They had eloped when they were 18, to the extreme displeasure of both sets of parents who considered such behavior uncouth; scandalous evenEveryone said they were too young, said they’d never make it and that they’d ruin their friendship.

She went west for college and he stayed east. They wrote letters every week and talked as much as was possible back then, you know, before cell phones were more commonplace than manners.

And everyone told them they’d never make it, that they should just let each other go because this was college, party time!! Neither of them felt the need to defend what they knew.

After college, he went home to take over the family business. She stayed out west, got into an ivy league law school and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She was also voted class speaker for her smiles that never took a vacation and her tireless patience with anyone who needed a little help. During her graduation speech, she gave the perfunctory introduction that included thanks to each of her distinguished professors and deans, and briefly spoke about her time as the editor of the school’s law review. She thanked her parents and her in-laws and all of her friends and family. Then she folded her speech neatly and looked up, right at him, and the room burst into light,  lit by her mega-watt smile as she thanked him for his unrelenting support and for his courage that he had lent her throughout the last 6 years. She talked about the times that she had missed him so much that she wanted to just leave and abandon this, this law degree that had been her dream since she was a little girl; and how he had kept her grounded and moving forward and if it wasn’t for him, she wouldn’t be here. She told the crowd about the jeers and the teasing and the whispered comments about a man who would allow his wife to be so far away and going to school for a piece of paper she’d never need (it was still “that era,” where women were mostly homemakers). But he never, not even once, not even during their epic, clash-of-the-titans spats, said anything to discourage her. In tears, she ended with a heartfelt, albeit muffled, “I love you.”

She moved back east where she had several offers from well-established firms in the area, but in a stroke of fate, his company’s general counsel decided to move to Florida because of his rheumatoid arthritis and she happily accepted the position. She opened her own private practice, as well, to serve the needs of their suburban neighbors, and through word of mouth and just plain good, hard work, she made quite a name for herself.

His company exploded due to some recently implemented updates that he’d finally been able to incorporate after his dad retired a few years ago. Somewhere in this whirlwind of a life, they managed to have 2 boys, which they thought was wonderful and just about enough. Until they found out she was pregnant. Lily was born and their family was complete.

They were wonderful people with beautiful hearts and matching personalities.

They had been invited to the wedding of a neighbor’s middle daughter, who was all of 18 and gushing. They sat in the white plastic chairs that were draped with honeysuckle on the front lawn, waiting for the bride’s entrance. Just as the first notes floated out of the organ for the brides entrance, he turned to tell her a joke he just remembered and stopped. The look on her face as she watched the beautiful young bride practically skip down the aisle, squeezed his heart. She’d never had that. And she’d never admit that she wanted it. He’d asked her before, but she’d always give him “that look” and wink and say he was all she ever wanted. He’d see about that.

She remembered the wedding and how the young bride looked almost as happy as she was on her wedding day. She felt a pang of something, what exactly it was, she didn’t know, but it passed. He was more than enough and better than she had ever imagined. Still, it did make her a little misty eyed.

Their wedding anniversary was in June, 2 days after her birthday. They had to wait for the license which they couldn’t get until after she turned 18. This year was their 30th anniversary, she couldn’t believe it.

She also couldn’t believe that the dry cleaner had apparently messed up her order and that she had agreed to go 2 towns over to pick up her dry cleaning because poor Patsy was short-staffed.

As she pulled up to the building bearing the address she was given, her brows scrunched together in confusion. It looked like a church. What kind of dry cleaner has an office in a church? She shrugged and parked, walking quickly and looking around for anyone that may know where she needed to go.

That’s strange, she thought to herself, there were so many cars in the parking lot, she had assumed there was either a service or a church activity. Then as she turned the corner at the end of the main hallway, a gaggle of squealing tulle and chiffon snatched her and whisked her into what appeared to be a dressing room. Still confused, she raised an eyebrow and opened her mouth to say something pithy when he opened the door and she froze, mid-mouth-opening.

Dressed in a beautiful suit and tie, he was still as devastatingly handsome to her as he was the first night they made out when she was 15. It all clicked in an instant and her heart melted. She knew what he held in his hand, in the dry cleaning bag, and she knew it would fit because he paid attention. He sent a meaningful look to the gang of tulle and they quickly disappeared.

“Why don’t you try this on for me, let me see if it does you justice, like I pictured.” “Please,” he added quickly and she nodded and fled behind the dressing screen like a teenager, heart racing. She fumbled but finally got the dress – and shoes, he didn’t forget the shoes, that smart man – on, but couldn’t quite get the top closed. She did a little impromptu, use-whatever’s-in-my-purse makeup refresher, re-pinned her hair and with an uncharacteristic feeling of nervousness, followed by a stern “get a grip” self talk and a reminder to  herself to just breathe, she slowly stepped out from behind the screen.

The look on his face was worth every sit up, crunch, sweat-filled power yoga, 5 mile jog in 98% humidity, and even the hideous juice cleanses she’d endured over the years to stay fit.

He walked over to her, slowly sank to one knee and produced a beautiful, blazing sapphire (her favorite), pearl (her birthstone) & diamond ring. Catching hold of her now-clammy hands and looking up into eyes overflowing with tears, he said, “I know we’ve done this before and I know you weren’t expecting to do it again and I know you said doing the whole vow renewal thing was so-” She cut him off with a tug and after a kiss that was full of awe, joy and more love than she thought might be fair, she pulled back and said, “Yes. It’ll always be yes. Every time.”

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