Here we are at the end of Scarlett and Blizzard. Hard to believe, isn't it? I plan to finish the last bits of editing and formatting over the next little bit. Official release date is August 1. Yes, you will still be able to come here and read all the chapters, but if you want it to be in one easy spot, I will release it in print and eBook formats at the very start of August. So mark your calendars and be sure to let me know if you've caught any typos in the chapters so far. The deal still stands, I'll enter you to win a paperback copy (US only) of Scarlett and Blizzard for each typo you report. And be watching for news of the next adventure: The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen, starting soon right here on the blog.
It took a while for things to calm down enough to plan the wedding. If not for the storm, they would have happily gone to the courthouse that very day. As it was, we still had to go in to the police station to fill out all the paperwork and report what happened. I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing Shorty as a criminal. He had been with us for a long time, nearly as long as I could remember. He’d always done his chores without complaint. I guess I hadn’t noticed him showing any romantic interest in Scarlett. She didn’t talk much about it. Maybe she was as surprised as the rest of us. Or maybe she hadn’t thought he was that serious about her. I don’t know and to be honest, I don’t really care. The important thing was despite all odds we were okay and Scarlett and Josiah were getting married.
They decided to plan the wedding to take place at the very end of school. They were each planning surprise honeymoons for the other and when I asked Mom if one of us should intervene, she just smiled. “Let them surprise each other. Just maybe suggest different dates for one of them.” Planning a honeymoon wasn’t the only thing they had to figure out. Scarlett would start business school in the fall, including a work-study program which would help off-set costs. She had originally planned to live on campus, but that wouldn’t work if she was married. They took a few trips out to Cheyenne with Mom acting as their chaperon to look for a good apartment. Josiah couldn’t stand the idea of twiddling his thumbs while Scarlett was busy, so he would continue to work on Starwood during the weekends and stay longer during round ups and foaling season. But that still left his weekdays open, so he started looking at classes in animal science. The two of them would stay busy, that was for sure.
As much as I wanted the months until the wedding to crawl, they didn’t. My birthday came and went so fast, it was hard to believe it had happened at all. Sixteen didn’t seem all that significant compared with my sister’s wedding plans. Not that she let my birthday be overlooked. I don’t think I’ve ever been so spoiled in my life as Teddy, Josiah and Scarlett put their mischief to full use supported by my mother. Tickets to a concert with one of my favorite artists, dinner at a fancy restaurant in Jackson, and a full-day shopping spree. Good thing my birthday happened to fall on a weekend, right? Mom might have had to call me in sick twice under false pretenses.
Spring came not long after and the snows melted. While evenings were still chilly, the days started to be warm. Flowers poked their heads up and buds filled the trees. Birds returned to their nests and the air soon filled with their twitterings. Spring fever paled in comparison to wedding fever. My days were filled with classes and my evenings with accompanying Scarlett to dress fittings, wedding boutiques for the perfect decor, meetings with vendors and planners. I was about to lose it totally when I came home to Scarlett sobbing in Mom’s lap. “Um, is everything…?”
“No!” she wailed.
Mom smoothed Scarlett’s hair and said calmly, “There’s been a hiccup. The bed and breakfast they wanted to hold the reception at has been closed for renovations.”
“They can’t do that though, can they? I mean, we already scheduled this and had it paid for!”
“They’ll s-s-send a refund,” Scarlett cried. “But now w-w-where will I have m-m-my reception? Everything else w-w-will be res-s-served.”
It was quiet for a moment as Mom rubbed her back. My eyes fell on the open window. It was gorgeous outside. The red and white roses Josiah had planted last year were starting to bud. “Scarlett, why not have your reception here? I know it’s not fancy or anything, but it’s certainly big enough. And it would be better for Teddy as he could come inside if he started feeling bad.”
“What am I supposed to do about the tables? And all the linens? They were going to provide all of that so everything would fit in with their regular decor.”
“I’m sure we could borrow tables from church and Amelia would never say no to a project. I’m sure there’s time to make some tablecloths and things. Don’t worry so much. It’ll probably turn out even better. You’ll see.”
“Trust your sister, Scarlett,” Mom said. By the way, Mom, thanks for the vote of confidence. “Everything will work out fine. I think a country reception would be perfect for you and Josiah. Not to mention, you’ll save more that can be put to your schooling.”
She sniffled and agreed. So Mom and I threw ourselves into planning for an outdoor reception at Starwood. Amelia was thrilled to learn about the change in plans. She soon had us making tablecloths, runners, napkins, and anything else she could think of that might come in handy.
