Read Never a Bride: A Short Story Online

Authors: Traci Hall

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Short Stories

Never a Bride: A Short Story (6 page)

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Sheena walked the tulle carpet, the scent of roses released with each crushed petal. It had been her idea to add the petals…odd that she was doing it for Lisa’s wedding instead of her own. It would have been nice.

Memories and broken dreams pressed down, stealing her ability to breathe, and she wondered if Jared had crumbled under the onslaught of what might have been. She couldn’t blame him. This pain, this agony, was almost unbearable.

She took her spot, waiting for Lisa to walk down the aisle. Mr. Langley crossed to his position, waiting for his son, Mike.

Her knees wobbled and it took considerable will power to keep upright and not fall in a heap of heartbreak. Too much, Lisa had promised she’d understand if this was too much…Sheena pinched her wrist to keep from bolting.

The music picked up and Mike, grinning like he’d won the lottery, came down the aisle, standing proudly next to his father. The candles flickered and the smell of roses layered the cozy chapel in magic.

Lisa stood at the back of the church, arm in arm with her mother. Beaming, glowing with love. This was what a wedding was supposed to be about – a celebration of two people united in a life together.

She and Jared had that, without the paper. They’d created their own magic, their own story. The ceremony would have made it official, sharing their love with friends and family. It wasn’t necessary. In chasing what she thought was important, she’d pushed away her lover. Stopped listening, as he’d said. Just maybe she owed him an apology too.

The minute the cake was cut, she would drive every back road in town until she found him. He’d opened her heart to love again. No way would she let him disappear so she could hide in denial for the rest of her life.

Mike and Lisa said their vows, filling the chapel with promise. Hope. Their love touched every person in the room like a blessing. When the minister pronounced them man and wife, everyone stood and applauded. But instead of leaving, Mike, arms linked with Lisa, stepped to the side.

Sharp intakes of breath sounded and Sheena turned toward the rear of the church.

A man rose from the last bench. Her body trembled as Jared, dressed in his tuxedo, walked down the aisle. Slowly, his gaze never leaving hers, he moved toward her – a shoebox in his hands. He reached the stairs and took the lid from the box.

With a trembling hand, he lifted a sheet of spiral notebook paper, the edges ripped. “May 15
th
. Yesterday, I destroyed the most beautiful gift in the world. I broke my best friend’s heart and I don’t know how to fix it.”

Sheena’s vision blurred.

He chose another piece of paper – a stained napkin - from the box. “May 31
st
. Tried to call Sheena, but her number is disconnected. I love her. How could she ever forgive me? How can I forgive myself?”

Crying, Sheena pulled a tissue from her bouquet, where she’d hidden a few just in case Lisa had needed one.

“Jun 15
th
. Woke up, dreaming of Sheena. Realizing I will love her for the rest of my life. Will she understand my reasons for leaving? I’m just starting to understand them myself.”

Sheena held up her hand. “Stop, Jared. Stop. You don’t have to do this.”

“I have a box full of these letters. I never should have left you that morning. Pride and ego got in the way of something pretty amazing.” He faced the people in the chapel. “I was wrong about marriage. I made it about me, when it was supposed to be celebrating the love between Sheena and myself.” He turned back to Sheena. “If you wanted clowns, I should have gotten us a circus.”

Sheena wiped her eyes, but the tears kept coming. She handed her bouquet to the bridesmaid next to her and walked to the edge of the platform. “I was wrong too. I should have listened to what you wanted.”

He walked up a step, his eyes glistening. “I never stopped loving you. I went to Anchorage this morning to get these letters so I could prove my heart stayed true, despite my pride.”

“I know you love me.” She swallowed, uncertain how to share her own recent insights. Wanting him to know she loved him. Could she risk it?

“It’s a lot to ask, your forgiveness.”

It would take swallowing her own pride, too. But she didn’t care. Jared was what mattered. Staring down into his eyes, seeing only him, Sheena said, “I forgive you. I’m sorry, too.”

He reached up the last two stairs for her hands. She gave them, realizing how cold she was by the heat of his palms enfolding hers. She tugged him closer, but he, stubborn and stronger than her, dropped to one knee.

“Sheena, I love you. Will you, before all of the people seated here right now, do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Sheena’s stomach somersaulted to her throat, then landed somewhere in the vicinity of her toes. “Are you insane? You told me you didn’t want to get married!” No way was she going to let him be miserable for the rest of his life just because he thought he owed her something.

