The House of ManLove, my critique group, is hosting this blog-hop!
Matt & Leo are the couple in my story “Love Next Door.” They were neighbors, friendly but not quite friends, when they entered into a “fuck-buddy” situation, and (of course) they fell in love.
With less than fifteen minutes to spare, we slid into the molded plastic seats at gate 17b. I rested my carry on on the floor between my ankles just as the muffled announcement for early boarding sounded. Matt was smiling and relaxed in his seat, oblivious to the stress of our situation.
“Wasn’t that our row? Should we board?”
Matt smiled. “We can wait. It’s either sit here or on the plane. You want to get on?”
I nodded and stood. At least we’d be settled, then I could start reading and try to pretend I was still at home.
In our seats my anxiety spiked again. I hadn’t been on a plane in over twenty years, and back then I’d been too young and excited to be nervous.
“Hey, you all right?” Matt stroked his hand up my thigh, watching me with nervous eyes.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” But even I could tell my voice was far from ‘fine’.
“You want a drink?”
I shook my head. I’d rather be sober when we got there, so I could manage the cab and the hotel check-in. But when Matt sighed in annoyance I changed my mind. He could handle this for us. “Yeah, okay. A drink would be good.”
He beamed at me and flagged down a flight attendant. When she approached, he smiled. “My husband needs a drink to get through this. Any chance you can bring one soon?”
I braced for her reaction. Why had he called me that? But she smiled at us warmly. “As soon as we’re in the air I’ll come over with a drink, okay?”
“Okay.” When she walked away I scowled at him.
He crossed his arms over his chest, challenging me. “You are my husband, officially.”
I sighed. We’d got our marriage license last month. We weren’t married, not until it was signed. “You know it’s not ‘official’ until we have a ceremony. Now stop talking so I can concentrate on not dying.”
He pressed his knee against mine and ran his fingers over the back of my hand. “I didn’t know you were so afraid to fly. I would have brought you a Xanax or something.”
“I’m not afraid.” I shouldn’t be afraid. In any case worrying wouldn’t do anything but make me miserable. I took a few deep breaths.
He squeezed my hand and pressed his lips together. I knew he was pitying me. I took out my kindle and forced a smile. He returned it, but I could tell he wasn’t convinced.
The takeoff was embarrassing. I tried to be cool, but ended up holding my breath, burying my face in the crook of Matt’s shoulder, his arm wrapped around me tightly. When we were stable I pulled out of his embrace and stared out the window as if nothing had happened.
Several hours later I was almost done with my book, and working on my second gin and tonic while Matt snored softly next to me. I was much more relaxed through the landing, and though Matt offered his arm I kept my head up. Riding in the resort shuttle, I decided that alcohol was the key to travelling. Everything had become one thousand percent more tolerable after my third drink.
At the resort after check-in – relaxed, happy, and slightly buzzed – I was feeling great. Matt, however, seemed anxious.
“What’s wrong? We’re here, everything is fine now.”
“Yeah. Hey, you know when we talked about having a big wedding, and how it wasn’t our style and we just wanted to do that small dinner thing?”
“Uh, yes, of course. Why?” Dear God, tell me he’s not having second thoughts about this! The idea of planning a huge elaborate wedding made me physically ill.
“Well, I just thought maybe we could do something sort of in-between.”
I sighed and sat in a faux-bamboo armchair, my pleasant buzz fading. “What did you have in mind?”
He smiled, his shoulders dropping slightly as if he had been nervous and now was less so. “I was thinking of something like this place, a destination wedding. With just our immediate family, a sunset ceremony on the beach, and then a nice vacation afterwards.”
I shook my head, unbelieving. “Didn’t I suggest that? In the beginning? And didn’t you say it was, what did you call it? ‘Cliche’?”
He laughed and ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah, I did. But the idea sort of grew on me, I guess. How about we have a fancy dinner on the beach tonight, and we can see if this would be a good place for a wedding? We can plan it while we’re here.”
There was a little hitch in his voice that made me think he was covering something. I hoped it wasn’t a problem with his family. His divorced parents argued often, and one of the issues he’d had with a big wedding was them getting along. “Sure. Should we get dressed up, then?” I looked at my watch. We had a few hours until dinnertime.
“Yeah. Get in the shower and I’ll call for reservations.” He smiled wide, still seeming a bit nervous, and picked up the room phone.
He joined me in the shower just before I was done, and kept me there with soapy hands and watery kisses until we both were completely relaxed again.
“Should I wear a suit? I brought my gray one like you said… but don’t you think that’s too formal? I have khakis and a sportcoat, too.” I hadn’t seen anyone in a suit since we’d arrived, some people were even walking around the lobby in their bathing suits and flip flops.
He produced a suit for himself in steel blue. It wasn’t his usual wakes-and-weddings black one. “When did you get this?”
“I bought it last week. I should have more than one suit, right?”
“I suppose.” Maybe there was a really formal restaurant in the resort after all? I dressed, slightly annoyed that I had to wear my dress shoes and socks on vacation.
He smiled at my irritation. “Just wear your sandals. We’ll be in the sand anyway.”
“What? Why am I wearing a suit to eat on the sand?”
“You’ll see. You’ll like it, trust me.” He kissed me and squeezed my hip, and I slipped into my sandals.
We walked through the resort, passing several fine looking restaurants, some with beachside seating. “Where are we going?” I felt idiotic in the suit. No one else was formally dressed.
“Just come on.” He pushed open a door marked “private party” and the clues clicked into place.
“Matt. What did you-”
We stepped into an open-air bar, walked around small tables set with crystal and silver. The perfect blue caribbean water and white sand beach stretched in front of us, and gathered there were our friends and family. All of them: my dad, his parents, Bob, Tara, Sophie, Tyler, even Alex and Arianna. And a man in a long robe waiting by a small flower-covered table.
“I know you get stressed out with planning. Please tell me this is okay?”
Well, if it wasn’t I sure couldn’t tell him now. But looking around at the smiling faces of our closest friends and family, I realized it was more than okay. “It’s perfect.”
His breath rushed out but he didn’t say anything, just led me up to the makeshift altar, his hand sweaty in mine, his shoulder bumping me.
He’d done a lot of sneaking, a lot of planning, to get this to happen. My eyes started to fill with tears, and when I turned to him I saw his eyes shining too. He swallowed hard and whispered, “This makes it official.”
I nodded. “Yes, it does.”
If you liked Matt & Leo’s happy ending, read the beginning of their story here
Don’t forget to visit all the other great authors on this hop!