“But the wedding is in two months!” Harper cried with exasperation. “What choices will I have?”
“Hey, take it easy. I haven’t found a dress yet, either.”
Harper scowled at Carson. “Who’s fault is that? At least I had a gown. You waited till the last minute, then tried on every gown in the last two shops we visited and still rejected them all.”
Carson picked at her nail. “I didn’t feel like any of them were right.”
“You looked beautiful in every one of them.” Dora sucked in her rounded stomach. “Damn you both.”
The girls all shared a laugh, and the tension was broken.
“You know what I read in one of Harper’s magazines?” said Dora to Carson in a know-it-all tone. “A bride who cannot choose a wedding dress often has some underlying issues and she may not want to get married.”
“You read that, did you?” Carson asked mockingly. “You just keep on reading your magazines. You’ll find an article saying that everyone should just get off the bride’s back and let her find a gown she likes.”
Dora barked out a laugh.
Harper clapped her hands. “Let’s stay positive. We’ve got the cakes done. Granny James arrives in two days, and we’re going to dress-shop with the grandmothers. I’m meant to show them the final fitting for my gown.” Harper looked at Carson sternly and pointed her finger. “You have to stop stalling and choose a gown. Do you understand?”
Carson’s lips twitched. “I do.”
In enduring the unendurable pain and coming out of it together, they’d formed their unbreakable bond.
Carson stood on the upper dock of Sea Breeze, her arms folded across her chest against the stiff breeze, staring out at the water of the Cove. There was a break in the rain, but a chilly, wet breeze stirred the waters, creating ripples and making her huddle deeper into her Windbreaker like a turtle. She never could abide the cold. She felt it straight through to her bones. Yet, she took heart at the signs of spring taking hold in the lowcountry. This morning she’d seen the brilliant yellow, trumpet-shaped blossoms of Carolina jessamine, her favorite flower, along Mamaw’s fence.
Looking out at the water, Carson imagined Delphine must be out there somewhere. She ached to see the dolphin’s familiar face, to look once again into her dark, soulful eyes and to hear her nasal eh eh eh calling her to the dock. At times in the past months when she was alone on the photo shoot, far from anyone she knew or loved, she wondered if she’d only imagined the bond she and the dolphin had shared. Standing here now, though, the memories came back fresh and erased any doubt. Delphine had saved her life, that was true. Yet not only physically when the rogue shark had been circling Carson’s surfboard and Delphine had distracted it, but emotionally as well. There was much to learn from the wisdom of the wild. Delphine had taught her through example how to endure pain without blame, how to forgive, to let go of the past and to live fully in the moment. To remember to laugh. Carson smiled remembering Delphine’s riding the wake of Blake’s boat.
She sighed, missing her dear friend.
“You miss Delphine, don’t you?”
Carson swung around to see Nate standing near. He wore his navy parka with the hood over his head and bright red flannel pants. Soft pants, of course, with an elastic waist. A must for him. His Asperger’s caused him to be particular, but also perspicacious, beyond his young years. No one knew better than Nate the longing she felt for Delphine.
She came closer to the boy and patted the soft padded top of his hood. She didn’t think that was the same as touching him, something he wouldn’t tolerate. Nate didn’t back away. She looked into his eyes, blue not brown, but every bit as soulful as Delphine’s.
“I do,” she confessed.
“So do I.”
Her heart lurched for the boy. Last summer he’d been lonely, without any friend save for that beguiling dolphin. Delphine had brought the boy out of his shell. But Dora told her that Nate had been excelling at his new school and making friends. He’d moved on.
As had she. So she was oddly comforted that he, too, still felt the hole left by the dolphin’s absence.
“It’s a good thing we have each other, isn’t it?”
“You have Blake. You’re getting married.”
A short laugh escaped her lips. “From the mouth of babes.”
Nate scowled. “I’m not a baby.”
“No,” she said apologetically. “You most certainly are not.”
Nate appeared mollified by this. She had to remember that he didn’t understand metaphors or sarcasm but took what people said quite literally.
“I see her sometimes, you know.”
Carson startled. “Who? Delphine?”
“Sometimes when I go out on the dock to fish, I see her. Sometimes I just go out there. I like to be near the water. I see lots of things. I have a pelican friend now, too. I call him Pete. He looks like a Pete.”
She watched Nate’s fingertips tap his jacket as he paused. He’s thinking about Pete, she thought, and smiled at the whimsical workings of the mind of a boy.
“Yes. Sometimes I see her, too. Swimming by. I don’t call her,” he said with urgency, wanting Carson to know that he’d not broken their strictest rule: not to try to communicate with a wild dolphin. “But I know it’s her. I can see her scars.”
“Oh.” A pang of guilt struck deep.
“She’s good. I think she’s happy.”
“Really?” Carson couldn’t believe that she, a grown woman, was seeking affirmation of Delphine’s welfare from a ten-year-old boy, but because it was this child, she knew that he would sense it more than anyone else. Nate, for all his struggles, held a wisdom beyond any measurement ascertained by schools.
He looked at her with a hint of longing. “Do you think she’d come if you called her?”
Interesting question, Carson thought. One she’d been thinking herself. “I don’t know. It’s been a year.”
“I think she would. She’s very smart.”
“She sure is.” Carson looked at the boy. “Do you want me to call her?”
He nodded. “Yes. I miss her.”