"Do you think we would ever get to this point?" I asked my grandpa.
Today was everything I could have ever imagined. The sun was bright and shining, with not a cloud in sight. I looked down at my engagement ring and watched how the sun's rays reflected from the diamonds.
My man had done well on the ring. It was elegant but still simple. I looked down at the ground and noticed my dress had some dirt on it. A small smile crossed my lips.
Trailer trash girl.
That word didn't even bother me anymore. I was proud of where I came from. It made me the person I was today. It led me to the man of my dreams. I wasn't defined by what anyone thought of me.
Sticks and stones, right?
I looked down at my grandpa. "Guess it's time I leave" I looked up, trying to stop tears from falling. "I don't want Max to think I stood him up."
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and remembered a teenage me with my grandpa. I took a step and then another, then I bent my head and kissed the marble headstone.
"I miss you so much," I hissed, unable to keep being strong. "I wish you could have been here today."
My chest shook, and I turned to look up at the sky as if that would stop my tears from falling. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.
Once I had gotten myself under control, I left the cemetery without looking back.
My grandpa died one evening last summer. Max and I were with him that day. We had come over to make dinner with him. While we cleaned up, he went outside and sat on his chair while the food went down. When I came to tell him to go inside because it was getting cold, he was already gone.
I thought I was prepared to say goodbye to him. I thought I knew pain, but nothing ever prepared you for the death of a parent. Max and I were supposed to get married at the end of the summer, but I couldn't do it. The pain was still too raw and fresh. I had waited years to marry Max; one more year wouldn't kill me.
Carefully, I made my way to the truck. Climbing into BOW in heels was hard; in heels and a wedding dress almost impossible, but I managed.
"Are you okay?" Rusty looked at me, his hands still perched on the steering wheel. I'd never seen him in anything other than flannels and white t-shirts, so seeing him in a suit would have been comical any other time.
My throat clogged, but I gave him a nod. "I- I always thought he would walk me down the aisle."
Rusty reached for me and hugged me to his chest. "I know, Gabby." He then kissed the top of my head.
I hugged him back and kissed his cheek.
"How much of a mess do I look like?"
He put the car in drive and smiled. You look like a raccoon wearing a wedding dress.
I punched his arm. "Fucker."
As Rusty drove, I fixed myself the best I could. It was one of the reasons I didn't wear eyeliner.
When we got to Main St, I noticed how Sunny Pines looked like a ghost town. I would never have believed if you'd told me when I was young that my wedding would cause people to close their businesses so they could all go. Then again, it wasn't just for me. I was marrying Maximilian Dunnett, the town's golden boy.
"If you want to make a run for it, just say the word," Rusty said. "BOW may be old, but she can still haul tail."
I laughed. God, I loved him. I knew that if I asked him to, he would do it.
"I love you." I smiled at Rusty.
"You look beautiful," he replied with a warm smile.
The moment he parked in front of the church, my heart started beating like crazy. I would walk into those doors as Freya Pratt, and when I left, I would be Freya Dunnett.
The reckless girl in me couldn't believe it.
Rusty got out. He came and opened my door and helped me get down. I looked at the church and couldn't wait to walk through those doors. I had waited long enough; after everything, I just wanted my happily ever after. Rusty waited as I fixed my white dress. It was a princess dress with a sweetheart neckline. My hair was done in a low bun with some flowers adorning it.
"Thank you for walking me," I whispered as I turned to look at my best friend.
"No place I'd rather be," he said. "Although I think you did it so I wouldn't be offended, I wasn't your best man."
Sue me, I would never get over not being at his wedding, and he knew it. I punched him again.
I talked to Dex before I asked Rusty to walk me. I loved him, and I loved that I had more family, but Rusty he was family too. He was my brother, even if he wasn't my blood. As for my father, we were friendly, but he would never compete with the father who had raised me. It might be petty of me, but he didn't deserve the honor of walking me down the aisle.
Rusty and I made our way up the stairs. Everyone was already inside and seated. I guess I probably took longer than I thought at the cemetery.
When the doors opened, everyone stood, and silence followed. The only thing I could listen to was the pounding of my heart and how it seemed to beat louder than anything else in the room.
