“Oh my goodness.” Mom smiles.
Another wave of emotions hits me, and I throw up once more.
The stage is set and the people entering the sewing competition have lined up next to it. I strain my neck searching for Valerie and check my watch for the fifth time.
“Where is she?” I mumble to myself as one of the judges, Alma, makes an announcement.
“Looks like we’re waiting for one more,” she tells the growing crowd.
Everything is set up and ready to go. On the stage is a giant arch decorated with dried corn, dark flowers, and maple leaves. There are hay bales in place with townspeople sitting on them and Alma is dressed as an old timey priest. Most of this I kept secret from Valerie because I wanted it to be a surprise. It was hell keeping her clear of this all day while they set up, but I know she’ll love it when she finally sees it.
Tradition is so important to her, and so is the town of Hollow Oak. In keeping with that, I designed this whole day around her. Everything I’ve done has been for her, and hopefully when she finally gets her cute ass out here, it will be worth it.
“Here she comes,” Gracie says from beside me.
It took her help to get Valerie’s parents here today, and even mine were tough to track down so last second. The hard part was getting Donovan off his property, and I’m still not sure if he showed up or not. Whether he comes or not is not my biggest concern right now; it’s making sure my girl is happy.
Finally when the crowd parts, I see Valerie coming toward me in the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. She looks breathtaking, and I have to put my hand over my chest so my heart doesn’t explode. She’s utterly perfect, and if I wasn’t already in love with her, one look at her like this and I’d be done for.
When she sees me standing on the stage, there’s something in her eyes that’s hesitant, and I take a few steps towards her to grab her hand and help her climb the stairs.
“Tidas, what are you doing?” she whispers as she leans into me.
We take the stage, and Alma calls for everyone to have a seat on their hay bales. “Thank you all for coming today. This means so much to the bride and groom.”
“Bride and groom?” Val looks over at me. “What’s she talking about?”
“We’re doing a reenactment.” I pat her hand. “Just play along.”
“Oh, okay.” Her brows furrow like she’s confused but then shrugs. “I guess the sewing competition is afterwards?”
“Sure,” I answer and pat her hand.
Gracie comes up beside me and hands Valerie a bouquet of flowers as she and Julie step to the side. Her parents move to the other side and sit next to mine. Valerie looks at them and then at me, and her eyes widen.
“Tidas.” There’s a hint of panic in her voice, but I just smile as Alma keeps reading from the script. “Tidas,” she says again, this time in a low voice. “What is happening?”
“Do you have the rings?” Alma turns to ask me, and I nod.
“Here, I got one for you too,” I say and place the larger gold band in her hand. Taking her fingers, I slide on the emerald cut solitaire and then the simple gold band after.
“Holy shit,” Julie says from behind us, and I smile. Yeah, I might have gone a little overboard on the ring, but it’s the only one she’ll ever have.
“Tidas,” Valerie says and her fingers shake.
“Now you put my ring on.” I hold out my hand and I have to help her do it because she’s nearly frozen in place.
“The vows?” Alma asks, and I pull a piece of paper out of my pocket.
“Tidas,” Val says once more, and I wonder if I’ve sent her into shock and she’s only able to say my name now. I guess that’s not a terrible side effect.
“I love you, Valerie Elaine Schaffer. I love you with all of my heart and I’ve brought you here today to marry you.” A single tear rolls down her cheek, and I reach up to wipe it away. “There will never be anyone else for me, for the rest of my life. No prenup, no divorce, no getting out of this. My soul is yours and yours is mine, forever. I love you, and you’re going to marry me.”
The last words make her laugh, and it’s like she’s been snapped out of a trance. “I love you too.”
As soon as the words are out of her mouth, I pull her into my arms and press my lips to hers. Somewhere in the back of my mind, Alma is telling us we’re not to that part yet, but the crowd is cheering too loud to really hear her. I feel Valerie’s hands thread through my hair as she kisses me back, and I smile against her lips.