Once upon a time, I wrote an epilogue for CALLED UP. As with the one for CALLING IT, this one didn’t quite fit when it came to word count. My editor may also have had an issue with how sappy it is, but, well, that’s part of what an epilogue should be, right? (If you’re answer to that is “No,” then do not read further, LOL.) I couldn’t quite let it die, though, so I thought I’d share it here.
Warning, SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t read CALLED UP yet. But if you haven’t read CALLED UP yet, and you don’t mind reading the ending first, then go to it. If you have already read the book, then yay! Either way, I hope you enjoy…
CALLED UP: EPILOGUE
He did it in the spring. It was the middle of May, a day very much like the first day they’d ever laid eyes on each other all those years ago: sun shining bright, puffy white clouds in the sky, so perfect that it was almost impossible to believe the devastation that had brought them to this place.
Fitz woke up alone, feeling his absence before her eyes even opened, but with a smile on her face at the thought of how he’d loved her last night, how he’d gifted her with another day of happiness. When she turned to her side, she saw his note: Angel—Had some shit to do. But I’m taking you out to lunch today. I’ll pick you up at 11:30 at your office. Love you.
She didn’t think much of it since he did that occasionally. And when he started it off with Angel, she knew it was going to be good.
She didn’t even mind when it was Dorie who actually showed up. “Deke got caught up so I said I’d pick you up on the way.”
“On the way to wha-?” Fitz tried to ask, but was cut off as Dorie started swearing when their fellow small town neighbors didn’t hold up to Dorie’s Boston driving expectations. Having been down this route before, Fitz just smiled and sat back, going through her various to do lists as the scenery passed by.
She was distracted enough that it was a good ten minutes before she realized they’d headed out to the middle of nowhere. Or, rather, to the fishing hole in the middle of nowhere—except they’d gone a really roundabout way. At the same time she realized where they were, she also realized that someone had…
“What the hell?” she exclaimed, furious that someone had built some kind of structure exactly where Deke liked to park his jeep. A wooden structure with four sturdy posts. Not unattractive, but still…
And as they cleared the little hill right above, Fitz also noticed that, even worse, someone had parked a trailer, of all things, a little off to the side.
“They can’t. . . That’s not. . .” she said, finally coming out with, “That is not okay. We need to talk to Mama Gin. I mean, you need a permit for something like this, right?”
“Totally,” Dorie murmured. Except she drove right up to the trailer as if she knew exactly what it was. She was out of the car before Fitz could even process it, and on her way to the trailer’s door. In fact, she went right up to it, gave a light knock, and then went in.
Okay, Fitz thought. She had clearly missed something here.
Was there an event she had forgotten about? Things had been beyond crazy lately—it was entirely possible. Or maybe it was just something Dorie had to do on their way to wherever they were meeting Deke. With a sigh, Fitz pulled out her phone and sent him a text. I think we’re going to be a little late.
No worries, Angel, he texted right back. Love you forever.
With that thought on her mind, Fitz smiled and got out of the car, deciding that if Dorie was going to take so long, she may as well head over and see what the structure was. But then she heard Dorie call her name, gesturing at her to come inside.
Fine. Whatever. She headed to the trailer.
Thumbing through her emails as she walked, she distractedly climbed the trailer’s two little stairs and entered, her gaze taking in a flash of white off to the side. It was so surreal she actually did a double take, turning to see it was a dress. A wedding dress.
Not just any wedding dress, but one she recognized—she hadn’t been able to keep her eyes off of it back in Boston when they’d been searching for Dorie’s gown.
Then she realized it wasn’t just Dorie in the trailer, but Dorie’s mom of all people, who came towards Fitz and engulfed her in a huge hug.
“No time to waste, Angelica,” she was saying.
“No time for wha…?” Fitz gasped as Dorie lifted the gown and gently pushed Fitz towards the back bedroom.
And it did require a push, because Fitz was frozen in place, her feet stuck to the ground. Her head turned in slow motion as the door opened up.
“Nate?” Fitz’s mouth dropped open. He was wearing a tux. She whirled around to face Dorie. “Are you guys renewing your vows? Don’t you usually wait a little longer to do that?” Really. They’d just gotten married. And why wasn’t Dorie wearing the dress she’d worn then?
But Fitz wouldn’t put it past them. They were seriously that sickeningly in love.
Nate’s laugh drew her attention back to him. He looked at Dorie. “She has no clue.”
With an indulgent shake of her head, Dorie smiled. “None whatsoever.”
If they weren’t being so irritating, Fitz may have thought a little bit more about it. Instead, she just glared at Nate because it was easier to be a snotty brat to him than to her best friend. “Is this going to take long? I have lunch plans.”
He just laughed again.
Rather than smack him, Fitz allowed Dorie to pull her into the back room. It was a tiny little room, feeling more so because Jules, Ella, Lola and Mama Gin were there as well. And they were all wearing really pretty dresses, making Fitz feel even more in the dark since she was standing there in a pair of khaki capris and a navy blue top.
This time Fitz didn’t care how snotty it was. She stomped her foot and snapped, “Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”
That set off a giggling fest as each woman hugged her in turn, and then left the room, Mama Gin being the second to last, since Dorie was staying behind.
“Time for you to get dressed,” Mama Gin said, tears sparkling in her eyes as she leaned in and gave Fitz a hug that tightened after a few seconds. “Your mom and dad would be so proud of who you’ve become, baby. I know I am.”
With that, she left the room, leaving just Fitz and Dorie. As she stood there watching Dorie take the dress off its hanger, Fitz suddenly felt very dizzy.
