seems like there’s something I’m forgetting.”
heard the vague hint of panic in Rick’s voice, and fought the urge to laugh.
It was the day before Rick and Mindy’s wedding, and he and Beth had come over
specifically to make sure that everything was ready to go. Of course, Mindy
could have done it all on her own, but she’d already spent most of the past
two days finalizing various last-minute details; she didn’t need more stress
on her shoulders.
Phillip could say anything, he saw Beth get up from her chair and move around
the table so she could stand behind Rick and look over his shoulder at the
checklist. Her voice was even, but he could hear a definite trace of amusement
as she started verbally checking off the various items. “The flowers will be
here at 10am. The caterer will be here at 9am to start setting things up. The
band has already rehearsed all the music pieces and is ready to go. All the
groomsmen and bridesmaids have their outfits and you know we’ve already
practiced for the ceremony. The flower girl knows what to do. The…”
tuned out at that point, leaving the details to his wife and Mindy. Well, and
Rick too, he supposed, though the reality was that while the other man was
ostensibly involved, the two women had done most of the work of planning and
getting things arranged. He suspected that Beth and Mindy mostly wanted to
reassure themselves that everything was ready, and that soothing Rick’s
worries was just a convenient excuse.
after the Bauer barbecue, Rick and Mindy had come close to canceling their
planned wedding. Not because they didn’t want to get married, but because
tensions had been running so high with the fear of what Edmund might be up to.
But there had been no sign of the man in recent weeks. There was none of the
vandalism that had plagued the town, no further incidents at the farmhouse, and
no suspected sightings of Winslow or his goons.
life in Springfield had been amazingly calm since the end of July. The town
grapevine didn’t even have any interesting tidbits about torrid affairs,
troublemaking teens, surprise visitors, or any of the other dramas that seemed
to happen on a regular basis. Things in town actually reminded him of a Norman
Rockwell painting – showcasing idyllic times that had existed in some ways,
but which were as much idealized and imagined as anything.
was glad they’d reconsidered and that the ceremony was moving ahead as
planned. He almost thought he was more excited about it than his two friends. It
was just that the first anniversary of his father’s death was hitting him hard
– harder than he’d expected, honestly – and he was taking comfort in the
signs of new life and new love and the bonds with friends and family. Rick and
Mindy’s wedding was one such bit of comfort; Lizzie’s pregnancy was another.
himself out of his thoughts when he saw Beth straighten up and walk back over to
her chair, sitting down next to him again. He looked at her and smiled, before
glancing across the table to see Mindy reach up and gently caress Rick’s
tone was kind. “See, honey, we’ve got everything under control.”
couldn’t help himself. “You do have the ring, don’t you, Rick?”
to keep a straight face as he asked the question, but couldn’t. He mock-yelped
when Beth hit him on the arm, and then ducked his head in apology when he saw
Mindy shoot him a death glare from across the table. At least he knew his friend
would get the joke.
And he was
right. Rick merely rolled his eyes. “Of course. Like I’d really forget the
most important thing of all.”
shook his head and chuckled, as his friend fumbled into his shirt’s breast
pocket. He hadn’t really expected that Rick would actually pull out the ring
to prove he had it. After all, he didn’t seriously think even the notoriously
absent-minded doctor would misplace that.
Rick’s self-pat-down grew more urgent and a frown creased the man’s face,
Phillip felt a twinge of alarm. He’d meant it as a joke, but now he was glad
he’d said something. Better to find out today that it was missing, than to
discover it tomorrow in the middle of the wedding. He was damn well going to
insist that the ring be in his possession from now on, though. It wouldn’t do
to have the ceremony stopped dead in its tracks for any reason, but especially
not because the groom had to go home to get the ring. It would be
anti-climactic, to say the least.
eyes were darting frantically around the room and he was muttering, “Now what
did I do with it?”
around the table, Phillip saw that Mindy was frowning and Beth’s eyes were
wide. He forcefully pushed up out of his chair, nearly overturning the thing.
