Kyle kissed Camille goodbye far too early this morning. The resort was opening officially today before the big Independence Day celebration in four days. For the last month, he had been working from before dawn until nearly midnight. She had told him to just stay at the resort rather than make the drive but he looked so offended at the suggestion that he would sleep anywhere other than next to her, she just let it go. She looked at the ring on her right hand, a blue oval diamond in the center of a white gold butterfly with little diamonds in its wings. Her fingers lingered over the book on the bed table. Sitting up, she traced the script on the cover with her fingertip before she she opened it again.
“The Best Day Of Our Lives Is The First Day Of Our Lives Together”
Grief and happiness swirled like an eddy in Camille’s soul. She felt Mina’s absence more keenly than she had in years.
A week ago, Kyle had come home holding this book, his face somber. He told how he had this book in a box with the other things from Kent and Mina’s wedding, he said he’d never been able to look through that box, but Herlinda had sent it to him anyway when he told her to send some of his personal items to Colorado. It was wedding planner but it was a dark blue one instead of Mina’s light powder blue planner. Mina hadn’t been joking when she said she already had Camille and Kyle’s wedding planned, she had. In the front was a diagram of a ring, the ring he pulled out of a satiny bag and slipped on her right hand.
“Cam, I know I promised I would ask you again in a few months the day we went over the falls and I promise I will. I just want the moment to be perfect. Everything is so crazy right now but when I saw this book in one of my office boxes, I had to give it to you and... and I wanted to ask if it was okay if we could use Mina’s plan.” The look in his eyes was so strange, it was as if she would refuse anything her sister had done for her.
She managed to smile, “Well, let’s see what they planned for us.”
Folded safely in his arms, they leaned against the headboard and turned the pages together, looking at something created by Mina just for them over 15 years ago.
Wiping her eyes, Camille knew she needed to get up and go to the airport soon, Violet and Nicky were flying in to spend the week.
Suddenly her stomach flipped and she barely made it into the bathroom. When she came out, Gramma Doreen handed her a cup of mint tea and started making the bed.
“Good morning sweetie, you look so pale.”
“Ohhh Gramma, it’s so much worse this time,” Camille groaned as she slumped in the desk chair Kyle used. She and Kyle were sharing the larger guest room.
When they got home from Scarlet Lake, he had refused to let her sleep in her bedroom, muttering something about Giovanni. A day later when she got home from therapy, she found he had enlisted the aid of her daughters. Willow and Gracie were moving all her clothes into his room. They were mad about not being told that one of the Valtini’s had been in their house.
The “psycho-stalker-freaks”, as Willow colorfully labeled them, had contaminated her mom’s personal space and she insisted they needed a priest to bless the room before Camille could sleep in there again. Gracie said it was because it was time she had an adult-sized room, Camille had been in the tiny bedroom since she was 12.
Doreen picked up the planner and leafed through the pages, “Mina always had an eye for beauty, are you going to use her plan?”
Camille closed her eyes to keep the tears back, she inhaled slowly over the cup, letting the steam carry the scent of the soothing tea into her soul. “Yes, it is the only way I can have her there with me. I am thinking about not having a maid of honor, that was supposed to be Mina’s place.”
Doreen wrapped her arms around Camille’s shoulders and she leaned forward into her great-grandmother’s comforting embrace. “I know you miss her but you still have Violet, maybe she could carry Mina’s picture.”
Camille nodded thinking that would be amazing. “I never realized how hard it would be to say goodbye to her. I just haven’t let myself face that she was really gone for so long, I don’t know if I can,” Camille cried softly for several minutes. She was living Mina’s last dream. Gracie and Willow had won the Western Regionals and been invited to the Olympic tryouts, almost twin synchronized divers, dark hair and deep blue eyes, just like Kent’s family.
Doreen sniffed sadly, wiping her own tears, then sighed out a slow, long exhale, “If we believe we will see them again, then it doesn’t have to be goodbye. It’s more like, see you later. Just because our loved ones are in heaven, doesn’t mean they aren’t still with us. As long as we remember the joy they brought in life, those memories keep them with us in our souls.”
Camille nodded, exhaling heavily. “Kyle asked if I could stay over at the resort tonight after the grand opening gala. He even gave Vi and Nicky a room. Will you and the girls be okay getting home after the big party?”
“Oh Camille, stop worrying about taking care of everyone else and enjoy your boyfriend.” Doreen pressed a kiss into her temple, “And tell him your pregnant.”
Camille laughed. “As soon as he gets through this weekend.”
“No, you’ll tell him tonight, because we both know by 7AM whatever you had for dinner will be returning the wrong way,” Doreen chided, “And lawd knows that boy has enough to worry about without thinking his caterers killed you.”
