I stared out the window at the hefty snowflakes, falling thick and fast. The ominous grey sky and howling wind promised a stormy Christmas Eve.
“What if the minister doesn’t make it?” I asked.
“He lives five minutes away,” Hannah said. “Come and sit down. We need to get started on your hair and makeup.”
“Where did Daisy disappear to? She’s doing my hair.”
“Why can’t I do it?”
“Because you can’t stand that long.”
“I can stand long enough to style your hair!” she cried, bursting into tears. “Why does everyone keep treating me like a fragile doll? I’m fine!”
“Mood swing alert,” I whispered when Daisy and Madeline entered the bedroom.
“I heard that!” Hannah cried. “And why is it so fucking hot in here?”
“Why don’t you sit down, and I’ll get you a glass of ice water?” Madeline suggested.
“It’s your wedding day,” Hannah sobbed. “I should be waiting on you.”
“Hannah, you’re five months pregnant with twins. You’ve had two dizzy spells in the past week. You need to rest. Doctor’s orders.”
“Alexis is six months pregnant. Why doesn’t she have to rest?”
“She’s not carrying twins.”
“Vanessa is eight months pregnant. And she made the wedding cake!”
“Vanessa is twenty-two, and she’s also only carrying one baby.”
“Oh, I get it now. Everyone is fussing over me and trying to tie me to a chair because I’m old!”
I followed Daisy into the ensuite, leaving Madeline to deal with my hormonal sister.
Vanessa was a girl who worked in the bakery. Unbeknownst to all of us, she was having a secret affair with Judd. When we returned from Alaska, she announced she was pregnant. Everyone was shocked at first. Judd was a stand-up guy. It was hard to believe he would mess around with a girl more than half his age. But it turned out they were madly in love. And now they were living together in Miles and Hannah’s guest house, awaiting the arrival of their baby.
“Is Hannah having a rough time with her pregnancy?” Daisy asked as she organized the makeup and hair products on the long vanity.
“Apparently,” I sighed. “This is the first I heard of the dizzy spells.”
“Madeline will take good care of her.”
“Madeline will be in Hawaii for the next two weeks on her honeymoon. Miles and the girls are gonna be on their own.”
“I’m sure they’ll manage. Who’s looking after the bakery?”
“Vanessa is still working. Hannah doesn’t know it yet, but she’s done. The doctor said she can sit in a wheelchair and supervise Lucy and Cleo, but that’s it.”
“Lucy is capable of running things on her own, from what I understand.”
“Yes, she is.”
“How’s my grandson today?”
“He’s been pretty active all morning.”
She combed out my hair, teasing it with long strokes of the brush. I tried not to think too much about where Daisy developed her hair dressing skills.
“It’s a big day. His mommy and daddy are getting married.”
Paddy insisted we get married before Christmas Day. I would’ve preferred a spring or summer wedding. After I had the baby. But it seemed so important to him that we were married before we turned twenty-six, I agreed to a quiet ceremony with just family.
We ended up planning a simple Christmas Eve service at Miles and Hannah’s house. Madeline and Arthur decided to join us. They would be getting married right after Paddy and I said our vows.
“I always knew this day would come,” Daisy said, putting the final touches on my French Roll.
“Yes. I saw it in my tarot cards the first day I brought you home.”
“Yes, my dear,” she said as she began applying foundation to my cheeks. “And I saw the pregnant belly, too.”
“You did not!” I laughed. “Have you been nibbling on your special brownies?” Sometimes, Daisy was a little out there.
I decided to change the subject. There was no point in arguing with Daisy about her beliefs. “Is Paddy nervous?”
“About marrying the love of his life?” She shook her head as she rooted through my makeup bag. “Not a chance.”
I glanced in the mirror at the woman who’d been like a second mother to me for most of my life, overcome with hormone-fueled emotions. As much as I loved Daisy, I longed for my own mother. She should’ve been there, helping me get ready. My mother would’ve been in her glory, with all the babies coming. She missed out on so much.
“Are you okay, Alexis?”
“Yeah,” I whispered, swiping at a stray tear that escaped down my cheek.
