“I’m here!” she called back.
They hurried up the stairs and surrounded her, wrapping arms around her, enveloping her in their scents, kissing her cheeks, scolding her for running off. She closed her eyes and heard their voices as a symphony of her life—highs and lows, dissonance and consonance, solos and duets, staccato and grave.
“We’ve come to fetch you back to the party,” Carson said, tugging at her arm.
“It’s not a party without you,” Dora added.
“Up now, Mamaw!” Harper exclaimed, helping her from the chair. “You are and always will be the hostess of Sea Breeze. Everyone is waiting on you.”
Standing on her porch, Mamaw looked out and saw a young man walking toward her, cloaked in shadow. Her breath caught. Tall and slender, he walked with his hands in his pockets, his gait elegant and achingly familiar. Parker, her heart called out. Standing in the arms of his daughters, she felt his presence keenly.
Yet as the young man drew nearer into the light, she recognized his darker skin, his broader forehead, his fuller lips. This man was no one’s ghost. He was his own man, she realized, seeing his eyes light up at the sight of her and his sisters. Her grandson.
“Atticus.” She reached out her hand.
“Mamaw.” Atticus kissed her hand. “Come. The night is still young. The party has just begun!”
Legare Waring House
Harper felt as though she was in a dream as she rode in the white horse-drawn carriage down the long alley of ancient oaks. Moss dripped from the boughs like bridal lace. It was twilight and a hush fell over the lush, historic gardens of the Legare Waring House as though the earth held its breath for her wedding. She heard the clop clop clop of the hooves, was enveloped in the heady scent of jasmine, and everywhere she looked she saw signs of the lowcountry she had come to love and call home.
The sound of the hooves alerted the guests gathered under the drape of oaks. Everyone stood and turned toward her. Harper felt her heart flutter in her chest like a caged bird eager to take flight. Granny James and Mamaw came to her side, each dressed in beige lace. Linking arms, she felt their wisdom, strength, and love support her. The string quartet started to play, and with her grandmothers, she began her walk toward a small white tented pavilion decked with seasonal flowers. Hanging from ropes, mason jar lanterns lit her way. She smiled when she saw Carson and Dora standing side by side in long dresses of coral.
Then she saw Taylor, standing straight and tall in his Marine dress blues, her knight in shining armor. Their eyes met and with a gasp the trembling bird in her chest broke free to soar. As she walked, smiling, toward her husband, she heard the whispers of the past rise up to wish this lowcountry bride a loving present and a bright future.
Wild Dunes Grand Pavilion
Who is that woman? Carson wondered as she stared at her reflection. Her long dark hair was curled, braided, and looped around her head with pearl pins. Large teardrop pearls fell from her ears. With her hair done up and dressed in the vintage gown, Carson thought she could be looking at the portrait of her ancestor Claire, the founder of the Muirs of Charleston.
She smiled at the thought and felt the confidence she always did when she saw the Muir blue eyes that represented generations of southern women who called the lowcountry home. In these final moments as a single woman, Carson searched for talismans to help her transition to wife. Soon she would unite with Blake in the eyes of her family and her community.
The door to her room opened and Mamaw, Dora, and Harper rushed in, a blur of aqua blue dresses, singing out a chorus of oohs and ahhs at seeing her in her bridal attire. Harper and Mamaw attached the French lace veil to the back of her head. Dora handed her a bouquet of white roses and blue hydrangeas. Grasping it, Carson felt a shiver of anticipation laced with anxiety. It was time.
Mamaw took her hand and led her out of the townhouse, one of a row of quaint and colorful townhouses along the boardwalk at Wild Dunes. Her heart pounded in her chest and she felt the balmy air of the early evening envelope her as she made her way to the Grand Pavilion. She had always been afraid of commitment and here she was at the precipice of making the ultimate commitment—to love, honor, and cherish one man all the days of her life. She felt her footsteps falter. Mamaw clutched her hand tight.
Then she heard the call of the ocean. She followed her instincts and, picking up her hem, rushed down the remaining yards to the pavilion. The vista opened up to reveal the radiance of the sun sparkling on the blue ocean. She went directly to the gazebo railing to clutch it and stare out beyond the cluster of palms and shrubs. The long stretch of sandy beach and the ruffling white surf welcomed her. She sighed and felt her panic abate.
People clustered near four white pillars decorated with palm fronds and flowers. Her gaze zoomed to one dark-haired man, tall and slender, in a navy blazer and tan pants. Though he stood with his back to her, her heart saw the piercing dark eyes that were searching, waiting, she knew, only for her. Carson breathed deep the salty air and smiled with the calm of knowing. The water, the beach—this man—was where she belonged. She’d been right to get married here.
In a rush Carson felt her courage and joy rise up to crest in her heart and flow through her blood. She ran to the center of the pavilion, stretched out her arms and, letting her head fall back, twirled in a dance of joy while Mamaw, Harper, and Dora laughed and clapped.
“I’m getting married!”
Dora and Devlin held hands and snuck away from the reception. The band was playing “My Girl” and couples swayed slowly under the great gazebo overlooking the ocean. The moon was high and the stars were bright, lighting their path beneath the palms to the waiting car that Devlin had phoned to pick them up. They climbed into the backseat, giggling like kids.
“You sure you want to do this?” Devlin asked in the backseat. “That was one helluva wedding. You sure you don’t want one like this? Or like Harper’s? Just say the word and you’ll have it.”
“I’ve had the big wedding and I don’t want another,” Dora told him. “I only want you. Besides,” she said, snuggling closer, “I think this is ever so much more romantic.”
His eyes sparked as he bent to kiss her lips, the first of many to come.
“Where to, sir?” asked the driver.
“The airport,” Devlin told him. Then, smiling his crooked grin, he looked into Dora’s eyes and called out, “Las Vegas, here we come!”