CHAPTER 28: BUSY DAYS
Friday, May 4th
We have set the wedding date for June 23rd. I am so happy!
Miles is amazing. He comes over every night to visit with Grandad, and listen to me sing. He is learning to play the guitar so that he can accompany me. Oh, how I love him!
I have so much to be thankful for. Miles is my biggest earthly blessing, of course, but I have learned so much of heavenly blessings. The Lord has been teaching me about love. Not just the romantic kind, but the kind that gives itself as a servant to others.
And then there is the blessing of friendship. My friends have been so supportive, encouraging, and selfless towards me these last several months. I realize just how blessed I am to have them all in my life.
I am also blessed by Grandad's improving health. He can walk around with just a cane for the most part, and talks very clearly now. He is so joyful these days.
I am a blessed woman. It is so undeserved, and I hope I will never take any of my blessings for granted.
Jules sunk deep into her soft cushions and pulled the plush throw over her lap. She sighed. The rain was pouring, making the spring evening seem even chillier. She cradled her mug of hot cocoa in one hand while reaching for her journal with the other. The sparkle of her ring caught her eye, and she gasped. Every time she saw it, she was blown away by how much she was loved. Jules smiled, thinking of Miles.
Monday, May 14th
Mom and Anne flew in yesterday morning, and they took me (along with Greta and Grace) to Dallas. We were shopping for a wedding dress. It was so surreal. I love my dress! I feel just like a princess when I put it on.
Mom and Anne are both staying with Greta right now. Mom is thinking about moving down here permanently, too. She's been looking for a house. I love having her nearby!
And then Linda will be flying in next weekend. She'll be staying for a few months, and James is planning on joining her in time to come to the wedding. I'm so glad they'll both be here.
"Is that a new dress?" He eyed the dark blue folds. She was beautiful to him.
"Yes. Do you like it?"
He put his index finger under her chin and tilted her face up so he could look into her deep brown eyes. He smiled over the sparkles he found in their depths. "I like the dress, but I love the face it frames."
She rested her cheek in his palm briefly. "Thank you Love," she whispered.
He smiled down at her.
They followed the waiter through the restaurant towards a quiet nook with a table for two. Jules spotted a young couple from church sitting nearby, and stopped to coo over their baby. The mother offered for her to hold him.
"Thank you!" Jules snuggled the downy wrinkles of his curly head against her chest. She watched him sweetly fold his tiny fingers around her own. She sighed contentedly. Jules looked up from the tiny baby. Look at how sweet he is, Miles!"
"He's adorable." He gently touched the baby's hair. "And so tiny."
She handed the little one back to his mother and smiled. "Thank you for letting me hold your treasure for a moment."
Thursday, May 17th
Last night Miles and I want on a date. We went out for Chinese food. He spoils me! While we were there, we saw Rick and Megan. They let me hold their new baby! He's so tiny and precious, with the sweetest little curls. He's beautiful.
I had bought a new dress at a thrift store, and Miles noticed it. I think he liked it, too. It's dark blue, and very sleek and elegant. I like it.
I finally settled on the bridesmaids' dresses, so the girls ordered them. They should be here in about two weeks. Greta pretended to be upset when I asked her to wear a pink dress, but it looked very flattering on her. I'm pretty sure she'll be just fine.
I asked Mom, Grace, Anne, and Linda to be bridesmaids. Greta is my maid of honor.
Charlie will be Miles' best man, and then Dad, Scott, Rick, and Teddy will all be groomsmen.
Grandad is going to walk me down the isle. He cried when I asked him, and I cried, too."
The crisp air blew around them while they walked around Kerry Park to the pond. The breeze played with the corners of Jules's sweater, and she reached down to button it.
Miles smiled down at her. "Would you like to feed the ducks? I brought bread."
"Oh yes! I have wanted to do that since I first came here."
They walked over to the edge of the water. On impulse, Jules slipped off her flats and let her toes sink into the lush grass. She sat down at the edge of the clear, rippling water.
"Here," Miles handed her a few pieces of bread from his bag. He slipped his boots and socks off and decided to get his toes wet. Jules moved over to sit next to him. "I'm so glad we came here," she beamed. "I love it. It's so peaceful, regardless of the ducks. They're just happy noises, so they don't bother me."
"'Happy noises.' I like your way of putting it."
"Mm. I think Grandad said it, first, about Grandma's laugh. Ever since then I've used the description for all of my favorite noises."
"What are a few of your favorite noises?"
