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Not All Who Wander

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The sun was just beginning to rise when Ali slowly drifted back into consciousness. She smiled, remembering the magical dream she had just left and the fact that she didn’t even mind waking up because she knew that today and every day was more than she could ever wish for in her dreams. There was a sliver of light seeping in through the blackout curtains, casting a line of light right onto her face and she rolled over onto her side to block it out for just a moment longer. After a minute of allowing the stream of light to shift, Ali opened her eyes to get reacquainted with her surroundings. They felt unusual, yet there was a sense of familiarity as she lay in bed. The bed was not the one she had become accustomed to sleeping in, the dresser and TV set were a lighter finish and laid out against different walls, the clothes tossed around the room were not hers, and the suitcases which were an obnoxious bright yellow and teal Hurley set, were definitely not hers. However, the pair of strong arms encircling her waist, were definitely hers.

A grin swept across Ali’s face as she turned her head to the side, catching the still body beside her, while she processed the reason for the dissimilar setting. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep in Ashlyn’s arms the night before their wedding, especially since the blonde had looked so adorable while insisting so strongly that they needed to sleep apart, but after several rounds, both women were sated and spent and it felt only natural to fall asleep with her head on Ashlyn’s chest as she always had. From the soft snores escaping Ashlyn’s lips, Ali was well aware that the blonde was still in deep sleep and she allowed herself to study her fiancé freely for a moment. There was a soft smile on her lips like she was having a good dream, and her wavy golden hair sprawled out across her face and shoulders. Her eyes traveled down to where the sheets were pooled around the blonde’s waist and she spent several minutes just tracing over every curve of her body, every line of her tattoos which told her story and eventually her mind began churning that she was becoming a permanent part of that story. She was going to become Ashlyn’s wife, Noah’s mother and that was irrevocable.

She knew that the blonde had been quite worn out after their midnight rendezvous and she swept some stray hairs out of her face and leaned down to kiss her forehead gently before trying to slip out of bed unnoticed. A wave of terror swept through her and she froze as the pair of arms tightened around her waist when she rolled to get out of bed. Knowing Ashlyn, she would pretend to be upset if she remembered that Ali had slept over and the brunette sighed waiting for her playfully chastising mumble. Thankfully none came. The tightening or her grip was just a natural reaction; the blonde’s subconscious pulling Ali tighter, keeping her close even in her sleep and Ali gave her one final kiss on the cheek before gently prying the blonde’s arms from around her waist. Her stomach was exploding with nerves, the butterflies fluttering in the small cavern of her body trying to break free and she cast one look back at the peacefully sleeping blonde in bed before gently shutting the door behind her.

She was met with the most spectacular sunrise as she turned away from the door and looked out towards the beach. The sky was just a large, glowing sliver hanging along the horizon line, but even in half its full form, easily painted the sky with bright hues of orange and pink. It was just like their relationship. It began with complete darkness, Ashlyn in utter despair, and then they began sorting things out and gradually began their ascent. Even before they were official, before they knew what they wanted and that their feelings were more intense than either would let on, they still painted a magnificent picture. They were still able to love each other from afar, to support each other up close and enjoy the good times, while crying through the bad. But now, the sun was finally rising above the horizon, blossoming into its full form and that’s when the truly endless possibilities began, that’s when they would really light up the world.

Ali stayed bent over the railing of the porch, watching the sun in its ascent. It was still early and she knew no one else would be up, but the nerves and excited energy were starting to eat away at her. She walked back to her room, pulled on some running shorts and a sports bra and dug her headphones out of her purse before ramming them into her ears and selecting the perfect playlist that her brother had made for her earlier that week. It was mellow calming music and she quickly slipped into and tied her Nike frees before tugging the door to her suite shut. As she walked down the beach, the thought to bring Willie with her briefly crossed her mind, but she didn't want to risk waking the boys in Kyle's room to get him and she wasn't sure the little guy could keep up regardless. Besides, he was likely snuggled up into Noah and once her little boy saw here, there would be no chance at making an escape for a long run.

