Hildreth released her. “So! On to a much brighter note…” He pulled the list of songs out of his slacks pocket and handed it to her. “Look at that and tell me what you think.”
She read it over and nodded her head. “These are good choices, but what’s with number 1?”
“Huh?” He looked at the list. “What? What’s wrong with ‘This I Promise You’?”
“It’s kind of old school.”
“It’s so romantic.”
He laughed. “I had no idea you weren’t an NSYNC girl.”
“I’ve always preferred Backstreet Boys.”
Hildreth nodded. “See? That makes sense. But have you ever listened to the lyrics?”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it.”
“Well, Vansing. I know how to remedy that small problem.”
He smiled and sang it to her.
His voice wasn’t perfect. He strained on the higher notes and the lower notes weren’t all that great.
Elsie didn’t care.
She stood there, utterly enchanted.
“Every word I say is true. This I promise you.”
“Hildreth.” She spread her hands on his chest and slid them up to his shoulders. “Promise me that you will always sing this song to me.”
“Always? I don’t know. That sounds like a recipe for a bad migraine. Not to mention the vocal nodules and vocal damage and—-”
He stroked her face. “But I will sing it to you any time you ask me.”
They settled down at the kitchen table.
“All right, Vansing. We can’t have Jeff sing all of these songs, even though that would be awesome. Let’s whittle it down to a relatively sane number.”
“Okay. You have six Dixie Chicks songs listed. Which ones are definite?”
“Uhh, all of them?”
“Fine. I guess….umm. Number 2 and number 3.”
“Okay.” She smiled. “‘Firework’ by Katy Perry. Doesn’t seem like a proper wedding song.”
“But it suits you.”
She looked up at him.
“It’s your unofficial anthem.”
She laughed. “You’re crazy.”
“It’s true. And it is true. Besides, I can just see us dancing to it. We’ll look like we’re having a nervous breakdown or something.”
She laughed again. “Well. I am not walking down the aisle to it. Just so you know.”
“Of course. That’s what number six is for.”
Her expression changed.
“What? What’s wrong?”
She shook her head.
She swallowed hard. “I don’t want number nine.”
He looked down at the list. “Why? What’s wrong with ‘Butterfly Kisses’?”
Her expression turned into hardened cement.
“Hey. Elsie baby. Talk to me.”
“Listen to the lyrics. You’ll understand.”
Hildreth sat back in his chair with a puzzled frown. “I don’t…Oh. I’m sorry, Elsie. I wasn’t thinking. I just thought it was a pretty song. I’m sorry.”
“It isn’t your fault. It’s his fault. He let me go. He threw me away.” She bowed her head and tried to hold back her tears. Her hands curled into fists.
I need to go downstairs.
I need to punch something.
I need him here.
“He should be here. But he isn’t. He should have been the one you went to ask for my hand. It should have been him. He should…If he had called me just once, maybe once in a while, I’d be okay. I’d be fine. I’d know.” Her throat hurt. “Even if he’d taken the time to explain to me why. Why? He just…No explanation. Ever.”
“I’m sorry.” He laid his hand on the paper. “Do you want to finish this some other time?”
“No.” She raised her head. “He is not going to ruin this moment for me.”
“Uhh, I think it’s already ruined.”
“No.” She laid her hand on top of his hand. Her expression softened. “No, it isn’t. I’m sorry for being such a drama queen.”
“But you aren’t. It’s a legitimate reason to be upset.” He sandwiched her hand. “But, Elsie. Don’t let his mistake eat holes into you. He won’t be there. That’s true. But your mother will be there.” He smiled. “Cheering you on in her….uhhh…uniquely colorful fashion.”
“Why do I have a feeling you aren’t talking about her taste in clothes?”
He grinned. “I’m going to be good and leave that open to interpretation.”
She blinked and her tears fell. “Why are you so good to me?”
He stroked her hand. “Why wouldn’t I be?”