This was going to be an interesting rehearsal.
Natalie wished there was someone else to fill in for Lily, but there just wasn’t. Everyone else was preparing for tomorrow and Bree was capturing everything—including her awkward moments with Colin—on camera. All she could do was man up, grab the dummy bouquet and march down the aisle so they could get through this.
“Frankie will take Lily’s hand and help her up onto the platform,” the pastor explained. “Lily will pass her bouquet to the maid of honor to hold, then I will read the welcome passages about marriage.”
Natalie took Colin’s hand, ignoring the thrill that ran up her arm as they touched. She clenched her teeth as she handed off the bouquet and listened to the pastor go through his spiel. They had opted for the traditional, nondenominational Christian service, passing on any long biblical passages. Colin had insisted that Lily didn’t want to stand up here for a drawn-out religious service. She wanted to get married and then cue the party.
“When I finish, Frankie and Lily will turn to face each other and hold hands while they recite the vows.”
This was the part Natalie was dreading. Turning to Colin, she took the other hand he offered. It was awkward to stare at his chest, so she forced her chin up to meet his eyes. The initial contact was like a punch to her stomach. There wasn’t a hint of warmth in those golden eyes. He hated her, and she understood that. She had thrown his love in his face. She didn’t know what else to do. Say yes? Dive headfirst into the fantasy of marriage like everyone else? She could see now how easy it was to get swept up into it. The current was strong.
Even now, as they stood on the altar together, she felt her body start to relax and her resistance fade. Colin repeated Frankie’s vows, the words of love and trust making Natalie’s chest ache. His expression softened as he spoke, slipping a pretend ring onto her finger.
When it was her turn to recite Lily’s vows, the anxiety was gone. She felt a sense of peace standing here with Colin, as though that was where they were truly meant to be. She loved him. She was scared, but she loved him and had loved him since she was fifteen years old. She’d never felt this way for anyone else because of that. Her heart was already taken, so why would she have any desire to love or marry another man?
She wanted to marry Colin. There was no question of it now. Why did she have to have this revelation two days too late?
She felt her hands start to tremble in his as her voice began to shake as well. Colin narrowed his gaze at her, squeezing her hands tighter to calm the tremble. She was glad to have an imaginary ring, because she was certain she would’ve dropped any real jewelry trying to put it on his finger.
Natalie felt tears form in her eyes as the pastor talked about their holy vows. She wanted to interrupt the rehearsal, to blurt out right then and there that she was wrong. She was sorry for letting her fears get in the way. And most important, that she very desperately wanted to marry him.
“I’ll pronounce them man and wife, then instruct Frankie to kiss the bride,” the pastor explained. “They’ll kiss, holding together long enough for the photographer to get a good shot. Then Lily will get her bouquet and the couple will turn out to face the congregation. I’ll announce them as Mr. and Mrs. Frank Watson, and then you’ll exit the chapel.”
The musicians started playing the exit song. Colin offered his arm and she took it. They stepped down the stairs and along the aisle to the back of the chapel.
When they walked through the doorway, he immediately pulled away from her. She instantly missed the warmth and nearness of his touch, but she knew the moment had passed. The Colin standing beside her now hated her once again.
She recovered by returning to her professional duties. She waited until the maid of honor and best man came out of the chapel behind them, then she returned to the doorway, clapping. “Great job everyone. Now, at this point, the bridal party will be escorted away so the guests can move into the reception hall, then we’ll bring you back into the chapel to take pictures. Does anyone have any questions?”
Everyone shook their heads. It was a small wedding and not particularly complicated aside from the absence of the bride and groom. “Great. Let’s make sure everyone is here at the chapel by three tomorrow. We’ll do some pictures with Bree before the ceremony. If anything happens, you all have my cell phone number.”
People started scattering from the room, Colin amongst them. “Colin?” she called out to him before she lost her nerve.