“Matt, calm down.” I shake my head as he flaps around the room.
“Calm down? This is not the time for being calm, Holly. Where the hell is it?” he cries as he upturns cushions on the sofa, before picking up his shoe and shaking it upside down, peering inside with narrowed eyes.
“Yeah, like you’d have put your speech inside your shoe,” Rach snorts as she rolls her eyes.
“Don’t you start,” Matt warns, pointing his shoe at her. “I suppose you’ve thought of the perfect place to keep yours?”
“Hell, yeah, always prepared,” Rach says as she lifts her long gold dress up, exposing a lace garter with a piece of paper carefully folded and tied around it.
“Well, I can hardly pull my trousers down at the reception to untie mine, can I?” he grumbles, unimpressed.
Rach screws up her nose in disgust. “Ewww, I do not want to think about what you would have to tie yours around!”
I giggle at my two best friends.
“There, Holly, I think we’re done.” Shona smiles over my shoulder at me in the dressing table mirror.
“Oh, Holly!” My mum clasps her hands together. “You look beautiful, doesn’t she, Tim?”
“Stunning.” My dad smiles over at me, his eyes misty.
“Oh, Dad.” Sophie passes him a handkerchief, and he dabs at his eyes.
Shona has outdone herself again. I’m dewy and golden and glowing! My makeup is flawless. I wanted a ‘natural, but glam’ look, and Shona has nailed it. My lashes are thick, soft, and fluttery, and my green eyes are sparkling with excitement. My hair is curled in soft waves, the front pinned back from my face. It reminds me of a mermaid, perfect for a beach wedding.
“Thank you so much, Shona.” I grin at her.
“No problem, Holly.” She winks. “I’ll see you out there, and don’t worry about later; it’s all set.”
“Thank you!” I beam, pressing my palms together and taking a deep breath.
In less than half an hour, I’m going to become Mrs. Holly Anderson. I can’t quite believe it. One year ago, I could never have imagined that this is where I would be today. Mum, Dad, Sophie, Rach, and Matt are all here, in our house, getting ready with me. I couldn’t just have one maid of honor, so I’ve got three! Sophie, Matt, and Rach all wanted to speak at the reception dinner, so I said yes. Who am I to complain? I have a sister and two of the best friends in the world. All here to love and support me and Jay as we start this new adventure together. I couldn’t be more blessed.
“Okay, it’s time to put on the dress!” Sophie announces.
There are squeals of excitement, the loudest come from Matt who has given up looking for his lost speech. The girls help me step into my dress and zip the back up for me before I walk over to the full-length mirror. The dress is incredible. Shona helped point me in the right places for where to look for it. She’s become a good friend since I left the airline and moved over to LA five months ago. I twirl and the dress shimmers in the mirror. It’s got thin straps and a low V-neck front. The material itself is sheer and covered with sewn-on organza flowers. The skirt flows out, and a split runs up one thigh. It’s sexy, yet elegant. I didn’t want shoes for the ceremony, so instead I’ve got delicate floral cuffs around each ankle.
“Wow, Holly.” Rach’s eyes widen. “Never mind Jay; marry me instead!”
We all laugh as we take in the final look now that my dress is on.
“It’s almost perfect,” Mum says, squeezing my hands. “It just needs this.” She hands me an ivory box with a cream silk ribbon on.
“What’s this, Mum?”
“Open it and see.” She smiles at me.
I lift the lid off and fold back the tissue paper inside. “Oh, Mum!” I whisper as I take out the long, delicate veil she wore when she married my dad. “It’s perfect, thank you.” My eyes fill with tears as she fixes it into my hair at the back.
She stands back to admire her handiwork. “There, now you look like a bride.”
I grin at her. Now I’ve got the veil as my something old and borrowed, my dress as the something new, and a lace garter as something blue.
There’s a knock at the door and Sophie goes to answer it, her long gold dress that matches Rachel’s swishing as she walks.
I turn and catch his eye as he walks into the room. He looks so smart in his black suit and bow tie, the same as Matt’s.
“Oh my! Holly!” he exclaims as he takes me in head to toe, his mouth hanging open.
I grin and kiss him on the cheek. “Thanks, Stefan.”
“Wait until he sees you. Speaking of which, I can’t be long as I have best man duties with Blake to attend to. But I just thought you might have been looking for this, babe?” He raises an eyebrow at Matt as he holds up a piece of folded paper between his fingers.
