At the dress shop, Caleb sat in an armchair while Paige stood to the side of the mirrored pedestal. Alisa came out in a meringue fluff with sleeves so high they almost hid the sides of her head. Paige ran up and pulled the sleeves down and out a bit.
“Who picked this one?” Paige said.
“Mom,” Alisa said, grimacing.
“It’s not 1989 anymore,” Paige quickly whispered to Alisa before Karen came around the corner.
“Oh, I love it. You look so beautiful.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Caleb said, with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s a terrible dress, mom.”
“She’s the one insisting on long sleeves for a summer wedding. That limits the number of dresses.”
“You really want long sleeves?” Paige asked Alisa.
“I heard you have to have long sleeves in the temple.”
“You do but they have sleeve inserts you can attach to a short or cap sleeve on the dress,” Paige said.
“Really? I’ve spent an hour in hideous dresses because I didn’t know that?”
Paige giggled. “You didn’t ask me about it, did you? You asked a boy, and they don’t know stuff like that.”
“Thankfully,” Caleb said.
“Get me out of this thing! I want to see some dresses with short sleeves,” Alisa declared as she headed back to the dressing room.
Caleb stood up and walked with Paige to the racks of dresses. “No. No. Nope. Gross. What in the-? Here’s one. And this one.”
“Are you making sure you’re picking her size out of those?”
“Of course,” he said, looking offended, but she saw him put back one dress for the right size.
“Since when did you become an expert on wedding dresses?” Paige said, picking out a few of her favorites.
“Since I have a sister I love very much getting married to the man that she and I both like a lot,” he said. “She needs to look spectacular.”
“Aww, that’s so nice of you,” Paige said.
“Thanks,” Caleb said, giving her a partial smile. They took the dresses to Alisa’s fitting room.
“Mom, I told you. I can’t wear anything without at least a little sleeve,” she said from behind the door.
“It’s such a ridiculous stipulation,” Karen said. “This mermaid is perfectly lovely. Couldn’t you at least try it on?”
“Mom, it doesn’t even have shoulder straps.”
“Knock, knock,” Paige said, cracking the door open. “Caleb and I found a few you might like.”
“You and Caleb?” Alisa said.
“Ask him,” she said.
“I have great taste. I’ll bet you pick one of my dresses,” Caleb said.
“Yeah, right,” Paige said, shaking her head. “He may be your beloved brother but he is only a boy.”
“Are you willing to bet I make you eat your words?”
“Whoever’s dress doesn’t get picked pays for ice cream at Leatherby’s later,” he said, a glint in his eye.
“You’ve got yourself a bet,” she said. He walked off. Paige turned around to see Alisa covering her mouth, trying not to laugh.
“You guys are so ridiculous,” she said.
“He started it,” Paige said, though she couldn’t help but smile. That was more like the old Caleb she used to know. So competitive over the silliest things.
She went back into the waiting area and found Caleb looking on a rack of veils.
“Find anything interesting?” she said.
He shrugged his shoulders. “A couple but we wait until she picks my dress before I can know for sure.”
“You take a great interest in her wedding plans,” Paige said.
“I’ve watched my sister follow me around the country,” he said. “Supporting me in my career and making sure I wasn’t lonely. The least I can do is make sure this wedding goes off without too many hitches.”
“I’m sure she couldn’t ask for a more loving or helpful little brother,” Paige smirked.
Caleb glanced at her, caught her smirk and folded his arms.
“You two really can’t help yourselves, can you?”
“I’m surprised a big, strong soldier like you would still let it get to him.”
“A big, strong officer, thank you very much. I worked my butt off for that commission, I’ll have you know.”
“On the last day of this school year, one of my students came to me upset because he loved being in my class. He was scamp, but so sweet. His name was also Caleb. So I used to tell him he needed to be a big helper like my friend, Big Caleb. I told him you were always helping people because that’s what soldiers do.”
“You called me ‘Big Caleb’?”
Paige nodded, biting her lip to keep from grinning.
Caleb smiled a little.
“That didn’t seem to impress him as much as whether you had fired a gun,”
Caleb laughed. Paige couldn’t help her smile now.
“Have you ever fired a gun?”
“I’m a soldier,” he said. “Of course I’ve fired a gun.”
Caleb had been scanning the racks of veils and combs during their conversation.
He looked over at Paige. “What do you think of this one?”
He had pulled down a cream-colored veil with a delicate leaf motif rhinestone tiara.
“Oh, that is pretty,” she said.
“May I?” he said, holding up the tiara.
Paige bent down, though with their height difference it was hardly necessarily. He placed it on her head. She looked at herself in the mirror. The cream-colored tulle set off the creaminess of her skin and made the red of her hair stand out more. The rhinestones sparkled brightly in the store lights. She felt like a princess. And standing behind her, the man that might have once been her prince charming. He looked at her in the mirror. The lines of his face had softened as he watched her inspect the veil.
Paige felt her cheeks burning as she took the tiara off and handed it back to him. “I think if she picks a cream-colored gown, then it would be perfect.”
He took the tiara back from her, looking into her eyes, but he said nothing. Karen interrupted their look. “Step carefully, baby, this one has an extra long train.”
Alisa stepped out onto the pedestal and gasped. The lace gown had short sleeves, a tight-fitting bodice and flared at the knee. She turned to get a good look at all the angles. Tears sprouted from her eyes, and Paige went up to her friend and hugged her. Paige knew it wasn’t one she had picked.
“I love it,” Alisa said, looking from Paige to Caleb.
“You’re sure you don’t want to try on any others?” Karen asked.
“No, I’m done. This is the one I want.”
“Ok, we have ourselves a wedding dress,” she said. “Now check that off the other 300 other things we have to do before the wedding day.”
Caleb approached Paige and leaning over slightly said, “Someone’s paying for ice cream.”
** This story is still in the editing phase and any or all of this chapter is subject to change. **
Stay tuned for future release dates and where you can buy your copy!