“I told you that you were the only woman I would ever want to spend my life with, and that hasn’t changed. I’ve grown into a better man in these past few months.” He patted his jacket pocket, pulling out a velvet box. “A man worthy of your trust. Your love. I kept our rings.”

“I thought…” She knew he loved her. Could she trust him? Did she dare allow herself to be vulnerable?

“It has always
only
been you.”

She swallowed the salty taste of tears at the back of her throat. “I...I love you. I never stopped loving you, but I couldn’t admit it and get through each day. I don’t want a circus.” She caught a sob, her heart free now that she’d released her feelings. “I love you enough to live in an igloo, if that makes you happy.”

“You make me happy. You agreeing to be my wife will make me even happier.”

“Say yes, already,” Lisa stage-whispered.

Suddenly shy, realizing she’d just shared her innermost feelings with a room full of practical strangers, Sheena nodded. “I lived my life without you in it, Jared, and I was miserable. I want you, to love and hold forever. If that means marrying you, then…”

He stared up at her, dazzling her with love.

“I will.”

“Right here, right now?” Jared stood on the lower stair, bringing them eye to eye.

“Yes.” She had nothing to lose, and a life together to gain. Her parents, guests of Mike and Lisa’s wedding, sat a few rows back. Her mother cried into a handkerchief and her father gave her a nod. “If I wait, you might change your mind,” she teased through happy tears.

“Until death do us part, baby,” he whispered in her ear, maneuvering her toward the minister as his dad grinned. “Which will hopefully be a good long time from now.”

“You’re sure?” Sheena whispered. “You said marriage was bondage.”

“I’ve got some things I want to try…”

We hope you enjoyed reading, NEVER A BRIDE.

We hope you enjoyed reading, NEVER A BRIDE.

 

Be sure to visit
ReadByTheSea.com
to get the latest full length BY THE SEA books in Traci Hall’s new contemporary romance series.

 

Read AMBROSIA by the Sea and KARMA by the Sea!

 

Here’s the first chapter of
AMBROSIA by the Sea:

 

 

Ambrosia by the Sea - Prologue

 

 

Celia Langford watched the replay of her husband’s death with morbid fascination. She wasn’t normally a fan of the macabre, nor did she enjoy self-inflicted pain.

But, she thought as she unwrapped another Snickers bar, a mini, so it didn’t really count as candy, how could she face her family once word of Preston’s death was released?

She savored the melting chocolate on her tongue–a treat she hadn’t allowed herself in seven years. Why? Celia held on to the marble counter in her white-on-white kitchen, staring at the video, pausing at the spot where Preston perched on the edge of the plane, ready to sky dive over the beautiful Pacific Ocean in Hawaii.

The dark-haired woman at his back adjusted his buckles and checked his parachute. She turned to the side, and Preston ran his hands over her rayon suit, taking the time to squeeze a plump breast. The hair on the back of Celia’s neck rose and she swallowed the chocolate. Not into extreme sports, Celia was fairly certain mammograms were not part of the services offered at Pacific Sky Diving Inc. Besides, her late husband was a Pediatric Oncologist, not a Gynecologist.

The woman smiled, her teeth bright against her olive skin tone. Her glossy lips were the wrong shade of raspberry, but Preston didn’t seem to mind when she pressed her mouth to his, cupping his groin for good measure. They each waved to the cameras. Who, Celia wondered, had they been planning on sharing their video with?

She reached for another piece of candy, tears blurring her vision. They held hands and jumped together. As if that were not close enough contact, they entwined their legs, and came around for another kiss. Preston’s laugh was the one she rarely heard–carefree and wild. This man had Preston’s perfect hair, dark brown kept trimmed to his neck. Preston’s eyes behind the clear goggles. Preston’s cleft chin. But she did not recognize the passion in his embrace with the strange woman. It left a different kind of ache in her heart, besides the betrayal of it all.

In the next moment, their parachutes tangled together. Celia saw the panic in the woman’s eyes, the certainty that everything would be just fine in Preston’s. She heard the woman’s scream, the flutter of the wind, and finally, there was nothing left to hear or see as the lovers fell into the shark-infested ocean.

Celia unwrapped a fifth piece of chocolate and pressed the play button once more.

