She was tired and a bit woozy from the several Lowcountry Wedding signature cocktails she’d enjoyed. They had a bit of a kick in them, as Lucille liked to say. But who was counting? What a party it was! She had to laugh when she recalled the shocked looks on the guests’ faces when Carson and Harper announced the switch of venues. The staff discreetly and swiftly handed out the newly printed programs directing Harper’s guests to the Legare Waring plantation and Carson’s guests to Wild Dunes Resort. She thought poor Linda Legare looked ready to pitch a hissy fit. Mamaw chuckled again. But it all went off as planned, and after the music picked up again, the party resumed without a hitch.
Carson and Harper had never looked lovelier. Their faces shone with excitement and anticipation, befitting fiancées on the eve of their weddings. Yet, Mamaw thought with a wry grin, Dora may have stolen the limelight tonight. When she walked in flashing her stunning diamond engagement ring, the party’s excitement shot to new heights. At last, Dora had come fully into herself. She was a woman in love, every bit as radiant as the brides. Though the one who might’ve looked even happier was Devlin. He accepted the congratulations like a rooster crowing at the sun.
And speaking of love . . . Atticus had never left the side of a certain attractive woman he’d escorted to the dinner. Word spread fast on this little island, and Mamaw had already learned that she was the local vet. From what Mamaw could tell, Atticus looked like a hound dog that had caught the scent. She chuckled to herself. If Lucille were here, they’d already be matchmaking.
Oh, the parties this house had seen, she thought, looking out from her cottage porch to Sea Breeze, alight tonight with the festive fairy lights and live music of the rehearsal dinner. Her dear home had been polished and primped as it hadn’t been in years. Tonight Sea Breeze appeared as breathtakingly shimmering and filled with golden light as any bride.
Her Sea Breeze.
Contemplating that she would be leaving it after all was bittersweet. Though she would be only a stone’s throw away, she felt the apron strings tug at her heart. In this house she’d reigned as hostess to parties, baptisms, graduations, weddings, even funerals. She’d watched her granddaughters grow from carefree children into women she was proud of. Under the roof of Sea Breeze she’d welcomed Blake and Taylor and Devlin to the family. She had met her grandson, Atticus. The future appeared bright on the horizon.
She’d said her farewells here, too. Her mind conjured up a vision of dear Edward, wiry and tanned, laughing as he carried a towheaded Parker on his shoulders to the beach. Parker. Thinking of Parker, she always saw her son as a young man in his twenties—in his prime. So full of life and dreams. So confident of his position, his good looks, his talent. She could think of him now without pain. Rather, she felt a comfort keeping his memory alive. He would have been sixty now had he lived, likely white in his hair, wrinkles here and there, the proud father walking his daughters down the aisle. She sniffed and reached for the handkerchief she kept in her sleeve. But that was not to be, she told herself, stopping herself from slipping into the maudlin. This was a night for joy. Carson and Harper had bestowed on her the honor of walking them down the aisle. A particular pride was associated with that, she thought with a sniff.
Finally, she remembered the brown, wise, yet maddeningly unlined face of Lucille, her large eyes flashing with humor or a scold. Tonight the past was as alive in Mamaw’s heart as the present. So many changes, she thought, kicking off the rocking motion with her foot.
“What did you ’spect?” came a voice in her mind’s ear.
It was often like this when she sat alone on the porch of the cottage, especially on a soft night such as this when the ringing of laughter wafted down from the big house. Marietta was not superstitious. But she was Charleston born and bred and had seen and heard too much in those old houses not to know that spirits came and went at their pleasure. Still, she told herself she only imagined her dear Lucille sitting here with her, as she had so often throughout their lives together. So many years of coming up with one harebrained scheme after another, playing hands of gin rummy, and just passing the time as old friends did. When Marietta heard a voice in her head, it did not cause her apprehension nor did she feel haunted. She simply accepted the voice as a comfort in her old age. Welcomed it.
“I suppose I expected things to go on the way they were . . . forever,” she replied.
She heard a rustling in the leaves that sounded like laughter. “Them girls were going to get married, start lives of their own someday,” Lucille said. “You knew that. Well, that day’s here, so no use bellyaching about it.”
“I’m not bellyaching,” Mamaw said indignantly. “Can’t an old woman get teary eyed with nostalgia?”
“Sure she can. Only not too much. You’ll spoil your makeup. Your fella is going to come lookin’ for you pretty soon.”
So like Lucille, always looking out for her. “You like him, don’t you?”
“Always did. Girard’s a fine man. Got what I call character. And he’s a looker, too.”
Mamaw smiled and curled her toes at the memory of how handsome Girard looked in his dinner jacket tonight.
“The weddings begin tomorrow,” she said, not quite believing the day had finally arrived. “Two lowcountry weddings—one at the beach, one at a plantation. Each venue is as unique as the bride, yet each is equally bound by the traditions and values of the lowcountry. Oh, Lucille, I wish you could stand by my side at the ceremonies.”
“I’ll be there,” came Lucille’s voice on the wind. “I’ll be right beside you, same as always.”
Marietta felt the breeze glide across her face and sighed. “I know you will. We did it, Lucille. We’ve seen our Summer Girls married and settled. Happy. Oh, I know there will be bumps in the road ahead. There always are. But I have high hopes for them.”
“I do, too. And from where I’m sittin’ I got a good view.”
Mamaw smiled, reassured by that. “What do I do now, old friend?”
A bird cackled in the old oak, shrill and high.
“You keep on living, old girl,” came the voice, fading now as the sound of footfalls rose louder. “Tomorrow you pick up your skirt and dance!”
Mamaw, distracted by the sound of laughter, looked up to see her three granddaughters walking her way, arms linked, their long dresses flowing in the breeze, their faces shimmering in the night like the stars overhead. They were laughing and calling her name.