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    Lyra and Ryan’s Love Story 

       “Ouch.” Lyra Johnson lifted her arm and reached behind her head, yanking out a bobby pin. Her veil loosened, tilting so low it graced the tip of her classic bun.

       She handed the bobby pin to Kira. “Try putting it a little higher.”

       Kira raised the veil, gently sliding the bobby pin against the back of Lyra’s scalp. “Does this feel better?”

       “Yes. It feels tighter, too.”

       Kira expelled a relieved breath and took a step back, a smile spreading across her face. “You look beautiful, sis.”

       “Thank you.” Lyra turned to the full-length mirror, resting against the chapel’s white brick wall. The woman in the mirror stared back and pressed a hand against her champagne wedding dress. Her face looked like a porcelain doll with flawless skin, shiny pink lips, and brown eyes popping with light colored eye shadow, black liner, and long dark lashes. Lyra smiled at her reflection. What would Ryan think when he saw her walking down the aisle?

       Just the thought of seeing him sent butterflies swarming through her stomach. No doubt he was just as nervous. Being the center of attention in a crowd typically put his nerves on edge, but most people wouldn’t notice. Ryan knew how to mask his anxiety, especially when he felt prepared. Like on the night he’d proposed.

        Lyra strode to the middle of the stage as junior high parents and students sat in bleachers, clapping. She grabbed the microphone and peered past the bright overhead lights. “I am so proud to be the director this year. These students worked really hard. They were the perfect cast for Beauty and the Beast. Let’s give them another round of applause.”

       The crowd stood, shouts of encouragement and praise filling the room. She lowered the microphone, waiting for silence so she could finish her speech. The students let out shrill shrieks and people in the crowd turned their heads.

       Ryan waltzed onto stage with a microphone clutched in his hand. He stopped in front of her and bent down on one knee. “Just like the Beast in the play, I have found my beauty…”

       Lyra’s cheeks still grew warm at the memory. She would never forget the line that had melted her heart.

       Mom stopped a few feet away, her reflection caught in the mirror. “Oh my goodness. You look gorgeous.” Her face beamed with affection.

       Lyra turned around, soaking in every inch of Mom’s outfit—silver sandals, a sparkly knee-length silver dress, and a long dark wig.

       Mom reached for Lyra’s arms and gave a soft squeeze. “I’m so glad I could be here.”

       “Me too.” Lyra’s chest constricted. How many sleepless nights had she wondered if Mom would still be alive today? Just months ago, Mom had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. The doctors didn’t think she would live because her white blood count was so high. But after several rounds of intensive chemotherapy, she was still alive and looking better than ever. She wasn’t feeling like her old self, but day-by-day, she was growing stronger.

       Thank God she’d pulled through—for today, for tomorrow, and for years to come. Life wouldn’t be the same without her.

       Lyra chocked back a sob. Now was not the time to get emotional. Not when the ceremony started in a half hour.

       Mom must have been thinking the same thing. She let go of Lyra’s arms and checked her watch. “Are you ready?”

       Lyra nodded with gusto. “After a two year engagement, I’m more than ready to make Ryan my husband.”

       Her bridesmaids and personal attendants giggled.

       “I’m pretty sure my cousin feels the exact same way,” said Angela.

       Lyra grinned. “It feels unreal that today is finally here.”

       “Don’t forget these.” Jenny held up two garters, laced with coral and teal ribbon. Smirking, she raised her eyebrows up and down. “Ryan would be disappointed.” She lifted Lyra’s dress and slipped the garters above her knee.

       “And don’t forget to wear the perfume Ryan gave you.” Hannah handed her the bottle and Lyra sprayed it onto her neck, then handed the bottle back to her sister.

       “Is there anything else you need before the ceremony starts?” Chelsea asked.

       “Yes.” Lyra gave her best friend a coy grin. “I need to go to the bathroom.”

       “Let’s go then.” Chelsea bent down and picked up the train as Lyra walked to the priest’s quarters. Crystal and Mandie followed closely behind.

       Lyra stepped inside the priest’s bathroom. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

       Mandie lifted the front of the dress. “Hey girl, you do what you have to do.”

       Squatting, a laugh bubbled up from Lyra’s chest. “You can’t see my butt, can you?” She squatted a little further, her skin making contact with the porcelain throne. “Why does the toilet seat feel weird?”

