The sanctity of marriage was lost on her. It wasn't as though she disrespected what it stood for, nor did she not believe in it, but she had been somewhat of an abuser of it.
First there was Craig. He was a good guy, perhaps the longest relationship she had to this day. She met him and felt an instant connection, the kind you read about in novels that targeted teenage girls and horny boys looking to score with those teenage girls. They exchanged glances often during class and eventually he asked her out. It was weird dating the professor of your Anthropology course, but she supposed weirder things had happened. "You're one in a million," he'd tell her, and Isla would giggle.
The length of their relationship was approximately six years, 4 months and one week. Being Isla Windrow had been something her family highly advised against. She was young and bright when Craig had come into her life and the last thing they wanted for her was to make the same mistakes her mother had made. To that, she'd ask, "what mistake did she make? She had me. Was I a mistake?" No one would ever reply to that, only nervously scratch the backs of their necks and move on. She knew the truth. Luka and Lorene were never prepared for children. Isla was born to teenage parents who didn't have time for her. When her mother tried to steer her clear of making mistakes that would affect her future, Isla would point out that she had no room talk. The strain put on their relationship would eventually wedge them apart and create a rift within the family. Isla's emptiness would soon be filled.
To this day, she jokingly tells people that Cyn was vine ripened to perfection, as if she were a tomato or some strange science experiment. The day Cyn came into Isla and Craig's life was the last day of their marriage. It wouldn't take long for him to start drinking and for Isla to become engrossed in the world of motherhood. Though Cyn wasn't truly their child, the bond between mother and daughter was solid from day one. Craig was jealous, sometimes maliciously so. He never understood how Isla could love something so much when it wasn't apart of her the way a real baby would have been. But they tried and she couldn't do it. The signs had been there at each appointment. He'd sigh, let go of her hand and run his hand through his haphazard hair. His support began to waver. Cyn would never be good enough for him regardless of the fact that he signed the adoption papers.
A few broken ribs, cuts and bruises later, divorce papers were signed. It took them a few years to reconcile and find themselves on better terms, but at least he had come to appreciate the fact that he had a daughter. He tried harder these days and that's all Isla could ever ask for.
When Jack came around, it was no different than Craig. It was fast, it was hot, and it was unpredictable. Perhaps she had a penchant for men with bad tempers, for their volatile relationship left her uncertain of who she was, but begging for more every time. He had her wrapped around his finger and for once she thought she'd met someone who rivaled her in certain aspects of her life.
All the men she had known throughout the years never made her swoon quite like he had. The way he'd grin at her lazily, or the way he'd take a drag from his cigarette, tilt his head to one side and say, "so what'll it be, luv?" She fell hard and quick. They both had, in all fairness, and before she could blink three times it was over. Isla had been foolish to think there was a future with a man like Jack.
He wasn't a bad person, Jack. He was rough around the edges and a bit of a fixer upper, but Isla could learn to love that. Things were never rainbows and sunshine with them, but she thought that with time and patience, he could be a better version of himself. She was foolish to think that he'd change, especially for a girl like her. She was fun for a little while, but he'd eventually get bored and want something more. Isla wanted to keep up, wanted to keep him interested, but it was an uphill battle with them. The announcement of their marriage surprised everyone, though this time no one spoke up. Her family had learned to no longer put their noses where it didn't belong. She was hardheaded and stubborn, just like the rest of the Castiel family, so they knew there was no changing her mind.
It wasn't until the last second that reality slapped her in the face and took it all away. No girl could keep Jack Constance interested long enough to marry him. When he had slipped the ring from her finger, she never thought much of it. Perhaps he was getting it engraved with something sweet, she thought. In the back of her mind, she surely knew he would never do something like that, but when he'd told her that the ring was gone because of his gambling addiction, she realized this wasn't so much an uphill battle as it was a lost cause.