Camille almost choked on her tea, laughing at her gramma’s tone. “I love you, Gramma.”
“I love you too, my little butterfly.”
(Camille's text messages in Bold and other's text messages in Italics)
Camille and Violet dragged Nick all over the place, he had never been to western Colorado, actually he had never been out of southern Texas. He gaped at the scenery like a fish in a bowl, and by the end of the afternoon declared he could spend his life photographing the mountains. Violet told him no way, no how, she did not do snow. They had laughed and joked like they were never apart.
Camille was hoping to get to Hidden Springs by 6PM to get settled into their rooms before the dinner started at eight, but Gracie text messaged that she had forgotten one of her shoes for tonight’s black tie sunset gala. So after dropping Violet and Nick at the resort, Camille rushed home and took a fast shower. Grabbed the truant shoe, she hurried to get back, letting her hair airdry on the way. When she go there, one of Kyle’s Valets waived her to the side of the waiting cars and pointing down the side alley to the back of the resort. He gave her a thumbs up as she crawled past the chaos. She parked next to Kyle’s Hummer and texted Gracie.
Camille: Got your slipper Cinderella.
XP LOL thanx mom :Gracie
Camille: Where are you?
Rm 206 with Aunt Vi: Gracie
Camille parked and rushed through the kitchens. She saw Kyle in a deep navy blue tux, he looked devastatingly handsome. Surrounded by several people in suits, in front of the great room that looked like it had been converted into a ballroom for dancing. He turned away before she could catch his eye.
She looked out the windows in the stairwell toward the setting sun, she didn’t have much time. Then she noticed every tree around the ground was draped in lights, candles and flowers floated in the pools, the exterior solar lights were alternating blue and white. There were several dark blue tents, they were very sheer and she could see tables inside them. Fleetingly she wondered if she would be able to see the moon through them. She rushed up to room, but Gracie and Willow weren’t there and neither was Violet. Camille groaned and threw her daughter’s shoe on the bed and dumped her garment bag next to it.
Her phone chimed just as she was about to strip and change into a modest black evening dress.
Cam, can you move your jeep?: Kyle
Camille : Be right there.
Groaning, Camille was starting to lose patience with the whole evening and it had not even started. She grabbed her keys and ran, sock-footed, out to move her vehicle. At this point, she was going to be late. When she got to her Jeep, someone had already moved it, probably by Doreen. Camille stormed back upstairs. Gracie’s shoe was gone and so was her dress. There was a handwritten note on the bed.
“Your dress is frumpy and boring.
Almost funeral! I’ll save you.
Wear this one, O Queen of the Fashion Impaired.
Trust me, you won’t regret it. Love, Violet.”
Camille scowled, she did not need her friend’s fashion-police anti-black-ever policy tonight.
Camille: Vi, where is my dress?
IDK Morticia. LK >>> scrn: Violet
Behind a dressing screen was a beautiful, airy blue cotillion gown with butterflies around the skirt. It looked almost like a wedding dress with heavy spanish lace covering the bodice. Except for the color Camille would have thought it was a wedding dress, but those were just bland white.
Camille : I am NOT dressing up like a Disney Princess!
BLK is so LMA, itz not 1900s. WEAR THE GOWN. :Violet
Camille : LMA?
Louisa May Alcott. : Violet
IT Fits?: Violet
Camille : I am NOT wearing a cotillion dress!
THN GO NEKID. Kyle <3 that ^_^ : Violet
Camille : I am going 2 hurt you. D:<
WHTEVR BB!Say YES to the DRSS. : Violet
<3 U, VI knows best. : Violet
:P TRNG PHN OFF : Violet
Camille was beyond frustrated, she had less than 25 minutes to get dressed, do her makeup and fix her hair. She texted Tank next.
Camille : I need you to find Violet, get my dress
& SHOOT HER. I am in rm 206.
*sent Shoot Her GIF from Jurassic park*
The Sheriff you are attempting to reach :Tank
is unavailable for murder. : Tank
Camille: THOMAS! I’m serious, she took my black dress and left some light blue butterfly cotillion dress.
She sent him a picture of the dress.
Pretty! I’ve never seen you look :Tank
like a princess before, Queen Wally. : Tank
Camille : Are u sure u want 2 taunt me
in a place filled with pools?!?!?
LOL, I’ll find a life jacket.: Tank
Doesn’t this soiree start in 20 minutes? : Tank
Better get into that gown quick, Cinderella. : Tank
She sent him a picture of the back of her right hand making a rude gesture.