“Spill it,” she ordered, setting down the eye makeup. “I’m not doing up your face until you get this out of your system.”
“I was just thinking about my mom, and how I wish she could’ve been here today.”
“Oh honey,” she said, patting my shoulder. “I think that’s normal for a bride who’s already lost her mother.”
“I want you to know that I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Daisy. You saved my life.”
“You be a good wife to my son, and deliver me a healthy grandchild, and that’s all the thanks I need.”
We decided to forgo most of the wedding traditions. If I wasn’t pregnant, I would’ve got married on a beach in the Caribbean.
I had no desire to wear a wedding dress, especially in my current condition. I didn’t feel like dancing. My feet were swollen. I had terrible heartburn, and gas from both ends. And I was usually in bed by nine.
Paddy wanted to go down to City Hall the day I moved in with him. He gave me a tour of the house, and then he got down on one knee and proposed. I wanted to have some type of ceremony with our families present. So, we ended up combining our Christmas get-together with our wedding.
I studied my reflection in the full length mirror. My dress was a red velvet, floor length, off-the-shoulder gown with long sleeves and a deep slit in the leg.
Paddy came up behind me, wrapping his arms around my belly. “Are you ready to become Mrs. Wallingford-Yargey?”
“Yes,” I whispered, our eyes locking in the mirror.
“You look hot,” he growled. “Totally fuckable.”
“We could have a quickie right now,” I suggested, wiggling my ass against his crotch.
“That’s not possible anymore,” he chuckled. “Sex is getting tricky. It takes lots of pillows and finagling our bodies to get it right.”
“Because I’m fat?”
“You’re not fat, baby.”
“I’m huge. My belly is gross.”
“Your belly is beautiful,” he whispered.
“You’re just saying that because you want in my pants.”
He spun me around, his tongue plunging hungrily between my lips.
“Whoa!” Lucy yelled, appearing in the partially open door with Cleo on her heels. “You have to get married before you do that stuff.”
“I’m pretty sure they already did the stuff, Lucy,” Miles chuckled. “The big belly kind of gives it away.”
“Did you see the t-shirt Dad bought Hannah?” Lucy asked.
“Yes, I did,” I laughed.
“What’s on it?” Paddy asked.
“It says, My husband didn’t pull OR pray.”
“It doesn’t fit Hannah anymore,” Miles said. “You can borrow it if you want.”
“On second thought,” he said, staring at my belly. “I don’t think it would fit you either. You’re bigger than she is.”
“I am not!” I cried.
“Dad!” Lucy chastised. “That’s not nice.”
“It was a joke.”
“What’s going on in here?” Hannah asked.
“Nothing,” Miles said, his eyes silently begging me to keep my mouth shut.
“Reefer said you and Lexie are fat,” Cleo revealed.
“Cleo,” Miles hissed. “I thought we talked about this.”
“The other night?”
“I don’t remember.”
“We talked about how we should be careful what we say out loud. Just because a thought pops into our head, it doesn’t mean it’s okay to share it.”
“I didn’t tell anybody Hannah farted at the table.”
“Cleo,” Miles groaned.
He threw his hands in the air. “I give up.”
“I can’t help it!” Hannah cried, pushing past Miles to sit on the bed.
“Lexie farted while Paddy was eating out,” Cleo announced.
“In a restaurant?” Lucy laughed.
“Cleo, stop eavesdropping!” I barked.
“Cleo, if you don’t stop that, Santa might not come,” Paddy said.
“Santa isn’t real,” she scoffed, shaking her head.
“Do you want to ruin it for the boys?” Miles asked.
“No,” she said quietly, folding her arms as her lower lip came out.
“What if they’re listening right now?”
“They can’t hear.”
“Yes, they can,” Lucy said. “I read it in one of Hannah’s pregnancy books.”
“The minister is ready,” Daisy announced.
“What restaurant, Paddy?” Lucy asked.
“You know,” she giggled. “Cleo said Alexis tooted while you were eating out.”
“Uh, I don’t recall,” Paddy mumbled.
“I’m stuck,” Hannah moaned. “I can’t get off this bed.”
“I’ve got you, babe,” Miles said, helping her into a standing position.
“Taco Bell,” Cleo announced.
