by David Wisehart
The storm blustered in like a drunken uncle, hovered like an in-law, and dropped nine inches of rain on Turtle Island before Zoey could say "I do."
She stood with Peter at the altar, wearing her traveling clothes, light cotton and old denim still damp from the dash between her rental car and the lodge. Zoey's hair was nearly dry, but her socks and panties clung to her like desperate ex-boyfriends. She wanted to be rid of them, but Father Adams, standing in front of her with a solemn countenance and droning incantation, would surely disapprove.
Peter insisted on keeping to the schedule, despite a storm that nearly drowned the wedding party in the parking lot. Most of them had made it: the bride, the groom, the priest, the best man, the maid of honor, the bridesmaids, and the groomsmen. Only her father was absent. None of the guests had arrived yet, but most were expected tomorrow morning, and the ceremony wasn't until Sunday afternoon. Everything would be fine, Peter had assured her, and Zoey wanted to believe him.
Lightning flashed across the wedding chapel windows, throwing shadows on the panes, phantom branches that clawed at the glass, chased by a thunder that sounded to Zoey like a skull cracking under an avalanche of boulders. The floorboards trembled. Ice rattled in a cup. Light bulbs flickered above the nine men and women washed in by the storm.
That was close, Zoey thought. She took a deep breath. A little thunder. A little lightning. Nothing to worry about.
Unless the power failed.
The Lakewood Resort was twelve miles from Redwater, on a secluded island in the Puget Sound. If a power line snapped, or a transformer was hit, the repair crew would not be able to fix it tonight. Not in this storm.
And the wedding was in two days.
It's okay. It's okay.
She glanced at Peter. He seemed calm, and handsome as ever. He wore old jeans, with grass stains on the knees, and a baggy UCLA sweatshirt. He could use a shave. It had been a bumpy flight to Sea-Tac and a long drive to Turtle Island. They hadn't had a chance to shower before the rehearsal, except for running through the rain. Peter gave her a wink and a smile. He seemed amused by it all. Typical. She had always loved that look he gave her, but it annoyed her now.
Zoey glanced back at her bridesmaids. Kate and Evelyn smiled their support, but Zoey saw the concern in their eyes. Carrie, the maid of honor, had been the last to arrive for the rehearsal, and still seemed a bit frazzled. Peter's friends wore jeans and jerseys. Toby and Alex, the groomsmen, looked like they just wanted this to be over. The best man, Ryan, was the tallest of the group. He stood behind Peter like a bodyguard. Father Adams wore a beatific smile and his clerical vestments. He was the only one dressed for the occasion.
After a short pause for the flickering lights, Father Adams continued, "...till death do you part?"
Zoey gazed into Peter's eyes. She imagined him in his brand new tux. In two more days she would look up at him through her lovely white veil. He would lift that veil and claim her. He would be tall and handsome and strong. And patient. He had waited for her longer than she had any right to expect. Peter had earned this moment. Maybe she had, too. After five years of grief and regret, Zoey knew she was ready to say the words. She said them now.
Father Adams nodded. "Then by the power vested in me, et cetera, et cetera, you may kiss the bride."
Peter bent his face to hers. Their lips met. He tasted of desire. For a long moment her worries melted. Peter's lips had the power to stop time. Whenever he kissed her, nothing else mattered. It was why she had to marry him. In Peter, she could escape her past. When it was time to part, he held her, pressing a palm to the small of her back, pulling her tight against him. She felt a sudden thrill. Her lips parted and he ran his tongue along her teeth. He kissed her as if they were the only ones in the room, as if they were the last two people in all the world.
The priest cleared his throat. "Save a little something for the wedding."
Her girlfriends giggled behind her. They all had secret crushes on Peter. Zoey was sure of it. And if they didn't, they were blind.
The rain intensified, pummeling the rooftop in wind-driven waves. Zoey heard a tree branch snap and fall and splash.
It's okay. It's okay. The forecast called for blue skies on Sunday. This time, Zoey knew, her wedding would be perfect. This time nothing would go wrong.
Her cell phone rang.
Zoey stepped away from Peter, pulled the cell from her back pocket, and checked the number. "My dad."
She put the phone to her ear. "Dad?"
"Zoey?" He sounded tense.
"Where are you?"
The reply was garbled.
"What?" she said, louder now. "I can't—"
"I think we're stuck."
"Sorry, Baby. I don't think we're going to make it to the rehearsal."
"We just did the rehearsal." Zoey tried to keep the frustration from her voice. "That's okay, just—"
"The bridge is out."
"The bridge. It's out."
"There is no bridge. The storm must have, I don't know, washed it away. It's gone. No bridge. We can't get through."
"Dad, I can barely—"
"Is there another road to the island?"
"No, it's the only road."
The line went dead.
She dialed him back. Waited. No signal.
Zoey glanced up and saw everyone looking at her. She met Peter's gaze. "The bridge is out."