the twisting sensation in her stomach.
What does he want? Of course, she had a feeling she already knew the answer.
“I don’t think I ever got to tell you this,” Diego sat beside her uncomfortably. “But your boys are pretty amazing kids. You did a great job with them.” He said seriously. “And… Even if this whole situation isn’t exactly, uh… ideal… I’m really lucky to call Tobias my son-in-law.”
“Thanks…” Mari hesitated before continuing. “And… Colette is such a sweet girl. So mature, too. You should be really proud of her.”
“Oh trust me, I am.” Diego assured her. “Though I don’t think I’ll ever understand where she gets it from… Definitely not her mother, that’s for sure.” He smiled hesitantly, and tried to catch her eye.
Mari almost returned the gesture.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence then, and each second that ticked by felt like an eternity. Mari stared down at the floor, trying desperately to come up with an excuse to leave the room. But before she could think of anything, Diego spoke once more.
“Look…” He said softly. “In less than an hour, our kids are gonna be married. And… before that happens…” Diego paused, shaking his head for a moment. “I know I’m the last person in the world you want to talk to. But I just need you to listen to me for a second… okay? There’s something I just really need to say. And I’ve been waiting more than 18 years to say it.”
Mari felt like she was going to be sick. She couldn’t even find the words to speak. So instead, she simply nodded.
“Mari… I’m sorry.” Diego looked into Mari’s eyes as he spoke. And, for the first time, she did not look away. “I know how lame and insincere that probably sounds, but I really don’t know any other way to say it. I’ve never stopped feeling like shit for what I did to you. I never wanted to hurt you. You were the first girl I ever loved… Maybe even the only one.” He shook his head slowly. “And I threw it all away because I was too much of a fucking coward.” His voice was suddenly bitter, and cold. “I should have told you how I was feeling. I should have told you I was getting tired of waiting. But I didn’t. I was such a dumb kid… And I fucked it all up.”
He bowed his head a moment before continuing. “I know I should have said all of this years ago… And I wanted to. But the longer I stayed away, the harder and harder it got to pick up that phone.” Diego shrugged helplessly. “And when I found out that you… I mean, when I heard about what you were doing…” He cleared his throat uncomfortably for a moment. “Y’know, how you’d changed… I knew why. I knew I was the one who did that to you. How the Hell could I face you again after that? So I just kept trying to hide, I guess. And when I finally left the city, I thought things would get easier… And I guess they did, for a while…”
“But I never forgot about you, Mari. And I never stopped loving you. Never.” Diego paused, staring at her intently for a moment. Mari felt her cheeks redden as the meaning behind his words sunk in. “You’re the best friend I think I’ve ever had.” He continued. “And hurting you is probably the biggest mistake I’ve made in my entire life.” He took a slow, deep breath. “I love my daughter more than anything. And I will never regret having her…
“But Mari, I will always regret hurting you.”
Then he fell silent, and turned his gaze to stare down at the floor below.
It was a long time before Mari was able to find her voice. A million thoughts seemed to buzz around in her mind at once as the weight of his words crashed down over her, like a wave. And for a moment, she truly felt as though she would drown in it.
At last, Mari took a slow, deep breath.
“Diego…” She said softly, breaking the silence at last. “You totally rehearsed that, didn’t you?”
A small, surprised laugh escaped his lips as he lifted his gaze to meet hers once more. “Only about a hundred times.” He replied, smiling tentatively at her.
Mari studied his face for a moment. It was the first time she’d truly looked at him since their reunion all those months ago. And that was when she understood.
She hated the Diego who had betrayed her all those years ago. Mari could never forgive him… And maybe she never would.
But the man sitting beside her now was not the reckless, impulsive boy who had broken her heart… He was a hard-working businessman. A loving and devoted father. An entirely different person than he had been eighteen years ago.
And Mari did not hate him.
“It meant a lot to hear you say that.” She replied at last. “And, Diego?” Mari took a deep breath. “I… I think I forgive you.”
“I forgive you.” Mari repeated, her tone more certain this time. “You made a dumb mistake. Like… really fucking dumb. And you hurt me so much… But I’ve made plenty of dumb mistakes too. And trust me, I hurt myself much worse than you ever did.” She paused for a moment, thoughtful. “But I was able to forgive myself for it. Because I’m a different person now. And… so are you.”
She sighed softly. “I was so damn scared to face you. When I found out who Colette was… I kinda panicked.”
Diego nodded. “I get it… So did I, when I found out about Tobi.”
“But you know what? I think maybe this whole thing was… I dunno… What’s that corny old saying? ‘A blessing in disguise’?” Mari laughed at how cheesy her words sounded. “We both needed this, Diego. And maybe now… We can finally move forward.” She finished with a shrug.
“So… After all this time, you really…?”
Diego shook his head slowly, a small smile coming to his lips. “Wow.” He said softly. “That was a Hell of a lot easier than I thought it’d be.”
Mari couldn’t help but laugh. “So much easier.” She agreed, her smiling fading slightly. “I won’t lie. It’s still really weird to see you again… I mean, there are a lot of memories, I guess. Ones that might take a while to fade. But…” The woman shrugged.
“I get it.” He assured her. “I know exactly what you mean, and…” Diego shook his head. “God, I really am sorry, Mari.”
Diego let out a soft sigh. “I dunno. I just… I wish there was something – anything – I could do to make it up to you.”
With a smile, Mari rose to her feet, relishing in the feeling of the immense weight that had finally been lifted from her weary shoulders. “You gave me an amazing daughter-in-law, who gave me a pair of the most beautiful grandbabies anyone could ever ask for…” Her smile widened. “So how about we call it even?”
Note: I can’t believe it, but this was my 100th chapter of this legacy! I just wanted to take a quick second to thank you all so much for reading and supporting this story. It’s grown so much since I’ve started, and I just keep falling in love with this family more and more as I go (I know it doesn’t SEEM like I love them with all the crap I put them through, but… tough love, I guess? 😉 )
So THANK YOU so much, and here’s to the next 100 chapters! 🙂