The week before the wedding, Grandma came as well as some aunts and uncles and cousins. Starwood had never seemed crowded before, but with all the visiting relatives that changed. Even locking my bedroom door didn’t give me the kind of quiet I wanted, so I snuck out to my “office” on more than one occasion. The old barn was out of sight and most of the extended family didn’t know about it. One evening, I went out there with my guitar. I’d been trying to finish the song for Josiah and Scarlett’s wedding. They had asked if it was okay for them to hire a DJ so I would be able to really enjoy the reception instead of just playing for it. I appreciated them thinking of that, but at the same time I wanted to perform for them. So I’d gotten in touch with the DJ and arranged to take over just after their first dance for a quick concert. The only problem was, I couldn’t quite get the song right. Something was missing. And no matter how many times I called on Dad to help me out, he wasn’t giving any answers. What? Everyone’s got a muse. I was strumming some chords when I heard movement below me. “Blizz, are you in here?”
I shoved the sheet music under a pile of hay. “Up here, Scarlett.”
She climbed up into the hayloft. “You know it’s dangerous up here, right?”
“You gonna go back down?”
She laughed. “Didn’t think so.” Scarlett sat next to me, her strawberry blonde waves glinting softly. “You doing okay?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”
“I think you know why.”
I glowered at her.
“Look, I just want you to know I’m not leaving forever.”
I scoffed, “What am I, five? Seriously, it’s fine. You’re giving me the brother I’ve been begging for since I met Tracy Jenkins and her brothers. I’m thrilled for you.”
“Why do you keep coming out here then?”
“Have you heard the house? It’s madness everywhere I go. And if Grandma hints one more time that I should start preparing myself for my own wedding…”
Scarlett laughed again. “I get it. I just worried, you know, after what happened on my birthday.”
She had to bring that up, didn’t she? The truth was, I still hadn’t really forgiven her for just springing her intentions to leave on us. I picked at the straw sticking to my jeans. “Yeah, well, you know.”
“No, actually, I don’t.”
“Geez, Scarlett, you really want to get into this now? Okay, so you ticked me off. You really ticked me off. And I’m not ready to say it’s okay. You’ve always talked with me about everything, at least I thought so. And then you started having secrets. I didn’t know what to think. I’m not sure I do now. But whatever, you made a choice and here we are. Everything’s still good between us, mostly.”
“So, you aren’t going to hate me for making you wear the maid of honor dress?”
It was my turn to laugh. Scarlett had fallen in love with the most gosh-awful, ugly dress on the planet for me to wear at her reception. When I’d voiced my opinion, loudly and maybe with some less-than-kind adjectives thrown in, she’d opted for something more appealing. “Since you chose one that doesn’t look like a wedding cake and a fish got frisky? Nah, I won’t hate you.”
We giggled for a while and she sighed. “I never thought I’d actually be living a fairy tale. You know, like the one Mom used to read to us. Do you remember it? Two sisters, a bear who actually turned out to be a prince, and a shrewd dwarf trying to ruin everything. I guess happily ever after is for real after all.”
“Yeah, I…wait, what did you say?”
“Happily ever after is real after all?” My eyes got wide and she asked, “Are you okay?”
“Perfect. I’m perfect. Why don’t you go find Josiah and make out with him or something? Whatever it is you engaged people do.”
“But he’s out working the stock horses,” she protested as I pushed her toward the rickety ladder.
“Yeah, that’ll make it more fun.” Once she was gone, I pulled out the music. I had mere days to finish this project and one I hadn’t even started.
The day of the wedding dawned as a perfect, cloudless day. I enjoyed strolling the grounds of the Boise, Idaho temple. Franky and I scouted out the gardens for nice photo-ops while the photographer Josiah hired snapped picture after picture of the flowers and trees. “You two, come be a couple for me. I want to test this spot for pictures.”
Franky glanced at me and I shrugged. He led me to the bench. As the photographer asked us to pose in different spots, we pretty well ignored him, for the most part. “So, just two more years in high school, huh?”
“Yep,” I said.
I shrugged, “I don’t really know yet. Probably go to college and study music.”
He nodded. “Good plan.”
“What about you? I heard someone outbid you for the B.”
“Yeah, it was a real bummer too. But I figure Starwood will be a good place to work for now.”
He nodded. “I’ve, um, well, I’ve been going back to church.”
“I know, I’ve seen you.”
“Look who knows so much,” he teased. “Anyhow, I’m gettin’ ready to put my papers in.”
“Papers?” I brightened. “You’re going on a mission?”
“Didn’t think I’d ever do it, huh?”
“Well, you gotta admit you had us all going for a while.”
Franky laughed. “Yep, I guess I did.”
“Oh, that’s perfect. Now go ahead and kiss her,” the photographer gushed.
“Dude! We’re not that couple,” Franky burst.
I laughed and kissed his cheek. Before I could think of anything intelligent to say, I heard Grandma walking toward us. “They’re coming! You’d best get to the front quick or they’ll be out the door before you can get any pictures.” As everyone moved that direction she caught my hand and whispered rather loudly, “And you can explain what that was later.”
I blushed and tried to ignore her as we moved to the temple’s entrance. Scarlett looked radiant in her reception dress. In white satin with lace overlay, she looked like a fairy tale princess. That is, if princesses wore baby blue boots and white cowgirl hats. Daisies and yellow roses made up her bouquet with sprigs of mint borrowed from Mom’s garden. Grandma’s pearls glowed about Scarlett’s neck. As the photographer positioned everyone and shot photograph after photograph, I couldn’t help noticing how happy Scarlett and Josiah looked. I don’t think you could have wiped the smiles off their faces if you tried. It seemed hours before the photographer was finally satisfied with the pictures he’d taken. After lunch, we caravaned back to Starwood where Amelia and some of our other friends were busily setting up for the reception. Everyone worked together and things were soon ready as guests began to arrive.
Promptly at six, Teddy brought Josiah and Scarlett to the porch. He talked for a while about the beauty of marriage and the work that goes into it. “Now you two have already made your vows to each other. But for the sake of your friends and family who were unable to attend, we’ve planned this simple ring ceremony. Josiah, my boy, do you promise with this ring to cherish this woman in every condition, for all the days to come?”
“I do.” He slid the ring onto Scarlett’s finger with a smile.
“Sweet Lettie, do you promise with this ring to cherish this man in every condition, for all the days to come?”
“Josiah, you may now kiss your bride. Again.”
There was laughter and cheering as Josiah pecked Scarlett’s cheek and then used his hat to hide their faces. Scarlett was blushing when Josiah put his hat back on. The music started and Teddy and my mom took Scarlett and Josiah out onto the floor to dance. The song changed and Josiah took Scarlett. For much of the song they danced alone with the photographer darting around them. Then other couples began joining them. Franky nudged me. “Shall we?”
I smiled. “Why not?”
He led me out and I tried to ignore the butterflies in my stomach. Hard to do when he was looking at me that way. “Well, Miss Blizzard, what am I going to do with you?”
“I believe this is called dancing, Franky.”
The dance started to come to a close. “Sorry, I’ve got to get up there.”
“No worries, cowgirl. There will be other dances.” Maybe it was my imagination, but I’m pretty sure he squeezed my hand before letting go.
The DJ announced a special visitor and I grabbed my guitar from behind his station. He set up a microphone for me. “Knock ’em dead.”
I smiled nervously. “So, um, Scarlett and Josiah, I’m so happy to see you two together. I know you wanted me to sit out tonight and just enjoy the evening, but I guess you both probably knew I’d have a song for you. And if you didn’t, well, you don’t know me very well.”
Chuckles rang through the audience.
“Anyway, I’ve been working on ‘Real Fairy Tales’ over the past couple months and this song’s for you.” I strummed the guitar strings and took a deep breath before beginning to sing. The familiar feeling of being somewhere far away settled over me as the song continued. All that existed was my guitar and the song. When it came to a close, the cheering escalated. “Thank you. Now, that’s just part one of your present.” Out of my guitar case I pulled a leather-bound journal. “This isn’t quite done yet, since I can’t exactly write as fast as events are happening, but this is your story. Well, our story. It’s called Scarlett and Blizzard: A Starwood Fairy Tale. When y’all get back from your honeymoons, this will be finished and ready for you to take home. And yes Josiah, I’ve shared everything.” I paused as people laughed and my brother-in-law groaned. “And I promise to include the lyrics to your song in the back for you, Scarlett. Congratulations, and may the years be beautiful and the future bright.”
As I prepared to get off the stage, the DJ stopped me. “Girl, I had no idea you were so talented. You maybe interested in recording?”
Pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head. I just stood there in shock for a moment. Somehow I found my voice again as he repeated the question. “Yes, yes! That would be amazing.”
“It might take a little time, but I’ve got some connections.” He handed me a business card. “You send me an email at that address. I’ll see what I can do for you. Good luck to you Blizzard Jannsen.”
The evening continued and soon we were waving goodbye as Josiah drove them off to start their honeymoon in Montana. Well, the first part anyway. Scarlett wasn’t going to tell Josiah about it, but I knew following their bed and breakfast hop in Montana, Scarlett had set up a week at the lodge in Teton Village. They were in for a fun couple of weeks, no question about it.
And did they live happily ever after? Well, as they say, only time will tell.
But I have a feeling they will.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius