Part 14 (Conclusion)
Disclaimers: I don't know why I keep trying to disclaim these folks – goodness knows I've chatted with them/about them enough. So, I'll just say that all names, places, people, and situations I write about are fictional. They are not based on anyone or any place. Although Amanda would disagree, I do own these characters – so please, no stealing :)
If you have anything to tell me, please let me know at email@example.com . You can also get the scuttlebutt on my website, www.CarrieLCarr.com . Drop by and say hello.
Big time thank you: To my chat group at Carrie's Crossing, who keeps me motivated. And to my awesome beta readers, Kay and Kelly – thanks for keeping me on the right track!
Dedication: This story is dedicated to the love of my life, my beautiful Jan. She's the reason for everything I do. Forever and always, my love.
It’s been a hell of a ride, folks – thanks for going along with me. - Carrie
Ellie crossed the small living room and peered through the front window. “What time is it?”
“Thirty seconds after the last time you asked,” Lex drolly responded. “Calm down.” Her phone beeped and she glanced down at the display. “Ellie, come sit down for a few minutes, before you wear a hole in Martha’s carpet.”
“I see Lorrie out there. Maybe I should go—” Ellie squawked when Lex grabbed the back of her shirt. “Damn it, Lex!”
Unperturbed, Lex none-too-gently pushed her cousin toward the closest chair. “Sit down.”
“Do you always have to be such a jerk?” Ellie brushed her hands down her powder-blue, silk shirt. “Are you sure these jeans look okay with this shirt?”
Lex perched on the end of the coffee table, which put her directly in front of Ellie. “For the one-hundredth time, it’s fine. Now that I have your attention, I need to talk to you about something.”
“What? Is it Kyle? Is she okay?” Ellie tried to stand, but a firm hand on her shoulder kept her grounded. “Lex?”
“She’s fine. Your clothes are fine. Everyone and everything,” Lex sighed, “is fine.” She took a deep breath. “I know you wanted me to stand by you today, but—”
Ellie’s eyes grew wider. “Oh, no. You can’t back out, now. I need you.”
“Are you sure about that? Wouldn’t you rather have someone closer to you?”
“Lex, the only one closer to me than you, is Kyle. And she’s kinda busy.” Ellie didn’t notice the man coming out of the kitchen until he spoke.
“I see how I rate,” he joked. “I fly all the way from California, and this is the thanks I get?”
Ellie nearly bowled Lex over as she charged the newcomer. “Snot face!”
William Gordon, Ellie’s younger brother, caught her as she leapt into his arms. “It’s so damned good to see you.” He buried his face against her shoulder to hide his tears of happiness.
“Oh, my god. I can’t believe you’re here. How did, I mean, what—”
He pointed to Lex. “Ask my fairy godmother about it.”
Lex held up her hands. “Oh, no. I didn’t do it. Amanda did.” She pointed at them. “And don’t be calling me a fairy.”
Ellie laughed through her tears. “You’ve been called worse.” She looked into her brother’s eyes. “When did you get here? How did you get here?”
“Mr. Bristol picked me up at the airport.” William kept one arm around Ellie’s shoulders. “Why didn’t you tell me that you were getting married? We just talked on the phone last week.”
“I know, but I didn’t want you to waste your money on airfare. And you’ve told me before how you can’t afford to lose any time from work.”
Lex stepped by them. “I’ll see if Martha needs any help in the kitchen.” She shook William’s hand before making her escape. “It’s good to meet you.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for my sister.”
“Family means a lot down here,” Lex said. “That means you, too.” She winked and left.
William shook his head. “Wow, sis. Photos don’t do that woman justice.”
“Forget it, Billy-boy. She’s very taken.”
“Hey, I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just that she’s kind of, you know, intense.”
Ellie laughed at the redness in his face and poked him. “Uh-huh.” She pulled him into a one-armed hug. “Damn, I still can’t believe you’re here.” She looked at the clock on the mantel and gasped. “Oh, god. It’s time.”
Martha stepped out of the kitchen. “For goodness sakes, girl. Don’t just stand there with your mouth hangin’ open. Get yourself out there!”
