The Jealousy Game

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“Marley, it’s time to go.”

I looked over my shoulder to see Chaska and Ciara standing there grinning at me, their hair perfectly curled and their dresses a soft lilac color.

I sighed and turned back to look at myself in the full-length mirror that stood in the attic of the church. At my dress that was long and ivory silk, pooling around my feet into a six-foot train. The dress was tight and corseted, with one thick strap and a soft neckline.

I smoothed the corset and turned around, grabbing the bouquet of lilies Chaska proffered. I smiled at her.

“You ready?” Ciara asked, twirling lightly in her knee-length bridesmaid gown.

I quickly looked back in the mirror to make sure I looked OK, and nodded. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

They led me down the stairs and towards the corridor, where the music began to play. Ciara hugged me and let out a tiny squeal, before the doors opened and she took the arm that Jake offered her. Not only was Jake the brother of the bride, he was also one of the groomsmen, and fiancé of one of the bridesmaids.

Slowly they walked down the aisle, and I kept out of sight so that Noah wouldn’t see me before I took my first steps down the aisle.

Chaska stepped forward and gave me a grin. “Well, it’s my turn. See you down the aisle, girl.”

She hugged me as well, before clearing her throat and taking her place in line. The doors opened and she began walking forward and through them, where Kale offered his arm.

She looped hers through effortlessly, and they glided down the red carpet. Though they weren’t engaged or married yet, I knew it was only a matter of time. I took a few calming breaths and stepped into place.

I was about to get married.

I was about to become Marley Jayne Fordman.

Mrs. Noah Fordman.

I stepped up to my spot, and soon the doors opened and I was walking through them.

My dad, Cole, stepped up to take my arm, and together we started down the aisle.

The crowd all stood and turned towards me, and I spotted so many familiar faces amongst them. I smiled a little as I continued forward, spotting Maggie Collins—Ciara’s mom—and Amber Constantine—Chaska’s mother.

Then my eyes fell on my soon-to-be husband.

No words could describe the amount of love written plainly in those hazel orbs as he watched me, the corner of his mouth lifting up into a genuine, breathtaking smile that made my knees wobble.

I made my way to him, and he took my hand. “You look beautiful,” he whispered to me, and there was a collective’ aw’ from the crowd.

I smiled and looked around the crowds. My dad took his seat next to my mom, Annie Adams, and she was clutching a wrinkly tissue, her eyes red and puffy, and my father smiled encouragingly up at us.

Then there was Noah’s parents, Grace and Matt. Matt was grinning up at us, watching us both, and Grace was clutching onto my mother, sobbing. I let out a small laugh at the sight.

The priest began the service, and I barely even heard what he was saying.

“Noah, please repeat after me,” the priest instructed.

“I, Noah Matthew Fordman,” the priest began.

“I, Noah Matthew Fordman,” Noah repeated, staring down at me so much that I completely forgot the priest was telling him what to say. His voice was drowned out, and all I could hear was Noah. “Take thee, Marley Jayne Adams, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and health, for as long as we both shall live.”

I grinned at him, and swallowed thickly, as the priest said, “Marley Jayne Adams, please repeat after me.”

“I, Marley Jayne Adams, take thee, Noah Matthew Fordman, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and health, for as long as we both shall live.”

“Noah Matthew Fordman, do you take Marley Jayne Adams, to be yours from this day forward?” the priest asked.

“I do,” Noah replied.

“And do you, Marley Jayne Adams, take Noah Matthew Fordman, to be yours from this day forward?”

I bit my lip and nodded. “Hell, yeah.”

Noah laughed as the priest said, “Then, by the power invested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Noah, you may now kiss your bride.”

“With pleasure,” Noah replied easily, before stepping forward and supplying me with out first kiss as a married couple.

We pulled apart after a few seconds, and I turned to the crowd.

There was Chaska and Ciara, whooping and cheering wildly as if we weren’t in a church—a sacred place. Standing next to them was Kale and Jake, who were doing much the same thing as the girls.

Then there was my family. Phoenix sat in the front row next to Ella, both fifteen, and I grinned at them. I know that I used to hate it when my mother and Noah’s mother used to believe that Noah and I would get married one day, but now I was kind of rooting for Ella and Phoenix to get together, as well.

They were both cheering and clapping, but since they were both enemies—that really seemed to run in both of our families—they were trying to keep as far away from each other as possible. I laughed at the sight.

Then my mom and dad sat there, cheering us on and even dad had a tear in his eye as he watched his little girl get married. Mom was sobbing like a baby, and it brought a smile to my face.

Then Aunt Gracie and Uncle Matt sat there, cheering us on as well, and I finally felt like everyone else was finally here with us.

Grace turned to my mom and winked, and my mother winked back. Ah, so they were winking at the fact that their plan for us to get married had worked.