“Yes!” Matt cries, grabbing it. “I love you!” he says as he kisses Stefan right on the lips. Stefan clears his throat and straightens his glasses, aware that we are all watching them.
“Right, I better be off; it’s almost time, Holly.” He smiles at me and nods to the others before his eyes go to Matt’s and he shoots him a dreamy look as he leaves.
“I better take my seat too,” Mum says. She gives me a hug and kiss, and I’m wrapped in the scent of lilies from her perfume.
“See you soon, Mum.” I beam.
“You ready, sweetheart?” Dad asks.
The giant heart-shaped diamond ring sparkles back at me as I look down at my hands. Jay gave it to me when he asked me to marry him, one month after we got back together. So much has happened since then. I pick up my hand-tied bouquet, a beautiful, fragrant selection of yellow, pink, and white flowers that Maggie grew in her garden. I glance at my wrist; the watch Jay gave me all those months ago signaling it’s time.
“Yes.” I beam. “I’m so ready.”
We walk out through the new house Jay and I bought. It’s a beautiful ocean-front house that opens onto a large decked area and pool, much like his house in the hills. Only, behind the pool at this one there are steps that lead down onto the beautiful soft sand of the beach, and behind that the shimmering ocean. Every day I wake up here, next to him, is a dream.
Jay is still acting, but we’ve also opened a health and wellness retreat. I teach yoga there, and work with a great team who offer holistic approaches to living a happier, more fulfilled life. It’s an incredible place. Jay wanted to focus on supporting those who have lost loved ones, so we have trained therapists running group and individual sessions. It’s only been open two months, but we’ve already won an award for ‘best service to the community’ for our free well-being workshops.
Dad and I follow Sophie, Matt, and Rach over the sand toward where ceremony will take place. I don’t know how Jay did it, but he got permission to have our ceremony on the beach this evening. Not just any part of the beach. We are going to say our vows underneath the giant rock archway I saw all those months ago when we had breakfast nearby. He arranged it as a surprise. He remembered the comments I made about all the couples who have stood under there, madly in love with the sand between their toes. It just confirms to me how much he loves me and how lucky I am.
I loop my arm through Dad’s as we walk down the beach until the archway comes into view. I hold my breath as I take it all in. There’s a band playing a beautiful country love song. The male singer’s voice carries over to me on the breeze. We wanted a small, intimate ceremony. There are only a handful of wooden chairs on either side of the aisle, filled with our family and closest friends. The sand is covered in white, pink, and yellow petals that match the flowers tied to the backs of each chair. Maggie insisted on doing it as a wedding gift.
Dad places his hand over mine as we reach the aisle. My stomach flutters with excitement. I can’t see Jay yet as the others are in front of me. Stefan was under strict instructions not to let him look around until I walk up the aisle. I take a deep, steadying breath as the band begins a new song, one we’ve chosen for this moment.
“You’re everything I ever wanted, everything I need…”
As they sing the words, I know this is it. This is the moment I see Jay. We spent last night apart, as is tradition. It’s the first night we’ve been apart since getting back together, and I hardly slept a wink.
Sophie turns to smile at me before she walks down the aisle on one side of Matt. Rach is on his other.
I take a step forward and the soft petals surround my foot. I can’t help beaming like an idiot as I take each step, holding on to Dad’s arm as I look around.
Eric and Cooper are with their girlfriends. Doug is sitting next to Anya, who’s glowing with her round, pregnant belly. To my other side, Maggie and her husband are smiling. She doesn’t have her purple crocks on today; instead, she has an unusual hair comb with a purple bird of paradise. Sitting in front of them are Shona and her husband, who give me a small wave.
As we near the top of the aisle, there’s Mum on one side, and Sheila, Bill, Blake, and Stefan on the other. I draw my eyes to the seats behind Sheila and Bill, to Beth and her husband. Both have tears in their eyes but are smiling at me. We’ve been up to visit them a couple of times. They really are happy to see Jay and I together, even though we can’t deny someone very important is missing today. She’s here though, somewhere, making the sun shine down.
Finally, I know the person who I’ve been aching to see the most is only steps away. A tingle runs up my spine as my body senses him. I grip on to Dad’s arm harder and raise my eyes. There, standing and waiting to marry me, his intense blue eyes focused on mine, is Jay.