“Yeah, you look like a ghost,” Lex helpfully added from behind her. “Try not to pass out before the ‘I-do’s’, Ellie.”
“Shut up, Lex.” Ellie glared at her, then swatted her brother when he laughed. “You too, Billy.”
Kyle nervously shifted from foot to foot while Anna Leigh brushed imaginary lint from her shoulder. “I can’t believe I’m this nervous,” Kyle muttered. “What do you think that says about me?”
“I believe it says that you’re taking the commitment seriously, dear. That’s a good thing.”
When Ellie and her brother came through the gate, Kyle turned and stared.
Anna Leigh tapped her on the back. “Breathe, Kylie.”
“Uh.” Kyle had always thought Ellie was a beautiful woman. Her light, brown hair framed her face like a fine portrait. Ellie’s pale, brown eyes seemed to always look directly into her soul and give her the peace she always craved.
Kyle had felt like an outsider her entire life. She had never fit in with her gregarious family, preferring being alone to the awkward silences her presence would bring. She loved her family and would be the one they always went to when they needed something. When she finally came out to those that professed to love her, their outrage and disdain tore her apart. But the day she was chewed out by a feisty nurse in the driveway of a duplex was the day her life changed for the good.
Lex snapped her fingers in front of Kyle’s face. “Don’t go passin’ out on us.”
“What?” Kyle’s eyes never left Ellie, who continued to move closer to her. “Where’d she get those clothes?”
Amanda stood nearby and whispered, “I took her shopping. She looks great in black and white, doesn’t she?”
“Please, take your places,” Reverend Hampton directed. He stared at Lex until she sat on the front row with Lorrie and Melanie.
Lex leaned close to the girls. “Where’s Eddie?”
“With Mada.” Lorrie pointed her thumb back over her shoulder. “She’s back there sitting by Pawpaw.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks.” Lex turned to look and couldn’t keep from grinning. “Hey!” She jumped up and hurried to the third row, where Martha and Charlie were talking quietly with a new arrival. “Hubert!”
Hubert Walters stood and wrapped his arms around his sister for a mighty hug. “You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you.” He had spent a week by her bedside when Lex was hospitalized with pneumonia, then returned to Oklahoma to help his wife, Ramona, with her ill father.
“Thanks.” Lex pulled away and lightly poked his stomach. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
“I asked Amanda to keep it a surprise, in case I couldn’t get away.”
Lex nodded. “How’s your father-in-law? Any better?”
When Reverend Hampton loudly cleared his throat, everyone, including Lex and Hubert, quickly settled onto their chairs. “Thank you all for being here today.” He smiled at the two women in front of him. “Kyle and Ellie. Are you both ready?”
Kyle looked at her lover and nodded. “Ready as we’ll ever be, Reverend. Right, El?”
“Rrr,” Ellie had to clear her throat. “Right.” She ignored the laughter of her friends and family, and kept her eyes on Kyle. “Yes.”
“Very well. Let’s get this started, shall we?” He took a deep breath and opened his bible.
“Wait.” Kyle caught everyone off guard by her interruption. She never took her eyes off of Ellie. “I know we said we didn’t want to say our own vows, but I’ve changed my mind.”
Ellie’s expression was a combination of surprise and understanding, with a healthy dose of love tossed in. “Me, too.”
The reverend chuckled and closed his bible. “Well, that’s wonderful.”
Kyle gently gripped Ellie’s hands. “I’ve always said I wasn’t the hearts and flowers type. But, standing here with you today made me realize that I lied. I may not have started out that way, but being with you has changed me.” Her quirky grin brought a matching one from her lover. “You made me realize what love was all about, El. Your love has given me permission to be who I am, not who I thought others wanted to see.” She kissed Ellie’s knuckles. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Ellie whispered. She blinked the tears from her eyes and stared at their joined hands. “I never thought I’d find someone like you, Kyle.” She shrugged and sniffled. “I’d resigned myself to going through life alone. I mean, I never thought I was good enough for someone.” She shook her head when Kyle opened her mouth to argue. “No, I realize now, thanks to you, that I am.” She squeezed Kyle’s hands. “I hope you always know how very much I love you, Kyle.”
