Wildwood Creek | Chapter 31 of 37

Author: Lisa Wingate | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1673 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 26

ALLIE KIRKLAND
AUGUST 1, PRESENT DAY

The wedding dress was beautiful. The costuming crew had spent hours searching through patterns of the time period, looking for just the right ivory fabrics and French and Belgian laces. They’d poured over the designing, measuring, cutting, basting, and building of the final dress.

The women of the village had even created a sewing circle at the Delevan house and begun to bond while doing the fine handwork on the dress. In reality, having a special wedding outfit devoted to only one day of wear would’ve been unlikely for a bride of modest estate in 1861, but the fact is that every bride dreams of her wedding day and imagines that special dress.

Sometimes, allowances must be made, even in re-creating history. After everything the cast of Wildwood Creek had been through so far this summer, it seemed only right that this celebration of the glorious bonding of man and wife be nothing less than a perfect moment.

A real preacher had even moved into the room behind the schoolhouse. The impending nuptials and the trauma surrounding the kidnappings had evidenced the need for any society, even a temporary one, to have a strong moral compass. Reverend Hay, the small-town minister from Moses Lake, and his wife were excited to be filling the position of Wildwood’s pastorate for the next few weeks until the production reached its closing point.

“Oh, don’t you just look pretty as a museum painting?” Netta cooed, handing me a bouquet of antique roses as she stepped into our impromptu bride’s room, the downstairs parlor of the Delevan house. “These are for the bride.”

I took the roses and felt the slightest hint of their thorns through the blue embroidered hanky that had been used to wrap them. Their scent danced upward, and I thought about the history of the plants brought long ago across seas and prairies by hardy pioneers. Even as Wildwood had faded into dust, the roses had rooted and survived for generations, growing untamed and untended where human lives had come and gone. They would stay here after we moved on, too, their lacy blooms greeting the schoolkids who would come to visit this place to learn about life in a frontier town and to study the tragic history of Wildwood.

“They’re beautiful.” I glanced toward the bedroom, where Kim was getting dressed with the help of Mallory, who’d been documenting the addition of each piece of clothing, bit by bit, for her Frontier Woman blog. “I’ll give them to the bride, if she ever comes out.”

“I’m coming! I’m coming!” Kim yelled. “Perfection takes time!” At this point, she was somewhere between a giddy girl and bridezilla. In any given moment, there was no telling which one would gain control. I couldn’t blame her. The stress of a wedding in front of the cameras, in full period dress, with the entire village and her friends and family decked out in rented costuming, was a lot to handle—even for a girl about to marry a wealthy banker who’d come west to propose to his true love, marry her, and set up shop in Wildwood.

At least until the end of the production.

It’s not every day a girl gets the whole fairy tale, and the thing about fairy tales is, there’s a need for everything to be perfect. Throughout the whirlwind planning of the wedding, Netta and Genie had been reminding both Kim and me that some of the unexpected moments in life are the ones you remember the most.

When Kim squeezed through the bedroom door in her hoop, corset, pantaloons, petticoats, and new silk chemise, delicately hand-embroidered for the wedding night by Netta, she looked beautiful enough to be a bride already.

Tears stung my eyes, but they were happy tears. When you love someone—really love someone—that person’s happiness becomes your own happiness. I had finally figured that out. Life isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about tearing the box wide open and letting other people in. The people you meet come with lessons to teach. Kim had taught me to be bold. To take risks. To jump in with both feet instead of always standing on the shore worrying about getting my shoes wet.

Jake was a great guy, and if I hadn’t believed in love at first sight before, I did after watching the two of them at the hospital. Jake loved my best friend in the way of fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Some of us are a little slower to recognize it than others, but when the right person steps into your life, you know it.

So now Jake was entering the world of Wildwood Creek . . . a concession made by Rav and the producers after all Kim had been through. An unconventional wedding and honeymoon, but it seemed to fit the couple just fine.

“Oh, look at you, Allie. You look so pretty.” Kim pressed her hands over her mouth, then fanned her face, holding back tears.

“I put on my Sunday best for you.” I did a quick twirl, being sure to show her the roses Netta had woven into my hair that morning.

“You’re so skinny,” Kim lamented, then grinned at me.

“What about you?” Between all the hard work in the bathhouse and the time in the hospital, Kim looked like a model getting ready for a shoot in an extremely retro bridal magazine.

Bracing her hands on her hips, she twirled her shoulders side-to-side and sashayed into the room. “My goal is not putting all the weight back on, now that I’m gonna be a lady of leisure.”

We giggled like little girls, and Mallory reminded us that we were already late for the wagon ride to the cliffs above the river, where the camera crew, the cast of Wildwood, and invited guests were already gathering for a sunset wedding that had been kept top secret to prevent the interference of paparazzi. With the breaking of the story about Stewart, the production had drawn national attention. Now that the commotion was finally starting to die down, no one wanted to get it started again, including me. One thing a near-disaster will do is bring families together, and after days of hovering over me in the hospital, it’d practically taken an act of Congress to keep my mother from following me home to Wildwood. She’d even flown back here for the wedding and brought Lloyd and the younger kids along. Who knows when they’ll ever be able to participate in something like this again, she’d said. It’s a fabulous opportunity they shouldn’t miss.

It’s strange how just a few new words can chip away old walls. Nothing I’d ever done had been classified in the realm of fabulous opportunity. It felt really . . . good. For the first time we all seemed to be looking forward to an experience together, even if it was just for a few hours during the wedding. After that, Wildwood would be locked down again, the village drifting back to its normal routines for the final four weeks of production.

