Secret Epilogue from Head On

Warning: If you haven’t yet read the book, this scene contains spoilers!

Ten months later…

Twin streaks, gold and chocolate, barreled through the reception picnic, but no one seemed to mind the dogs much. All eyes, save those of the Labrador retrievers and the children chasing them behind the newly-renovated Jessup ranch house, were on the bride and groom. Framed by flower-twined posts of a fairytale gazebo, the two were feeding each other the first bites from their wedding cake.

A hundred cameras clicked almost as one to capture the way they looked against the blue perfection of the September day, but only a few photographs would capture the sweet yearning in their faces for this part to be over, for their real lives to begin.

“They’re still so young,” Beth Ann whispered to her husband as she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Do you really think they’ll be okay?”

Lowering the camera, Mark gave her hand a squeeze. “They’ll be fine. Stop worrying. If Damon can survive this past year, he can survive anything, even… marriage.”

Beth Ann elbowed him playfully, and laughed at his exaggerated, “Ooof.”

“Katie’s an absolutely gorgeous bride,” Beth Ann said, her happiness erasing much of the fatigue that had pressed on her. Along with Cheryl and the bride’s mother, she’d done much of the decorating on her own, and she was still working part-time, including a late shift last night.

Mark looked into her face and gave her one of those smiles that had her melting — and wondering how they might possibly slip unnoticed to their bedroom, with what seemed like half of Eudena’s population on the property. Though she and Mark considered them all friends, many had been on their payroll these past months, working on the house and the new plant, which had sparked great optimism for Eudena’s future.

“You’d better not stand next to her,” he said and pressed a kiss against her forehead. “Or people will notice you outshine her.”

“You’re awfully sweet and loyal, even if you are delusional. Or possibly near-sighted.”

“I’m not crazy and I don’t need glasses. I’m just proud as hell. Do you think — would it be all right if we told them? Only a few people.”

“Hah. Since when has anybody around here been able to limit hot gossip to a few choice friends? Besides,” she added, “we don’t want to upstage Damon and Katie’s happy day.”

What neither Mark nor Beth Ann guessed was that their news was out already. Eli, who couldn’t keep a secret any better than the other residents, had already told his kindergarten class that he would soon be a big brother. As a result, the news had spread, from both the children and their teacher to each of the friends and neighbors gathered here today. And though they were pretending not to know to spare the Jessups’ feelings, every one of them — the bride and groom including — itched with impatience for the couple to finally make their big announcement so that all could celebrate the coming of new life and hope to Hatcher County.

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