Cassie and Matthew set about organising their wedding, deciding on a quiet ceremony on the beach with only their nearest and dearest. The guestlist was tiny; Eric, Maria, Sue and Tristan.
‘5. Ivy’, Matt wrote at the bottom of the list, underlining it before looking wistfully out of the window. They both knew that finding her in time for their big day was a near-impossible task, but it didn’t hurt to dream.
While Cassie had Sue by her side to help choose her dress, she sadly wasn’t going to be able to make it to the wedding. Her mother was ill, so she and her husband were temporarily closing the pub and flying to Twinbrook to stay with her for a while, until she was back on her feet. They couldn’t afford to fly back just for the wedding.
‘Just you wait, Cass, I’ll get you the best present to make up for it,’ Sue had told her, hugging her tight. Cassie had been intrigued by the knowing glint in her friend’s eye, but decided to put it to the back of her mind. What was the point of a surprise present if you guessed it beforehand? Ruins all the fun!
Despite the fact they were only planning a small wedding, Cassie could not believe how much there was to sort out. Cake, flowers, catering, music, location, Matthew’s suit, and of course the all important wedding dress! The couple had been panicking over their relatively meagre budget until they received a phone call late one night.
‘Cassie, my dear!’ Eric bellowed down the phone. ‘I’ve got your wedding present sorted out! Maria says you’re still looking for a location, well not any more! I’ve hired you Castles In The Sand, the venue on the beach? It’s all booked, two weeks today!’
Cassie had been overwhelmed, both with the generosity of her former boss and how close the wedding date was! Full of gratitude, she set about arranging everything. Time flew by, until:
‘It’s today, it’s today! Mum, Dad! It’s today!!’
Tristan came zooming down the banister in a fit of pure excitement! Of the three of them, it was he who was awaiting the coming nuptials with the most anticipation. Over emotional at the best of times, he was flipping between tears of joy and laughter at the thought of his parents tying the knot. For Cassie and Matthew it was merely a small celebration of their love for one another and a way to officially cement their bond. In Tristan’s eyes, it was the wedding of the century and he couldn’t wait to be a part of it! Especially as he was offically the best man!
Matthew had been debating asking his son, but was unsure whether he would be able to handle such a large role in the wedding and wondered if he would be more suited to being a page boy. After a lengthy discussion with his wife-to-be he decided to ask his son which he would prefer, and called for his son to come down from his room where he was playing.
Never before had a groom-to-be asked a green dinosaur if he wanted to be his best man, Matt was sure of it! The sight of his son’s earnest face peeking out from the costume, the two completely at odds with one another, almost made Matt forget what he was going to ask. Focusing on the task at hand, he calmly asked his son which role in the wedding he would like.
‘BEST MAN! BEST MAN! Oh, Dad, I can’t believe you’ve asked me!’
Never before had a groom-to-be had to hand his best-man-dinosaur so many tissues to mop up his tears of pure elation, Matt was sure of it!
* * *
‘Oh, Mum, you look beautiful!’
‘Aw, thank you so much sweetie! You look so handsome in your tie!’
The beaming bride hugged her son tight, not caring particuarly if her dress creased. A hug for Tristan was far more important, even if Maria would have a heart attack if she saw it! Releasing him, she took a step back and straightened his tie and glasses.
‘There. Now you’re perfect! How’s your Dad doing?’
‘He’s fine. He’s been practising his vows all morning, he’s really scared he’ll mess them up!’
Cassie laughed. ‘Well, you go and tell him not to worry about it. The important thing is that we’re both here, let him know!’
Nodding fervently, Tristan ran off round to where Matt was worriedly reading his vows from his flashcards, nearly running into Maria who was coming over to Cassie.
‘Cass, what the hell! Your dress! The creases! Oh, you silly mare! Ah well, too late now. I’m delivering Sue’s present!’
‘You are? What?’ Cassie looked at Maria in confusion; her young friend wasn’t holding anything. ‘What do you mean?’
Maria grinned, and waved at someone out of sight. ‘Sue said you’d be surprised!’
Cassie’s bewilderment cleared as her ‘present’ strolled round the corner. This really was a surprise!
‘Kym?! What the hell are you doing here!’ Cassie engulfed her friend in a huge hug, unable to believe her eyes. She’d been writing to Kym regularly since she’d left prison and had sent her a copy of her book, which Kym had been delighted with. But not once had she mentioned that she was getting out!
‘Don’t worry, I’ve not done a jailbreak,’ Kym joked, smoothing down Cassie’s crumpled dress. ‘I knew my appeal was coming up, so I wrote to your friend Sue at the Blue Swan? You mention her a lot in your letters. Anyway, I thought it’d be pretty cool if I would be able to come to your wedding before I head off home to Bridgeport; I didn’t want to say anything to you just in case my case was rejected. Sue told me that she wasn’t able to come tonight, so we arranged it so I would come in her place! Eric and Maria picked me up from the half way house.’