“Don’t worry, Rick. We’ll help you find it.”
to walk around the room, ready to look under and over every single thing in the
house, when it finally occurred to him that he was the only one moving. He spun
around and fixed his gaze on the two women – Mindy just stared right back, but
Beth had an overly innocent look on her face. A glance at Rick confirmed his
sudden suspicions; the man was chortling and had a jewelry box in his hand.
mimed being shot through the heart with an arrow, before rolling his eyes and
joining in on the laughter. It wasn’t every day that his friend managed to get
one over on him. He’d let Rick enjoy the moment. It could be an early wedding
thought we were planning to leave soon, to get to the baseball game early.”
tried to keep her tone mild, even though she was a little frustrated with the
fact that she’d walked into the bedroom to find Remy back in his sweatpants
and torn tee-shirt. He was sitting on the edge of the unmade bed, holding the
baby. It wasn’t so much that she was chomping at the bit to go or anything. It
was just that he’d come back an hour ago, after doing some police work, and
suggested they go ahead and leave soon, so they could go out to lunch before the
game. She’d raced around to get ready, and yet here he was, back in his old
known he wasn’t serious, she could have taken a little nap and tried to get
some more sleep. Well, that probably wouldn’t have happened, since Clayton had
a knack for waking her right as she was drifting off.
the slightly abashed look on Remy’s face as he spoke, even though his
attention remained on their son. “Sorry, honey. I thought it would be nice to
have a day out. But CK’s fussy and…I don’t know…does he feel warm to
you? I’m not sure if we should go or not. Maybe we should take him to the
she smiled at the nickname Remy had taken to using for their son. It seemed to
fit the little guy somehow. Walking over towards the bed, she ran her hand over
the baby’s head, resting her palm against his forehead. The soft skin felt
perfectly normal to her touch, but she made a show of trailing her fingers along
Clayton’s cheek as well. “He feels fine to me.”
the doubt on her husband’s face before he schooled his expression and nodded.
Christina understood his concerns; she really did. Even though she hadn’t lost
a child like he had, she could imagine just how paranoid she’d be if she’d
gone though such a horrible experience. But at the same time, his constant worry
about every little gurgle and sniffle was taking a negative toll on him, as well
as on her.
knew she needed to be extra sympathetic and supportive for a while, until he
finally could relax enough to believe that everything would be ok. All they
could do was take care of their son to the best of their abilities and trust
that it would be enough. It was all any parent could do.
down on the bed next to Remy, she put her arm around his back and rested her
head against his shoulder. At first, she could feel the tension in his muscles,
but after a minute or two, he started to relax. She kept her voice soft,
coaxing. “Why don’t you let me take him for a while? I’ll get him fed and
dressed, while you get yourself ready. And then we can take him to see his first
baseball game and let everyone in town see our beautiful little boy.”
head off his shoulder so she could look up at him, she saw Remy smile at the
thought of showing off his pride and joy. Their family and some of their friends
had, obviously, seen Clayton, but this would be his first public outing in
Springfield. She was excited about it – proud of her family. And she knew her
husband was, too – no matter how anxious he was at the moment.
tell he’d warmed to the idea when he said, “Maybe we could stop by and pick
up Mel on our way to lunch, and then make a family event out of the game. I
think she said she was planning to go and cheer on Shayne’s team.”
nodded enthusiastically. While she hadn’t spent a whole lot of time with
Remy’s parents, she loved his sister. She honestly didn’t think she could
have asked for a better sister-in-law. Now that Daisy and Ashlee were off at
college and she was busy being a mom, her friendship circle had shrunk, so she
was glad to have another person in her life that she could talk to and could
consider a friend.
don’t you go call her?” she suggested, reaching out for CK. Remy carefully
handed the baby to her and she smiled down at the precious little bundle. Then
she smiled up at her husband as he levered himself off of the bed and stood next
to her. His eyes sparkled and she could tell he was back to his usual
good-natured self. His words only confirmed it.
there’s no need to call her. We’ll just swing by and pick her up; it can be
a surprise. I’m sure she’s already up and about, probably doing some work
from home or something. She always turns her phone off when she’s working
anyhow. I’ll just go take my shower and get ready.”
were warm on her forehead and she reveled in the feel of having her two favorite
people in the world right next to her. She tracked Remy with her eyes as he
moved out of the room, before her attention went back down to her son. He looked
so peaceful and content, sleeping, his little face slack. Even as that thought
came to her, she saw the baby shift and yawn, his face contorting as he woke up.