The sand was still cool and wet beneath her feet, still not having dried out from the rising tide and condensation from the night before as she took off away from the resort. She ran until her legs began to grow sore. She ran until her lungs were begging her to stop, until they were screaming for air. She ran until she didn’t even know where she was and she ran until her mind could only be occupied by one thing, the throbbing of her legs and burning sensation of her lungs. A glance at her watch let her know she had already been gone quite a while, so even though her mind was telling her to go farther and longer, to waste more time so that she wouldn’t be sitting idle waiting for the moment she’d been anxiously anticipating for years, she knew she would have to go back eventually. With a deep sigh, she turned and began her long run back.

It was still early and Ali was hoping to slip into her room unnoticed, but that wasn’t the case. She was met on the sand before the resort by a familiar face holding out a mug of coffee. “Figured I’d see you tearing down that beach eventually,” Kyle said softly as he wrapped Ali up in a tight hug, regardless of the sweat dripping off of her. Moments where he hugged his sweaty sister always had something great behind them; an NWSL Championship, a World Cup Gold Medal, marrying the woman of her dreams. Ali smiled as Kyle slung his arm over her shoulder and pulled her down on a few large boulders that lay underneath the raised wooden back porch.

They sat in silence for a few moments until Ali finally spoke. “How’d you know I’d be out here?” she asked, taking a sip of the coffee without looking at him, her eyes trained on the surf.

“Uh, you’re my sister. The same sister that for some crazy reason loves running to clear her head. “

“Who said I needed to clear my head?” Ali lightly challenged, just holding the cup to her nose to inhale the settling aroma.

“You’re here, aren’t you?” Kyle countered and turned his head to the side to take in the expression his sister was wearing.

With a sigh Ali nodded. “I guess I am, aren’t I?” she chuckled lightly before taking another sip of the bitter black coffee. “I just have a lot going on in my head, is all,” she supplied, knowing her brother would eventually get it out of her. Kyle was the type of person that you just melted in a puddle of emotions before. One look in his eyes, the eyes that once were so dull and lifeless and had seen death, despair and complete misery, and somehow whatever you were going through just seemed trivial. He waited patiently, knowing that Ali would tell him when she was ready and they sat in silence for a few minutes just enjoying their morning coffee and looking out at the ocean as it lapped lightly against the beach. “I don’t know why, but I just can’t help but think about where I would have been had we not lost Emma,” Ali finally admitted, her fingers grasping the ceramic mug tightly to draw warmth from it as she pulled in a deep, calming breath.

“Probably married to Nora with a baby on the way,” Kyle answered honestly with certain casualness to his voice that let Ali know he was being candid and most likely telling the truth. “You did love Nora and anyone could see that. Was it to the same magnitude of what you felt for Ashlyn? No. But you loved her and would have had a good life together with a nice house and babies. You would have been just fine, Krieger.”

Ali thought on his words and nodded. “True. But who wants to live a life being ‘just fine’, Kyle?” she retorted, her mind traveling to what life easily could have been for her. It wouldn’t have been bad, it just wouldn’t have been everything she dreamed of and more.

Kyle rested his hands on his lap and turned to be facing Ali. “Where is this coming from, Alex? You’re about to marry the most amazing woman who is perfect for you. Why are you playing this what if game?”

She sighed and turned away from her brother, almost ashamed of the thoughts eating at her. “I just keep thinking that this still isn’t my life, ya know? That I was so close to just going through the motions my entire life and never truly knowing what it was like to love boldly and freely and to receive that same unconditional, intense love. I can’t stop thinking that it’s not my life to be living, Kyle.”

Kyle dropped his head, shaking his head almost imperceptivity. “This is your life, Ali,” Kyle said in a firmer tone than he had used all morning and set his cup down to take Ali’s hands in his own. “Ali, the past is the past. Lucina is the past, Nora is the past and Emma is the past too. You two are pledging yourselves to each other and to Noah and starting a life moving forward. It doesn’t matter how you got here or that you’ve both loved people before, you and Ashlyn are so deeply in love and that’s really all that matters.” He gently wiped the stray tear from the corner of Ali’s eye that was threatening to spill and pulled her into his arms. “They are yours and you’re theirs, Ali. It’s as simple as that,” he said with confidence and authority as the brunette nodded against his chest, wondering the whole time when her brother had gotten so wise.

“Do you…” she began to mumble and pulled back when she realized Kyle wouldn’t be able to hear her and it wasn’t something she ever wanted to have to repeat. “Do you think someone can have more than one soulmate in their lifetime?” she asked weakly, her eyes unable to meet her brother’s kind-hearted gaze.