“Oh, my God.”
Dorie laughed. “Yep.”
“Oh, my God,” Fitz said again, her brain finally allowing the pieces to fall into place. “I’m getting married today.”
This time Dorie only smiled.
Fitz could barely breathe. “This is my lunch date with Deke.”
“Plus some friends and family,” Dorie added. She held up the dress. “Ready?”
It was a whirlwind from that point forward. As soon as the dress was on, Dorie swept her back out to the main room and, to a chorus of oohs and aahs, Dorie’s mom got to work with straight pins and measuring tape.
So, apparently Deke had gone to Dorie, who’d gone straight to her mom, who’d gone straight to the tailor who had worked on Dorie’s wedding and still had Fitz’s measurements. They’d ordered the gown in December and made enough alterations so it was now only a nip here and a tuck there.
The dress came off so Jules and Lola could do Fitz’s make-up and hair. Ella kept the champagne glasses full and Dorie and Mama Gin kept Fitz distracted enough not to have a nervous breakdown then and there. Twenty minutes later—right as the dress went on one final time—there was a knock on the door and Nate was back.
His eyes softened as he saw her in her gown, and, although he was usually pretty good at hiding his emotions, his voice was scratchy and gruff when he said, “You look good, Fitz.” He smiled. “Kind of like you’re actually on board with all of this.”
Tears threatened again, stopped only by Jules’ horrified, “Don’t cry! You can not cry!”
It made Fitz smile instead as she nodded. “I guess I kind of am.”
And although there seemed to be a suspicious brightness in Nate’s eyes as well, he powered through. “Because you know all you need to do is say the word, and I’ll be happy to kill him. Slowly.” He mouth settled into a grim line—he still wasn’t entirely happy with Deke for breaking up with her, although he wasn’t exactly one to talk. Especially because she and Deke had only been broken up for a few hours, whereas he and Dorie had been apart for almost six weeks. “Painfully.”
He wasn’t exactly happy they’d gotten back together, either.
“Nope.” Fitz smiled. “Not today.”
Then, since she’d spent the last few hours thinking of the man in question and was suddenly desperate to see him, she turned to Dorie. Demonstrating why she’d become Fitz’s best friend in the world, she turned to her husband and briskly said, “Time to go.” She made shooing motions at him; well, at everyone.
For once, there wasn’t a hint of sadness anywhere in Fitz’s body when she watched Nate put his hand on Dorie’s shoulder, then bend down to whisper something in her ear.
“I love you both so much,” Fitz was surprised to hear herself say.
It was obviously a private moment; she had no business butting in. And yet when they looked up in surprise, she couldn’t help but add, “I didn’t really believe love worked. Not until the two of you.”
Then they were hugging her. and guiding her outside to where the other women were standing. Jules’s daughter had joined them and was holding a bucket full of purple irises, a beautiful yellow ribbon tied around each stem.
There was music playing from down by the creek as, one by one, the other women took a flower and disappeared around the side of the trailer in what had apparently become Fitz’s bridal procession. Dorie stood up on tippy toes to give Nate a quick kiss, then wrapped Fitz in a huge hug before disappearing as well, leaving Nate holding his arm out for Fitz to take.
Although she thought she was ready, the sight that greeted her down by the creek took her breath away so suddenly that she stumbled.
If it weren’t for Nate’s guiding her, Fitz probably would have either sunk down to the ground or maybe gone the opposite route, and run the rest of the way. Thankfully he was there, though, because it gave her those precious moments to savor the sight in front of her, the man who’d become so beautiful to her in so many ways.
And when Deke smiled—when she heard his whispered, “Angel,” she almost broke down right there.
She knew Deke loved her. She knew he’d promised her forever. But in that moment, seeing him stand there in the sun, his hair so golden and his eyes so bright, she knew she wasn’t his angel, he was hers. He’d brought her out of a darkness so bleak she hadn’t even realized how lost she’d been. And that was saying something, because she’d thought she was downright gone.
She’d been wrong.
Not waiting for Nate to walk the rest of the way, she picked up her skirt and flew into Deke’s arms.
“Too much?” he asked, even as his grip tightened around her. “Every single person here knows that one word from you and this all gets packed up without a word ever spoken about it again. No harm, no foul.”
Tears now flowing freely from her eyes, Fitz shook her head. “Just right.”
Nodding, Deke let go of her and then held up his hand before the pastor could start. “Hold up, everyone. I kind of missed a step.”
Her heart stuttering only a little bit, Fitz fought off the fleeting moment of panic. This was her Deke. This wasn’t him getting cold feet; she’d never known anyone as sure about what he wanted as Deke was. Still, she had to concentrate on her breathing as she watched him fumble in his pocket for something.
…Which he must have dropped, because now he was down on his knees.
On one knee to be exact.
She gasped at the same time a sigh rippled through the crowd.
Looking up into her eyes, Deke only smiled wider as he took her hand. “I’ve loved you since the first day I laid eyes on you sixteen years ago. You’ve brought light into my life every day since then, and there is nothing I want more than to spend every day from here to eternity bringing light into yours.” There was suddenly a diamond ring sliding up her finger, the sun’s rays dancing over the square-cut stone. “Marry me, Angel.”
She couldn’t speak; the words were stuck in her throat. But she could nod.
Then she took his face in her hands and kissed him, her soul resettling as she found her strength in him.
So, after the shortest engagement in the history of the world, Angelica Wade Hawkins married Max Deacon.
“Breathe, baby,” Deke whispered. “It’s all good.”
And it was.
~ The End ~
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