He’s wearing a black suit and bow tie, his chiseled jaw covered in the perfect amount of stubble, his hair calling to me to grab it between my fingers. We stop in front of him, and he shakes Dad’s hand. Dad turns to me, kissing my cheek before he takes my hand from his arm and places it on Jay’s. His warm fingers close around mine. His eyes crinkle at the corners as he leans down to whisper in my ear.
“You are breathtaking.”
Heat flushes my cheeks as I gaze back at him. I can’t even speak, I’m a ball of excited nerves. Jay looks amused as our minister begins to speak. I don’t hear any of the words he says. All I can do is look at Jay’s face and try to control the hammering in my chest. He speaks his vows to me, sliding my wedding band onto my finger without taking his eyes off mine.
“Holly?” the minister says.
“Huh? Sorry?” I say as I tear my eyes away from Jay. Our friends and family laugh at my total lack of attention.
The minister smiles at me. “Holly, are you ready to say your vows to Jay?”
I nod as I take a deep breath and pledge my promises to him. Pledge my heart to him. He watches me, his eyes never leaving mine for a second. I look down to slip the wedding ring down over his knuckle and stop, my eyes widening.
I look back into Jay’s eyes and they’re creased in amusement as he bites his lip to hide his smile. I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing. I glance back down and there, around his wedding finger, freshly tattooed, is a tiny wreath of holly.
I shake my head as I struggle to hold in my giggle.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride!” the minister announces.
We grin at each other as Jay reaches to cup my face between his hands. He dusts his thumb across my bottom lip as I wrap my arms around his neck. Then his warm, soft lips take mine as he kisses me. His love for me speaks to me in that kiss. It takes my breath away. Applause and cheers erupt around us, and I squeal as Jay dips me back and deepens his kiss. I’m pretty sure it’s Blake who calls out “get a room!” before everyone laughs.
Jay lifts me back up and I open my eyes. “Mrs. Anderson.” His eyes twinkle. “Any first words for your husband?”
“Mr. Anderson,” I murmur, “you’re such a dork.” I break into a smile and look back down at his hand, the edges of the Holly tattoo just visible underneath his wedding ring.
Jay throws his head back and laughs. “I love the things you say, Holly.” He leans down to kiss me again.
“Oh, I know you do,” I whisper. “Just you wait until later… husband.”
Jay’s eyes light up as he grins at me.
The rest of the evening is incredible. We have an amazing buffet set up out on the deck, all lit up with fairy lights. There are large glass vases with candles flickering inside dotted around the beach, and a dance floor has been placed down over the sand. The band plays one great song after another and we all eat, dance, and sing out loud.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention for a moment please,” the band’s singer says into the microphone. “It’s time for the bouquet toss!”
A cheer erupts and I’m bustled to one edge of the dance floor as everyone piles behind me on the opposite side.
“Mrs. Anderson, on the count of three! One, two, three!”
I laugh as I throw my bouquet high into the air and over my head, spinning around before it comes down. There’s no mistaking Matt’s hand as it shoots up in the air, heading straight for it. The look of pure determination on his face is a picture. His fingers skim it, but they knock it off course toward the side of the group and it lands in Rach’s arms as she’s about to take a drink.
“Hey! What?” she splutters, looking around in shock.
“Not fair!” Matt cries out. “You didn’t even want to catch it,” he grumbles like a sulking child, crossing his arms over his chest.
His moaning is soon cut short by a loud crackle and pop as the sky lights up in a rainbow of colors. I smile over at Shona, who gives me a thumbs-up. What’s the use of having a friend whose husband is the biggest special effects guy in Hollywood if you can’t have the best display at your wedding?
Jay’s warm arm snakes around my waist. He’s ditched his jacket and bow tie and rolled his sleeves up. He looks so edible right now. My sexy husband.
“Did you do this, Holly?” he asks, his eyebrows raised.
“You aren’t the only one full of surprises, you know.” I smile at him as he pulls me in to his side.
We all stand and watch the fireworks and lights show. There are plenty of ‘ooohhhs’ and ‘aaahhhs’ as images are projected across the night sky. The first being an aircraft flying. The next a heart and two people kissing. The band plays throughout, which just adds to the theatrics of it all. When it ends, there’s an enormous cheer and some people dance again, while others go to get a drink.
“Looks like you’re next then, Rach?” I say as she comes over with my bouquet in one hand. Jay gives me a kiss and gestures that he’s going to talk to Blake.
