Finding Mr. Happily Ever AfterBy: Melissa Storm
“You’re going to look gorgeous.” Daisy, a top wedding hairstylist in New York City, artfully arranged the curls on Jazz Michaels’ head with the care of a true professional. “People will gasp when you walk down the aisle, Jazz.”
“Thanks.” Jazz’s stomach fluttered at the thought of standing in that enormous church later today. This was it. The day she had felt certain would never happen had actually arrived.
The countdown to saying “I do” had begun. Jazz and her four bridesmaids had visited a spa yesterday so their fingernails and toes all looked pretty, but sitting here in one of the salon’s fluffy white robes with her make-up free face reminded her she still had much more to do before truly looking the part of a bride.
Daisy added another bobby pin to the side of Jazz’s head. “Any advice for those of us ready to give up on love?” She laughed and grabbed another pin from the counter. “Well, me.”
Jazz understood the frustration in her voice because she’d felt the same more than once. And with more than one guy, too. She nearly laughed herself. “You never know where love will take you, so keep yourself open to the possibilities.”
The stylist nodded along as she continued to work. “Even if it means risking your heart?” she asked, past hurts reflecting in her bright eyes.
“Especially then. Marrying your Mr. Happily Ever After is worth whatever pain and heartache you have to go through to find him.” Jazz believed those words wholeheartedly now, though she hadn’t always.
“Did you have to go through a lot to find yours?”
“You have no idea.” Jazz thought back to how she’d arrived at her wedding day. A flurry of memories swept through her brain. Some were bittersweet—time and maturity had helped dull the hurt from others—but the majority brought a comfy warmth and feeling of destiny. She smiled. “It’s been a journey I never imagined myself taking. And it all started the first time a boy asked me to marry him when I was eight years old…”
An eight-year-old Jazz Michaels slipped through her bedroom window and onto the roof outside. The night air was cool against her arms. She’d been in too much of a hurry to put on her coat. Old shingles slipped loose under her sneakers and fell to the yard below, but she wasn’t afraid. She’d made this daring journey dozens of times, though never quite as quickly as she attempted to do so now.
With a huge jump and an equally enormous amount of luck, she could make it from her roof to the neighbor’s just three feet away. If she fell from here, she’d break her arm, or leg… or neck, but this was one of those days when not jumping—when staying behind in her cold, angry house—was far scarier than taking the leap.
She landed on all fours with a thud, grappling for purchase on the flat, sloping roof, then pulling herself into a crouch. Just a few more feet to go now, less than a yard to safety, to Nathan.
“Please be home, please be home,” Jazz muttered under her breath as she closed the distance to her best friend’s window. Almost there…
“Jazz!” he cried, shoving his window open and startling her. He yanked her through in one fluid motion. “I thought we agreed. No more sneaking. You could get hurt!”
“I didn’t, did I?” she answered with a hand on each hip and the hope she looked braver than she felt. Oh, how she hoped Nathan couldn’t see the way her arms shook under the sleeves of her worn pink and white softball T-shirt.
“What’s wrong?” Nathan wrapped her in a hug, and Jazz finally allowed herself to fall apart in his arms.
He pulled back to look at her, his brown eyes searching her blues for an answer she wasn’t sure she felt ready to give. “Jazz, you’re my best friend. You can tell me anything.”
She sniffed and wiped her runny nose against her sleeve. “I’m scared, Nathan,” she whispered. “What if he—? Or she…?”
“You’re freaking me out.” He sounded not only concerned, but also scared. “What happened? Is it your parents?”
She nodded. The shiver was back worse than before.