- Beautiful Redemption
Abby’s veil blew in the Caribbean breeze, and I held up my cell phone to snap a picture. Camille, on one side of me, and Falyn, on the other, were doing the same.
When Travis finally righted Abby, the Maddox brothers and Shepley all broke into cheers. America was standing next to Abby, holding the bride’s bouquet with one hand and wiping her eyes with the other. She pointed and laughed at her mother, who was dabbing her eyes, too.
“I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Travis Maddox,” the pastor said, his voice straining over the wind, ocean waves, and the celebration.
Travis helped Abby descend the steps of the gazebo, and they walked down the aisle before disappearing behind a wall of trees and shrubs.
“Mr. and Mrs. Maddox ask that you join them at the restaurant Sails for dinner and the reception. I speak for them when I say thank you for being present on this most special day.”
He nodded, and everyone stood, gathering their things.
Thomas joined me with a wide grin, seeming relieved that the ceremony was over.
“Say cheese!” Falyn said, holding up her camera phone.
Thomas wrapped me in his arms and kissed my cheek. I smiled.
Falyn smiled, too, showing us the picture when she was finished. “Perfect.”
Thomas squeezed me. “She is.”
“Aw, cute,” Falyn said.
Taylor tapped her shoulder, and she turned to hug him.
A palpable tension overwhelmed the space around us when Trenton pulled Camille into his arms and kissed her.
Jim clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Grab your ladies, boys. I’m starved. Let’s eat.”
Thomas and I walked, hand in hand, following Jim with Trenton and Camille. Taylor and Falyn, and Tyler and Ellison were not far behind.
“Taylor looks relieved,” I whispered.
Thomas nodded. “I thought he was going to pass out when she texted him, saying her plane had landed. I don’t think he believed she was coming until then.”
We walked to the outdoor restaurant. Large white canvases shaded the tables from the glow of the sunset. Thomas led me to a table where Shepley and America were sitting with who I recognized as Jack and Deana from my research prior to the trip. We had barely sat down when the server approached, asking for our drink orders.
“I’m so glad to see you, sweetheart,” Deana said. Her long lashes blinked once over her hazel-green eyes.
“It’s good to see you, too, Aunt Deana,” Thomas said. “Have you met Liis?”
She shook her head and then reached across Thomas. “We didn’t get a chance to meet before the ceremony. Your dress is absolutely stunning. That violet is so vivid. You’re practically glowing. It’s perfect with your skin and hair.”
“Thank you,” I said, shaking her hand once.
She and Jack turned to give their drink orders.
I leaned into Thomas’s ear. “She looks so much like your mother. If I hadn’t read up on it before, I would have been very confused. You and Shepley could be brothers.”
“It throws people off all the time,” he said. “She’s right, by the way. You’re stunning. I didn’t get a chance to tell you, but when you walked around the corner, I had to force myself to stay in the gazebo.”
“It’s just a purple maxi dress.”
“It’s not the dress.”
“Oh,” I said, my lips curving upward.
Abby and Travis walked in, and the hostess announced their arrival over the PA system. A rock ballad came over the speakers, and Travis pulled Abby out to dance.
“They are so sweet,” Deana said, her bottom lip trembling. “I wish Diane could have been here to see it.”
“We all do, baby,” Jack said, curling his arm around his wife’s shoulder and squeezing her to his side.
I looked over at Jim. He was sitting and chatting with Trenton and Camille. When Jim watched Travis and Abby dancing, he had that same sentimental smile on his face. I knew he was thinking about Diane, too.
The sun fizzled into the ocean while the not-so-new newlyweds danced to their song. When they finished, we all clapped, and the first course was brought out.
We ate and laughed as the brothers teased each other and told stories from their tables.
After dessert, Shepley stood up and tapped his glass with his fork. “I’ve had a year to write this speech, and I wrote it last night.”
Laughter rumbled across the patio.
“As the best man and the best friend, it’s my duty to both honor and embarrass Travis. Starting with a story from our childhood, there was one time when I set my bean burrito on the bench, and Travis chose that moment to see if he could jump over the back and sit beside me.”
“Travis isn’t just my cousin. He’s also my best friend and my brother. I’m convinced that, without his guiding hand while we were growing up, I would have been half the man I am today…with half as many enemies.”
The brothers all covered their mouths with their fists and guffawed.
“This time should be spent musing over how he met Abby, and I can do that because I was present when it happened. Even though I might not have always been their biggest cheerleader, Travis didn’t need me to be. From the beginning, he knew that he belonged to Abby and that she belonged to him. Their marriage has reinforced what I’ve always thought and lived by—that stalking, harassment, and inflicting general misery on a woman will eventually pay off.”
“Oh, good Lord, Shepley Maddox!” Deana wailed.
“I’m not going to use this time for any of that. Instead, I’ll just raise my glass to Mr. and Mrs. Maddox. From the beginning and through all their highs and lows and through the last year while everyone told them that they were crazy and that it wouldn’t work, they loved each other. That has always been the constant, and I know it always will be. To the bride and groom.”
“Hear, hear!” Jim yelled, raising his glass.
We raised our drinks as we chanted the same and then clapped while Travis and Abby kissed. He looked into her eyes with such affection. It was a familiar affection—the same way Thomas looked at me.
I rested my chin on my palm, watching the sky bruise with pinks and purples. The lights hanging from the edges of the white canvas ceiling were blowing in the gentle breeze.
After America gave her speech, the music began to play. At first, no one danced, but after the third round of drinks, almost everyone was on the dance floor. The brothers, including Thomas, were teasing Travis with their own Travis-like dance moves, and I was giggling so hard that tears were streaming down my face.