"Hmm... your laugh and your voice (of course), ducks cackling, babies cooing, and the laughter of my friends and family.'"
"I like that list. I'm not too sure about that first part, though..." Miles laughed.
"Aww, there it is. I love you so much."
"I love you, too. Would you like to walk around a bit more?"
"Yes, I'd enjoy that."
Miles tossed the last bit of bread into the water and then helped Jules up. He handed her her shoes.
Tuesday, May 22nd
I finally put in an order for the flowers. Mom was here this afternoon to help me pick them out. She's been amazing. She and Grace have both given me gentle guidance and encouraged me when I felt like I was going crazy from all the planning.
Miles has been sweet to insist that I take time to relax. He took me to the park Sunday afternoon, and we fed the ducks. I love him so much.
It was overcast, and Jules was having a very bad day. The washer had quit working, Greta had canceled their plans for the evening, and Jules was experiencing the worst migraine she remembered ever having.
She walked out the door with a coat and hat. "Maybe some fresh air will help me with this nasty headache."
Miles walked outside as she passed his house. "Jules! Are you busy?"
"No, I guess not. What's up?"
"I'm trying to rearrange some furniture in the den and I need an extra hand."
Jules sighed, and squeezed her eyes shut for just a second. "Where is Angus?"
"He's out visiting a sick friend, and he won't be back 'til this evening. Can you help me for a sec?"
"Sure. Just to warn you, I'm in a really bad mood. This day got started on the wrong foot."
"Ha. Well that makes two of us."
Jules felt hurt that he didn't ask her if everything was okay, not realizing that she hadn't asked him, either.
"Come on in. It's this couch; I need to pivot it and slide it over to this wall, next to the bookcase."
"Why are you moving it?"
"I have to make room for a new lazyboy. Gramps likes yours so much that I promised I'd buy him one."
"Can you grab that side? Swing left. Left, Jules! Jules. Stop. I need you to swing it the other way."
"I'm sorry, I'm having a migraine and it's hard to think right now."
"Well that shouldn't make it hard to tell the difference between left and right. It's simple, Jules." He regretted the words as soon as the were out of his mouth. He bit his lip. "Jules-"
"You know what? You can just move your own stupid couch. I'm going home." Jules was livid. "What were you thinking?" Hot tears ran down her face.
"Jules, calm down. I didn't mean it."
"You didn't mean it?! It was still insensitive. It was still there in your mind! You thought it, and you said it! How could you?"
"Please calm down, Jules. Let's sit down and talk about it. I think you're overreacting about this. Could you please just sit down?"
"No! No way. Why did you have to say that? I can't believe this is happening to me. No, don't try to talk to me. I have to get out of here."
"Jules, could you just stay a bit and talk through this with me?"
"No! I need to get out of here and think. I can't think while you're talking. Please, just let me go! I need some space."
He followed her to the door. She was frantically trying to stuff her arms into her coat. He reached to help her.
"Please! Just let me be, Miles."
Jules grabbed her hat and ran out the door.
Miles stood in the doorway and watched her hurry down the sidewalk. It was starting to rain. He shut the door, and went back to the couch. Sinking down into the cushions, he put his head in his hands. He couldn't believe what had just happened.
Jules slammed the door behind her, and slid down the inside of it to rest on the floor. She hugged her knees to her chest and cried. "I didn't think he could be so insensitive! Why? Why is this happening to me again? Oh God, why?" She sobbed, heartbroken.
It started raining outside, thick and hard. She caught her breath, replaying what had happened in her mind. "Oh, Lord, I've been so mistaken. I let the silly little things that went wrong here at home affect how I looked at Miles today. Please forgive me. I was angry about ridiculous, minute things that don't even matter. Poor Miles. I was so nasty to him, God. So nasty over nothing. And he was having a bad day! I didn't even ask him if I could help make it better. I just screamed at him. Oh, he must be so disappointed in me!"
The sounds of rain filled up the short pause. Then she cried out again.
"Oh God! Please don't change this lock! I want an open door. Oh God. Your will. Not my will. Your will be done, God."
She curled up into a fetal position on the floor and cried. She fell asleep there, and didn't wake up until mid afternoon. She sat up with a start. "Oh my! It's 4:00. I can't believe I fell asleep."
She wondered what Miles was doing, and wished she had the courage to call him and apologize for losing her temper. She was afraid he would still be upset with her, and couldn't bear the thought of being rebuffed by him. No, she would wait for the storm to blow over. Then she would call him.
She went up the stairs to her room. "I guess I'll go take a shower."
