The big day is finally here! Woohoo! This particular chapter is rather important but there is one more coming. Check back this weekend for the final installment.
ALSO, the cover reveal for Leaning Into Forever is happening this Thursday, May 31! Mark your calendars…Geordie’s story will be here June 29. And the audiobook for Leaning Into the Look should be available next week. Omg! So much happening! <3
Happy Reading! Lane xo
Better Than Wedding– Part 11
Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, sunshine and not a single cloud in sight. A perfect day to get married, I mused as I pulled back the curtain. Sunlight streamed across the hardwood floor and the unmade king-size bed in the master suite. Well, half unmade. I glanced at Aaron’s side and felt a stab of longing for him. I hated sleeping alone. I knew this was a special occasion… the ultimate special occasion, but I wished he was here. I grabbed my acoustic guitar from the stand in the corner and propped my pillows against the headboard then reached for my cell and sat on the edge of the mattress. I tucked the guitar to my chest and typed a quick message.
Happy Wedding Day!
Aaron returned my text immediately. He repeated the sentiment and added, Can you believe it’s really today?
No. I feel like I just met you.
He sent a laughing emoji. It’s been five years, Matty.
I remember everything about that night.
What was I wearing? he challenged.
A red T-shirt.I fixated on the flashing ellipse indicating he was typing but within three seconds I was too impatient to wait. Can I talk to you or is that against the rules?
My phone buzzed a moment later.
“Good morning, baby,” I answered.
“Good morning, almost husband. God, you sound sexy,” he purred.
“You do too. I wish you were here. Why aren’t you here again?”
I huffed. “I’m lonely, I’m horny and I hate having the bed to myself.”
Aaron chuckled. “I can help you with the horny part tonight but the rest is all you for now. You shouldn’t be too lonely. Your brother spent the night and Curt, Jack and the guys should be over soon. I heard something about a pick up game of basketball before lunch with the family. Enjoy the quiet while you can, Matty.”
“Hmph. How’d you sleep last night?” I asked as I tucked my phone between my ear and my shoulder and strummed my guitar.
“Not great. I was too keyed up. Jay and I stayed up talking all night and— what are you playing?”
I didn’t answer him right away. I switched chords and hummed a few bars of “Tiny Dancer” then flattened my hand over the strings abruptly. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s the wrong Elton John song,” he deadpanned. “But don’t play our song now. I don’t want to jinx anything.”
“Let me get this straight. I can’t see you before the ceremony, spend the night in the same bed, and now you don’t want hear my solo. I knew you were superstitious but not that bad,” I teased.
“I’m not superstitious, I’m Catholic. Which may be the same thing now that I think about it. I like tradition. And a little mystery.”
“There’s not much mystery here, Aar. I’m still me. My dick didn’t grow in the middle of the night and I’m not sure if I put the cap back on the toothpaste after I used it ’cause that’s how I roll sometimes and…”
“Your dick didn’t shrink, did it?”
“Ha. Ha,” I snarked.
I forgot what I was going to say when Aaron burst into laughter. I let the joyful sound wash over me and ground me and make me so fucking grateful for whatever forces in the universe led me to him five years ago.
“I know who I’m marrying. I love you just the way you are.” He waited a beat before adding, “But make sure you put that cap on and pick up your towel too, please.”
“Don’t worry.” A comfortable silence drifted between us for a moment. “I could do this all day,” I said in a low tone.
“Just talk to you. I love the sound of your voice.”
“Mmm. Even when I’m nagging you?” he asked with a half laugh.
“Yeah. And even when you’re yelling at me in Spanish and I can’t understand a word you’re saying. I must really like you.”
Aaron chuckled. “I love you, Matty. In fact, I love you so much I’ll marry you this afternoon if you want.”
“I want. I love you too and—damn, I should go. I hear Sean banging around in the kitchen. I think it’s his not-so-subtle way of asking where we keep the coffee. Just a few more hours till you’re mine. For life!” I cackled in a faux evil voice before hanging up.
I set my guitar on the bed and pulled on a pair of old gray sweats then headed out to the great room. Sean raised an empty coffee mug in greeting just as the doorbell rang.
“That should be your friends. I told the doorman to send them up. I just figured out your coffee machine. Want a cup?” my brother asked sleepily.
“Yeah, thanks,” I replied, moving toward the foyer.
The second I cracked the door open, Curt, Dave and Jason pushed their way inside and tackle-hugged me.
“I think we’re supposed to sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” now,” Curt announced.
“Not necessary,” I assured him as I fist bumped Jack on his way to the kitchen.
“We brought stuff to make Bloody Marys and Mimosas for a pre-game toast,” Jack said, sliding a paper bag on the island. “Pick your poison, Matt. I’ll bartend.”
Curt batted his eyelashes at his boyfriend and sighed dreamily. “He’s such a sexy bartender.”
Jason, Dave and Sean groaned at the over-the-top affectation while Jack chuckled softly. He made himself at home, going through the cupboards and pulling glasses out for the drinks.
