#60 Epilogue 1: Sappiest vows ever
One year after the proposal
My final fitting is so nerve-wracking that I couldn’t eat all day, which is really bad, because I should be eating for two right now. No one knows yet, aside from Khiêm, but I’m two months pregnant. I’ve been scared I’d be showing in my wedding dress, but looking into the mirror now, it’s impossible to know there’s a tiny little creature in my belly. I’m flat, just like I’ve always been.
Still, there is a baby inside of me. When Sonia leaves me alone for a moment to help another customer, I put my hand over my belly, smiling to myself. We agreed to wait until we were married, but a month after we made that pact, we already revisited the idea. Right after Valentine’s Day – which Khiêm nailed with a lovely date, of course – I got my IUD taken out so my body could get back to having normal cycles. I downloaded an app to track my menstrual cycle. After a few months, my cycle was pretty regular, and we decided to start trying. No pressure, not looking at the app to see when I was menstruating or anything. Just having sex without protection.
Of course, we went at it like rabid bunnies, because we’d been having sex with a condom after having my IUD taken out and we both hated that, so finally having nothing between us again was so amazing we hardly did anything but fuck.
Big surprise… I got pregnant pretty soon. Which is how I ended up here, two months pregnant as I’m trying on my wedding dress during my final fitting a week before my big day.
I designed my dress myself, of course, and I haven’t showed it to anyone yet. Okay, Sonia has seen it, because she helped me make it, but other than her no one knows what I’ll be wearing. Not even my mother. Mom was so disappointed she didn’t get to go dress shopping with me that Khiêm took her with him to pick out a tux. How cute is that?
When Sonia comes back in, I quickly pull my hand away from my stomach. “Fits like a glove,” I tell her with a huge smile. “Thank you so much for helping me with it. You’ll be there to help me into the dress on the big day, right?” I don’t want anyone to see me in this dress before I walk down the aisle, so it’s kind of a big deal that Sonia is there.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, honey.” She wipes a tear from her eye. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Thanks.” I turn around, admiring the bare back one last time. My dress is form-fitting – which is why I was so worried about having a baby bump – pearl white with lace appliques. It’s simple, without a belt or beading or any other embellishments. I’m wearing the necklace Khiêm gave me during our first Christmas together, and I’ve got matching earrings. My hear will be pulled up – Aimee wil be doing that for me, obviously – and I’ll have some light make-up, but that’s it. Oh, and the shoes, of course. The most beautiful, expensive silver stiletto heels ever. They’re almost as beautiful as my dress.
Sonia helps me out of my dress and I slip back into my jeans and T-shirt, give Sonia a hug, and walk through the door connecting our stores to check if everything is still running smoothly on my side of the wall.
Yeah, I said my store.
Sonia’s business picked up the past year, as did my website. Soon enough, we both had too much work to know what to do with it. I was anxious about starting my own business, not just a web shop, but a real store with dresses to try on. Sonia was in tears at the thought of losing me at her boutique, and then the space next to her boutique suddenly became available. Khiêm and I crunched the numbers, and we could just about swing it, so we decided to go for it.
Now, I rent the space next to Sonia’s. We got permission to break through a wall in the back, so we’ve got a huge workspace in the back for both my store and her boutique. Because we share the expenses on all the equipment and the extra seamstress we hired – not Valerie, we can’t afford her, but a 20-year-old girl named Pauline with lots of great ideas and who’s eager to learn – both Sonia and I save a lot of money. We pretty much joined our businesses, owning them together while still having our own space.
My store sells fancy dresses for proms, Christmas parties, the works. I also get some orders for brides’ maid dresses from the brides that get their dress at Sonia’s boutique, and I sent girls her way once they get hitched, so we help each other’s businesses grow this way. Right now, I’m not making much profit, just enough to cover expenses, gas for my car, and to chip in a little for groceries. The business is growing slowly but surely, so I’m sure I will soon be able to pull my weight. Hopefully before the baby gets here.
Luckily, I have a fiancé – soon to be my husband – who earns enough to pay the bills until I can help out more moneywise. He took one of the offers from a start-up company to test their games, looking for glitches and stuff, and it’s a nice steady source of income on top of the audio novels he still narrates. Until the baby gets here, we’re both working around the clock. He still streams every night, he makes more vlogs than ever, and he’s got his podcasts and merch. He earns a lot right now, saving up so he can afford to stop streaming to get more flexible hours once the baby gets here.
I feel bad about him giving up streaming for me and our little one, but I know he doesn’t mind one bit. He loves his new job testing games and helping improve them, so he’s happy. That’s all that matters to me anyway. I want us to be happy, which we are. How could we not? We’re getting married in a week, on the last day of the year, and there is a little bundle of love getting ready to meet us in seven months.
