It’s the day she’s been waiting for, has long dreamed of, and now it’s here. So why is she fighting tears? Find out, in our sixth installment of A Princess and Her Gown, a serial romance by Jennifer Slattery, available only on InspyRomance. (Read part one, two, three, four, and five here.)
Elsie stood in front of the restroom mirror, a thousand caterpillars catapulting in her stomach. Chewing her bottom lip, she glanced the clock on the far wall. “Ten minutes.”
Zaney huffed and turned Elsie to face her. “Of which we’ll need every minute of, the way you keep smudging your lipstick.”
“Sorry. I’m just nervous.”
“Yes, I know.” She grabbed a tissue and began dabbing at Elsie’s mouth. “Some ladies eat chocolate, you devour your mouth.”
“Only because I can’t chew my nails.” She raised a hand, inspecting the shiny new acrylics her friends had surprised her with. Pink with a delicate edging of silver glitter, a jewel adorning each thumb.
“You’ll do fine.” Zanely laughed and squeezed her shoulders before whirling her around to face the mirror once again. “All you have to do is voice two little words. Here, say it with me. ‘I do.’” She poked at the back of Elsie’s hair, most likely fixing a stray curl. “Just relax and enjoy your day, Sweetie. Everything’s going to be perfect.”
“Almost everything.” Elsie frowned, tears stinging her eyes and threatening to send rivulets of mascara streaming her face.
“Oh, sweetie.” Brows pinched, Zaney grabbed Elsie’s hands in hers. “I’m sorry. I know this hurts. A lot. But remember what Jesus about those who lost family once they chose to follow Him?”
“Hold on. I’ll read the verse to you.”
“Right. Because this is the perfect time for a Bible study lesson.”
“Apparently.” Zaney pulled her cell phone from her sequined clutch and began furiously pecking at the screen. A moment later, she straightened. “Here it is.” She cleared her throat. “‘And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
“But I don’t want a hundred-fold. I just want my mom to be here. And my dad to walk me down the aisle. Is that too much to ask for?” Obviously, yes, because her prayers had gone unanswered. She pulled her lips in over her teeth to keep from crying, and no doubt smearing her lipstick for the third time that morning.
Zaney’s lashes fluttered as if she were fighting off tears of her own. Finally, she straightened and donned a smile. “Like I said, I know it hurts, but don’t it ruin your special day—your and Jack’s special day.”
Elsie breathed deep, releasing it slowly. “You’re right.”
She faced the mirror again, still blown away by the perfect gift God had given her in her gown. A size six and covered with hand-sewn lace and tiny pears, the dress looked as it if had been made just for her. It truly couldn’t have fit her better, and for under $90s. God had been so good to her, and it was time she counted her blessings. “Can you believe it? By this evening I will be Mrs. Elsie Hampton!”
A knock sounded on the door, and Sandy, one of Elsie’s bridesmaids and a frequent partner in prank stuck her head in. “It’s time. You ready?”
Elsie squealed, her hand flying to her mouth. Zaney caught her wrist a moment before the fourth lipstick smudge.
Frowning, she narrowed her gaze. “We better get Ms. Messy-face out there before she drives me completely insane.”
Arms hooked at the elbow, Zaney led Elsie to the church foyer, and the two waited, equally giddy, as the harpist began to play. As the bridal party marched down the aisle, one beautifully gowned friend after another, her nerves rejumbled. And her sadness returned in full force.
Oh, Momma, Daddy, I wish you were here.
She was just about to step into the sanctuary when someone behind her cleared his throat. Hand to her chest, she spun around, any last resolve not to turn into a blumbering idiot shattered.
Her father stood in front of her with tear-filled eyes as his gaze swept the length of her. “So beautiful.” His voice cracked. “My princess.” A lone tear escaped, and she reached out to wipe it away, but found herself enveloped in his strong, firm arms.
Her lipstick—and mascara, entire face, actually—was done for this time.
But she didn’t care.
As if on cue, Zaney appeared at her side, moist towelette in hand.
Laughing threw her tears, Elsie looked from her to the altar at the other end of the sanctuary. “But… why aren’t you…?”
Zaney shook her head, dabbing at Elsie’s face with a powder brush. “Someone needed to stick around to make sure you made it down the aisle in one piece.”
“I believe that’s my job.” Smiling, Elsie’s father took her hand and placed it on his arm. “Shall we?”