“Told you I’d treat her right,” I say to Perri as I hand the beverage to my woman.
Vanessa taps her fingernail against the side of the cup. “This is pretty good treatment.”
That evening, over a simple dinner and snacks, the four of us play Monopoly, then we go to our separate rooms. All I will say is thank God they’re on opposite ends of the cabin.
Because Vanessa and I make use of ours.
All. Night. Long.
Book Club Ladies Group Chat
Miriam: Everything is in place. All systems are go. Fingers crossed for liftoff.
CarolAnn: Toes crossed too!
Miriam: I have faith in our matchmaking. It’s going to go perfectly. It’s not like there’s anyone else in the picture. We have this all mapped out. Don’t forget that, ladies.
Sara: Plus, we’re damn good at this. Look at Hunter and Madeline, already hitting it off. Surely we’ll be two for two.
Miriam: By the way, I am so glad we added secret matchmaking to our book club responsibilities.
CarolAnn: So am I. And we are quite amazing at it, if I do say so myself. Then again, we’re grand at so many things: book clubbing, wine drinking, not to mention NSFW conversating.
Sara: We do rule at all those over-sixty hobbies.
Miriam: Ladies, let’s agree we get better with age.
CarolAnn: We are the finest of fine wines.
Sara: Have I mentioned that retirement is officially the most awesome part of our lives?
CarolAnn: I’ll drink a merlot to that!
Miriam: Let’s keep making things happen. The wedding is going to be fantastic. You’re the best friends a gal could have.
Sara: Cheers to us!
Miriam: And to the young people who benefit from a nudge here and there. May they be blessed with love, trust, and the hottest of hot sex.
CarolAnn: Double cheers to that.
Sara: Make mine a triple. :)
In his tux, Shaw is exactly as handsome as I imagined he’d look.
Correction: more handsome. He’s somehow even better-looking now that he’s mine. Because we’ve opened up to each other. Because we trust each other. Because we’re together, and that makes me more attracted to him every single day.
Crazy, huh? I already thought I’d reached the edge of attraction, but I can see that it’s infinite when you don’t have to love in secret. I love Shaw more now that I’ve set my emotions free from where I’d hidden them—free with room to breathe and expand and grow.
I love him more now that I can share my love with him.
With his elbow hooked through mine, we walk down the aisle till we reach Derek and the minister, who happens to be married to Derek’s sister. His brother-in-law is a military chaplain, so he’s handling the vows.
Shaw takes his place next to the groom, his smile lingering on me. I stand next to Arden, and Derek’s sister, Jodie. When the wedding music begins, all eyes turn to the bride as Perri, radiant in white and holding a bouquet of lilies, walks down the aisle, looking as happy as anyone could ever possibly be on her wedding day. When she reaches the altar, she meets Derek’s gaze and whispers hi.
It’s so tender and intimate. It’s everything I could want for my friend.
He whispers hi back to her, and even in that two-letter word, I hear so much love. My throat catches, and out of the corner of my eye, I glance at Arden next to me. We don’t have to say anything. We’ve always had an intuitive kind of language, the three of us friends. I feel passing between us this happiness—this awareness that here we are, decades later, still best friends and heading into new and wonderfully fabulous phases of our lives.
Later, the three of us gather in a corner of the reception hall under the twinkling lights, watching other guests dance. I lift a glass of champagne to offer a toast. “Look at us. The kick-ass girls of Lucky Falls.”
Perri raises a glass high. “I propose a new name. The kick-ass women.”
Arden lifts her champagne but doesn’t take a drink. “I’ll toast to that.”
I stare at her, instantly knowing why the bubbly isn’t touching her lips. “Why aren’t you drinking champagne? Is there something you want to tell us?”
She giggles then says, “I’m having a baby in six more months.”
I squeal. Perri shrieks. And we group-hug in the biggest group hug ever.
Someone else is having a good time here too.
My little sister.
Turns out Ella’s the one Miriam had in mind for Jamie.
Turns out Jamie has had his eye on her for a while as well.
And all it took was Derek and Miriam plotting to bring two new couples together.
The other night, I texted her.
Vanessa: Why didn’t you tell me YOU were the one who wanted to get on Jamie, stat?
Ella: I did say he deserved a Marquez sister. I just didn’t say which one. :)
Vanessa: My, my. You sure do like semantics, don’t you?