The words stung Kyle when they left her lips, and he needed to know exactly why she was asking. “What do you mean?”

Ali sighed, throwing back the rest of her coffee before nestling the cup in the sand beside her. “Before all of this, Ashlyn referred to Emma as her soulmate and the love of her life. What does that make me? I know she loves me wholeheartedly, but does that make me lesser? Does it make what she feels for me less than what she felt for Emma?” Her voice trailed off a bit as she found the strength to continue, to confess to her confidant something that had been eating away at her. “I mean…I don’t blame her or resent her, I just wonder sometimes, ya know? She still wears her wedding ring around her neck on the chain I gave her in Sweden. So…do you? Do you think someone can have more than one soulmate?”

The words leaving his little sister’s mouth struck Kyle to the core, reverberating in his head as he tried to formulate and appropriate response. Kyle knew that Ashlyn had always seen herself with Emma until the end, something her brother had reiterated in his speech just the night before, and he could understand the confusion Ali was feeling. As for an answer? That was something he didn’t think he could give her. “That’s not a question for me,” he responded, leveling his gaze with Ali’s. “That’s something that can only be answered by one other person and you know it,” he added, his shoulders dropping a bit when he saw Ali’s hopeful smile fall. “But I will tell you this,” he continued, taking her hand and squeezing it reassuringly. “I’ve never seen anyone on this earth love someone the way Ashlyn loves you. It’s not about loving you more or less, it’s just loving you different.”

Ali nodded, taking in the words of wisdom spewing from Kyle as she turned her gaze back out to the ocean, to where the sun had reached its full, glowing form and drowned the beach in a warm light. They sat silently for a while, neither breaking through the calming sound of the waves crashing over the beach that surrounded them. “Nobody knows what would have happened if Emma didn’t pass, but does it really matter now?” she heard her brother add before patting her reassuringly on the back and heading back to his room with both mugs in hand to leave her to her thoughts.

After staying out on the beach alone with her thoughts for another half an hour, Ali knew what she had to do. She slipped back into her room and hopped in the shower, savoring the feeling of the hot water washing down her body, taking the sand, sweat and insecurities with her. It was only 9:30 and she knew Kyle wanted to start getting her ready around noon for the ceremony at 3:00pm. She stepped out of the shower, toweling off as her mind drifted back to the conversation with her brother and the realization that it had brought her. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t the original life laid out for her or Ashlyn or Noah for that matter, what mattered is that they were all making the most of it. And that was something she was intent on doing.

Grabbing her phone, Ali typed out a quick text to her brother and friends about their breakfast at the local café and then tossed it haplessly on the bed before slipping into a pair of dark washed ankle jeans, white tee and a U.S. Soccer crewneck sweater. She shoved her phone into her pocket, grabbed the keys for her BMW and made her way out to the parking lot. There were a few staff members milling about who she waved politely too, but thankfully no family members out at that time. She figured they were all enjoying the morning off, enjoying sleeping in and basking in the excitement that the day was sure to bring.

On such short notice, Ali was touched that everyone had still been able to make it. Her family of course said nothing would get in the way of seeing her get married, a reaction she never thought would have been possible when she had first been contemplating her sexuality in college and then Germany, but thankfully everyone had been accepting and grown equally as comfortable around Ashlyn as they had with her past boyfriends. Then her friends from home, girls that she grew up with, but didn’t get to see as often as she would have liked to over the years due to her hectic soccer and travel schedule, had similar responses. One had even turned down a plus one request to a boyfriend’s wedding to stand by her on her big day. And of course, her select soccer teammates had been ecstatic to be asked, especially knowing that it was a smaller ceremony and not everyone was being invited. Syd had been the only one with plans already, but gladly told Dom she would meet him in Jamaica a few days late so that she could see one of her best friends get married.

The drive seemed shorter than it should have considering the time on the clock in her car and the time her phone GPS had suggested she would arrive, but she wasn’t going to complain. It was a familiar place and she knew the location by heart, but it still felt eerie being there by herself. Her fingers ghosted over the tops of stones as she made her way through the maze towards her destination. It looked the same as it had the one other time she visited; minus the snow, ice and sobbing blonde covering the swath of grass, and she squatted down, letting out a large exhale as she ran her fingers over the inscribed words. Her fingers lingered in the deep, cool grooves spelling out ‘Harris’ that were still housing some droplets of dew, a name she was soon to be taking and just something else she would share with the woman house beneath the headstone.

