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A Beautiful Wedding: Chapter 6

Dead or Alive

Travis

The limo door slammed hard behind me. “Oh, shit. Sorry. I’m nervous.”

The driver waved me away. “No problem. Twenty-two dollars, please. I’ll come back with the limo.”

The limo was new. White. Abby would like it. I handed him thirty. “So you’ll be right back here in an hour and a half, right?”

“Yes, sir! Never late!”

He drove away, and I turned around. The chapel was lit up, glowing against the early morning sky. It was maybe a half hour before sunrise. I smiled. Abby was going to love it.

The front door opened, and a couple came out. They were middle-aged, but he was in a tux, and she was in a huge wedding dress. A short woman in a light pink suit dress was waving them good-bye, and then she noticed me.

“Travis?”

“Yes,” I said, buttoning my jacket.

“I could just eat you up! I hope your bride appreciates what a looker you are!”

“She’s prettier than me.”

The woman cackled. “I’m Chantilly. Pretty much run things around here.” She put her fists at her side, somewhere in the area of her hips. She was as wide as she was tall, and her eyes were nearly hidden under thick, fake lashes. “Come on in, sugar! Come in! Come in!” she said, rushing me inside.

The receptionist at the desk offered a smile and a small stack of paperwork. Yes, we want a DVD. Yes, we want flowers. Yes, we want Elvis. I checked all of the appropriate boxes, filled in our names and information, and then handed the paper back.

“Thank you, Mr. Maddox,” the receptionist said.

My hands were sweating. I couldn’t believe I was here.

Chantilly patted my arm, well, more like my wrist, because that’s the highest she could reach. “This way, honey. You can freshen up and wait for your bride in here. What was her name?”

“Uh . . . Abby . . .” I said, walking through the door Chantilly had opened. I looked around, noting the couch and mirror surrounded by a thousand huge lightbulbs. The wallpaper was busy but nice, and everything seemed clean and classy, just like Abby wanted.

“I’ll let you know when she arrives,” Chantilly said with a wink. “You need anything? A water?”

“Yes, that would be great,” I said, sitting down.

“Be right back,” she lilted as she backed out of the room and closed the door behind her. I could hear her humming down the hall.

I leaned back against the couch, trying to process what had just happened, and wondering if Chantilly had just chugged a 5-hour ENERGY, or if she was just naturally that chipper. Even though I was just sitting, my heart was pounding against my chest. This is why people had witnesses: to help them keep calm before the wedding. For the first time since we’d landed, I wished Shepley and my brothers were there with me. They would have been giving me all kinds of shit, helping to keep my mind off the fact that my stomach was begging to throw up.

The door opened. “Here you are! Anything else? You look a little nervous. Have you eaten?”

“Nope. I haven’t had time.”

“Oh, we can’t have you passing out at the altar! I’ll bring you some cheese and crackers, and maybe a little fruit plate?”

“Uh, sure, thanks,” I said, still a little bewildered by Chantilly’s enthusiasm.

She backed out, shut the door, and I was alone again. My head fell back against the couch, my eyes picked out different shapes in the wall texture. I was grateful for anything that kept me from glancing down at my watch. Was she coming? I closed my eyes tight, refusing to go there. She loved me. I trusted her. She would be here. Goddammit, I wished my brothers were here. I was going to go out of my everlovin’ mind.

Abby

“Oh, don’t you look pretty,” the driver said as I slid into the backseat of the taxi.

“Thank you,” I said, feeling relieved to be out of the casino. “Graceland Chapel, please.”

“Did you want to start out the day married, or what?” the driver said, smiling back at me from the rearview mirror. She had short, gray hair, and her backside filled up all of the seat, and then some.

“It was just the quickest we could get it done.”

“You’re awfully young to be in such a hurry.”

“I know,” I said, watching Las Vegas pass by outside my window.

She clicked her tongue. “You look pretty nervous. If you’re having second thoughts, just let me know. I don’t mind turning around. It’s okay, honey.”

“I’m not nervous about getting married.”

