Best Man – No. 128

The rappelling line dropped off the cliff top as Father Potter closed his bible and cradled the black book at the waist of his Bermuda shorts. At the sight of braided rope, Jane felt the burn in her cheeks bunched between a smile and stifling joyous tears suddenly fade.

Lewis squeezed her hands and drew her to his blue eyes. The waterfall’s pool glittered in his gaze’s depths along with a surge of worry and silent question. Shrugging beneath her gown’s thin straps, Jane peered with him at the descending figure.

Oblivious, Father Potter plowed on. “Do you—”

“WAIT!” The reedy figure plunged down the cliff like a shard the Park Service had warned might tumble. “You can’t say yes, Marjorie!”

He landed with a wobble on the speckled lava rocks. When he started lumbering through the water, aimed for their gathering, the rappelling line still pinned to his harness, Jane pivoted behind Lewis, but his broad back failed to intercept the reedy man.

“Marjorie, you must listen. You can’t marry him.”

Beneath his desperation, the reedy man’s features tugged on a memory of convention halls and signings, and Jane brought a hand to her glossy lips. “Oh my God.”

Lewis tipped his chin over his shoulder without looking away from the man now fighting to disengage his carabineer. “Do you know this guy?”

Bringing her hand down, Jane clasped her bouquet. “I think it’s Calvin Watts.”

Lewis scowled. “From the fan club?”

“From Marjorie’s fan club.” Jane tightened her grip around the ribbon-wrapped handle.

“How did he find you here?”

“I have no idea.”

Meanwhile, Calvin flung the lines aside and commenced wading forward.

From the rows of occupied chairs arranged around the pool, Jane noted Gretchen hustling forward, her agitated Agent face set, the ruffles of her sea green mumu fluttering.

At the trailhead, where any sane paparazzi or errant well-wisher might have attempted to sneak in, the pair of bulky security guards in matching aloha shirts activated. Bulldozer clenched his fists, while Raid swung his arms, warming up for a throw down. They trudged through the shallow pool, intercepting Calvin by a jut of worn stone.

“You can’t do this, Marjorie. He’s a cheater!”

Raid snorted and seized Calvin’s arm. “This way, sir.”

Calvin struggled as Bulldozer took the other, the buckles of rappelling gear clattering. Together the security guards hefted the smaller man with a minor flex of biceps. Calvin’s feet splashed in a futile attempt to escape, his eyes wide and pleading.

“Please Marjorie.”

“Let him go, guys.” Jane slipped by Lewis, a touch lowering his halting hand. She stepped daintily from the island and into the crisp water.

Gretchen hovered at the shore, hands on her hips. “Jane!”

“It’s okay.” Jane waved off Bulldozer and Raid. “He’s not going to hurt me.”

Calvin nodded, his neck elastic. “Never, never ever.”

Regardless, Jane stopped out of reach and wrapped her arms around her middle, the silk of her white dress soft against her fingertips despite her snug hold. Bulldozer and Raid stepped back, towering at Calvin’s hunched shoulders.

Calvin drifted closer and then seemed to abut against some invisible shield. Gulping as sweat coated his face, his brown eyes bored into her as if no one else was watching.

“I’ve come to save you, Marjorie.”

Jane bottled the agitation in her voice and kept hers as low and steady. “Save me from what?”

“From Derek.”

Sighing, Jane motioned at Lewis who bristled in his loose-collared shirt. “Does he look like Derek?”

Calvin frowned, as if seeing him for the first time. “No.” His furrows deepened. “I don’t understand, Marjorie.”

“That’s because I’m not Marjorie.” Jane released her self-embrace and sought a softer tone. “She’s a character, Calvin. She’s a part I play on television.”

“Then you’re not marrying Derek?”

“No. Marjorie might.”

“But she can’t! He’s cheating on her.”

Jane couldn’t help but smirk. “I know that.”

“Then why don’t you break up with him?”

Jane started to rub at her temple but stopped before disturbing the plumerias careful tucked into her blond curls. “Marjorie doesn’t know about Derek. That’s why they’re still getting married. I guess we’ll find out if they do next season.”

“Oh.” Staring past her, Calvin seemed to absorb Father Potter and the crowd standing out of their chairs. “Then what’s all this?”

“This.” Jane swept her hand to include her parents next to Lewis’ and the rest of their closest friends, all quietly gaping. “Is my wedding, Calvin. MY wedding. Jane Redding’s wedding.”

Calvin ceased his skim of faces and a lingering inspection of Lewis. “So you’re not going to marry Derek?”

“I’m going to marry this man.” Jane inched backwards, extending her hand toward Lewis. He splashed to her side, gathered her hand, and coiled protective arm around her waist, his fingers warm and taut on her hip.

“Oh.” Calvin stared at him, and then over the crowd. “Oh my.” He wobbled and Raid caught his elbow, helping him avoid a second plunge.

“Why don’t you find him a seat?”

“Jane!” Gretchen rustled at the water’s edge. “You can’t have him butting in like this.”

Snaps from the lone photographer made Jane flinch, but she shook her head. “He’s confused, but he won’t cause any more trouble. Let him sit, and let’s get back to what really matters.”

She leaned into Lewis as Raid and Bulldozer gently guided Calvin from the pool. They walked him around the perimeter where extra white whicker seats waited and sat him between them.

A cough from Father Potter brought Jane back around. Hand in hand, she waded with Lewis through the pool and onto the island. Falling into his blue eyes, the world seemed to shrink, leaving Jane with his gaze, their waterfall, and the lump of stone on which they stood.

The vows passed through her lips and the burn from her joyous smile returned complete with the glaze of tears when Lewis threaded the golden band onto her finger. She did the same and let her fingertips glide along his palm. Father Potter finished with a pronouncement of man and wife and a kiss sealed the ceremony.

The applause ultimately broke through their embrace. Jane floated on the stone, her feet on air, her knees wavering. Before she could catch her balance with a step into the water, Lewis scooped her up. They crossed to the mainland while those who had reclaimed their seats rose and arranged themselves for congratulatory hugs.

They split to make their way down the aisle, weaving between one side and the other. Jane barely heard anyone’s words and embraced whoever next stepped into her path. Reality snapped back into clarity and full speed, however, when she spotted Calvin, shadowed by the security guards, maneuvering toward Lewis.

“You’ll take care of her right?”

Jane peeked over the shoulder of her now sister-in-law who surrounded her in a dwarfing hug.

Lewis smiled, a firm but certain stretch of his lips, and offered his hand. “I’ll make her as happy as you’d make Marjorie Gardner.”

Beaming, Calvin gathered Lewis’ hand with both of his and shook. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

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