Life is good.
Khiêm starts crying the moment I step into the church and walk down the aisle. My parents aren’t giving me away, even though they wanted to, because I want this to be all me and Khiêm. I was never my dad’s property, nor my mother’s. I’m my own person and I want to walk down the aisle on my own, to join Khiêm and show him that from now on, I’ll never be walking on my own again. He’ll be next to me every step of the way, just like he’s been since that first day I moved in with him, when I was still that broken girl without a purpose.
When I reach him, I’m teary-eyed as well. He looks so good in his tux, his hair a little messy even though I know Aimee styled it for him, and his beard more pronounced than ever. He’s been growing it out the past months, and I’ve been loving grooming it for him. He looks so handsome.
“Your dress…” he breathes when I join him at the altar. “You look stunning, lovely.”
“You look amazing,” I tell him through my tears, grabbing his hands in mine. “Perfect.”
Behind Khiêm are Marcus and Jagger, and behind me are Aimee and Rose. After I cut out Holly and Ayaan, Aimee did the same. That left us with fewer friends, but they were never good friends to begin with, so weren’t sad about that one bit. Jagger moved to town a few months ago during the summer, going back to school to become a teacher, and Rose spends every moment she can fly back from Harvard at his place. I’ve gotten to know Rose quite well, and she, me and Aimee rapidly became great friends, so asking her to be my bridesmaid was no-brainer. She’ll be moving in with Jagger for real next summer when she’s done with Harvard and will be going to med school here, so I’ll get to see even more of her then. I can’t wait.
“Nia Oliveira Josephine Davis,” Khiêm says when it’s time for his vows. “Lovely, sunshine, my Xīngān. You’re the love of my life. The light of my days, and all those cheesy things. My sister Mingmei once said that you’re like a bug, something you catch without meaning to, and that never leaves your body.”
“Hey! I’m in their vows!” Mingmei says a tad too loud, making our other guests laugh.
“I’ve definitely got the Nia bug,” Khiêm continues. “From the day I first saw you as grown-up woman, I thought you were beautiful. Then I got to know you and I realized you were so much more than that. You’re strong, resilient, creative, smart, funny, and you’re the most caring, nurturing woman I’ve ever met. You take care of me in so many ways. Before you, I didn’t even know I needed that. You complete me in ways I never thought possible.”
He pauses as I wipe my tears away. God, this man. I’m melting. My make-up is ruined for sure.
“When you agreed to marry me a year ago, I thought I was the happiest I could ever be,” Khiêm says, squeezing my hands. “Today, I realize I was wrong. Right now, I think this is the happiest I’ll ever be. But I bet that in a year, I will look back and realize I was wrong again, because you keep surprising me, and making me happier than I was before. Even when I think I can’t possibly love you any more, you make me fall in love with you all over again. I love you. I will never stop loving you. You are perfect the way you are, I promise to always keep valuing all the things you do for me, big and small. I’m honored you want to be my wife. I vow to be the best husband I can possibly be.”
Marcus hands him the wedding band, and Khiêm slips it onto my finger, where it fits snugly against the engagement ring I’ve been wearing for a year now.
“Dinh Quang Khiêm,” I start, already having to fight my tears to keep talking. “You’re my superman. You saved me when I needed it the most, helped my find my own self-worth, and showed me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. One of the things I set my mind to was making you mine. I think it’s safe to say I succeeded. I knew you were it from our first kiss.” I have to take a few deep breaths before I can go on, but at least Khiêm is crying too.
Fuck, we’re so sappy.
“You’re sweet, caring, patient, and wise,” I tell him, meaning every word. “You don’t just complete me, it feels like we were made as separate parts of the same soul, meant to come together as one. You make me a better person, and I promise to always strive to be even better. You deserve a woman who makes you feel cherished, beautiful, and confident. I’m honored you think that I can be that woman. You’ve always seen the best in me, when others didn’t. Even when I didn’t. You turned a broken girl into a strong woman ready to be someone’s wife. You’re magic, Khiêm. You’re pure and utter magic.”
He smiles through his tears. “That’s too much praise, Xīngān.”
“You’re humble,” I counter, smiling back at him. “No praise could ever be too much when it comes to you. Thank you for asking me to be your wife. And thank you… thank you for…” I want to thank him for making me a mother as well, but we don’t want to tell anyone yet, not this early on.
“I know, lovely,” he whispers, squeezing my hand. “Thank you too.”
I turn to Aimee so she can hand me his golden wedding band, and I slip it onto his finger. Finally, we’re officially pronounced husband and wife, and I get to kiss his beautiful face off.