"This is a not so sweet love-story and I enjoyed it thoroughly!...it's a really catching story worth reading." -5-Star Amazon review
Santa Monica, California
The wedding ceremony finished, Betty Campbell walked barefoot, following Mary Ann on the sandy aisle between the seated wedding guests. Their bridesmaids’ coral-colored sundresses fluttered in September’s warm breeze that caressed the beach. Finally behind the guests, she hurried her steps to catch up with Mary Ann while dabbing at her eyes with the tissue she’d hidden in the palm of her hand. “Why do I always cry at weddings?”
“Beats me!” Mary Ann Williams said. “Weddings are happy occasions. They’re like Cinderella—the girl gets her Prince Charming. What’s to cry about that?”
Betty straightened, plastered a big smile on her face, and walked with Mary Ann toward their friend Donna Turner—now Donna Crowley for three whole minutes. Donna rounded out their trio of best friends. Betty was the shortest of them at five feet three, Mary Ann topped out at five-nine, and Donna’s height fell between the two.
As they walked, Mary Ann continued to talk, pushing her windblown blonde hair out of her eyes. “And if anybody ever found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Donna sure has. Would you look at that Tommy, a perfect dreamboat.”
Donna and Tommy stood barefoot facing one another and holding hands, lost in each other’s eyes. Tommy wore white dress pants and a long-sleeved white shirt, collar unbuttoned. The sea breeze ruffled his dark hair.
Donna was the perfect bride in a sundress of delicate white, her skin glowing from coastal rays she’d basked in during the two months she’d lived near the ocean. After her chance meeting with Tommy in Needles, California, he’d offered Donna a ride on to Los Angeles to meet up with her girlfriends. She and Tommy had each leased a bungalow in the same court.
For their beach wedding at sunset, Donna had worn her dark hair down, and now it waved in the breeze as did the streaming ribbons that accented her bouquet of red roses.
“Yeah, he’s a looker all right. Who would have imagined the quiet, reserved Donna we worked with in Alabama would land a man like Tommy?”
“Well, Tommy’s taken now, you can quit looking at him as if he were a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. You’d be better off paying attention to Donna’s brother. He’s kinda cute too.”
“You mean Greg? I’m not doing that. He’s too full of himself, preening around like a peacock, standing in the last rays of the sunset on the beach during the wedding. He acted like the entire occasion should center on him, not on Donna and Tommy.”
Mary Ann leaned closer. “Lower your voice, he’ll hear you. He’s walking not far behind us.”
When they reached where Donna and Tommy stood, the newlywed couple seemed oblivious to their presence. They were locked in an embrace, kissing like they had the beach all to themselves.
Betty fake-coughed and cleared her throat. “Ahem! Have y’all forgotten you have guests?”
The bride and groom reluctantly parted. “Sorry about that, but I haven’t seen this pretty lady all day. That kiss was long overdue.”
Donna dipped her head, not accustomed to such candid conversation unless they were alone. “Yeah, sorry.”
The small number of wedding guests—family and employees at Crowley Architects—had left their chairs and now crowded around Donna and Tommy, extending their best wishes. Bare light bulbs strung the length of the Santa Monica Pier blinked on, throwing their glow over the wedding crowd standing a short distance away on the beach.
“Everybody, please join Donna and me across the coast road for dinner at Chez Charles. Ladies, make sure you have your purses—the rental company will be along soon to retrieve their white folding chairs. Wouldn’t want your possessions to be carried away in their truck. Okay, let’s go.”
The bridal party had left their shoes in Tommy’s car parked in the lot adjacent to the beach. After reclaiming their shoes, Tommy and Donna led the small group across the coastal highway to the restaurant. The hostess greeted them with a smile and guided them to a room beautifully set for their meal—white tablecloths and coral-colored cloth napkins adorned numerous round tables where romantic candlelight flickered on each one.
After everyone had served themselves at the abundant buffet tables, they found seats. Soon, several waitresses fanned across the room to ask whether they wanted iced tea or coffee to drink. The meal was lovely and the company congenial.
Donna’s brother Greg, as best man, gave his short toast to the happy couple. He was in his late twenties, the same as Tommy, stood no more than six feet, had dark hair and wore a white dress shirt that stretched across his broad shoulders as he extended his arm toward Tommy and Donna.
He concluded his toast with, “And may they be as happy as they are tonight for as long as they live.” He raised his glass of iced tea, and the roomful of guests joined him. Amid the rumble of congratulations, Greg looked at Betty and winked as if to challenge her to offer a better toast than he had done. His broad grin highlighted a deep dimple in his right cheek.
How egotistical! Sure, he was Donna’s brother, and he had known Tommy most of his life, and she couldn’t top that. But she and Mary Ann were Donna’s best friends. They’d formed a pact among the three of them, and left Alabama together to follow their dreams to California. When Donna had run out of money and was forced to stay in Needles, Betty and Mary Ann drove on to Los Angeles but had kept in close contact with Donna. Before they left her, they’d made sure Mac, who owned the diner where Donna found work, would look after her.
In the meantime, Greg had been off no telling where doing his thing—whatever that was. Betty heard that he had chased various whims, traveling the country and indulging in one self-gratifying adventure after another. When Donna and Tommy wanted him to be Tommy’s best man in the wedding, they’d located Greg on a fishing boat in Alaska! It’s a wonder he’d agreed to come to California since there wasn’t anything in the trip for him.
Betty stood by her chair, holding her glass of iced tea. Her heartfelt toast to Donna and Tommy moved her to tears. She struggled through her emotion to finish with, “Donna, I’m glad you’ve found love with Tommy. And, Tommy, you’d better never break Donna’s heart, or you’ll regret it till the day you die because Mary Ann and I will hunt you down. Believe what I’m saying!” She raised her glass to the couple, looked at Greg, and tilted her chin toward the ceiling in her answer to his earlier challenge.
There! Let Greg top that.
Mary Ann tugged at Betty’s dress for her to sit. “What do you want?”
“The whole room is watching whatever is going on between you and Greg,” Mary Ann said in her straightforward way. “Y’all are shooting daggers through each other with your eyes. What’s wrong with you? Earlier you didn’t want to have anything to do with Greg, and now you can’t take your eyes off him.”
Donna returned to her chair next to Mary Ann. “Oh, he challenged me to top his toast, and I took him up on it. He’s Donna’s brother, but we’re her best friends. He probably doesn’t know anything about friendships. I can’t imagine he has any friends, he’s so struck on himself. Nobody else can measure up to his own self-conceit.”
“Be careful,” Mary Ann said, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
“Why are you quoting Shakespeare to me? Do you even know what you just said?”
“Of course, I do. You’re lambasting Greg, but you don’t mean it. You’re probably dying to get to know him better, but you’re afraid he’s not interested in you at all.”
Betty’s mouth dropped open.
“Well? Am I getting close to the truth?”
“Of course not! Even if you were, I wouldn’t admit it and give Greg the smallest hint of any interest in him.”
After everyone had finished their meal, they left their tables to mingle. Mary Ann and Betty stood to the side and watched Donna and Tommy as folks spoke their good-byes to them. Betty also kept her eyes on Greg to make sure he didn’t try anything stupid where she was concerned. He spent a lengthy amount of time talking with Tommy’s boss, apparently trying to impress him with the life and times of Greg Turner. Wonder what that was about?
Copyright 2017 Jo Huddleston