I’ll never, ever say this out loud, but when Reagan decided to give our wedding to another couple, I was relieved. It’s stupid. I know it is. But I can’t get over the idea that maybe—just maybe—what if…what if I’m not good enough for her? What if she could do better?
What if she wakes up one day and realizes she made a mistake by picking me?
I have my arm around her shoulders as we watch Patty Michaels walk down the aisle that was meant to bring Reagan to me as my wife, wearing the dress that Reagan picked out, carrying flowers that Reagan was supposed to carry. Reagan has her hand on my knee and she squeezes gently. She looks up at me and blinks her eyes, staring at my face.
“Are you all right?” she whispers.
I nod. “Fine.” I kiss her on the tip of her nose.
“Mm-hmm.” I look at Patty and John, and I can feel the emotion rolling off of them.
We met Patty and John at the beach, where we’re staying for a working vacation. We’re really here for a festival where we’ll be doing tattoos for our reality TV show, but it’s the first vacation we’ve taken as a family in a really long time. Patty and John own the house next to the one we’re renting. Patty has cancer and they already know she’s going to die. She’s done with chemo and there’s nothing more they can do for her.
Reagan gave Patty and John our wedding. It was an impromptu wedding we threw together on the spur of the moment. It’s not like it’s something we’ve been planning for a long time. It was just supposed to be the two of us on the beach, with our families around, formally committing ourselves to one another.
Right after we announced to my family that we wanted to get married, Reagan said something that worries me.
We were happy, and I said something about kids, since Matt’s wife, Sky, is pregnant again. I’m jealous. I want that. But the way she reacted when I brought it up, Reagan made me feel like she doesn’t want the same thing.
Reagan lays her head on my shoulder and I automatically tip my head to keep her there, leaning to get closer to her. Sometimes I feel like I could crawl inside her and stay there forever. But today I’m doubting myself.
Patty and John just got back together after a pretty long separation. If they’re lucky, they’ll get about a month together before the end, if that long. I look down at Reagan in my arms, and I think about all the ways that I love her. I know that if she were sick like Patty, I would be devastated.
I think about Henry and the way that he loved Nan. I want that. I want to grow old with Reagan. But even more than that, I want to have kids with her. I want to grow to be more than we are now.
Matt and Sky are sitting in front of us, and they have their four small kids with them. They adopted the oldest two girls, and then they had twins—a boy and a girl. Their family is getting bigger and bigger, and Matt loves every second. He’s going to have enough for a softball team if they keep going.
Matt reaches behind him and plops Hoppy into my lap. I lift my arm from around Reagan and put my hands on Hoppy’s tiny little waist and she jumps up and down. “I’ll be right back,” Matt says. “Hold her for me for a second, will you?”
With the way that Joey is dancing, I’m guessing he needs to take her to the bathroom. Sky has Matty in her lap, and Mellie is in the chair next to her. I chuckle when I realize that when the new one gets here they’re going have more children than they have arms.
Hoppy makes a happy noise in my lap, and I pick her up so I can blow a razzberry into her belly. She laughs out loud, and Reagan shushes us. But she’s grinning, too. She claps her hands together and Hoppy jumps toward her, so I hand her over. Reagan sits back and Hoppy leans against her, still and quiet while she gnaws on a plastic container of gum Reagan pulled from her pocket.
“You sure you’re okay?” Reagan asks me. She looks worried and I want to reassure her, but I’m not sure I can.
I nod and tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
I don’t know how to tell her what I’m feeling.
Reagan watches Patty and John as they exchange their vows, and she wipes a tear from her eye. I can’t help it. I’m a little choked up too. Even knowing that Patty’s life is nearly over, they took the opportunity to reaffirm their love for one another. It’s heartbreaking. And so fucking beautiful.
When the ceremony is over, everyone goes to Patty and John’s beach house to sit on the deck, and Emily plays the guitar for us. Patty looks tired, but she also looks like she’s going to push through it, so no one insists that she take a nap, or take a break, or anything else. They just let her enjoy it. That’s what life’s about. Enjoying it.
When the party is over, I help clean up the chairs and party decorations, and Sam comes toward me carrying a football. “Want to toss the ball around?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I think I’m just going to take a walk.” I look around for Reagan but she’s not outside. That’s probably for the best.
I heave a sigh and nod. Sam is quiet as we walk down the beach. The sun is setting and the wind blows softly. It’s beautiful out here. But inside me, it’s not quite so beautiful.
I jerk my head up to look at him. “What do you mean?”