It was darned cute and she was fairly impressed with Clayton’s sense of
He let out
a pitiful little cry and she couldn’t help chuckling. Time to feed her little
smiled as Danny finished his toast with, “To the happy couple.” She lifted
her champagne flute and joined in on the clinking of glasses. She and Rick,
Danny and Michelle, and Phillip and Beth were all enjoying a cocktail party
luncheon – a sort of pre-wedding celebration. While most brides-to-be might be
nervously running around the day before their nuptials, she had the luxury of
being able to kick back and relax and enjoy herself. Mainly because she had the
best friends in the entire world.
as Rick leaned in for a kiss, only vaguely hearing Beth’s murmured, “Aww.”
else said something, but she didn’t hear it, focused as she was on Rick’s
presence beside her. Whatever it was, it must have been funny, because the group
broke out in laughter. That reaction, on what was supposed to be a solemn
occasion, probably would have seemed strange to an outsider, but it warmed her
through and through.
leaned against Rick and heard his dry, “It took a long time. A hundred and
forty years.” She laughed along with everyone else, though she didn’t fail
to poke him in the ribs and jokingly tell him to stop.
he completely ignored her, continuing, “But I finally cornered her. I got the
girl.” She didn’t miss his look towards Phillip as he added, “I got the
shook her head at the last part, still laughing. Like he even had to ask the
heard Michelle, blessed with the same dry humor as her half-brother, jump in
with, “Good luck, Mindy; he’s all yours.”
could come up with a suitable retort, she heard Beth’s encouraging, “If
anyone can handle him, it’s Mindy.”
chuckled at that. “My only concern is that he’s on time for the wedding
tomorrow.” She couldn’t resist poking him in the chest to emphasize the
point, despite the fact that she was holding her champagne flute in that hand.
expected, Phillip stepped in to reassure her. “Don’t worry. I will get him
when Rick didn’t bother to argue the point and simply said, “Thanks,
She was so
grateful that Phillip was back in Rick’s life. She wasn’t sure she’d be
here right now if Phillip had died last year. That would have been a deep, deep
blow to Rick and she doubted he’d have been able to open his heart to her.
attention only half on Phillip’s response, she heard him say, “The best
man’s job, right?” But she knew the simple statement meant more than just
the obvious; it was about the Four Musketeers banding together again, being
there for each other.
more clinking of glasses as they toasted to the wedding, and then Michelle
started clamoring for a picture. As one of the Spaulding’s maids took the
camera and the group lined up for the shot, Mindy found herself thinking that
she couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the day. She was with
friends and soon-to-be family, and they were sharing love and laughter. Really,
that was what life was all about.
grinned as he took a curve in the road just a bit faster than he should have.
What was the point of driving a sporty little car if he couldn’t at least have
a little bit of fun with it? Though he did know he’d better be careful – his
dad would kill him if he wrecked the mini-Cooper. It had taken a lot of
persuading before his parents had allowed him to drive out to California on his
own to visit Daisy and Ashlee. He didn’t want to give them a reason to regret
that decision. Not to mention the fact that his girlfriend would kill him if he
did anything stupid.
just happy for the chance at a little adventure. Sure, he loved his home town,
now that he and his dad were getting along, and he could see that he had a
pretty good life as a Spaulding. But the place just didn’t have the kind of
excitement he craved sometimes. He’d never admit it to Daisy, but part of him
envied her for getting out and experiencing a whole new life and meeting new
people. He enjoyed working at Spaulding, learning more and more about the
business and getting some valuable experience. And he didn’t really want to
commit to college and sit through boring classes when there were so many other
opportunities he could explore. Most of them were even legal.
slid to a stop at a stop sign and he smiled at the trio of little old ladies
picking their way cautiously across the street. One looked up in apparent alarm
at his sudden presence, but another waved a slow hand and he waved back.
ago, he probably would have rolled his eyes at them at best, and debated whether
to play chicken with them at worst. Now, he was content to sit and wait, even
though he had places to go and people to see. It surprised him a little to
realize how much things had changed in his life now that he wasn’t angry at
almost everyone and everything.
year hadn’t been an easy time; that much was for sure. His girlfriend was
across the country, his grandfather was dead, and even though he’d made peace
with his father, it had been plenty awkward for a while as they settled in to
their new reality. But he could honestly say that all the bad stuff had been
worth it, because he was glad for the life he had now – even though things
were a little boring from time to time.
trio cleared the crosswalk, he stepped on the gas and headed down the road,
enjoying the sunny day and the feel of the wind in his hair. Before long, he
found himself pulling up to the spot on the side of the road where Daisy and
Ashlee were waiting. The girls had decided to meet him off-campus after they had
lunch with one of their friends.