“That was quite beautiful, ladies.” The reverend smiled broadly and stood a little straighter. “True love is a joy to see. It doesn’t matter who we are, only that we care and understand. May the two of you know this feeling for the rest of your days.” He nodded. “Well, go on. Seal the deal with a kiss.”
Ellie’s face turned beet red, but she leaned forward and met Kyle halfway. The roar of blood pulsing through her ears was soon drowned out by the cheers of her family, which she ignored as her arms circled Kyle’s neck.
Voices overlapped in the crowded living room, drowning out the soft music that floated through the air. The happy couple sat close together on the loveseat, holding hands and ignoring the world around them.
Kyle whispered into Ellie’s ear, causing her to blush. They shared a private laugh, much to the amusement of another couple nearby.
“Aren’t they cute?” Amanda asked her wife, who was on the sofa beside her.
Lex nodded. “It’s great to see Ellie so happy. Although I’m a little worried about her brother hanging out with Ronnie. No telling what kind of trouble they’ll get into.”
“Ha. You know as well as I do that Ronnie does whatever Nora tells him to do. He’s completely and totally wrapped around her little finger.” Amanda snuggled closer and sighed. “As much as I love our family and friends, I wish this day was over.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Lex stretched her legs out. “Do you think anyone would notice if we headed upstairs?”
“Just what do you have in mind?”
Lex leaned closer until their faces were inches apart. “After all these years, I still have to tell you?”
Amanda kissed the tip of her nose. “Of course not. I just like to hear you say it.”
“Good grief,” Jeannie lamented as she plopped onto the sofa arm beside her sister. “You two are worse than them.” She hitched her thumb toward the newlyweds. “Have you seen my husband? We need to go rescue Lois from our boys.”
“I don’t know why you didn’t just bring the boys with you.” Lex put her arm around Amanda and poked Jeannie. “Unless you’re using them as an excuse to leave early.”
“Excuse? Who says I need an excuse, Slim?” Jeannie tried to poke her back, but was pushed off the arm of the couch by Amanda. “Hey, watch it!” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her sister. “What did you do that for?”
Amanda sweetly smiled at her. “Do what?”
Jeannie pushed her into Lex. “You suck.”
Before Amanda could retort, Lex covered her mouth. “Jeannie, I think your dad is calling you.”
“He is?” Jeannie looked around the room and spied Michael taking pictures by the fireplace. She pointed at Amanda. “This isn’t over, brat.”
Amanda waggled her eyebrows and licked Lex’s palm.
“Ew. Damn, why did you do that?”
“That’s what you get.” Amanda checked her watch. “Let’s see if we can clear some of these people out of here.” She stood and held her hand out to Lex. Once they were both on their feet, she moved to the center of the room and faced Ellie and Kyle. “Can I have everyone’s attention, please?”
The room quieted, except for Eddie, who sat on Hubert’s lap and seemed to be telling him a story. Hubert shrugged and grinned, which delighted the toddler.
Amanda shook her head. “Anyway, I know you two asked that no gifts be given today,” she directed at the newlyweds. “But, you know Lex and me well enough to understand that we’d find a way around that, right?”
Ellie laughed and leaned her head against Kyle’s shoulder. “I should have known.”
“We’re not going to need batteries, are we?” Kyle joked, causing her partner to blush.
Lex rested her arm across Amanda’s shoulders. “Nah. Well, maybe.” She grunted as her wife elbowed her in the stomach. “Bully.”
“As I was saying,” Amanda continued, “we wanted to make sure you started off on a good note. So, we all pitched in for this.” She handed an envelope to Ellie, who passed it to Kyle. When Kyle stared at the seal, Amanda urged, “Go on. Open it.”
“All right.” Kyle fiddled with the edge until she was able to use her finger to tear it open. She pulled out several sheets of paper and handed them to her partner.