“What about it, Cleo?” Daisy asked.
“That’s the restaurant where Lexie farted.”
“Paddy hates Taco Bell.”
“You do?” Lucy gasped, gaping at Paddy in horror. “Why?”
“Can we just move on?” I begged. “Drop this, girls.”
“Paddy was eating Lexie’s taco when she farted,” Cleo clarified.
The room erupted into laughter.
“We can always count on Cleo for a good laugh,” Daisy chuckled.
“Everyone out,” Silas ordered. “I need a moment alone with the bride before I walk her down the aisle.”
“See you soon, love,” Paddy whispered, planting a quick peck on my lips.
Walking down the aisle was one of the few traditions we kept. I blinked back tears as the room emptied. The big moments in my life were the times when I missed my parents the most.
“Are you ready, kiddo?” Silas asked, smiling kindly as he handed me a tissue.
“They’re here in spirit.”
“I know,” I whispered. “Thank you for walking me down the aisle.”
“You’re like a daughter to me, Alexis.”
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
“Thank you for making my son a happy man.” He pulled me into his arms, jumping back when the baby delivered a hefty kick. “This lad’s gonna be a soccer star.”
“Maybe,” I laughed.
He linked his arm through mine. “Ready?”
Christmas music played softly in the background. The enormous tree sparkled with hundreds of tiny red lights, a glowing beacon against the sea of white outside. A turkey was in the oven, the wonderful aroma of a Christmas feast filling the air.
Paddy was waiting for me in front of the tree, looking dapper in his tuxedo. He wore a suit every day of his life as a funeral director, so he opted for the tux for our wedding.
When our eyes met, the rest of the room faded away. It was just us. Paddy and Alexis. Silas released me, Paddy taking his place at my side. Miles handed him something white.
“What’s that?” I whispered.
“It’s a pillowcase from my bedroom,” he explained. “The one you wore on your head as a veil that day we played wedding. I promised you I would marry you when we were twenty-five. And I kept my promise.”
“That’s why you insisted we had to get married before Christmas Day?”
“Yes, m’am,” he whispered as he secured the pillowcase to my head with hair clips. “I always keep my promises. I love you, Alexis. I’ve always loved you, and I always will. I promise to continue loving you until the day we die, side by side in our bed, together for all eternity.”
“I love you, Paddington. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure that out. But I promise to make it up to you by being the best wife I can possibly be. I can’t wait to start our life together.”
“Paddington and Alexis have opted to skip the traditional vows,” the minister explained. “Please join hands.”
I handed my bouquet to Hannah. Miles and Hannah were standing up for us. Well, Miles was the only one technically standing. Hannah was sitting in a chair.
Paddy took my hands, boundless love pouring from his eyes as he smiled down at me. I was so lucky to have this wonderful man in my life.
After he was stabbed, I vowed to myself that I would never take him for granted again. And I’d spent every day of the past two months showing him how much I loved him.
“Paddington, do you take Alexis to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“I do,” Paddy whispered, his voice strong and steady as he slid the ring on my finger.
“Alexis, do you take Paddington to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I do.” I choked back a sob, mentally cursing my hormones for making me cry during one of the most important moments of my life. My hands were shaking when I put the ring on his finger.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
Our kiss was phenomenal. One for the record book. We weren’t shy. It was a no holds bar, tongue twisting, lip sucking, hands roaming, full on round of tonsil hockey.
“I guess it would be pointless now to say you may kiss the bride,” the minister chuckled.
We parted reluctantly, taking a bow when our family clapped and cheered. Paddy led me to the sofa, where we snuggled up to watch Madeline and Arthur say their vows. I was in tears by the time they were finished.
“Are you okay?” Paddy whispered.
“Yeah,” I said, sniffling. “I’m so sad for them. They missed out on an entire lifetime together.”
“That is unfortunate,” he agreed. “But they’re together now.”
“I’m so glad that didn’t happen to us, Paddy.”
“We have our entire lives ahead of us,” I whispered, leaning my head back against his chest.
“We sure do, Mrs. Wallingford-Yargey.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“I love you, Alexis.”
“I love you, too, Paddington.”