She took a long, hot shower, and then took her time getting dressed. She put on something comfortable, and decided to blow-dry her hair with the diffuser. She had just finished when she heard a knock downstairs. She ran down, pulling her crazy hair into a ponytail as she went. Jules gasped when she opened the door. "Miles? What are you doing here? You're soaking wet!"
He smiled and gently took her hands in his. "Jules, I couldn't stay away with you angry at me. I realized why you needed space, and I hope I gave you enough time. I just had to run over here to ask you to please forgive me."
"Miles, I'm the one who should be out in the rain, apologizing. I was foolish to lose my temper in such a way. Please forgive me."
His tones were gentle, and soothing. He smiled up at her. "You're forgiven, Dear. Still, I reacted in a way that wasn't pleasing to God. I should have been gentle with you, and I shouldn't have said those insensitive words in the first place. Please forgive me." There were tears in his eyes.
She answered him softly. "All is forgiven. We've learned our lesson, I hope."
Jules smiled at him. He was such a good man. "Miles, you're dripping wet! Please come in, or let me get you an umbrella."
"I have to head back in just a moment, so don't bother." He looked into her eyes.
She looked back at him. His hair was dripping; and water was running down his face, but he had never looked more genuine and beautiful to her than he did in that moment. "How about I walk back over and help you move that couch?"
"I would love that," he grinned.
Jules reached out to hug him, her chin above his shoulder. She looked back into his eyes after he released her, and he smiled.
"I'm glad we're okay now, Miles. And I'm free if you wanna talk about your day. I got the idea it didn't go so well."
He looked away from her sheepishly. "I guess you could say that, I'll tell you all about it while we walk."
"Sounds good." She grabbed an umbrella from next to the door. "Now let's get you home so you can dry off."
"Yes ma'am." They laughed.
Saturday, June 9th
Yesterday Miles and I had our first big fight. It was over something absolutely stupid and unimportant, yet it was terrifying. I was an idiot, and Miles wasn't quite as terrible as me, but we were both pretty bad.
He walked over through the rain and apologized, and then I apologized, too.
God is so good to us! We have so much to learn, and so many things to grow in. But we get to grow together, and I couldn't be happier.
CHAPTER 29: FOREVER STARTS
It was the day before the wedding. Miles had sent over a large bouquet of gorgeous red roses with a note that said "One more day until forever starts, and I can't wait to start it with you."
Jules smiled and hugged herself. This was her dream-come-true, her fairytale fulfilled; her answered prayer. Her Knight had come, and he was more than she had hoped for.
She walked over to her closet and pulled out the protective plastic case. Unzipping it, she let the shimmery folds of silvery-white tulle cascade across her lap. On impulse, she doffed her home clothes and donned the gown. Jules walked a slow circle around the room, and then paused in front of her full-length mirror. She caught her breath. "This is too good to be true. I feel like Cinderella," she whispered. "I am Cinderella."
There was a knock at her bedroom door. "Who is it?" She panicked.
"It's Greta. Are you ready to go get your nails done for tomorrow?"
"Oh, shoot. I need a few minutes. Actually, could you come in?"
Greta opened the door. She gasped. "You look amazing, girl."
"Thank you," Jules smiled. "Can you help me with the zipper? I think I managed to get my hair stuck."
Greta walked in and set her purse down on the bed. She eyed the back of Jules' dress for a second, then pulled with gentle fingers. "Yep, you sure did. There, got it."
"Thanks!" Jules slipped out of the dress and laid it over her bed. She pulled on a pencil skirt and red flowered blouse. "Do I look okay? I thought I'd try to match you in color."
"You look beautiful." Greta smiled. "And I think matching will be fun today. Now let's go."
Jules slipped into a pair of flats and grabbed her purse. She followed Greta outside and climbed into the passenger seat of her car. "Where are Anne and Mom?"
"They all decided to take Anne's car. They're picking up Grace and Tabitha, so they left about five minutes ahead of me. And then Mrs. McCarthy will drop Linda off." Greta glanced over at her friend, noting the sparkle in her eyes. "So, how are you feeling about tomorrow?"
"Very excited. A little jittery, too." Jules laughed. She stared out the window at the Verbena and Indian Paintbrushes that ran along the highway. "But I know I have absolutely nothing to be nervous about. Miles sent over some roses with a sweet note this morning." Jules blushed happily. "He's so good to me."
"Aww," Greta wiped a single tear away. She pushed her bangs up out of her eyes and ruffled her wavy hair. "It's so surreal to watch you two. We've been dreaming about our weddings ever since we were little girls, and now yours is finally here."