“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” She raises an eyebrow, her face unimpressed.
“No one will marry you if you keep your face like that, looking like a slapped arse,” Matt quips as he dances past us.
“Takes one to know one!” Rach fires back, but she’s smiling as she looks back at me.
“Can you believe two years ago you dated that sleazeball Simon, and now you’ve married Mr. Perfect God?” Rach asks as she puts an arm around me.
“God, no,” I scoff at the mention of Simon. Not long after Hong Kong he was sacked for sexual harassment. He’d had multiple complaints made against him. I’ve no idea what he’s doing now.
“You deserve it, Holls,” Rach says as she leans her head against me. “I miss you though!”
“I miss you too. How’s it going living with Megan?”
“Really good.” Rach sighs. “She’s been helping me house hunt.”
I can’t help my voice rising in excitement. “You’ve saved the deposit up?”
Rach’s eyes glitter. “Almost. Thanks to Mr. X.”
“Wow.” I blow out a breath. “Do you still hear from him?”
“Oh yeah, he’s still my best, and only, customer.” She smiles. “I know it’s got to stop soon though. I’ve nearly got the deposit, which is the only reason I was doing it.”
“But?” I ask, searching Rach’s face.
“But nothing.” She shrugs. “I just feel like so much is changing, you know? My best friend has moved across the Atlantic. My other friend has found his soulmate.” She gestures to Matt who is now dancing with Stefan, each of them whispering into each other’s ears and laughing together.
“You know you’re welcome here whenever you like, Rach. I will always be just a phone call or flight away.” I wrap an arm around her.
“I know, Holls, I know.”
We stand and sway together to the music and watch my dad do some kind of dance move I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone perform before, and there’s a good reason for that. My mum moves back, giving him a wide berth as he swings his elbows around.
“He’s got some moves,” Rach says with a straight face.
“I’ll say.” I giggle.
“Do you mind if I steal my wife back for a moment?” Jay’s asks.
“Not at all. I needed a refill anyway,” Rach says, tilting her glass and giving me a squeeze before heading off toward the bar.
“Mrs. Anderson, may I have this dance?”
“You may, Mr. Anderson.” I beam.
He pulls me up against him and my breath hitches as his strong body presses against mine. Even after a year, he still has this effect on me. It’s only getting stronger. I breathe in his scent and let out a small, contented sigh.
“Are you happy, Berry?” His bright eyes are trained on mine.
“Immensely,” he says, pulling his eyebrows together so he looks serious, before breaking into a smile. “I’ve got a surprise for you, Mrs. Anderson,” he whispers in my ear as he kisses my neck and a tingle spreads through my body.
“What could be better than this?” I whisper.
“I’ve booked us a honeymoon.”
I pull back to look at him. His eyes are mischievous.
“Really?” I can’t conceal my excitement. “Where are we going?”
“I’m taking you somewhere very, very special,” he says as I nod eagerly. “Somewhere we have to be on the lookout for something very, very special.” I nod again. “Somewhere incredible things happen that someone once told me about.”
“Spit it out, Jay!” I laugh.
His eyes crinkle in the corners as he looks at me. “Somewhere that if we are very, very lucky, we may see a male bird, pole dancing for his lady.”
I look into his eyes before I howl with laughter. “What?” I gasp.
“As soon as you told me about it, Holly, I knew I would take you there one day.”
I look at him, my eyes wide.
“We’re going to Indonesia. West Papua to be exact,” Jay says. “I’m telling you though, if we don’t see one of these damn birds I’ve heard so much about, then you’re going to be the one dancing on my pole to make it up to me.” His eyes roam down over my body.
“How about I practice now?” I reach one hand up and tug at his hair. Jay groans and pulls me against him.
“You’re a naughty girl, Mrs. Anderson. You want to sneak off and leave our guests?”
I smile up at him. “Don’t you?”
“Fuck, yes!” Jay shoots straight back as he pulls me by the hand back toward the house. We get to the door before he wraps me in his arms. “Did I tell you how much I love you?” His blue eyes search mine.
“You did. But tell me again,” I murmur as I pull his lips against mine.
“I love you, Mrs. Anderson.”
I smile back at him, at the way his voice sounds as he calls me that.
“I love you too, Mr. Anderson.”
He wraps me in his arms, and I sink into them, knowing this is where I belong. This is where my heart will always be.
Here, with my Mr. Anderson.