Authors: Chelsea Camaron
“Momma—” I try to choke out.
“He is my every wish for you. He is my answered prayer. You were my gift at the end of every day, baby girl. Axel, he’s a gift to you. But, honey, you deserve so much more and that is Shooter. He’s good, baby girl. He’s never gonna leave you or Axel. He’s solid. He is a real man. All of that is there with Shooter. Today, when you take those vows along with his name, you are getting something good, baby girl. You will be the only woman he will ever love. He will give you his name, his love, and his everything. He will take care of you. He will give you the best of him. Your burdens will be carried by him, no longer on your own. Tessie, he will lay the world at your feet and fight with everything inside him to ease your struggles. He will make the days come easy and make the moments last. He is your light. He is your gift at the end of every day.”
With shaking hands, I go about another curl as we both let the tears freely fall. Everything she says about Shooter is true—they don’t come any better than the man I am marrying today.
“I know, Momma, and I love him for it.” I release another curl and go about the next one.
“And he does you, as well. Today, I will proudly watch you become a wife to a truly honorable man. Today, I can breathe easier because, when I am no more, Shooter will be there to hold your hand. As a mom, I worry for you. I wonder who will be there for you when the day ends. Since you found Shooter, I don’t worry anymore. He will always take care of your every need. He will be your rock.”
“You’ve always been my rock, Momma,” I reply, not wanting her to feel replaced.
“And you are my rock, Tessie. You are my very best friend, you are my safe place, and you are my world. You are more than my daughter. You always have been. You’re my reason for being.”
I wipe the tears from my face as I try to move onto the next curl.
“As the saying goes, today, Shooter ‘takes’ you as his wife. Even though things will change, I’m not losing my daughter; I’m gaining a son. Enjoy your day, baby girl. This is the first day of the rest of your life.”
While her words sink in, I release the curl, setting the curling iron on the countertop. Without a word, I wrap my arms around her. I love Shooter with every breath I take. I am completely confident in marrying him, but something about having this moment with my mom makes it feel so right and so real.
“Jeans, man. I think we should wear jeans. Tessie said simple,” Rex whines.
“Suck it up. Tessie wants simple, but I want her mom to know we do clean up all right.”
We went out and bought white button up shirts and khaki pants for tonight. The ceremony is on the beach, so we are all going barefoot. No ties, nothing fancy, but my woman deserves to see her little man dressed up as he walks her down the aisle to me. If Axel is dressing up, Rex and I will, too. Well, our version of it.
“My dick feels restrained in these pants.”
“Shut the hell up,” I laugh at my brother.
After we finish helping Axel spike his hair, we make our way down to the beach. I give hellos to Fred and my parents as they settle into the white folding chairs that have been set out for everyone. Pride swells in me as I take in the people who have surprised us by showing up.
Rex did his own thing to make sure all the important people share this moment with us. Roundman, Danza, Tank, Sass, Frisco, and even Amy from the Haywood’s Landing charter are here. Tripp, Doll, Boomer—with Purple Pussy Pamela on his arm—and even Caroline are here from Catawba. Bowie, Lock, and Shay are in attendance since they were still in town from the graduation, and Ice and his crew are all settled in.
In one way or another, these people are all family to Tessie and me.
Rex escorts her mom down to her seat slowly and carefully. Taking a moment, I make my way over to her.
“Rex, take Axel to his mom so he can escort her down please.” He smiles at me as I kneel in front of my soon-to-be mother-in-law’s chair.
“I promise you, here and now, to take care of your daughter, her son, our children, and you. Today, as I stand up there, I not only commit my life to Tessie, but to you and Axel.”
Tears fill her eyes as she simply nods at me.
I squeeze her hand as I stand back up and take my place to wait for my bride. Blowing out a breath, I drop my head to my feet to take in this moment. When we leave here today, she will be my wife and I her husband. Something I never thought I would have is happening today.
When I look up, she takes my breath away. At the end of the make-shift aisle is my very reason for being—my son and my bride. He may be Rex’s by blood, but in my heart, he is just as much mine.
When her eyes meet mine, I have to remind myself to inhale. Never has she looked so beautiful. It is not the dress or her hair, although they are gorgeous; it is everything that is Tessie. Nothing is over-done, because she doesn’t need all that. Her beauty comes from the heart and radiates out into everyone and everything around her.
They reach the end of the aisle, our boy practically bouncing in excitement. He looks up at me, smiling bigger than ever before.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she, Shooter?” Axel asks me.
Before I can reply, Rex is stepping from behind me to high-five our son.
“Hell yes, she is, little man. You made an awesome escort. Looking good, buddy,” Rex whispers to Axel. I don’t know if I want to smack him for looking at my woman or laugh for the real bond he shares now with his son.
“Yeah, Axel, she’s the most beautiful girl in the whole world,” I say, not taking my eyes off my bride.
“Duh, she’s mom. You always say that, but today she’s rockin’,” Axel says with so much enthusiasm none of us can keep from laughing.
The officiant clears his throat to begin the ceremony. We have met with him briefly, giving him an idea of who we are and what we are about. We decided to give him time to open the ceremony a little bit, then we will share in our personal vows before closing out. Since this was not planned, we didn’t bring our rings, and our ceremony will be far from traditional, much like everything else about us.
As he begins his opening words, my chest swells with emotions. “Today, there will be no dearly beloved, no ancient rhyme of the married. Today, there are no dead languages to solemnize vows that are very much alive and will remain so for a lifetime. Today, promises become permanent. Two friends join together in love to become family. Today is not about the words spoken or the rings exchanged. It is not about grand pronouncements and recessional marches.
“This day is the day Andy and Tessie share their love with all of you as they commit to one another for this lifetime and beyond. For love knows no boundaries between this life and eternity. The love they share is one that it is all-encompassing. The love they share is one that is consuming, one that is as necessary as your next breath.”
