The Sweetest Game

By: J. Sterling

Hands on my hips, I looked my best friend in the eye and shook my head as she turned to reapply her lipstick in the mirror.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Melissa snapped as she forced back a grin.

“Oh, I’ll look at you like that, all right. I’ll look at you like that all night if I want. Are you trying to kill my future brother-in-law?” I teased, knowing that less than two minutes ago she was locked in Dean’s room doing who-knows-what while I sat in Jack’s room waiting for her.

She narrowed her eyes before turning to face me. “Maybe.”

Frustrated, I rolled my eyes. “Try not to. I’ve grown attached.”

After applying a new coat of lipstick, she smacked her lips together before moving next to me. “You look gorgeous, by the way.” Her hands touched the back of my hair as she rearranged specific strands while I smoothed the nonexistent wrinkles from my knee-length white dress.

“Thanks. So do you.” Despite being annoyed with my pint-sized pal, I couldn’t help but smile.

“So, was your dad pissed about not walking you down the aisle?”

I sucked in a breath. The last thing I wanted on my wedding day was to feel bad about any of my decisions. The choice of walking alone or with my father weighed heavily on me at first. But I eventually decided that having my father walk me toward my life with Jack and then handing me over to him would all be for show. And I knew in that moment that I didn’t want anyone to be responsible for “giving me away,” least of all the one man in my life who had disappointed me more than any other.

It only seemed right that I walk down the aisle on my own and join Jack freely to start our lives together, since it was my choice, my decision, my heart waiting for me at the end of that aisle. After all, no one could give me to the one person I’d already given myself to years ago.

“He was definitely hurt at first. But I don’t think he truly got the message I was trying to convey. I think he just wanted to walk me down the aisle because that’s what a dad is supposed to do.”

“Oh well. Maybe he should have been a better dad,” Melissa said in a sharp tone.

I shrugged. “Hopefully after he sees how untraditional everything is today, he’ll understand and be less disappointed.”

Music filtered through the open windows and into the living room where Melissa and I stood waiting. I took in a deep breath and bit my bottom lip as excitement surged through me.

“Oh my gosh! It’s time!” Melissa moved toward the glass patio door and let out a little gasp as she peeked outside. “Ooh, it’s so pretty, Cass!” She gave me a hug and whispered, “I’ll see you out there,” then stepped out and slowly made her way down the makeshift aisle.

After taking a deep breath, I followed her lead, pausing briefly at the doorway. She was right. Gran and Gramps’ backyard had been transformed into a place of wonder. Candles cast tiny shadows everywhere as the sun began to sink behind the trees. A myriad of tiny lights twinkled in the tree branches.

When I stepped outside, my gaze landed on the mason jars filled with quarters and candles that lined the aisle, and I couldn’t help but smile as my heart filled with the sheer amount of love I felt for Jack. Still smiling, I looked down the aisle and immediately locked on to his chocolate-brown eyes. The air whisked from my lungs for a moment at the sight of him standing there in his charcoal-gray suit, waiting for me with a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.

I had to stop myself from running to him and leaping into his arms. Although I don’t think he would have minded.

Once at the altar, Jack reached out and took my hand in his, caressing it with his thumb in a sensual gesture that sent tingles throughout my body. “You look beautiful,” he whispered as he leaned toward me.

“And you look hot,” I whispered back, then gave him a wink.

Gramps cleared his throat and both Jack and I stifled a laugh. Jack’s grandfather looked serious as he welcomed our friends and family to this “special day,” before diving right into the ceremony.

Looking into Jack’s eyes, I swear I only heard a few things that Gramps said. My mind spun as I thought back to the journey Jack and I had traveled, from the pits of hell we’d been through to where we were now. We had come so far together.

I glanced briefly at Jack’s brother, Dean, who stood next to him, but his eyes were fixed on the petite brunette standing next to me. Shaking my head softly, I smiled before returning my gaze to the man who held my heart.

When it came time to exchange vows, mine a little more tearful than Jack’s. My heart melted at the sight of him getting choked up, and when he cleared his throat to regain his composure, I lost all of mine.

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