They kept talking until Barbara could hear Ambrose wilt. His voice became softer and slushy. She imagined him lying his head on his arm – his black hair spread on his bare skin.
She imagined lying her head on his arm and the love in his eyes as he looked at her.
She imagined him reaching for her.
She imagined his hands caressing her skin.
Her face turned red. “I’m going to let you go. Get some sleep. I love you.”
“ahhh ov ooo…”
She ended the call and put her phone away.
Her father pulled his attention from the endless mysteries of wedding invitations to look at her. “You okay, Barb?”
“Just feeling a little flushed. I think I need some fresh air. I’m going to step out a minute.”
One of the stationary shop people must have sensed his need for help. She swooped at him with an overly eager smile. “How can I help you, sir?”
“Well, my daughter’s getting married and I would like to send out invitations. But…” He ran his hand through his hair. “They all look the same to me.”
“Oh, well. I can help you!”
Barbara left her father in the saleswoman’s overly enthusiastic care and went outside.
It’s such an overwhelming feeling. Such a strange feeling to want someone so much. I’ve never felt this way before.
Hmm. Could be vampire hoo-doo.
Nope. I know it isn’t. It is how I feel. It’s coming from inside me.
It’s what I want.
She pressed the back of her fingers against her heated face.
Yep. No more spending quality time at my house for us. Not until we’re married.
Me and him.
Me and Ambrose.
I’ll be Mrs. Barbara Smith, maiden name Addleston.
It’s such a big step.
My life will totally change.
“I’m ready for it. I want it. For better or for worse.”
“It hasn’t been easy.” Her father shrugged. “Doing all of this wedding stuff without Carolyn. Truth is, I’m scared that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Am I forgetting to do something that will make her wedding a little more special?”
The saleswoman dabbed away her tears.
“Carolyn…She.” His mind traveled back in time and he saw her again. Young. Healthy. Vibrant. “She was a planner. She loved planning things and making sure that everything came out right. Her face would glow with pride when it all went off without a hitch. ‘Another successful venture!’ she would say.”
“You loved her a lot.”
He nodded. “I had never known anyone like her. She was…unique. Special. The first time I saw her I just knew. I knew she was the one. It’s a clichéd thing to say. Cynics will deny it, but I just knew. I wanted to grow old with her. I had always hoped that I would go first or we’d go together.”
The saleswoman dabbed away more tears. “What happened?”
His mind jumped forward in time and he saw her. Thinned to her bones. Weak. Dying. His mouth twitched as the old pain returned. “Cancer.”
She touched his arm. “I’m so sorry for you.”
He bowed his head and tried to remember her as she was. The sound of her laughter. The light in her eyes. How wonderful it felt to hold her.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”
He wrapped his arms around his chest.
“Dad? You okay?”
He brusquely rubbed away his tears and raised his head. “Sorry, pumpkin. I was…”
She hugged him. “I wish…”
“So do I.”
The saleswoman came back with a sheet of paper in her hand.
Barbara released him.
“All right! This—” The saleswoman handed him a sheet of paper. Colorful handprints decorated the border. “—-is a list of everything you need for a wedding. I’ve put an asterisk by the optional items. Everything else is a must.”
He raised his head and smiled at her. “Thank you so much. This means a lot to me.”
“I know. As for which invitations you should go with, I highly recommend…” As she launched into her business woman spiel, he could have sworn he felt a hand touch his back.
A very light and gentle touch that he knew.
I love you, Carolyn.
I always will.