Authors: Rachel E. Cagle
Doubting Our Hearts
By: Rachel E. Cagle
Copyright @ 2015 by Rachel Cagle
All Right Reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
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Three Months Ago
I've always dreamed of this moment. The moment I wear the most beautiful white dress, walk down the aisle, and join in the bonds of holy matrimony. I've pictured this day for as long as I can remember, and now that it's here, it seems so surreal.
My nerves don't take over as Selene does my hair exactly how I've always wanted. The dress Nora and I picked out together is the perfect mix of elegance and whimsy. My mother, Helen, is exactly where I thought she'd be, looking at me in the mirror while my hair and makeup are completed. My mother's eyes fill with tears as she offers her words of encouragement on my big day. My father, George, is ready in his tux waiting to have his chance to speak to me.
As I look in the mirror, I can see Nora and my two younger sisters, Jenny and Faith, putting the finishing touches on their makeup. Their chocolate colored spaghetti strap dresses with turquoise sashes remind me of my most favorite food and my fiancé Damon.
The day he proposed we sat in the bakery I loved so much, drinking coffee chatting about our plans for our week long getaway together. He knew I loved the smell of chocolate, and the taste I couldn't get enough of. Before we embarked on the three hour ride to my parents' house in Jacksonville, he went to grab one last treat for our drive, and when he came back, all words left my body.
On the small crisp white plate lay a single cupcake. I didn't have to ask what kind it was because I already knew. A single dark chocolate cupcake with pink frosting sat on the plate and on top was a smaller cupcake with the same pink frosting sprinkled with sugar crystals and two fresh raspberries as garnish. A double stacked dark chocolate and raspberry cupcake, my favorite. It wasn't just the sight of the confectionary masterpiece in front of me that made me speechless and caused me to suck in my breath. It was the two carat round cut diamond nestled on a gold band proudly sitting atop the best cupcake in all of Tampa.
I remember the words that left his mouth when I dragged my tear-filled eyes to meet his. "Lily, my flower, I can never put into words the depth of my love for you or the comfort you bring me every day, but I would like a chance to show you. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
I did what any woman in my position would do if her college boyfriend of four years declared his love and proposed, I said yes. This, in fact, leads me back to where I am two years later about to marry Damon Fredrick Nicholson.
As I survey my bridesmaids' dresses, I still feel a tad bit regretful I didn't go with the pink. We compromised on chocolate and turquoise so my handsome fiancé didn't have to wear pink, but that doesn't take away from what my perfect wedding would have looked like in the grand scheme of things.
After I slip into my wedding gown then my heels, my mother looks me over with tears that could break through any minute. "You look beautiful, Lily. No doubt you will take Damon's breath away."
"Thanks mom. I don't want to cry but I know I will." I hug my mother and let a lonely tear trickle down my face. My sister Faith comes over to wipe the wetness from my skin before it reaches my pink stained lips and smiles.
"No crying, Lil. You know that crazy wedding planner said she would put that hemorrhoid ointment under your eyes, and that's just too gross."
I can't help but laugh at Faith's comment. She's in her last two months of high school, and I know she's looking forward to going away for college. I'm just glad she decided to follow my footsteps to the University of Miami. Although I majored in Art, Faith decided to major in psychology, since she wants to be a therapist for troubled teens.
"No. I'm good. Definitely don't want to have to use the stuff." I take a few breaths to get my composure back before looking at Jenny and Nora. "You guys look amazing. I doubted the colors there for a while, but, wow, I'm glad we just went with it."
Jenny's smile widens at my evaluation of her attire as Nora just nodded her agreement then heads to the bathroom.
Lately for some reason, Nora has been acting pretty strange around me. We've been best friends since high school. We've shared clothes, double dated, and cried on each other's shoulders when we went through something horrible. Now, on the one day I need her most, she's hiding from me.
"Excuse me guys, but I'm going to need a few minutes with Nora."
"No problem sis. I'll let Neurotic Nelly know you'll be a few more minutes."
"Oh stop teasing Fallon, Jenny. She's busted her butt to plan this with me. You and Faith go sit her down and tell her to have a drink." I get to the bathroom door and turn around. "But no alcohol for you two. And I don't care that you're only a few weeks from your twenty-first birthday, Jenny."
"Fine. Fine. Just be ready when we come back. You owe me for this." We all giggle as my sisters and mother exit the dressing room.
I turn and lean my forehead against the bathroom door. "Nora?"
I can hear sobs, but I have no idea what's bothering my best friend in the whole world. It hurts me to know she's upset in some way but won't talk with me. "I'll just be a minute. I promise I won't make you late."
"Nora, please let me in. It's just me. I want to talk with you."
"I'm fine really, Lil."
"Please open up. I want to spend a few minutes with you before we head out there."
I can hear her trying to get herself under control and a minute passes before I hear the sound of the door unlocking. Nora's eyes are without a doubt red and puffy, so I know she's going to get the Preparation H treatment.
I wrap her in my arms, but she doesn't reciprocate the gesture. I frown silently urging her to tell me what's going on so I can understand and help her through whatever it is that's going on with her. "You're my best friend Nora. Please talk to me. I hate to see you cry, let alone cry on my wedding day."
She still doesn't hug me right away but hear her calm her breathing. "It's fine, Lil. No more crying. I swear I'm perfectly okay." It's only then that she lifts her arms and places them on my hips. No hug. No small squeeze of assurance. Nothing.
When I pull back, I can see the hurt and anguish in her eyes. It breaks my heart to see her in such turmoil, but I know I can't force her to talk to me. Sometimes she just needs some space before she can unload what's on her mind.
"Okay if you're sure. I think we better have a drink."
"Lil, I don't think..." But I stop her.
