Warning – picture heavy…
Reagan was pleased. Everything had come together and now they were simply waiting in the brides room for the ceremony to begin.
Dannie continually fussed over Taylor, making sure everything was perfect. Taylor made a beautiful bride.
And Connie, she looked so grown up. At only thirteen, she had been excited to put on makeup and wear heels for the wedding. She and Reagan even styled their hair the same which thrilled her.
Reagan remembered when she was only 14 and shuddered. Was she really that young, only a year older than Connie, when she and Archer started sneaking around? He was there at a time in her life when her hormones were raging and she had suddenly lost her identity. He had provided an escape from her reality and made her feel special.
Taylor grabbed Reagan’s arm bringing her back to the present. “It’s perfect,” she whispered, “thank you.” Then she pulled Reagan into an emotional hug.
“Stop it Taylor,” scolded Reagan, “you’re going to ruin your makeup!” And mine too, she thought.
“It’ll be ruined when I walk down the aisle anyway,” said Taylor with a huge smile. She was positively beaming. Reagan couldn’t help but be a tiny bit jealous. But she was happy for Taylor. It gave her something to look forward to – someday.
There was a knock on the door and Will stuck his head in. “Aunt Dannie, it’s time for you to be seated,” he said.
Dannie hugged her daughter one last time, then left with Will so he could escort her to her seat.
Seeing Will so grownup, triggered more memories for Reagan. She recalled babysitting him. Archer would come by after he’d gone to bed, and they’d make out. Now Will was an attractive teenager, a year older than she was back then. She shook her head and decided – her kids – if she ever had any – would be grounded until they were 21. She actually felt sorry for her parents.
Cole came inside after Dannie left to get Taylor. Reagan couldn’t watch them together. It was too emotional and they needed a moment. She quickly turned and walked out to wait with Connie for the music to change, indicating it was time for them to walk down the aisle.
Reagan went first, followed by Connie. When she saw the men already standing at the end of the aisle by the Arch, her emotions ratcheted up again. She was a mess.
Elliott looked nervous and she giggled to herself. Wait until he sees Taylor, she thought. Reagan adored Elliott. He was perfect for her sister. Then she looked at Ryan and Evan. Ryan kept looking at Rosa. And Evan. When she saw him, her knees almost gave out. The man looked amazing in a tux. He caught her eye and winked. She smiled in reply.
Finally she and Connie reached the alter and stood in place opposite the men. Then the music changed again and her father began to escort Taylor down the aisle.
Reagan got chill bumps and bit her lip to stop the tears. Both Taylor and her dad were already in tears. Next to her she could hear Connie sniff. She glanced at Dannie and her tears were flowing. Finally, unable to hold back any longer, Reagan added her own to the mix.
Reagan sat down at the attendants table after they cut the cake. Evan lowered himself into the empty seat next to hers with his plate of food. He leaned close to her. “Reagan, you look amazing.”
His voice sent chills of want down her spine. “Thank you,” she said trying not to sound too breathy, “you don’t look so shabby yourself.” Nervous, she quickly changed the subject. “You should ask Sofia to dance later on. And Connie too. They both have a major crush on you.”
Evan almost choked on his drink and laughed. “Damn, a grandma and a 13-year old. I need to step up my game. I was totally coming on to you.” Reagan laughed and they continued lighthearted banter as they ate.
The newly married couple had their first dance and Reagan couldn’t help but cry.
Then the father/daughter and mother/son dances started. Reagan watched and dreamed of the day it might be her and her father dancing at her own wedding and began to get emotional once again.
“Hey, are you okay?” asked Evan.
She laughed to cover her emotions and regain her composure, but her voice cracked anyway. “When I think how happy she is, I can’t help it. Sorry.”
She looked across the room at Dannie. She was crying too and her grandmother had her arms around her. Reagan chocked back her tears and laughed in an attempt to joke it off. “Weddings are supposed to be happy. But everyone cries. I guess they’re happy tears though. The best kind,” she said to Evan.
Evan got quiet and didn’t respond. Then she remembered … he’d done this before. Was he thinking about his wedding day? Followed only a few years later by a horrible divorce?
“I think Taylor and Elliott will make it,” he said softly. “They’re marrying for the right reasons. It’s obvious how much they love each other.”