Nice, it matches your ring. ;D : Tank
Camille : I HATE everyone -_-
Camille twisted nervously in ballgown. She had managed to get into the dress alone and get her makeup and hair done in record time. She honestly felt like Mina was helping her today. Her late sister who could do her hair and makeup professionally looking in five minutes while Camille always took an hour or more. She felt sad for a moment. Mina’s planner hadn’t contained a picture of a wedding dress, it was something they would have shopped for together. Blinking back the tears, she looked in the three way mirror one last time. Mina would have loved this dress.
Camille barely made it to the bottom of the stairs when Kyle caught her by the hand and dragged her away from the party.
“Kyle, what are you doing? The opening...”
“Can wait a few minutes, just be quiet and come with me. I need to show you something important.”
In frustrated silence, she followed him along the walkway by the pools, past the waterfall and around the tents, the sky was fading into deep sapphire as the amber along the horizon disappeared. He stopped surrounded by a grove of trees, hundreds of star shaped lights glimmered around them.
“You look beautiful, Camille,” He said it so breathlessly that she swallowed any brusque comment and smiled instead. Her frustration bleeding away like the daylight, happiness replacing frustration.
“Thank you Kyle, you look very handsome, too.” She waited for him to say more, but he just stared at her. Finally she said, “Kyle, don’t we need to get back to your guest.”
“They can wait, you look so beautiful.” He gushed again.
“You said that already. Kyle, what is going on with you?”
“I used the book.” He answered, his eyes were so intense, she didn’t understand. Then he dropped to one knee in front of her. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask first but... but after everything that’s happened, I don’t want to wait any longer. I can’t. I won’t. I love you.”
He held her hand so tightly, like he was afraid she’d pull away. In his other hand, a rose-gold ring with a heart-shaped blue diamond. Her other was over her mouth to keep her from screaming in happiness. She knew he was going to ask her to marry him again, just not tonight. She could hear people moving and talking nearby but she couldn’t drag her eyes from Kyle to look at them. It was happening, she didn’t think this moment would feel like this because she had already promised to marry him, but it felt like her heart was going to beat her butterfly tattoo right off her chest.
“Yes, Yes!” She burst out in a bubbling giddy laughter.
“Omigawd MOM! Let him ask first.” Willow snapped from behind her somewhere but Kyle’s smile was so wide, she couldn’t wait.
“Seriously, Mom, for the camera. Go ahead, Dad,” Gracie directed.
Both Kyle and Camille laughed together for a moment then Kyle cleared his throat and asked at last, “Camille Wallace, my beautiful blue butterfly, I promised I would ask you again in a few months and it’s been a few months. Will you please marry me 15 years late?”
“YES!” She jumped into his arms, kissing him. Breathlessly she gushed, “So when are we getting married?”
Her eyes widened in shock at his answer. “T-tonight?”
“The opening tonight, the gala, I lied to you Camille, we don’t open for two more days. It was all a ruse to get everyone here for our wedding, for you. The only change to Mina’s plan is Violet will be standing in for Mina and Rand is standing in for Kent. They are going to carry their pictures, it was Gramma Doreen’s idea. Everyone is waiting for us.”
Camille was in shock, she could hear Violet, Willow and Gracie giggling and Nick walking around. She looked over and was shocked to see her girls and best friend already in holding bouquets. The girls looked so grown up. Gracie in a blue flower covered bodice with sheer and lace skirt. Willow’s dress was edgier with matching metallic flakes over silk. They looked similar and yet so different at the same. Rand, Benton, and Tank stood in identical navy blue suits. Wearing a silvery gown with a flowing silk cover painted like water, Gramma Doreen gave her a soft smile and a firm nod. Violet’s beaded mermaid dress swished as she walked forward holding out a beautiful bouquet of orchids and calla lilies. Camille held up her hand up to Violet to wait a moment.
“Kyle, I need to tell you something, something important.”
Doubt clouded his strong features, his sapphire eyes became confused as she took his hands from her waist and holding them pressed against her stomach. A minute passed, followed by another.
“Gawd, Dad! Don’t be dense,” Willow finally yelled at him.
Kyle looked at Willow and Gracie, asking, “What?”
“BabyBrother.exe is an active download.” Gracie pointed out in a smug tone.
“Or baby sister,” Camille corrected with a tip of her head, as Violet and Tank burst out laughing at the same time. Everyone began talking at once but Kyle didn’t hear any of it. He was too busy kissing his fiancé.
“I now present Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Camille Hightower. Mr. Hightower, you may kiss your bride.” The pastor announced to the cheers of the entire community of Pagosa Cliffs.
After dinner, Camille and Kyle stopped at a small table set to the side. Several pictures of Mina and Kent were on display. Camille kissed her fingertip and put it on Mina’s cheek. Kyle squeezed her tightly to his side. Together, they walked out onto the ballroom floor for their first dance as husband and wife fifteen years late.