I checked my hair again - for the fifth time in the last hour. The blowout I'd gotten was still perfect. But I couldn't stop shaking. I didn't even know why I was so nervous. It was ridiculous.
"Susie, stop that. Your hair is beautiful."
I smiled at my mother. She was carefully straightening all of the bouquets, not even looking at me. She knew me pretty well. "I'm sorry. I can't help it. I'm just…really nervous. I feel like everything is happening so fast. Almost too fast. Well, it's more like I feel like I should be feeling that it's all going too fast. I mean, I dated Paul for seven years before we finally got engaged. Jesse and I only dated for six months. I was engaged to stupid Paul for three years. Only three months to Jesse."
She smiled, kissing my forehead. "Every couple is going to be different. The timing is right for you and Jesse. He's so perfect for you. It would just be a waste of time for you two to wait too long to get married."
I smiled in return. "He is perfect for me. He's the most amazing man I've ever met. I've never loved anyone as much as I love him and his daughter. It's crazy."
"Speaking of that little cutie, where is she? I thought she was supposed to be in here with you?"
"She was. She's probably excitedly yapping at her father. I sent her to inform him on my behalf that he can't use his daughter as a spy so he can try to see me before the ceremony."
"Did he really try that?"
I shrugged. "Well, kind of. He told her to try to get a picture of me in my dress. He wanted to see it before the ceremony. He usually doesn't try to be sneaky like that, but I have been dropping enough hints to make him extremely curious, I guess."
She laughed, shaking her head, and mumbled something about "typical Suze," which I didn't really think was all that fair. I talk about clothes a lot. Jesse usually just tuned me out. I had sort of figured that he would do the same when I mentioned my dress. But apparently not.
Before I knew it, my entire bridal party was in the room, ready to go. Catarina was trembling with excitement, to the point that she was on the verge of spilling her basket of lilac and rose petals. She was the first one to walk down the aisle. She tossed small handfuls of the flower petals onto the ground, smiling widely. Then she stopped beside her father. He smiled down at her before looking back toward the doors where I was hiding behind. Peeking through, of course, so I could see what was happening.
Then it was CeeCee and Adam next. They weaved their arms together and started walking. My heart began racing.
Gina and Raymond - a very close work friend of Jesse's - made their way down the aisle, their arms linked.
Josefina and Benedict were the last of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to go.
Then it was time.
Andy looped his arm through mine, and we headed down the aisle. My heart was beating so fast, I was sure it was going to explode. I had only eyes for Jesse. And Catarina, who was hugging her father's legs. She beamed when Jesse and I clasped hands, turning our heads to look at the priest.
Our vows were the normal, Roman Catholic ones. I'd never really been a religious person, despite the fact that I graduated from a Catholic High School. But Jesse was a devout Catholic – something I detested come Sunday mornings, when he practically dragged me out of bed and forced me to attend Mass – so this was more for his sake, really. I would have been happy with Brazilian voodoo, to be honest.
It almost went smoothly.
When the priest asked if there were any objections, a man did stand up and object.
I didn't know how he'd found out about the wedding at all. I mean, sure, I'd invited Jack because I genuinely liked the kid. But Jack wasn't even talking to his brother at the moment. He'd gotten emancipated at the age of seventeen, from his parents, and moved out on his own. He had refused to go to the last family vacation at the Pebble Beach Resort. There was no way Jack would have told Paul about the wedding.
Before I could panic or yell at him or do anything, Brad stood up and hauled Paul outside, telling the priest to carry on so he could "see what was going on." I exchanged a confused glance with Jesse. I was stunned, as everyone else in the room seemed to be. About five minutes later, Brad came back, flexing his fingers. Had he…beat Paul up? For me? What was the world coming to? "He had a little…change of heart," Brad said, sitting back down. "No objections."
So the wedding went on.
The rest of the ceremony went without a hitch. I decided that, as soon as I possibly could, I would see if I could get a restraining order against Paul Slater. I was tired of him just showing up in my new life. I wanted to be rid of him.
But I put that from my mind as I enjoyed my wedding reception. Jesse was nice about feeding me my cake. He only dabbed a small dot of frosting onto my nose. I can't say the same for myself, unfortunately. I smeared the frosting all over his face, which made Catarina giggle.
We shared our first dance with Catarina, just the three of us. I knew this was the right thing for me, marrying this man. Jesse, Catarina, and I made the perfect family.