"Nora, I love you. You are my best friend and like a sister to me. We are going to have one drink. It'll calm my nerves and it might help you calm yours. Please."
She starts to sag her head in defeat and shame. What war is my best girlfriend waging in her head that she's acting so out of sorts? "One drink." I smile and rush over to my bag, which I know has two bottles of our favorite poison, Mr. Jose Cuervo. I've kept it hidden just for us.
When she sees the bottles, her eyes grow wide, quickly shuts them, and shakes her head. "No. I'm sorry, Lil. We shouldn't."
"Why not? This is our favorite. Come on." I grab her hand and lead her to where my phone is sitting on a small table by the door. "I'll even play the song we danced to the night we got really drunk off this stuff. Remember?"
"Really, no, Lil. I can't. You have the wedding. We shouldn't be drinking."
"Nora Jean, it's my wedding and I do what I want to. Damon's not going to care if I have a shot with my best friend in the whole wide world. He just wants me to be happy. And I will be extremely happy if you would drink and dance with me to our drunken tequila song."
As I scroll through my songs to find the right one, I look up to Nora silently crying. "Hey. None of that now, babe." I find the song then hand her the small bottle of honey colored liquid. "Let's make a toast. To us. My partner in crime and the sister of my heart."
We clink bottles and down our shots as the first strings of Kenny Chesney's guitar come through the small speakers on my phone. I wrap my arms around her waist and she does the same for me. Our foreheads rest of each other's shoulders as we sway back and forth letting the tequila warm our bodies. I can't imagine anyone else I'd rather be right next to me as I take the next big step in life.
We both sing the chorus about tequila making you crazy, and I get the image of me and Nora dancing the same way in a bar in Miami when we turned twenty-one. The night was mostly a blur, but we had so much fun together.
When the song fades and the room becomes quiet again, I hear Nora murmur, "I love you, Lil. Forever."
"I love you too, Nora."
Then my mother burst the door open and she's met with the sight of me and my best friend holding on to either other. She stares for a second before recovering. "Now girls, just because Lily's getting married doesn't mean you won't see each other. It's an emotional day, so let's smile and be happy. Okay?"
Nora just nods and for the next twenty minutes Fallon swoops around the room making sure our makeup and hair are ready to go. Nora and I needed a bit of the booty ointment, but it doesn't look like we've been crying either. My best friend remains quiet as we get everyone lined up outside the church doors.
My father, who is beaming in his tuxedo, approaches me ready to take his position to walk me down the aisle. "Lillian, you have no idea how proud I am of you. You are stunning from the inside out and I thank God everyday he brought you to your mother and I."
"Thank you daddy. I love you. I'll never be too far away. I promise," I say as I lean up to kiss my dad on his cheek.
"I love you too, sweetheart." He smiles the one he reserves just for his little girl. "Now, what do you say we get you to the altar, huh?"
I smile back and chuckle. "And you say I have no patience."
"You definitely get that from me."
I hear the music start for my bridal party, and I know this is it. I know I'm going to turn the corner and meet the eyes of my soon to be husband, and he'll only have eyes for me. Butterflies are swarming around in my belly. I'm nervous, scared, but I'm happy too.
Before Nora walks out with Damon's older brother, Casey, she looks at me one more time. There's something in her eyes I can't pinpoint. Sadness. Remorse. Guilt maybe. I give her a reassuring smile before she turns and walks down the aisle to stand by my side.
I muster the biggest breath I can before my father links our arms and the
plays through the church. I get a glimpse of the pews that have turquoise, chocolate, and white ribbons down the middle aisle, and I'm frozen on the spot.
I don't know why I choose this moment to become immobile, but I can't move. My father looks down at me with worried eyes and whispers, "Everything okay Lily bug?" But I know my nerves are in full force.
I don't know what to say because anything I say will come out like gibberish. I should be thinking about moving my butt up the aisle toward Damon and my future, but all I can think about is the intensity and sincerity of a pair of chocolate brown eyes. The angles of his jaw and the stubble that appeared in the evening. The lines of his neck and the way his Adam's apple moved when he ate or laughed. His brown hair with hints of natural caramel highlights that shone bright in the sunlight. I could imagine running my fingertips through the soft strands as I caress his cheekbones while just talking to him.
I suck in a breath and remain rooted where I am. I haven't had a vision of Brayden since my bachelorette party a couple weeks ago, and I was drunk then. So, I definitely had an excuse. Last I saw of him was his farewell smile and sad eyes as I walked away from him six months ago at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
"Lily bug?" My dad's question stirs me out of my thought as I hear the low murmurs from our guests in the church.
"I'm sorry dad. I'm just nervous." I'm nervous as all get out right now. "I'm ready."
"Okay, honey. I just want to make sure you're
"Thanks, daddy." I smile at the man that has raised me to chase my dreams, defend my beliefs, and stay true to myself.
I hear the song begin again, and with a deep breath I step towards my future husband.
This is the right choice Lil. You love Damon. He'll make a wonderful husband and father
. Somehow in the deep recesses of my mind, trying to convince myself doesn't help one bit.
When I round the pews at the back of the church, I look to see Damon in his black tux and turquoise tie. He has a smile on his face, but it doesn't reach his eyes. I'm sure he's just worried my momentary lapse a minute ago was me getting cold feet.
I can't help but wonder what could have been if things were different those few months ago. No, I shouldn't even be thinking about Brayden as I walk down the aisle to Damon. They're two totally different people living different lifestyles. Damon loves me and, well, Brayden...I don't even want to know at this point. I gave Damon a promise of a commitment and a life together, and that's what I'm going to give him.
I've never cheated or been unfaithful. Brayden was a friend and that's where he shall forever stay. Then why do I suddenly feel like all of my doubts about today were somehow right? The last week being holed up alone in a room just crying to separate nerves from fear.