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The same night Zachary proposed was the same night I got on the phone and began planning our wedding. There were so many little things that needed to be done and I wanted to ensure I covered it all. I wanted my big day to be a glamourous event that would leave people talking about it for years! No way was I going to serve my guests a home-style dinner with simple white cake and I certainly did not want to have it at home. Ugh, a house wedding was so tacky, especially when the party room was so cramped and the backyard was so poorly manicured. I’d definitely need to invest in better landscaping after the wedding.

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I hired the best catering company in Oasis Springs for the gourmet dinner and wedding cake. I also had the entertainment covered. The only things left for me to do were to find the right location, pick out my dress, and compile the guest list. Zachary didn’t have any living family members and most of his friends were members of Dad’s gang so naturally none of them could be invited leaving the majority of the people attending from my side. My guest list seemed pretty short at first as the only people on it aside from everyone at home were my best friend Anastasia and my uncles Ethan and Bentley, but then I remembered Aunt Phoebe’s side of the family. I had second cousins close in age to me and I barely knew them. I got the opportunity to correct that when Aunt Phoebe invited us to a dinner party at her fabulous manor in Willow Creek.

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I met my cousins, twins Maranda and Adalynn, and their younger brother Jakob. Maranda favoured her father’s side of the family more than her other siblings. She was blonde while Adalynn and Jakob had dark hair, a prominent feature of a Goth just as it is for us Sloanes.

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Jakob was around Jackson’s age only he was very smart. He was well-rounded, unlike Jackson who prioritised exercising at the gym and going on dates with ditzy girls over getting good grades and expanding his skill set. Jakob and I played a rousing game of chess which I won, of course, but he had the potential to become great at the game just like me.

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Adalynn was the one with whom I had the most in common. We shared similar views on fashion and dating. Although she was younger than me I felt like we could become very good friends. It was nice spending time with that side of the family. My second cousins have it more together than Leni and Jackson could even imagine. I mean, if I had lived with them instead I would be so much happier.

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The house they lived in, although not huge, was classic and regal in design and décor. When I walked in I felt like I was entering the home of someone important. Our house, although large, could not compare. Some of our rooms were nice but we definitely needed remodelling in order for it to even equate to this one.

I especially loved the guest bathroom. My bathroom at home just had a shower and no tub and it never bothered me until I took a rose petal bath in that guest bathroom and realised what I had been missing.

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Willow Creek had a really nice atmosphere. It was certainly a lot cooler than the aridness of Oasis Springs. Some days I would have to thank the Watcher for central air otherwise, I would certainly melt. But here, I could easily walk outdoors and feel a cool breeze on my skin and not worry about sweating my makeup off which made it the perfect place to have the outdoor wedding of my dreams! Initially, I thought about renting out a fancy lounge or reception hall for the ceremony and reception because the heat back home was almost unbearable at this time of the year. But the problem with that was I would need to do serious renovations and decorating to make those places look appropriate for a wedding. If we moved the wedding here then I could find an outdoor venue whose flowers and shrubs would provide natural decor for a romantic atmosphere doing half the work and reducing the cost of decorating for this event.

“Aunt Phoebe, do you know of any venues here that would be appropriate for an outdoor wedding?”

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“Sure, there’s a place not too far from here. It’s a nice park that’s used for formal events. I even know the owner so I can call in a favour and it’s yours.”

“Great! Thank you so much.”

“But Gemma, why don’t you want to get married at home? It’s been a family tradition you know. Your mother, your grandmother, even my mother – your great Aunt Adrienne, as well as your great grandmother, all got married there.”

“It’s so much cooler here at this time of year. That’s all.” She accepted my reasoning but honestly, I wanted my wedding day to be special and it couldn’t be special if it was just like every woman in my family’s day.

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With the venue covered and the guest list a work in progress, the next thing I needed to get was my gown. I knew a few designers who were will to send me gowns in my size to try on. I asked Mother and Leni to be present while I tried on dresses, but of course, they had better things to do than to make time for me. They had so many work vacation days, was it too much to ask of them to just take one for me?