When Tessie’s eyes fill with tears, I want to reach out and hold her, but it is not time yet. The words he speaks are so true, making me want nothing more than to hold her close now and always.
The officiant continues, “However, love isn’t simply a word; it’s an action. Love isn’t something you say; it’s something you do. Love is genuine, honest, and open. Love is compassionate, kind, passionate, and blind. Love doesn’t know space or time. As the Bible says in Corinthians, ‘
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.’
“Not only do Tessie and Andy love one another romantically—it’s in every look, every touch, and every moment they’re together—they also share the love of friendship. That love and enjoyment of each other in friendship will help sustain the promises they make today. Everyone here will help solidify this bond. This new journey will be at times richly rewarding and other times extremely difficult. Most importantly, this will be a ride you take together. With that, we will begin.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”
Axel makes a face before reaching out to me. I squat down in front of him, concerned about his reaction.
“Shooter, I can’t give her to you. This wasn’t part of the deal. You said hold her hand and bring her down the aisle to you. I mean, we can like share her, but I can’t give her to you. She’s my mom.”
I almost fall back laughing. Tessie is squeezing his hand and laughing as are everyone that could hear him. God, I love this little boy.
“We’re gonna share her. I’m not takin’ your mom away, I promise.”
Axel looks up to the officiant innocently. “We’re gonna share her. So I can’t say I’m giving her to anyone. Can she still get married, mister?”
The officiant laughs before replying, “Well, as long as no one objects, yes, son, she can still get married.” He looks out to our guests. “Is there anyone with any reason that these two should not join together as husband and wife today? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.”
When the moment passes and no one objects, he nods down to Axel. “Looks like we have a wedding to finish. How about you let Andy hold your mom’s hands and you come stand here with me?”
Axel does just that.
Once Tessie’s hands are in mine, I feel her squeeze. In this moment, my heart feels so full it may just burst.
“I love you,” I whisper to her as her eyes glisten with unshed tears.
The officiant begins, “Marriage is much more than your signatures on a legal contract. Today, you will make promises to each other in front of all these people that you love. Today, you are giving your word, your lives, and your love to one another for eternity. No pastor or priest or justice of the peace can create a marriage, because a marriage truly is nothing except the promises made and kept by two individuals. Andy and Tessie, your wedding day is one brief day in time. Although your vows are spoken in a matter of minutes, they are promises that will last a lifetime.”
Tessie smiles sweetly at me, knowing that for both of us this truly is the beginning of our future. A happiness neither of us imagined possible has been gifted to us in what has been a hard ride through life.
“Will you, Andy, cherish Tessie as your lawfully wedded wife, protecting her, tending to her needs through illness, disappointment, and all of life’s challenges?”
“With all that I have and all that I will be, I will,” I answer honestly, proudly, and with more love than I have ever felt in my lifetime.
“Will you strive to understand her, giving her comfort when she seeks it from you? Will you try never to say in anger that which you wouldn’t say in friendship? When night falls, will you go to sleep with thanks for her presence at your side and renewed love for her in your heart?”
“I will for eternity.”
He turns his attention to Tessie.
“Will you, Tessie, cherish Andy as your lawfully wedded husband, protecting him, tending to his needs through illness, disappointment, and all of life’s challenges?”
“I will,” she replies as she smiles at me.
“Will you strive to understand him, giving him comfort when he seeks it from you? Will you try never to say in anger that which you wouldn’t say in friendship? When night falls, will you sleep with thanks for his presence at your side and renewed love for him in your heart?”
“I will for eternity.”
I want to kiss her. I want to hold her to me. I want to take her home and show her just how much I love her. Forget the guests and ceremony. I am bursting with love for this woman, and I want nothing more than to join together as one with her body as much as we are joining our lives together right now.
The officiant looks to me, opening the time for us to recite the vows we have chosen to write ourselves.
As a tear falls from her face, I reach up to wipe it away with my thumb. She lays her face gently into my hand, and I lose all of my thoughts.
“Tessie, baby, I love you. I honor you. I cherish you. I promise to love you more tomorrow than I do today. I promise to honor you for always in all ways. I promise to cherish you, not only for the woman you are, but the woman you once were and the woman you will become as time changes. I promise to endure all things with you.
“It hasn’t always been easy for us apart, and it won’t always be easy for us together, but I promise you won’t be alone. I promise I will be your strength when you have none. I promise to be your shelter when the storms rage on. I promise to give you the best of myself and ask no more of you than you can give. I promise to accept you exactly as you are. I love you for the woman you are and the woman you have yet to become. I promise to be open to you. I promise to grow alongside you. I promise to be willing to face life as we both change in order to keep our relationship alive and thriving.”
I bring both my hands up to cup her face, wiping more tears with my thumbs as she stares into my eyes and straight to my soul. I want so badly to kiss her, but I know I have to wait. “I promise to love you in good times and in bad, with all I have to give and in the only way I know how … completely. It’s you and me, baby, for eternity.”
With shaking hands, she reaches up and holds my wrists as I continue to cup her face and wipe her tears. It may not be effective, but I need this connection to her, and not just holding her hands.
“Andy. Where do I begin? I love you. I honor you. I cherish you. I promise to love you more tomorrow than I do today. I promise to honor you for always, in all ways. I promise to cherish you, not only for the man you are, but the man you once were, and the man you will become as time changes. I promise to lean on you in times of trouble and in times of celebration. I promise to endure all things with you. I promise to give you the very best of myself and ask no more of you than you can give. I promise to accept you exactly as you are. I promise to hold on tight when the ride isn’t smooth. I promise to cherish you, your cars, and your Harley.” We all laugh as my woman lightens the mood.