Summer Island Page 47

They spent the rest of the day laughing, it seemed. They talked, they reminisced about the old days and spun dreams about the days to come. They ate dinner off paper plates balanced on their laps. Eric even managed a few bites of salmon. And when the darkness finally came to their party, they lit up the sparklers and shot off the fireworks.

Ruby stood at the bank, with her back to the Sound, and wrote RUBY LOVES DEAN in glittering white bursts of light. Beside her, Nora wrote I LOVE MY GIRLS and FOREVER. They were both grinning as they waved at Dean and Eric.

Eric turned his head. When their gazes met, Dean felt a clutch of fear. His brother looked hopelessly old and tired. “I love you, baby brother.”

The world spiraled down to the two of them, sitting in this darkened yard. A silence swept in, snuffing out the music and the sound of the women's laughter. The 4 sudden quiet felt endless, dark, and dangerous.

“I love you, too, Eric.”

“No funeral. I want you guys to have a party, something like this, like the old days. Then throw my ashes off the Wind Lass. Maybe under the bridge at Deception Pass.”

Dean couldn't imagine that, standing on the boat, watching gray ashes float on the surface of the choppy green sea, thinking about a pair of blue eyes that would never look at him again ...

Eric's breathing grew labored. He closed his eyes. “I can't find the practice roster.”

“I'll get it for you.”

Eric opened his eyes. He didn't seem able to focus. “Get Mom, would you? I need to talk to her.”

Dean froze.

“She's here, isn't she?”

Dean nodded quickly, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Of course she's here.”

Eric smiled and leaned back into the pillows. “I knew she'd come.”

“I'll go get her.” It seemed to take Dean an hour to cross the small patch of lawn. As he walked, the sounds came back to him-the music, the laughter, the waves on the beach. “That's What Friends Are For” was playing on the radio.

“Come on, Dino.” Ruby laughed, reaching for him. “You haven't written my name yet.”

Dean couldn't hold out his hand. He felt as if he were unraveling, and the slightest movement could ruin him. “He's asking for Mom.”

Nora immediately covered her mouth with her hand. A small gasp escaped anyway.

Ruby dropped her sparkler. It shot sparks up from the grass, and she carefully stomped it out with her foot.

In utter silence, the three of them walked toward Eric. Dean could hear everything now, down to the crushing of the grass beneath their shoes.

Ruby was the first to kneel beside Eric. She stared down at him, and Dean could see the tears in her eyes.

Eric smiled up at her. “You're unclenched... ”

Dean frowned at the garbled words; amazingly, Ruby seemed to understand. “I am,” she said softly, leaning down to kiss his cheek.

“You take care of my brother.”

“I will.”

Eric sighed and closed his eyes again. Dean moved in close to Ruby, took her hand and squeezed it.

“'Oh, God”" she whispered, and he knew she was wondering how she would possibly get past this. How would any of them?

Eric fell asleep for a few minutes, then opened his eyes, blinking hard. “Mom?” He looked around. There was an edge of panic to his voice. “Mom?”

Dean clung to Ruby's hand. The feel of her was a lifeline, the only thing that kept him steady. Nora lowered herself to the chair, sitting on the edge beside him. “I'm here, honey. I'm right here.”

Eric stared up at her, his eyes glassy and unfocused. “Dino came home ... to me. I knew you would, too. I knew you wouldn't stay away. Where's Dad?”

Nora stroked his forehead. “Of course I came home. I'm sorry it took me so long.”

Eric let out a long, slow sigh. Then he smiled, an for a split second, his eyes were clear. "Take care of Dino for me. He's going to need you now.

Nora swallowed hard. “Your dad andI will watch over him,” she said in a throaty voice.

"Thanks ... Nora. You were always my mom Eric smiled and closed his eyes. A moment later, he whispered Charlie, is that you?

And he was gone.



The chapel on Summer Island was a narrow, pitch-roofed, clapboard building set on the crest of a small rise. Even now, in the middle of a cold, gray winter; the building was cloaked in glossy green ivy. Ropey brown clematis vines framed the double doors; in a few short months, they would again produce a riot of green leaves and purple blossoms.

“I still can't believe you wouldn't let me fill the church with flowers.”

Ruby laughed at her mother. They were standing in the tiny gravel parking lot adjacent to the church, waiting for the ferry to dock.

"Thank you, Martha Stewart, for that wedding fashion update. This is exactly how we wanted it.

There's only one decoration that matters to me."

“It's the dead of winter. You know there's no heat in chapel.” Nora crossed her arms. Her elegant green

St. John knit suit set off the flawless ivory of her skin.

There wasn't a breath of wind to upset her carefully arranged hair. Unfortunately, it was about thirty degrees out here--unusually cold for Christmas week.

To her credit, Nora tried to smile. “I wanted to plan this day for you. Make it perfect in every way. Ruby's smile was soft and understanding. ”

Mom. You wanted to plan it for you.

“And that's my right, damn it.” A quick smile tugged at her mouth. “Maybe Jenny will do it right?”