Ellie read the papers and looked up. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“What is it, baby?” Kyle peeked over her hand. “Holy shit. No way!” She steadied Ellie’s shaky grip on the papers. The first page was a detailed itinerary of a four day, three night trip to San Francisco. “This…this is too much. I can’t afford to take this much time off.”
Kyle’s boss, J.B. Davis, laughed. “I think we can survive a few extra days without you, Kyle.” He raised his bottle of beer in their direction. “Consider the time off with pay as my little present.”
When Ellie looked at Rodney, he held up his hand to forestall her argument. “Same here, Ellie. It’s the least I could do. Enjoy yourselves.”
“Wow.” Ellie shook her head and rubbed her eyes. “This whole day has been like a dream.”
“Don’t dream too long,” Lex teased. “A limo will be at your place tomorrow morning to take you to the airport.”
Kyle stood and helped Ellie to her feet. “Looks like we’ve got some packing to do, baby.”
“I guess so.” While Kyle hugged Amanda, Ellie took a few steps and embraced her cousin. She closed her eyes and held onto Lex for a long moment. “Thanks for everything. I don’t know how to repay you for today.”
“Be happy, Ellie. That’s the best payment.” Lex kissed the side of her head. “Now, get out of here, before I become a blubberin’ mess.”
Ellie laughed and backed away. She saw the sparkle of tears in Lex’s eyes. “Yeah. If you start, I’ll join you.” She moved in and hugged Amanda. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“My pleasure,” Amanda assured her. She squawked when Jeannie goosed her. “What?”
“Quit hogging them,” Jeannie ordered. “Let the rest of us have a turn.” When she felt a hard swat on her rear, she spun around. “Mandy! I swear—” she saw her husband grin. “Roddy?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He nodded his head to the right, where Michael stood with his camera.
Michael took her picture as the rest of the room continued to laugh. He backed away slowly until he reached the hallway, then quickly disappeared.
It took them close to fifteen minutes to walk from the living room to the front porch, but neither Kyle nor Ellie seemed to mind. Ellie stood on the steps, fending off the well-wishes of Lorrie, Melanie and Jeannie, while Kyle stayed a few feet away and enjoyed the gentle laugh of her partner.
“It was a beautiful ceremony, Kylie.”
Kyle turned and nodded. “Thanks, A.L. And thank you for standing with me.”
Anna Leigh smiled. “It was entirely my pleasure, dear.” Her smile turned wistful. “Have a wonderful time.”
“We will.” Kyle took Anna Leigh’s hand and gently squeezed it. “I’m going to miss our morning coffee.”
“Oh, please. You won’t have time to miss babysitting an old woman.” Anna Leigh touched her cheek. “Enjoy every moment with her, Kylie. Cherish each second.”
Unable to speak, Kyle nodded. She pulled Anna Leigh into a firm embrace and held her. “I swear to you that I will.”
After the last guest departed, Lex closed the door and sighed. She loved her extended family, but too much of a good thing was exhausting. She shuffled into the living room and flopped onto the sofa beside Amanda. “Remind me again why we host these things?”
Amanda lazily turned her head from the cushion she was propped against. “Because we have the largest house, I think.”
“Or we’re the biggest suckers,” Lex countered with a yawn. “Good lord. I feel like I’ve been brandin’ cattle all day.”
Amanda snorted. “Thanks for that visual.”
“I pictured my sister, hog-tied and screaming, getting a brand on her butt.”
Lex laughed along with her. “She’s probably bellow like an old brood cow,” she added, causing Amanda to laugh louder. “Mooo, Mandy!”
“Oh, god,” Amanda wheezed. “Stop before I pee my pants.” She tumbled onto Lex and continued to giggle. As her laughter quieted, Amanda moved around until she was tucked against her wife’s side, with one hand lightly stroking Lex’s stomach. “You realize that the next time I see her, I’m gonna lose it, don’t you?”
“Me, too.” Lex shifted so she could rest her cheek against Amanda’s head. “This is the best way to end the day.”
Amanda sighed. “Amen.” She closed her eyes and slowly relaxed. “It’s a shame Hubert had to go back to Oklahoma. I was hoping he could spend a few days.”