Ali let out a shaky breath and set the flowers down that she had stolen from the wait staff in the lobby, figuring no one would notice if there weren’t matching flowers on every single table in the reception area. “Hey, Emma,” she said softly, suddenly feeling swollen with guilt that it had taken her this long to actually visit on her own. She knew Ashlyn hadn’t been to visit very often either, but part of that was due to the fact that they were now in Florida, back where the blonde belonged. “I know I’m a terrible friend for never doing this on my own, but I just…well when you first passed I didn’t know what to say and then I just didn’t know how to process the guilt I was feeling. I know I’m living the life that was mapped out and meant for you and it took me awhile to finally come to grips with that. Kyle said something to me today though...he told me it didn’t matter if this was how it was meant to be, it just matters what I do with it. And as I thought more about it, I realized that he was right. Things outside of our control happen every day, and whether they’re good or bad we just have to roll with it.” She paused for a minute, sitting back on her heels as her eyes traced the stone, noting the dates that were closer together than they should be on any tombstone. “I don’t really know why I showed up here or what I thought I was going to accomplish,” she chuckled nervously, “but something was drawing me here so here I am. I guess…I guess I just wanted to come here and let you know that I’m making the most of it and I…I think you’d be proud of all of us. We’re getting married today, on the beach just how she wants it, and I know that as much as Ashlyn never wanted to do this again, you pushed her to it. It was your wish and blessing that lifted the weight of guilt off of her enough. I know she still feels it sometimes and that’s expected, but I wanted to know that just as you pushed her to be better, I’ll never stop doing the same.”

A few tears began to roll down her cheeks and Ali quickly wiped them off with her sleeve before they could evaporate under the warm autumn sun. Her heart was clenching as she continued, but simultaneously a weight was being lifted. “I’ll never stop pushing her to be a better person, a better mother or wife, just as you would have. I want you to know that I will always support her in her dreams and I will hold her in my arms if she happens to fall short. I just…I need you to know that she’ll be loved beyond words and cared for until her last breath and I will never for one second take her for granted. We’ll raise Noah right, to be a good, kindhearted and compassionate man just as you always pictured him to be and he’ll never go a day without knowing who you were and what you did for him.” She felt her chest begin heaving and tried to fight back the sobs were coming. “What you did for him Emma was the most selfless and brave thing I’ve ever seen, and I promise that I’ll make sure he lives the life you gave him to the absolute fullest. He’s already the sweetest little boy and I can only hope that you get to look down on him and see that. They’re so amazing Emma and I promise you, just as I’m going to promise to them on that beach later today, that I will spend my whole life loving them the way they deserve to be loved; wholehearted, unconditional and fearlessly.”

She trailed off, letting her words sink in as a silence settled around her. It was eerily quiet as the birds had already flown south for the winter and the air was quiet and still around her. A slight breeze rustled through the trees lining the long, winding driveway, but there was a sense of peace surrounding her. “I also…” she began, unsure how to get the next part out. “I also came here to say goodbye, Emma.” She choked up a bit at this, her hand covering her mouth to keep the trembling sobs from spilling out. “My brother was right when he said that in moving forward, we must leave the past behind us. In creating this life, this family with Ashlyn, I need to let go of my ties to the past, both mine and hers so…this is goodbye Emma.” She paused, placing her hand on the stone as she bowed her head, relishing the feeling of the hot stone that had been baking in the sun underneath her fingertips. “I know you’re Ashlyn’s soulmate, but she’s mine and I promise to love her madly and with my whole heart until her last breath.”

Ali’s stood and stepped back from the stone, wiping the tears from her eyes with a warm smile. Her breath hitched when she felt familiar arms wrap around her waist, forcing her eyes closed at the reassuring contact. “You’re my soulmate,” she heard Ashlyn whisper into her ear. The openly honest words and comforting grip around her waist brought a smile to Ali’s lips. She leaned her head back against the blonde’s chest, feeling her steady, thrumming heartbeat against her temple and they stood there in silence for a few moments just taking in the peaceful autumn surroundings.

“Can you have two soulmates?” Ali asked, her voice shaky as she thought to the implications of the blonde’s words. She felt Ashlyn shrug against her back and let out a soft sigh at the blonde’s casual response.

