“Tell me again why we’re doing this.”
He took a deep breath and considered his response. He resisted the urge to be flippant, recognizing that sarcasm, at this particular moment in time, would only further upset her. Without turning to look at her, he took her hand firmly in his and squeezed it reassuringly.
“We’re doing this because we love each other,” he whispered calmly and resolutely. “I’m right here beside you, you look beautiful, all of our family and friends are here . . . ” he let his voice trail off, afraid that reminding her of all the people gathered on the lawn just a few yards outside the vestibule in which they were standing might set her off. After a brief pause, during which he could hear her breathing remain somewhat shallow, but steady, he continued. “Look at the sky. And the water. It’s a perfect day. Just for us.”
“I love you. You know that. We don’t need to do this, though,” she said quietly, her teeth slightly quenched. “We could go upstairs and change. And then come back down and just have a big party.”
“We could,” he said slowly and deliberately, continuing to hold her hand tightly. “But that’s not what we really want.”
“Sweetie?” he began softly. “Are you o.k.?”
“No,” she replied tersely.
“Tell me what you need,” he urged.
“I need you to tell me why we’re doing this,” she said, the pitch of her voice rising slightly. “I swore I would never do this! And now here I am in this ridiculous dress, holding these silly flowers, and all those people out there are going to watch me make a complete fool of myself. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. What was I thinking?”
He heard her breathing slightly faster, the panic manifested in her voice.
“Deep breaths, baby,” he comforted. “Deep breaths. A couple of them. Come on now . . . ” They breathed in tandom for a few seconds, drawing the fresh but salty sea air deep into their lungs and holding it momentarily before exhaling. “See?”
“O.K., I feel a little bit better,” she said, squeezing his hand as she locked her fingers a little more tightly around it.
Just then, their best friend, Gary, came striding across the lawn toward them. “We’ll be ready to start in just a couple of minutes,” he announced. “How are you guys doing?” he asked gently. “Ready?”
“No,” she blurted. “No, I’m not ready. I don’t want to do this. Gary, can you go tell everyone that there’s going to be a delay. We’re going to go back up to our room and change.”
With that, she turned and started back toward the hotel lobby, but he refused to relinquish his grip on her hand, forcing her to remain.
“Let go of me!” she demanded in a hushed tone.
“Gary, give us a few minutes, please,” he implored his friend. Gary smiled knowingly, nodded in agreement, and gave his lifelong friend a confident pat on the shoulder before turning back toward the lush green lawn where the guests were gathered. “No problem, bro. I’ll check back in five or so.”
“I changed my mind,” she said, near tears. “I just can’t do this. I can’t believe I let things get this far . . . I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she mumbled as a single tear escaped her right eye.
He turned to face her, still holding her hand. “Listen to me, baby,” he said as he reached out with his left hand and wiped the tear from her cheek. “It’s just nerves. We’ve been over this a thousand times. You’re just reacting to seeing everyone gathered out on the lawn . . . that makes me nervous, too. But you’re going to be just fine as soon as we get out there and start the ceremony.”
She looked intently into his deep-set brown eyes.
“It’s just nerves,” he whispered again as he kissed her softly and then pressed his forehead to hers. “You’ll see. I’m right here and I’m going to stay right beside you. I’m not letting you go,” he reassured her, again squeezing her hand. “I swear to you, I won’t let go even for a second. Not even when I put the ring on your finger. I will be holding your hand the whole time.”
“We’re happy,” she said quietly, her eyes closed. She put her right arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer to her, resting her bouquet on the back of his jacket as she continued clutching it with her right hand. “What if this ruins everything? We’re so good together, just as we are.”
“We’re still going to be great together, honey,” he said. “That’s never going to change. Things are only going to get better . . . you trust me, right?”
She pulled away slightly, opened her eyes and studied his face as he gazed lovingly at her. “I will never understand why you want this so badly,” she pondered softly. “Or why you even put up with me.”
“I want you,” he replied.
“You already have me.”
He smiled and shook his head in amazement as he reached into the pocket of his jacket with his left hand, retrieved his handkerchief, and softly dabbed a lingering tear from her cheek.
“Most men get dragged down the aisle kicking and screaming making ball and chain jokes. Not me! I had to fall in love with the one woman in America who makes me drag her down the aisle. What were the odds?”
“I told you on our first date that I was never getting married. It’s an archaic, ridiculous ritual, and I can’t believe I ever let you talk me into this,” she continued to protest. “You reminded Gary that he is not to say that nonsense at the end of the ceremony, right? If he calls us ‘Mr. and Mrs.,’ I swear I’ll slug him.”
He chuckled. “Gary knows exactly what to say. ‘Mrs.’ will not cross his lips.”
“You gave him your statement, right?”
“I sure did. I printed it out and handed it to him just a little while ago. He put it in his pocket, just in case I need a cheat sheet. But I won’t. I know exactly what I’m going to say to you,” he kissed her lightly again. “I’m going to tell you how much I love you and how happy you make me. Right there in front of everyone. And I might just kiss you before Gary gives us the go-ahead because you look so beautiful today that I might not be able to control myself. Have I told you how beautiful you look?”
Looking into his eyes, she felt herself relaxing, the panic subsiding. He had succeeded in disarming her fears, yet again. He was the only man she had ever trusted completely and with near-abandon. When she met him, she knew instinctively that she would spend the rest of her life with him and, in the five ensuing years, surprised herself more times than she could recount with her willingness to compromise or accede entirely to his desires. Never one to compromise or surrender, she was continuously amazed anew at her concern for his happiness and the pleasure she derived from seeing him contented.
“You’ve told me, but you can keep telling me,” she teased. “I’m sure I’m going to need to hear that a lot in the coming months as I expand.” She puffed out her cheeks and rolled her eyes.
He placed his left hand on her stomach lovingly. “We’re going to be a family, baby. A real family. Just like we’ve wanted to be.”
“Looks a bit calmer over this way,” Gary chided as he rejoined them.
“So what do you think?” he asked her. “Are you ready now?” He waited patiently for her answer, never letting go of her left hand, his left resting easily on her still-flat belly.
“Hormones,” she declared, as she pulled away from him and turned to face Gary. “It was a hormonal moment. It passed.”
“Is that the story you’re sticking with?” Gary teased.
“You bet it is,” she replied, as he turned toward Gary, as well, their hands still intertwined.
“You two look like a million bucks,” Gary gushed. “Like two people meant for each other.”
“Three people,” he corrected. “Three people about to officially become a family.”
“If you’re ready, follow me. The sooner we start the ceremony, the sooner we can start the reception. And I’m planning on drinking her share of the champagne, since she can’t drink it.” Gary kissed her lightly on the cheek. “I love you guys. Let’s do this.”
He looked at her lovingly and winked as they took the first step toward the grassy lawn where all of their family and friends were waiting for them, still holding her hand just as he’d promised.
Inspired by A Thousand Words: Prompt Number Seven.
Presenting the finest of the writer’s blogs by the bloggers who write them: Top 5 Picks as chosen by the August 1, 2008 WOOF Contest contestants.
- Penelope Anne Bartotto – 100 Words ~ Pillar
- Robert Bourne – Rain on the window
- Jennifer M. Scott – Proximity
- Jenn – Still Holding Her Hand
- Kimota – What Kind of Writer Are You?