On this day, 70 years ago, Lily and Fred were married. To honor that anniversary, here is an excerpt from the chapter about August 30th, 1947.
(P.S. Don’t forget to keep reading at the end for a very special announcement!)
…The creak of a door handle jerked Lily back to the moment.
Ruth was peeking out into the vestibule, bouncing in excitement, her dark blue dress bobbing around her knees.
“Keep that door shut, love.” Sissy’s voice reminded from across the room. She peered into a hand mirror as she arranged the filmy collar of her gown.
Soon. Very soon. Lily’s hands shook just a little inside her lace gloves. It couldn’t be much longer now.
Mother checked the clock. “We have ten minutes yet, love. You may wait in the vestibule if you’re ready. Just mind your bouquet and don’t drop it. Alice, will you go with her please?”
“Yes Mother.” Alice collected her own flowers and followed Ruth out the door, glancing down at her new blue shoes once or twice as she went.
“She loves those shoes.” Mother smiled, after they’d gone. “It was such a blessing that Tyler’s had some match the dress fabric so well.”
“That particular shade looks stunning with her hair too.” Sissy adjusted one of the carnations in her own curls. “The blue and red set each other off perfectly.”
“Yes.” There was a catch in Mother’s voice. “She looks quite the young lady today.”
Lily’s chest tightened a little. Poor Mother. First Robert, then Sissy, and now it was her turn. All in less than a year’s time.
“All your children are growing up, aren’t they, Mum?”
Mother sighed, but smiled afterward. “Well of course you are! I didn’t sign up to take care of five children my whole life, did I? Just so long as Alice doesn’t up and get married this year too, I’ll be alright. Ruth’s got awhile to go yet.”
Sissy got to her feet. “I’d better find Doug before he ends up at the front of the church with a crooked tie. He never can get it straight unless I fix it for him.”
“Can’t he really?” Lily let her eyes laugh at Sissy in the mirror. “How ever did he get it straight before you were married?”
Sissy huffed at her. “I haven’t the faintest idea. But I highly suspect his mother helped him!” She gathered up her bouquet. “Now if you’ll excuse me, sometimes we married ladies have responsibilities to attend to.” Eyes twinkling, she stuck out her tongue like she used to when they were both small, and then swept gracefully from the room.
The clock hands were moving steadily forward. Five more minutes, and then they had to be in the vestibule, lined up at the door.
Paper rustled as Mother rummaged in a bag she’d brought along that morning.
“What are you looking for, Mum?”
“But I’m not supposed to open presents until after–”
“This one you are. It’s from me.”
The package felt lumpy and hard. As if it were filled with golf balls or small onions perhaps. Keeping one eye on the clock, she tugged the bow loose and tore open the paper. A handful of fig-shaped brown bulbs tumbled out of it into her hand.
She recognized them at once. “Daffodils!”
“My favorite flower” Mother’s hands caressed her shoulders, and a kiss brushed her hair “…except one of course.”
Unbidden tears suddenly pricked Lily’s eyes, but she blinked them back. This was no time to smear her mascara.
“I dug them up last winter.” Mother explained. “I had too many anyway. And now you’ll have a bit of England with you wherever you go.”
Lily gulped back a lump that felt as big as a flower bulb. “What if…they won’t bloom in America?”
Mother squeezed her shoulders. “Nonsense. They’re British flowers, remember?”
The piano’s voice swelled louder as the door opened a few inches and Sissy’s face popped into view. “Mother! Lily! Come on. We’re all ready for you!”
So it was time.
Mother picked up the bridal bouquet and held it out.
Lily’s heart started fluttering like a nervous butterfly as she pushed back her chair, smoothed the pleats of her peplum, and reached for the flowers. White carnations for purity, pink ones for affection, and red ones for love. Intermingled with daisies and baby’s breath. Everyone who saw them said the flowers were absolutely perfect.
Her fingers tightened, clutching the stems, and all at once her mouth felt a little dry.
This was it.
The end of everything before. The beginning of everything after. Nothing would ever be just the same again. Once she said “I do,” that meant forever. She would be Freddie’s. Forever. Home would never be England again. It would be where Freddie was.
Joy, sorrow, excitement and fear swirled together in such confusion inside her that she could hardly tell which was which anymore. Her lip trembled a little. “Mum, I wish–”
“Don’t you do it.” Mother shook her head, her eyes bright. “God made you for this man. And him for you. Don’t you ever doubt it. All your wishing could never come up with something better, love. God’s plans are always the best for us.”
She knew that. In her head. And of course she wanted Freddie, more than anything else in the world. But if only there was some way loving Freddie didn’t have to mean leaving everything else she loved…
“Don’t you do it, Lily Brown.” Mother repeated, squeezing her hand. “You have to trust the Lord. And trust Freddie too.” She smiled. “Keep those eyes facing forward, my Lily. And just…live.”
Lily swallowed, and raised her chin. “Yes Mother.”
She would do her best.
* * * * *
Her sisters were already lined up in the vestibule, waiting to follow her into the church.
At the rehearsal, Freddie had said that was all backwards. The bride comes in last of all, like the icing on a cake.
Not in England they don’t! She’d informed him.
Mother left her next to Father, and went to take Robert’s arm. It was strange to only have one mother there to be seated at the beginning of the ceremony. Strange to think she’d never even met Freddie’s mother. Surely she must be a wonderful woman though, to raise a man like her son. And his father too. Freddie said he was good, kind man. Well, soon she would see for herself.
Speaking of fathers, her own father was offering his arm.
She shifted her bouquet and slipped her arm around his. The jacket he wore she’d only seen a few times. For weddings and funerals, mainly. Mother had starched it and ironed it until it looked almost new, though she knew it was far from that.
