This is another unedited excerpt of Calla, my 2017 Camp Nano project.
Time for her speech and toast.
Standing and walking over to Gibson, Calla pulled a face at the good-natured comments from the wedding guests.
“It’s your turn, Calla!”
“Girl, you’re the last one!”
“Marry me, Calla!”
Her poker face grew into a wide, warm grin. She looked around the room, seeing people who’d known her for a lifetime, knowing they only wanted her to be happy.
When Calla raised the mic to speak, Gibson, who was still at her side, pulled the mic in his direction.
“Don’t worry, Reedsville fam, I have plans for Miss Calla.”
Catcalls and whistles rose in the room again, with a noted deep growl from Birdy Ellison, the man who’d shouted, “Marry me, Calla” only moments before.
With a smile of pure innocence, Calla pulled the mic back to her mouth. “Don’t you have enough ex-wives, Gibby?”
Flinching, Gibson grabbed his chest, feigned a stumble and laughed all the way back to his seat as the crowd applauded Calla’s witty response.
Calla tried to control her own laughter as she raised her hands to quiet the room.
“I can’t remember a time in my life which didn’t include Tena Evers. We played with dolls together as little girls. When we got tired of the dolls, we forced the boys to let us play cowboys and Indians with them. We watched all the dance shows and practiced the latest steps. Once our moves were flawless, we’d go to the dances and make the boys dance with us.”
Peers yelled out in agreement. Members of older and younger generations nodded and commented on how nothing ever changes.
“Something happened in high school. Those same boys we’d bossed around as kids, we were now afraid to even speak to. But we would look. Oh, my lord, we would look. What I didn’t know at first was Tena was only looking at one boy we didn’t know well. She confessed to me after she and the boy met at their fathers’ company picnic.”
Calla turned to her best friend.
“That fall, we went to our school’s first football game. We bought programs like we always did, but could never find by the end of the game. Not this time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tena never rolled or folded her program. A few weeks later during a sleepover at Tena’s, of course, the conversation turned to boys. I teased her about Ronnie Calvert following her around all the time.”
Seated at a far table, Ronnie Calvert laughed out loud only to be smacked on the arm by his wife, Pam, a large, sober-faced woman with no sense of humor.
“Tena laughed and shook her head. She walked over to her dresser, took something out and turned around.”
Calla looked at the crowd and smiled.
“It was the program from the football game, without a wrinkle or tear. She held it with near reverence as she returned to sit on the bed. Opening it, she turned past all the ads and team photos, stopping at the individual player headshots. Handing me the open program, she said, ‘Ronnie’s a nice guy, but I’m going to marry him.’”
Calla looked back to the newlyweds.
“I took the program, and I was staring down into the face of Reedsville High’s star wide receiver, Lloyd Taylor.”
Thunderous applause erupted as wedding guests took to their feet in approval.
Lloyd caressed his new wife’s cheek, lost in her eyes.
Calla held up her hand once again to quiet the crowd.
“Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, you know when you’ve met the love of your life and two hearts bond. It’s a bond time and distance and other people cannot break. It’s the bond Tena and Lloyd share and which has brought them to this day.”
Calla raised her glass, joined by the wedding guests.
“To Mr. And Mrs. Taylor!”
Calla winked at Tena, grinned mischievously and said, “And they lived happily ever after!”
Tena roared with laughter. She should have known her best friend would go through with the dare.
Lloyd looked between Tena and Calla, puzzled.
Calla smirked and sipped her champagne.
Before Lloyd could question his bride, Neeri appeared to rush them to the center of the room for their first dance as man and wife.
While all eyes watched the happy couple dance and sing along to “Spend My Life with You” by Eric Benet and Tamia, Calla settled into her chair, grateful to be off her still-aching feet.