The first time Oliver Greene stepped foot into Wildecat was at its grand opening. Larry had been a trainer of Ollie's many years prior during the Olympics, so the news of his training center opening up had gained his attention. Larry was hoping to get him as a beneficiary, but he had ulterior motives. Isla was blissfully unaware of this when she first shook his hand. They smiled and greeted each other pleasantly, but wouldn't see one another for a while after that.
Once a week, Ollie would stop at Sherwood Florist to pick up the same flowers. Isla never thought much of it, only assumed he had a very lucky girlfriend at home who waited for him ever night with a fresh cooked meal and stories of her book clubs or knitting circles, or whatever people with that much money did when they didn't work. His smiles and prolonged eye contact never felt like flirting, and she was never much into brushing fingertips with her customers. He had seen Isla early in the mornings, before the sleep had completely gone from her face, or when she'd just escaped another argument with her then fiance.
One day she slipped him a napkin with her number on it, something she'd never done before. For all she claimed to be, what people didn't see in her was the shyness that she kept bottled up. Her cheeks were hot and red when he took it and smiled and before he could say much, she had rushed off to the stock room, saved by a phone call from her aunt.
His 39th birthday wasn't a big deal, but as a friend she didn't want to see him spend it alone. A cake was made in his honor and she tugged around an embarrassing balloon that boasted the words 'Congrats on turning 9!' on either side of it. They were just beginning to get to know one another, but she saw the potential of a good friendship between the two of them. She'd bring him chocolate, he'd bring her coffee, and the two hit it off quickly which made the bitter truth of her most recent failed romantic endeavor sting a little less.
They had date nights twice a week. At first they weren't dates, they were just nights to hang out and watch TV. That turned into cuddling on the couch, and from then on, Ollie's sixteen year old son quickly learned to not be home on those nights. Although their romance had been short, Isla had never felt so comfortable with a person the way she felt with Oliver. He listened to her and made her feel that it was okay to open up and have a lot of emotions, something many people in her life seemed to ignore. He was able to be a rock for her when she needed him to be, but most importantly, he was constantly making her laugh and smile.
Isla smiled as she looked in the mirror now, her cheeks bright with color, both artificial and natural. She was flushed, her eyes damp with the threat of tears, though she forced them back as she checked her make up. She set the brush down and leaned forward to inspect her handy work closely. With her left hand lifted, she caught a glimpse of the pile of rings on her ring finger. Perhaps it was excessive to boast so many, but every gift from Oliver held such high sentimental value that it was hard take them off. Beneath the engagement ring, his mothers wedding band, and the band of canary diamonds he'd gotten her a few months prior, the word 'His' in white ink was hidden. Although she had no memory of why the tattoo was there, it had become a part of her, and a part of their history together. She fixed her hair, trying to hold back a cheesy smirk as she did so.
Leaning back, Isla reached for a piece of folded up paper, running her fingers along the creases before opening it. The words jumped out at her and felt so rehearsed, something she did not particularly car for in this instance. As she read them over two, three more times, Isla realized that pre-written words were not what she wanted. She needed to open up and say what came directly from her heart. After all these years, a person who was ruled mainly by their heart should know that no vow hand written would ever hold a candle to what came from the heart in that very moment.
Isla smiled and stood from the vanity, leaning forward to smooth out the necklace that had once belonged to Ollie's mother. This was the last time she was getting married. Although they would still plan a wedding for their friends, this day would be for Isla and Ollie only, a day for them to celebrate the love they shared for one another. The love they spent their whole lives searching for. Her life was one to be proud of, finally. The heartache, the endless nights she cried over being so selfish and stupid, the fights...it all felt worth it the day Oliver came into her life. He was hand delivered by Fate and the day Isla realized that was the day she knew she'd never look back at her past relationships and regret a thing. If it weren't for the failures of those before, Isla wouldn't have found herself nervously standing at the top of the stairs smoothing out her knee-length white dress, excitedly smiling down at her future husband who radiantly beamed up at her in return.