After the ceremony, Noah and Sharlee had hoped for a few minutes alone together to just look at each other and let it sink in that they were really married, but the photographer had led them away for private pictures while the guests were taken to the reception area.
Noah whispered, “Can’t we just skip the reception and go back to the hotel?”
“No, Honey. Even though I wish we could too!”
So they posed for pictures with the wedding party.
They also took pictures with their families. Noah posed for one with Aiden and Shawn.
Sharlee had fun posing with Cara and Joy.
Plus they took many more pictures. Some with just the two of them. After the pictures they went to the reception area.
Noah’s parents came over to them in the receiving line. Melina hugged Noah and Sharlee.
“The ceremony was beautiful. Congratulations to both of you.”
“Now that I’m your Daddy, I can get a hug.”
Will pulled Sharlee into his arms and hugged her extremely tightly.
Sharlee felt very uncomfortable and wanted to pull away. However, she didn’t want to cause a scene. As the hug dragged on, Noah frowned and Melina pursed her lips.
Dale noticed as well.
Melina told Will, “We’re holding up the line. Come on.”
Will released Sharlee and he and Melina moved aside. He headed for the bar and Melina went to their table.
The Mayburn’s flight had been delayed because of weather, and so they had missed the wedding ceremony, but they were there for the reception. Of course Faye wanted to let Shawn and Cara know that they’d made it. So she headed to their table first before joining her parents in the line waiting to congratulate the newlyweds.
Isabel hugged Sharlee and said, “He’s a hunk! You’re so lucky!”
Sharlee had grinned. “I know! Isn’t he!”
Lauren hugged Sharlee. “When you first introduced me to him, I thought he was cute, but I was surprised. I didn’t think he was your kind of guy.”
“You never told me that before.”
“I know. After I got to know him better though, I understood why you were with him. He’s a great guy Sharlee and I hope you’ll both be very happy together.”
Derek had congratulated them both.
“Thank you Derek.”
“Thanks Anna. We’ll never forget what you and your father did for us.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
After the receiving line, Noah and Sharlee had their first dance as husband and wife. Noah held onto Sharlee tightly.
He whispered, “I just realized that I don’t have to worry about where I put my hands when we dance anymore!”
He slowly moved his hand down lower on her hip.
Sharlee smiled as she looked into his eyes.
Noah lowered her in a dip.
After the dance they sat at the head table. The toasts began. The teens and children had non alcoholic drinks and the adults had wine.
Ton gave a short toast.
“Noah I remember when I first met you and got to know you. You were just fifteen and already more mature than a lot of men twice your age. You were as tough as nails and never backed down from anyone. But you have a heart of gold. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get too mushy on ya, but I just want to say congratulations to you and Sharlee. You deserve all the happiness in the world, bro!”
Cara spoke next. “Sharlee, you don’t get to pick your family, but you do get to pick your friends. You pick people who are kind, loving, loyal, sincere and fun. Those are just a few of the qualities. You have those qualities and more. You are not just my sister, my family, you are my best friend and I love you. Noah, I’m glad that you are my friend and now my brother. You and Sharlee love each other so much. How can you help but be happy! I wish the best for you both, and I want nieces and nephews!”
There were other speeches and then Noah and Sharlee spoke. Noah wrapped his arm around Sharlee.
“Sharlee and I want to thank everyone for being here and sharing the happiest day of our lives with us. It means a lot and your presence has made it even more special for us!”
“Yes, and we love you all!”
Then everyone ate dinner. After that was the father and daughter dance. Bronson was shocked when Sharlee came over and asked him to dance with her.
Alissa looked at Dale in surprise as Sharlee and Bronson danced. “It was my suggestion. I told Sharlee that we all know that I’m her Dad, but Bronson could have made it difficult over the years. He didn’t do that because he loves Sharlee too. I thought this would be a nice gesture and mean a lot to him.”
Alissa’s eyes were shining. “You are so thoughtful Dale. You remind everyday of why I love you!”
Dale smiled at her and they watched Sharlee and Bronson dance.
Bronson proudly danced with his beautiful daughter.
Noah danced with Melina for the mother and son dance. He was so happy that nothing could wipe the smile from his face. Even his mother smiled stiffly.
Then the guests danced.
Finally Noah had a chance to pull Sharlee aside for a kiss. He said softly against her lips. “I love you, Mrs. Hall.”
“I love you too, my Noah.”
Joy came and found them and pulled Noah to the dance floor for a dance. Although ballet was her first love, Joy enjoyed dancing of all types.
She had talked Aiden, her cousin Devon and Cindy Mayburn into doing a dance routine for Noah and Sharlee at the reception.
Everyone loved it!
Shawn came over to Sharlee. “Let’s dance Sis!”
Sharlee went out to the dance floor with him. “I’m gonna miss you!”
“I’ll be back home to visit and you better come visit me too!”
After dancing with Sharlee, Shawn danced with Faye Mayburn. They had been best friends since elementary school.
Dale took Sharlee out onto the dance floor next. “Congratulations, Sweetie!”
“Thank you, Daddy.”
Alissa had hugged Sharlee. “I’m happy for you Sharlee.”
Sharlee had made Aiden dance with her.
Afterwards she kissed him to his great embarrassment.
Dale shook Noah’s hand. “Congratulations.”
“You’d better take care of her and treat her right.”
Noah looked at Sharlee and said with strong feeling.
“I always will.”
Krystal came over to Noah and shook her head. “Yes I’m Sharlee’s aunt and I love her. However, I have to say this. What a waste! A guy like you should spread himself around.”