Father looked down at her and smiled, almost shyly. “You look beautiful. You remind me of your Mother, on our wedding day.” His tone was hesitant, as if he was unsure what to say.
“Thank you, Father.” She managed a smile in return. They’d hardly passed a word since the night she got Freddie’s telegram.
Father’s nose still looked a little different. There was a bump that had not been there before. It was strange how none of them had spoken of that night, after it happened. Not even once.
Perhaps they never would.
Father kept gazing down at her. There was something in his eyes, just the tiniest glimmer of something, that reminded her of the father she’d once known, long ago, before…everything.
“He’s a good man, your soldier.” he swallowed, looked at the floor for a moment, and raised his eyes to hers again. “I’m…glad.”
This time she didn’t have to force the smile.
Robert and Mother had gone through the doors already. The music was beginning to swell, announcing the bride.
“Are you ready?” Sissy’s whisper tickled her ear from behind.
Ready? Ready to join her life forever with one man, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parted them? How could a person ever feel truly ready for a promise like that?
And yet…and yet…
“Yes.” she found herself whispering back. For suddenly, somehow, she was.
With a final triumphant chord from the piano, the usher opened the door.
* * * * *
“Don’t look.” Doug warned under his breath.
Fred gripped his hands together and stared hard at the front of the church while the piano drummed out the processional march. Of all the British wedding customs, this no-looking business had to be one of the absolute worst. “How do I know when I can turn around?”
“By the music, remember? I’ll tell you.”
Well if the music didn’t hurry up, he wasn’t gonna to make it. His fingers drummed impatiently against the front of his uniform as he studied the crevice where the wall joined the ceiling. “In America, the groom gets to watch the bride come up the aisle.”
Doug chuckled silently. “Want me to peek over my shoulder and tell you what she’s wearing?”
Wearing? “Who cares what she’s wearing?” he whispered out the side of his mouth. “I haven’t seen her in almost twenty-four hours. I don’t care if she has on a raincoat and a checked apron! How did you stand it, just staring at the wall while Sissy came up the aisle?”
“I’m British. Weddings are always like that here.”
“Well I’m not British.”
Doug gave a tiny shrug. “Sorry. British wife, British wedding.”
Not quite. A grin started tugging at Fred’s face, but he wrestled it back down before it could give him away. Doug didn’t know about the little American addition to the ceremony that he’d orchestrated. Not even Lily knew that was coming.
In another minute, he was going to break the rules and turn around anyway. But he couldn’t. Shouldn’t. Quick, quick, think about something else. Anything. Aha! Bible verses. He’d go over some of the ones he’d memorized. Let’s see…
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it…
No, no, no. Bad choice. Try again.
Stay me with flagons…for I am sick with love…
Good grief! This wasn’t helping a bit. Maybe reading Song of Solomon all week had been a bad idea.
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine…
It was sure a good thing he had somebody to give him directions, because he never did hear that change in the music they’d all told him about. All of the sudden, Doug was softly bumping his arm.
“Fred, you can turn around now.”
Well it was about time!
He turned, trying his best not to spin around like a delirious top, and came face to face with her at last.
It was strange how the whole world could fade away into shadow, leaving only one breathtaking creature standing there all alone. No wonder Solomon wrote a whole book about love! He could feel it like a wild thing, rushing through his veins, throbbing in his ears. And those beautiful verses kept right on playing through his head the whole time.
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun?…
He’d been dead serious when he said he didn’t care what she was wearing. He saw it of course, but only vaguely. The dress was soft blue, almost the color of her eyes, and there were flowers, beautiful flowers that filled the air between them with perfume and nestled like a crown in her curls, while a wisp of creamy veil framed her face.
But that’s all any of it truly was. Just a frame. A beautiful, hazy frame.
It was only her face that he really saw.
The minister was starting in with “Dearly beloved” and all the other things they always said at weddings. Thank goodness there would be a bit of a speech before anybody expected the groom to start saying something. At the moment, if he opened his mouth, he was just going start shouting to the rooftops, “Behold though art fair my love. Behold thou art fair. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters!”
Because in the whole wide world there couldn’t possibly be another lily fairer than this Lily.
His to cherish. His to love.
Forever and ever.
What did you think? I hope you loved it as much as I do!
And now, for that special announcement I keep hinting about…
I’m very excited to let you all know that Lily and Freddie’s story at last has…
A Real Title!!!! (About time, isn’t it?)
Naming a book is no simple task. Sometimes the name comes to you at once, as soon as the story concept pops into your head. But if not, it often takes months and months of immersing yourself in the story-world, letting it flow in and out of you, listening to the characters talking to each other in your head, searching and searching and searching. Until at last, it comes.
For this book I wanted a special kind of title. Something meaningful. A word or a phrase or an idea that would particularly belong to Lily and Freddie. It eluded me for almost two years. But then, while looking back over my notes one day this month, I found it at last. I say “found” because I didn’t make it up myself.
When we go back and read over the notes and cards that he gave to Lily, almost without a single exception, they close with the same words every time.
Words that so perfectly express the deepest heartthrob of this story, that I can’t figure out why I didn’t see it long ago.
Are you ready? Here is the title:
It’s so perfect that I get chills just thinking about it.
(Now, just in case of a highly unlikely crisis, I’d better say that this is what’s called a “working title.” Which means it could still change at the time of publication if some unforeseen complication arose. But honestly, the chances of that happening seem pretty low to me. Oh yes, and if you were wondering, that is NOT the final book cover either. Though the final one will quite possibly look rather similar.)
Anyway. Are you excited? I am. I’m loving every minute of watching this story unfold. From brainstorming, to drafting, to editing, it’s all one marvelous adventure.
Please do comment below and let me know what you think of the title, or the sneak peek. I’d love to hear from you!