"It is surreal," Jules murmured, "and I can't wait for it to be your turn."
"Mm," Greta smiled softly, "it may be awhile." She laughed. "It may be a long while, but it's in God's hands."
"Yes," Jules agreed. "But you do know that I am praying for you and your future spouse, whoever he may be."
"Of course! And that is one of the reasons that I love you so much." Greta reached over to squeeze Jules' hand. "You're the best."
"You're the best, too."
Before long, Greta pulled up to the nail salon. It was an adorable little yellow building with a pail pink door. The window boxes were overflowing bright, sweet-smelling flowers. Jules pushed the door open, and they walked inside.
There was a rush of female laughter while the ladies exchanged hugs and greetings. They all sat down for their manicures, and happy chatter commenced.
Anne glanced over at Jules. "Where are y'all going on your honeymoon? Or is it top secret?"
Jules grinned. "We decided to go to San Antonio. But keep that on the down low. We don't want random people showing up, obviously." Jules giggled.
Grace laughed. "Then why are you telling us?"
"We agreed that we should tell our parents and wedding party."
"That's a good plan," Arabella smiled from where she sat. "We'll miss you while you're gone, but it's good to know that you'll be living close by."
"Yes," Jules beamed. "And I'm so glad that you will all still be here when Miles and I get back."
"We wouldn't miss it for the world, dear." Linda smiled. "It's definitely worth the travel time to be hear. Besides, it's nice to have such a good excuse to make an extended visit." She winked, and they all laughed.
Jules woke up bright and early. She exercised for half an hour, then carried all of her luggage outside and set it on the porch for Miles to load up.
She stood outside for a few minutes, breathing in the cool spring air. It smelled so fresh and sweet. The sun was shining brightly, and birds were singing. Even the flowers seemed more thick and full in their beauty. "What a lovely day to get married." Jules smiled.
Miles pulled up to the front porch and stepped out of his car. "Good morning, beautiful. It's a lovely day to get married." He opened his arms to her, and she hugged him back.
"That's what I was saying right before you pulled up."
"I guess great minds really do think alike." He chuckled, and laced his fingers with hers. "Is this all your luggage, or is there more inside?"
"That's all. I can help carry."
"Nope. That's my job. But you can open the trunk for me if you want."
Miles loaded up all of the bags and shut the back of the car. "Well, that's that. Does Duncan need a ride to the church?"
"No, he stayed with Dad last night so I could finish packing. Greta will be here in an hour to pick me up."
Miles nodded. "I've got to go back and get Gramps. He'll need help getting ready." He gave Jules another hug. "I'll see you soon, babe."
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you, too."
Jules stood on the porch and waved while Miles pulled out and drove off down the road. Then she went back inside and upstairs to take a long, hot shower. She carefully wrapped her wet hair in a tee shirt and dressed herself in bluejeans and a comfy dress. She was just slipping into a pair of black flip-flops when she heard Greta's honk.
Jules locked the front door behind her and ran down the steps. "Just in time! Can you pop the trunk? Thanks." Jules draped her wedding dress carefully in the trunk and shut it. "Please tell me you remembered to bring the blow-dryer and diffuser."
Greta pointed to the backseat where it sat next to an endless supply of makeup and hair products. "I'm pretty sure I remembered every possible thing."
"I knew you were dependable."
She grinned. "You ready?"
"Then let's blow this joint." Greta smirked over at her friend and turned the music up.
It was only a few minutes before they pulled up to the big, white church. All too soon Jules was lost in the hustle and bustle of preparation. Grace knelt in front of her, working on her makeup, and Greta and Anne hovered around her hair. Once they had finished, Arabella helped her slip into her dress, veil, and shoes. She took her gently by the shoulders and turned her towards the mirror. "You look lovely," Arabella murmured. "And I couldn't be more proud of you."
"Oh, I love you, Mom." Jules pulled her close for a hug.
"I love you too, sweetheart. May God bless you this day and every day after."
"Thank you, Mom."
Grace tapped on the door. "Miles sent this over for you." She handed her a small, velvet box and a note.
Jules opened the box. "Oh," she gasped. She pulled out a chain with a small, silver key on it. It had the word "Sanctification" etched on it in Miles' own handwriting. She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue while reading his note.
Let us purpose to go through life with an attitude of gratefulness. May we keep in mind that when God's will does not line up with our perception of His will for us, it is for our growth, and His glory.
