Emma’s bare feet dangled off the end of Pelican Point pier. Sunrise was her favorite time of day. She had always been a beach baby. Sand between her toes before she ever walked. She learned to walk on the beach while grasping a pail and shovel. Her tiny footsteps imprinted in sand as she tip-toed into the surf holding her mother’s hand. As a toddler she would run exclaiming, “I want to step into the blue mama!”
Today more than ever she missed her mother; her mom had always been so strong before her diagnosis. Emotionally Emma was still paddling hard in the wake of loss, always asking, “Why God? Why did my mom have to get sick? Why did my mom have to die?”
She could hear the music of the beach boys streaming from the veranda of the Shake Shack. Tommy would meet her here. They grew up together; he taught her to swim, surf, and build great bonfires on the beach. He proposed to her in the summer of 2010 by writing “Will you marry me?” on the beach with seashells. She remembered him standing there smiling in his Bob Marley T-shirt, with his pant legs rolled up.
The wedding was approaching, and her stomach was sinking. ‘The Wedding,’ not her wedding. No, the wedding planner wanted to sink her teeth into their pocketbook like a great white shark. The guest list which had begun as a quaint, quiet gathering of family and friends now consisted of over three hundred guest. The wedding estimate including the frilly dress on steroids, the Carlisle Resort reception complete with prime rib dinner, a chocolate fountain, and enough flowers to adorn a float in the Rose Bowl parade would exceed $10,000.00.
As the sun set on the horizon a sailboat glided across the glassy sea - effortlessly.
Tommy approached and sat down next to her. Life had been good to him. He had a college degree in business and invested money to resurrect the once abandoned ‘Shake Shack.’ But outwardly he was just a beach loving surfer wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops. Each day he would surf a good set then plant his board next to the front door of the Shake Shack before opening for business at 11:00. The original Shake Shack in Daytona Beach, the first of over 30 he now owned lining the Florida coast like pearls on a strand.
He agreed to meet with the wedding planner because he wanted Emma to be happy, but the elaborate wedding was Emma’s step mother’s idea, believing all brides should be treated like a fairy princess. Rhonda meant well, but although she loved Emma, she still didn’t’ really ‘know’ Emma. A single tear fell down Emma’s tanned cheek. Tommy gently wiped it dry. “You don’t look like a very happy bride.”
“I’m not happy Tommy.”
“What’s the matter?” He reached for her hand, her engagement ring shining brilliant.
“I don’t see the point of spending all this money, I really just want something small – my real mom knew that about me.”
Tommy winced, “Look, it was just a consult, we aren’t locked into anything.” He wrapped his arm around Emma and she rested her head on his shoulder.
Before leaving for the ceremony Emma gazed in the full length mirror as tears misted her eyes. Her father knocked before entering her room and handed her a velveteen box. “Your mother wanted you to have these when you married Tommy.”
“I was only eleven when mom died, how did she know I would grow up and marry Tommy?”
Her father smiled, “She just knew.”
Emma opened the box revealing her mother’s pearls.
A white tent was erected on the beach and decorated with twinkling lights. A string quartet was playing “Air” by Bach. A three layered cake was adorned with white chocolate shells. Guest mingled in their bare feet as they awaited the bride.
Emma wore her mother’s wedding dress; a tea-length ivory gown now glistening in the warm hues of sunset. She saw Tommy standing barefoot on the beach, his tuxedo pant legs rolled up. Before entering the beach she removed her shoes. Her father escorted down the familiar wooden steps, kissed her gently on the cheek and then placed her hand in Tommy’s.
The barefooted pastor smiled as the couple approached; both of them beaming as they stepped into the blue.
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