He was thinking about it. She looked at Evan. “I’m sorry Evan. This is probably difficult for you.”
“It’s alright. I won’t make the same mistake again. Once bitten.” He sighed and lightened his tone. “So, I guess I need to ask Mrs. Murdock to dance. I just hope I don’t get decked by her husband. Ben scares the hell out of me.”
“Nah, he won’t, but he might cut in! Go ahead I want to watch – from far, far away!” Reagan giggled at his expression.
Evan looked at her and smirked. “Chicken,” he said making Reagan laugh. He had his game face on as he turned to hunt down Sofia.
Reagan went back to the table and watched with what she knew was a goofy grin on her face. She couldn’t help it. When Sofia saw her and gave her a thumbs up, she burst out laughing. She was having a great time.
“What’s so funny?” asked her father as he sat in the now empty seat next to her.
“Oh my god!” said Reagan. “Look!” She pointed at Evan and Sofia.
They both watched as Ben did indeed cut in on their dance.
Evan was smooth and immediately grabbed Connie and started dancing with her, no doubt giving her a thrill.
Cole was laughing along with her and it was nice. “Dance with me?” he asked.
“I’d be honored,” she said smiling broadly. The last time she danced with her father was at Taylor’s graduation. Not long after, her mother turned everyone’s life into a living hell. But, that was then. This was now. And now is looking better and better.
“I love you Daddy,” she said while they danced and his eyes twinkled.
“Love you too, baby,” he said in reply then and squeezed her tight before he twirled her around making her laugh some more. She hadn’t laughed and smiled this much in a very long time. Her cheeks were starting to hurt, but she didn’t care.
Reagan sat down again after their dance feeling content inside. She felt whole, like she had finally found her place in her family for the first time in her life. It warmed her. The warm fuzzies are a real thing, she thought and giggled to herself. Had it not been for Dr. Brown, she may never had found the courage to move out of Archer’s apartment.
She shuddered at the thought and rubbed her bare arms to fight off the chill. She still had one last step. And she’d do it tomorrow. She would tell Archer to stop calling her. There could never be anything between them. Not even friends. But tonight was family, real friends and fun.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. “You okay Reagan?” asked Evan as he sat down next to her. He probably noticed her shiver and grimace as she thought about Archer. That was the second time tonight he’d asked her that. He was paying attention.
She turned to face him and smiled warmly. “Better than I’ve been in a very long time. There’s something about weddings. Maybe it’s the hopes and dreams for the future that they represent.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied.
Damn, she did it again. “I’m sorry Evan – I keep gushing. I’m sorry yours ended so badly.”
“Don’t. I’m glad it’s over. Sometimes we choose wrong, because of what we think are the right reasons. Lust and greed disguised as love. The promise of fame and wealth. I won’t make that mistake again.” Apparently finished with his little speech, he turned and smiled. “Dance with me?”
She couldn’t stop the smile that blossomed at his request. Her heart began to race at the prospect. Her grandmother wasn’t the only one with a massive crush on the gorgeous man sitting next to her. “I would love to … but can I tell you a secret first?”
He grinned. “Do I really want to know?”
“I have a major crush on you too,” she said softly, and then worried if she’d just messed up the friendship they had rebuilt over the past few months.
He grinned at her. “Then I definitely have to make it worth your while,” he said, making his voice low and husky. She bit her lip as her led her to the dance floor. She knew, she had much more than a crush. She was very much in love with Evan Conner.
As they danced, and he held her close, it was almost like nothing had happened. Except that it did. They both still had demons and secrets between them. There would be no kisses or professions of love tonight. But it was a first step and he didn’t run away from her confession. He took her in his arms instead.
After everyone left, Reagan stayed behind to make sure the gifts were packed up and the cleaning crew had the rest under control. She would be going home alone and was a little sad now. She had hoped Evan would offer to stay and help, but he hadn’t. Maybe she misread his queues. Or she overstepped with her confession. A million reasons were running through her head.
She only had a few more left to put in her car. As she reached for the stack on the table, she heard someone come in. Good, she thought, the cleaning crew is here and I can go home.
“Reagan,” said the deep voice behind her. “You look beautiful tonight.”
She inhaled sharply and dropped the packages back on the table as cold chills rolled down her spine.