“Are you ready for this wedding stuff?” my brother asked, handing me a cup of coffee.
I thanked him then perched on a barstool and grinned. “Very ready.”
Everyone gathered around the makeshift bar on the island, calling out their drink order to Jack and chatting about inconsequential things like the breakfast at the hotel where Dave and his girlfriend were staying and whether or not we’d have a hard time getting a court after ten o’clock on a Saturday.
“There’s no way we’d get a court at the park now. Peter reserved one at the club. He’ll meet us there when we’re ready to go,” Jack said as he lined up six cocktails. He picked up a Bloody Mary, skirted the island then wrapped his arm around Curt and lifted his glass in a toast. “To Matt and Aaron.”
I set my coffee on the counter and reached for a Mimosa and clinked my glass against everyone’s and took a sip. I glanced at my circle of close friends and was overcome with a rush of gratitude I felt compelled to acknowledge.
“Hey, I’m—thank you. I have three speeches in my head of varying importance that I have to get through tonight and this was going to be part of one of them, but… I feel like I should say this now.” I took a deep breath then smiled. “Thank you. Thanks for being my friends and my champions. Thanks for always being in my corner and helping me navigate some questionable choices… although in all fairness, some of those suggestions were yours.”
“You mean Dave. He was the worst when we were in law school,” Curt said, high fiving Jason while Dave shook his head in denial.
Everyone laughed and pointed at each other. When Sean went quiet, I bumped his arm. “Yeah, I’m talking to you too.”
Sean made a funny face. “Me?”
“Definitely you. I don’t think ever got in trouble until my mom married your dad. I can’t blame you though. I was always willing to follow a good time and a bad idea,” I said with a laugh. “Anyway, just… thank you. All of you. But maybe Curt especially. If you hadn’t insisted on going to that club we might not be here right now. But more importantly, if you hadn’t encouraged me to be myself, I might have lost my way. So to my friends…I love you guys and I appreciate you. Thanks for being here for me.”
We raised our glasses again then thumped each other on the back and gave bro hugs that lasted a little longer than usual before steering back to neutral conversations with less emotional impact. It wasn’t necessary to bare my soul. They didn’t expect it or want it. Just being there for each other was enough.
I spent the morning playing basketball with my friends then showered and met my family for lunch before heading back to the condo to get ready with Sean. My parents insisted on stopping by on their way to the Claridge Estate. My mom probably wanted to inspect me and assure herself I wouldn’t show up for the biggest day of my life wearing a wrinkled tux. I didn’t argue. I was too nervous to anything except nod. Did you brush your teeth? Yes. Do you have Aaron’s ring? Yes. Do you have your guitar? Yes.She narrowed her gaze and gave Sean a look I bet translated to “keep a close eye on your brother”.
I was quiet on the ride. My fingers itched to play the guitar if only to assure myself I hadn’t forgotten how. Fuck, I was a mess. I swiped my damp palm on my trousers before opening the car door and retrieving my tuxedo jacket while Sean grabbed the guitar case from trunk.
“Are you okay, man? You look pasty.” My brother cocked his head and gave me a searching once-over.
“Yeah. Just nervous I’m going to forget everything. My vows, the song.”
“Don’t put your hand in your hair. You’ll mess the gel… at least that’s what mom told me to tell you. And stop freaking out. I know this is big day and I don’t blame you for being scared out of your mind.”
“Not helping, Sean,” I snapped.
“He loves you, Matt. You can forget the words, forget the melody… hell, you can forget your name and he’ll understand.” He paused to pull his own tuxedo coat on. “It’s a little late for second thoughts but—”
“I don’t have second thoughts. I’m just… nervous,” I repeated.
Sean nodded then threw a companionable arm over my shoulder. “I get it. You’re a lucky dude. Some day I want what you and Aaron have. Except with a girl. Let’s get you inside before your wedding planner yells at me. He issued very strict instructions to me about what time to get you here and where to park. I’ve got five minutes to get you inside with your guitar or he’s gonna do something involving fairy dust to me. Come on.”
Vic greeted me with a hug then led me to a private room. “You look so handsome! Your guests have started to arrive. Your friend, Curtis and his extraordinarily hunky boyfriend are waiting for you. In fifteen minutes gorgeous Jack will place your guitar on the stand in the gazebo then take his seat. Soon after our quartet will signal that we’re ready to begin. Do you have any questions?”
Vic smiled kindly and patted my arm. “He’s with his brother and Jay and Peter. And can I just say… this is easily the most attractive wedding party I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. If only one of them was single.”
I shrugged apologetically. “Sorry Vic. I think the only single guys here are straight.”
“Even your brother?”
“Hmm. Too bad. I like him.” Vic winked then stepped backward. “I’m sure I’ll say this ten more times today but… congratulations. You and Aaron are a lovely couple. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Now remember your cues. Once you escort your mother into the garden, it’s show time.”
Twenty minutes, Jack tapped his watch and inclined his head. “It’s time.”
