Sophie slides a piece of paper into my hand and my fingers shake as I unfold it and see that it’s a note from Collins.
Some part of me has known all along that you are the one I wanted to spend the rest of forever with. From the first day we met, I’ve known that you are the one for me. The five-year-old me knew it. The ten-year-old me—the one who thought all girls were gross—knew it.
Every time you smile, I can’t help but feel happy with you. The sound of your laughter is a song that has the power to lift my spirit. Your kind soul has guided me through so much.
The day you left when we were teenagers, I thought my life was over, and for a long time, it seemed it was. When you came crashing back into my world, you shook things up so much, at first I didn’t know what to think, but now I know what you were doing. You showed me how to live again.
I’m sorry it took so long for the idiot thirty-year-old me to figure it out. But this whole time you’ve had my heart, and I hope on this day you’ll say yes and agree share your life with me.
I love you. I always have, and always will.
My first. My last. Be mine forever?
Halfway through reading the letter my eyes have already blurred with tears.
“Are you okay?” Kylie asks.
In an attempt to process everything that’s happening, I blankly nod.
“Good, because it’s time.” Kylie squeezes my hand before turning and walking down the aisle.
Sophie gives me a hug and then heads down the aisle herself, followed shortly by Max who carries a small ring bearer pillow. I look into the crowd and see my parents and even Leila and her husband are here. Another wave of joy hits me as I realize he’s also done this. He’s flown them here just for me. My mom’s eyes find mine, and she smiles so big, I feel it deep inside me. It’s been three months since I’ve seen her, and it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to break out into a huge grin and wave frantically at her.
When Max reaches the front, soft music begins, and the crowd stands up, turning to face me. I realize it’s my turn, and I’m struck with a wave of sheer panic. I can’t believe I really am getting married. Today. Conflicting emotions rush through me. I had no idea this morning that I would be standing here about to get married. A bundle of nerves twists inside me, and I pull in another shaky breath, praying that I don’t faint. Oh God, I don’t know if I can do this. Everyone is watching me, waiting to see what I’m going to do.
I look up, and when I lock eyes with Collins, the strength and love in his gaze warms me, and my body relaxes. I know this is the right thing. My feet find their purpose, I kick off the flip-flops and I take my first step down the aisle, relishing the feel of sun-warmed sand beneath my feet. The eyes of the crowd are on me, but I’m unable to take my eyes off him—the only man I’ve ever loved.
When I meet him at the altar, he takes my hands in his and leans in close. The sound of the crashing waves nearby means if we talk softly enough, our guests won’t hear us, and gives us a moment of privacy.
“Is this okay?” he whispers, wiping a tear from my cheek with his thumb.
“It’s better than I could have ever imagined.” My voice is quiet and a bit shaky, and my vision is blurring again with tears. Collins’ eyes fill with concern. I smile through the tears, and try to wipe them away, but it’s no use, so I laugh.
At that, Collins’ face brightens and he smiles. And I can see from the look in his eyes that he truly does adore me, and there’s no place he would rather be.
The official’s words are perfect, and I’m surprised to hear him telling the story of us, and the collective chuckle from the guests when he tells them we’ve been engaged for twenty years. I manage to get my tears mostly under control about halfway through the ceremony, so that when it’s time for us to kiss, I’m not a total mess. Collins bends down, taking me in his arms, and I reach my hands around his neck. He presses the sweetest kiss against my lips. It’s gentle, slow, and he draws it out, teasing me with little licks from his tongue. His hand brushes the bare skin of my back and I feel him harden against my stomach. It strikes me immediately that fifty or so of our closest friends are watching. We both go rigid and then begin laughing mid kiss, which seems to help his situation. He looks down at me through hooded eyes though and grumbles, “We’ll take care of that later,” in a voice low enough that only I can hear.
After the wedding, we take pictures near the surf and then join our guests under a big white tent on the beach behind Colton’s house. Collins has thought of everything. There’s a beautiful, multi-tier cake with purple flowers, a band playing soft jazz, and, the best part, all of our friends and family.
I find Leila on the dance floor, and join her.
“I’m so glad you came.” I pull her in for a hug.
“You look so happy,” she says, hugging me back “I’m glad you listened to me.”
I’m not sure if she’s talking about our her initial drunken advice that I should come out here in the first place, or her later advice when she encouraged me to stay, but I’m glad I listened to Leila—both times—and I’m glad she was right.
“I told you, you were right,” I say.
She smiles, I know it’s something she’s been waiting to hear ever since she got here, but her smile also says she’s happy for me.
A slow song comes on, and Collins appears at my side and pulls me to him. He’s not afraid to dance. At least not with me. We slow dance simply, my arms around his neck and his resting at my waist. Our bodies know each other, so even if we don’t know the song, we sway together perfectly.