"It's looks pretty, Mommy!" My seven year old daughter, Ayla, says behind me. I'm standing on the circular platform, a silk mermaid style white dress all around me. My Mom, my sisters Allyson, Alexis, and two year old Skye, and Ayla are all sitting behind me on the couches, gazing at me. My black hair is falling well past my ribcage, touching down at my hips. My dark blue eyes have this unfamiliar look in them, the same look that they've had for almost two years now. Happiness. I've never seen myself so happy, even with Drake. A painful pang shoots through me, Drake. The man I left behind. Now Pierro, a new Italian man rode in on a white horse while he was on a tour in Paris and saved me. He took me and Ayla back to Florence with him and a few months ago, he proposed.
"Do you like it, honey?" I ask, smiling at the mirror at my daughter, who is a perfect mix between me and Drake.
"You look like a princess." She answers. "A very ancient princess." Alexis laughs.
"I'm twenty four!" I protest, shaking my head, still smiling. "Do you think Pierro will like it?" I ask anyone.
"You look gorgeous," Allyson says, spinning her own engagment ring on her finger. My sister and I, only two years apart, getting married in the same year. "Pierro would be crazy not to."
"Are you sure you don't want me to introduce you to his brother? Good looks definently run in that family." I mock, she shakes her head.
"Me and Ian will be married soon, he's all I can ask for." She says.
"Well I want to meet his brother!" Alexis jumps out.
"Calm down, you're twelve." I smile, and then turn to Mom. She's crying.
"Mom?" I whisper, she shakes her head.
"You just look so beautiful." She whimpers out. "I wish your Daddy could see you in this dress." I look down at myself, admitting it. Yeah, I do wish Daddy was here to see me, to walk me down the isle, kiss my cheek, let me go. But he won't. He let me go a long time ago.
"I wish my Daddy could see her in this dress." Ayla says thoughtlessly. My entire family turns to look at her, gaping. "So he would know exactly what he was missing." She finishes, my family sort of relaxes. She jumps off the couch, her pale pink flower girl dress flopping around her. She comes up beside me and takes my hand. "But I like Pierro." She reassures me.
"Awe, well, thank you, honey." I laugh, scooping her up and sticking her on my hip, she's still small like a five year old. I turn to the lady with the thin upper lip that made her look like she was frowning all the time. "We'll take it."
"How good do you look in your dress?" Pierro asks, coming up behind me and wrapping his arms around my waist.
"I look fine." I sigh. He raises his eyebrows, smiling at me through the mirror while I'm brushing my teeth.
"Really? Because a thirty two thousand dollar dress better not look just 'fine'." He says. I smile turning around in his arms, our face only inches away. I kiss him lightly for a moment, and then pull back just far enough to whisper against his lips.
"I look incredibly sexy in it."
"I bet-" He begins, but I cut him off with a kiss.
I ran downstairs quickly for the phone, and I caught it just in time. I checked the caller I.D. quickly, Ayla's school. It's a good thing I speak fluent Italian.
"Hello?" I say into the reciever.
"Uh, hi, Miss April Cody?" A stern sounding woman repys. All I can think is, Ayla...what happened to Ayla...
"Yes, this is she." I answer, my voice a little worried. I check the time, it isn't even lunch time yet, what could happen to her in a classroom?
"We just wanted to confirm your child's absence?" She tells me. A lump catches in my throat.
"Absence? No, that's not right." I whisper. "She's supposed to be there."
"Well a man came and picked her up during class, we were just making sure you knew."
"No, I didn't know! You let her just leave school with anyone?" I yell, I'm getting furious, and worried.
"Not just anyone, Miss April, she said this man was her father." She replies. Confusion hits me. Ayla didn't call Pierro 'Dad'. And then something else hits me, just as the doorbell rings and I hang up the phone without saying goodbye.
I slink over to the door, the handle feeling cold and unwelcome in my hand as I turn it. And then, someone pushes the door open themself. And I gasp, I can't say I'm surprised. Because Ayla rushes in and hugs me, unharmed. But the man stares at me with cold, hateful eyes.
"Drake." I breathe.
"Lovely ring, if I may comment, April." He says, he really doesn't sound like himself. I look down at both my hands, one ring as an emerald in it for my birthday, the other is a huge fat diamond and thirty seven karot gold engagment ring. We're sitting on the couch, he's a cross from me in the royal looking armchair.
"Drake..." Is all I can say. Ayla is sitting beside me, her hands folded in her lap, her head bowed. His eyes lower to her.
"Head up, child." He orders. She obeys, silently. "Huh, isn't she just the spitting image."
"What do you want, Drake?" I whimper.
"An explanation." He replies, still sounding cold. I turn to Ayla.
"Sweetie, go play in your room." And she doesn't even protest, because she wants to get out of that awkward room more then I do. Once she's gone, I turn back to him. He's waiting.
"Hurry up, we haven't got all day." He snaps. I sigh, and begin.
"I was scared, Drake. I was seventeen years old trying to raise a newborn baby. I was alone. Luka wouldn't have let me have that baby while living in his house, so I had to leave. I had to go with my Aunt Addie."
"No letter, no phone call." Drake growls. "You came to say goodbye and then I never heard of you again. Until two years ago when Allyson gives me your letter." He pulls out something folded and white, a note, my letter.
"I'm sorry, Drake." I whisper, tears pouring down my face.
