Well, I couldn't sleep. So I decided to proofread and post the last chapter. So, if the proofreading isn't up to snuff – I apologize and I blame lack of sleep. I hope you enjoy the last chapter. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing – and for sharing the journey this story has offered.
Several reviewers have asked about what happens to Tori. If you haven't done so already, please pop over and read the companion story, Try Again Tomorrow. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Chapter 23 – 'Til You Give it Away
And love in your heart
Wasn't put there to stay -
Love isn't love
'Til you give it away.
Two months after Tori had disappeared, Jade found herself sitting on a swing on their back deck, curled against Beck, watching the sun go down. She had a cup of coffee in her hands that she set aside. Her heart swelled with a contentment that bothered her. "It doesn't feel right to be happy," she said softly.
"We can't stop our lives," Beck reminded her, not for the first time. "It wouldn't help – and it's not what Tori would want."
"Do you ever think – about where she could be?"
"I don't think that's a good train of thought for any of us to follow," he told her gently, dropping a kiss on her head and ruffling her dark curls. His words weren't callous; he knew how devastating thoughts could get when you followed the "ifs" - the things that might have happened to Tori. It would torture them if they let it.
"Other than Tori missing, are you happy – with the way things are?"
"I am," Beck answered truthfully. "What's with all the thinking?" She ignored his question and kissed him deeply, initiating a period of time when neither of them spoke much.
"I don't want to wait," Jade said, later that night. Beck looked at her in confusion. They were in bed, curled under the covers and facing one another. He was playing with a few strands of dark brown hair that were spayed across his pillow.
"For what?" There was no telling what she didn't want to wait for; she wasn't known for her patience.
"To get married," she answered quickly. "I don't want to wait anymore. Things just keep happening – and I don't know what we're waiting for. Life is too unpredictable to wait for an arbitrary date in the future."
"You don't have to convince me," Beck answered, dropping a kiss on top of her head. "I've been ready to marry you for just about ever."
"You don't have to be corny about it," she said huffily, flipping over and snuggling into his embrace. Her words didn't matter; they were both smiling into the darkness.
It would have been wrong to celebrate too much. They were all too preoccupied with Tori's disappearance. But it was something to celebrate – and it would have been equally wrong to not celebrate – so they settled on keeping everything small. The planning took just over a month.
Jade hadn't wanted a white gown. She laughed at some of those traditions; people thought they knew where they came from – but they didn't really. A white gown had nothing to do with virginity or innocence. It had everything to do with the white dress Queen Victoria wore when she wed Albert. After that, white dresses became the norm.
But Jade didn't want white. Her skin was pale and she hated white for the color's ability to make her look more ghostly than normal. Instead, she'd chosen a teal dress. Ella had simply smiled when she'd seen it. "It's gorgeous," she promised. It started as a dark teal and lightened until the full bottom of the skirt was almost a pastel version of the color. The sweetheart neckline was accented by teal embroidery and a thin silver and teal broach gathered the fabric below her bust before it spilled down into the A-lined skirt. It was perfect and unique. And it did Jade's eyes more honor than any other dress could.
Cat wore a soft pink dress and twirled around the room in it all day, feeling every bit a princess. Robbie, Andre, Beck, Alex West, and Bryan Oliver wore black suits. It was a small ceremony and dinner, but it was everything Jade wanted. Honestly, if she had been able to get away with it just being her and Beck, she would have preferred that. But she'd known it would break Cat's and Ella's hearts – so she'd agreed to the small wedding.
They were married by a justice of the peace – a friend of Alex West – who agreed to marry them outside. They were married in the spot where Beck had taken Jade on their first outing together. The sun shone brightly through the canopy of trees as they exchanged their vows. They had discussed those vows for a long time. They had considered writing their own. Their life certainly wasn't traditional; but their love was. Their love transcended their young ages, so in the end, they decided to side with the words that had been connecting lovers for generations.
"I Beck, take you Jade, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part." He slipped the simple white gold wedding band onto her finger.
"I, Jade, take you Beck, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part." She slipped the larger band into his ring finger.
The judge pronounced them married and they kissed. Jade stepped further into his arms and they embraced as the kiss deepened for just a moment. And it was done. They were married. The state now legally recognized what they had known in their hearts since the 8th grade; they were together forever.
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