Noah laughed! “Nope! There’s only one woman for me, and she’s finally mine!”
After that Sharlee tossed the bouquet when all of the single ladies were ready.
Everyone laughed when Crystal caught it. Crystal was a sworn bachelorette.
A stool was placed out on the dance floor and Sharlee was seated on it. She had pink cheeks as Noah knelt before her and removed her garter from beneath her gown. Then he tossed it to the guys.
Shawn caught it and immediately made a yucky face! Everyone laughed again.
Dale danced with Alissa for a while.
Then with Cara.
Noah danced with Anna.
Then he had a dance with Cara.
Derek had a dance with Sharlee.
Sharlee came back to Noah after her dance and flung her arms around his neck. He raised her into the air joyfully.
Will came over and asked Sharlee to dance. From the unsteady way that he was standing, it was clear that he’d had too much to drink.
Sharlee started to go with him, but Noah stopped her. “No Will. You don’t seem to be feeling very well.”
Noah took Will’s glass of wine and called his mother over. Will tried to stand straighter. “Will doesn’t seem to be feeling well. I think it’s time that he went back to the hotel.”
Melina looked at Will in disgust and displeasure. “Yes, we’ll go back to the hotel now.” She led him away and he didn’t protest.
Robert took Sharlee out on the floor for another dance. After their dance, he hesitated when Valerie asked him for a dance.
He went out onto the dance floor with her. They danced for a few moments.
“Robert, would you take a walk with me? I’d like to talk with you.”
He reluctantly agreed.
While they were dancing, Leslie went over to Dale. “What do you think Mom’s coming here means?”
Dale answered, “Well, she has remained in contact with the children.”
“That’s true, but I see how she looks at Dad. There is still feeling there.”
“Sis, don’t get your hopes up.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other.”
“Yes. It has been. What is this about Valerie!”
“You used to be so patient! That’s one of the things that I’ve missed about you.”
“Missed about me! Valerie you left me!”
Valerie closed her eyes in pain.
“Yes, it was the biggest mistake that I have ever made.”
Robert didn’t say anything. He waited for her to continue.
“If it makes any difference, I never slept with Lars. Yes, I did get closer to him than I should have, but I never even moved him with him. After we split up, I got a place of my own. I knew it was a mistake as soon as I left you. I can’t justify my actions, Robert , but I can try to explain.”
She was silent, trying to gather her words to explain her feelings. “When Dale first brought Alissa home to meet us, I thought that she was a lovely girl. After we found out about her past, I had even more respect for her. However, from the very beginning, I saw that Alex had feelings for her too. Because of that, problems developed between Alex and Dale. Whether right or wrong, I blamed Alissa for that. You know how close Dale and Alex used to be.”
Still Robert didn’t speak. Valerie continued. “Alissa is young, beautiful, talented, loving, successful. I began to resent her.”
“Why, Valerie? You are all of those things too.”
“I can’t explain it exactly. I felt so old. The children were all grown with families of their own. Except for my Alex, who wanted his brother’s wife. I blamed Alissa for that as well and you know that Alex told me that they were having an affair for years before we thought that Dale had died.”
“You know that wasn’t true, Valerie. Alex had become unbalanced.”
“I didn’t want to accept that my beautiful boy had changed so much. That was too painful. It was easier to blame Alissa.”
“So instead you inflicted pain on her and the rest of your family.”
“I am ashamed to admit it, but yes. That is what I did.”
“I felt so frozen and numb after Alex’s death. Lars! Lars told me what I wanted to hear. He made me feel beautiful and desirable. He was new and exciting. I felt alive again. But then when I looked at Alissa, I felt like such a hypocrite. Because of my own guilt, I was cruel to her. I still can’t believe what I told you after we found out that she had been attacked and might die.”
“Valerie, Alex wasn’t the only one who changed. You did too. You betrayed the values that I had believed that be both held sacred.”
“You’re right, Robert. I did that and more. I can’t change the things that I’ve done, but I am so very sorry! I just wanted you to know that. When I look at Alissa, I still feel resentment. I don’t know how to change that or if it will ever go away, but I felt that I owed it to my granddaughter to attend her wedding. I also felt that I owed you an explanation for my behavior.”
Robert didn’t know what to say to her.
“Just one other thing. You were not the problem. It was all me and the way I viewed myself. I have never stopped loving you, Robert. I want you to know that as well. I’m going to say my goodbyes to the beautiful bride and groom now. Then I’m catching a flight back home.”
Valerie went and hugged both Noah and Sharlee. She said goodbye to her children and other grandchildren. Then she left the reception to fly back home.
Lala, Miki and Sammi noticed the tears in Alissa’s eyes. Lala hugged her and said, “Those are happy tears.”
Alissa nodded her head yes.
Miki hugged her too.
Noah claimed his bride for a slow dance.
This time as they danced, he kissed her on the cheek. He’d only intended to kiss her once, but as he looked into her eyes he couldn’t resist doing it again.
While they kissed and danced, they almost forgot there were others there.
Alissa went over to them and took pity on Noah, realizing that he was dying to be alone with Sharlee. “You two can leave now. The limo is waiting for you.”
Sharlee hugged her mother. “Thanks Mom.”
Noah scooped Sharlee up into his arms, and they told everyone goodbye and thanks again.
Then they headed to the limo and back to the hotel to begin their honeymoon.
Noah and Sharlee’s honeymoon will be in the next chapter.