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The Cheat Sheet: Chapter 31


“I’m getting married, I’m getting married, I’m getting married.” I repeat this to myself fifteen more times in the hotel bathroom mirror. Lucky for me, I was already wearing a white dress at the game. I shed the jersey and voila, instant bride! That sort of makes me sound like a soup. I tilt my head at my reflection in the mirror. I hope I don’t look like soup.

Lily stands behind me and puts her hands on my upper arms. “Are you having second thoughts? I will have a car ready to whisk you out of here in five minutes if that’s what you want.”

“I will put you in that car and have you driven to the airport and shipped off to Australia if you try to talk me out of this! I’m so ready to marry Nathan it’s painful.”

Lily smiles. “I know you are. I’m so happy I get to be here for it.”

We’ve already called my mom and dad, and although they were not thrilled about missing their baby’s wedding, they are both completely addicted to Hallmark and can appreciate a romantic whirlwind when they see one. They’ll be at the wedding via FaceTime, as will Nathan’s parents, I’m assuming.

The next thirty minutes are spent primping, but since neither Lily nor I are very experienced with an eyeshadow palette and bobby pins, we FaceTime the master.

“Sweep the right side back like a gorgeous wave rolling onto the beach at sunset,” Dylan says from the screen of my phone.

Lily grimaces, and her clunky hand pulls my hair back too tight. My scalp burns. “What does that even mean, Dylan?”

“A GORGEOUS WAVE AT SUNSET, LILY! I did not say a tight-fisted old granny at Christmas.”

My sister deflates and whispers, “I don’t know what any of this means!”

“Neither do I. Do your best.”

Lily eventually pleases the master, and we move on to eyeshadow. The brush trembles in her fingers as it advances toward my lid, and she repeats Dylan’s instructions. “A bird flying over the canyon with gold dust on its wings…got it.” His eyeball is taking up most of the screen he’s sitting so close to it.

Once my makeover is complete, I look in the mirror. Both Dylan and Lily swoon at the sight of me, which brings tears to my eyes. “I can’t believe this is real. I get to marry my best friend tonight.”

Lily sniffles and lays her head on my shoulder.

Dylan swipes a misty tear from his cheek and nods. “Yes, girl, you do. Now, stick that hand in your bra and bob those little duckies toward the surface.”

Nice. A much needed tear eraser.

Nathan texts Lily his minute-by-minute agenda, saying it’s our wedding day so I shouldn’t be bothered with logistics. It’s 11:00 PM now, about an hour after the game, and Lily is ushering me through the hotel lobby and out into the night. The cold air sweeps over my arms, and like the most well-executed kidnapping, a blacked-out SUV pulls up to the curb. Lily opens the door and thrusts me into it. It slams shut behind me, and I’m worried for a minute that she didn’t make it in with me. Whew. She did. Everything is okay.

I look around the interior and feel a tug of sadness that Nathan’s not in here. I haven’t seen him all weekend minus that brief moment when he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. No big deal.

Lily must see my expression. “He’s already at the chapel. He wanted everything to feel as much like a real wedding day for you as he could. You’re not going to believe the things he pulled together in this short time.”

I can believe it, because that’s just Nathan. Now, with clear eyes, I can see that there’s no length he wouldn’t cross for me—it’s how it’s always been with him.

Which reminds me how deeply unromantic I am. “Oh no!” I pat my sides like pockets might suddenly appear. “His ring!”

Turns out, in Vegas, there are hundreds of places to buy a wedding ring at the drop of a hat. We bought Nathan’s on our way back to the hotel. (Well, technically Nathan bought it since he made me use his credit card. I accepted his money, because, remember? Two dollars and a piece of gum.)

Lily smiles and digs in her purse for the ring box, holding it up triumphantly. “Yep, I got it. Just so you know, your head would fall off if it wasn’t attached.”

“Awww, you make me feel so good on my wedding day.”

“And then you’d use that head as a ball and get distracted with a bunch of kids in a field, starting up a new afterschool program where they use your head as the soccer ball.”

I grimace. “Morbid. Just really dark humor.”

She shrugs like, It is what it is. Just some casual wedding day cheer.

After a few minutes of my leg bouncing and my fingers tapping my knee, Lily slides over to take the seat closer to me. She puts her hand on my knee. “You know, I just realized, with Mom not here, I have a very important job.”

“And what’s that?”

Her smile goes wicked. “Explaining the wedding night bliss to you.”

“Oh my gosh. Don’t you da—”

“So honey, you might have noticed some interesting sensations when you and Nathan have kissed before. Don’t feel frightened—”

I talk right over her, trying to cup my hand over her mouth. “This is not my first time, Lily. I know what I’m doing! Ew, stop saying that word—”

“…and that’s what happens when everything is done.” She shimmies her shoulders, undeterred by my aggressive paw swiping at her mouth. “Now, a few fun tricks I’ve learned, and you can text me a thank-you later.”

I’m laughing so hard I can barely hear her. I cover my ears to muffle the sound of her voice and drop my head between my knees. “I don’t want to hear about your weird sex with Doug! La-la-la. OH MY YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT WORD TO YOUR BABY SISTER.”

She torments me with her sexual tips the rest of the drive, and this will surely go down in history as one of my favorite days.

Did I say one of my favorite days? I mean my ABSOLUTE favorite day of my entire existence.