Ambrosia by the Sea - Chapter One

 

 

Celia arrived in the quaint little town by the sea just as the sun was rising over the ocean. The golden morning light gilded the summery beach cottages and condominiums along Ocean Boulevard. She’d driven all night, too cheap–no, frugal–to waste money on a flea-ridden motel.

The water sparkled turquoise and sea foam while pelicans soared like prehistoric aviators over lightly lapping waves against an ivory stretch of sand. She’d thought it the best place to heal when she’d closed on her outdated, fixer-upper condo last month.

“I need a damn miracle.” She pulled into the gas station on the corner as the final plumes of fuel sputtered to nothing. If she wasn’t mistaken, she’d gone the last twenty miles on a flat tire. Her bladder, full to bursting, demanded attention. What emergency to deal with first?

The car died in front of the pump, which answered one question. She opened the door of her new hybrid and slid out–getting half way before her legs cramped. Starbucks coffee cups fell to the pavement and she scooped them up, shoving them back inside and hoping nobody saw.

“We’re on empty, but we made it,” she told the car, giving the silver hood a pat. Her hand came away grimy and she looked at her palm in disgust. She took a blue paper towel from the dispenser by the pump, dunked it in the murky water, and washed the biggest smears off her hand. “Disgusting.”

She walked into the gas station and nodded at the dark-haired woman behind the counter. Dressed in an amber sari with gold accessories, the woman acknowledged her, but didn’t bother with a verbal hello.

“Do you have a restroom I could use?”
Quick, quick
.

“Is that your car?” The woman turned her head toward the lopsided vehicle. “A Prius?”

“Yes.” Celia had once owned an SUV Mercedes, and the smaller car, fuel and energy efficient at a quarter of the cost, took some getting used to–just like the rest of her life in the past year since Preston’s death.

“Right there. No need for a key.”

“Thank you.” Celia made her way between shelves of tampons and fig cookies, spying a can of Fix-A-Flat to her left. The gas station carried the basics, including an industrial coffee maker that brewed burnt French Roast. Not Starbucks, but she was too exhausted to be picky. Another cup would get her through the next hour.

Using the blue paper towel, she opened the door to the restroom. Single toilet, and a white porcelain sink. The mirror over the top was rusted–something that happened close to the beach.

Celia looked around for a toilet seat cover dispenser, but there wasn’t one.
Hurry.
She unbuttoned her Lily Pulitzer shorts and sat her ass down.

Just in time.

The three cups of coffee that had kept her up all night, driving toward salvation, raced through her. It wasn’t the relief of emptying her bladder that made her start to cry but the fact that she’d made it. Not to her condo just yet, but the gas station counted.

She sniffed, blowing her nose into the thin tissue, which just made more of a mess. Once finished, she stood in front of the mirror and assessed the damage from the all-night drive.

Splashing water onto her face, she patted her cheeks dry with the bottom of her lime green tee. There were no paper towels, and the hand dryer was broken. Celia quickly pulled her shirt back down after getting a view of her slightly pudgy stomach.

“The last ten pounds is a bitch,” she told her unsmiling mouth. Coming down from forty gained pounderoos, she didn’t linger on self-pity. Norwegian blue eyes, blonde, straight hair she kept at shoulder length and low-lighted with caramel streaks, and pale white skin that didn’t tan. She pinched her cheeks. “You, Celia, are okay.”

A knock sounded at the door. “Are you all right in there?”

Her neck flushed in embarrassment. “Yes,” Celia answered, shutting off the faucet and unlocking the handle. She went out, brushing past the curious female clerk.

“I thought I heard you talking?” The woman crossed her arms over her nicely toned midriff.

“A bad habit I’ve picked up, keeping myself company,” Celia explained with a chuckle, hoping the stranger hadn’t heard the tears too.

The attendant was not amused. “Are you going to fill up?”

Celia nodded, wishing she’d put on some lipstick or spritzed her hair. “But I have a flat tire.”

“The garage doesn’t open until ten.” She gave Celia’s wet shirt a glance, then frowned.

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Wolf Tales III by Kate Douglas
You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa
21/12 by Dustin Thomason
1929 by M.L. Gardner
The Stolen Princess by Anne Gracie
Cómo nos venden la moto by Ignacio Ramonet Noam Chomsky
Ark by K.B. Kofoed
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad