Marrying Ember
Author:Andrea Randall

“As long as you’re not there over Labor Day weekend, when I’ve got a fuckload of orders, count me in.” Georgia smiled, and went back into the kitchen when the timer on the oven dinged. Ember smiled back as I sighed a breath of relief at the possibility of not being forced to drink wine for three days straight.

 

Ember and Georgia had come a long way in their relationship over the last few months, as well. It was a rough go for the two of them, given the perceptions they each had about the other, and how protective Ember was of Regan.

 

“So why’d you track us down, Em? You seemed to be on a mission.” Regan refocused the conversation.

 

“Oh, right,” Ember grumbled. “Willow.”

 

Regan and I groaned. The war of words between Willow and Ember was never ending. I knew Ember was struggling with the bombshell Willow had dropped on her months ago that she and Ember were actually biological half-sisters. That was Willow’s statement, and not based on any facts we were aware of. It tore Ember up for a while, but she decided to put it on the back burner until we could all get through the tour and she could decide how she was going to approach her parents. Or if she was going to. Still, things were icy between the two former best friends, and Regan and I did our best to run interference as often as possible. Especially after Willow tried to make a pass at me earlier in the year.

 

“Keep it up, you guys. You’ll really be moaning in a second. Get this. Willow will be joining us for the entire second half of the tour.”

 

Georgia let out a sarcastic laugh from the kitchen, Regan thumped his forehead onto the table, and I screamed internally. Angry that my plans for a romantic proposal on the last night of the tour just got a little more complicated—if not impossible—with the unwelcome presence of Willow Shaw.

 

 

 

 

 

“And how’s my favorite socialite-at-large?” Monica chirped playfully into the phone.

 

“Oh, God,” I groaned.

 

Sometime shortly after Ember and I got together—the first time—Monica’s background check led her to stumble upon an article in The New Yorker discussing my family’s estate. The article was supposed to be about DROP, and it was—to some extent—but they seemed to err on the side of “Wealthy Eligible Bachelor Quietly Carries Out Family’s Mission.” She promised she’d never let me hear the end of it.

 

“Just kidding, don’t get your money in a bunch. Anyway, it’s about damn time you called me,” she snapped. “This whole year I’ve heard about you from Ember and have seen texts you’ve sent Josh but … me? Just forget about me, I guess.”

 

“Sorry, Mon,” I played along remorsefully.

 

“Oh no you don’t, mister. You don’t get to call me Mon until you grovel.”

 

“I want to marry Ember.” The words tumbled out like Yahtzee dice.

 

Silence.

 

“Groveling over,” Monica said flatly. “Tell me everything.”

 

“That … is everything.” I looked around the beach that called itself my back yard. “You can’t tell her, Monica. I’m serious. Regan and Georgia said I had to call—”

 

“Regan and who did what? Others know?”

 

Shit. I’d been instructed—by Georgia nonetheless—not to say anything to Monica about her knowledge. Fail.

 

“I … I was just talking to them about the speech …” I trailed off.

 

Monica snorted into the phone. “With any luck they told you to ditch the speech all together. You know better, Cavanaugh. Come on, where’s your A-game?” She sounded like my high school football coach.

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want it to be cliché, but I want it to be special. Ember’s—”

 

“Stop,” she cut me off again. “Slow your roll and just breathe.”

 

I took a deep breath, chuckling a little at the end of it.

 

“Something funny?” Monica questioned.

 

“So you, Regan, and Georgia all know that I want to propose to her and no one has batted an eyelash about the fact that we’ve only been together for just over a year, and that includes a long … break.” I winced as I said it. Ember and I rarely, if ever, discussed the time we’d spent not together. It was a hiccup. That’s how we referred to it.

 

“No one’s batted an eyelash because even relative strangers can tell how in love you ar. Remember, you yourself said a thousand lifetimes.”

 

For as long as she lived, Monica would never let me—or Josh—forget what she called the most romantic words she’d ever heard uttered from another human’s mouth. Sometimes she’d tease Josh for not saying them himself to her, and he’d call me an asshole for saying it at all.

 

She was right, though. I hadn’t worried much about the actual time we’d been together, because it was like our souls were joined long before our bodies ever met.

 

“I want you to be there,” I said. “While it’ll be about me and Ember, I want all the people she loves there. I want the whole thing to be about love.”

 

“Of course you do!” Josh shouted from somewhere in the background.

 

“Am I on speakerphone?” I nearly shouted.

 

“Uh …” Monica stammered.

 

I laughed. “You guys are a piece of work.”

 

“Do you think you’ll be ready by the last week in August? We just booked our tickets to come out while you guys are playing in Napa.”