Contrary to popular belief, I have dreamed about my wedding.
I mean, what girl doesn't? The white dress, the flowers, the walk down the aisle, the sexy, sophisticated love of your life in a tux… It's a dream.
Mine was spring. Everything was green and, of course, it was bright and sunny as I climbed out of the limo. My bridesmaids were always faceless and nameless, though their dresses were always jewel tones. Sometimes a royal blue, sometimes a satiny emerald green. I was never settled on those small details. I was settled on me. I had the dress all picked out, a princess dress, strapless bodice and tiny beadwork. I'd carry white calla lilies – they were my favourite – while my other arm was linked with my dad's. I'd see my future husband and just know that this was the moment. This was the start of the rest of my life.
I was twenty.
My mom died a year later.
Now… Now I don't generally try to think of it. Well, more appropriately, I didn't think about it. I mean, how many times have I been blindsided by a man?
Of course, the perfect case is the one man who made me start thinking about 'forever' and 'happily ever after'. One second he was a jerk trying to get into my pants, the next, he was my partner in everything but 'forever'. But I imagined it. Who wouldn't? Charming, sexy, playful with a heart of gold? Isn't that, like, a dream come true? And then there was the bride case…
Well hadn't that turned my world on its head. He's pledged forever twice and never honoured it, yet looking at him, looking at her… I was jealous. I can admit that, in the nice quiet privacy of my own head. Because let's face it, if I ever mentioned it to Lanie, she'd crow about it for weeks. And tell everyone she could. It's a lot of pressure and a lot of harassment that's easily avoided with some well-practiced denial.
Sometimes, it's crazy how the world works.
Because here I am, years later, sitting at a small vanity that isn't my own, preparing, waiting, for that walk down the aisle.
It's totally different than the one I imagined at twenty. For one thing, my mother isn't there, and it's broken my heart every step of the way. It's hard, sometimes, to think of a wedding and not think of your mother. Every woman has that moment… and I won't get mine.
Not that Martha hasn't been an excellent replacement.
I mean, sure, she's not exactly the best role model for relationships, but I can't really fault her, can I? She must have been hurt when she was left alone and pregnant so I can only imagine the fight she'd had to endure to try and keep herself from losing it completely. To try and be a good parent. And I know she's had her ups and downs with my groom. It's normal. But they love each other, really and truly and deeply and that in and of itself is something to honour and cherish.
And Martha's been good to me.
Really good, actually. She's gone out of her way to ensure that the wedding is planned exactly as I want it. It's my day, she's always told me, so I damned well better get exactly what I want. It hit me, about four months into planning that she must know this is my it. I have to have the perfect day, because I will never have it again.
Which explains why it took so long to get to this point. The barely tolerable shadow, to irreplaceable partner, to best friend and beyond was a difficult road for us. I'm stubborn and so good at denial that part of it isn't surprising. But we've hurt each other too. We've said things, done things, avoided things until they just… exploded. We're like that, both of us. We both bottle things up. He takes it out on the page, I do in the gym, but eventually, we have to take it up with each other.
It's the fact that we always, always put it back together that made me realize I was done.
Nothing compares to him. Sure, he's an idiot more than a time or two, but I know I'm not exactly a basket of roses either. We're both bullheaded, stubborn and only children so, to a certain extent, used to getting our way. He still has women throwing themselves at him and despite my beautiful – but large – engagement ring, I still get men hitting on me too. I get suspects hitting on me, and it's been such a relief to be able to go home and bang his brains out to get the slime off of my skin.
But I also know him better than anyone. I know he loves his mother, that his daughter scares the crap out of him, even at twenty. I know he keeps his promises and that weddings and vows and marriage are more than just words. I know he's flawed – and yes, I'm aware I am too – but he's also sweet, caring and irritatingly perceptive. He knows me, knows my injuries, my flaws, my ups, my downs and yet, he's willing to stand beside me through all of the dark places. The same way he stands beside me in the bright light.
Promising him forever is easy.
Getting to that point had been the difficult part.
I wasn't kidding when I said I'm damned good at denial. Even when we started the romantic part of our relationship I wasn't going to marry him. I mean, seriously. You wouldn't either with the past the man has and the publicity he adores so much. I'm private, okay? I don't do the press, the releases, the articles, the speculation…
Right, bunny trail.
I wasn't. Nope. Partially, maybe, because I'd stopped believing in Forever and magic, maybe because I just didn't want to see it with him. Whatever the reason, I was bound and determined to let myself live the relationship day after day, not leaps and bounds into the future. And true to form, I should have known better. Not because he wooed me in any particular way. I mean, I was half in love with him when I met him on fangirling alone – and if you tell anyone I know more ways to kill and hide a body than the average Joe – and yeah, it dropped when I actually met him because he was more than kind of an ass, but… Somehow it grew. Somehow it had roots and stems and then flowers and I broke my own rule.
I still didn't think I would marry him.
I figured he was done. Two failed marriages? Yeah, like that's good incentive for a third. He's not Donald Trump or Larry King and I've learned that the people he really and truly loves are worth more than the money he could ever make. But sometimes, they don't love him the same way.
Is it arrogant to say I do? I mean, not just in front of the priest in, what, half an hour, but here and now. I mean… I'm not some super hot model – though yeah, okay, I could have been – and I'm definitely not easy going. I have fun, lots of it, but I'm not exactly the socialite type. I hate the press, I can't stand the women and when he pulls out the playboy card I want to bean him with a club. But I love him with every piece of me and even pieces I didn't know I possessed. I don't make a lot of money and I refuse to spend his – okay, wedding aside, because it's every girl's dream right? – and we fight like rabid dogs, but none of that means squat when I can't sleep without him. Tip of the iceberg, but the point still stands.
When he told me, point blank, he was going to marry me it kind of… scared me.
Okay, shocked me. That's really what it was. Floored me. Because I'm not sure I'd been thinking along those lines. I mean, okay, in the abstract sense of 'hey, maybe' but never 'definitely'. I figured it wasn't in the cards for him. Three's a lot of marriages to have under your belt and I wasn't even sure he believed in the institution anymore. But he told me and I sure as hell believed him and now, here we are.
The room isn't the stereotypical lavish Presidential Suite. It's a nice room in a gorgeous hotel with a gentle breeze through the balcony doors… I'm glad we chose this. Mexico is gorgeous, if maybe a little warm. It's May, stupid, so it's not going to be the comfortable balmy temperatures. Mexico has seasons too. Which, in hindsight, made this kind of a stupid decision but hey. We wanted privacy. We had to go out of the States to do it, but I'm surprisingly okay with that. One of the few perks to having a groom that's loaded. And one of the few times I'm totally willing to use it.
Not that there's many people. Fifty, maybe seventy-five at most. Neither of us have a lot of true friends, but we have people we need to credit along the way. The boys, Montgomery, Alexis, Martha, Lanie, my dad… I have aunts and uncles too, and since Lanie's like my sister we invited her family. Not all of them, of course, but Claire and Grayson. He's got Paula, and Paula's assistant, some others from Black Pawn and the Old Haunt. I've got a handful of officers like Karpowski and Sookhold, whom I'm not surprised brought Rebecca. Not that we hadn't issued her, her own invite. Some of them are only here for the weekend, the wedding. Others, like Lanie and Javier, Claire and Grayson, Sookhold and Rebecca, Martha, Alexis, my dad… they're staying a week to celebrate. Then I get two weeks to have our honeymoon. He still hasn't told me where, and that's okay, I guess. Contrary to what I tell him I do like surprises. It's just equally as much fun to needle him.
Lanie's left a while ago to deal with her own getting ready, check on Alexis and Martha, deal with the boys and get and update from Lauren. She's been a bride's dream, Lanie has. Of course, so has Lauren, but Lanie's taken so much control and pressure off my shoulders that I've decided the week in Mexico is the very least I owe her. So I'm alone in my suite – our suite – and I'm kind of okay with that. It gives me a moment that I need by myself to take a deep breath. I'm all dressed, ready to go, just waiting.
