Holy Shit… She is so fucking beautiful. Jonas thought as he stared at the weeping woman who stood before him.
Mari always took his breath away no matter what she wore… Jeans and an old t-shirt; a little black dress; a pair of oversized sweatpants; or his personal favorite, nothing at all. But seeing her like this – her perfect body wrapped in delicate white lace, her silky hair twisted in an elegant bun, her soft lips stained a deep pink – it was more incredible than he ever could have dreamed.
The only thing missing was her gorgeous smile.
Jonas heard the door shut behind him as Lina and Gabriela silently excused themselves. And he couldn’t help but feel grateful – he knew this would be a conversation both he and Mari would rather keep private.
“Jonas, what are you doing here?” Mari sniffled slightly as she broke the silence.
He paused for a moment, clearing his throat softly before answering. “Oh, uh… I’m… here for the wedding…” He glanced up at her uncertainly. “The invitation did say 91 Oak Street, didn’t it?”
There was a beat of silence, followed by a rather loud and unladylike snort. Mari giggled loudly through her tears. “You are such fucking loser.”
He smiled warmly at her. “Ah, there’s my girl.”
Jonas waited a few moments for his bride-to-be’s laughter to subside. But he was disappointed to see that as her giggles faded away, so did her smile.
“I’m serious.” She continued solemnly. “I don’t know why Lina had to go running to get you. I… I’m fine.”
Jonas shook his head. “Really?” His voice was soft. “Because you sure as Hell don’t look it.” He paused. “Well… I mean, you always look pretty damn fine to me. And Jesus, that dress is… woah.” Jonas’ lips curled into a smile for a moment. “But, uh… you know what I mean.”
This time, Mari did not show any sign of amusement. She sighed softly. “It’s just… I… I don’t understand.” Jonas could see the sparkling of tears once again welling up in her beautiful brown eyes. “You know what I was like. You know what I’ve done. You know I’m probably gonna be certifiably fucked up for the rest of my life. You know I… Fuck.”
Mari held her face in her hands, unable to continue.
Jonas felt his heart sink. He’d seen this before, too many times. It was still painful to remember the way she’d initially reacted to his proposal all those months ago.
She was slipping again, and he needed to pull her back before it was too late.
“Hey.” He said gently, reaching out for her. “Come here.”
Mari showed no reaction to his touch. “Why?” She whispered. “Why would you ever want to marry me? You’re too good for me.”
Yeah, but I’m too good for everyone, so don’t take it personally. The sarcastic quip fled his mind as quickly as it had come. Jonas loved making Mari laugh, but he had learned long ago that there was a time and a place for his clever remarks. And this was certainly not one of them.
“Babe, please. Listen to yourself.” He pulled her closer toward him, and felt her bury her tear-streaked face against his chest.
Oh God, she’s gonna flip later if she gets any makeup on this thing. He cringed inwardly for a moment, recalling how expensive his outfit had been. Ah, fuck it. It’s just a silly old suit. He decided at last. Jonas held her against him and stroked the bare skin of her upper back beneath her veil.
“You know that’s not true.” He continued gently. “You are fucking amazing. You’re the strongest, most incredible person in the world, Mari.” Jonas paused, pressing his lips against her hair for a moment. “Think about all the shit you’ve been through. Think about everything you’ve overcome. Think of those two little boys. They’re pretty fucking special. And do you know why? Because they have you for a mother.”
Mari said nothing in reply but pulled away slightly, wiping away a few of her tears as she lifted her gaze to meet his.
“You have a bigger heart than anyone else I know.” Jonas looked deeply into her eyes as he went on. “And you’re one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. You light up a room the moment you walk into it. You’re warm, and compassionate. You’re so damn smart, and funny…”
“I’m also a bitch when I’m angry.” Mari interjected. “I’m needy, and insecure…”
Jonas simply nodded. “Yup.” He agreed. “And you know what? Without all those things, you wouldn’t be you anymore. The woman I want to wake up next to every morning for the rest of my life. No one’s perfect, Mari. No one. But to me, well… You’re about as close as it gets.”
Mari wrapped her arms around him and held him for a long time. Jonas had to blink away the hot sting of tears in his eyes as she did so. He was never one for any of that cheesy romantic crap. But it was true – all of it.
Things with Mari weren’t always easy. In fact, sometimes they were pretty fucking awful. But every moment he spent with her, good or bad, was one of the happiest of his life. Because he was sharing it with the woman he cared about more than anyone else in the world… And the two little boys he loved as though they were his own.
“So I guess…” Mari whispered, breaking the silence at last. “That answers my question?” Jonas could hear the smile in her voice, and he knew he had her back. “About why you want to marry me?”
He nodded. “Yup, I’d say that pretty much covers it.” Jonas replied happily. “Oh! But I almost forgot to mention that crazy thing you do with your tongue when you – Ow! What?!”
Mari laughed so hard that she was practically gasping for breath. “Fuck you.” She choked out through her giggles.
“Sure, I’m game if you are. But… aren’t we supposed to wait until after the ceremony?”
It was a few minutes before their laughter finally faded away.
“I’m sorry.” Mari muttered at last, her joy and laughter suddenly replaced by embarrassment. “You didn’t need to see me like that. I’m so fucking pathetic.”
“Stop that, okay?” Jonas could not help the slight edge in his voice. He hated it when she started talking about herself that way. “Stop. Don’t make me start spewing all that lovey-dovey shit again… Because you know I will.” He smirked slightly at her as he spoke.
Mari took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. “Okay. You’re right.” She forced a small smile. “I’ll stop. I… I guess I just kind of… freaked a little.”
“It’s okay.” He assured her. “Getting married’s a big fucking deal. And…” Jonas paused for a moment. “If you’re not ready, that’s fine. It’s not too late to call it off, you know. We’ve still got…” He glanced down at his watch. “Eleven minutes.” He tried his best to smile as he spoke. The thought of calling off the wedding was almost unbearable.
But still not as unbearable as seeing Mari so upset.
The young woman shook her head. “Are you kidding?!” Mari smiled softly at him. “I’ve never been more ready for anything. You’re everything to me.” He could see a few tears sparkling once again in her eyes. “Jonas… I still have a lot of shit I’m dealing with. You know that. And sometimes… it feels like I’m… I dunno.” She shrugged. “Caught in this current, or tide, I guess. I can feel it pulling me away, back toward how I used to be… And it’s pretty fucking scary, y’know?” She paused, shaking her head slightly. “Like I’m out of control.
But you’re what keeps me from getting swept away. You’re what’s holding me down. It’s like you’re my rock or something. My anchor, I guess. Without you… I don’t know what I’d do.” Mari smiled gently at him as she finished.
Jonas lifted a hand and brushed it gently against the smooth skin of her cheek.
“Mariana Lucia Rosebrook…” He whispered softly. “That was, without question, the cheesiest fucking thing I have ever heard in my entire life.”
“I know.” Mari agreed with a soft smile. “And I meant every single word.”