Those seated on the far edge of the restaurant began to scream, nearly pushing over tables and children to get away. Wineglasses broke and silverware clanged on the floor. A pineapple-shaped hurricane was knocked over, rolled off a table, and broke. America rolled her eyes at the twenty or so people gathered a few tables over. “Christ on the cross, people! It’s just a little rain!”
The waitstaff and hostesses scrambled to release the rolled-up walls of the outdoor restaurant.
“And you were grumbling because we didn’t have an ocean view,” Harmony teased.
“Yeah, those snobby bitches aren’t smirking now, are they?” America said, nodded and smiling to the six-pack of blondes now huddling and wet.
“Knock it off, Mare. You’ve had one too many glasses of wine,” I said.
I patted her hand. “That would be fine if you weren’t a mean drunk.”
“Fuck you, whore, I am not a mean drunk.” I glared at her, and she winked at me and smiled. “Just kiddin’.”
Harmony let her fork fall to her plate. “I’m stuffed. Now what?”
America pulled a small three-ring binder from her purse with a devious grin. It had small, foam letters glued to the front that read TRAVIS & ABBY and our wedding date. “Now we play a game.”
“What kind of game?” I asked, wary.
She opened the binder. “Since Cami couldn’t be here until tomorrow, she made you this,” she said, turning the front over to read the words painted on the front. “The What Would Your Husband Say? Game. I’ve heard about it. Super fun, although typically it’s about your future husband,” she said, shifting excitedly in her seat. “So . . . Cami asked Travis these questions last week, and sent the book with me.”
“What?” I shrieked. “What kind of questions?”
“You’re getting ready to find out,” she said, waving the waiter over. He brought a full tray of brightly colored Jell-O shots.
“Oh my,” I said.
“If you get them wrong, you drink. If you get them right, we drink. Ready?”
America cleared her throat, holding the binder in front of her. “When did Travis know you were the one?”
I thought for a minute. “That first poker night at his dad’s.”
Errrr! America made a horrendous noise with her throat. “When he realized he wasn’t good enough for you, which was the moment he saw you. Drink!”
“Aw!” Harmony said, holding her hand to her chest.
I picked up a small plastic cup and squeezed its contents into my mouth. Yum. I wasn’t going to mind losing at all.
“Next question!” America said. “What is his favorite thing about you?”
Errrrr! America made the noise again. “Drink!”
“You suck at this game,” Kara said, clearly amused.
“Maybe I’m doing it on purpose? These are good!” I said, popping another shot into my mouth.
“Travis’s answer? Your laugh.”
“Wow,” I said, surprised. “That’s kind of endearing.”
“What is his favorite part of your body?”
“Ding, ding, ding! Correct!”
Harmony and Kara clapped, I bowed my head. “Thank you, thank you. Now drink, bitches.”
They all laughed, and popped their shots.
“Oh,” I blew through my lips. “In seven . . . eight years?”
“A year after graduation.”
Kara and Harmony made the same face, their mouths forming “oh.”
“I’ll drink,” I said. “But he and I will have to talk about that one some more.”
America shook her head. “This is a prewedding game, Abby. You should be much better at this.”
“Shut up. Continue.”
Kara pointed. “Technically she can’t shut up and continue.”
“Shut up,” American and I said in unison.
“Next question!” America said. “What do you think Travis’s favorite moment of your relationship was?”
“The night he won the bet and I moved in?”
“Correct again!” America said.
“This is so sweet. I can’t take it,” Harmony said.
“Drink! Next question,” I said, smiling.
“What is one thing Travis said he’ll never forget that you’ve said to him?”
“Wow. I have no idea.”
Kara leaned in. “Just guess.”
“The first time I said I loved him?”
America turned another page. “What is the one item Travis can’t live without?”
“Where was your first date?”
“Technically it was the Pizza Shack.”
“Correct!” America said again.
“Ask her something more difficult, or we’re going to get hammered,” Kara said, throwing back another shot.
“Hmmm . . .” America said, thumbing through the pages. “Oh, here we go. What do you think Abby’s favorite thing about you is?”
“What kind of question is that?” I asked. They watched me expectantly. “Um . . . my favorite thing about him is the way he always touches me when we sit together, but I bet he said his tats.”
“Damn it!” America said. “Correct!” They drank, and I clapped to celebrate my small victory.
“One more,” America said. “What does Travis think your favorite present from him is?”
I paused for a few seconds. “That’s easy. The scrapbook he got me for Valentine’s Day this year. Now, drink!”
Everyone laughed, and even though it was their turn, I shared the last shot with them.
America fidgeted, clearly excited about what she was about to say. “We hit the clubs, that’s what.”
I shook my head. “No way. We talked about this.”
America stuck out her lip.
“Don’t,” I said. “I’m here to renew my vows, not to get a divorce. Think of something else.”
“Why doesn’t he trust you?” America said, her voice very closely resembling a whine.
“If I really wanted to go, I would go. I just respect my husband, and I would rather get along than sit in a smoky club with lights that give me a headache. It would just make him wonder what went on, and I’d rather not go there. It’s worked so far.”
“I respect Shepley. I still go to clubs without him.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Only because I haven’t wanted to, yet. Tonight, I do.”
“Well, I don’t.”
America’s brows pulled together. “Fine. Plan B. Poker night?”
Harmony’s face lit up. “I saw a flyer for movie night tonight at Honeymoon Beach! They bring a screen right on the water.”