“I’m not sure,” Ashlyn admitted, though she tightened her grip around Ali. “But we’re living in the present and letting go of the past, right?” she asked, letting Ali in on the fact that she had been listening for quite some time.

The encouraging words settled in Ali’s stomach and stirred something in her. “Why are you here, Ash?” she asked, her voice a bit more challenging than she meant as she turned to meet the blonde’s hesitant expression. She knew it was petty, but the fact that Ashlyn was visiting Emma’s grave on their wedding day set something off in her, even though she was doing the same.

Easily picking up on Ali’s frustration, Ashlyn released Ali from her grip and took a few steps towards Emma’s grave, a place she could only bring herself to visit on anniversaries. She shrugged casually as her fingers grazed over the top of the stone. “Just felt like something I had to do,” she supplied, unable to describe the feeling to Ali. “I did a lot of thinking last night,” she finally offered, knowing from Ali’s stern look that she needed to provide more, and quickly.

That unfortunately did nothing to settle Ali’s unease and her arms crossed protectively across her chest. “About…” she prodded, studying Ashlyn’s expression as she looked down at her deceased wife’s grave.

“About how I just want to be free of the guilt.” She turned and faced Ali, meeting the soft amber eyes with an intense expression of her own. “I will never forget Emma, but I’m marrying you today, Alex. I’m moving forward and creating this amazing life with you and I can’t cling to ghosts anymore, to the memory of a woman that no longer exists. I can’t go walk into this marriage and life with you while part of me still lingers here,” she said, patting the stone gently with the palm. “It’s not fair to you.”

The blonde’s words were doing little to quell the feeling in Ali’s stomach as she began taking deep breaths, trying to fill her lungs with air as her insides twisted. “Wha…what are you saying?” she asked as she wrapped her fingers around the long sleeves of her sweater and tried to read into the blonde’s cryptic words.

“I came to say goodbye, Alex,” Ashlyn said with a sense of confidence and finality. Ali’s heart stopped in her chest as her mind started racing. Goodbye. Her breath hitched and she couldn’t even find the words to express what she was feeling at that moment. Ashlyn easily picked up on the confusion in her fiancé’s face and quickly tried to set her at ease. She slipped off the long, silver chain from around her neck and slid her wedding ring off of it. “I came to say goodbye to Emma,” she said as she turned her attention from Ali to the ring clutched deftly between her fingers.

“Oh…” Ali said, a bit embarrassed that she had doubted the blonde, even if only for a second. “I’ll give you some privacy,” Ali said, still trying to process it all. This was certainly not how she had pictured the morning going. She bowed her head and began her retreat when a soft grip closed against her wrist.

“Stay,” Ashlyn pleaded hesitantly, her eyes beginning to glisten slightly. “I want you to hear this too.”

Ali looked up into her eyes, easily reading the love and adoration the blonde felt for her and her lips curled up into a smile as a nervous laugh slipped from her chest. She nodded and took a few steps forward with Ashlyn, feeling the warmth of the arm Ashlyn wrapped tightly around her waist.

“Hey, Ems,” she began, for the first time feeling silly talking to a rock. “I just…I wanted you to know that I did it. I moved on and I’m marrying a wonderful, compassionate, beautiful woman today. I think you would approve of her,” she chuckled, turning to wink at Ali who just playfully shook her head. “I know you’d be proud of me and I know you were probably expecting this one day because you seemed to know me better than I know myself. I wanted to thank you for pushing me towards this, for making me move on so that I could still have a chance at happiness, even if it was no longer with you. Somehow you saw the love Ali and I had that we didn’t even know we had ourselves and instead of being selfish, you embraced that and pushed us to each other with your last breaths. I don’t think either of us can really thank you enough for that,” she trailed off, smiling when she felt Ali’s hand slip into hers and squeeze it gently in affirmation.