“No?”

“No, we love each other. I’m not nervous about that. I just want him to be okay.”

“You think he’s having second thoughts?”

“No,” I said, laughing once. I met her eyes in the mirror. “Are you married?”

“Once or twice,” she said, winking at me. “I got married in the same chapel that you are the first time around. But so did Bon Jovi.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“You know Bon Jovi? Tommy used to work on the docks!” she sang, very much to my surprise.

“Yep! Heard of him,” I said, amused and grateful for the distraction.

“I just love him. Here! I have the CD.” She popped it in, and for the rest of the drive we listened to Jon’s greatest hits. “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Always,” “Bed of Roses”; “I’ll Be There for You” was just finishing up as we pulled over to the curb in front of the chapel.

I pulled out a fifty. “Keep the rest. Bon Jovi helped.”

She gave me back the change. “No tip, honey. You let me sing.”

I shut the door and waved to her as she left. Was Travis already here? I walked up to the chapel and opened the door. An older woman with big hair and too much lip gloss greeted me. “Abby?”

“Yes,” I said, fidgeting with my dress.

“You’re stunning. My name is Chantilly, and I’ll be one of your witnesses. Let me take your things. I’ll put them away, and they’ll be safe until you’re finished.”

“Thank you,” I said, watching her take away my purse. Something swished when she walked, though I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly. “Oh, wait! The . . .” I said, watching as she walked toward me holding out my purse. “Travis’s ring is in there. I’m sorry.”

Her eyes were barely slits when she smiled, making her fake lashes even more noticeable. “It’s fine, honey. Just breathe.”

“I don’t remember how,” I said, sliding his ring over my thumb.

“Here,” she said, holding out her hand. “Give me your ring and his. I’ll give them to each of you when it’s time. Elvis will be by shortly to take you down the aisle.”

I looked at her, blank faced. “Elvis.”

“As in The King?”

“Yes, I know who Elvis is, but . . .” My words trailed away as I pulled off my ring with a small tug, and placed it in her palm next to Travis’s ring.

Chantilly smiled. “You can use this room to freshen up. Travis is waiting, so Elvis will be knocking any minute. See you at the end of the aisle!”

She watched me as she shut the door. I turned, startled by my own reflection in the huge mirror behind me. It was bordered by large, round lights like one an actress might use before a Broadway show. I sat down at the vanity, staring at myself in the mirror. Is that what I was? An actress?

He was waiting. Travis is at the end of the aisle, waiting for me to join him so we can promise the rest of our lives to each other.

What if my plan doesn’t work? What if he goes to prison and this was all for nothing? What if they didn’t so much as sniff in Travis’s direction, and this was all pointless? I no longer had the excuse that I had gotten married, before I was even legal to drink, because I was saving him. Did I need an excuse if I loved him? Why did anyone get married? For love? We had that in spades. I was so sure of everything in the beginning. I used to be sure about a lot things. I didn’t feel sure now. About anything.

I thought about the look on Travis’s face if he found out the truth, and then I thought about what bailing would do to him. I never wanted him to hurt and I needed him as if he were a part of me. Of those two things I was sure.

Two knocks on the door nearly sent me into a panic attack. I turned, gripping the top of the chair back. It was white wire, swirls and curves formed a heart in the middle.

“Miss?” Elvis said in a deep, southern voice. “It’s time.”

“Oh,” I said quietly. I don’t know why. He couldn’t hear me.

“Abby? Your hunka hunka burnin’ love is ready for ya.”

I rolled my eyes. “I just . . . need a minute.”

The other side of the door was quiet. “Everything okay?”

“Yes,” I said. “Just one minute, please.”

After a few more minutes, there was another knock on the door. “Abby?” It was Chantilly. “Can I come in, honey?”

“No. I’m sorry, but no. I’ll be okay. I just need a little more time, and I’ll be ready.”

After another five minutes, three knocks on the door caused beads of sweat to form along my hairline. These knocks were familiar. Stronger. More confident.

“Pidge?”


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