With fifteen minutes to spare, there's a knock. I know I don't have to ask who it is.
"Come on in Dad."
He looks so anxious that it's funny to me, but I keep my laughter in. Instead, I stand as he comes around the corner and I know his breath catches. I also know there's a big part of him that never thought I'd be here. And I know I'm not wearing what he expects. None of the men were allowed to see my dress before the wedding. Not even Esposito and Ryan. Just Lanie, and Lauren. Even Alexis hadn't seen it before Martha helped me put it on.
I smile, radiant, I know. I'm happy, so I know it shows and I know the smile I get in return means he can see it. The dress I've chosen is knee length and floaty. White, yes, but not the princess gown I'd imagined growing up. It's Mexico, for one, but there seems something right about the laid-back feeling this wedding's become. So the dress is shorter than a ball gown, hugs in the right places and loosens in them too. My hair is in some sort of messy bun that despite my best efforts I'd never be able to repeat. There's no veil, just a white band tucked into the honey waves and curls. To most, it would be too simple to be a wedding dress. Considering the craziness we had to endure to get here, it's so right.
"You look like your mother."
And I'm glad my mascara is waterproof because the tears are there before I can help them. It's an emotional day and despite Martha's support I still wish she was here. She should have been here. Bastards.
But that's for another time.
My dad takes my hand, his thumb brushing over it and he smiles. "She'd be so proud, Katie."
I actually don't doubt that. It's taken a while for me to get here, but I don't doubt, for a second, that Mom would love where my life is. I have a career that means something to me, that gives me purpose, and I have a man that loves me, that wants to marry me and grow old with me, and understands me. It's insane. It feels insane. It feels insanely right.
"You have everything?"
He's got a sly smile so I raise an eyebrow.
"Something borrowed? Something blue?"
The ribbon on my bouquet is blue and the band in my hair is borrowed. It twinkles with diamonds and I flat out refused to let it be bought. I have 'something new's everywhere. But something tells me that for every suggestion I made about something old that got vetoed comes down to this moment. "Almost?"
He laughs and pulls out of his pocket a jewelry box. It's long and thin and I know what it is before he opens the box. I've borrowed it before, most notably the night of my prom and it makes sense that he'd hand it over.
"I considered the diamond pendant," he tells me sheepishly, the one my mother had worn on her own wedding day. "But that…"
It was too close to home for him. I know that necklace too because Dad keeps it hanging off a little hook in the corner of the mirror above his dresser. I would never have asked for it. I could never take it. But this, this I can. Because it feels as much mine as it was my mother's and we both know how much that means to both of us. The thin in-line diamonds sparkle in the Mexican sun streaming through the open doors.
"You know when I gave this to your mother."
"Twenty years," I say with a smile. "I remember her teasing you about what you were going to do for twenty five." He'd never gotten the chance to plan it.
"I had ideas." He smiles at me as he loops it around my left wrist. "She would have done the same thing."
Well, we both know that's not completely true. If Mom was here, she would have given me the necklace. But this… from Dad… it means almost more. Because we both have pieces of her to remember and though she wore the pendant on her wedding day, I wore the bracelet to my prom, when I was Katie, and I'm not totally sure he misses that significance.
He fastens the bracelet, and then links my arm through his. He picks up my bouquet on the way, handing it to me with a smile.
"Come on, Katie-girl. Let's go get you married."
And as I walk down the aisle with my dad, my mom's bracelet on my wrist and Rick Castle grinning at me, I know there's no where in the world I'd rather be.
There's nowhere else I could be.
This is another one of those 'I have no idea where it came from but it needs to get out of my head' moments. So I got it out. HA! Of course, it means I have no real idea of what this is. Excellent, isn't it.
A review would make my day.