“But like you always told me, it’s impossible to be in love with two people at the same time. We used to argue about that, you and I many moons ago, but I’m here to tell you that you’re right. You can love two people, but you can’t be in love with two people. So…I’m here to say goodbye, Ems. It’s not easy and it’s not even something I realized I needed, but now that I’m here doing it, it almost feels inevitable.” She squatted down with the ring between her fingers and shoved the worn, platinum band as far down as she could into the dirt at the base of the stone. “I’ll always have our memories with me and now you’ll always have a piece of me with you,” Ashlyn said through a shaky breath as she stood back up and felt Ali curl into her again. She drew in the brunette’s warmth and felt indefinitely lighter as she let out a long, liberating exhale. “I’m going to go marry an amazing, beautiful woman and live a spectacular life now,” she said with a laugh which pulled one out of Ali as well. She quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled endearingly at the stone symbolizing her deceased wife. “Thank you for loving me and teaching me the meaning of the word, Emma. Thank you for giving Ali and I an amazing little boy to raise. Just…thank you…for everything.” She lightly kissed her fingers and set them gently on the top of the headstone before slowly retracting her fingers.

With that, Ashlyn turned to Ali with the most genuine, carefree smile she’d ever seen. The blonde looked lighter, like a weight had been removed and Ali could sense the shift immediately as she examined the excited expression on her face. “You ready to go get hitched, Krieger?” she asked charmingly, grinning widely when Ali nodded and slipped her hand into Ashlyn’s to lead her towards their cars.

Ali turned, smiling up at the blonde who usually tugged the driver’s door open for her when they reached her parked BMW. Instead, Ashlyn leaned down, pressing Ali’s back up against the door with her body weight as she joined their lips together. There was a hunger, an intense desire building between them and Ali had to push Ashlyn back lightly with a hand to her chest before things progressed too far. She smiled when she didn’t feel the familiar metal circle underneath her palm in its usual position between the blonde’s breasts. “If you didn’t think we should even sleep in the same bed the night before the wedding, then we definitely shouldn’t be doing this before the wedding,” Ali teased, though she was already a bit breathless from the simple touch of Ashlyn’s lips on her own and the way her fingers brushed up and down her torso lightly.

Ashlyn shrugged, leaning down to kiss her fiancé’s lips again, trying to convey all the emotion that was swirling in her at the moment. “Hmmm,” she hummed against the defender’s lips, before pulling back slightly to level their faces. Her hazel eyes quickly found Ali’s soft cinnamon irises and held her gaze for a moment, before her lips split into a crooked smirk. “Well I seem to recall a pretty cute brunette slipping out of my room this morning,” she replied cheekily, feeling Ali’s cheek become hot as it flushed underneath her palm. “So I think we’ve already thrown that rule out the window, don’t you?” she asked rhetorically. Still grinning widely, she again leaned down and joined their lips together as her hands went to grasp Ali’s hips firmly, already feeling the heat building between the two of them.

After a moment of their tongues dancing together, exploring each other’s mouths as they expressed their love intimately, a stiff hand to her chest again pushed her back and when her eyes finally opened and refocused, she was met with a challenging expression. “Nice try, Harris,” she grinned coyly, pushing the blonde back far enough to give herself enough room to pull her own car door open. “I’m going to go get ready for our wedding as should you,” she said, slipping behind the door to use as a barrier to the blonde’s sexual advances. Remembering their interaction the prior night in the bathroom before the rehearsal dinner, she smirked devilishly. “But, definitely keep that feisty spirit for our wedding night, baby,” she winked, throwing the blonde’s words from the night before back at her before blowing a kiss and slipping into her car. “See you at the end of the aisle, sexy,” she called out of her open car window as she slowly pulled away down the gravel road.

Ashlyn’s eyes followed her, a smile which met her eyes, stretching ear to ear across her face until Ali’s car was out of sight and all that was left was a cloud of swirling dust and the sound of the BMW rapidly accelerating into the distance. She let out a long exhale, with it going all the nerves and apprehension she was feeling as she walked the short distance to the car with her hands crammed into her pockets. With one final glance to the rows of tombstones, Ashlyn nodded a few times in the direction of Emma’s grave and then slipped into the car and pulled the door soundly shut behind her. She revved the engine, quickly pulling out of the cemetery as her thoughts drifted back to the beginning, to how she and Ali had met. It was completely random, two strangers meeting by chance on the snowy streets of Frankfurt. And while she had been alone, lost and hopelessly wandering when Ali first found her, and then completely broken and withdrawn as she failed to navigate life after Emma on her own when Ali saved her again, as she sped towards Virginia Beach, towards her fiancé, her son and the impending wedding filled with her closest friends and family, she realized that never again would she walk alone.