I held on tighter to Rusty because I needed to feel tethered to the ground. I felt as if I was floating.
Everyone was at my wedding. I saw Frank, the Lees, the Riordans. Victor, my old driver, Blake, and his parents. Even Clark was here. When we got closer to the front, I smiled at Dex, who held on to one of his little boys while his mom held on to the other one. My eyes met my father, and I smiled at him. His smile was sad but still happy.
Jake was with Juliet, Mrs. Dunnett, and the girls. All of them smiled, and Juliet winked at me. Jana was with Faye, and her parents were seated on the other side of the bench.
Until now, I hadn't allowed myself to look at the front. Slowly I slid my eyes up, and the first thing I saw was Emma already standing up there in a pale green off-the-shoulder dress. My eyes quickly cut to the other side where Prescott stood, looking like his arrogant self. I could admit he had grown on me. He smiled at me when our eyes met.
I didn't get a chance to smile back because my gaze and Max's collided.
I was going to die on my wedding day because I couldn't remember how to breathe.
My God was my man, beautiful. He stood there, waiting for me. He was always so strong, especially for me, but I saw how it cost him to keep it together now. The light from one of the windows shone on him and made his russet hair look vibrant. I loved it. I wanted to run my hand through it.
He met us on the first step. Rusty and I came to a halt. Everything we had practiced went out the window because I didn't know what the fuck I was supposed to do.
Rusty kissed the top of my head. He then took my hand and put it on Max's.
"Don't give me a reason to kick your ass," he said.
I elbowed Rusty, and I heard the people behind us chuckle.
Max cupped my cheeks. "Every time I think you can't look more beautiful, you prove me wrong."
I brought my hands on top of his. "I love you."
"I love you more," he said as he bent to kiss me.
I moved one of my hands and put it in his mouth. I heard Prescott trying to cover up his laugh, but I didn't have time to scold him.
"It's bad juju. We can't kiss right now," I deadpanned.
Max shook his head, a smile on his face, and his eyes, those green eyes I loved so much, shone with joy. "God, I love you."
"Shall we start?" Pastor Ian smiled at us both.
"Sorry," I whispered and stood next to my man.
Let it be known that standing in six-inch Louboutins for half an hour was not one of my brightest ideas. But things must be done in the name of fashion, and this was one of them.
When pastor Ian asked if anyone objected, I was ready to drag out by the hair whoever tried to stop me from marrying the man of my dreams. Luckily no one said a word, although I did see Clark trying to raise his hand.
When it was time for our vows, I was nervous again.
Max held onto my hands as he bent his head so no one other than me and maybe the pastor, Prescott, and Emma would hear what he was about to tell me.
"Freya Pratt," he said, his voice hoarse. "You came into my life like wildfire. You burned bright, and you burned wild. I was in awe of not only your beauty but your heart. The day you left, baby, there were no more stars in my sky." Max brought one of his hands and cupped my cheek. "On this day, I vow to you that I will never let you go. Through the good times and bad, I will be by your side. I'll be your strength, your reason for joy, and your best friend. I promise you that I will always put you first. If you have dreams, I'll help you chase them. Take your problems as my own. But most of all, I promise to love you for now and until the day that I die, baby. You're the only one who has ever had my heart."
Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I didn't care anymore If I looked like a raccoon.
"Maximilian," I hiccupped, trying to contain my tears. I needed to stop being an emotional wuss and just do it. "You are my dream come true. You are my knight and shining armor. You are the reason I believe in dreaming." I closed my eyes and took a breath. All the tension was leaving my body. "You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You take me as I am. You love me and all my faults." Max's thumb moved, and he let out a small chuckle. "I promise to always be by your side in the good and bad times. Home is a feeling, not a place, and you, Max, have always been my home...I l-love you so much—"
My man apparently had enough because he kissed me. His hands came around my waist, holding me possessively, and he dipped me back. His lips were firm yet soft, promising a new beginning.
Cheers and applause broke all around the church. Pastor Ian announced us, husband and wife.
"Mr. Dunnett," I said a little breathlessly.
"What now, Mrs. Dunnett?"
I beamed at him. I loved how happy he was and how he looked at me like I was his entire world.
"It doesn't matter as long as I have you by my side because it's not home without you."
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER