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Whether Pearl believed in luck or not didn’t matter. I believed enough for the both of us.
This morning, I woke up in my bedroom for the last time. I was only moving ten minutes away—again—but for a happier reason. Mama brought me coffee to wake me up, but I’d been lying awake, thinking, for at least an hour. When she opened the door, I sat up and slid my glasses on. “Morning, Mama.”
She perched on the edge of the bed, her dark hair damp from an early shower. She and Thomas liked to get up at dawn every day and watch the sunrise from the little terrace off their room, Tux on one lap or the other. They were in love, but they’d become best friends. Boyce and I were best friends who’d fallen in love. Our way to each other was more convoluted than theirs had been, but we’d come to the same good end, no matter the path.
“No second thoughts, mija?”
I took the mug from her and smiled. “None.”
She cupped my face and kissed my nose. “Good.”
• • • • • • • • • •
Mel and I peered out the window. The courtyard was filled to the brim with flowers and people. I spotted Mr. and Mrs. Thompson next to Mrs. Echols, who’d started bringing Boyce cookies and casseroles after he was shot and hadn’t ever stopped. Lucas’s girl, Jacqueline, sat next to the Hellers—Carlie, Cindy, and Charles. They had given me the perfect grad-school home for the past nine months. Next to them were Ray and Arianna Maxfield, who’d shocked the entire town last October when they eloped to Houston for a shotgun justice-of-the-peace wedding before anyone even knew they were seeing each other. Their spontaneity became more obvious around Christmas when Arianna started showing. Lucas’s little sister was due next month.
Sam wheeled down the aisle just ahead of her dad. In thanks for her assistance at Wynn’s while he was recuperating, Boyce had helped Mr. Adams find a used, adapted truck for her seventeenth birthday last week. The girl who loved cars finally had her own. She’d driven herself and her dad here—Brit and I watched her taking five minutes to park it exactly between the lines in the lot.
“New drivers.” Brit laughed. “Give her two weeks. She’ll be lurching that thing into a spot inside five seconds, lines be damned.”
Sam had also instructed me to aim for her with the bouquet. “It’s not like I can lunge for it,” she said. “I might run over somebody’s toe.”
I told her I’d do my best.
Mel told me to aim as far from her as possible. “I do not wanna hear it from my mother,” she said. “If that thing comes my way, I swear I will spike it like a volleyball.”
Mr. and Mrs. Dover were seated behind the seats reserved for my parents, who tolerated them the same way Boyce tolerated their daughter—with frequent asides.
Any minute Lucas and Boyce would take their places, Randy or Mateo would lead my mother to the front, and the wedding march would begin. The little Vega boys had been appointed to toss flower petals ahead of the wedding party. I didn’t see Yvette, but she’d promised to personally send them down the aisle—on the other end of which their father would be stationed.
Shanice and Brit had gone downstairs to check that everything was in place.
“You do realize how bizarre it is that you’ve got Brittney Loper in your wedding party, right?” Mel said. “Even if she did plant the get married seed in both y’all’s heads, the crazy bitch.”
I smiled. “Yeah. It’s weird—but she’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. And she cried and squealed like a pageant winner when I showed her the ring Randy designed.” I’d worn that engagement ring for almost five months. My hand felt naked without it.
“Your boy does have decent taste in jewelry. There’s a shock.”
“C’mon, admit he’s grown on you.”
She sighed with her entire body. “A little. But mostly since he stopped calling me Dover.” When I pinned my lips together, she rolled her eyes. “To my face, at least.”
Shanice and Brit came in the room then. “They’re almost ready!” Brit said, joining us at the window. “Look, there’s Boyce and Landon—Lucas—whatever he goes by now. Rawr. They look hot as a couple jalapeños.”
Mel rolled her eyes and Shanice tried and failed to stifle a giggle, joining us.
“Wait! You aren’t supposed to see him yet!” Brit said, taking me by the shoulders and walking me backward, away from the window.
“Pretty sure that rule is for the groom?” Mel said.
“Huh—maybe you’re right, but I don’t believe in taking any chances. Plus, he might look up and see her! No bad luck is happening to these nuptials on my watch.” She reached to pull a few coils out of my updo, which Mel had spent an hour doing.
“Wh…what…what are you doing?” Mel sputtered.
Brit turned me toward the full-length mirror in the corner. A curl fell down the left side of my face and a few smaller strands fell down my back. “A man likes a girl to be a little bit disheveled. Kinda like a loose thread on a sweater. He just can’t help but wanna pull it.”
“This is her wedding day, not a hoedown!”
Brit was undeterred. “When a bride goes down the aisle toward her guy, she doesn’t want him thinking about being shackled to perfection the rest of his natural born days. No man can live up to that. If she’s smart”—she winked at me—“she wants him to ponder that little thread and how much he’s going to enjoy pullin’ it all the way loose later on.”
“She looks gorgeous, Melody,” Shanice said, giving my hand a covert squeeze. “You did a fabulous job on her hair and makeup. Brittney’s tweak just adds that touch of sexy to the elegance.”
A knock sounded on the door.
“Come in!” Brit called.
Thomas stuck his head in and smiled. I smoothed my hands over the embroidered bodice as Mel arranged my veil.
“Oh, Pearl, you look beautiful,” he said, crossing the room and taking my hands in his. “You ready, little girl?”
“Aww,” my bridesmaids said in unison—likely the first and last united opinion of the day for the three of them.
I nodded, suddenly nervous. Spotlights were not one of my favorite things.
“It’ll be over soon,” Thomas promised. “Grin and bear it.”
I grimaced and he smiled. He’d given me the same advice before my valedictorian speech five years ago.