Cathy really didnâ€™t need to be nervous. Sheâ€™d planned the perfect wedding. An outdoors ceremony, the gazebo that would frame the bride and groom sat where the setting sun would etch them in hues of pink and gold.
She sighed; relieved to know everything was in order.
Oh no, that tiny voice in her head was at it again. With a sigh, she opened her plans book and began to pore over the arrangements once more.
Flowersâ€”check, catererâ€”check, one by one she ran over the list, checking each item off to verify its completion. Finally satisfied, she slammed the book closed and clamped her hands over her ears as though she could shut out the voice in her head.
Did you…the voice began.
â€œLa, la, la, la,â€ Cathy sang, covering her ears again, â€œIâ€™m not listening.â€
# # #
The day of the wedding flew by, and now here she was standing beside her blue-eyed, dark-haired fiancÃ©. So handsome, and heâ€™d picked her out of all the girls he could have had. Tonight she would become Mrs. Eric Carlotti.
The sunset couldnâ€™t have been more perfect, highlighting the bride and groom in its amber glow. Slowly the sun sank, exposing a clear, star-lit night that promised enchantment
Eric repeated his vows in a strong, positive voice. Her heart swelled with love. As a girl sheâ€™d planned her wedding to be as magical as this one had turned out to be.
And then, the words sheâ€™d waited for. â€œI now pronounce you husband and wife.â€
Eric captured her lips in a kiss full of promises, a kiss much the same as previous ones, but somehow different.
Passionate, like always, but so much more. It was a silent oath that he would always be there for her, a seal to the spoken vows.
Glowing, they walked back down the aisle to the applause of family and friends.
â€œAre you happy, honey?â€ Eric asked as they twirled in the first dance.
â€œEcstatic. It turned out exactly like I planned it. Even your brothers havenâ€™t caused trouble…yet,â€ she teased.
Eric and his three brothers had been well-known through their school years as incorrigible pranksters. It seemed there wasnâ€™t anything they wouldnâ€™t do for a laugh, and Cathy had spent hours, perhaps days, trying to defuse in advance each and every practical joke they might have thought up.
â€œI made them promise to stay cool tonight,â€ Eric said, â€œbut Iâ€™m keeping an eye on them just in case.â€ With that he scanned the room with quick jerky side-to-side movements of his eyeballs.
Cathy laughed and hugged him tighter, resting her carefully coifed head against his chest.
Beer and wine flowed freely, and the party guests relaxed in the white plastic chairs that had been purchased for the reception. In a quiet lull between songs, a loud crack reverberated in the room.
â€œYeow,â€ someone yelped.
Everyone grew quiet as they glanced around in search of the source of the noise. And there it was…
â€œOh no,â€ Cathy and Eric groaned in unison.
Right in the middle of the room, one of her new husbandâ€™s uncles sat sprawled amidst the ruins of a broken plastic chair. A big man, she assumed heâ€™d tilted back on the rear legs putting too much pressure on them.
She and Eric ran over to help Uncle Cyrus up from the floor. â€œAre you all right?â€ she asked.
He looked at the newly married couple with a raised brow. â€œIâ€™m fine, but I want to know which one of you boys sabotaged my chair.â€
The silence grew until someone, somewhere tittered nervously. Thatâ€™s all it took for laughter to roll across the room in an explosive wave led by an obviously uninjured Uncle Cyrus.
A new chair was exchanged for the broken one and the party continued with an anxious Cathy continuously scanning the room to catch people leaning back in the suspect chairs.
Snap, crackle, pop. The room echoed with the sound as if a bowl of cereal had been placed too near the microphone.
In dismay Cathy and Eric watched as their guests dropped like flies in broken chairs. As an uncomfortable silence spread over the room, she felt like bursting into tears. Would someone get hurt at her wedding? Why was this happening?
Ericâ€™s brother, Drew, pointed at a cousin laying flat on the floor and laughed.
â€œDarn you, Drew,â€ the cousin yelled, getting up, â€œyou did this, didnâ€™t you?â€ He set off after Drew, who grabbed a bunch of grapes that adorned the buffet table and began hurling them one at a time at his cousin.
â€œOh no,â€ Eric groaned, before chasing after the other two.
Before Cathy knew what was happening, her guests were scrambling for cover as the other brothers and cousins joined in the melee. Grapes flew across the room in rapid fire.
Horrified tears welled in her eyes. How could Eric have allowed this to happen? As she watched he snatched a bunch of grapes and joined in. That was more than she could take, and a slow anger built in her.
She was storming out of the hall when she noticed that the guests were laughing instead of reacting in anger and disgust as she had expected. She spun in a slow circle, her white gown flowing around her ankles, and watched the guests return to the room.
Cathy forced herself to relax. Her breathing, which had been on the verge of hyperventilation, returned to normal.
The DJ, bless him, turned the volume up and the strains of Chicken Dance blasted from the speakers. The grape fight ended as quickly as it had begun. People gathered in a circle to put their energies into the ridiculous dance.
Eric showed up at her side. Turning toward him with full intentions of venting her indignation, she stopped short at the look of contrite sheepishness on his handsome face. Cathy plucked a grape off of his shoulder and grinned.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry, honey,â€ he murmured. â€œI told them to behave, but maybe I just shouldnâ€™t have invited them.â€
â€œSweetheart,â€ she replied, â€œthis is so much better than you shoving cake all over my face.â€
His brows lifted in astonishment, and she knew heâ€™d expected a much different reaction from her. He pulled her into his arms and swung her back and forth.
â€œI love you,â€ he whispered in her ear.
â€œMe too,â€ she answered.
â€œYou love yourself?â€ he teased.
She swatted his shoulder. â€œYou know what I mean.â€
â€œYeah, I do.â€
She settled against him, happy and content. This was the man sheâ€™d chosen and the family sheâ€™d married into. And she couldnâ€™t be happier!
OCC/RWA Ways and Means Director