“That's a fight I'd pay to see--you and Caroline battling for control over Jenny's big day. You'd probably settle on a small service at the Vatican.”

Nora laughed and moved closer. “I love you, Ruby,” she said softly, then, “Oh, damn, I'm crying already.”

Ruby started to say something, but the ferry honked its horn.

Within minutes, three cars drove up, parked side by side. The doors opened, and the rest of the gang appeared.

Caroline, looking as cool and elegant as a water flower; was in pale ice-blue silk. Beside her; Jere brought up the kids. They all belonged in a Ralph Lauren ad.

Caroline hugged Ruby fiercely, then drew back. Her eyes were full of tears as she smiled. “My baby sister in-” She frowned. “What are you wearing?” Ruby posed. What had once been her dress of shame had become her wedding gown. “Isn't it great?” Caroline's narrowed gaze swept her from head to foot, noticed the plunging neckline and the ankle-to-crotch slit up the side. “You didn't find that in Modern Bride.”

“It's Versace.”

Caroline grinned. “It certainly is. You look gorgeous.” Jere came up beside his wife and took her hand. “Hey, Ruby,” he said, settling Freddie on hiship. “You look great.”

Ruby grinned. “I could get used to this.” Then Rand was there, wearing an elegant black tuxedo. Marilyn was beside him, holding their son. Lottie was there, too, wearing her frilly “town” dress and a big straw hat. The only concession she'd madeto winter was a pair of oversized black snow boots.

Rand kissed Ruby, whispering, "Heya,

Hollywood, you look like a princess," before he drew back.

“Hey, Dad.” Ruby looked up at Marilyn, who stood back from the crowd. Ruby gave her a bright smile. “Hi, Marilyn--it's good to have you here. How's that beautiful baby brother of mine?” Marilyn broke into a smile and moved forward.

“He's great. You look fabulous.”

After that, they all started talking at once, their voices climbing over one another.

Then another car roared into the parking lot. Dean stepped out of the car and slammed the door shut. In his black Armani tux, he was so handsome that, for a moment, Ruby couldn't breathe. He walked up to her and gave her a smile so slow and seductive that she felt heat climb into her face.

Gently, he took her hands in his. “Are we ready to do this thing?”

I've been ready all my life, she wanted to answer; but her heart was so full, she could only nod.

“Then let's go.”

Together; they went into the church. Inside, an aisle separated two short rows of rough-hewn benches. The altar was a plain wooden trestle table that held two thick white beeswax candles. Their flickering flames released the sweet scent of hand-dried lavender. A gold silk scarf decorated with a single red cross draped the width of the table. In the corner stood a small noble fir that sparkled with white Christmas lights.

The family found their seats and crowded in. Jere whipped out a video recorder and started filming. Dean walked down the aisle alone and took his place at the altar.

“Are you ready?”

Ruby heard her father's voice and turned slightly.

He came up beside her; offered his arm. She knew her smile was a little shaky, and that it was okay. She slipped her arm through his and let him guide her down the aisle.

At the altar; he stopped, then leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I love you, Hollywood,” he whispered.

Her emotions teetered on the edge of control. It was all she could do to nod as he stepped back, leaving her standing beside Dean.

Directly in front of them, on the altar; was a big photograph, framed in ornate, gilded wood. The only decoration that mattered.


In it, he was about fifteen years old and standing on the bow of the Wind Lass, half-turned back to face the camera. His smile was pure Eric.

Dean stared at the picture. He sighed, and she knew he was remembering. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed tightly, whispering, “He's here.” “I know,” he answered, holding her hand tightly. “I know.”

Father Magowan smiled at them. Sister Helen gave Ruby a quick wink, then waddled over to the organ and sat down.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” His rich, melodious voice filled the small chapel.

Finally, he came to “Who gives this woman to be wed?”

It was the only thing Ruby had requested of this service, that question, and when she turned around and saw her mom and dad standing together; she knew she'd done the right thing. It was a vision that would stay in her heart forever.

Rand looked down at Nora, who was weeping openly. He slipped his arm around her and drew her close. “We do,” he said proudly, “her mother and I.”

Caroline was crying now, too, and Ruby saw the way Jere moved closer to her; sliding his arm around her waist.

Ruby turned back to Dean, gazed up into his shining blue eyes ... and forgot everyone else. The service kept going, words thrown into a silence broken only by the soft organ music.

You may kiss the bride."

Dean stared down at her; his eyes moist.

“I've waited a lifetime for this,” he said softly.

“I'll always love you, Ruby.”

She saw it all in his eyes: her past, her present, her future. She saw tow-headed children playing in the cold, cold waters of Puget Sound ... and

Christmas dinners with lots of chairs at the table ... she even saw them when they were old, their hair gone white and their eyesight dimmed, and she knew she'd never forget this moment.

“That's good,” she said, grinning up at him, tasting the salty moisture of her own tears. She knew she was ruining the makeover her mother had paid for; but she didn't care.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next