"And then I get the news a week ago from my sister that you're getting married to some Italian man." Drake spits. "My sister! Because you didn't have the guts to do it yourself."
"I couldn't handle it!" I cry.
"Why not? Why couldn't you call? Or write? Or visit?" Drake snarls, getting right in my face. "Why?"
God dammit, April, WHY?" He yells, and I'm pretty sure I heard Ayla scurry under her covers upstairs.
"Because just hearing your voice, or seeing you face...or even writing words to you...that would have been enough to change my mind." I burst out, as soon as I say it I cover my face with my hands and sob. He just stands there, mute.
"Is that it, Drake? Is that what you wanted to hear? Is it? Did you want to hear me say I still loved you? That I always have and I always will?" I scream. He says nothing. "IS THAT WHAT YOU WA-" My voice is cut by his lips on my mouth. And it just feels so familiar, so normal. Pierro has never kissed me with such passion. The passion of seven years abscent. The passion of true love. And he eases me back on the couch, still kissing me. And I know Ayla won't come back down, and my fiance, Pierro, he won't be home for hours.
"April...no." Drake says, pushing away from me. I sit up, yanking myself away from him, I run up the stairs, leaving him to find his own way out.
"Do you, Pierro Salvatore, take April Cody to be your wife, do you promise to love her without reservation, in sickness and in health, to stand together in your times of joy and sorrow, to be always honest with her, till death do you part? If you do, please say 'I do'." The minister recites. Pierro looks down at me, our hands entwined. He looks so handsome and so amazing, that I can't believe this time yesterday I was kissing another man. Not just kissing him, but about to have sex with him.
"I do." Pierro answers, sounding so sure and excited, tears falling down my cheeks, he wipes them away and I smile up at him. In the corner of my eye, I can see my mother crying, beside me, Allyson is wiping away tears. Ayla is standing next to me, holding one of my hands.
"And do you, April Cody, take Pierro Salvatore to be your husband, do you promise to love him without reservation, in sickness and in health, to stand together in your times of joy and sorrow, to be honest with him, till death do you part? If you do, please say 'I do'." He repeats. I feel more hot tears stream down my cheeks. The crowd is getting uneasy with my hesitation. For a moment, I think about Drake. I see him dressed up nicely in a tuxedo, standing up there at the alter with me, our smiling daughter at my side. And then i shake that idea from my head as quickly as it came in. I open my mouth to answer. A voice fills the church, but it isn't mine.
"No!" Someone is yelling, bursting through the church doors. "No, April! You can't marry him. You have to marry me." I know who it is, but I refuse to turn around to face Drake. Pierro is glaring at him though, he leaves me at the alter, walking straight up to Drake. I look down at Ayla, she's gazing up at me.
Pierro is trying to reason with Drake, and by that I mean tell him to get out. But Drake shoves right by him and comes up to me. He's wearing dark jeans, a tight white t-shirt, and a black coat over top. I have to admit, he looks delicious. He doesn't waste a moment, he reaches down and scoops Ayla up, sticking her on his hip.
"This is my daughter, April." He says loudly, announcing it to the entire church. Allyson takes a step forward.
"Drake, you need to leave." She tries to tell him, he doesn't pay her a moment of attention.
"Look at her, April. Who do you see? Me or...or him?" He asks, pointing at Pierro with his other hand. I look down at Ayla, my mouth open slightly, in shock. "She is my daughter...and you are her mother...we need to be a family. Give her the family she's always wanted, that you've always wanted."
"Pierro can give her that family too." I argue.
"He's not raising my child." Drake snaps.
"Because you've done so much!" I growl, snatching my daughter away, hugging her tight to my body.
"You wouldn't let me!" He snarls back. Pierro is standing in front of us, off the alter, staring.
"Drake, you were in jail when she was born. Okay, and when I sent you that letter you never replied. You never reached out to me. Pierro came in my life at the right moment and I fell in love with him." I explain. Drake takes my face in both his hands, our faces only inches apart.
"You still love me though, right?" He asks. I think about this. The pros and the cons. He can't give me the life Pierro can. Pierro can is wealthy, we live in a mansion. He can send Ayla right through school, all the way, to law school if she wanted. He can give her everything she wants. Drake can't. But Drake saved my life, he gave me hope, and he is the father of my child. And it's true, I waited for five years for him. I'm still waiting. And he can give Ayla the one thing Pierro can't, the one thing I never had. A real father. I know how it's like to grow up with another man.
"Yes." My mouth working on it's own. Everyone in the church gasps, Pierro glares. "I still love you, Drake. I always will." I look around the church, my eyes fall on my Pierro, and I know exactly what I have to do. "But I love Pierro more. He loves me. And I want to be with Pierro, he makes me so much happier. It's so much easier being with him. He really loves me, and he's safe. He can give me a good life, one without drugs and having to raise children on my own while he's in jail." I look down at Ayla, and back at Allyson. "I need to be with Pierro." I finish. Drake leaves then, without another word. Not even a glance at Ayla, he just storms out. I turn back to the minister, who looks flabbergasted. "I do." I conclude.
"Uh...right. I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride." He finishes before quickly leaving through the side door. Without a moment passing, Pierro scoops me up birdal style and kisses me, hard and passionate. And the church throws up their hands, standing, yelling and cheering and crying. Pierro and I part for one moment, just to look in each other's eyes.
"I love you." I promise. He nods.
"I know." And then he kisses me again.