“I don’t know if I can do this,” her frightened voice fluttered over to him.
Robert squeezed his eyes shut. All he wanted to do was turn and embrace Leanne. To hug her close to him, bury his face in her brunette locks, and tell her everything would be alright. But they both wanted to stay true to the old tradition of not seeing the bride until she walked down the aisle. Instead, Leanne remained inside her dressing room door while Robert stood in the hallway; their fingers entwined.
“Why do you have to leave?” Leanne’s heart-broken voice asked.
“Don’t go there,” Robert replied quickly, his own voice tight with emotion.
“I love you so much,” Leanne whispered. “I wanted to start our life together but now we have to wait!”
“I know, I know, it’s unfair,” Robert squeezed the slender hand in his larger hand. “Try to focus on the present though.”
“Impossible,” Leanne sniffed.
Robert looked up to see his best man stepping into the hallway. “Yes?”
“You have five minutes.”
The best man left, giving Robert and Leanne their last five minutes before the wedding actually began.
“Robert…” Leanne took a shaky breath. “I love you…more than anything.”
Robert remained silent for a moment. “I…” he summoned the courage to finish his sentence. “I love you more than anything too.” He cleared his throat. “I’m going to pray now, before we go.”
Leanne held onto his hand even tighter—if that was possible.
Robert closed his eyes and began praying, “Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you on this day. We are filled with such joy and excitement on this day, yet we are also filled with sorrow and heartache.”
A muffled sob came from Leanne.
“You know that I’ve been called to go overseas tomorrow morning,” Robert continued, trying to block out his fiancée’s cries. That only made his heart hurt worse. It felt as if someone was literally ripping his heart into shreds. “I hate to leave right now, right when we were about to start our lives together but, God, give us peace today. Help us to enjoy today midst all the pain. And I pray for Leanne that you will comfort her when I won’t be there to comfort her. Give her all the love I won’t be able to show her while I’m away. And…” Robert couldn’t continue. His shoulders began to shake as he felt a sob growing in his throat.
“And Lord,” Leanne picked up in a soft voice. “Be with my Robert as he leaves to serve his country. Protect him; watch over him while I can’t. Go with him, wherever he goes and keep him safe. And I just thank You for bringing Robert to me. I’d rather marry him and not see him for years than never know him.” Leanne paused then whispered. “Amen.”
Robert squeezed Leanne’s hand. “I’ll be waiting for you…down front by the altar.” Robert grinned, despite knowing Leanne couldn’t see it. He slowly let go of her hand, letting their hands slide apart, their fingers lingering on each other’s. Robert strode down the hall and into the church sanctuary where he would eagerly await his wife.
“You look too good to be true!” Sharon squealed as she burrowed in the closet, searching for something. “Here it is!” she held up a filmy white veil triumphantly. Unfolding the veil, she painstakingly draped the veil on the bowed head before her. “I can’t wait until Mom comes to see you! What’s taking her so long?”
“I think there might have been some traffic. I’ll turn on the radio and we can find out.” Grace flicked on the radio, then pulled out a string of pearls from her box. “Could you fasten this for me, please?” she turned to her younger sister.
Sharon willingly came over and hooked the short pearl necklace around Grace’s neck.
As the two girls listened, they heard the man talking about an accident that had happened on the highway. “Well, I guess that’s what’s delaying Mom,” Sharon said. A small crease appeared between her eyebrows. “I hope she’s able to get through in time for the ceremony. She’d be so disappointed if she missed it.”
Grace reached down and smoothed the crease out of Sharon’s face. “No wrinkles on this pretty face,” she teased. She kissed her forehead gently. “Mom will make it. Once she sets her mind on it, nothing can stop her!”
Suddenly, they heard a voice outside the door.
“It’s Mark!” Sharon hurried Grace into the darkest corner of the room. “We can’t let the groom see you until the ceremony. I’ll go see what he wants.” She cautiously opened the door and peeked outside.
“Where’s Grace?” Mark asked, excitement and joy clearly showing in his young face.
