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Billy crossed his arms as he stood near the entrance of the large tent. He looked down the wooden-slat walkway between the few rows of purple be-ribboned folding chairs and smiled at his oldest friend fidgeting nervously in front of the driftwood and candle-adorned altar.
It was a beautiful day for a wedding on the beach. There were high, thin clouds, but no rain. The sides of the tent had been rolled up so everyone in attendance could enjoy the warm breeze coming in off the water. The tinkling wind chimes at each corner were a bit unusual, but a nice touch. Billy thought the sounds of the waves rolling up on the shore were a fitting accompaniment to the wind chimes and the … untraditional music that was playing softly in the background.
Charlie had explained it was some kind of meditation or trance music that was supposed to evoke feelings of love, peace, and harmony.
Billy didn’t know about that, but he did know he was starting to feel a little sleepy. He considered blaming it on the music, but it was probably all the beer he, Charlie, Harry, and the rest of the guys, had drunk the night before at the bonfire-bachelor party.
Charlie seemed none the worse for wear, except for the bags under his eyes, and he kept tugging at the collar of his off-white shirt as if the tie was choking him.
Billy chuckled to himself. Anymore, Charlie seemed uncomfortable wearing anything but his police uniform or an old pair of jeans, a Mariners ball cap, and a Seahawks jersey. But all that wouldn’t do until after the wedding. Charlie must really love that girl.
“Did you manage to take Renee on any dates before you begged her to marry you?” Billy joked as he sauntered down the aisle. “You know, I’ve known Sarah since we were kids.”
“And you’d have never even asked her out if she hadn’t almost been thrown off that cliff.” Charlie grumbled, tugging at his collar again. “What the hell is this shirt made out of? It’s the itchiest damn thing I’ve ever worn.”
“I believe it’s hemp, Charlie.”
Charlie’s eyes flew open and he gulped. “Hemp?”
“Calm down.” Billy patted his shoulder in a reassuring gesture. “You won’t get stoned wearing it.” Billy leaned toward him and spoke out of the side of his mouth. “You’d have to roll it up and smoke it.”
“Charlie, Charlie! I’m kidding!” There was no way Billy could stop the full belly laugh from erupting. “Renee said she wanted everyone in the wedding party to wear renewable hemp clothing. She got everything through my cousin up at the Makah Reservation. He cut her a good deal, too. Weren’t you listening when the girls were planning?”
A guilty look settled across Charlie’s face. He cleared his throat noisily and brushed his hands down his chest. “Well, uh, no. Whenever Renee started talking about the wedding …” His voice faded out.
Billy laughed at him again. “I know exactly what you mean. When I got married, the women chased me off and told me to stay the hell out of their way.”
Charlie nodded absently and then frowned. “But your wedding lasted two days.”
Billy outright guffawed at the scandalized look on Charlie’s face and slapped him on the back. “The wedding didn’t last two days, the party did!”
“Well, whatever.” A faint smile finally appeared on Charlie’s face. “I guess it’s a big deal when the guy who’s going to be chief gets hitched.” He shrugged. “But, hey! I can’t help being nervous, but how come you aren’t? Isn’t Sarah due to give birth about any minute now? And twins?”
“I’m right here, Charlie.” Sarah, looking more radiant than anyone had a right to, waved at him from the front row. “Even with twins, I’m not due for another week or two. I promise not to give birth during your ceremony.”
Blushing beet red, Charlie didn’t know whether to laugh at Sarah’s joke, or cry because it never entered his mind he’d have to worry about her suddenly going into labor.
“Where’s Harry?” he asked, winding himself up again. He noticed the chairs were filling up—his parents were sitting right behind him, and he hadn’t even seen them sit down. “People are coming in, my folks are here—”
“Take it easy, Charlie,” Harry called as he jogged down the short aisle and took his place beside the quaking bridegroom. “The best best man has arrived. If Renee gets a look at you sweating and wiggling like that, she might boot you right into the ocean. Billy and I would stand up for her, but our wives might not like it.” Harry gave Charlie a rather exaggerated wink and poked him in the ribs with his elbow.
“What is that on your head, man?” Charlie exclaimed, staring at the pork pie hat decorated with glittering metal and fluffy feather fishing lures on his friend’s head.
“Nothing but the best for your wedding, Charlie. It’s my favorite one—you know that,” Harry explained.
“Well, that’s not … I don’t … Renee won’t—” Charlie spluttered.
A rumbling, throaty voice sounded from behind Charlie, causing him to whip around to face the man at the altar and stand at rigid attention. It didn’t matter how old he got. He would always feel like a little kid whenever Billy’s father spoke to him.
Charlie coughed and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Ah, uh, sir, I’d like to thank you again for officiating at my wedding and letting us have it here, and the ladies who helped my mother with all the food … Renee and I really appreciate it, and—”
Chief Bill Black waved off Charlie’s rapid fire words. “It is our pleasure, Charlie. Your friendship and loyalty to my son and his wife is thanks enough.” He clasped his hands together over a traditionally woven blanket robe draped over his shoulders. He leaned forward and whispered, “I see a lovely young woman waiting at the door of the tent. She seems quite eager to join us.”
Charlie spun around so fast, Billy had to grab his arm to keep him from falling over.
Renee was a pretty girl, dressed in a flowing, gauzy peasant dress that had purple and blue flowers with green vines embroidered around the scoop neckline and the hem. Charlie gasped in awe at the vision that was Renee, and Billy took a firmer grip on his arm. He could plainly see the admiring path Charlie’s eyes followed over his young bride. From the little pale purple Satin Flower crown on her sandy brown, curling hair, to the bouquet of pine sprigs and more lilac-colored Satin Flowers, down to her tanned bare feet—the nails painted the same shade as the flowers in her hair.
Renee was beaming, and as she made her way closer to them, Billy looked to his own wife, and his heart filled again with the love he had for her. He’d loved Sarah Wilde from the time they were small children and knew he was the luckiest man on earth when she had agreed to marry him.
She smiled up at him, and ran her hands slowly over the full curve of her belly. Billy didn’t think it was possible, but his heart swelled even more with the pride and love her felt for his wife—the mother of his children.
He saw the light in her eyes and a tear of happiness spilled down her cheek. He knew she was thinking of their own wedding, just as he was.
Renee handed off her bouquet to the maids of honor, Billy’s younger sisters, Connie and Jennie, and turned to Charlie, taking his hands.
She looked over his shoulder at Billy and Harry, a pretty pink blush blossoming over her cheeks. “Billy, thanks for not letting him fall.”
“Never.” Billy assured her and released Charlie’s arm.
Before turning to face forward, he took another lingering look at his own bride. He knew he’d never love anyone as much as he loved her.
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