Cassie was utterly speechless. ‘You wily devils! I can’t believe none of you told me! Maria, especially, how on earth did you keep this a secret?!’
Maria rolled her eyes, sighing sarcastically. ‘Give me some credit, Cassie! Now will you get a move on, the ceremony’s due to start in five minutes! You can’t keep all these people waiting!’
* * *
It was just as Cassie had dreamed it would be. The beach was deserted for miles on either side of the raised platform; Eric had secretly arranged an exclusion zone so that the happy couple’s day would not be spoiled by people passing by. The only sound, other than the music chosen by Matthew was the gentle rippling of the evening tide, the waves casually caressing the shoreline and the ocean breeze mingling with the bouquets of flowers to subtly scent the air. Standing underneath the heartshaped arch facing Matthew, their nearest and dearest looking on, Cassie felt a moment of pure, immaculate happiness.
‘Cassie Rivers. What a journey we’ve been on, hey? When we were growing up back in lazy old Riverview I never dreamt that our life would turn out this way, I never thought that we’d have to go through so much to get to where we are now. But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sure, things haven’t exactly been perfect, but they’ve lead to this moment, right here – you and me, together, getting married. And that’s all I want, Cassie. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. You and me, and our children. Forever.’ His eyes misty with tears, Matthew slipped the shining ring onto Cassie’s finger.
‘I’ve been through quite a lot, Matthew, and you know this more than anyone. And you’ve been there for me every step of the way, even when I was stupid enough to take my emotions out on you and walk away from the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. You’ve been my rock. You said once that you were proud of me, for how I handled myself when I was released. How long ago that seems, now! But you know, Matt, I couldn’t have done any of it without you. You’ve given me so much. You’re my soulmate, Matthew Forest, and I am honoured to be your wife.’ Tears flowing freely down her face, Cassie placed the golden band on Matthew’s ring finger.
‘By the powers vested in me, I know pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss each other!’
Beaming, Matt pulled Cassie close to him and kissed her, the applause of the small audience filling the air.
Pulling away, Matthew and Cassie gazed into each other’s eyes. ‘I love you, Mr. Forest,’ Cassie murmured.
‘I love you more, Mrs. Rivers!’ Matt lightly smoothed her hair away from her face, cupping her cheek.
‘Not possible!’ Cassie gently kissed him again, before looking round at the congregation.
Kym was stood right at the front, clapping away with a look of pride on her face. What she and Cassie had been through together would bond them for life, Cassie knew that for sure. She wouldn’t have coped inside without Kym, not after the birth of Ivy. Kym had kept her busy, had made sure that she didn’t have time to think about what had happened to her or what Alicia and Lexi were saying about her. Cassie knew she would be eternally grateful.
Maria was stood a little way behind, elegantly tossing rose petal confetti into the air. Cassie could hardly believe that this beautiful, ambitious teenager was the same toddler she’d chased around the mansion, all those years ago! How she had grown!
A sudden sob drew Cassie’s attention to Eric; to her utter surprise he had dissolved into tears! He was overcome with just how far his former employee had come since he bumped into her in the Blue Swan, when she was new to the Valley and struggling to find her feet. Having always harboured some feelings of guilt for her incarceration, despite reassurances, it was Eric who had been more delighted than anyone when she was finally freed, who had been so proud to see her go from strength to strength with her book releases, the birth of her son and now getting married.
Finally, her gaze landed on Tristan, her pride and joy. She was surprised at how well he’d coped throughout the wedding, given his usual tearful outbursts! His little face was lit up with a huge smile; Cassie knew just how much this day meant to him. She hoped beyond hoped that some day, soon, they’d be able to track down his older sister and be one big, happy family.
* * *
‘Good day, huh?’ Matt grinned up at his new wife, snuggling closer in to her. The pair had the house to themselves; Tristan had gone to stay with the Stanislavs’ for the night in order to give the newlyweds some privacy. Cassie bet that he was having a midnight swim in their pool!
‘Good? Oh, I think it went a bit beyond good…’ Cassie returned his smile, leaning in to plant a kiss on her husband’s face.
Later that night, Cassie awoke to find herself face to face with Matthew. Gently, so as not to wake him, she took hold of his hand.
‘Matt,’ she whispered, ‘I can’t believe we’re married now. I truly am the luckiest person in the world; I’m so grateful you gave me a second chance after I was so horrible to you. I love you so, so much…’
‘I love you too, Cass,’ Matt whispered back, suddenly opening his eyes to look directly into his wife’s, making her jump.
‘Matt! I thought you were asleep! Don’t scare me like that!’