After having my makeup, hair and nails done, my mom helped me put on the dress.
"Oh my god! Your dress is freaking gorgeous!" Pru exclaimed. "I'm not one to drool over dresses but damn. This is one good looking gown."
"Yeah. I'd die for a dress like this." Angela interjected as she straightened out my long train while my mom buttoned up my lower back. "Can you imagine how many hours were put in for the detailed beadings alone?"
"I can literally feel the beads—they weigh a ton." I said matter-of-factly. "This dress is at least 35 pounds." The gown was heavy but I loved it.
It was the most magnificent awe-inspiring beautifully made dress I have ever seen. I couldn't believe Artemis had it made just for me. It was mainly lace and tulle and beads with an open back and no sleeves.
"Your train is like 20 feet long." Angela said with admiration.
"Yup. I'm gonna tell Andy I want a dress like this for our wedding." Pru said decisively.
"He can definitely afford it." I laughed.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door while my mom inserted the veil into my hair. Pru went to open it and only cracked it enough to see who it was. "No one is supposed to see the bride." She said to the intruder.
"I think that rule only applies to the groom." Erin chuckled. "Can I talk to Grace for a minute?"
Pru looked at me and I nodded.
"Fine. I'll give you five minutes." Pru said like she was the boss of time. "Make it quick."
She opened the door wider to let him in while everyone left to give us some privacy.
"Wow! You look..." He paused as he looked me up and down. "Amazing!"
"Thank you." I smiled. "I didn't realized that Artemis had invited you. And what is more surprising is that you came.”
"Well, we did meet up for a few drinks a couple months ago and he kind of apologized. Or at least that was as close to an apology as I was going to get." He gave a hearty laugh. "I don't think saying sorry was part of his vocabulary. He did, however, thanked me for taking you to the hospital when he couldn't be there."
"So does that mean that you've forgiven him since you're here?" I asked playfully.
"No. I'm actually here to see you leave him standing alone at the alter." He said jokingly. Or at least I thought he was joking. "I thought I came in here to congratulate you, but I changed my mind, I'll do that later to the both of you—if you decide to show up that is.”
"You don't give up easily do you?" I asked, cocking my head to the side as I referred to his implications. "Well, thanks for coming." I smiled.
"No, I don't." His lips curved into a charming smile as he winked at me. "If I did, my family business wouldn't thrive until today."
I stood with my hand in the crook of my father's arm as we waited for our turn to walk down the aisle. I was so grateful that my dad had came back in time for my wedding.
"Relax, dear." My father patted my hand. "You've been married to him for over 9 months. What’s there to be nervous about?”
"I don't know. It just feels so surreal like it's a dream. My mind still can't grasp that this is really happening." I said as I fidgeted and couldn’t stand still.
"It's real all right.” He chuckled as he pinched my cheek. “I can’t believe my babygirl is actually in a wedding dress. I never thought this day would come.” He said as he wiped away a tear that had escaped his eyes.
“Dad, don’t cry!” I said gently as I hugged him. “You’re gonna make me cry and I’m trying hard not to ruin my makeup and turn into a raccoon by the time I reach Artemis.”
After Pru and Nate walked down the aisle as bridesmaid and groomsman, next was Angela and Dr. Carter, then it was our turn. As we marched slowly down the white aisle laid out on the green grass, all I could focus on was the person at the end of it.
Everything else was blurred and out-of-focus. I barely noticed the yellow and lavender rose petals scattered all over the aisle, or thousands of lavender wisteria vines hanging down above me, or the different shades of yellow and purple flowers hanging at each row of seats, or the people gasping at seeing my dress, or the sun rays shining through the tree canopies, or the flower encrusted arch behind Artemis.
As I got closer to him, I could see the emotions on his face and my heart wanted to explode with happiness and joy. He had a small smile on his lips while his eyes held my gaze lovingly and tenderly.
I swore I could see his eyes glazed over like he was about to cry. He looked extremely handsome in his black tuxedo and black bow tie. He kept his gaze on me all the way until my dad handed my hand to him.
My heart soared through the clouds while my stomach performed crazy flips as I stood facing him—my husband, the love of my life, the key to my heart, the joy to my smile, the meaning of my existence—my everything.
God, she looks extraordinarily breathtakingly stunning like a princess walking down the aisle with her long veil and long train trailing behind her. My heart was beating so fast, I feared I might go into cardiac arrest.
I couldn't believe this day had finally came and it felt unreal like everything was moving in slow motion. My feet itched to move to her and it took all my self control to keep myself stationary.
As Grace and her father stepped closer and closer, my heart felt fuller and fuller. Grace: my wife of more than 9 months, my teacher, my best friend, my lover, my pride and joy, my world, my whole universe, my life source.
When her father handed her hand to me, I was more than happy to receive it. I held her hands as my body hummed in anticipation. I stared into her grey eyes with specks of browns as they glowed with happiness.
The pastor standing next to us finally spoke up. "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses, to join Artemis Camden Jame and Grace Suzy Taylor in matrimony commended to be honorable among all; and therefore..."
I didn't pay much attention to what he said since all my attention was on Grace. I could see mixed feelings on her face and feel them in her hands—she was as excited and nervous as I was.
Eventually, the pastor brought my awareness back when he asked me to say my vows as I repeated after him.
"I, Artemis Camden Jame, take you, Grace Suzy Taylor, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." I said while putting my mother’s ring onto her finger.
It was a family heirloom—a red ruby in the center with a diamond on each side. I had bought her an engagement ring during my Europe trip but I would give that to her on a different day.
Grace repeated the same words to me. Her voice trembled and she had to clear her throat a few times before she could finish her vows. A couple happy tears escaped down her cheeks as she put the ring on my finger.
When the pastor announced for me to kiss the bride, I immediately grabbed her waist and kissed her sweet lips.
Abruptly, chaos broke out and people started running everywhere while some screamed, "Guns! Guns!”
I turned my head to see Theo, walking toward us from the other end of the aisle. His arm outstretched with a gun in his hand pointing straight at Grace. There was no warning, he didn't even bother with words. He just pulled the trigger and shot.
Luckily, my body reacted faster than my brain and I managed to block her from the incoming bullet. I didn't know what happened next, I just felt excruciating pain spread like wildfire throughout my body. I fell against Grace and lost consciousness.
"Artemis!" I screamed as his body fell against mine. "Artemis!" I screamed again as fear gripped my heart and lungs, not letting me breathe as I slowly sunk to the floor while holding on to his unconscious body.
Dr. Carter was instantly by my side inspecting Artemis. I heard him yelling for someone to call an ambulance among other things.
In front of me, people were still in disorder while Erin and Andy who had sat nearby had tackled Theo to the ground and held him down.
I was not aware of anything around me as tears blurred my vision while I continued to gripped tightly onto Artemis's motionless body. His blood seeped onto my dress and hands. So much blood. It was too much for my brain to handle; it shutdown.
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