Twenty-six years later
Sparkling chandeliers lit up the rustic villa that was adorned with towering centerpieces of lush flowers. Cascading fabric draped from the ceilings completed the fairy tale–like ambience.
As I gazed out onto the dance floor, I couldn’t help wishing that Iris were here to see her great-granddaughter get married.
Overcome with emotion, I reached for Reed’s hand as we watched our daughter, Tenley Iris, and her new husband, Jake, dance to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
Tenley undeniably had her father’s genes—darker hair and dark eyes—while our son, Thomas, took after me with blond hair and blue eyes. My focus wandered to the head table. Sitting next to his uncle Max, Thomas was grinning from ear to ear as he watched his big sister dance with her new husband. It was nice to have him home from Brown for the weekend.
In the other corner of the room, my two brothers, Jason and Justin, sat with their families. We’d gotten closer over the years and spent every other holiday out in Texas. I was never able to figure out who my father was. My brothers said my mother told them that it was a boy passing through town who ended up moving away. Even with Reed’s investigator on the case, we never found him.
When the dance ended, the DJ announced that it was time for the father-daughter dance. Goosebumps peppered my arms.
I looked down at Reed. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation.
Tenley approached and offered her hands to her father, who slowly and carefully rose from his wheelchair. While my husband wasn’t bound to one, he needed to take frequent breaks when on his feet all day. I knew he’d wanted to save all his energy for this dance. His performance at the church earlier in the day had already taken a lot out of him, emotionally and physically. My beautiful husband had surprised us all when he finally gave that performance he’d always wanted to by singing with the church choir during the wedding ceremony. He’d even had a short solo part.
Over the years, the MS had crept up, but it hadn’t taken away Reed’s spirit and determination. There were good days, when he felt stronger than others, and overall the good days outweighed the bad. But the MS was no longer something we could ignore—as much as I’d wanted to.
When “Dream a Little Dream” by Cass Elliot started playing, I got chills. Tenley had chosen that song because Reed used to sing it to her when she was a little girl.
With their hands intertwined, they rocked back and forth to the rhythm of the song. He was doing everything in his power to not show that he was struggling. I was so incredibly moved that Reed was able to do this. It meant so much, especially because of the last item he’d added to his bucket list: Dance with Tenley on Her Wedding Day.
So this dance was everything.
Tears clouded my vision. The guests cheered especially hard when the dance ended. Tenley and Reed walked hand in hand over to me, and the three of us huddled in an embrace.
Reed then promptly returned to his seat in the wheelchair. I knew he’d used every ounce of energy he had for that dance and needed to rest. He was going to dance with his daughter today if it was the last thing he ever did.
Tenley scurried away, leaving Reed and me alone.
Leaning down to kiss him, I said, “You did great.”
He smiled mischievously up at me. “You know what I would love to finish off this day?”
“You riding me on this thing.”
Some things never change.
“Sex on wheels?” I smiled.
We both broke out into laughter. Reed had told me the story about the guy in Central Park who’d made an impression on him all those years ago. We’d often joke about “sex on wheels” whenever he had to use the chair. And we had indeed had “sex on wheels,” plenty of times.
Tenley hung on to the skirt of her gown as she rushed toward me. “Hey, Mom. I don’t want to dance around with the note in my dress. Something might happen to it. Can you take it for me?”
“Of course.” Lifting up the material, I carefully unpinned the note.
As her something blue, Tenley had wanted to pin the blue note that Reed had given me on our wedding day—the same note I’d worn inside of my own dress.
“Thank you, Mom.” She bent down to give her father a kiss before running off.
As Reed fixed his eyes on his daughter across the room, I smiled at the look of pride on his face. Before I put it away in my bejeweled clutch purse, I reminisced as I read the note.
From the desk of Reed Eastwood
To my one true love and soulmate, Charlotte,
I don’t need the help of a poet to articulate my love for you. But to try to reduce it to a couple of sentences could never do my feelings justice. Even my wildest dreams could never have conjured up the level of love in my heart today. You’re beyond my wildest dreams. My love for you is infinite. You. Are. Everything.
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