       Standing near the toilet’s tank, Crystal glanced down and bit her lower lip. “Uh, you should stand up. We forgot to put the toilet seat down.”

       Lyra shot straight up, her eyes growing wide. “I just sat on the priest’s pee?”

       Chelsea flipped the toilet seat down, smirking. “At least he’s holy.”

       “Very funny.” Lyra shook her head. Hopefully, the ceremony would go better than her bathroom experience.


       In the chapel, the pianist struck the first cord to “Window to the Heart.” The song floated out of the open doors and into the lobby of St. Anne’s Parish.

       Lyra glanced over at Dad. Dressed in a black tuxedo and teal tie, he looked handsome, suave even. He leaned over and brought his mouth close to her ear. “I love you.”

       “Love you, too.” Smiling, she clutched Dad’s arm and stepped forward as Sarah and Elijah started the processional. They were the perfect bridesmaid/ groomsman duo—not only did Sarah get along with her brother, but their height difference made a comical picture—whereas Sarah was tall and slender, Elijah was short and lean.

       As each pair entered the chapel, Lyra’s stomach somersaulted. This was it. The moment she’d been waiting for. She’d known Ryan since high school. Dated throughout college. He was the perfect man for her. It was time to make their commitment official before God and all of their friends and family.

       The pianist paused, causing a dramatic effect before she played “Canon in D.” Standing near the chapel’s doors, Peter grinned. “It’s go time,” he whispered. He glanced at the other usher and nodded. David winked at Lyra and he and Peter opened the doors.

       People shuffled in the pews, rising as she and Dad stepped inside the crowded room. She swallowed hard. All of these people were here for her and Ryan. Many of them had helped with wedding plans. They’d spent time creating the turquoise and coral flowered pews. Or folded the programs. Many of them had offered advice—about the wedding or marriage. And with everyone standing in the space together, love radiated throughout the chapel.

       She took a step forward, her crochet Toms making contact with the center aisle. Don’t look down, don’t look down. She expelled a deep breath and looked up, catching sight of Ryan, and the rest of the room disappeared.

       He stood at the end of the aisle, his arms resting in front of his charcoal gray tuxedo. His hands were clutched together and his short blonde hair was styled with gel. As she stopped in front of him, his blue-green eyes glistened.

       Dad leaned over and kissed her cheek as she wrapped him in a side hug. Straightening, he glanced from her to Ryan. They shook hands, then Dad walked back to the pews to sit beside Mom.

       Ryan’s lips spread into a wide grin. “You look like an angel with all the lights shining down on you.”

       She reached for Ryan’s hand and resisted the urge to kiss him. The ceremony couldn’t go fast enough.

       Father Chase held up his hands, then lowered them, signaling for people to sit. Lyra glanced back at the first row of bridesmaids and attendants and her chest swelled with emotion. She couldn’t ask for better friends and family.

       Father Chase started the sermon, his calm, confident disposition captivating the audience. Several women fanned themselves with programs. Some of them were blushing and it wasn’t because of the heat, the air was working just fine. Father Chase had that effect on women. But not Lyra. Not with the perfect groom standing right next to her.

       Near the end of the ceremony, Father Chase stood at the middle of the altar. He directed the vows, then clasped his hands together. “It is now time for the couple to exchange their wedding rings.”

       With a shaky hand, Ryan gripped Lyra’s ring and set it near her pale pink fingernail. “I, Ryan, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” His low and steady voice resounded through the chapel, loud and powerful.

       From the pews, friends and family laughed.

       Father Chase glanced at Lyra and Chelsea nudged her arm, holding out the ring. She took it and she repeated the blessing, slipping the ring on Ryan’s finger.

       “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

       Lyra’s heart raced with the finality of the father’s words. Ryan was finally her husband. They could spend the rest of their lives together, making memories. They could buy a house. Start a family. See the world together. The possibilities were endless.

       Ryan wrapped his arms around her lower back, his eyes hungrily devouring her face. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. Standing on her tiptoes, she swung her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. Their kiss took on a mind of its own, leaving no space for air. Her heart screamed—I love you, I’m so happy your mine forever.

       The crowd broke into applause and Lyra stepped back, gasping for breath. With a kiss like that, she couldn’t wait for the honeymoon.

    Where are they now?