"You may kiss the bride," the priest granted. The music started as Zac and Nicole turned to each other, their lips touching each other's. The congregation started clapping and everyone stood. The bride and groom linked arms and walked down the aisle, with the rest of us following. I scooped my daughter up in my right arm and linked arms with my wife. We followed Zac and Nicole down the aisle and outside the church. Isaac had done the same thing as I with his own family. Once the whole wedding party was outside, Zac and Nicole once again walked the steps and formed the receiving line at the back of the church. My older brother and I stood next to Zac, just as we had done at the altar, and shook hands with all who had attended the wedding. ZoŽ stood with her Aunt Gen and Aunt Andy at the end of the line accepting compliments for her job well done. My mother and father stood with Nicole's parents on the stairs of the church. Nicole's mother was crying and Mom was patting her shoulder gently.
"Congratulations, Zac!" I smiled at the sight of my sister Jessica hugging Zac's neck tightly. Avery was standing beside her looking as proud as ever. Next to her was Mackenzie, who I hadn't seen since a few days before the rehearsal dinner. He hadn't even been at the dinner. He had come home the night before Isaac's thirtieth birthday and disappeared after we had eaten cake the next day. I had been alarmed when he didn't come home the next day but everyone told me not to worry, he was at a friend's house. Mom wondered if he was going to show up at the wedding at all. Zac assured her he would. I hoped he was telling me the truth about his special bond with Mack because he promised he'd ask our brother to start coming home again, especially while he was away on his honeymoon.
"Hey Jess," I said when my sister approached me.
"Taylor," she greeted.
She took my hand and I pulled her into a tight hug. "How ya doing kid? How's school?"
"Good," she said as she pulled away. "Real good."
"I'll see you at the reception."
"You betcha!" She said. She moved on to Isaac and wished him a happy three-day belated birthday, apologizing for not being able to come to the party.
I hugged Avery. "Next it will be you or Jessica."
Avie blushed. "Jessica."
I laughed. "No boyfriend?"
"None that you would ever let me go out with."
I smiled. "Good. Lose those kind." Avery laughed and promised she would. "I can't believe you moved out of the house!" I exclaimed. "I mean, I leave for what... three months? And when I come back to Tulsa I hear you left us."
"Yeah, I'm living with two friends in an apartment close to campus. It's great."
"I can imagine. But dude, now MACK is the oldest Hanson in the house!" I joked. I shook my head. "Bad move, girl!" She laughed and moved on to Isaac.
I shook Mack's hand. "I haven't seen you in a day," I chided him.
Mackenzie shrugged. "I was with my girlfriend last night- what can I say."
I sighed and patted his shoulder. "Just don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Mack found that statement to be hilarious. "He who used to come back to our hotel at three AM," he chuckled.
I made a face. "I guess you're right- but I was usually sitting in a car hugging my girlfriend for hours."
"And who's to say I'm not doing the same?" Mack said softly in a monotonous voice. He had me there. I didn't know what to say. I had jumped to conclusions about my brother's life. He was probably more like me than I knew.
"Photo time," Isaac said. I felt his strong hand on my shoulder. "Taylor, you there?"
"Yeah," I said shaking myself out of my thoughts. I smiled at him. "The one time we can actually say we enjoy a photo shoot."
"Definitely," Isaac said looking past me. I turned my head slightly to see what he was looking at. I grinned knowingly. Zac and his new bride were holding hands, whispering to each other. Zac kissed her lightly.
"Daddy!" I felt my daughter pulling on my arm. I swooped her up and held her close to me, supporting her bottom on my arm, her small body leaning against the right side of my chest.
I leaned over and kissed my wife who was now at my side. She was holding Anya on her left hip. "When they said their vows all I could think of was you," I said softly. I planted my lips on her forehead lightly.
"I saw your eyes," she said, nuzzling her head into my neck. "We were thinking the same thing."
I nodded and we followed the wedding entourage and the families back into the church for a formal posed photo shoot. My daughter leaned her head on mine. A flash went off.
"Beautiful family," the photographer said taking the camera down from his face.
I grinned at the compliment. "They are, aren't they?" I shifted my daughter's weight on my arm. "They really are."