He came to
a stop and put the car in park, then honked the horn before getting out and
heading over to his friends. Daisy came running over and he caught her up in a
hug and kissed her. It was so good to see his girlfriend again. In reality, it
hadn’t been that long, he knew, but it seemed like forever. She and Ashlee had
gone back to California two weeks before classes started, so they could get
settled back into their little apartment. He hadn’t seen Daisy all that much
during her last few weeks in Springfield, between his job and her job and
conflicting family schedules. It surprised him, just a little bit, how much
he’d missed her.
enthusiastic kiss finally broke, he smiled at Daisy, before going over to give
Ashlee a big hug. He’d barely seen the blonde at all over the summer and he
found that he’d missed her company as well. She’d turned out to be a good
friend to both of them.
back over to his car and opened the door for his smiling passengers. Ashlee
climbed in back and Daisy opted to sit up front. He paused long enough to give
his girlfriend another kiss, before walking around and slipping into the
driver’s seat. The plan was for them to pick up a few essentials at Daisy and
Ashlee’s apartment, and then get on the coastal highway and take a nice, long,
scenic drive. The duo didn’t have to be back on campus for a few days, so they
planned to have a little adventure in the meantime.
the pedal to the metal, so to speak, he sent the car jumping forward, delighting
in the girls’ laughter. It seemed like they were as eager to get out on the
road as he was. Well, he figured Daisy was, at least. She had the same kind of
restless spirit he did; she liked being in Springfield, but needed excitement.
It was probably one of the reasons they’d spent half their summer fighting
with each other – it gave them something to do.
his focus mostly on the road, listening with one ear as Daisy turned in her seat
to talk to Ashlee. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, but they were rambling on
about some college friend of theirs who he didn’t know, talking about
something that had happened earlier in the week. He didn’t really need to pay
attention to the whole thing. The lilt of their voices was pleasant enough and
made him feel relaxed, happy that he was here and could spend this time with his
really was good these days. He hoped that if his grandfather was up in Heaven
somewhere, he was looking down on him and smiling.
the door quietly behind her, so as not to disturb the wedding that was going on
in the church’s sanctuary. She’d convinced Mallet to stick around and watch
the happy couple exchange vows, and he’d obliged her – the two of them
opening the door slightly and poking their heads inside the room to watch.
He’d already retreated and it was time for them to get out of there, before
the ceremony ended and they got caught at their spying.
She walked towards Mallet, staring at him for a moment before letting him know she was ready to go. He asked if she wanted a ride, and while she didn’t know exactly what he meant by that, she said “yeah” anyhow. When he bent down and reached for her legs, she figured out what he was doing and fought the urge to roll her eyes. Instead, she held out her arms so they weren’t in his way and let him hoist her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
about the vaguely Neanderthal move made her chuckle as he turned them in a
circle and then headed towards the door to the outside. When they’d cleared
the narrow space, he took off at a run. Now that they were safely outside, she
allowed herself to laugh out loud at the absurdity of her boyfriend running away
from a church like a bat out of hell, with her still draped over his shoulder.
It wasn’t exactly the reverse of carrying someone over the threshold, but that
image came to mind for some reason.
they’d gotten well away from the church, Mallet slowed to a jog, but didn’t
put her down until they were under the shelter of a tree. They’d crossed an
open field that stood between this grove of trees and the church – the old
building now appearing small and square against the horizon. They stood on a
slight hill, allowing her to take in the scenery below – the softly rolling
hills and thick woods surrounding this country chapel.
Mallet’s presence behind her as she looked around, her eyes feasting on the
sight of daisies and small purple flowers dotting the hillside below them,
bright green leaves fluttering in the slight breeze, and a handful of white
butterflies dancing on the wind.
about the sight reminded her of home and she chuckled at the thought. They’d
been traipsing all over Europe as part of Mallet’s work with the CIA, and yet
she swore every place they went ended up looking like Springfield in some way.
