Her fingers brushed his, and she half closed her eyes, wishing they could laugh and talk and tease the way they had their entire lives. Instead, there was a heartbreaking distance that nothing could erase, unless she was willing to give up on her dream and fight for the man she’d fallen in love with.
But she’d done it for him, too, so he wouldn’t compromise his wants for hers.
They began to move up the aisle, and she plastered a smile on her face, nodding to the familiar faces crowding the pews.
The next few hours flew by in a rush of photos and cocktail hour. She visited with second cousins and aunts she hadn’t seen in years, and she checked in with Nora to make sure she was keeping a close eye on all the details swarming around them. Taylor had been worried Avery would have a hard time enjoying her wedding as the bride rather than a planner, but every time Taylor checked on her sister, she was dancing, socializing, or managing to actually eat something between the festivities.
She grabbed a glass of champagne and eased toward the open doors for some air. The ocean breeze caressed her face, and she watched the dying embers of the sun dot across the skyline, exploding into muted, glowing colors of umber, blush pink, cream, and tangerine. She took it all in, thinking about Pierce and what he’d said to her before the rehearsal dinner. Her brain understood and accepted that they needed to be apart for a while. Her heart rebelled against the rules, determined to find a way they could still have it all. Knowing she was no longer the one who he confided in pierced through her very soul. Maybe she should try to talk to him one more time. See if they could try to spend some time together before she flew back to Paris. Maybe they just needed some time alone together with no pressure. Maybe—
“Aunt TT! Aunt Avery needs you now!”
She turned to a breathless Zoe tugging at her gown. She ignored the panic, set her inner dial to calm, and followed her niece, already thinking of creative ways to attack any problem her sister threw at her.
She reached Avery, stunning in her A-line bridal dress, which cut low in the back and had a gorgeous pale-pink underskirt peeking out from beneath the glossy, stark-white satin. Taylor swept a gaze over her sister, checking for any issues. Hair still coiffed into perfect curls, makeup set and not smudged, white lace Tieks subbed in for the wicked stilettos. Nothing seemed out of place.
“What’s the problem?” she whispered to her sister.
Avery gave her a pained look. “I gotta pee!”
Taylor shook her head. “You gave me a heart attack. Why am I taking you? Bella’s your maid of honor.”
“Well, she disappeared with Gabe, and I can’t wait another moment—I need a tow truck to lift this five-hundred-pound skirt, stat.”
“Fine. I’ll do it, but you owe me.” Taylor guided her out of the reception hall and into the luxurious bathrooms with large-enough stalls to contain a bride in all her finery. Taylor took stock of the gown and train, making a quick mental plan of attack. “Okay, I’m going to get under the skirt and lift it up. Then you pull down your underwear and pee. Got it?”
Avery stood stock-still, touching her lower lip.
Taylor slapped her hand away so she wouldn’t ruin her lipstick. “Stop that. Now, let’s get this over with.”
“What do you mean? I thought you said you had to pee.”
“I do! But you know my problem,” she hissed.
Taylor blinked. Holy shit, she’d forgotten.
Avery had bashful bladder syndrome. Ever since she was young, her bladder would freeze up if she thought anyone could hear or see her use the bathroom. She needed full privacy in order to go.
“Are you kidding me? You have to get over it, Avery! You can’t pee without help, and if you don’t go, you’ll wet the dress. I’m your sister, for God’s sake. I’ve seen your boobs.”
Avery groaned. “This is my worst nightmare coming true!”
“You have to try. Look, stop thinking about it, and let’s just do it, okay? I’m going in.”
“Avery, you have to try! Think of your happy place.”
She didn’t pause, just knelt down, shoved both hands under the mass of crinoline, and lifted the heavy material. Avery wriggled, trying to get her underwear down, but Taylor’s balance wasn’t the best, so she ended up toppling over, and the skirts came crashing down.
A distressed cry filled the stall. “You suck at this! How did you manage to help so many brides pee?”
“I don’t know, I just did. Oh God, I don’t want to think of the germs on this floor that just got all over me, or it’ll ick me out. Let’s do this again. Ready?”
This time, she managed to keep her balance and lift the weighted mass.
“Are your eyes closed?” Avery shouted.
She winced. “Dude, don’t scream, I’m right here. Yes, I’m not looking. Now go.”
Silence. And . . . nothing.
“I can’t. You’re listening to me, and it won’t come out.”
Taylor cursed, sweat popping on her brow from holding up the dress. “Fine, I won’t listen.”
“Sing something so I know you’re not listening.”
“But you always say I’m tone deaf.” She gritted her teeth and swore she’d get revenge on Bella for not doing her maid-of-honor duties.
“For God’s sake, I don’t care right now. I need noise—now sing!”
She searched her head for a song, any song, and finally belted out the first lyrics she remembered loud enough to keep her sister distracted. “‘Got me lookin’ so crazy right now!’” she screeched, praying it would do the trick. If anyone could help them right now, it was Queen Beyoncé.
She kept singing “Crazy in Love,” and finally, the sound of trickling came, so Taylor sang even louder, hoping to get her sister to empty out her entire bladder.
She was not doing this shit again.
It felt like forever before Avery called out to stop. Taylor’s hands shook slightly from holding her arms up for so long. Avery’s underwear in place, Taylor unfolded herself from the floor, staggered back, and dropped the gown.
Avery grinned. “It worked. Thanks, babe.”
Taylor glared. “That was definitely a PITA moment. Congratulations. I knew you had it in you to be a pain-in-the-ass bride.”