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The first dress I tried on was a classic dress. The style was very popular – too popular. I didn’t want to look like any ordinary bride so it was out. The second dress I tried on was a Versimce couture and wasn’t even out on the market yet. Even though it was stunning, it was too daring for my personality.

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I loved the bodice on the next dress. The lace and silk combined with the sequin looked gorgeous and it fit me like a glove. It seemed like it was made for me. Unfortunately, it seemed more ideal for a cocktail party rather than a wedding.

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The last and final dress was exactly what I wanted. This was the dress I dreamt of when I was a little girl. It was the right fit, the right style, the right colour, the right…everything! I felt like a princess in it and that was how I knew it was the one.

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A few days before the wedding Leni and I met in the dining room around lunch time. She had just woken up after getting in early this morning from one of her gigs so she was still in her pyjamas. I needed to ask her a favour but since we barely spoke to each other I knew I had to sweeten her up with a little chit chat before I could ask her for anything. “So…how was your gig last night?”

“If you really cared to know, then you would have shown up. I invited you and you said you had better things to do.”

“I did. You forget that I’m planning a wedding here. It takes a lot of time and effort, Len.”

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She sighed. “What is it that you really want Gem?”

“The pianist I hired had to cancel. Something about having itchy plumbob or something, I don’t know, the point is I need a replacement but there’s no one else as good as he is that’s available so…”

“You want me to perform at your wedding?” She chuckled. “I don’t perform the kind of music you like. You must be really desperate to ask me.”

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“I know you like that alternative stuff and I’m more classical but a really good musician can play any genre well and you are a skilled pianist so I’m certain you can perform my list of songs like any member of a symphony.”

She gave me a look like she was touched by what I had said. “That’s the closest to a compliment I think I’ll ever get from you so I’ll take it. Give me the list and I’ll start practising.”

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It was a genuine compliment. I’ve heard Leni practising for her gigs in her bedroom and she really was a skilled musician. She was a natural with the piano, guitar and the violin – a true virtuoso. Maybe it was a good thing that the other musician backed out as this will give Leni the opportunity to showcase her skills in front of the whole family. Check me out – doing something nice for my little sister.

That evening Zachary came over for dinner and when we were finally alone I discussed with him an idea I had to make the wedding day even more special for me.

“So what do you think?”

“I think it’s a bad idea.” He said.

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“Well, it’s too late. I already emailed his invitation. He just has to RSVP now.”

“You can’t invite Stephan. It will only set off red flags if your Mum sees him. It’s too risky. Oh, and by the way, it’s nice that you actually decided to ask my opinion on something to do with our wedding. I feel like I have no say whatsoever.”

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“Don’t be like that darling. You wanted to elope in the first place so this wedding is really more for me than it is for you. I just want everything to be perfect!”

He sighed and went back to eating. I couldn’t believe him. I had shared all of my ideas from the beginning so how could he say that I never asked his opinion? Men!

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It was the night before the wedding and everything was going according to the plan except for one thing. Dad still had not RSVP’d. I called and texted him several times and got no response. I didn’t understand why he was ignoring me like that. Finally, I sent a message to him that I knew would make him respond.

“What’s this I hear about you getting cold feet? Zachary’s a wonderful guy Gemma.”

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“I know he is. But if you don’t come to our wedding tomorrow then I won’t marry him and that’s final.”

“Gem…”

“I mean it, Dad. You have to come. I need you there.”

“What about your mother? What will we tell her?”

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“Don’t worry about her. I have it covered.”

He sighed. “You know her. She’ll start to suspect that we’ve maintained a relationship all this while. She’s already suspicious of me being up to no good and I don’t want her to start to suspect you too.”

“Relax, Dad. I told you, I know how to handle her. Trust me.”

“It’s too risky Gemma…”

“Oh my Watcher Dad, please! Cut me some slack here. I know what I’m doing!”

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“Alright fine. I’ll come. I was going to be there anyway. Even if I had to hide behind a tree from across the street, I wasn’t going to miss watching my baby girl walk down the aisle.”

“Oh, Dad. I’m so happy you changed your mind. Now nothing can go wrong!”

I was thrilled. My father was going to come to my wedding. I had the perfect designer dress. I was going to marry the man of my dreams. Tomorrow will mark the start of only great things to come!

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