As she’d noted when she was there with Jeffrey, the resemblance was strongest
in Bosnia. It was truly uncanny.
could get too sidetracked with that train of thought, she heard Mallet’s
made you decide we needed to crash a bunch of weddings today?”
fought the urge to laugh at the genuine confusion on Mallet’s face. He always
looked so damned earnest when he was trying to piece something together and not
quite managing the trick.
to answer his question, she really did. She felt like she owed it to him in a
way, since he’d been so good-natured about following her around for the past
several hours as they stopped at church after church – not to mention
indulging her whims over the past few months. Any other man would probably have
been frustrated long before now, instead of treating the whole thing as a source
problem was that she didn’t really know how to answer his question. She
honestly didn’t know what had possessed her to run around touring various
churches today. Except for the reminder that she’d missed her mother’s
wedding several months ago…and how could she explain to him the reason that
was suddenly on her mind? Well, she could; she just knew it wouldn’t be fair.
He had a job to do here; she’d come with him, knowing the stakes. He
couldn’t just up and leave because she was having a bout of homesickness.
mumbled some nonsense about tradition and beauty, and watched him nod. She felt
a stab of guilt for not being honest with him, but it was minor and easily
ignored. After all, it certainly wasn’t the worst lie she’d told in her
life. Hell, it probably wasn’t even the worst one she’d told since
her conscience, she turned and smiled up at him. “Ready to head back to the
her surprise, he shook his head. “Let’s do some more sightseeing. I’ve
heard about a couple of neat old churches in a town not far from here. They’re
supposed to have some great architecture and stonework. You probably won’t
find any weddings going on, though.”
grinned. “It’ll be a hardship, but I’m sure I’ll manage. Race you to the
laughed as he just gaped at her for a second, and then she took off running
before he could gather his wits. It was a dirty trick, she knew. But after all,
as the old saying went, all was fair in love and war.
got to be kidding me,” Mel groaned as she heard the knock at the door.
she’d even finished the sentence, Cyrus had scrambled out of her bed, wrapping
a sheet around himself as he went. She stared at him in disbelief, not too
surprised when he simply smiled at her. “Maybe it’s the Publisher’s
Clearinghouse, here to award us ten million dollars.”
her eyes. “Have you ever actually filled out one of their forms and sent it
anything, his smile grew wider at the question, his mischievous streak showing.
“Well, no. So maybe it’s one of those door-to-door religion pushers and I
can shock him or her into silence by opening the door like this.”
didn’t bother to answer her incorrigible boyfriend, just pulled the covers
over her head, jokingly, as he opened the door. And then there was a moment of
silence and an awkward clearing of a throat and she heard the sound of her
It was now
official. Remy had the worst timing on the planet.
he done the exact same thing to them last year?
he had. She remembered the scene clearly – she’d thrown open the door to
find Remy and Christina standing there, the two of them struck by the sudden
urge to make sure they were really married. They’d seen Cyrus lying in her
bed, wearing nothing but a layer of blankets and a big grin. It had been a rude
interruption to a very pleasant birthday celebration.
had definitely been awkward, to say the least. At that point, she and Cyrus had
just moved from being friends to being “friends”. But by now, since
the two of them had been dating for nearly a year, it shouldn’t be any
surprise that they shared each other’s beds. Then again, things had cooled
between the two of them in recent weeks, and she knew both Remy and Christina
had picked up on it, even as preoccupied as they’d been with the baby.
wasn’t that she and Cyrus had stopped caring about each other; it was more
that they hadn’t been able to decide whether to move forward into something
more serious than dating, or take a step back and just be friends with benefits.
Last night, Cyrus had shown up at her door and taken her to a fancy restaurant
in a nearby town. They’d talked for hours, finally naming themselves as a
committed couple for the first time. While the declaration hadn’t come with a
ring or an engagement, from either of them, it had been a huge step forward.
always had fun while dating, but she hadn’t really realized until recently
just how much she appreciated being around someone she could goof off with and
who could bring out her light-hearted side. Her natural demeanor, not to mention
her job, usually kept her life tuned to a more serious note. It still felt a
little weird that she, as a lawyer, would hook up with someone who, while not
exactly a criminal, definitely had walked on the other side of the law as
needed. But he was a good guy at heart; he’d turned over a new leaf and was
even doing some work with Remy and Anna Li. Heck, with the kinds of antics that
passed for normal in this town, it shouldn’t raise any eyebrows that someone
with a shady past was now connected with the police department.
wasn’t counting on her relationship with Cyrus being love everlasting. But she
was content for the moment with companionship and a splash of romance. It was
more than she’d thought she’d find again, that was for sure.
the low murmur of Cyrus’s voice pulled her back into the present with a
vengeance. She pulled the blanket back and waggled her fingers at her brother.