“She’s here, but you can’t see her,” Sharon grinned mischievously.
Mark groaned. “Oh, come on, Sharon! I haven’t seen her since this morning at breakfast.”
“Oh, what a long time ago!” Sharon gasped in mock horror. “Seeing as we had breakfast at 7 and it’s 9 right now…what is that? Two hours?”
“Seems more like two years,” Mark said. “Please, Sharon, let me see her!”
Sharon scrunched up her face. “You aren’t allowed to see her, but you can talk to her, I guess.”
“Alright,” Mark gave in.
“Stay right here and don't move.” Sharon warned.
“Yes ma’am!” Mark brought his hand up to his forehead in military salute.
Sharon went into the room and found Grace laughing. “I heard the entire conversation. If I didn’t know you, I might think that you were older than him, the way you were ordering him around like that!” They both giggled and hugged before going outside. Mark was still in his military salute and to Sharon it looked like he hadn’t moved a muscle.
“Good boy, “ she praised. “You can move now, Mark. But don’t you dare turn around!”
Mark leaned against the wall. “Where’s my bride?” he demanded playfully.
“Right here,” Grace slipped her hand into his and squeezed it.
“Only one more hour until the ceremony and then you’ll be mine forever,” Mark said tenderly.
Sharon rolled her eyes as the couple continued to talk. “True love,” she muttered. But she felt so glad for her sister. Wanting to give them some privacy, she went into the room. The radio was still on, and she reached out to turn it off. But just as she was about to flick the switch, she heard something that made her freeze momentarily. Eyes widening in shock, she turned the volume dial up.
"Today's accident on Highway 27 involved Frederick Houston, Tami and Courtney Weston, and Anna Stuart."
Grace had just opened her mouth to tell Mark something when she heard her mother’s name mentioned.
"The first three mentioned suffered minor injuries, but Anna Stuart was sent to hospital with life threatening injuries. Doctors later reported that she died five minutes after arriving. However, soon after Mrs. Stuart was taken out from the wreckage, she asked to give a message to her two daughters."
She choked down the sob that rose in her throat and pressed her hand against her mouth as her mother’s voice filled the room.
"Take care of my girls, please? I love them with all my heart, and I'd hate for anything to happen to them. Grace, Sharon-"
The voice broke off coughing, and Grace’s heart ached for her mother. Then Mrs. Stuart spoke in her strongest voice yet.
"I love you."
My younger sister, Megan, looked up at me from her position on the floor and grinned. “Excited Valarie?” She asked.
I smiled. “Of course! When do you think Daniel will come to pray with me before the wedding?”
Megan shrugged. “I can’t remember. Do want me to ask Mom?”
I nodded. “Please.”
Only three months ago Daniel Foster, the love of my life, had asked me to be his wife. Of course I said yes, but he had warned me that he might get called off to duty at any time. You see, my husband-to-be is a soldier. Long story short, the wedding was scheduled as soon as possible and everything had finally fallen into place.
Megan came back into the room. “Daniel just arrived,” she said slowly.
I turned around, frowning. “What’s wrong with that?” I asked. “Weren’t we expecting him?”
“He wants to talk to you.”
Suddenly worried when I saw the look on my sister’s face, I picked up my dress a few inches for ease of movement and hurried down to the first floor of our house.
Daniel met me on the landing. “I’ve been called away,” he stated matter-of-factly. “We’ll have time to finish the wedding ceremony, but I’m afraid that our honeymoon will have to be postponed.”
I felt tears begin filling my eyes. “Oh, Daniel,” I whispered. “It was going to be so perfect.”
His eyes met mine and I saw that he was fighting back tears of his own. “I’m so sorry, honey.”
I swallowed the sob that had risen in my throat. If he could be brave, so could I. “Well, we’d better hurry and finish the ceremony at least,” I said with forced cheerfulness.
Daniel nodded, and smiled. “Shall we pray?”
I leaned back against the wall. Holding his hand with one of my own while silently crying into the other, I listened to my sweetheart dedicate our future life to God.