Merry Late Christmas, here's a little way-into-the-future-take. Not beta'd, mistakes are extra gifts for you.
Peace and love to y'all. Have a fabulous New Year.
Accidental Atonement – The Big Day
I took a deep breath and knocked quietly on the door, not wanting to startle the young girl on the other side, even though my heart was pounding, too.
She called a quiet "Come in," so I did, and my heart nearly stopped when I saw her.
"Does it look okay?" Julie asked nervously, and her hands shook as they smoothed down the white silk: the very same dress that I wore on my wedding day nearly thirty years before.
"You look beautiful, sweetheart." I nodded and carefully wrapped her up in my arms like she were my own child.
Well, in just a few minutes she would practically be one of them. After she married my Daniel, of course.
"Will he like it? I'm so nervous!" Julie cried, though her thousand-watt smile negated her words.
"I'm pretty sure you could be wearing a black Hefty bag and he'd still be crazy about you," Abi said as she burst into the room, her long hair piled meticulously on top of her head. Mara smiled and rolled her eyes at her sister, her new pixie cut styled much like Alice used to wear hers.
Julie beamed and then blushed at the entrance of her soon to be sisters-in-law, and turned back to me.
"I can't thank you enough for…everything," she whispered as tears welled up in her big blue eyes. The girls were quick to flank her sides and wrap identical arms around her waist. Abi, my rough-around-the-edges clone, reached up and brushed Julie's hair from her face before kissing her pale cheek.
"You're one of us now," my daughter said softly. "It takes some time getting used to, but you'll be okay."
Julie laughed and I couldn't help but smile as the three of them pressed their heads together. It was true, though. Julie was one of us now. She had been since the first time Daniel had brought her home for Thanksgiving dinner nearly three years ago. It was awkward at first, seeing our grown son bring home a girl for the first time, but the more time she spent with us the more we became to love her.
When Daniel graduated and moved back to Washington, we'd hoped with all our hearts that she would come, too. They'd gotten engaged that Christmas at our house, surrounded by our entire family. We knew it was hard for Julie to be around all of us at first. Our family was large and loud, whereas she'd grown up with no family at all.
We were heartbroken for her when Daniel first told us, but soon realized that her life had been in no way impeded by how she grew up. Julie was sweet, smart, and amazingly talented. She taught art to elementary students and fit right in with our wild bunch. It didn't take Edward and I long to realize that she was perfect for our son.
Daniel even came to us after their engagement and mentioned that they wanted to go to the courthouse and get married because Julie didn't want to be a burden, but we had none of that. It helped to have an in with the pastor of a church, after all.
There was another knock on the door and we all turned, just as my husband entered the room. He smiled at me, but his eyes drifted to our new "daughter" and he held his hand over his heart.
Julie blushed an even deeper red, and it reminded me so much of Edward when we first started dating that I bit back a laugh. Apparently our children do marry like we do.
"Are we ready?" I asked as his hand slipped into mine.
"The groom has successfully been tied to the chancel, just in case." Edward said with a wink and a shrug.
Julie rolled her eyes and the girls laughed, but then she squared her shoulders and looked Edward square in the eyes.
"Well, you'd better get me out there before he gets loose."
"All right, then." He grinned, kissed my cheek, and beckoned for our very adult daughters to follow him out.
I handed Julie her bouquet and held out my arm, leading her out of the room and into the narthex of the church. Music played as we began down the aisle, surrounded by family and friends. Edward and our son stood at the end, wearing matching smiles. Daniel smiled at me briefly, then his gaze settled on the girl walking next to me and I felt my eyes well up with tears. Not only was my baby boy getting married, but I was voluntarily walking the girl of his dreams down the aisle. I could feel the irony pulsing around me.
We reached the end and Edward stepped down, taking Julie's hand and leading her to Daniel. I took my seat and dabbed at my eyes before looked down the row at the rest of the kids: I still had five little birdies in the proverbial nest after all.
I could hear the strain in Edward's voice throughout the ceremony. It had been the same so many years ago at Alice's wedding. He knew he was letting go, as did I. But we also knew that so many doors were about to open for our son. By the time he was pronouncing Daniel and Julie as husband and wife, my softie husband was crying freely, as was I (and three-fifths of our children). He found me just after the newly pronounced couple were making their way back down the aisle to leave the church and meet us at the banquet hall.
"One down…" Edward muttered into my ear, but I shoved him away. He smiled a watery smile and kissed my temple.
"I'm not in a rush to do that again," I replied.
"Okay," he agreed and glared at the twins. "Don't get any ideas."
They both shrugged and exchanged confused glances.
"Daddy?" Jamie asked, tugging at Edward's robe. "When can I get married?"
"Like, not for a really long time, okay?" Edward said solemnly as he scooped our youngest up into his arms.
"Yeah, kid," Matthew piped up. "Next year."
Jamie looked satisfied with that answer, though Matthew and Hannah just rolled their eyes at their little brother.
"Let's go, my little birdies," I teased as I ushered them all out of the church. We greeted as many people as we could before we finally made it to our car and headed to the reception. My parents were waiting outside, looking too good to be in their seventies. They greeted Edward and I quickly, before the kids surrounded them and we were left alone. People milled in around us, but we'd both found it hard to move in the moment.
"I think that…she will be good for him," Edward finally said.
"She'll be good for all of us," I returned, knowing it was entirely true. Julie was a great addition to our family, and we gave her something she never had.
I squeezed Edward's hand and pulled him into the hall, where we quickly found everyone we'd missed at the church: Alice and Peter, Seth and Maggie, and their not-so-little ones. So long ago, our family had been so small and broken, and now everything had changed.
"Dance with me, pretty girl," Edward whispered into my ear after dinner. I happily obliged and was filled with a memory of us at a dingy little bar, just before he proposed to me. He pulled me into his arms and pressed his cheek against my hair.
"I hope she can make him as happy as you make me," I said quietly and felt Edward's body vibrate with a chuckle.
"Did you just compliment me? You're getting soft in your old age, Leah," my husband teased.
"Don't get sassy, Preacher Boy."
"I hope she doesn't put up with any of his shit, like you don't." Edward smiled and brushed my hair from my face. We both turned to watch Daniel and Julie dancing just a few feet away, completely oblivious to anything around them and looking totally in love.
"I think they'll be fine," I laughed and rested my head on Edward's shoulder.
"Yeah, you know what we get to look forward to now?"
I pulled back, beaming, thinking of how amazing our life had been since we'd had Daniel; since we'd been so blessed with all of our other heathens. Our families had been small and broken once, but Edward and I found each other. We made a new family, bringing everyone closest to us together, and were so lucky to watch it grow and change around us.
"Grandkids, huh? That'll be an adventure."
"Every day is an adventure with you, pretty girl."
"Looks like we're just getting started, too."