Then Aunt Grace turned to Matt and whispered something to him that I could barely catch, “Pay up.” Oh, yeah, they had made a bet we would get married.

I turned to the crowd and took Noah’s hand, before yelling out, “Let’s get this party started!”

Christmas 2015 Special

“Marley, you’ve been in the bathroom for a while. Are you okay?”

Noah’s voice came echoing through the wooden door of the bathroom, but I couldn’t raise my voice to answer. One hand was clamped over my mouth, and the other was shaking like a leaf in the breeze as it held the tell-tale stick. I leaned against the basin and let out a heavy hiccup, feeling my heart twist and my stomach churn. Disbelief and fear coursed through me.

“Marley, is this about your parent’s Christmas party?” he continued. “I thought you’d be happy to go back there. We haven’t seen them in a while. What’s going on?”

He knocked on the door again, and my eyes darted to the bathroom door, where I knew behind it a startled Noah Fordman would stand. My eyes flicked down to the wedding ring on my hand and back up. He was my husband, and I loved him with every fiber of my being. But it was like my vocal cords had stopped working. I couldn’t even open my mouth to reply.

“Marley?” he called again, knocking more persistently on the door. “Marley, talk to me!”

I opened my mouth and snapped it closed again. My whole world was spinning around me, and I had no idea what to do.

“Marley?” he called again. “Are you okay? Can you hear me? Marley!”

“I…” I whispered, shutting my eyes. “I…”

His voice hitched in worry as he started banging against the door in an attempt to get it open. “Marley, if you can hear me, say something. I’m breaking the door down.”

I heard a loud thump as he tried desperately to get through the door. I snapped out of my daze and ran to the bathroom, opening the door just before he could shoulder it open. He stood there bright-eyed and red-faced. “Marley?” he whispered, throwing me into a hug. “Oh, my God, I thought something had happened to you!”

“I’m okay,” I whispered. “I’m fine.”

He pulled back and placed his hands on my shoulders, staring into my eyes. “Why didn’t you answer me? What’s going on?”

“I…” I whispered.

“Marley?” he questioned. “Talk to me, babe. What’s going on?”

I couldn’t respond. All I could do was hold up the stick in my hand for him to see. He seemed not to comprehend it for a moment, and his eyes darted between my trembling fingers and my pale face.

“Mar…?” he whispered.

I nodded. “I checked three times. They all came back positive. Noah, I’m…”

“Pregnant?” he whispered.

I nodded. “Yeah. I’m pregnant.”

“You’re pregnant,” he whispered, turning around. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph. You’re really pregnant, Mar? Like, for sure?”

I nodded. “Yeah. For sure.”

He turned around, and his face broke into one of awe as he looked at my stomach. His fingers traced the cotton of my shirt. “Oh, my God. You’re pregnant.”

He reached up and pulled me into him, squeezing so tightly I could hardly breathe. He buried his face in my neck, breathing deeply. And there was something so comforting about having him so excited and supportive.

I’d never really had a desire to be a mother; I’d always thought some people had the maternal gene and others hadn’t. And realizing I was carrying a child had raised an onslaught of worries; like if I could do it and how I was going to do it. I was only twenty-two, after all. Noah and I had great jobs and a fantastic life and a happy marriage, but we hadn’t really planned for children. We were still stuck in our honeymoon phase.

But now here I was, faced with the terrifying situation of being a mother. Of being responsible for a tiny little baby inside of me. I didn’t feel prepared or ready for it.

Noah pulled back and looked at me, eyebrows creasing. “You don’t look excited.”

I shook my head and swallowed. “I’m not ready for a baby, Noah. I’m twenty-two. I don’t know the first thing about babies or parenting.”

“Hey, I’m here,” he reminded me, cupping my face with warm and reassuring palms. “We can do this together. I know we can. We can do anything.”

He pulled me into a hug, and I could feel his body shaking with excitement. It was so surreal to think there was something growing inside my stomach even as we spoke right now. The culmination of the love between Noah and I. And that was perhaps the most special thing ever.

“Thank you, Marley,” he whispered.

I leaned back. “For what?”

“This is the best Christmas gift you could have ever given me,” he replied. “You have just made me the happiest guy in the world. Thank you so much.”

I smiled at him. “Hey, it wasn’t all me. You had some part in it.”

He kissed me on the lips lovingly, and I savoured the feeling. “I love you, Marley.”

I smiled up at him, feeling my hand come to rest on my stomach. “Love you more.”

“Impossible,” he told me.

“Merry Christmas, Noah,” I whispered.

“And you, too, Marley,” he told me. Then he leaned down to my stomach. “And you, too, baby.”

I laughed and took his hand as we started for the door. It was true that I didn’t know the first thing about diapers or pacifiers or birth, but I had a mother who worked in maternity and a mother-in-law with the sweetest soul I’d ever seen.

And somehow I knew that despite everything, it was going to be okay.

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