He kissed Curt, gave me a hug and fist-bumped my brother before picking up my guitar case and heading outside. I heard the strains of a violin in the distance, my mother’s voice in the hallway, and Curt and Sean talking next to me. In some ways, it was sensory overload but I felt oddly… calm.
I sucked in a deep breath and smiled. “I’m ready.”
Arduous planning had gone into our wedding day. I’d been privy to every conversation about music, flowers, an indoor/outdoor ceremony… the list was endless. To witness the culmination of months of thoughtful decision-making unfold in beautiful precision was an incredible feeling. Sure, I still had butterflies in my stomach but my heart was filled with pride when I walked my mother down the garden aisle strewn with rose petals. The gazebo was decorated with a riot of white roses and ivy. A small but elaborate crystal chandelier provided an extra pop of ‘fabulous’ I was pretty sure Aaron never mention. Not that I’d complain. Everything looked amazing. And our perch on river’s edge gave our guests an extraordinary view of the Potomac on a gorgeous autumn day and made it seem as though we were part of a landscape painting.
I kissed my mom’s cheek and waited for her to take her seat before taking my place next to Sean and Curt under the archway. I smiled a greeting to our minister. Just as the quartet went quiet, a man in a navy suit stepped forward with a classical guitar and strummed the first few chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I knew Aaron wanted to walk down the aisle. He’d made it clear that was one traditional element he wanted to keep. But the classical guitarist surprised me. I looked across the archway at Jay then followed his gaze just as Aaron escorted his mother down the aisle.
My breath hitched and my heart almost fucking stopped. Fuck, he was beautiful.
I bit the inside of my cheek and willed myself not to cry but holy crap, it wasn’t easy. Aaron’s classic black tux fit his trim form to perfection. Honestly, he could have stepped out of a GQ ad. But it was his radiant smile and slow, confident gait that captivated me. If I lived to be a hundred, I’d never forget the moment he left his mom and moved to my side. Everyone disappeared. We could have been the only two people on the planet. Our family and friends, the kind-eyed minister standing two feet away. Even the music and the view faded to background noise. My senses locked in on the gorgeous man in front of me and I never wanted to look away.
“I love you,” I whispered, though not as quietly as I’d hoped.
The minister made a joke about us being off to a fine start that sent a twitter of laughter amongst the guests. Aaron grinned in response then reached out to hook his pinky finger in mine before inclining his head to indicate we were ready.
We’d planned every facet of the ceremony. We included three readings, one from the Bible for Aaron’s family and two sonnets we liked, read by Aaron’s brother, my older sister and Aaron’s friend, Katie. I listened to their lilting voices as I stared into his eyes and realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was grounded and present and completely in tune with my surroundings.
The minister said a few words then indicated it was time to exchange vows.
“Aaron, would you like to begin?” she prompted.
He nodded then reached for my hands and looked up at me with bright beautiful eyes.
“I love you, Matty. I’ve loved for years. I love your patience, your strength and intelligence. I love the way you see more than one side and always strive to seek truth and justice. You are honorable and kind I am honored to be your husband. I love the way you look at me like I might have answers you need and a place for you to call home. I may not always have answers but I promise to be your home. I promise to love you, respect you and honor you in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live. Tu eres mi corazón y alma. Te amo, mi amor.”
I heard someone sniffling nearby and in a moment of panic, I was afraid it was me. But I was okay. I had this.
“Te amo.I love you, Aar.” I licked my lips and blinked around the tears in my eyes before attempting to speak again. “I remember the day I met you. Time stood still. I swear. There was loud music, voices, laughter and then… silence. And I didn’t know what was happening but I knew I’d better pay close attention. Little did I know I’d met the other half of me. My better half. From day one you’ve turned my world upside down. You’ve shown me who I am, who I could be and dared me to embrace the pieces I didn’t understand. I’m in awe of your strength and resolve. I’m humbled by your kindness and compassion. I promise to love you, respect you and be the best husband and partner I can possibly be. Above all, I promise to be your friend, your safe place, the one person you can count on in sickness and health…for always.”
Aaron launched himself in my arms. I held him close then pushed back slightly and dried a tear on his cheek. “Shh. We still have to get married, babe.”
The minister chuckled. “Matt, do you take Aaron to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”
“I do,” I replied in a strong, clear voice.
“Aaron, the ring,” she prodded. Aaron slipped my platinum band on my left hand and then stared into my eyes when the minister spoke again, “Aaron, do you take Matt to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”
“I do,” he answered.
I pulled his ring from my pocket and slipped it back on his finger and held his hands tightly.
“By the power vested in me, I am honored to pronounce you husband and husband. Congratulations.” She beamed.
A roar of applause and cheering sounded as I cradled his face and finally kissed my husband.
To be continued…
**For those curious, here are the readings Matt & Aaron chose for their wedding
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
“Love Sonnet 17,” by Pablo Neruda
I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
Secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
“How Do I Love Thee,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.