America made a face. “Boring.”
Harmony checked her watch, and then her face fell, deflated. “In fifteen minutes.”
“We can make it!” I said, grabbing my purse. “Check please!”
“Calm your tits, dude,” Shepley said. He looked down at my fingers nervously beating against the metal armrest. We had landed safely and taxied in, but for whatever reason they weren’t ready to let us off yet. Everyone was quietly waiting for that one, tiny ding that meant freedom. Something about the ding of the fasten seat belt light that made everyone jump up and scramble to get their carry-on luggage and stand in line. I actually had a reason to be in a hurry, though, so the wait was particularly irritating.
“What the fuck is taking so long?” I said, maybe a little too loud. A woman in front of us with a grade-school-age kid turned slowly to give me a look. “Sorry.” She faced forward in a huff.
I looked down at my watch. “We’re going to be late.”
“No we’re not,” Shepley said in his typical smooth and calming voice. “We’ve still got plenty of time.”
I stretched to the side, looking down the aisle, as if that would help. “The flight attendants haven’t moved. Wait, one is on the phone.”
I sat upright and sighed. “We’re gonna be late.”
“No. We’re not. You just miss her.”
“I do,” I said. I knew that I looked pitiful and I wasn’t even going to attempt to hide it. This was the first time Abby and I had spent a night apart since before we were married, and it was miserable. Even after a year, I still looked forward to when she’d wake up in the morning. I even missed her when I slept.
Shepley shook his head in disapproval. “Remember when you used to give me so much shit for acting like this?”
“You didn’t love them the way I love her.”
Shepley smiled. “You really happy, man?”
“As much as I loved her back then, I love her even more, now. Like the way Dad used to talk about Mom.”
Shepley smiled and then opened his mouth to respond, but the fasten seat belt light dinged, sending everyone into a flurry of standing up, reaching up, and getting situated in the aisle.
The mother in front of me smiled. “Congratulations,” she said. “Sounds like you have it figured out more than most people.”
The line began to move. “Not really. We just had a lot of hard lessons early on.”
“Lucky you,” she said, guiding her son down the aisle.
I laughed once, thinking about all the fuckups and letdowns, but she was right. If I had to do it all over again, I’d rather endure the pain in the beginning than have had it easy and then have it all go to shit later on.
Shepley and I rushed to baggage claim, got our luggage, and then hurried outside to catch a cab. I was surprised to see a man in a black suit holding a dry erase board with MADDOX PARTY scribbled in red marker.
“Hey,” I said.
“Mistah Maddox?” he said, smiling wide.
“I’m Mistah Gumbs. Right this way.” He took my larger bag and led us outside to a black Cadillac Escalade. “You’re staying at the Ritz-Carlton, yeah?”
“Yes,” Shepley said.
We loaded the trunk with the rest of the bags, and then sat in the middle row of seats.
“Score,” Shepley said, looking around.
“Glad we didn’t rent a car,” I said.
“Yes, the majority of accidents here are caused by tourists.”
“I bet,” Shepley said.
“It’s not hard. Just remember you are closest to the curb,” he said, karate-chopping the air with his left hand.
He continued giving us a minitour, pointing out different things along the way. The palm trees made me feel enough out of our element, but the cars parked on the left side of the road were really messing with my head. Large hills seemed to touch the sky, peppered with little white specks—what I assumed were hillside houses.
“That’s Havensight Mall, there,” Mr. Gumbs said. “Where all the cruise ships dock, see?”
I saw the big ships, but I couldn’t stop staring at the water. I’d never seen water such a pure blue before. I guess that’s why they call it Caribbean blue. It was fucking unbelievable. “How close are we?”
“Gettin’ there,” Mr. Gumbs said with a happy grin.
Right on cue, the Cadillac slowed to a stop to wait for oncoming traffic, and then we pulled into a long drive. He slowed once more for a security booth, we were waved in, and then we continued on another long drive to the entrance of the hotel.
“Thanks!” Shepley said. He tipped the driver, and then pulled out his cell phone, quickly tapping on the screen. His phone made a kiss noise—must have been America. He read the message and then nodded. “Looks like you and I go to Mare’s room, and they’re getting ready in yours.”
I made a face. “That’s . . . odd.”
“I guess they don’t want you to see Abby, yet.”
I shook my head and smiled. “She was that way last time.”
A hotel employee showed us to a golf cart, and then he drove us to our building. We followed him to the correct room, and then we walked inside. It was very . . . tropical, fancy Ritz-Carlton tropical.
I frowned. “The ceremony is in two hours. I have to wait two hours?”
Shepley held up a finger, tapped on his phone, and then looked up. “Nope. You can see her when she’s ready. Per Abby. Apparently she misses you, too.”
A wide grin spread across my face. I couldn’t help it. Abby had that effect on me, eighteen months ago, a year ago, now, and for the rest of my life. I pulled out my cell phone.
Love you, baby.
OMG! You’re here! Love u 2!
See u soon.
You bet ur ass.
I laughed out loud. I’d said before that Abby was my everything. For the last 365 days straight, she’d proved that to be true.
Someone pounded on the door, and I walked over to open it.
Trent’s face lit up. “Asshat!”
I laughed once, shook my head, and motioned for my brothers to come in. “Get in here, you fuckin’ heathens. I’ve got a wife waiting, and a tux with my name on it.”