The serious threat of catching her hair ablaze caused Rachel’s heart to belly-flop into her stomach. The flames of four candelabras winked at her from both sides of the aisle, as if daring her to proceed. If it hadn’t been for the mid-June humidity declaring war on her loosened curls, she would have never agreed to douse her head with a bottle of Aussie hairspray making her a walking fire accelerant. And the realization that over a hundred pairs of eyes were pinned on her every move added to the struggle.
But proceed she must.
With her chin lifted, she straightened her shoulders without the slightest regard for her pounding pulse. After a couple of hitched breaths and strategically placed steps, she’d cleared the blazing boogers with ease. Not even a spark. Now to conquer the rest of the aisle.
Left foot. Right foot. Trying to keep in time with the Wedding March was a lot simpler yesterday in her flip-flops. Who on earth convinced her to wear four-inch heels? And why was the ivory runner so rumpled? Never mind. She could do this.
Her layered gown swooshed with each confident stride. A few sniffles and sighs floated by her ears. And she was pretty sure the repetitive honking sound was someone blowing their nose and not a goose trapped beneath a pew.
Though she had to confess, those minor distractions on her trek down the aisle were nothing compared to the mountainous troubles she’d faced on the actual journey which led her here. During various times, her adversaries may have thought they’d been discreet, but she’d heard the exaggerated whispers and caught the condescending glances.
She’s too young to marry.
She never had a real boyfriend before him. The sad girl doesn’t even know what love is.
That marriage won’t last.
It wasn’t that she had the vengeance to prove them wrong, but rather the desire to prove herself right. That despite her being nineteen, she could discern her own heart. Judge her own aspirations. They hadn’t known she’d guarded her heart, her purity, with a dedication only God could give. They also hadn’t known the man who was about to give her his name, one who’d champion her in any arena of life. The feathery touch of God’s presence coursed through her, reassuring. Like the many times over this past year. God was with her. He made her strong. And the church brimmed with more well-wishers than naysayers.
Hands holding white and pale pink roses dangled in the aisle. Hands that belonged to people who had made a mark on her heart. She continued down the path to her future, collecting the flowers from family and friends. It meant more to her than holding a stiff bridal bouquet, for she clutched memories.
Then…the world stopped. Well, not really. But to her, the moment he came in view, her surroundings faded. Now, it was the way it should be. Just him and her. Scott and Rachel.
Gracious, the way he filled that Italian suit sent shivers right past her “something blue” garter all the way to her pinched toes. His bronze-colored eyes held a watery sheen, his intense gaze pouring into her, quieting the anxious corners of her soul.
While the preacher procured the communion elements, Scott leaned toward her, his lips brushing her ear. “Rachy…you’re stunning.”
Why, oh why hadn’t she worn waterproof mascara? Her face would resemble a zebra soon. A good look for a children’s theme party, but not her wedding.
“No tears, Fuzzhead.” A delicious smile played on his lips. Fuzzhead, his nickname for her when she was fourteen. Goodness, had six years really passed? Six years of drawing hearts around his name. Six years of dreaming for this day to come. This day. She bit her lip, tasting the grit of her lipstick.
The preacher returned and handed them the bread and juice. Gazing at the divine remembrances in her palm, she comprehended what had eluded her for several years. Communion was deeper than a formality. Stronger than a churchy ritual. And right now, bigger than a poofy dress and fancy hair. It was about Him—Jesus. How He’d surrendered His life for the church. His bride. To cleanse her. To beautify her. To make her who she was destined to be by the forfeit of His life. That was love. Devotion. Sacrifice.
Lord, help me see. Let our marriage be worthy of Your shed blood. For You to be our focus.
In unison, they partook of the Lord’s Supper. Scott wove his fingers into hers, an intimate familiarity that would never grow old. The warmth of his grip melted her heart. She smiled at him— the first man to hold her hand, to tell her she was beautiful. The only man to say those coveted words—I love you.
A peace settled in the depths of her being. It didn’t matter what difficulty they would face over the years to come. Fear had no hold on her. A lifetime of love and unspeakable joy stretched before her. She lifted her lashes, setting her sights on the wooden cross above the baptismal. Today she said I do, and it meant forever.