He had the good grace to look embarrassed, though she could see the amusement in
her throat, she asked the obvious questions. “What are you doing here? Where
are Christina and Clayton? Why don’t you ever call first?”
her best big sister glare on him and struggled not to laugh as he shifted from
foot to foot. “Uh, we thought maybe we could have lunch with you and then head
over to the big game. Of course, Cyrus can come too. Christina and CK are
waiting in the lobby. And…um…well…”
couldn’t help it, she laughed out loud at his stammering. She sat up in the
bed, clutching the blankets around her, and stared at Cyrus with one eyebrow
raised in a question. He shrugged and said amiably, “Sure, we can do that. I
was planning to go to the game anyhow, and you know me, I can always eat. I’m
actually pretty hungry after last night…”
raised a hand, as if trying to keep the rest of that sentence from being spoken
aloud, Mel laughed again. She took pity on him, though, and said, “Give us
twenty minutes to get ready. Maybe we can meet you over at Company.”
Remy shake his head. “They’re closing early to go to the game, since Buzz is
supplying a bunch of food. We’ll head on over to Towers and get a table for
all of us.” She watched his eyes dart between Cyrus in his sheet and her in
her blankets, before he backed away from the door and finished with, “Ok, see
you in a bit. Bye!”
chuckled as Cyrus shut the door behind Remy. “Your brother really needs to
work on his timing.”
her eyes, she added, “Or learn the concept of picking up the phone and
laughed, then turned on his heel and headed toward the bathroom, saying over his
shoulder, “Come on, we’d better get ready to go.”
as she crawled out of bed to follow him. It wasn’t the start to her day that
she’d expected. But she had to admit, it was a pretty darn good one.
smiled at his friends as he lifted his glass of champagne under a sunny sky. The
day was gorgeous and tomorrow was supposed to be more of the same. While it
wouldn’t be the end of the world to have cool temperatures or even rain on
their wedding day, he wanted everything – even the weather – to be perfect.
He wanted it to be as beautiful and memorable as possible for Mindy. She and
Beth had poured their hearts into the planning and arrangements and he wanted
them to have the satisfaction of seeing their hard work pay off.
all that, Mindy deserved the best of everything in the whole world, just because
she was such a special lady.
and smiled along with everyone else as Phillip and Beth exchanged wisecracks in
their attempt to make another toast, then watched as Mindy, Beth, Danny, and
Michelle raised their glasses. Not that anyone was really paying attention to
what was being said, since they were all too busy laughing at each other or
razzing Mindy about having her hands full with him. But he wasn’t paying too
much attention to that last part.
glad that his half-sister and brother-in-law were here today, that he had the
chance to celebrate his happiness with them. And he was overjoyed at having his
best friends here with him, instead of them being off at the baseball game.
He’d expected Phillip and Beth might prefer to go to that instead of spending
the afternoon and evening here, especially since Lizzie and Bill planned to be
there. But they’d decided that the Four Musketeers needed to be together
in the side yard of the Spaulding mansion, surrounded by people he cared about,
Rick couldn’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be. Well, as he thought
about it, he knew he’d also enjoy being on a secluded tropical beach or at a
fabulous resort. That, however, was an experience he’d save for when it was
just him and Mindy. As much as he loved these people, he darn well didn’t want
any of them tagging along when it was time for him to be alone with his wife.
over at Mindy, struck by the beauty of her smile and the mischievous twinkle in
her eyes. Life would never be dull with her around.
and laughed as they raised their glasses again, toasting to more long life and
happiness. As they drank their champagne, his mind drifted. The past few years
had been momentous, that was for sure. He was grateful for everything that had
happened, though – both good and bad – because it had brought him here, to
the eve of his wedding.
It had brought him to this moment, where he was ready to say “yes” to love and to let its light be his guide.