“Yeah. He seemed anxious to get back to Ramona. To be honest, I was surprised he drove all the way down here, with her father so ill.”
“He wanted to surprise Ellie. And speaking of surprises, what do you think of Billy staying with Ronnie and Nora?”
Lex yawned again. “I think Nora’s got her hands full. They sure seemed like long-lost brothers, though. It’ll be good for both of ‘em.” She kissed Amanda’s head. “Speaking of kids, ours seem a little too quiet.”
Amanda opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. “Lorrie said she didn’t mind watching Eddie, right?”
“Yep. Last I heard, she was gonna read to him. He likes when she acts out the characters in his books. Although she’d probably stop if she knew we knew about it.” Lex stopped and listened. “This is spooky.”
“Maybe we should sneak upstairs and check on them.” Amanda started to get up, but Lex pulled her down. “What?”
Lex wrapped both arms around her and nuzzled Amanda’s neck. “Let’s trust Lorrie, sweetheart. She’s smart enough to call for us if she needs us.” She pulled Amanda’s blouse free from her jeans and grinned as her wife gasped at her touch. “I’m sure we can find something to do down here.”
“Yeah, oh.” Amanda arched her back as Lex’s warm hand slipped beneath her bra. “I thought you were tired.”
“I’m never too tired for you.” Lex rolled until Amanda was lying on the couch. She lowered her face and looked into her wife’s eyes. “I love you.”
Amanda stretched her arms so that she could lock her hands behind Lex’s neck. “I love you, too.” She pulled Lex’s head down.
“Momma, Lorrie’s being mean to me,” Melanie announced from the doorway.
Her yell startled her parents. Amanda jumped, which caused her to knock Lex into the floor.
“Ow! Dammit!” Lex growled. “Mel, what have we told you about yelling inside?”
Amanda hurriedly adjusted her top and sat up. “What’s going on?”
Melanie sniffled and walked around the couch. “Momma, why are you on the floor?”
Lex gritted her teeth to keep from saying something she’d regret. She accepted Amanda’s assistance and got to her feet. “I think a better question is why are you downstairs, tattling?”
“Um.” Melanie chewed on the end of her index finger while she thought of an answer. In the Walters’ household, telling on someone was as wrong as hurting them. “I wanted Eddie to play dolls with me, but Lorrie said no.”
Lex squatted beside her so they were eye to eye. “And why did she say no?”
Melanie looked to Amanda for help, but her mother just shook her head. “Um. She said, he wasn’t…uh. Umm.” She stopped to think. “‘Cause Lorrie’s mean.”
“If I go up there,” Lex started, “what will I find?”
“Umm.” Melanie took a few steps back. “They’re in Eddie’s room on his bed.” She walked around the sofa and peeked over the top. “Lorrie’s reading, and they won’t play with me.”
Amanda touched her hand. “I think you need to go to your room and think about what you did, Melanie. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Melanie looked at Amanda, then turned her sad face to Lex. “Momma?”
Lex stood. “You heard her, Melanie. Upstairs.”
Once Melanie had slunk from the room, Lex pulled Amanda off the couch and into her arms. “Do you want to be the good guy or bad guy, this time?”
Amanda chuckled and swatted Lex on the butt. “I’m always the bad guy, honey. You crumble every time she looks up at you with those big, tear-filled eyes.”
“I can’t help it,” Lex muttered. “She looks just like you.”
“What are you saying?”
Lex slipped away from Amanda. “Uh, I mean, she has your eyes.”
“Uh-huh.” Amanda stalked her across the room. “Come here, Lex.”
“I think I’ll run check on Eddie,” the largest chicken on the Rocking W Ranch said, just as she hustled out of the room.
Amanda laughed as she followed behind at a more leisurely pace. While life with Lex was always interesting, she wouldn’t change a thing.
** As you know, I never say it’s the complete end of Lex & Amanda’s story – the moment I think that, they tap me on the shoulder again. So I’m sure we’ll hear more from them. Thank you all for following along and sticking with me – Carrie **
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