We pull up to the chapel and I’m whisked out by an entourage of people I’ve never met before. A woman carrying a clipboard drags me quickly inside the small white Vegas chapel, and I’m surprised that on the inside it doesn’t smell like liquor and strippers. I barely have time to register anything as she tugs me into a little room off to the side of the main double doors. Lily holds my hand the whole way.

The woman whips around, out of breath, clutching her clipboard like it holds the codes to Area 51. “Hi. Hello. Happy wedding day! I’m here to assist you into your dress.”

“My dress?” I look down. Am I naked? “Oh, I’m already wearing one. See?” I gesture to the fabric in case she’s skeptical.

She laughs. “No, your wedding dress.”

“I didn’t…” My tongue stops moving when I see she’s stepped aside to reveal a whole garment rack full of sparkly, lacy, white, and even some champagne and light pink gowns. There are at least twenty hanging there.

My words tumble out. “Are these…do these come with the chapel? Is this like a dress-up corner?”

She laughs. “No. I believe they are a gift from your husband-to-be.”

I clutch my chest and look back at Lily. She’s trying her best to keep her crap together, but it’s no use. Tears are streaming, and she looks like she already knew all of this was going to happen. I step forward and find a little envelope attached to the garment rack. Inside is a note from none other than Dylan.

Hello, Dimples. Once again, your man came through for you. I hand-selected all of these for you a week ago, and I made sure to only pick what I think you’d absolutely adore (even though I reallllyyy wanted to get you the Cinderella-fell-into-an-orange-creamsicle gown). Love you boo. You’ve got yourself a good man. Hugs and kisses from your second favorite man in the world,


A week ago? That can’t be right. That would mean…

“What are you waiting for?!” Lily says, muscling me out of the way so she can start sorting. “We’ve got a wedding to get to!”

Twenty minutes later, I’m clad in a dress that should be illegal it’s so beautiful. The long sleeves are made of delicate, fragile lace that extends into a stiff-lace bodice. It has exactly 31 pearl buttons down the back. It poofs at the waist and then cascades into a multi-tiered, luxurious, tulle skirt with an understated train in the back. My skin shows through the lace sleeves, the bodice tapers into a deep V at the neckline, and when I walk, it swishes. I am a princess, a ballerina, and a powerhouse badass woman all swaddled in one intricate package. I have never felt more lovely or cherished than I do walking into this chapel.

And then, I have to amend that thought when I realize NOW I have never felt more cherished. My breath catches at the threshold. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. Where’s Elvis? Where’s the smell of gin and bad decisions? No, I’m hallucinating.

This chapel was purchased in heaven and overnighted to Earth. Vaulted ceilings sweep over my head up into the clouds. An enormous crystal chandelier glitters in the middle of the intimate space. White wooden planks make up the ceiling, and gorgeous beams reinforce them. Dark oak floors allow my heels to click-clack over the surface, and the swish of my skirt sounds like kisses from the ocean. Enormous green and pink flower bouquets fill the room.

But that’s not what has me contemplating my consciousness. This chapel is full of people. My people. Nathan’s people. My family, friends, and even his mom. This is no elopement. This is my wedding—a wedding Nathan has clearly been planning since before yesterday.

My dad—my dad who supposedly was going to watch the ceremony from his cell phone—is approaching me via the center aisle. His eyes glitter with unshed tears, and he looks dapper in his suit. He holds out his arm. “Hello, sweet girl. Are you ready to get married tonight?”

Well, now I’m sobbing. Too bad Lily worked so hard on my makeup since I’m going to ruin it in two seconds. Dylan would be horrified. Wait! Speaking of Dylan, there he is! Third row back making a heart shape with his hands and blowing me imaginary bubble kisses through it. I look back at Lily with question marks in my eyes. She’s smiling and nodding. She knew the whole time.

Then my dad starts walking me down the aisle and I see him. Nathan. My Nathan, my best friend and the love of my life, standing in his black tux, fantastic hair waving artfully away from his face, a tear running down his cheek, and a dazzling smile stretching across his mouth. He is mine. He loves me. He loves me enough to plan an entire surprise wedding of my dreams. How did I get this lucky?

I float all the way to the altar.

My dad hands me off to Nathan, and now I’m in a dream. Jamal is standing behind Nathan, and Lily is behind me. The rest of the guys are all lined up in the front row, each tossing me a thumbs-up. My mom does the same thing from the other side. Nathan’s mom settles for a subdued smile and wave.

Nathan takes my hand, and tingles swirl through me. I look up into his jet black eyes and drown in lavish, luxurious, ardent love.

“Still with me?” he asks with a soft, unsure grin.

I swallow and try to speak through my tears. “You did all of this for me?”

“I’d do anything for you. Do you like it?”

I take a moment to look around again. All the smiling faces. There is no oxygen left in this room, everyone running on emotional fumes. We’re all sobbing messes, and I can’t see straight from joy. I squeeze his hand and meet his gaze again. “I love it. I love you. How long have you been planning this?”

“Since I warned you I was going to propose. I hired a wedding planner the next day. Are you sure you like it? Because if not, we can call it all off right now.”

I search for the best words to adequately express how I feel and come up severely lacking. “Nathan—I…you…and all of this!” I shake my head. “Thank you. I love it all so much.” As I take in Nathan’s eyes, his clean-shaven jaw, his wide shoulders, the sleek black tie knotted at the base of his throat, and his strong hands holding mine so tenderly, a feeling of impatience sweeps over me. “So what now?”

His smile stretches, he nods toward the officiant standing off to the side, and then he looks back at me. “If you’re up for it, we get married.”

I let out a short laugh through my tears. “Yes, please.”


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