“Are you ready to put the dress on?” Stephanie asked as she put her hands on my shoulders.
“Auntie Krissa is gonna look so pretty, Momma,” the small voice of her daughter, Natalie, chimed in as she stood at her mother’s side, looking so adorable in her little lace flower-girl dress.
Her long blonde locks were braided on the back of her head with a few loose curls around her face. She looked so excited that we’d included her in the day’s festivities.
“She is, sweetheart. But I think she’s freaking out a little bit.” Stephanie’s voice was more amused than anything as she made eye contact with me in the mirror. “Why don’t you go find Uncle Cameron?”
My future niece giggled, and I turned as she swept through the doorway, little blonde braids flying behind her.
“I’m not freaking out,” I assured her. I was nervous, but I was okay. It had just taken so long to get to this moment.
“You’re sweating, Krista.”
“I’m just a little nervous,” I admitted as I shook out my clammy hands.
“You’re not gonna pull a runner, are you?” Steph laughed as her smile widened.
“No. This wedding is happening. It’s just…a lot.” We’d been through so much to get to this day. I was still expecting something to come in and tear it all apart.
“I think he’s just as nervous as you are.” She would know, being his older sister, but I didn’t see him being anything more than a little excited.
“He never gets nervous,” I laughed.
“Well, he is today.” She nodded. “Cam said he was worried you’d call it off. Is there something you two aren’t telling us?”
“No…no, it’s nothing,” I insisted. I hoped he didn’t doubt me because of what had happened earlier in the week.
“Sounds like something.” Steph pinned me down with an expectant look. She never let me—or her brother—hide anything from her.
“HE called me last week. Heard about the wedding from a mutual friend,” I confessed. She would find out anyway. There was no point in hiding it.
Her gasp was quiet. But she was no less surprised. It was a poorly kept secret with my fiancé’s siblings that I’d been engaged before.
“What did he want?” The venom in her voice was clear. He’d been friends with her first. All the rest of us had met the first week of university.
“He wanted to meet up to talk.”
I watched as her face twisted in disgust.
“I told him no.” I hurried out, shaking my head. I had no desire to revisit that part of my past. It was a dark time for all of us.
“Good. That bastard doesn’t deserve a minute of your time.”
“And what did my brother say?” she asked quietly, searching my eyes. All our pasts were tied together. He was affected by it all as much as I was.
I paused as I recalled the look on his face when my ex’s number scrolled across my phone screen. “He wanted to kill him.”
“Good,” she snarked. “That’d be going easy on him for what he did to you all.”
“He sent me an email last night.”
“What did it say?” Her mouth was wide open in a comical display of surprise, and I laughed a little in response.
“I don’t know. I didn’t open it.” I didn’t want to see it after all this time. He’d made his decision, and I was left to deal with the consequences of his hasty actions.
“Good. Don’t,” she insisted. He’d cut ties with her as well. She no longer held any of the friendly feelings toward him she’d once had.
I felt terrible at how many people he’d boxed out, but I knew it was in self-preservation.
I nodded as I thought of the unread message sitting at the top of my inbox. Part of me wanted closure; the other part of me wished he’d disappear like he did before.
“Do you want me to read it?”
The shake of my head was subtle, but she understood the intent. HE was the past. I wasn’t going to let him ruin my future.
“Let’s get you in the dress. I’m sure my brother is getting anxious. You’ve only got a half hour until showtime.”
I stood from the stool I’d been sitting on and blew out a heavy breath. Stephanie was right. Thinking about the past wasn’t going to affect my future.
It had taken us all a long time to get to where we were.
The ghosts of the past needed to stay there.
“Oh, sweetheart. You look amazing,” my dad, Peter, breathed out as he held my shoulders and looked me over.
I felt tears pool in the corners of my eyes as I looked up at my dad. He’d never been the most affectionate parent, but I knew he was having a challenging time with me getting married.
He’d seen how hurt I’d been when my last expected trip down the aisle fell apart with weeks to go.
“You sure he’s the one?”
I knew what he was asking. Everyone assumed that we’d gotten together due to what happened two years ago. They didn’t know that we’d dated before. Or that I’d met them both at the same time.
We hadn’t bothered to clarify any of it to people either. It didn’t matter what they thought they knew about us. We were solid.
I’d honestly never been happier. He wasn’t who I’d initially imagined marrying, but I was thrilled we’d finally pulled our heads out of the sand.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m sure. I think he’s always been the one,” I told him in a tight voice as I dabbed at the corner of my eye.
His dark blue eyes met mine, and he scanned my face before he nodded. His weathered hands cupped my cheeks, and he leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on my forehead.
“Your mother and I have only ever wanted you to be happy.”
“I know, Daddy. Thank you.”
He turned toward the closed doors of the room I’d been given to get myself ready in. My bridesmaids had come and gone, all waiting at the entrance of the church for things to get started.
“You guys ready to go? Everything is in place,” Stephanie asked as she nodded toward the sanctuary.
I nodded, and my dad turned to me, holding out his arm. My hands cupped his bicep, and I gently turned toward the door.
The lace of my train made a soft swoosh as we stepped toward the open door.
My future sister, who’d been one of my closest friends for years, sniffled as I walked past her.
“You’re not going to make me cry,” she whispered under her breath as she touched a fingertip to the corner of her eye.
“Don’t you start now,” I laughed as I watched her face pinch up.
“We’ve all got money on who cries first,” Steph laughed.
“I’ve got twenty on Cam,” my dad announced proudly. My future brother-in-law was crazy, but he was a bit of a sap.
“Krista is the only one who bet on the groom,” Stephanie winked, and I felt my face flush.
“I bet on Uncle Cam.”
We all chuckled as Nat came running down the hallway and grabbed her mother’s hand.
“Daddy said it’s time to go. He asked me why all women were late. I told him I didn’t know, ’cause I wasn’t a woman yet.”
“It’s a mystery, Natty bug. No man will ever understand,” my dad told her seriously.
“We’ll see you down there,” she said with a loaded look and let her daughter tug her down the hallway.
“You think he’ll cry?” my dad asked curiously as he offered me his arm.
“I know it. You all think he’s some tough sarcastic ass, but he’s a marshmallow.” My groom was a hard nut to crack sometimes, but he was such an amazing person.
“Guess you’ll be taking more of my money by the end of the day then,” he laughed as we slowly walked down the hallway and turned the corner toward the foyer where all the bridesmaids were gathered.
My sister, my new one, my dear friend Allison, and my niece were all lined up behind the heavy maple doors.
The music from inside the church was muted, but I recognized the gentle melody from the harp that signaled the doors to open.
“See you soon, Auntie Krissa,” Nat whispered before she disappeared through the open doors. My father and I lined up just out of sight of the guests and waited for the signal from the wedding planner.
The song changed again, and the petite blonde waved us forward. It was time.
As my cream silk heels crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, the last several years of my life flashed through my mind.
I never envisioned the face of the man standing at the end of the aisle being my future, but as his glistening eyes connected with mine…
I knew that he’d been the one all along.
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