Forever starts today, Jules. I couldn't think of a better helpmeet and companion to start it with besides you.
I love you.
Jules reached for a pen and paper and write down an answering note. "Could you please take this to him, Grace?"
"Of course, Dear."
"Thank you." Jules smoothed the ruffles down the front of her gown, and looked in the mirror one more time. "Are Grandad and Kevin ready to pray?"
"Yes, they're right here."
Jules sat down in a waiting chair, and wiped away another tear while her grandfather, father, mother, stepmother, and two best friends all laid hands on her to pray. It was one of the sweetest moments of her life. After they had finished, she stood up. "Is it time?"
"Almost. I think the groomsmen are up next."
"That means me." Kevin smiled. He kissed Jules on the cheek. "I'll see you soon. I love you, sweetheart."
"And I love you."
After a few minutes, Greta wrapped her in a warm hug. "I'm up. Do I look okay?"
"You look stunning, Greta. I love you."
"I love you more."
Duncan walked up to Jules. He offered his arm. "It looks like it's up to you and me now, Chickadee. Are you ready?"
"Yes, I am." Jules beamed up at him. "I'm so glad that you're here to give me away, Grandad. I'm so happy."
"Me, too. God bless you, my dear."
They stood just out of sight of the congregation and wedding party, and right on cue they began to walk down the isle. Jules glided gracefully, her eyes fixed on Miles.
He caught his breath as soon as she stepped through the open door, and unashamedly wiped away a few tears. His was beaming, and kept his eyes steadily on the face of his bride.
When it came time to say their vows they held tight to each other's hands, their eyes never wavering from the other.
"I, Miles Robert Stanley, take thee, Jules, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you."
"I, Arabella Jules Keith, take thee, Miles, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to obey, and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you. Wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. This I faithfully pledge, as long as we both shall live."
Pastor Dan smiled at them both. "Do you have the rings?"
Charlie stepped forward and handed his ring to Miles.
Miles gently took Jules' left hand. "With this ring, I thee wed." He slipped it onto her finger.
Greta handed Jules her ring, and she took Miles hand. She looked up into his smiling eyes. "With this ring, I thee wed."
"What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Therefore they were no more twain, but one flesh. Miles, you may now kiss your bride."
Miles lifted the veil, and cupped Jules' face with his left hand. He kissed her gently.
"Ladies and gentleman, I introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Miles Stanley!"
The whole congregation stood to their feet and clapped while Miles led Jules back down the isle. He kissed her again at the other end.
It was time to leave, and Jules was getting ready to throw the bouquet. She turned around and closed her eyes. "One... two... three!!" She tossed it over her head and then turned around. She laughed. There was a cacophony of screaming and squealing. Greta caught the bouquet, and Charlie caught Greta's eyes. They smiled at each other, and Miles gave Jules a knowing look. It wouldn't be too long, after all.
Jules sat cross-legged on the floor of her attic. She was pulling paper memories and keepsakes out of a cedar chest, giving a loving pat here, and an amused smile there.
"It's been too long," she said to herself. "I don't even remember keeping half of these things. Why, what's this?" Jules pulled out six old shoeboxes and took off the lids one-by-one. She gasped. They held the entire collection of Only Hearts Club dolls, with all of their small pets and multiple sets of clothes. They were in mint condition. She pulled one of the dolls out, and ran her fingers over its life-like curly hair. She suddenly burst into laughter over a memory. "I had forgotten about that! I'm so glad I kept these. No, Breanna; I won't get rid of you. Not ever."
"What's going on in here?"
Jules jumped. She looked up to see him leaning against the door frame. "Oh, Miles! You scared me. I never heard you come in."
"What are you up to?"
"I was just going through my old hope chest."
He smiled down at where she sat on the floor in her dusty denim skirt and oversized tee. "Whatcha got there?"
"My old dolls. See?? This one was my favorite. Grandad used to play with me since I didn't have any friends my age at first." She smiled over the memories it brought up.
"Sometimes Mr. McCarthy would join us...he never thought he was too manly to act out a girls' sleepover with my little dolls."
Miles sat down next to her on the floor. "Speaking of Mr. McCarthy..."
"Guess who's joining us for movie night tomorrow evening?"
"Oh Miles! It will be so much fun. He, Gramps, and Grandad crack me up when they get together."
"I'm glad that makes you happy. Would you like help putting these away?"
"Sure. And then maybe we could start painting the nursery?"
"Yes. In that case I'd better go change out of my suit." He gave her a quick kiss before heading for the doorway.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
And that's it!!