Always

Three things were clear to him when he saw her walk down the aisle in that strapless white dress, red roses in hand: she was beautiful; he was an asshole and he still loved her. Three things were clear to her when she caught him sitting in the last row at her wedding day, his head hanging low: fame hadn’t changed him; she was weak and she still loved him.

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1. prologue

We start our story in a warm summer’s day in Sydney, Australia. Austin Clarke sat by the mirror with her head back, humming softly to the tune of the music playing in the radio while her sister applied some more eye shadow on her. A small frown was placed on her face as her sister went on and on about something she wasn’t not quite listening to.

 

“Austin? Are you listening?” Alaska asked, placing a hand on her hip.

 

She knew Austin was somewhere else at that moment, and as much as she’d like to understand why her sister was so distant on a day as important as this one, she couldn’t quite grasp the concept of a bride frowning and sighing every three seconds on her wedding day. She watched carefully as Austin played with the engagement ring on her fourth finger, her frown growing as her hands started to tremble slightly. Her eyes were still shut, as if Alaska had never even opened her mouth to speak.

 

“Austin, for crying out loud.” Her sister mumbled, nudging her roughly on the arm.

 

“Ouch.” Austin whined, somehow glad she was pulled out of her thoughts before it became too much for her to handle. “What was that for?”

 

“What is going on with you?” Alaska questioned, narrowing her eyes at her sister.

 

Being the oldest sibling in the family, Alaska knew the eye narrowing always worked on all the others. She had a thing of handling every single family situation with only the act of narrowing her eyes, and bam – she won any discussing that could arouse. And she was victorious in a matter of seconds.

 

“There’s nothing going on with me.” Austin breathed, fighting hard not to give in to her sister’s manipulative ways.

 

“Tell me. Now.” Alaska insisted, surprised her methods hadn’t worked on the youngest sister between the four.

 

“It’s nothing Alaska, Jesus.” The youngest sighed, rolling her eyes before glancing at her reflection in the mirror. “It’s my wedding day; I’m allowed to be nervous, aren’t I?”

 

Austin’s stomach churned violently as the word ‘wedding’ slipped through her lips. Gulping down nervously, she shook her head, running a trembling hand over her forehead, feeling a few beads of sweat begin to form as her mind raced to a million places at the same time.

 

Alaska was still not convinced of her sister’s response, but decided to let this one go. She didn’t want to get her sister upset on her wedding day. She shrugged, going back to applying eye liner on her sister’s eyes. The two of them kept the silence between them until the door swung open, a grinning Liz Hemmings walking through the door.

 

“Austin, dear, are you ready?” She squeaked. “It’s almost time!”

 

Liz was an old family friend; she and Austin’s mother had gone to college together and Liz had made it her job to be a mother figure in the lives of Celeste’s children after her sudden death when Austin was fourteen. Austin looked up to Liz just as much as she had always looked up to her own mother, and having her there at that exact moment, helped calm her nerves.

 

She forced a small smile onto her lips as Liz walked over to where she was sitting, leaning down so her face was aligned with Austin’s, both of them looking directly at the mirror. Austin could see the hint of tears threatening to spill from the corner of Liz’s eyes. She wiped them away softly, sniffling as her hands rested on Austin’s bare shoulders.

 

“You look so beautiful, Titi.” Liz whispered, giving her a small kiss on the cheek.

 

In a slow movement, Liz took out a black box from her clutch, placing it on the table in front of Austin. The bride reached over to it, opening it slowly and gasping. Inside the box was a diamond necklace, sparkling in the bright lighting of her dressing room. It was a simple, thin necklace, but Austin had never seen anything that took her breath away the way that necklace did.

 

“It was your mother’s.” Liz explained. “She had always told me that she would give this to her first daughter who married. So this now belongs to you.”

 

Austin held back the tears as her heart tightened in her chest. Liz took the necklace from the box, clasping it around Austin’s neck before walking to the dress and zipping it open so Austin could step into it.

 

‘This is it.’ Austin thought as she slipped both legs into the pearly while gown.

 

Michael was still sitting at the gas station when Luke called. He had unbuttoned his shirt due to the heat, sweat rolling down his forehead as he sat on the floor, a can of beer in his hands. He took a large gulp of his drink before taking the phone in his hands, his heart picking up involuntarily.

 

“Hello?” He muttered into the speaker.

 

“Mikey? Where are you, man?” Luke rushed. Michael could hear shuffling in the background, and knowing Luke he guessed he was searching frantically for his car keys.

 

“At the gas station.” He shrugged.

 

Michael knew there was no point in omitting his location. If he decided to play games with the lads, he knew they’d just get on the internet and search for Michael today on twitter. Soon enough pictures of him sitting gloomily on the floor at an old gas station would pop up and they’d be there in a heartbeat.

 

“Which gas station?”

 

The gas station.”

 

He heard Luke let out a relieved breath – he probably found his keys – and soon enough there was a door slam.

 

“I’m getting in the car right now to go and pick you up. Are you dressed?”

 

“Yes, Lucas, I’m dressed.” Michael said sharply, hanging up the phone.

 

Today would officially be the worst day in Michael Clifford’s life. He had been dreading this day since that one time in 2015 when he boarded the plane that took him away from Austin. It was now 2020, and Michael felt exactly the way he imagined he would. It was Austin’s wedding day and it wasn’t him waiting for her at the altar.

 

Michael kept his gaze locked on his dress shoes. He felt like an idiot wearing those. He hated the tux and the tie – and most of all he hated his hair in its natural colour. He had argued with the boys over wearing converse, jeans and red hair, but after being hit with a loaf of bread, a shoe and a call to his mother, he agreed on wearing the stupid attire Austin had specifically requested everyone to wear. He knew how much she had dreamed of this day, and although he didn’t like at all the clothes he was wearing, he didn’t want to be the one to ruin her wedding.

 

It only took the lads a few minutes to arrive to the gas station were Michael was sulking on his own. He rolled his eyes as he saw Ashton get out of the car, buttoning his tux before walking over to Michael with concern etched on his manly features.

 

“Mikey, are you ready?” Ashton whispered in an attempt of a soothing voice.

 

“Yeah, whatever.” Michael murmured. “Let’s just get this shit over with so I can fly to Mexico.”

 

“Since when are you flying to Mexico?” Ashton asked, rushing to his band mate’s side as he marched to the slick black Audi that waited for them.

 

“Since now.” Michael snarled, getting in the passenger seat and slamming the door.

 

“Hey, careful with my baby.” Luke warned, driving away from the gas station.

 

“Shut up Luke, you’re a piece of shit.” Michael huffed, looking out the window and sulking the same way he was doing at the gas station.

 

“You still love her, huh?” Calum chirped from the backseat.

 

“Always.” Michael replied with no hesitation.

 

‘This is it.’ He thought as they approached the entrance of the country club.

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