The door opened, and Wren poked her head in, her face flushed from marshaling the kids in the wedding party. Perhaps due to the mature hairdo, she had managed to assume control of the group. I’d probably never get my snood back now. “We need to go. The little twirps are getting restless. Mallory, Nick says he’s not walking up the aisle with the ring pillow in front of all those people. You’re gonna have to talk to him.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Mallory flashed a look my way, and I lifted both palms as she headed for the door. With Wren, the social skills were slow in coming, but even when you’re eleven-going-on-thirty, it is possible to grow and change. Maybe that was the deepest lesson I’d learned in Wildwood: that life should never be a stagnant thing. That just like the rivers, we thrive when the water flows in and washes away the silt of the past. All the debris we cling to doesn’t keep us afloat, it kills the life within us.

If I had learned one overriding lesson from Bonnie Rose, whose eventual fate it seemed I would continue to wonder about forever, it was that I had a little more pioneer blood in me than I thought.

“There’s someone out here for you too, Allie.” Wren’s berry-tinted lips pursed into a smug smile. “Lover boy wants to see you. Isn’t that, like, bad luck before a wedding?”

“Not if you’re just the maid of honor.” I hurried from the room and out the door, suddenly as giddy as Kim. Blake was waiting on the porch, leaning casually against one of the pillars.

My heart did the little flip-flop it always did when I saw him.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at the wedding already, doing crowd control, chasing away nosy photographers in helicopters, or shooting laser beams at boaters on the river who’re trying to get a peek?” I intertwined my hands behind my back, feeling coy and cute. Something about being in love made foolishness seem normal.

“When you’re the law in town, you can get away with a few things.” He smiled that sweet, slightly careless smile that I’d come to anticipate and adore. “I thought the prettiest girl in Wildwood shouldn’t just ride to the big event with the rest of the wedding party.” He stepped aside and motioned down the hill, indicating a black horse hitched to a two-person surrey.

“Why, sah, I just don’ know if that would be prop-ah . . .” The Scarlett in me emerged at the strangest times. “Travelin’ all the way to the rivahside with a handsome gentleman such as yourself.”

“Oh, but I come bearing gifts.” From behind his back, he produced a small bouquet of wildflowers. “Beauty for a beauty.” Even though he overdramatized the sappy line, it made me blush as I accepted the gift. Reaching into his breast pocket, he pulled out a manila envelope. “There’s a little something else too. But keep it mum for now—and you didn’t get it from me. It came from the DA’s file on Stewart’s case.”

“You stole something from the DA’s files?”

“Procured a copy,” he corrected. “It was on Stewart’s computer. He’d done mountains of research on Wildwood.”

I didn’t even want to think about Stewart. He didn’t belong in this day or anywhere in my life. I wouldn’t let what he’d done steal one day of my future. “I don’t want it, okay? I’m sorry, but if that has anything to do with Stewart, I don’t want to go there right now.”

I tried to push the envelope back, but Blake only shook his head, his gaze meeting mine. “You’ll want this.”

“What is it?”

“Maybe you should sit down.”

A sense of dread crept in as Blake guided me to one of the rocking chairs. I imagined the envelope containing some sort of twisted manifesto. At the same time, I knew Blake wouldn’t do that. Especially not today. Whatever he’d brought, it wasn’t meant to hurt me. Blake would never hurt me.

I perched on the edge of a chair, being careful not to wrinkle my Sunday best. Blake sat on the table next to me, waiting.

My fingers trembled as I opened the envelope. I felt the stiff, thick edge of something inside and slowly drew it out—a sheet of seemingly harmless cardstock, blank.

“Turn it over.” Blake leaned close so that he could look at it too. “Trust me.”

I did as he asked, taking in the reprint of a web article titled “Quarter Milers: Foundation Sires of the Quarter Horse Breed.” There was a faded reprint of an old photo at the top—a woman in a black dress, holding the reins of a gray horse ridden by a young man. Two young children stood beside her—a girl and a boy. Wildwood Rose, circa 1870, the article read. A champion early-day sprint racer and foundation sire of the Quarter Horse breed, pictured here with owner Bonnie Hardwick and her children.

Bringing the photograph closer, I looked at the cloudy image of the young woman, her bonnet hanging loosely around her neck, her curls blowing in the wind. Bonnie Rose. “She survived.”

“She did.”

“But how?”

“I’m not sure we’ll ever really know. We might find out more, if we can track the history of the horse once we get back home.” Blake tapped a finger to the page. “My daddy had a few broodmares that went back to a Wildwood Rose line. They were ranch stock out of Montana . . . and race stock, apparently.”

A lightness came over me, and I relaxed in my chair, mindless of the dress. “She had a life after this. A good life.”

“She rode good horses, that’s for sure. That’s a fine animal.” Blake laid his hand atop mine. I turned my hand over, and our fingers intertwined, the habit as natural now as so many others I’d learned in Wildwood.

“It figures you’d notice the horse. I noticed the kids. She had children. She had a family after this.” From one answer, so many questions. Was she happy? Where did she live? How did she live? Whom did she marry? Was she in love? How many children? Did she live to be a grandmother, to see her granddaughters gain the right to vote, to see the West slowly settled and tamed and changed?

Maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe this was enough. Sometimes it’s only after you’ve learned to accept the mystery that God reveals a bit of the answer.

Then again, sometimes one answer leads to another. . . .

Sighing, Blake moved to the edge of his seat. “What’s that look about?”

“I was just wondering . . . you know, about the rest of it. Everything else that happened here.”

Blake stood up, leaned over my chair, and braced himself with one arm. “Stop.” He smiled down at me, shaking his head.

“I can’t. You know how I am.”

He leaned closer, his eyes twinkling with a light that both accepted the questions and burned them away. “Yes, Allie Kirkland, I do know how you are.” He breathed the last words against my lips. “You never settle for just one piece of the story.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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